It's that time again, when faux-scientists and PR agencies make up some statistics to demonstrate that it's officially the most depressing day of the year. Well cheer up, you bunch of cry-babies; you might feel a bit mopey because it's cold and you spent too much money at Christmas and it's not payday for another week, but it's not as if you're being subjugated by a flawed super-AI or consumed by grey goo, is it?
There are all manner of exciting ways in which humanity may be wiped out between now and the death of the universe, both man-made and natural, and data visualization experts IIB Studio have gleefully catalogued a whole load of them and turned them into an eschatological infographic for BBC Future.
Entitled Apocalypse When?, the infographic provides a handy Apocalometer, ranking potential disasters by when they might happen and how likely they are to end the human race, from honeybees dying out (within the next decade but not that likely to kill us all) down to the death of the universe (billions of years off, but that's all, folks).
Just to make things more exciting, the infographic highlights events that will wipe us out in less than a year. This century it's possible that bioterrorism, nanoweapons or the aforementioned flawed super-AI might do just that; puts the bus being a bit late this morning into perspective, doesn't it?
As Duncan Swain from IIB Studio says, "We're hoping people will look on the bright side when they realise how bad things could be in 100, 1,000 or even more years into the future."
Between overpopulation, underpopulation, supervolcanoes, asteroid impact and the Matrix scenario – in which the universe turns out to be a simulation and gets switched off – things don't really look that good for us, long-term.
But that's really par for the course as far as Earth is concerned, as you find out at the bottom of the infographic where a little timeline illustrates the five major extinction events that have happened in our planet's history. The last one was 66 million years ago; there's bound to be another along in a bit!
Words: Jim McCauley
Jim McCauley is a writer, editor and occasional podcaster, and is available for children's parties.
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