No.10 - Gamma-ray pop
If we were to be destroyed by a gamma-ray pop, two not-too-distant, collapsed stars would merge, explode and begin to spew a massive amount of gamma rays, which are the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation. This cosmogenic regurgitation is the brightest, most luminous affair in the universe -- and among its most lethal.
It will take about 10 seconds before this ridiculously mighty radiation broils our atmosphere; brewing nitrogen oxides that will sack the ozone layer and render us defenseless. Our own sun will then rain its brutal ultraviolet rays down upon us -- causing skin cancer, wiping out the kinds of pint-sized organisms that contribute oxygen to the atmosphere, and leading to numerous eye problems, ranging from photokeratitis to cataracts.
On the bright side: Vision is gone, but we still have taste, touch, smell, and hearing.
On the dark side: Strike taste -- Corey Hart returns to glory with the smash hit, “I wear my gamma-ray glasses at night.”
No.9 - Black hole debacle
A black hole wanders into our cosmic arena and takes a whiff. It yanks and pulls us into an orbital path wild enough to create unendurable climatic shifts or it drop-kicks us out of our solar system completely and delivers us into an eternal winter.
On the bright side: You’ve always wanted to take a field trip to Pluto.
On the dark side: You’re the only one who laughs when passing Uranus.
No.8 - Magnetic field flip-flop
It’s perfectly natural for the Earth’s magnetic field to flip-flop. In fact, it’s shifting all the time and the last full switch occurred about 780,000 years ago. The average flip-flop interval is about 250,000 years and Earth’s clock is ticking and the magnetic field’s power is diminishing -- in the last 100 years, its strength has decreased about 5%.
Without a magnetic field, we would endure brutal particle storms from our sun as well as outer space. These storms would make short work of our ozone layer, leaving us vulnerable to a wide range of electromagnetic viciousness. Either that or whole generations of species will be unable to navigate properly -- they’ll get lost and won’t reproduce, seriously impacting the ladder of species that rely on them for food. Meanwhile, the organisms beneath it -- fleas, rats, roaches, take your pick -- will be short a predator. They’ll multiply almost without a hitch and wander deep into urban areas desperate for food, and deliver a mutant plague into all our houses.
On the bright side: Without an ozone layer, no one can moan about saving it.
On the dark side: What part of “no ozone layer” didn’t you understand?
No.7 - Superflare Sunday
Magnetic energy gathers within the solar atmosphere and the sun expels it, raining a veritable proton storm down upon us, but our planet’s magnetic field works with the atmosphere to rudely reject it all. Incensed at this rejection, the sun disgorges a superflare that is millions of times more potent than an ordinary flare. Before we can apologize for our rudeness, the subatomic particles cash out our ozone layer and the sun’s malignant UV rays puts our tiny planet, and every one of its organisms, onto the cosmological barbecue.
On the bright side: You’ll have a tan to die for.
On the dark side: You’ll have a tan to die from.
No.6 - Flood basalt volcano
This is no ordinary volcanic eruption; a flood basalt is a monster of potentially global proportions. From deep below your feet, a so-called mantle plume erupts, spewing thousands of cubic miles of rocks, ash and lava into the atmosphere. Anxious to get on the bandwagon, volcanoes the world over begin to erupt. As a result, ash and fumes suffocate the air, block out the sun and drastically lower global temperatures. Don’t forget that the sulfuric gases will incite acid rain and lava flows will eliminate harvests -- enter mass starvation.
On the bright side: Lava destroys the tobacco crops, prompting the surgeon general to remove the warning against breathing second-hand smoke.
On the dark side: He replaces it with a warning against breathing.