Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. Perhaps the scariest possibility of all for mass human extinction is the concept of global warfare. With new biological research making enormous impact on our understanding of genetics especially, many scientists have proposed that an out-of-control human-created epidemic could spell the end for life on Earth.
In 2001, several government officials learned just how dangerous the threat of germ warfare could be, when letters sent to American media officials and Congressmen killed five people. The letters were spiked with the inclusion of spores of what deadly disease?
2. Asteroid impact is one of the most realistic scenarios for mass extinctions on Earth. Small objects from the Solar System hit the planet every few centuries and have caused enormous damage; a large rock would almost certainly end life as we know it.
In 1994, an event in the Solar System fundamentally altered the way that scientists viewed large-scale impact events. What event, which luckily did not have an impact on human civilization, was it?
3. John von Neumann first proposed an apocalyptic future in which the exponential growth of robots leads to the out-competition of humans and the destruction of the environment. While the possibility has been explored in literature and film, many intellectuals have since dismissed the idea. In 1986, Eric Drexler gave the hypothesis a name, which immediately stuck. What alliterative term did he give for the domination of robots on the planet?
4. Volcanoes are fascinating, but they can also be harbingers of human destruction. Consider the 1783 Laki eruption in Iceland, which killed 9,000 people almost immediately and caused mass starvation. Now consider the volcanic eruption in India 65 million years ago, which some scientists blame on the extinction of the dinosaurs. It was 100,000 times as powerful as the Laki eruption.
Volcanic activity has drastic effects on Earth's climate, regardless of the damage caused by lava. For which of the following are volcanoes NOT responsible?
5. In 2008, the Geneva-based organization CERN was sued for risking a possible apocalypse with the creation of its newest technology. That technology, the LHC, began circulation in September 2008 and hopefully will shed light on the veracity of the Standard Model. What did the company create that was so controversial, sparking protests that it might create a miniature black hole on Earth?
6. Catastrophic climate change is the subject of intense debate between scientists today, who debate the truth of human-spawned global warming. Regardless of our own impact in the process, it is a well-established fact that Earth itself has undergone massive fluctuations of global temperature over time.
For example, almost as vehemently debated as global warming is the hypothesis that Earth was almost pure ice 650 million years in the past. What name do scientists give to the idea, which if repeated would almost certainly cause the extinction of the human race?
7. Deadly microbes can be responsible for pandemics; looking at history, diseases like the bubonic plague and Spanish flu had global consequences. However, an even more horrifying concept is the idea of an "alien plague." Exposure to microbes from outer space could be catastrophic if the pathogens are resistant to our normal antibiotics or other medicines designed only for terrestrial pathogens.
How feasible is the possibility of an alien pathogen? Using Earth's own bacteria as lab specimens, which of the following conclusions have experimenters researched regarding bacteria in space?
8. Gamma ray bursts are an extremely scary possibility for the planet's future. Observations of distant galaxies show that these massive energy explosions occur when collapsed stars merge or during supernovas, releasing energy quadrillions of times larger than the output of the Sun. A local GRB would likely cause macro-evolutionary change.
Luckily for us, no gamma ray bursts have occurred locally to our planet in the historical record. Why not?
9. They happen every 300,000 years or so, and scientists aren't sure when it'll happen again. They're not even sure that one of these events would cause huge ecological damage, even though it could potentially affect thousands of species. Either way, we're long overdue for one of these natural events, since the last one to occur, the "Brunhes-Matuyama" one, happened 780,000 years ago.
Used to help support the theory of seafloor spreading, what is this somewhat bizarre but real event, which could potentially create havoc with geobiological systems?
10. Aliens have fascinated generations of humans. Could extraterrestrials invade the planet and take over our species? Past experience says no, but organizations like SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) hold out hope of finding other sentient life in the universe.
Logic tends to indicate that aliens of some sort do exist. One acclaimed twentieth-century scientist, a European well-known for his work on the first nuclear reactor, wondered in a namesake paradox why, in a universe as large as ours, we haven't yet made contact. Which Italian-American physicist made that statement?
Source: Author adams627
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