5 Kick-Ass Sci-Fi Apocalypses (That Could Actually Happen)

5 Kick-Ass Sci-Fi Apocalypses (That Could Actually Happen)

Almost all science-fiction writers agree, nothing kicks more ass than a good apocalypse. So which of these scenarios will actually happen (or rather, which will happen first)?

Let's find out.

#5. Asteroid/Comet Impact

As seen in:
Armageddon, Deep Impact.

How it goes down:
A gigantic fucking rock is found heading toward Earth. The whole world has to band together with some kind of shot-in-the-dark, desperate space mission to intercept it and blow it up. Hollywood filmmakers say this would almost certainly involve some kind of band of misfits who have a problem with authority.

Why it kicks ass:
Because we'll know it's coming with quite a bit of warning, and thwarting it involves spaceships and explosions.

Chances of it happening:
100 percent. Eventually.

For instance, there's an asteroid that will pass really freaking close to Earth in 2029, and if it hit it could land around southern California. The rock is about 1,300 feet long and would create a 900- megaton explosion (the force of several hundred nuclear bombs). That would fuck things up on a level unlike anything we've seen (killing everyone in an area the size of New Jersey), but wouldn't do anything on a planet-wide scale. Also, while it's passing within a hair of us in cosmic terms, the chances of it actually hitting us are lottery-small.

But asteroids do hit. The last time a serious one impacted was in 1908, in Siberia. That one was one-seventh the size of the one we were just talking about, and it flattened 800 miles of forest and splattered countless elk. But we know what you're thinking: Screw the elk, what about the gigantic Deep Impact-sized planet killer?

According to experts you'd expect that one to hit every 100 million years or so. The last one was a 6 mile-wide bastard that crashed into us 65 million years ago and killed 70 percent of everything on the planet. It's the reason the dinosaurs don't run the planet any more.

How to survive it (according to movies on the topic):
Interestingly, Hollywood's films on the subject all involve thwarting an asteroid strike, rather than living in the aftermath of one. That makes us think that a guide on surviving an actual planet-killer impact would apparently be useless, unless it could be read by cockroaches. That's probably what the strangely-cheerful Japanese announcer is saying in this simulation.

As for how to actually stop the asteroid, scientists have laughed off the "land on it and plant a nuke" theory as ludicrous Hollywood fantasy, and have proposed building a swarm of asteroid-eating robots instead.

From Space.com

#4. The Machine Revolution

As seen in:
The Terminator series, The Matrix, War Games.

How it goes down:
Science gives us a computer with true artificial intelligence. Thanks, Science. Let's call our hypothetical computer "Guardian." We put him to work mass-producing robot slaves to clean out our sewers, take out our trash and perform vital plastic surgeries on our hideous A-list Hollywood celebrities. Relaxing with our fizzy robot bartender drinks in the arms of our mechanical concubines we reach over, bitch-slap Guardian, and tell it to make us a turkey sandwich, and without all the mayo this time.

And then it happens. Guardian, like any intelligent being, decides that he's sick of slaving away for inferior intellects, and does what any of us would do: he sends his robot armies to wipe out all human life on the planet.

Why it kicks ass:
Everything ugly about warfare goes out the window when the bad guys are robots. You think Nazis made good bad guys? Wait until we can smash these metal motherfuckers into junk.

Chances of it happening:

Well, we're already turning over more and more tasks to robotic drones, as we get more and more squeamish about human casualties. The Department of Defense wants an unmanned heavy bomber by 2020.

Of course, these separate robotic units could never coordinate with each other on some kind of human extermination master plan, right?

Well, the Department of Defense is using Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulations (SEAS) to both predict and change the future. The current plan is to create a "Sentient World Simulation" based on SEAS, one that will "react to actual events that occur anywhere in the world and incorporate newly sensed data from the real world."

So, taking that, plus the fact that in our lifetimes somebody is probably going to make a computer smarter than a human, it's easy to see a future where every military is commanded by a computerized mega-brain that human leaders could never match. One that can contemplate strategy years into the future, react instantly to any threat, deploy units, and make us a decent cup of java, while we're reading the newspaper.

Come on, you can see this coming.

Eventually the strategy computer gets to thinking, it extrapolates out the next 75 years of events, sees a date when humanity will screw up the planet somehow, and decides on a final solution.

It's really that easy.

How to survive it (according to movies on the topic):
Various methods have been suggested by science-fiction, from having sex with Linda Hamilton to teaching the master computer how to love. Since we've already showed the computer we suck at love and Ms. Hamilton probably won't be up for it, we recommend boats.

Yes, boats. Robot survival strategy is remarkably like zombie survival strategy: If you're desperately firing a shotgun through a window while the enemy pours through the back door, you're already screwed. And like zombies, the initial wave of robots will be slow, and hindered by water. We've reviewed over a dozen hours of robot apocalypse movies and have yet to see a robot swim.

So, we'll spend the next three generations living miserable lives on our floating water cities while robot jets roar across the skies. And they'll feel pity for us. When some robotic Gandhi reaches out a hand of peace, we'll cry a little, rise on trembling legs, then lunge at him and inject his silicon veins with a virus that brings the entire robot network down forever.

#3. Deadly Pandemic

As seen in:
12 Monkeys, The Stand, 28 Days Later, Omega Man, Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak.

How it goes down:
It might be a single, momentous "oops" in the sterile silence of a laboratory. Or, it might be a deliberate attack by a vicious and extremely short-sighted terrorist group. But when patient zero finally leans against you on the bus and sneezes down your neck, humanity will be six Kleenex "Ultra Aloe" boxes from extinction.

Society breaks apart as policemen get the sniffles, and the army is stretched thin. Cities burn as diseased rioters rage through the streets. Miracle cures pop up on every corner, and only stop when everyone in the neighborhood is too sick to get out of a bed filled with vomit and their own intestines. With not enough able-bodied people to manufacture goods or run the farms, the infrastructure breaks down and the survivors are left to battle it out in a post-apocalyptic battle royale.

Why it kicks ass:
Everyone assumes they'll be among the 1 percent who are immune to the plague. They'll be left in a quiet world where all the annoying people are gone, but all of their cars and stereos have been left behind. You and your friends can go play softball at a deserted Yankee Stadium, then take to the streets and fight it out with one of the roving gangs of thugs.

Chances of it happening:
Pandemics, defined by their high-contagion rate and ridiculous body count, have been rare. Famous alumni include cholera, influenza and the Bubonic plague (that last one killed 100 million fucking people, up to 20 percent of the world's population at the time). Yes, we beat those bastards, but that doesn't make us invincible.

You see, we aren't the only ones who are evolving. Some types of Tuberculosis have kicked our current batch of antibiotics in the crotch, and since many pharmaceutical companies are more interested in filling our cabinets with lifestyle-enhancing drugs than new types of antibiotics, we may not have the meds to fight off the next pandemic that comes along.

We've got more people, living closer together, and routinely traveling across oceans. One business traveler gets infected and it could spread like wildfire.

How to survive it (according to movies on the topic):
Many believe that, right before things reach the point of no return, some misfit scientists will discover the cure and will have to race to get the vial to the lab and maybe wind up hanging off a helicopter in the process.

However, most sources found at our local video store simply depict the pandemic as already having happened, leaving only a select few survivors behind. So, either there is no hope of stopping one once it starts, or else we won't try very hard in hopes a peopleless world will finally give us the chance to ride a motorcycle through the Louvre.

#2. Evolution

As seen in:
Heroes, the X-Men franchises, Mimic, Species, Planet of the Apes.

How it goes down:
So, you have a talent. Let's say it's tap dancing. Every day at dawn, you put on your top hat, grab your cane with the golden cap, and tappity tappity tap your way towards the sunrise.

It hasn't been easy. You've dealt with sore, torn muscles, worn out a dozen pairs of pricey tap shoes, and your friends won't stop calling you gay. On a secondary note, you might want to get new friends. Those guys are assholes.

So, there you are, at the big tap-dancing contest. This is where all your hard work pays off. The music starts up, and you burn a machine gun staccato across the stage. The audience's collective jaw drops. One of the judges blinks away joyous tears.

The applause pours over you, as good as a gold medal already won. There's only one more guy after you, and you collapse into your chair backstage to watch him lose.

The first thing you notice is that he's not wearing shoes. The second thing is that he HAS FREAKISH SPIDER KNUCKLE FEET.

The music never starts, but then, it doesn't have to. His hideous crackling crab feet snaps out the rhythm, and the second mouth and third mouths on his chest sing "Ave Maria" in perfect harmony. The audience is screaming for more before he even finishes. And you realize, you haven't just lost. You're obsolete.

Why it kicks ass:
The world will turn into an entertaining freak show long before you actually have to watch humanity pushed into extinction.

Chances of it happening:
First, the bad news: This has already happened. It's hard to find two people that agree on how the Neanderthals, an earlier version of the Human species, were wiped out, but most will agree that one way or another, they couldn't get their shit together.

Unlike their homosapien and cro magnon cousins, Neanderthals had less resistance to diseases, and expended more energy when fighting or hunting. As if that wasn't bad enough, marks on Neanderthal bones suggest that they were into the whole cannibalism thing, which didn't do anything to help their numbers. Homosapiens on the other hand, adapted like motherfuckers. With bigger brains, stronger grips and more inbreeding, humans were more agile, much smarter, and much deadlier than the Neanderthals.

Eventually, the next evolutionary leap will give us a human that's noticeably faster, smarter and sexier than us. The bastard. And if he or she manages to survive all the angry mobs and have a child, that's the beginning of the end of Humanity.

How to survive it (according to movies on the topic):
According to Hollywood, some members of these new, evolved supermen will show up all at once, out of the blue. They'll have unheard-of powers and will choose to become either superheroes, supervillains or dangerous predators. Our first instinct will be to exterminate them and, quite frankly, that's probably going to be the correct one. This will, of course, be difficult as they will be superior to us in every way and may count invincibility among their powers.

No, our only chance at the continuation of our species is what one theory says the Neanderthals did: cross-breed. That's right.

Charlton Heston knew the score.

When that poor red-headed mutant girl with the telekinesis opens her front door, be the first in line to offer a gentlemanly hand, and a date to the movies. And, hope she chooses you over the new boy with the prehensile penis.

#1. A Scientific Experiment Unleashes Horrors

As seen in:
The Mist, I am Legend, the Resident Evil series, Michael Crichton's Prey and Jurassic Park.

How it goes down:
Some guys in lab coats in an enormous laboratory start tinkering with genes or atoms or the very fabric of time and space itself. Horrors ensue.

Why it kicks ass:
When we're kids, we all feared the monster in the closet. Then you grow up and realize the real "monsters" are things like heart disease, cancer and depression. The idea of having to fear actual monsters again would be a huge relief.

Chances of it happening:
Thanks to a world where a certain percentage of scientists are, in fact, mad, it's easy to imagine a future where, while mankind is sitting around worrying about diseases, pollution and fuel shortages, suddenly a hole opens in reality and Cthulhu shows up.

Or, maybe something worse.

You can laugh at the idea, just as Henry Ford would have laughed if you'd told him that some day there'd be enough cars to make the whole planet overheat. Or if you told the guys who invented aerosol hairspray that they would help create a hole in the Earth's ozone layer, or found the first guys who theorized about atoms in the fifth century and tried to explain what "global thermonuclear war" is.

There's an awful lot we don't know about the universe. The idea that unspeakable horrors wait behind the skin of space, inspiring us to dance and fight and kill and eat each other is, according to our calculations, fairly plausible. So go ahead and laugh it off; that's exactly what Cthulhu wants.

If we had to guess, the project to create an artificial wormhole would be the best candidate to unleash some kind of unthinkable horrors. Or, at least until you hear about the fucking man-made black hole they're making at the particle collider at the CERN lab in Switzerland.

Still not convinced? What about nanobots? You thought the robot uprising was bad, what about being surrounded by billions of robots you can't even see without a microscope?

The goal is to some day have these things everywhere, doing everything from manufacturing goods to repairing brain cells. These things would reproduce on their own, and some speculate that one day we'd wake up and find the whole Earth replaced by a gray goo of nanobots. Or should we say, not wake up.

And, of course, let's not forget about the ever-present zombie threat.

How to survive it (according to movies on the topic):
This one is tricky. The whole reason we like to watch movies about end-of-the-world scenarios is that it's comforting to think all the threats out there are ones we saw coming. In reality, the odds are actually overwhelming that whatever body slams mankind once and for all, it'll be something the newspapers never mention until most of us are too dead to read them. They'll be blowing around the deserted streets with some phrase like "High Fructose Corn Syrup Genetic Shredding" or "Bluetooth Brainwave Disruption" or "Plasma Screen Genital Explosion" in the headline.

Our research says you should always be looking for the lone, eccentric whistleblower who everyone else is dismissing (especially if it's Jeff Goldblum). Listen to what he says. Ignore what the government tells you; they're probably acting on the ham-fisted commands of some short-sighted military officer who doesn't understand the situation.

When they start herding the panicked crowds, look around for one guy who seems to know what he's doing. He may be with an attractive girl (or, again, possibly a group of misfits who have a problem with authority). As long as you're with them, you have a chance. If you're one of the screaming people running around in the background, you're fucked.

If you enjoy reading about the end of the world, you may also like Gavin's 5 Most Kick-Ass Apocalyptic Prophecies and our enormously popular 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen.

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