The Earth, right now, is revolving around the sun at about 62,000 miles per hour. But what would happen if we slowed to a stop? At that point, the planet would have exactly 64 1/2 days before it crashed into the sun. In this week’s episode, we find out what would happen during those 64 1/2 days.
Oh and those of you who were asking for more optimistic episodes are going to have to wait, because in this one everybody dies.
This week’s guest is Aatish Bhatia, who actually wrote a blog post about this possible future last year. In his post, and this episode, he takes us on a tour of doom—when do humans die? When do animals die? How, precisely, does the Earth plow into the sun?
Once humans relinquish control of the Earth, the planet will be ruled by a series of insects and other organisms. First the Saharan Desert ants and the Saharan silver ants will take over. Then, ultimately, the tardigrades will be the sole inheritors of the Earth. There might even be organisms we don’t yet know about that make it longer. But no matter what, each of these reigns will be quite short.
In the end, the Earth will either break into pieces, and fall into the sun. Or it will stay a solid ball of rock and magma, and fall into the sun. Precisely how the Earth falls into the sun is a point of contention, it turns out. Either way, nothing survives.
But what about humans? The last of the humans would probably last about 35 days. Surely over the course of that time, the combined minds of SpaceX and NASA and the ESA could come up with some way to save at least a few humans? There are a few complicating factors here.
First, because the position of the Earth would be changing all the time, it would be really hard to do the orbital calculations necessary to successfully blast off. Then, even if they did leave, where would they go? Would they have enough supplies and knowhow to terraform? Or would they be destined to a long, slow death in space?
Thankfully, there is really no need to worry about this. It’s really never going to happen. Even the space pirates from episode two would struggle to drag the Earth to a halt.
If you have thoughts about futures we should explore on the podcast, leave us a note in the comments, on Twitter, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud or via whatever RSS reading app you chose.
Image by Jim Cooke, source photos via NASA