Predictions about the end of the world--or at least of humankind--are as old as civilization itself. But that doesn't mean the end will never happen. In End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World, science reporter Bryan Walsh explores all kinds of existential threats to humanity. Among them are super-volcanoes, asteroids, climate change, nuclear war, disease, biotechnology, artificial intelligence and, yes, even aliens. Some of these possibilities might sound outlandish, but Walsh draws on more than 15 years of investigative journalism at Time magazine to get the science right. He also includes interviews with scientists who study various life-ending phenomena, as well as ways to circumvent apocalypse via advanced technology and elaborate warning systems. This is a book that balances doom and gloom with hope and humor.
Walsh shows that some of these threats, like asteroids and super-volcanoes, are not without precedent. Casual readers of science may already know that an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs, but lesser known is the eruption of Toba, a super-volcano that exploded more than 74,000 years ago. As Walsh puts it, "Homo sapiens had a very bad day" when Toba blew. The amount of rock and ash spewed from the mountain, he writes, was the equivalent to 2,800 Mount St. Helens eruptions--enough to darken the skies for years and creating "hell on Earth."
Rarely is popular science writing this hair-raising. Breezily written but deeply researched, End Times thrills as much as it educates. --Amy Brady, freelance writer and editor