What exactly would it take to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth?

sXeth

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This depends largely on what we define as "humanity". Worldwide radiation, a massive biological virus/plague, complete toxification of fresh water (though this is sketchy, as there's always a small purification effect caused by rain to harvest), or an ice age triggered by meteoric impact/large scale volcanic event contaminating the atmopshere are all prime candidates.

However, its entirely possible that this would trigger the evolutionary progression in our species, resulting in a level of adapation. Without modern medicine suppressing natural selection, the survivor traits would breed, while the unadapted died, but the resulting strain might not be human in the strictest scientific sense.

A completely out of left field species going sentient and rising up to commit genocide is also on the distant odds, but probably unlikely, given our level of observation on the world. Beware the Jellyfish revolution!
 

Angelous Wang

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Oct 18, 2011
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In order to kill the entire human race you simply have to remove all oxygen from the planet.

So you'd need something that would kill all the algae in sea (which is 80% of the worlds oxygen) and all surface plant life (which is other 20%).
 

RoonMian

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If the Nemesis-Theory proves to be true in about 13 million years then we're gonna have a bombardment of comets coming down on us. That could at least be very difficult to survive.
 

lacktheknack

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Jan 19, 2009
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What a terrifying question. Why do you want to know!? D:

Due to my thoughts outlined above, I'm going with "poke them all with a feather, that'll get 'em".
 

Mr.Mattress

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Jul 17, 2009
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Nuclear War, followed by Nuclear Fallout, Followed by Buebonic Plague Pandemic, Followed By Alien Invasion, followed by a sudden Destruction of the Earth from Meteors hitting it. And that will only wipe out Humanity if there aren't any colonies on other planets!

Humans are resilient little buggers, aren't they? Almost like Rabbits we are...
 

Thaluikhain

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gigastar said:
It would take a Chernobyl or Fukushima equivalent happening once about every 8 square miles of land.

I imagine that would do it. And then some.
There are people living in the "uninhabitable" area around Chernobyl even today. Also, Fukushima was mostly media spin, which is particularly annoying as there was a rather newsworthy tsunami that hit Japan to talk about. Even that was in large dodgy media, because it hit other places worse, but people like Japan more.
 

The Madman

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Not a lot really, we're a pretty damned stubborn species. That's why we're top of the food chain even when half the worlds natural predators should by all right be able to slaughter us one on one with ease. Now we're to the point where we keep tigers and lions and bears around mostly because we'd feel bad if they all died out.

That's right, we're so damned badass we keep our main competition for top of the food chain around out of pity.

Still, a big enough meteor would do it... assuming we hadn't spread to other planets by the time it hit, which considering we're already planning on Mars is starting to seem like it might never happen.

Go Team Humanity!
 

Jodah

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Other than the sun going into Red Giant mode in a few billion years or something knocking the planet out of orbit, I don't think anything can. Causing society to collapse is certainly possible and likely at some point. However, completely wiping out the species is unlikely given how resourceful humanity, as a whole, is.
 

Kanova

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Some disease that affects reproduction would probably do it. Over time we would just simply fade away.
 

LunarKnights

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Well it could take a meteor, giant cat monsters, giant tornadoes, an alien Mexican armada armed with weapons made out of tomatoes, old women, and the moon crashing into the Earth. I'm not sure if even Two Brothers can handle that.
 

Soviet Heavy

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RoonMian said:
If the Nemesis-Theory proves to be true in about 13 million years then we're gonna have a bombardment of comets coming down on us. That could at least be very difficult to survive.
Well then, we have plenty of time to make spaceships and go to other planets, don't we? Even when it comes to wiping us off the face of Planet Earth, humans would still survive.
 

'Record Stops.'

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It's simple really. We just drop a couple nukes into the center of the Earth, blow it up, bam done.
I learned everything I need to know about being an evil genius at Dr. Evil's Evil Doctor Medical School...NOT that I am one or anything, just saying if we blow up the Earth we all die.

Kind of like that.
If that doesn't work, then we can just hijack a Magnetic satellite, mess up the polar ice caps, and drown everyone.

Failing all of that...I'unno, fire a laser from the moon and blow up everything?
 

MrMixelPixel

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My friend and I were just talking about this. We came to the conclusion (with our non-professional knowledge)that nothing short of a huge astronomical event like a star exploding, a super advanced sentient group killing us all off, or Earth becoming completely uninhabitable for us (no drinkable water, breathable air, too hot, too cold) everywhere.

Seems like anything short of that there would at least be some straggling humans that could carve out a decent living.
 

wulfy42

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If you want to see what global warming can obtain, look at venus. It's average temperature is actually hotter then mercury...due to it's high carbon dioxide levels, and constant cloud cover trapping the suns heat inside the atmosphere. Add in the huge lightning storms and high winds this causes and you could easily end up with no life on earth period, let alone no humans left.

We may have already gone past the point of no return as well. I remember reading once that it takes about 50 years for the effects to be felt on global warming, so if we adding to the problem at all right now, we would still have to deal with the effects of what we have done over the next 50 years, which might already be enough to tip us over the edge.

If the ice caps melt, and we have more water, and a hotter general temperature, we'll have more evaporation and cloud cover, which will trap in more heat, which will increase the temperature even more, creating even more evaporation and cloud cover. This can cause drastic differences in temperature which can cause very strong winds, and of course more clouds means more electrical discharges as well. If we got to a point where we had cloud cover over most of the earth, most of the time, eventually that would probably be enough to wipe out all life on this planet.

Even without that, you have the locust effect. A few people above have mentioned the overpopulation problem but stated that eventually once most of humanity was gone, the few left would be fine. Thing is, humans could become very much like locusts....with such a large population on the earth, suddenly unable to obtain the resources needed for survival. Total anarchy could ensue and all possible resources could be consumed. This could especially be deadly due to the fact that we have technology available to obtain resources that might not be available after all the fighting is over. Add in the large number of very deadly weapons we have (nukes, biological weapons/viruses etc), and yeah, such a breakdown in society could easily lead to either human extinction, or yet again, absolute destruction of all life on the planet.

As far as nukes...well, I believe most of the nukes on the planet have been disarmed, from around 70k at max to under 20k now, that is still enough to set off some serious consequences that might cause huge valcano's to go off, global warming or winter, or even just enough dust to block out the sun for enough time to wipe out most plant/algae eventually making the atmosphere unable to support life at all. We might survive such a war, but there is really no way to know in advance.

Heck, even biological agents could be released that might at least wipe out all human life (and possibly most land based animal life at least). Science is also a possibility as well. If you play around with attempting to create small scale black holes for instance...and make a mistake...well, that could be all she wrote really fast as well, not just for our planet, but our whole solar system as well.
 

Isra

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I'd guess the most likely short-term candidates would be a particularly large asteroid, the most extreme example of nuclear war (definitely an extinction level event, just ask all of your nuclear physicist friends), or a random monster gamma ray. All are pretty bloody unlikely but the only thing a statistic needs is time, and there's plenty of that. Long term we're assured extinction when the sun slowly turns into a red giant / when the earth cools and loses its magnetic field.

There are plenty of other disasters that would make our lives fun for a while, but wouldn't bugger us entirely. Global warming? We've already survived an ice age, and we did it mostly with the amazing technology of fire, pointy sticks and fur ripped off of various adorable animals. Global warming has occurred many times over in the past, CO2 levels have been higher before and mammals have survived, we simply accelerated this cycle and ensured it will be a particularly bad one - it might end civilization, but not our species. Supervirus? Been there, done that. When you have no antibiotics the bubonic plague is effectively the same thing. It just doesn't have legs of its own, and therefore won't reach everyone. Aliens? I'd be amazed if any race in the universe has figured out effective interstellar, let alone intergalactic travel. I'd be even more amazed if any race possessing such godlike technology would so much as pull the car over to piss on our planet. Most people seem to have no scope of just how ridiculously far out of reach this idea is. The warp drive on the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D is approximately one bajillion plus infinity years ahead of every other piece of tech on the ship, including the teleporter, Data and even that awesome hot chocolate dispenser. And then there are still other problems with interstellar travel that make it practically impossible, at least according to what we know about physics. So there's probably tons of aliens out there, but that's where they're staying.
 

Groxnax

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Hmmm.

Planet killer asteroid + Robot apocalypse + Time travel might do it.

Or maybe a reversal of Earth's gravity might do it but then we might just wear lead shoes then.
 

Thaluikhain

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wulfy42 said:
If you want to see what global warming can obtain, look at venus. It's average temperature is actually hotter then mercury...due to it's high carbon dioxide levels, and constant cloud cover trapping the suns heat inside the atmosphere. Add in the huge lightning storms and high winds this causes and you could easily end up with no life on earth period, let alone no humans left.
Er...Venus has a totally different atmospheric content and orbits much closer to the sun. Yes, if the Earth turned into Venus suddenly, everyone would die. This is not going to happen.

wulfy42 said:
If the ice caps melt, and we have more water, and a hotter general temperature, we'll have more evaporation and cloud cover, which will trap in more heat, which will increase the temperature even more, creating even more evaporation and cloud cover. This can cause drastic differences in temperature which can cause very strong winds, and of course more clouds means more electrical discharges as well. If we got to a point where we had cloud cover over most of the earth, most of the time, eventually that would probably be enough to wipe out all life on this planet.
Nope. A lot of it, sure, but "all" is a tall order.

wulfy42 said:
This could especially be deadly due to the fact that we have technology available to obtain resources that might not be available after all the fighting is over. Add in the large number of very deadly weapons we have (nukes, biological weapons/viruses etc), and yeah, such a breakdown in society could easily lead to either human extinction, or yet again, absolute destruction of all life on the planet.
Again, only most of it. Humans are resilient creatures, and spread out all over the world. Plenty of people live in places that just aren't worth targeting, but would survive (in some form) the loss of everyone else.

wulfy42 said:
As far as nukes...well, I believe most of the nukes on the planet have been disarmed, from around 70k at max to under 20k now, that is still enough to set off some serious consequences that might cause huge valcano's to go off, global warming or winter, or even just enough dust to block out the sun for enough time to wipe out most plant/algae eventually making the atmosphere unable to support life at all. We might survive such a war, but there is really no way to know in advance.
As I understand it, current predictions say we would, though, yeah, let's not test this.

You are correct that nuclear weapons are generally smaller now...the Soviets tested the Tsar Bomba at 50 MT, the real thing was supposed to be at 100 MT, though whether it would have that much power is debated.

Nowdays most devices are much smaller, because it's far more cost effective to build them that way. In the old days, you couldn't guarantee the device would initiate anywhere near the target, so you had to build them big for you still hit if you missed by a lot, if yo see what I mean. With modern targeting this isn't such an issue.

wulfy42 said:
Heck, even biological agents could be released that might at least wipe out all human life (and possibly most land based animal life at least).
If you mean a disease, not really...firstly, why would anyone do that? They are just as vulnerable to it as their enemies.

Secondly, the more people you kill, the less are left to spread it to the survivors.

Third, diseases only affect certain organisms. You're not going to find something that most land animals can suffer from.

(OTOH, this means you can get a disease which attacks certain creatures and not others. If your enemy grows potatoes, and you do not, you can safely spread super potato blights. Not "kill all humans" level, but could make quite a mess)

wulfy42 said:
Science is also a possibility as well. If you play around with attempting to create small scale black holes for instance...and make a mistake...well, that could be all she wrote really fast as well, not just for our planet, but our whole solar system as well.
Nope. Now, releasing a small black hole would end up with all available matter being drawn in, yes, but that would end with the planet. Black holes don't have any more gravitational pull than what they were before they were black holes. The star that used to be a black hole would draw you towards it to the same extent.

If the Earth became a black hole, the moon wouldn't really notice, because the Earth's gravity would be the same.
 

Sandernista

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thaluikhain said:
gigastar said:
It would take a Chernobyl or Fukushima equivalent happening once about every 8 square miles of land.

I imagine that would do it. And then some.
There are people living in the "uninhabitable" area around Chernobyl even today. Also, Fukushima was mostly media spin, which is particularly annoying as there was a rather newsworthy tsunami that hit Japan to talk about. Even that was in large dodgy media, because it hit other places worse, but people like Japan more.
But people couldn't live there during the event, and I think he means several chernobyl events happening simultaneously.

Plasmadamage said:
Eh, I think you're underestimating how resilient we are. Sure, North America and Canada would end up under a kilometre of ash, but the oncoming volcanic winter will hardly kill us all. The biggest risk would be the destruction of agriculture around the world, but we have access to technology that can offset that now (hydroponics, sunlamps, GM)

I'm not denying that it will take a big chunk out of us, but I hardly think it will be the end. Remember, we survived the Toba supervolcano, and that was long before we had anything even approximating science.
I think you're overestimating our resiliency, the Yellowstone caldera would end most life on the surface of the earth for quite a while. Compared to the Toba event, we could likely see nearly twice as much ash and significantly greater earthquakes. I can't say that it certainly will kill every single human, but it will come damn near close. It will definitely destroy almost all infrastructure around the world, and I don't think we could survive a post-agriculture world without significant infrastructure.