The outcome of a presidential election might inspire unbridled hope — or make you feel like the world is ending.
Yet both feelings ignore the humbling truth about our fragile existence. Life exists on Earth only because it teeters in a delicate and truly improbable balance. Our atmosphere, proximity to the sun, and countless other beautiful coincidences not only permit living things to survive and evolve but also thrive.
And yet, here we are, sitting at desks and in coffee shops and walking down the street like it isn't some kind of extraordinary miracle.
But all good things must come to an end.
One day Earth will be inhospitable to anything resembling life as we know it.
The life on this planet likely won't cease until billions of years from now. But, depending on the vicissitudes of astrophysics, it could also happen tomorrow or anytime in between.
Here are the many ways scientists believe the Earth could die.
1) The Earth's molten core might cool.
The resulting flood of high-energy particles that slam into Earth's air can trigger beautiful auroras, or sometimes disruptive geomagnetic storms.
Source: Business Insider
But if the core cools, we'd lose our magnetosphere — and also our protection from solar winds, which would slowly blast our atmosphere into space.
Mars — once rich with water and a thick atmosphere — suffered this same fate billions of years ago, leading to the nearly airless, seemingly lifeless world we know today.