Is the End of the World Near?: From Crackpot Predictions to Scientific Scenarios


At one time or another, just about everyone has talked about the end of the world. But what does this phrase really mean? Does it mean the end of the human race? The end of planet Earth? The end of our Sun and solar system? And if the world were to actually end, how and when would it happen? People have been asking these questions for thousands of years. Many religious prophets have predicted the end of the world. Science-fiction writers have created lots of end-of-the-world stories. Scientists, too, talk about ...

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At one time or another, just about everyone has talked about the end of the world. But what does this phrase really mean? Does it mean the end of the human race? The end of planet Earth? The end of our Sun and solar system? And if the world were to actually end, how and when would it happen? People have been asking these questions for thousands of years. Many religious prophets have predicted the end of the world. Science-fiction writers have created lots of end-of-the-world stories. Scientists, too, talk about natural events that could destroy human life or planet Earth. Some end-of-the-world events are dramatic. Imagine an asteroid slamming into Earth, creating a massive explosion. Other scenarios don't involve a single, catastrophic event. For example, global warming is changing the planet and threatening people, plants, and animals. It might not bring about the end of the world, but it might change life as we know it. In this book, we'll look at these scenarios and many more—everything from Mayan prophecy to nuclear disaster to the end of the universe. We'll find out which scenarios to ignore and which ones to really worry about.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Having gone through a week in August of 2011 with an earthquake on Tuesday and a hurricane on Saturday, one might start to wonder if perhaps something is changing in this world. Miller has written an engaging story of how the world is predicted to end based on scientific evidence. Yes, it will happen when our sun finally dies, but we are talking about something a billion years in the future. That is pretty much a fact. The opening of the book focuses more on theories of destruction some of which have passed and others which are still pending such as the impending arrival of a planet named Nibiru which will collide with Earth on December 21, 2012 and also the Mayan Cosmogenesis calling for the end of the world on the same date. There is plenty to read on the Internet both supporting and debunking these theories. One thing the book does point out and to which readers should pay attention is the destructiveness of human beings. We are using up the earth's resources at a rapid rate and there is no question that the planet is getting more polluted and hotter. In addition, there is the threat of nuclear war or nuclear disaster—the most recent of which we experienced in Japan. Perhaps it will be a pandemic that destroys human life or at least a majority of it. The bigger worry is that the population will grow too large for the earth to support it resulting in chaos. There are suggestions about using cleaner sources of energy, speculation about establishing colonies on the Moon or Mars and in the final Epilogue, more food for thought on ways to prevent our world from ending sooner than it should. The illustrations are excellent, and the backmatter is fascinating for anyone who wants to pursue the subject in more detail. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Kirkus Reviews

Will the world end in a bang or a whimper? Unless pre-empted by human-induced disaster or one of many scientifically possible catastrophic scenarios, life on Earth will end a billion years from now in a sizzle.

Predicting the end of the world is an old story, argues the author, presenting evidence in brief surveys of eschatologies from the world's major religions and mythologies of ancient civilizations. Miller also notes how end-of-world scenarios have captured humanity's imagination in their frequent appearances in science-fiction novels and motion pictures. (Disappointingly, the reasons for this ongoing fascination are not explored.) A chapter about imminent predictions for 2012 explains the Mayan prophecy and a theory about a phantom planet called Nibiru crashing into Earth. Another chapter examines pseudoscientific end-of-world theories such as planetary alignment and pole shifts. The primary focus is on scientifically plausible scenarios: self-destruction through nuclear war or continued environmental exploitation; humanity wiped out by a pandemic; an asteroid or comet strike destroying Earth.

Attractively designed and handsomely illustrated, this informative text introduces teens to many intriguing angles on a high-interest topic that should inspire many to further explore the subject. (chronology, glossary, bibliography, further reading, index)(Nonfiction. 12-16)

VOYA - Ria Newhouse
In the introduction to Is the End of the World Near?, author Ron Miller makes a salient point: He states, "Is the world going to come to an end? The simple answer is yes." Although the rest of the book is filled with everything from "crackpot predictions" to "scientific scenarios," readers immediately know that someday, "more than one billion years from now, the Sun will become much brighter and hotter," thus destroying life (and everything else) on planet Earth. This is an interesting text that explores different possibilities as they pertain to life and existence. The second chapter is devoted to the year 2012, which will certainly spark interest among some readers—are we really doomed in 2012? There is also the underlying question— are we dooming ourselves with pollution, the disappearance of fossil fuels, global warming, etc.? Or is doom in our DNA—is the Earth meant to last forever? This book is an awkward size; it certainly will not fit in a back pocket but the glossy pages may entice readers. Interesting pictures pepper almost every page and the book contains a timeline, glossary, and index. For burgeoning scientists, this may be a winner, but most teens will pick it up only if they are already asking the question, where are we going? Reviewer: Ria Newhouse
School Library Journal
Gr 6–9—Is our planet doomed? "The simple answer is yes," writes Miller. The only question is whether the end will come from a giant asteroid or errant black hole, a supernova's gamma ray burst or our Sun's transformation into a red giant. But these are, most likely, distant future possibilities; the human species is far more immediately vulnerable. The author devotes most of his presentation to a selective tally of our possible ends, from religious and pseudoscientific predictions (including the supposed Mayan apocalypse "scheduled" for December 21, 2012) to an array of more feasible pandemics, ecological breakdowns, nuclear conflagrations, supervolcanoes, and other natural catastrophes. He also tucks in references to prominent end-of-days novels and films, and takes his eschatological narrative to the universe-ending "Big Crunch" before closing on a perversely optimistic note. Capped with generous annotated lists of multimedia resources and illustrated throughout with dramatic photographed or digitally rendered disasters, this title may not be as earnestly thorough as Jim Willis's Armageddon Now: The End of the World A to Z (Visible Ink, 2006) or as gleefully alarming as Philip C. Plait's Death from the Skies! (Viking, 2008), both of which are aimed at older readers, but it makes intriguingly disquieting reading nonetheless.—John Peters, formerly at New York Public Library
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761373964
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/1/2011
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 1,518,461
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.33 (w) x 10.34 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Miller has worked as a freelance writer and illustrator for more than 30 years. Many of his illustrations appear in magazines like Astronomy and Scientific American. He has also worked on motion pictures and created postage stamps. (One of his stamps is attached to a spacecraft headed for the planet Pluto!) He has also written short stories and novels and has even created a comic book.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 5

chapter 1 Fantasy Faith, and Fiction 9

Chapter 2 2012 21

Chapter 3 Pseudoscience 29

Chapter 4 Knockout From Space 41

Chapter 5 Our Own Worst Enemy 59

Chapter 6 The End of the Human Species? 75

Chapter 7 The End of Earth 89

Chapter 8 Going, Going, Gone 97

Epilogue 106

Timeline 108

Glossary 110

Source Notes 112

Selected Bibliography 112

Further Reading, Films, and Websites 113

Index 118

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