No one’s disputing the fact that breakthroughs in science have led to some wonderful achievements that have made the world a better place. But is it possible that our insatiable curiosity and quest to unlock the mysteries of the universe could one day bring about our own destruction? Listed here are eight elaborate ways that our reckless experimentation with science could eradicate the entire Solar System.
8. Contacting Hostile Aliens
For years now the American Association for the Advancement of Science has debated the potential benefits and risks of broadcasting messages to space in the hopes of attracting the attention of nearby aliens. It’s been a highly polarizing issue with proponents asserting that Active SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) is necessary if we hope to ever understand our place in the cosmos, while detractors warning that it puts all of humanity at risk of a hostile takeover.
Since we have no way of knowing what the aliens intentions might be without making first contact, there’s really no easy way of settling this argument.
7. Unleashing Self-Replicating Nanobots
In what has been outlined as a potential danger by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, a grey goo disaster is described as a situation where an uncontrollable swarm of nanobots or macrobots self-replicate to the point that they devour all planetary resources. Such a swarm could find its way into space and spread to other planets if it were to hitch a ride aboard a spaceship or planetary fragment. And with nothing left to stop it, it could eventually consume the entire Solar System.
6. Allowing An Artificial Intelligence to Grow Out of Control
Many futurists would have you believe we’re approaching an event they refer to as the Technological Singularity — a point at which, in addition to a number of other marvelous scientific breakthroughs, artificial intelligence will match or exceed human intelligence. And while it might sound exactly like a cliche post-apocalyptic scenario a Hollywood sci-fi film, many computer science experts agree that an out-of-control AI isn’t a completely unrealistic scenario. In such a case the AI might take matters into its own hands by devising a meta-ethical imperative it feels must be enforced across the entire universe.
5. A Particle Accelerator Accident
Even before construction began on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, some scientists were concerned that collisions created by the souped up accelerator could create a number of problematic anomalies such as microscopic black holes, magnetic monopoles, or strangelets (also known as “strange matter”) — a hypothetical form of matter containing strange quarks that some believe could have a connection to dark matter. And while many of these fears have been dismissed by physicists as nothing more than rumors disseminated by “unqualified people seeking sensation or publicity,” there is still a general consensus that the inadvertent unleashing of strangelets would probably be a bad thing.
Luckily, none of the LHC tests so far have produced any stray strange matter, but what’s to say that future high-powered experiments aren’t incapable of making the stuff? In fact, it’s been hypothesized that strange matter might exist inside the high-pressure cores of neutron stars. If we were to artificially create those conditions either on Earth or in space, it could have some dire and unwanted consequences.
4. Creating Artificial Worm Holes
Connecting your destination to your point of departure might sound like the most efficient method of transportation possible, but lets not forget that creating an artificial worm hole would essentially require us to rip a hole in the fabric if space.
Iranian nuclear physicist Mohammad Mansouryar wrote a paper that theorized that if we can find a way to produce sufficient amounts of exotic matter, it should be possible to punch a hole in the space-time continuum and make an interstellar shortcut. However the mass-energy required to open the wormhole would be on the order of a black hole and could cause virtual particles to become real and break down the wormhole in an energy cascade. Another unfortunate scenario would be if one end of the wormhole opened into a sun. The result would likely be either an extinguished star or an irradiated solar system.
3. A Stellar Engineering Mishap
There are futurists who speculate that one day far from now we might decide to undertake one of a variety of stellar engineering projects that could have the potential to wipe out the solar system. In the book Interstellar Migration and the Human Experience, David Criswell, Director of the Institute for Space Systems Operations at the University of Houston, describes an approach he refers to as “star lifting” by which a sufficiently advanced civilization could remove a substantial portion of a star to be used for any number of purposes including the creation of new stars. It’s also thought that these future stellar engineers might remove the star matter out of necessity so that the Sun will burn less rapidly, and therefore last longer.
But much like how many of today’s geological engineering projects are fraught with calamitous implications, stellar engineering would likely bring with it a number of terrifying potential consequences. For instance, attempts to remove the Sun’s mass could produce incredibly powerful and dangerous solar emissions, or could diminish the brightness of the star enough to threaten life on Earth. It could also throw off planetary obits, which, as you’ll see, comes with its own set of problems.
2. Messing With Orbital Dynamics
Despite seemingly running like clockwork for millennia, the orbital dynamics of our Solar System are actually held in a surprisingly delicate balance. So if we were to start moving around planetary bodies or changing the mass of our star, perhaps through a stellar engineering project, we run the risk of destroying this fragile harmony.
We’ve already demonstrated through nuclear proliferation that we have the capacity to destroy our planet’s entire landmass hundreds of times over, and who know what we’ll do to the other apparently lifeless planets in our solar system once we get our space mining terraforming enterprises up and running. According to astrophysicists, even the slightest orbital disturbance could eventually result in some catastrophic extinction-level chaos. The reason for this is because every object in the Solar System feels the gravitational pulls from every other object in the Solar System. Thus, two orbiting bodies can still influence each other even if they’re very far apart, and frequent close encounters between disproportionate bodies can result in smaller bodies getting destabilized or even ejected out of the Solar System altogether.
1. Experimenting With Warp Drive Technology
In 2012 Harold White blew the minds of sci-fi fans everywhere when he announced that he and his team at NASA had started work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, is derived from the theoretical Alcubierre Drive, and if the technology operates according to spec it should be able to transport a vessel to our closest star (Alpha Centauri) in mere weeks rather than the thousands of years it would take with conventional propulsion systems.
The concept doesn’t even violate Einstein’s laws of relativity because rather than exceeding the speed of light within a local reference frame, the spacecraft would traverse distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, creating the effect of faster-than-light travel. Problem is, the negative mass energy-density field required to create the warp bubble requires an insane amount of energy that roughly equates to the mass of Jupiter. And with that much energy in play, the warp drive vessel could end up destroying everything around it once it reaches its destination.
According to FTL researchers, space particles can get swept up into the warp bubble and then released in energetic outbursts when the craft decelerates. Therefore any planet or planets caught in the path of these outbursts could be instantly obliterated by a blast of gamma rays and high energy particles.