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Hollywood vs. Reality
Catastrophic climate change and hostile aliens routinely play prominent roles in Hollywood visions of apocalyptic endings to humanity's stint on planet Earth.
In fact, from the 1950s "The Day the Earth Stood Still" to the 1960s "Planet of the Apes" to more recent apocalyptic flicks like "The Day After Tomorrow," and "After Earth," doomsday has been explored plenty in fiction.
But although these blockbusters may be pure fantasy, many scientists are worried about other perilous scenarios — some of which are even scarier than anything that's been depicted on the silver screen.
From pandemic fungus to robot insurrection, here are 9 apocalyptic visions that scientists foresee. [Doom and Gloom: Top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Worlds]
Global warmingSlide 2 of 19
The mother of all apocalyptic fears, climate change is the biggest threat facing the planet, many scientists say. Climate change could make extreme weather more severe, increase droughts in some areas, change the distribution of animals and diseases across the globe, and cause low-lying areas of the planet to be submerged in the wake of rising sea levels. The cascade of changes could lead to political instability, severe drought, famine, ecosystem collapse and other changes that make Earth a decidedly inhospitable place to live.Slide 3 of 19
Asteroid!Slide 4 of 19
It's the mainstay of disaster movies, but scientists are legitimately worried that a space rock could wipe out Earth. A meteor impact probably doomed the dinosaurs, and in the Tunguska event, a massive meteoroid damaged about 770 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of the Siberian forest in 1908. Even more frightening, perhaps, is that astronomers only know about a fraction of the space rocks lurking in the solar system.Slide 5 of 19
Pandemic threatSlide 6 of 19
New deadly pathogens crop up every year: Recent pandemics have included outbreaks of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), bird flu, and, most recently, a coronavirus called MERS that originated in Saudi Arabia. And because of our highly interconnected, global economy, a deadly disease could spread like wildfire.
"The threat of a global pandemic is very real," said Joseph Miller, co-author (along with Ken Miller) of the textbook "Biology" (Prentice Hall, 2010).Slide 7 of 19
Engineered disasterSlide 8 of 19