What will the end of the world look like? Will it be nuclear weapons or fast food that kills us?

Is everything getting better or is it really getting worse? Can it be both? Andy Martin talks to Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, about the shape of the future: what will it look like – and will there even be one?

Monday 29 October 2018 18:55
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ot with a bang but a whimper. TS Eliot’s bleak prediction of the way the world will end. John Cooper Clark cheekily tweaked it: Not with a bang but a Wimpy. Or more likely KFC or Burger King. We are capable of eating our way into extinction. If not through outright obesity then on account of the sheer mass of cows. Bovine emissions now outstrip cars, ships, trains and planes combined. Burgers are killing the planet a bite at a time. Just like “sleepwalking” into the First World War for lack of a sufficiently powerful attachment to peace, so too we have a lurking fondness for apocalypse. The End is Nigh is now a video game. Ask surfers: the spectacular “wipeout” is highly esteemed and respected, even if not exactly sought after. The worse the better.

A world-wide obesity epidemic could get messy. With any luck we will be saved (which is to say doomed) by a decent gamma ray burst from a neighbouring star going into meltdown. Which would vaporise us, tooth and nail. “At least we wouldn’t have to worry about Brexit then,” a Swedish friend said when we were discussing the chances. Of course, it may not happen for another billion years or so. By which time we will be negotiating for the Earth to leave the Milky Way and beef up trade with other galaxies.

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