OPEN THREAD: Do You Ever Think About How One Day All Life On Earth Will Be Eradicated?

Presenting the worst open thread ever, brought to you by my menstrual cycle and humanity's unavoidable destruction.
Publish date:
September 25, 2013
open thread, science, climate change, our inevitable destruction, depressing thoughts

I woke up at 7 this morning, because cramps. This is about the only reason I am up so early these days, as my beloved husband is currently unemployed and so I have little motivation to go to bed before midnight or to wake up before 8.

But cramps there were, and so I got up and made some magical cramp-fixing tea.

And then I remembered I was on deck to produce an open thread today. Oh gosh, ideas. I went and read Twitter. I read CNN. I read the Huffington Post. I even read the Daily Mail. I asked Marianne. WHERE ARE ALL THE IDEAS.

And then I got a mysterious call from a 407 area code, which I did not answer because if I don’t recognize a number I don’t pick up the damn phone. Upon googling it later -- because while I am not curious enough to actually answer the phone, it seems I am curious enough to pretend I’m an internet detective -- I found that it originated on Merritt Island in Florida, which is where Kennedy Space Center is. FINALLY, THE SPACE SHUTTLE IS CALLING ME, I thought, but the truth is it was probably just a wrong number. Also, the space shuttles no longer exist.

I spent literally, no hyperbole, two actual real-life hours looking for an open thread topic. Nothing resonated. I blame my period. Some days I have no ideas. Some days I’m just sort of shambling zombie-style through what needs doing, like everybody does from time to time.

I thought about asking folks how they feel about holding grudges, but that seemed likely to result in a bunch of negativity and I can't deal with negativity while menstruating, even though it’s kind of an interesting subject, like why do some of us hold grudges forever, and others forgive so easily?

I thought about bringing up the fact that sometimes when I feel despair over mistakes I’ve made, or challenges I'm facing, or just when I feel upset and ridiculous FOR NO REASON, I take tremendous solace in the simple fact that at some point in the distant (or not-so-distant) future, this planet will be a dead rock with no sign that humans ever lived here.

This is an inevitable reality, beyond even climate change or our more immediate concerns about life on earth -- in about 3.5 billion years, the sun, in following its normal expected lifepsan, will have exhausted enough of its hydrogen fuel that it will be hot and bright enough to boil the oceans right off the earth. In about 6 billion years, the sun will exhaust its hydrogen entirely and expand exponentially in size, becoming so large as to devour the earth, or, at the very least, to scorch its surface so completely that nothing but charred rock will be left. The end.

That said, some experts -- of a kind -- think we’re in the midst of an extinction cycle even now. Inevitable planet-wide doom aside, there have been five large-scale mass extinctions in the earth’s history. The most recent was the one that saw the end of the dinosaurs; the most dramatic was the colorfully-named Great Dying, which eradicated as much as 96% of all marine life and 70% of land-based vertebrates, after which the planet took as long as 10 million years to recover.

The curtain fell on the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, and interestingly, these extinction cycles seem to follow a fairly predictable 62-million-year schedule, even though geologists are not entirely certain why that is. So, if you check our planetary watch, we’re probably due for some extinction right about now.

I know that this sort of information is terrifying to many people, but I find it genuinely soothing. Not because I hate everything, but because in the end it means that whatever I do is ultimately happening in less than a blink of the universe’s eye. I am reassured by my own insignificance, and by the reminder that the true extent of all time and space reaches far beyond anything my tiny feeble brain can even comprehend. It actually makes me calmer, more positive, and more focused on living each moment that I have.

It makes me less likely to hold grudges, for example -- something I'm trying to do less of.

SO, does anyone else take comfort in the fact that, even once we’re all dead and gone, the entirety of human existence and accomplishment will represent less than a mote of dust on the universal scale? Or is that just me? Here’s a very pretty and scientifically-meticulous video made by the American Museum of Natural History to demonstrate how much nothing we all are, in case I haven’t freaked you out enough already.