Not all apocalyptic predictions are steeped in religious fervor or science fiction; some are based solidly upon respected science. Most scholars agree that 7.6 billion years from now, the sun will enter its red giant phase when it has converted all of its hydrogen into helium. This will cause the sun to expand to a size 20 percent greater than that of Earth's orbit and shine 3,000 times brighter [source: Appell]. Once this stage is complete, the sun will then collapse into a white dwarf.
Whether this process will actually destroy the planet is a topic of debate in the scientific community. If Earth were to stay in its current orbit, it would undoubtedly be engulfed and vaporized by the expanding sun. However, as the sun swells it will also lose mass, meaning that Earth will drift further away from it and perhaps escape total destruction. Either way, this process would destroy life as we know it, that is, if there were any life left to destroy.
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More Great Links
- "A Conversation With Harold Camping, Prophesier of Judgment Day." New York Magazine. May 11, 2011. (June 15, 2011) http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/05/a_conversation_with_harold_cam.html
- Appell, David. "The Sun Will Eventually Engulf Earth--Maybe." Scientific American Magazine. Sept. 8, 2008. (June 15, 2011) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-sun-will-eventually-engulf-earth-maybe
- Brumfiel, Geoff. "No Black Holes Formed at Large Hadron Collider." Scientific American. Dec. 14, 2010. (June 15, 2011) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=no-black-holes-formed-at-large
- Burke, Garance. "Doomsday Date Was Miscalculated, Says Harold Camping." May 26, 2011. (June 15, 2011) http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2011/0526/Doomsday-date-was-miscalculated-says-Harold-Camping
- Crawford, Kathryn. "Tick Tock: The Year 2000 Problem." Microsoft. May 4, 1998. (June 15, 2011) http://www.microsoft.com/misc/features/features_2000.htm
- Derbyshire, David. "Birth of the Universe 'Re-created': Large Hadron Collider Generates 'Mini Big Bang.'" The Daily Mail. Nov. 9, 2010. (June 15, 2011) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1327769/Large-Hadron-Collider-creates-mini-Big-Bang.html
- Johnson, John Jr. "The End of the World As We Know It." Los Angeles Times. April 13, 2008. (June 15, 2011) http://articles.latimes.com/print/2008/apr/13/science/sci-collider13
- Karl, Jonathan. Y2K Precautions: Successful or Excessive?" CNN. Jan. 2, 2000. (June 15, 2011) http://archives.cnn.com/2000/US/01/02/y2k.hyped/index.html
- Maeder, Jay. "Doomsday: When Halley's Comet Came To Town, 1910." New York Daily News. March 28, 1998. (June 15, 2011) http://articles.nydailynews.com/1998-03-29/news/18068556_1_edmond-halley-great-comet-skies
- Minard, Anne. "Red Giant Sun May Not Destroy Earth." National Geographic News. Sept. 14, 2007. (June 15, 2011) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070914-red-giants.html
- Moser, Whet. "Apocalypse Oak Park: Dorothy Martin, the Chicagoan Who Predicted the End of the World and Inspired the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance." ChicagoMag.com. May 20, 2011. (June 13, 2011) http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/May-2011/Dorothy-Martin-the-Chicagoan-Who-Predicted-the-End-of-the-World-and-Inspired-the-Theory-of-Cognitive-Dissonance/
- Newman, Sharan. "The Real History of the End of the World." New York: Berkley Books, 2010.
- O'Carroll, Eoin. "Judgment Day? Five End-of-the-World Predictions." May 2011. (June 13, 2011) http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2011/0518/Judgment-Day-Five-failed-end-of-the-world-predictions/October-22-1844
- "One Year Later, Heaven's Gate Suicide Leaves Only Faint Trail." CNN. March 15, 1998. (June 15, 2011) http://articles.cnn.com/1998-03-25/us/9803_25_heavens.gate_1_cult-members-marshall-applewhite-wayne-cooke?_s=PM:US
- Onishi, Norimitsu. "After 8-Year Trial in Japan, Cultists is Sentenced to Death." The New York Times. Feb. 28, 2004. (June 15, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/28/world/after-8-year-trial-in-japan-cultist-is-sentenced-to-death.html?ref=shokoasahara&pagewanted=1
- Overbye, Dennis. "Asking the Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More." The New York Times. March 29, 2008. (June 15, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/29/science/29collider.html
- "Profile: Shoko Asahara." BBC News. Feb. 27, 2004. (June 15, 2011) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3504237.stm
- Purdum, Tom S. " In Serene Setting in California, A Suicide Investigation Unfolds." The New York Times. March 30, 1997. (June 15, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/30/us/in-serene-setting-in-california-a-suicide-investigation-unfolds.html?ref=heavensgate&pagewanted=1
- Robinson, Wendy Gale. "Heaven's Gate: The End?" Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. December 1997. (June 15, 2011) http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol3/issue3/robinson.html
- Sanders, John. "Y2K Bug Has No Bite." The Globe and Mail. Jan. 1, 2000. (June 15, 2011) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/archives/y2k-bug-has-no-bite/article577373/
- Strauss, Mark. "Ten Notable Apocalypses That (Obviously) Didn't Happen." Smithsonian. Nov. 12, 2009. (June 15, 2011) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Ten-Notable-Apocalypses-That-Obviously-Didnt-Happen.html
- Walsh, James and Edward W. Desmond. "Shoko Asahara: The Making of a Messiah." Time. April 3, 1995. (June 15, 2011) http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,982749-1,00.html
- Weber, Eugen. "Apocalypses: Prophesies, Cults, and Millennial Beliefs through the Ages." Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.
- White, L. Michael and Paul Boyer. "William Miller and the Second Great Awakening." Frontline. 2011. (June 15, 2011) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/apocalypse/explanation/amprophesy.html
- Yeomans, Don. "2012--A Scientific Reality Check." NASA. Nov. 10, 2009. (June 15, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/yoemans20091110.html
When Mother Nature is at her worst, the government steps in to move masses of people away from the coasts. HowStuffWorks looks at how it's done.