WITT: Consider the future of the planet

Published 8:25 am Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ever stop to think about what the future holds for this planet, this tiny blue dot set into the black vastness of an expanding universe?

Probably not.

Well a lot of scientists do, based on their particular expertise — geologists, paleontologists, astronomers, physicists.

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A Slovak graphic designer, Martin Vargic, has created a timeline chart, running from the Big Bang to the end of the solar system in which we dwell. This fascinating chart is available online at sciencealert.com.

Ignoring what has transpired in the past for the moment, what is predicted for the future is incredibly interesting and, fortunately for the prognosticators, none of us will be alive to point out their mistakes if there are any.

Starting in the relatively short future of 13,000 years (geologically speaking) the axial tilt of the earth is predicted to reverse itself.

Fifty thousand years from now, Niagara Falls erodes; no more Maid of the Mist tours.

In half a million years, nuclear waste become safe unless mankind lasts as long and continues to create nuclear waste.

In 1.2 million years, the Great Pyramid erodes into unrecognizability. Egyptians will be picnicking atop a huge mound of rubble.

In 4 million years, the Strait of Gibraltar closes as the Mediterranean Sea dries up and people will be walking from Spain to North Africa.

In 7.2 million years, Mt. Rushmore erodes to nothingness and the concept of presidents will have long since vanished.

In 20 million years, the island of Maui disappears into the sea, leaving a big gap between Oahu and Hawaii.

In 40 million years, Antarctica becomes ice-free; great for a summer vacation.

In 50 million years, the Appalachian Mountains erode.

In 80 million years, the big island of Hawaii joins Maui under the waters of the Pacific, leaving only the island of Hawaii, still growing from the lava emitted by Kiluaea.

In 110 million years, the sun’s luminosity increases by 1 percent.

In 140 million years, Africa and America start moving back together.

In 150 million years. days become 25 hours long; no more daylight saving time.

In 250 million years, a new supercontinent forms (a new Pangaea).

In 300 million years, all fossil fuel reserves replenish to pre-industrial levels.

In 400 million years, the newly-formed supercontinent dissolves (such a short life).

In 600 million years, photosynthesis stops and 99 percent of all species go extinct.

In 800 million years, multi-cellular life has become impossible.

At 900 million years , the oceans evaporate.

At 2.8 billion years, the average earth temperature reaches 420 degrees Kelvin.

At 5 billion years, the sun runs out of hydrogen.

At 7.9 billion years, the sun reaches its largest size, becoming a yellow giant and vaporizing Mercury and Venus (and possibly Earth).

At 8 billion years, the sun transforms to a white dwarf and this solar system becomes much darker … with no one around to witness the darkness coming.

This timeline — 8 billion years — represents a bit more than half of the time during which the universe has evolved to its present state, assuming the currently accepted birth of the universe occurred approximately 14 billion years ago.

Speculating how this planet and its population of humans, animals and plants will fare into the future is an interesting exercise, and bears some contemplation. But the time spans are even too large for most to really be able to fathom.

And, of course, the speculation can be just a fun exercise since there is no way to experience it.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.