Disaster Recovery: Robot Takeovers, Y2k and Other Predictions About our End

Updated: September 20, 2010

The end is nigh, or is it? Ever since the beginning of human history, there has been no shortage of people who believed they knew when and how the world was going to end. Religious fanatics, Nostrodomas, and many in the modern scientific community have put forth their theories of our reckoning, yet somehow we are still here. Could it be that the end of days is too complex and mystical to predict, or is our species demise still an imminent threat? Following is a brief exploration of 9 popular apocalypse theories that either haven't happened yet, or never happened when they were supposed to.

Haley's Comet

The Haley's Comet apocalypse theory is one of the first to be caused by the scientific community rather than religious scriptures. In 1910, Haley's Comet came into view in the night sky as it made it's orbital pass by the Earth. Although the comet had already made several harmless passes in human history before 1910, scientists began to worry that noxious gasses flowing from the comet's tail would pervade our atmosphere and poison us all. Despite the unfounded panic, the comet came and went and no deadly vapors overtook our planet.


The term "Y2K" was coined as a catchy, media-friendly way to abbreviate "year 2000," which was a heavily publicized theory that called for the fall of all technology with the turning of the new year. Most computer programs, from bank software to electric power plant back-ends, abbreviate dates using only the last two number in the year (so 1989 would simply be "89"). When the year turned "00," it was feared that computers would think it was 1900 and suddenly erase or lose every account in their system, plunging mankind into darkness without money, utilities, the Internet, etc.

Gamma-Ray Bursts

Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) are extremely rare, powerful flashes of Gamma-Rays emanating from interstellar explosions in distant galaxies. Such a blast is thought to occur when a star collapses and becomes a black hole, however no GRBs have yet occurred in the Milky Way galaxy, and have thus never collided with Earth. Some apocalypse conspiracy theorists worry about the devastating effects that could occur if a GRB blast were to shine on our planet, and the research of physicist S. E Thorsett only serves to strengthen their fear. "The absorption of this radiation in the atmosphere would [cause] photo- dissociation of N2," wrote Thorsett in a 1995 edition of the Astrophysical Journal. "[This would] greatly reducing the ozone concentration for several years."

Robot Takeovers

As technology barrels forward, the robotics industry has been making great strides in Artificial Intelligence (most notably Honda's ASIMO). This long-feared capability gives robots the ability to make decisions, solve problems, and carry out instructions, causing Hollywood and conspiracy theorists alike to imagine a world where robots become so powerful that they can exist outside of human rule. Much like John Conner in the Terminator, or Will Smith in iRobot, humans would be forced to go to war against our mechanistic adversaries, resulting in the enslavement and destruction of mankind.


Perhaps one of the most popular apocalypse theories is the invasion of flesh eating zombies that spread their undead virus through our population until we are completely wiped out. Countless movies and books have been created around this familiar nightmare, however the zombie apocalypse is far from a Hollywood-only creation. True believers, like the authors of this Cracked article, appeal to scientific evidence of neurotoxins and brain parasites that could create conditions similar to those depicted on the big screen. True believers even can read survivalist book "The Zombie Survival Guide," a tome that imparts practical strategies to help readers prepare for the day the dead rise.

The Megatsunami

A megatsunami is exactly what it sounds like - an impossibly large wave moving at supersonic speeds that lays waste to everything in it's path. Some apocalyptic predictors, such as Apocalypse-Soon, believe that these devastating waves grow to be hundreds of feet high, big enough to engulf entire cities in just minutes. These waves have occurred very few documented times in Earth's history and are usually generated from volcanic eruptions, enormous landslides, or massive meteors hitting the ocean. Some geologists predict that the next megatsunami might occur in the next 1000 years when a volcanic eruption due to hit the Canary Islands could cause a 500 billion ton piece of land to fall into the ocean, generating a wave that would be aimed at the eastern United States coast line.

Planetary Conjunction

The Times reports that in 1919, meteorologist Albert Porta shocked the world with his theory of Planetary Conjunction. His dramatically worded theory claimed that a rare alignment of the planets would "cause a magnetic current that would pierce the sun, cause great explosions of flaming gas, and eventually engulf the Earth." ListVerse reports that the prediction was so terrifying that it caused people to commit suicide out of fear of the event. In the end, the galactic reckoning day never came, and the consequences of the failed prediction caused Porta to lose his job as a meteorologist.

A Verneshot

A verneshot is a complex theoretical doomsday event involving a destructive volcanic eruption. Verneshot theory holds that it is possible for a gargantuan pocket of high-pressure poison gas and magma to form and grow under the crust of the earth. When the pressure becomes strong enough, it will erupt through the earth's surface, causing an enormous piece of rock and crust to be catapulted into the air and crash down elsewhere on Earth. The gas will then escape, poisoning the atmosphere and making our air inhospitable to human life.

But that isn't all. Once the gas is fully expelled, the huge underground pocket that once held it will collapse, causing Earth-shattering quakes and megatsunamis. So much debris will be blasted into the air that the ozone will likely be destroyed, and to as if to add insult to injury, the crater will then fill molten lava. As explained by Apocalypse-Soon, verneshot theorists believe that a similar event may have been responsible for several extinctions of the past.

The Year 2012

There are just about as many explanations for how the world will end in 2012 as there people who fearfully await it's notorious arrival. Worldwide fires, worldwide floods, mountain-leveling earthquakes, megatusnamis, atomic war, flesh eating diseases - if something could bring about the end of human life, it is thought by many to be on its way in 2012. The worry over the otherwise normal year stems from the Mayan calendar, which ends on December 21st, 2012. As UniverseToday explains, "when something ends (even something as innocent as an ancient calendar), people seem to think up the most extreme possibilities for the end of civilization as we know it. Though this is the only prediction on our list that has not happened yet because the foretold date has not yet come, it is worth pointing out there there is no scientific proof for the coming destruction, and we ought to keep in mind that all calendars have to end at some time.

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