Are earthlings living on bonus time?
Extinctions, from dinosaurs to passenger pigeons come and go, with humanity pushing ever more species out of existence in the modern era. But what about you and me? What are the odds of humanity's extinction?
A meteorite impact that shook homes throughout central Russia on the same day an asteroid passed close by Earth earlier in February has had folks pondering doomsday, a favorite preoccupation of mankind and it turns out, statisticians. An upcoming study in the Risk Analysis journal notes for example that a 2008 survey of disaster experts put the overall risk of humanity disappearing by 2100 at about 20%, with causes ranging from pandemics, to berserk computers to asteroids.
A statistical look at the question partly based on extinction rates by the study authors puts the odds at 14% in the next 1,000 years, with a lot of wiggle room up or down on that guess.
On the bright side, humanity has already survived at least one ancient near-extinction event long ago. More than 50,000 years ago, genetic results suggest, there were about 10,000 breeding human ancestors living on the planet. There are roughly 6 billion people alive today. So we have survived tougher times and managed to thrive.
Dan Vergano, USA TODAY