Some people are pondering whether the world will end today. For others, the world as we know it might end with a plunge off the fiscal cliff Jan. 1.
Odds are, the end won't happen this year. But an apocalyptic conclusion to our earthly existence is an undeniable eventuality.
Here on earth, the possible causes of extinction-level events range from natural to man-made. One possibility is an eruption of a supervolcano, such as the 34-by-45 mile Yellowstone caldera. The creation of a mini black hole by the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland isn't likely, but people and nature could conspire to unleash a pandemic illness.
There are some out-of-this-world threats, too. Cosmic events include a collision with an asteroid (it wouldn't be the first time) or a burst of gamma radiation from our sun.
Thankfully, NASA claims lethal solar flares are "a physical impossibility." But solar storms have the potential to knock out electronics on Earth, akin to the end of world for some folks.
But one day, if humans or something else doesn't destroy it first, the sun will eventually destroy the Earth.
"It's in all likelihood that if a natural occurrence were to destroy the world, it is 4.5 billion years from now, when our sun starts going through its end-of-life sequence," according to Phil Chamberlin of NASA's solar physics laboratory.
Thus, one day, one way or another, human life (and possibly all life) on Earth will end. On an individual basis, of course, our time on this planet is ticking away all the time.
Which means while the end may not be near, every day it does draw nearer. Amid all the gallows humor today, that should be a guiding thought.