Atom Wave: The World Without Humans

Atom Wave

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The World Without Humans

Someday in the near or distant future, the day will come when our species goes the way of the dinosaurs. Assuming that our passing wasn’t due to a catastrophic war or natural event, something must be done with our past monuments when our fossils are descending into the molten core.

Not that any of us will be around to care anymore, but Alan Weisman with his groundbreaking thought-experiment, The World Without Us, has answered the question.

Naturally, the story begins at your home. Don’t worry about redecorating, once the windows break and the roof fails; the action of moisture and mold will rot the structure from the inside out within 100 years. Should you live in a desert climate, the rot will take much longer but any plastic or metal will be destroyed quickly by the heat and salty soils. Moving on to New York City, it will be reclaimed by rivers once the electricity fails and the subways flood. With the subways and basements flooded, only a few decades will be needed before the streets and mighty skyscrapers begin to fall. In the meantime the world will transform into a radioactive toxic landscape once our nuclear power plants meltdown in neglect and our oil refineries detonate should no one shut them down. That would only take a few days, but our legacy will endure for hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of years. It will take nature at least that amount of time to erase the vast amounts of plastic, carbon dioxide, and radioactivity from our past adventures.

Which finally brings me to our lasting legacy, the radio signals and space probes that humans have launched which will continue to roam space for billions of years to come until they are the only ones to have ever known that we existed. 


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