Welcome to the Apocalypse

What will the end of the world really be like? Will the planet explode in a fiery sulfurous ball, or will it be a freezing cold and lonely demise? The answers are out there, with the help of a world-renowned panel of scientists.

To find out what the apocalypse will really look like, Big Think (a progressive online think tank) asked a paleontologist, an astrophysicist, a nuclear terrorism expert, and others about what doomsday might actually be like. The Web site's series, titled "How Will the World Really End?", explores their answers.

And the end of the world seems like a painful one for those on Earth in most of the depictions.

Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at CUNY, think the universe will end in a big freeze. He postulates that we could avoid our fate with a quick trip to a parallel universe, slipping in "in the same way that Alice entered the looking glass to enter Wonderland."

Others think the end of the world will be bleaker . . . and unavoidable. Peter Ward, a paleontologist from the University of Washington, speculates that the seas could turn to sulfur and decrease the overall levels of oxygen, poisoning us all.

"We now think the big mass extinctions were caused by global anoxia-- the oceans themselves so sluggish that hydrogen sulfide bacteria which was produced in huge areas of the ocean bottom bubble up to the surface and starts killing things."

He also thinks asteroid impacts are imminent, by the way: "We know that we were hit 65 million years ago by a very large rock from space." And we will get hit again, he says, an opinion shared by Edward Sion, an astronomer and astrophysicist from Villanova.

True, the probability is "very, very low," he says, but "one we cannot rule out."

Other potential ends are more esoteric yet somehow less painful. Melissa Franklin, a professor of physics from Harvard University, speculated on what a black hole would do the planet, if for example, CERN's Large Hadron Collider went horribly awry.

"It wouldn't be so bad," Franklin says, noting that the likelihood is incredibly small. But if it the impossible were to occur, it would consume the planet in the blink of an eye.

"It would be fast. It might be an interesting way to go, you wouldn't have a lot of time to worry like in all those apocalyptic films," she chuckled.

Supernova, nuclear threat, or mere cosmic abandonment, the future of the universe looks like an ugly and bleak one. Watch the full series of video interviews at Big Think, and then cower under a blanket for the rest of the day.