Book Review: A Handbook of Human Misfortune – The Doomsday Handbook

Jeremy Liu February 4, 2013 1

Curious of how the world could end? Haven’t had enough of speculative science? Keep this handbook on hand.

Written in clear, concise prose, the Doomsday Handbook by Alok Jha describes the many doomsday scenarios currently theorized by leading scientists. In just under three hundred pages, Jha comprehensively covers virtually every possible end to the world, drawing from the influences of Stephen Hawking and Ronald Reagan. To provide a crystal clear idea of each doomsday scenario, Jha elegantly fuses history and speculation, seamlessly bringing us up to speed in each of the many relevant fields of science. Well-researched and sourced, the book is a quick read, perfect for a commute or an occasional read. For the data junkie, Jha includes just enough numbers and figures to keep us on our toes without leading us into a jungle of convoluting numbers.

Although Jha’s words are clear, his organization of the doomsday scenarios leaves something to be desired. While the descriptions of potential scenarios are illuminating, Jha fails to provide a sense of comparison between each situation. For example, the extinction of the honeybees and an invasion of extra-terrestrials clearly differ in likelihood and their impact on humans, but the author does not acknowledge how much the two scenarios differ. It may have been helpful if Jha included a chart at the beginning of each section displaying the likelihood, potential impact, and time frame of each doomsday scenario. Overall, the Doomsday Handbook presents an excellent overview of current doomsday scenarios but lacks in organization and clarity.

One Comment »

  1. Boghos L. Artinian MD June 20, 2014 at 3:02 PM -

    ‘Some say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.’
    Robert Frost

    I say the world could end in vacuum !

    All multi–cellular organisms are in a constant search for water, for water bathes the cells of which they are constituted. The brain is alerted of any decrease in the body water by the feeling of thirst.

    At times so many animals may converge on a small lake to drink, that they could easily dry it up. The unicellular organism living in that lake could enter the bodies of the multi-cellular organisms, or ultimately perish as the lake dries up. For the unicellular organisms it would be the end of their world.

    The earth is a unique planet in the solar system in that it has a breathable atmosphere. The atmosphere ‘bathes’ us as water bathes the cells in our bodies. The atmosphere is the ‘water’ of super-organisms.

    As humanity expands into outer space it has to provide individuals with closed ecological life support systems to be able to live in groups in the vacuum of space. The gases in these closed systems will be provided by the Earth’s atmosphere. As these closed ecological life support systems eventually evolve into huge multi-human super-organisms, vast amounts of our atmosphere will be pumped into them to ‘bathe’ its occupants (human beings).

    Whether it is the super-organisms born on earth or those from distant advanced civilizations on other planets, the universe could be teeming with them or would eventually do so. These super-organisms would frequently ‘thirst’ and need to refill their atmosphere because of leakages or other forms of loss. And what better station to stop by and replenish their atmosphere (drink) than Earth?

    Thus I fear there will be so many multi-humanoid super-organisms in the universe searching for gases to fill their innards that they may eventually suck out our atmosphere and leave us in total vacuum. Another doomsday scenario to worry about.

    Boghos L. Artinian MD