Our fears of the apocalypse may in the end mirror the most fundamental fear of all: fear of our own mortality. It is all of a piece—death, the dissolution of our people, the extinction of our species. Regardless of how we feel about it, flux is the nature of the world, and endings are an inescapable—and often overlooked—part of life. That is why we chose to devote the lion’s share of this issue of Scientific American to the theme of endings. We look at the chance that civilization will fall to pandemic or asteroid, to the loss of indigenous knowledge spread among the cultures of the world, to the declining resources that our planet will struggle to provide.
Some of these endings are more probable than others. Some, such as the end of time, are downright paradoxical. We start our journey, though, with a look at the inevitable—the private end that we will all have to face and our efforts to forestall it.
This article was originally published with the title Eternal Fascinations with the End.