When he was editor-in-chief of Discover magazine, Stephen Petranek tangled with questions as big as the universe. Here he confronts the biggest question on the planet: What are the 10 most likely ways that life on the Earth could end?

Why you should listen

Stephen Petranek was the editor-in-chief of Discover magazine when he became fascinated by the dangers that face the human race. He has become an eloquent advocate for making policy decisions based on an unflinching look at our worst fears.

Although his apocalyptic predictions may seem dire and inevitable, he argues precisely the opposite, and presents plausible goals that will defuse most of these catastrophes. Just in case that isn't enough, he makes the case for humankind adopting a forward-looking policy of space exploration and colonization to get us out of here alive. For the first time in history, he argues, humans can control many of the threats to survival both on and off the planet.

Petranek is now the editorial director of the Weider History Group, a collection of history magazines, and is working on a book titled The Flood, which warns of the impending danger posed to American cities by climate change and its attendant rising sea levels.

Stephen Petranek’s TED talks

Stephen Petranek on the TED Blog
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Global Issues

And the countdown to Armageddon continues…

December 21, 2012

By Stephen Petranek So, the world hasn’t come to an end yet. But the insecurities and fears about the so-called Mayan Calendar prediction that Earth as we know it will cease to exist today has created such a ruckus that Michigan officials closed 33 schools in preparation and NASA has devoted many web pages to […]

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Quotes from Stephen Petranek

Everything that we need to make an atmosphere on Mars, and to make a livable planet on Mars, is probably there.
Stephen Petranek
TED2002 • 1.4M views Sep 2007
Informative, Fascinating
Somewhere in the Amazon forest is the marginal tree. You cut down that tree, the rain forest collapses as an ecosystem.
Stephen Petranek
TED2002 • 1.4M views Sep 2007
Informative, Fascinating
We are all much healthier than we were 20 years ago, but mentally, we’re falling apart. The World Health Organization now estimates that one out of five people on the planet is clinically depressed.
Stephen Petranek
TED2002 • 1.4M views Sep 2007
Informative, Fascinating