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"How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction"

"It's the end of the world as we know it," announces a nifty rock song by R.E.M. from 1987, "and I feel fine." Or as T.S. Eliot wrote in "The Hollow Men," a poem first published in 1925: "This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper." Ever wonder how it will all come to a close? What doomsday will look like? It's an age-old question, to be sure, but as our guest on today's ST points out, the world has actually almost ended at least five times in the past. Life on Earth --- if we take the long view, considering the full range of the planet's history --- has been shattered by asteroid impacts, entombed in ice, smothered by methane, and literally torn to pieces by super-volcanoes. Annalee Newitz, a science writer and editor whose work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science, and The Washington Post, joins us to discuss her interesting, well-written new book, "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction." As Newitz tells us, both ongoing climate change and increased percentages of species extinction have many experts thinking that another period of "mass extinction" might well be occurring on Earth right now --- a period that'll take many thousands (if not a million or so) years, mind you. And such a period might even be, in this case, reversible.... This book was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month for May 2013, and as a critic for Amazon wrote in that regard: "Global warming, super-volcanoes, asteroid impacts, ice ages, and cosmic radiation. We know that, over millennia, these disasters have already ravaged the earth and its species. In fact, many scientists argue that the earth has undergone five previous mass extinctions, and that at least seventy-five percent of life on Earth was exterminated by each. Now guess what? We may be living through the initial groans of the Earth's sixth mass extinction. But that doesn't mean it's the end of the world --- and Annalee Newitz, editor of the popular blog 'IO9,' explains why in her fascinating, fast-paced, and informative book. With chapters like 'A Million Year View' and 'How to Build a Deathproof City,' Newitz argues that we can do a lot to stick around after the apocalypse, even if there's nothing we can do to alter the Earth's course."

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