- Doomsday device
A doomsday device is a hypothetical construction — usually a weapon, or collection of weapons — which could destroy all life on a planet, particularly the Earth, or destroy the planet itself, bringing "doomsday", a term used for the end of planet Earth. Most hypothetical constructions rely on the fact that hydrogen bombs can be made arbitrarily large assuming there are no concerns about delivering them to a target (see Teller–Ulam design) or that they can be "salted" with materials designed to create long-lasting and hazardous fallout (e.g., a cobalt bomb).
Doomsday devices have been present in literature and art especially in the 20th century, when advances in science and technology made world destruction (or at least the eradication of all human life) a credible scenario. Many classics in the genre of science fiction take up the theme in this respect.
After the advent of nuclear weapons, especially hydrogen bombs, these technologies have usually been the dominant components of doomsday devices. RAND strategist Herman Kahn, collaborating with risk analyst Ian Harold Brown, proposed a "Doomsday Machine" in the 1950s that would consist of a computer linked to a stockpile of hydrogen bombs, programmed to detonate them all and bathe the planet in nuclear fallout at the signal of an impending nuclear attack from another nation. The key aspect of the doomsday device's deterrent factor is that it would go off automatically without human aid and despite human intervention, providing a highly credible threat that would dissuade attackers and avoid the dangerous game of brinkmanship that brought the United States and the Soviet Union closer to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. With a doomsday device on the planet, neither side would suspect the other of launching a sneak attack in attempt to destroy the opposing country's infrastructure before they could retaliate.
For many, the scheme epitomized the extremes of the suicidal logic behind the strategy of mutual assured destruction, and it was famously parodied in the Stanley Kubrick film from 1964, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
In popular culture
Doomsday devices or the threat of a doomsday event has been a central theme in many feature films, television shows, novels and video games. The rise in popularity has been linked with the real-life development of the atomic bomb in 1945 and subsequent nuclear testing in the 1950s; the fear of annihilation paralleling its depiction in popular media.
One of the most notable is the film Dr. Strangelove, a fairly literal satire of the Cold War. In it, the Soviet Ambassador, upon learning that the Americans could not recall a bomber set to deliver nuclear weapons inside the Soviet Union, informs the President that Soviet Premier Kissoff, unable to afford competing in the nuclear arms race, had ordered the creation of a doomsday device. While the device had been built and activated, its existence had not yet been announced; this was due to come at a Communist Party conference the next week, thereby making it useless as a nuclear deterrent under the circumstances.
Other films have adopted a more fantastical or imaginary approach:
- In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the AΩ cobalt bomb works by igniting the atmosphere.
- In Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, both Death Stars have the capacity to destroy entire planets.
- In the James Bond movie Moonraker, Sir Hugo Drax creates a doomsday device – a poison dispersed by satellites – to eradicate all human life on earth. Afterwards, he wants to re-inhabit the earth using a colony of "perfect" human beings, orbiting in space while the doomsday device is active.
- Skynet in the Terminator films utilises the United States stockpile of Nuclear weapons in a bid to end all human life on Earth in an act called Judgment Day by the surviving humans.
- In the Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine", a conical planet killer goes on a planet destroying rampage, its projected path threatening "...the very heart of the Federation". Captain Kirk speculates that the machine was created as a doomsday device, and used, thus destroying its creators and then going on a random path of destruction. Also in the Star Trek Universe, Project Genesis, which was designed to create habitable planets from barren moons, was seen as a doomsday weapon by rogue Klingon agents as the device had the ability to destroy existing life on a planet in favor of its own matrix for life.
- In Futurama, Professor Farnsworth is known to possess several doomsday devices, which (ironically) infrequently come in handy for saving the universe.
- In the cartoon series The Flintstones, the character The Great Gazoo is sent to earth as punishment for creating a button which would annihilate the entire universe.
- The final story arc of the animated television series Exosquad is dedicated to the dictator Phaeton's attempt to detonate a doomsday device on Earth as revenge for the destruction of his homeplanet Mars.
- In the ill-fated series finale of Sonic the Hedgehog, Dr. Robotnik created a station called the Doomsday Project, capable of launching saucer-like pods all over Mobius, attacking everyone and everything, forcing them into submission, giving Robotnik his long-awaited total domination. He would've succeeded if it wasn't for Sonic and Sally using the Deep Power Stones.
- In the Gundam SEED Cosmic Era universe, a superweapon called GENESIS, which fires a concentrated burst of gamma radiation from space, was created to bring a decisive end to the Blood Valentine War by destroying Washington D.C.. A similar weapon, called Neo-GENESIS, appeared in Gundam SEED Destiny.
- "Doomsday is Tomorrow", a two-part episode of The Bionic Woman focused on the protagonist, Jaime Sommers, racing to reverse the activation of a doomsday device triggered by a nuclear weapons test.
- On the pilot episode of Evil Con Carne, Hector built a doomsday device that was destroyed by commandos.
- In the Doctor Who serial The Pirate Planet, the antagonists operate a hollowed out planet which encircles and mines other planets, including inhabited ones, completely destroying them in the process.
- In another Doctor Who arc with the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) - The Stolen Earth and Journey's End (Doctor Who), the Earth is stolen by the Daleks as part of a cosmic 'machine' which creates a gravitational streamline of Z-Neutrino Energy which cancels out all matter. At some point in the past during the Nuclear Proliferation years, some person or organisation (possibly UNIT installed strategic nuclear detonation points all over the globe and co-ordinated by Mr Osterhagen (?) - to be used only when the fate of the Human Race is so detrimental that obliteration would be a preferable option to living on.
The Osterhagen Key activates those nuclear warheads obliterating the entire planet out of existence. (Osterhagen is an anagram of Earth's Gone)
- In the 2011v season of the office Dwight installs a doomsday device as a means of accountability
- In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Cat's Cradle, a doomsday substance called ice-nine is created with the capability to freeze all the water on Earth. The creator of ice-nine is depicted as being willfully negligent of the practical dangers of his research, and it is carelessness in the handling of the substance, which causes the Earth to freeze.
- In the novel After Doomsday by Poul Anderson, space travelers return to Earth to find the surface of the planet blasted away. Searching among various alien races for the reason for this, one group are shown an interview with a merchant who apparently sold "crustal disruptor" devices to various nations to use as a deterrent, with the devices being triggered by a nuclear attack on the owning nation. It is thus claimed that humanity effectively committed suicide. At the end, however this is revealed as a lie created by the real culprits.
- In the novel Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams, the supercomputer Hactar was asked by the Silastic Armorfiends of Striterax to "create the ultimate weapon". The device was a "junction box in Hyperspace" that would "connect the heart of every major sun with the heart of every other major sun".
- In Robert McCammon's novel Swan Song, the President of the United States, delusional and believing himself God fallen from heaven, decides that evil has won on Earth (after the nuclear holocaust he helped induce) and the planet must therefore be purged using the Talons of Heaven. This concept involves firing a massive payload of nuclear weapons at the poles, knocking the earth off its axis, causing massive icecap melting and subsequent flooding.
- In the Matthew Reilly book Temple, a doomsday device consisting of a pair of nuclear warheads and the non-existent element Thyrium is capable of obliterating a large section of Earth (Reportedly 1/3 of the Earth's mass). This would knock the planet out of orbit and create a cloud covering the entire planet that would wipe out the world's population.
- In the book Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, the Molecular Disruption Device can destroy an object, and any object near it, such as a fleet of space ships. Eventuality it is used on a planet near the Buggers' main fleet, destroying it, and ending a long war. In the sequels Speaker for the Dead and Children of the Mind the threat of the MD Device (also called "Dr. Device") looms over a human colony on a world with a newly discovered sentient species.
- In the Discworld story The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett, Cohen the Barbarian plans to detonate an explosive called Agatean Thunder Clay at the Hub, to show the gods how annoyed he is with them. Unknown to him, this would disrupt the Discworld's standing magical field, thereby rendering it impossible for it to exist.
- The Tom Clancy book Rainbow Six has a plot line in which a wealthy industrialist develops an airborne virus and an "antidote" to the virus that will actually spread the effects further, and will be released during the Sydney Olympics, with the so-called antidote actually being lethal to everyone not previously inoculated by the "real" antidote, and only his group of people who have been so inoculated will be alive to repopulate the earth.
- Use of multiple nuclear weapons causing the destruction or virtual destruction of all life on Earth as a type of doomsday scenario has been used in several fictional stories, including Nevil Shute's On the Beach and David Graham's Down to a Sunless Sea.
- In the Marvel Comics Universe, the character Galactus possesses a weapon called the Ultimate Nullifier which has the power to destroy the entire multiverse (collection of all universes) until Capt. Rickey Maxwell III deactivated it.
- In the Horus Heresy series of novels, based upon the events in the Warhammer 40,000, there are many references and actual use of a space-to-ground warhead known as the Life-eater. This warhead contains an airborne virus that spreads rapidly and consumes upon living things, quickly eradicating all life in the target radius; once all life has been eradicated the virus will begin to consume itself, thus ending the virus. When the virus has destroyed itself, it leaves behind a highly flammable gas which could be used to light a fire-storm which could destroy any life that by chance survived. This weapon was barred from use by the The Emperor of Mankind because of its extreme danger and level of destruction unless by his permission, or by the order of his Warmaster; Horus. A large amount of these weapons were unleashed upon the planet Isstvan III by the Warmaster in the first open sign of his betrayal against the Emperor; the result was the slaughter of nearly all Space Marines and Imperial Guardsmen loyal to the Emperor who were serving with the Warmaster.
- In the video game Halo, the central plot device, Halo, was designed to eradicate all sentient life in the galaxy, ironically to stop the very enemy threatening it.
- In the videogame Warzone 2100, a nuclear missile defense system becomes infected with a computer virus, launching satellite nuclear missile strikes to all major cities of the world. This event creates the phenomena called nuclear winter.
- In the videogame Probotector Aliens steal the x-drive to create a doomsday device and destroy the earth.
- In the videogame Clash at Demonhead, Professor Plum builds a Doomsday Bomb for unknown reasons. It is then hijacked by the terrorist group known as the Governors. The player, in the role of Billy "Big Bang" Blitz, must defeat the governors to gain the special medallions that can deactivate the bomb.
- In the videogame Nicktoons Unite! Professor Calamitous Steals Jimmy Neutron's plans for the Universe Portal Machine and recruits 3 villains from other dimensions: Vlad Plasmius, Plankton and Denzel Crocker. They soon creat a Doomsday Device which could destroy the Multi-Verse. Jimmy Neutron then comes up with a plan to backfire: He recruits Danny Phantom, Timmy Turner and SpongeBob SquarePants to save the day. At the end of the Game SpongeBob disarms the Doomsday Device and foils Calamitous' plans to destroy the Multi-Verse.
- In the videogame StarCraft, the highly advanced Protoss race destroy some of the infested Terran worlds in order to eradicate the rival Zerg race. They unleash intense beams of light-bluish energy that blasts away the atmosphere and incinerates the planets' entire crust. This technique has been referred to as 'Sterilization' or 'Purification'.
- In the videogame Septerra Core a doomsday device is a biomechanic weapon which can move Septerra's "shells", effectively killing everyone inhabiting it.
- In the videogame Homeworld, the Taiidan drop an "Atmospheric Deprivation Device" onto the planet Kharak, igniting the atmosphere. When the Mothership returns to Kharak, the entire northern hemisphere is blackened, with fires visible from high orbit and no life is left on the planet.
- In the Battalion Wars universe, the Solar Empire used something called a "Doomsday Device", which focused the sun's light and heat into a beam, which they used to destroy Xylvania 's Iron Legion.
- In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Bao-Dur creates a device called the Mass Shadow Generator. This weapon destroyed entire fleets of spacecraft as its cataclysmic explosions are too strong for anything to survive.
- In the videogame Evil Genius, the player has to construct a doomsday device so that the world leaders bow to your will and hand you over the whole world.
- In the video game Resident Evil 5, the antagonist Albert Wesker created the Uroboros virus. His plan was to release the virus onto the earth in order to create a race of superhumans. However, those who could not withstand the virus would be killed once infected. The virus itself is portrayed as a seething mass of black tentacles that absorb both organic and inorganic matter and should an infected host be rejected by Uroboros, destroy the host's body.
- In the 2010 video game Bayonetta, Father Balder, the main antagonist and father of Bayonetta, is determined to resurrect the goddess Jubileus with the hopes of reuniting the trinity of realities (Heaven, Hell, and Earth) without any concern for the safety of the inhabitants in order to create his own ideal paradise. In order to accomplish this task, he needed to sacrifice Bayonetta to the goddess due to her being of equal power.
- In the video game series Fallout, there is a similar scenario which all of humanity is actually brought down to its knees because of greed of resources and also controversy in the United States government.
- "How to destroy the Earth" — a scientifically rigorous albeit tongue-in-cheek "how-to" guide.
- "The Return of the Doomsday Machine?", Ron Rosenbaum, Slate.com, Aug. 31, 2007
- "Inside the Apocalyptic Soviet Doomsday Machine", wired.com, Sep. 21, 2009
- Doomsday device featured in the The Bionic Woman episode Doomsday is Tomorrow
Apocalypse · Armageddon · Big Crunch · Big Rip · Coronal mass ejection · Doomsday argument · Doomsday cult · Doomsday Clock · Doomsday device · Doomsday event · Doomsday film · Earth Changes · End of Earth · End time · Eschatology · Gamma-ray burst · Human extinction · Grey goo · Last Judgment · Qiyamah · New World Order (conspiracy theory) · Nuclear holocaust · Pandemic · Ragnarök · Risks to civilization, humans and planet Earth · Societal collapse · Ten Threats · World War III
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