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With the evolving global warming and thawing of permafrost, an ancient deadly virus begins to spread from Siberia across Eurasia, affecting domestic animals first and mutating quickly onto the rest of the fauna. First symptoms were found in people too and with insects like bees nearing to extinction, agriculture cannot support our survival much more than dying stock can. It's clear that life does not have a future on this planet anymore.

So, how could we destroy this virus on this large scale?

I kind of liked the idea of automated self-replicating, bio-mass fueled robots, but instead of those being the ones to destroy all life on Earth by getting out of control - could those be the ones saving it by killing the virus (although with taking everything else alive into the oblivion as well?)

Let's assume some of the humanity retreats to Mars to wait out the storm and has some grand idea of re-terraforming our only home. I just need the life melodramatically swept off its feet and to figure out how the Earth could be "safe" again - from that virus at least. Those surviving people or their descendants if cleaning the Earth would take that long, would then broadcast a command to shut those robots down. Marine life might not be threatened by the virus (which, I guess, means it has to be a very specific disease if to attack only terrestrial life...), but by the grey goo - yes. Meaning the robots will wipe clean not only the surface of the Earth but ocean trenches as well.

If the virus survived millennia basically in hibernation and now there is no ice for it to hide in, and the robots devour all life it could possibly host on, plus the Earth's atmosphere is no longer breathable... could there still be ways it could survive?

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    $\begingroup$ Why didn't this virus wipe out all flora and fauna before? The Earth has been warmer. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 22 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Since my idea starts at it attacking our domesticated animals first - could it be that it needed a less resilient immune system to kick-start itself before evolving further? A good point, really. $\endgroup$ – user65708 Jun 22 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe mutation and “unnatural” modern society could be the answer: ie it has arisen many times before when it was warmer, but now there are also (replace however you want) chickens and beef within its reach so it can easily mutate $\endgroup$ – tuomas Jun 22 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ A lot of this ground seems covered in The Andromeda Strain, including mutations, vulnerabilities, attack methods, etc. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 22 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ Cool. Let's borrow from HG Wells & Morgan Freeman to make a Disney-eque movie tag line: "...By the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet's infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challenges." Save one, which went into hiding so long ago it never knew that Man had won the game.... $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 22 at 22:05
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I think you are going to run into a problem with killing all life on Earth, and still leaving it in any sort of state that would allow it to be useable by humans. Life is everywhere, this article talks about worms they found living 2 miles underground, with possible evidence of life much deeper.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20151124-meet-the-strange-creatures-that-live-in-solid-rock-deep-underground

Now you could have the robots go to town and essentially eat the top couple miles of the earth, but then when you come back you are left dealing with a miles deep pile of robots. Your other option is just let the robots kill whatever they can find and work off the assumption that if the robots can't find the life the virus can't either. If this is the way the robots will work the question becomes why not isolate the human colony on Earth as opposed to on Mars.

It's going to be much easier to build a complex to ride out the storm here on Earth than it is on Mars. To survive long term on Mars you are going to need to build a self contained complex for everyone to live in. You are also going to need to quarantine anyone you are sending to Mars before sending them. If you are doing that already you should be able to build a (or more likely several) such self contained complexes here on Earth, and let the people (post quarantine) live in those instead of on Mars.

You can then let the robots run their course for x year/generations killing everything they touch that is outside the domes, and leaving a mostly sterile world behind. Once you turn them off the people can emerge from the domes and start the reseeding process of the earth. There would still be a robot residue to deal with, but you haven't caused major damage to the land itself which should allow a faster recovery.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. About the Mars plan - I thought about the people thinking that the option that the grey goo plan might not work in the end and the virus might still survive, dooming the Earth uninhabitable, so if humanity wants to continue, it will do so in small numbers on the neighbor planet. $\endgroup$ – user65708 Jun 23 at 5:02
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Unless it's airborne you should be able to quarantine Eurasia-Africa, let about 80% of the world's population die off and then recolonise from Oceania and the Americas, you may need to cull some migratory bird species if the virus isn't virulent enough to do the job for you but it sounds like it is. With nothing left that it can infect it should "burn itself out" like highly virulent viruses have often done in the past. For example Ebola in low population density areas does this in human populations, killing faster than it can find new hosts to infect but Ebola is retained in wild populations of non-human fauna this infection would not be.

If the virus effects ocean life then it's a full-scale pull out off world and let it kill itself by killing everything else then come down with napalm and flamethrowers to clean off a landing zone from any chance of infection and colonise from there.

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