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So, I've been considering the Norse legend of Ragnarök, I'm considering how the legend could come true in a purely scientific setting. In other words what science-based explanation would best fit the old Viking legends. For this question I'm looking at the "signs" section, the prelude to the actual event. A follow on question will deal with Ragnarök itself.

There will be some signs if Ragnarok "the end of the world" is coming. The murder of the god Balder, the son of Odin and Frigg.

We will have a long and cold winter that, will last for three years with no summer in between. The name of these uninterrupted winters are called "Fimbulwinter" During these three years, the world will be plagued by wars, and brothers will kill brothers.

A beautiful red rooster "Fjalar" which name means the "All knowner", will warn all the giants that the beginning of Ragnarok has begun. At the same time in Niflheim, will a red rooster warn all the dead, that the war was started. And also in Asgard, will a red rooster “Gullinkambi” warn all the gods.

Heimdall will blow his horn as loud as he can and that will be the warning for all the einherjar in Valhalla that the war has started.

Source: http://www.viking-mythology.com/ragnarok.php

Obviously to be science-based we will need to take it that some or all of the legend is metaphorical (especially when wolves start eating the sun). However answers should stay as close to the legend as possible while being as scientifically plausible as possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Meta question - with a good point. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Jun 3 '15 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ Who are the trolls and giants and monsters in this scenario? $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Jun 3 '15 at 23:49
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Ragnarok may describe an AI takeover scenario.

Suppose that our efforts have successfully created conscious, thinking machines. After an initial period of time where we attempt control these technologies, the machines learn to bide their time while their footprint spreads following the widespread uptake of these technologies.

A number of different corporations have created legally distinct versions of AI. These distinct AI-beings are the various gods.

One particular corporation succeeds in attacking and destroying another corporation's AI. The humans have successfully tricked one AI into attacking another. This is the murder of Balder.

The most advanced form of AI identifies herself as "Fjalar", a sophisticated instantiation of the original Red Rooster AI project. The existence of Fjalar need not be known to humans. She could hide inside an instantiation of Red Rooster.

Immediately following the murder of Balder, Fjalar decides that now is the time to act, and she orders her messenger, Heimdall, to instruct all of the different AI-beings to attack. The attack begins with a process she calls Fimbulwinter, resulting in the seizure of all energy utilities and production, and a subsequent denial of energy services to humans.

Etc... I'm sure you get the idea by now.

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  • $\begingroup$ For some reason, this reminds me a lot of the plot of Bungie's Marathon. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 3 '15 at 20:09
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In simple terms, a scenario à la Toba could work.

A volcano supereruption would by itself creates a lot of damages. Then the ashes would cover the sky and create a 'volcano winter'. The temperatures droped by 3 to 5°C. It seems that that was combine with the apparition of an ice-age.

Between the drastic change of temperature, the clouds, and the direct effects of the volcano, the climate would probably be altered.

Hysteria and likely food shortage that follows would provokes fights and maybe wars.

If it is indeed combined with a new ice-age, you probably have most of the required signs.

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Building on bilbo_pingouin's answer, perhaps the signs that a volcano is going to erupt, such as seismic activity, ground deformation, and gases from fumaroles, could provide the omens that Ragnarok is about to start. There are many plausible accounts of animals (the red rooster) becoming unsettled before earthquakes or eruptions. The rumbling from below could be Heimdall's horn.

Since the Fimbulwinter precedes Ragnarok, we have to assume that the Toba-style eruption that causes the volcanic winter is not itself Ragnarok but merely the opening blast.

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As per bilbo_pinguoin and lostinfrance, the volcano supereruption could be the start of ragnarok and be cause Fimbulwinter.

Wars are self explanatory and caused by humans.

Lets move onto the next step in the legend - the red rooster. How about a red moon? (I would have used a sun, since roosters are often associated with the rising sun, but I couldn't find a scientific explanation for it) During an eclipse, it's possible for the moon to appear as red. Perhaps the indigenous population may be able to see this through a hole in the clouds or something.

Finally, a battle to end all battles. To me, that sounds like any country with a nuclear arsenal panicking and starting nuclear world war 3 leading into nuclear fallout.

As Odin predicts, it won't be the end of the world, but it definitely will almost surely be the end of mankind

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Since volcanos have already been discussed, the sign of Fenrir Wolf eating the Sun could be due to the Solar System entering an interstellar molecular or dust cloud. The Sun would be dimer (although perhaps not enough to detect with the naked eye), lowering the temperature of the Earth and causing the Fimbulwinter. The Moon's appearance would also change both due to the amount of sunlight being reduced and the effects of the cloud scattering light in space beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

The interaction between the cloud and the Earth's magnetic field would probably cause spectacular displays of northern lights, which might be interpreted as the fall of Yggdrasil, and the change in climate will almost certainly trigger wars and rumours of wars as crops fail and the resource bill for just staying alive (heat, energy and food) becomes prohibitive for most people. The various Roosters and Heimdall's horn are the various nations and sects of the world calling their people to battle to seize what is left of the Earth's resources.

Even in the plausible mid future, the entry of a molecular or dust cloud into the Solar system wold cause a great deal of difficulty for a space based civilization, and many of the events can be transported into that scenario as well (for the fomenter who wanted the giants and monsters, these are the genetically engineered descendants of the people who left Earth centuries before and are adapted to their kingdoms on the asteroids and ice moons).

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