Today I woke up, knowing I would be saved from the destruction of the planet. Instead I learned the exact date and time of my death. My name is Joe Average. The planet I live on is part of a binary pair, orbiting a reddish star. In one year and fifty-seven days a giant asteroid will pass by my planet, disrupting its gravity and smashing it into the other. However, Mr. Benevolence promised there were enough ships to carry a quarter of the planets' population, only 1% has left! And my (nonexistent) ship was supposed to leave tomorrow!

But, as fate has it, Mr. Benevolence is a liar (and a fat one, too). The last ships left the day before, but someone who actually had a conscience revealed the lies. They gave the exact date of the disaster, and told everyone that there are no more ships that can sustain life for the trip.

1% of pretty much any group you can think of has left the planet. Also, major religious leaders are gone. 1% of everyone else is going, and the richest .5% of people were able to afford their own ships.

Note - Of the people left, there are about 7,880,000,000 people evenly spread across the two planets. Only a quarter of these have access to spaceships able to fly and go 300 miles an hour. Only a quarter of those have access to ships that can travel between the two planets, which travel at about the same speed.

How would people react to this? As mentioned above, everyone will burn in about a year. Assume their society is similar to modern North America. Will there be massive riots? I'm assuming suicide rates will skyrocket, is this true? How else might people react?

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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but I think it's interesting to note the three-body problem is chaotic - a small nudge will greatly change the future of the system. It probably won't be hard to change the asteroid's trajectory a small bit so that the planets are left orbiting each other. You'd probably need a supercomputer and a few missiles. $\endgroup$
    – Aurey
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 6:05
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    $\begingroup$ If your Mr. Benevolence is any good perhaps his mass alone can cause the giant asteroid to veer off course anyway with slightly more than a year left he must consume as much offerings as possible to stand any chance of attracting the asteroid mass enroute actually reroute... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ Except for Mr. Benevolence, this basically reminds me of Melancholia. So perhaps, the sane people will fall apart and the depressed people will rule, but only for a brief time? $\endgroup$
    – aroth
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Aurey But I meant it to be about the size of the moon. Earth's moon, and heading on a course to intercept the planets. That way, even blowing it up could still send a chunk large enough to wipe out one of the planets. And, I think Henry Taylor addressed that issue quite nicely. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ This sounds exactly like Don't Look Up. (It's not a great movie, and has a pretty horrible ending, but it shows what would actually happen given how the world is nowadays.) (Edit: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_Look_Up ) $\endgroup$
    – Murphy L.
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


...so tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999.

Drop all of the illusions of society. There are no rewards left for the well behaved people, and no punishments for the wicked. When everyone is destined to die soon, our masters have lost both their carrots and their sticks.

Most people will see no reason to continue their disciplined lives, working to support their selves and their civilization; partying in moderation. Very quickly, the infrastructure will collapse from staff absenteeism.

Long before the planet's collide, the grocery stores will be empty and starving people will be hunting each other in the streets. As the bodies collect, diseases will follow.

A year is a long time during an apocalypse. If only half of the survivors die during each passing month (which is conservative), there will be less than a million people still living to watch the big event.

...or maybe watch it not happen!

After thirteen months way, Mr. Benevolence and his 78 million followers return to the planets and wipe out the few remaining survivors. Then they burn the dead and clean up the mess. Leaving them with 100 times more land per living inhabitant than before they left! No more over-stressed ecology! No more disgruntled masses! Paradise refound!

The asteroid was a lie!

  • $\begingroup$ Not a good call in my opinion, since they will return in a place with no infrastructure which they need to rebuild. They basically return to an agricultural society at best and they will soon discovery that their status will be useless. I think that the survivors, once returned to the planet, will start to fight over the few resources they have access to. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ upvoted for out of box thinking :) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 10:19
  • $\begingroup$ So, in other words, total chaos! That is an awesome plot twist, by the way. So scary I didn't even think of it. First he tricks people into thinking they're saved, then into thinking they'll die! @Gianluca maybe the guy is trying to improve society by wiping out the lesser people. When there's a madman in charge, it doesn't have to make sense. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 14:23

Chaos riots.

Those promised to be rescued might seek out scapegoats to blame. I wouldn't be surprised to see anyone involved in this lie lynched in the street (assuming they had not left already).

In the long term world leaders and scientists and military leaders on both planets might band together to see if they can destroy there neighboring planet in order to prevent their own destruction. This could lead to a full scale interplanetary war.


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