“If Thanos Actually Wiped Out Half of All Life, How Would Earth Fare in the Aftermath?”

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The Story

“If Thanos Actually Wiped Out Half of All Life, How Would Earth Fare in the Aftermath?”
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/if-thanos-actually-wiped-out-half-all-life-how-would-earth-fare-aftermath-180972005/
by Sadie Witkowski
Smithsonian, April 22, 2019

The Pitch

Dear Jay,

You might remember me from this past summer’s AAAS MMF program. I visited the Smithsonian offices one Friday for a lunch talk (I was the fellow stationed at Voice of America). I wanted to reach out to you about a pitch that I think would be perfect for Smithsonian.

The real problem with Thanos’ plan

In the last Avenger’s film, the antagonist Thanos killed half of all life in the universe and the results shown in the trailer for “Avenger’s Endgame” include a slew of missing heroes. However, Thanos is clearly no scientist. Wiping out half of all life has massive ecological downstream effects that would probably lead to being over-run by rats, as pointed out by this ecologist on twitter.

In part due to this twitter thread, I propose to explore the real effects of losing half of all life in the universe through the eyes of biologists and ecologists. Would all mega fauna like elephants & whales go extinct while we’re over run by rats like Dr. Rutherford suggested on twitter? What would happen to our plants if we lost half of all pollinating insects on the planet? How would the disappearance of half the microbes in our gut affect us?

In order to write this piece, I will interview scientists that study ecology, insects, and the microbiome to understand the real results of Avengers: Infinity War. I think the advent of the new Marvel movie provides a perfect opportunity to explore these interesting questions and Smithsonian is the ideal outlet for such a piece.

Thanks so much for your time,
Sadie

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