Let's face it: if you aren't aware of the devastating effects of Thanos' Snap on the Marvel Cinematic Universe you've probably been hanging out in a bunker somewhere without internet access for the past year. The Mad Titan snapped his Infinity Gauntlet-clad fingers and poof! Half the life in the entire universe was gone in a deranged act of "balance". Thanks to trailers for Avengers: Endgame, we know that this had a devastating effect on the world, but what sort of impact would Thanos' snap have in the real world? It's a question some scientists decided to take on and, well, let's just say it's complicated.
According to Fandom, Thanos may not have been too far off the mark with the idea that reducing life by half would be a benefit but it kind of depends on what kind of life gets eliminated and what chaos that causes. Generally speaking, snapping out half of Earth's life wouldn't have a major impact on things, population wise. With world population around 7.6 billion people currently, eliminating half of them takes things down to 3.8 billion -- 1970 numbers. That means that in about half a century population would be right back up to where it is now and it's something that Infinity War writer Christopher Markus addressed last year.
"Sadly if you cut the number of people on earth in half today, it only takes us back to 1970. We were very well populated at the time. It’s not like a devastated hellscape. It looks like ‘Mary Tyler Moore.’” Christopher Markus said.
Okay, so the Earth isn't magically going to be healed of the blight humanity can cause. That's sort of good, in the sense that things aren't too far off normal. The trouble comes in with the collateral deaths. Justin Christensen, a research scientist at the UCLA Physics Department pointed out that there are around 20,000 planes in the sky across the globe at any moment. If one assumes that a fourth of those planes would lose both pilots in the snap -- most planes have two pilots or more -- and an average of 200 people are on each of those doomed planes half a million people could die in airplane crashes alone. Use similar logic and apply it to road traffic, boats, trains, and pretty much any other mode of transportation and you've got another 0.3% of the population dying.
That's really bad, but it gets even worse! Infrastructure breakdowns would lead to supply chain break down which would in turn lead to issues with access to food, water, medicine, and other important life needs. People who survived the Snap and the initial chaos connected to it are at risk of dying from shortages and other connected events.
“Without people to maintain and fix vital systems, things like electricity and clean water are likely to be lost to a large fraction of the remaining population. Many people will likely face food and medical supply shortages. How people react to these challenges, and how many people will die as a result is tough to say,” Christensen says, “but certainly more deaths will result.”
And that only considers the wiping out of sentient life. What if the snap takes out half of all types of life -- animals, plants, viruses, more? If that were to happen, things get exponentially worse. Some species could end up going entirely extinct, damaging fragile ecosystems in the process. And as for plans? Losing half the plants on earth would have an impact on food for sure -- the atmosphere would likely be mostly safe -- but microbial deaths could have some major impacts on humans.
So the Snap may not devastate Earth quite as much as one would expect, but it's the emotional impact that would be the real issue. The loss of so many people would impact mental health as people grieve, something writer Stephen McFeely saw creating issues with reproduction.0comments
"Reproduction [on Earth likely] slows way down, probably because of depression," he said.
Hopefully things done end up that bleak when Avengers: Endgame arrives in theaters April 26.