Could the Heroes Reborn Apocalypse Ever Happen in Real Life?
Spoilers for the latest episode of Heroes Reborn follow!
After five episodes, Heroes Reborn finally has an actual premise. The evil company Renautas, which is completely different from the evil company Primatech- in some way, is going to wipe out humanity and repopulate the Earth with a more evolved species, Old Testament-style. But instead of a flood, they're going with fire, as they're going to harness Evos' powers to cause a massive coronal mass ejection (somehow), which will cause a solar apocalypse that will render 96% of the species on Earth extinct. "Starting over is never pretty," says the sociopathic Erica Kravid.
And for all that Heroes Reborn is completely derivative and cliched, I'll give this to them: this is an unusual explanation for the end of the human race. (Global warming might have been a little more timely, but this is certainly less predictable.) But could we ever experience a solar apocalypse in real life?
A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a massive burst of solar material and electromagnetic radiation from the Sun, which occurs when two oppositely directed magnetic fields come together and rearrange the magnetic field lines, resulting in a sudden release of energy from the original magnetic field. The ejected material is a plasma that that consists primarily of photons and electrons, which is obviously extremely high-temperature.
Luckily, humans don't have the ability to induce or control a coronal mass ejection, but if they could literally cause the plasma from a CME to envelop the Earth, then it makes sense that there would be a massive extinctive event. Solar plasma is heated to tens of millions of degrees, and each CME releases up to 220 billion pounds of the material, approaching the power of one billion hydrogen bombs. Although this is completely speculative, as it would never happen, we can only assume that this would be like scorching the entire Earth, with the 4% remaining likely representing extremely hardy insects and bacteria, as well as the Evos who are left to repopulate the planet.
But since we don't have the power of Evos, the actual solar material would never come close to Earth. In real life, there is a very remote danger that CMEs could cause some kind of apocalypse, but it would look more like Revolution than Mad Max (which, yes, was the result of nuclear war, but it had the scorched earth thing down). When CMEs hit Earth, it's in the form of shock waves from solar energetic particles, which in severe cases can cause a geomagnetic storm. Geomagnetic storms, in turn, produce dangerous electrical currents which can knock out modern technology (they also cause auroras, which makes that now-iconic Heroes Reborn aurora imagery make more sense).
Although most solar storms have only limited and brief effects on power grids, there is a chance that a serious crisis could result if we had a severe storm. According to the CME Research Institute, if we experienced a solar event today that was equally severe to the Carrington Event, which occurred in 1859 and was one of the largest geomagnetic storms on record, humans wouldn't have power or running water in their homes for possibly months or years. Planes and most automobiles wouldn't function, our electronic devices would be useless, and many of our data storehouses, such as our banking, would disappear. It wouldn't wipe out 96% of Earth's species, but it still wouldn't be "pretty."