GBS Switzerland

How unlikely is a doomsday catastrophe? – Calculating and interpreting probabilities for cataclysmic events

Room 117 (Kollegienhaus)

Life requires us to estimate risks everyday. For some common decisions a rough approximation seems legit, but when it comes to certain scientific experiments, a more accurate computation has to be performed. Such calculations are generally based on certain assumptions and may suffer from biases. When the claimed hazard has the potential to destroy Earth or even the Universe, it is of highest importance to have a correct estimate of the risk. Since scientists model nature, a finite and absolutely certain answer can never be obtained. Nevertheless science is exclusively the best method to distinguish between realistic threats and doomsday catastrophes with negligible probability.

Constantin Sluka is a PhD candidate in physics at the University of Basel.