The War of the Worlds
As the close of the nineteenth century approached, HG Wells was fascinated by the end of the world. It was understandable: Britain had been through huge scientific and social changes, and Queen Victoria’s reign was almost over. So he did what any good writer would: he explored his fears in a novel. The result was The War of the Worlds, a science fiction imagining of a deadly Martian invasion. The story is now iconic, thanks in part to the radio play by Orson Welles, which terrified listeners in 1938 — another period of great uncertainty.
An asteroid impact. Nuclear armageddon. An alien invasion? It is natural for humans to consider the ultimate fate of their species, especially in times of upheaval and conflict. But is there anything to be learnt from all this apocalyptic anxiety?
Hawking: physicist, optimist, prophet of doom
Was Stephen Hawking right to predict the end of the world? The visionary physicist urged humans to colonise space to save themselves from inevitable destruction. Is this science or sci-fi?
Supervolcano discovery stirs apocalyptic fears
The giant volcano at the centre of America’s Yellowstone National Park is even bigger than previously thought. Will this be the origin of our ultimate Armageddon?
Behold the prophets – and profits – of doom
Should we be preparing for the end of the world? Many people expect to see the collapse of life as we know it. A new book reveals how a multi-billion-dollar industry has grown around them.
The Martians in The War of the Worlds seem feeble at first. But they are masters of technology, using huge mechanical tripods as fighting machines, destroying any human or other life they encounter. A century later, we are still fascinated by the possibility of life on other planets.
‘Habitable’ planet discovered orbiting distant star
A planet called Kepler-22b is the strongest known candidate for extraterrestrial life, astronomers have confirmed. But would finding ET really be such good news?
Martian-hunting robot successfully touches down
After ‘seven minutes of terror’, NASA’s Mars rover touched down on the Red Planet yesterday morning. It is the most complex robot Mars has yet seen. Its objective: evidence of alien life.
The monoliths from outer space (or maybe not)
Do we Earthlings NEED to believe in aliens? The appearance of strange monoliths in the Utah desert and Romania has fuelled speculation that creatures from another world want to make contact.
When the novel was published in 1897, the British Empire was at its height — so it is no surprise that the invading aliens headed straight for London. But much of the novel’s action takes place in the idyllic villages and countryside near Woking. How has England’s geography changed?
New London tower to ‘block out solar system’
It’s as tall as The Shard. Its design has been praised. It will create essential office space. But does London really need the 310m One Undershaft tower?
A bullet through the heart of England
Proposals for a high-speed rail link across England have run into trouble. Campaigners say the new tracks will ruin countryside and wreck lives. Are the benefits worth the price?
Big jump in building on England’s open spaces
Planning permission for homes on the green belt has risen fivefold in five years. With housing supplies so short, should the need for new stock come before environmental concerns?
HG Wells was deeply sceptical about the British Empire’s effect on the lands and populations it conquered. ‘Before we judge [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought.’
Commonwealth shocked by Gambia’s abrupt exit
On Wednesday, the Commonwealth of Nations had 54 members. Today, after a tiny African nation announced its withdrawal, it is down to 53. Is this really a blow to the forces of imperialism?
Britain must return ‘stolen’ gem, says India
Dazzling, famous, very precious: the Koh-i-Noor is one of Britain’s prize treasures. Yet this week, the Indian government signalled that it wants the diamond back. Who does it belong to?
Despite the British Army’s best efforts, it is all too easy for the Martians to invade, and then destroy, humanity. Their technology was too powerful to fight. ‘It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants,’ observed the artilleryman.
Britain to spend billions on nuclear weapons
Parliament has voted to keep its nuclear deterrent for 32 years, at an estimated cost of £205 billion. With luck, it will never be used. But should we trust weapons like this to keep us safe?
UK to launch new military space command
Will World War III be fought in space? A new space command, a national cyber force and an artificial intelligence agency will be part of Britain’s defence transformation programme.
Cyber war ‘more deadly’ than nuclear weapons
Britain’s foremost military historian and the world’s leading expert on internet security both warned last week the next global conflict will be a cyberwar that could annihilate humanity.