His answers were quite often like that. When she spoke of beauty, he spoke of the fatty tissue supporting the epidermis. When she mentioned love, he responded with the statistical curve that indicates the automatic rise and fall in the annual birthrate. When she spoke of the great figures in art, he traced the chain of borrowings that links these figures to one another.
(...)Through the ship's telescopes, he had watched the death of the solar system. With his own eyes, he had seen the volcanoes of Mars erupt for the first time in a billion years; Venus briefly naked as her atmosphere was blasted into space before she herself was consumed; the gas giants exploding into incandescent fireballs. But these were empty, meaningless spectacles compared with the tragedy of Earth. That, too, he had watched through the lenses of cameras that had survived a few minutes longer than the devoted men who had sacrificed the last moments of their lives to set them up. He had seen... the Great Pyramid, glowing dully red before it slumped into a puddle of molten stone... the floor of the Atlantic, baked rock-hard in seconds, before it was submerged again, by the lava gushing from the volcanoes of the Mid-ocean Rift... the Moon rising above the flaming forests of Brazil and now itself shining almost as brilliantly as had the Sun, on its last setting, only minutes before... the continent of Antarctica emerging briefly after its long burial, as the kilometres of ancient ice were burned away... the mighty central span of the Gibraltar Bridge, melting even as it slumped downward through the burning air... In that last century the Earth was haunted with ghosts - not of the dead, but of those who now could never be born. For five hundred years the birthrate had been held at a level that would reduce the human population to a few millions when the end finally came. Whole cities - even countries - had been deserted as mankind huddled together for History's closing act.
Arthur C. Clarke