Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Yeah! I figured since we're two and a half years from the date prophesied by the Mayans, Decemember 21st 2012, and since the discovery channel seems obsessed with the Apocalypse I guess I'll jump on the band wagon. As a human who relishes logic and the scientific process you can guess I don't believe in any superstitions prediction made by a stone age civilization thousands of years ago. I actually read a book a few years ago before the 2012 craze that was about the Apocalypse, what the Mayan prediction meant and how the Apocalypse might happen. The book is "Apocalypse 2012; An Investigation Into Civilization's End" by Lawrence E. Joseph if you feel like reading up on it, it's pretty good.

The Mayans more than any other civilization was captivated by the sky and stars. As far as archaeology can tell us they where building calanders and buildings to measure and track the movements of celestial bodies. They built calenders that predicted the cycles of the moon Sun and planets with precision far beyond their time. The calendar that tracked the Sun predicted it's movements from it's daily movement to the observable effect from the wobbling axis of the earth that cycles of thousands of years. It foretold the movements of the Sun for thousands of years but abruptly ends on the date 12/21/2012 in our calendar. Now many westerners interpreted that the Mayans meant that this was the end of world, if there is no one around to care what date it is than there would be no reason to make calendars past that point. Of course one could see it that the Mayans can't make stone calendars that go on forever and decided to stop there and make more calendars when they got to that point. Now that day isn't some date that the Mayans chose at random, December 21st will be the winter solstice for the year 2012, which is they shortest and coldest day of the year (at least for the Northern Hemisphere). This is also the time that the Sun ends up in between the Earth and the center of the Galaxy (yeah some how the Mayans figured that out, lolwut?) which happens every 26,000 years. So this 26,000 year period is a Mayan time frame that one could call an epoch. So the solar calendar they made was supposed to last till the end of the current epoch. Even though westerners went a bit wild with the Mayan Apocalypse, this date was not just some end of the year celebration for the Mayans either. They consider the contact the earth has with the center of the Galaxy as a good thing since they believed that's where everything came from (seriously the Mayans knew about the Galaxy while Europe thought the Earth was in the middle of concentric spheres and each heavenly body was connected to each one!) and that the loss of contact by the Sun's interference could have negative effects for the life on Earth. This date will bring the birth of a new Epoch but just as a birth of a human brings much pain and possibly death so could this date the Mayans believed.

Now I'm pretty sure the likely hood of civilization as we know it ending on that date is just as likely as any other day. However as it turns out, there is still a chance that mother nature could could end us at any moment with nary a warning. The rest of this post will talk about the possible ways humanity could come to a swift and painful end.

1. Sunspots
The Sun is not just a featureless ball of fire hanging in the sky. At such high temperatures and pressures the ball of hydrogen constantly fuses atoms together producing it's light and energy. In the past century scientists have found out the Sun is far more complex than anyone could imagine, with separate charateristic layers, a plasma surface that constantly moves and shifts and solar flares and storms many times larger than the earth, the Sun is definitely the most complicated system in our solar system. On the surface of the Sun's surface are sunspots that are essentially electromagnetic storm flinging massive amounts of radiation out into space. The number of spots on the Sun correspond with how turbulent the Sun is and how much solar radiation it spews into space. The Sun shoots out much more radiation than light and UV rays. This radiation would kill and harm most complex life on Earth. However, luckily for us, the Earth has a magnetic shield around it created by the molten iron core of the Earth that deflects the deadly radiation away from Earth.

This shield can only take so much energy from the Sun. When it becomes to much for it some of this radiation gets deflected towards the magnetic poles causing the Aurora Borealis. As it turns out though the Sun goes through cycles of allot of sunspots and few sunspots known as Solar Maximum and Solar Minimum. The time between each Maximum is eleven years. At this maximum the Sun shoots off more radiation than normal. Normally this wouldn't affect us since we're protected by the magnetic shield, however our satellites are not and can be stop functioning during this period or even permanently damaged. Most electronics are also more sensitive to sunspot activity than we are so now as we become more dependent on these technologies we need to pay more and more attention to sunspots especially during Solar Maximums. And when does the next solar Maximum occur? TWENTY TWELVE! And this article, http://science1.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/10mar_stormwarning/ says that this could be the worst Solar Maximum since 1958, but will have a much more heavy impact on us than fifty years ago as the global economy and infrastructure could easily be crippled by heavy solar activity that year.

2. Flipping of Earth's Magnetic Poles
As I've said the only protection we have from the Sun's solar radiation is Earth's magnetic shield. Without this our atmosphere could burn up and be blown away thinning it past human living conditions. Temperatures would sky rocket, Imagine global warming on steroids, we could not stand out side in sunlight for more than minutes at a time without receiving serious skin damage and cancer rates would sky rocket. Scientists have noticed that within the past decades the strength of the fields have noticeably weakened and have detected huge holes the size of countries in the shield, most of the time over oceans. Geologists also notice that iron deposits, which act as molecular magnets, line them selves with the poles when the rock was formed. They also notice the pattern that they suddenly point in the opposite directions. This leads to the conclusion that about every 100,000-1,000,000 years the poles shift while having a brief period of no shield cover. While it wouldn't be long enough to ebb away our atmosphere it would render almost every modern convenience pointless. No computer or electronical device would work while the poles are busy shifting. Many developed and developing nations would be sent back a century, and many would likely die in the sudden change. Scientists cannot predict when the next pole shift will occur or what causes this to happen in the first place. All we know that any one would call it a disaster on a global scale if this where to occur in modern times.

3. Yellowstone Super Volcano
An unexpected end to the humanity comes from the beautiful tranquil scenery of Yellowstone national park in Wyoming. As it turns out the entire park is actually the caldera of the largest volcano on Earth. Imagine a volcano with the trademark smoking crater on top. Yellowstone park is actually that crater which is 34 by 45 miles and the rest of the volcano sits beneath the surface. The famous geysers in Yellowstone is powered by the largest magma chamber in the world. If the supervolcano exploded it would not be like the volcanos in Hawaii that oozes out but akin to Mt. St. Helens but thousands if not millions times more powerful. The explosion would turn the land to molten slag in all of Wyoming and it's neighboring states, the explosion traveling faster than sound and within an hour millions would die. The surrounding ground in Yellowstone actually has some of the largest deposits of Uranium and would spread fallout all across the North American Continent causing cancer and deaths in many more. Most of the landmass and population of the world lives in the Northern hemisphere and all of it would be covered in ash that would blot out the sun for years killing crops and wildlife and leading to the starvation of much more people than the initial explosion and fallout. This would be a nuclear winter much colder and longer than anything The world's nuclear arsenal could produce. The Yellowstone super volcano luckily, according to geological records blows its cap every 600,000 to 700,000 years. Unfortunately the last time it did erupt was 640,000 years ago and rangers and geologists at Yellowstone have noticed that mountain ranges and valleys are bulging up due to the pressures of the volcanic gases and lava building up in the magma chamber. Bulges that have never been seen before since its making as a park in 1872.

4. Gamma Ray Burst
A more interesting scenario, at least in my opinion, is the Earth getting hit by a gamma ray burst. Aside from the Big Bang the most energetic and destructive (well I guess the Big Bang wasn't destructive but it was a BIG Bang) event in the universe is a super nova. When a star more massive than our sun dies, rather than inflating into a red giant than dying down into a brown dwarf till the end of time, it explodes violently releasing more energy in that one explosion than our Sun during its whole life. During this explosion it launches two beams of intense energy called gamma ray bursts along the rotational poles of the star. While most of the energy dies down logarithmically over space, these bursts are essentially directed gamma lasers that that send directed energy to the ends of the galaxy. Any planet that dares stand in its way will have no idea what happened to hit. If a gamma ray burst where headed towards us there would be no way of telling since the burst travels as fast as light so the instant we see the nova it will have hit Earth. Within seconds the entire atmosphere will burn up and possibly blown away into space. The surface of the Earth will heat up to thousands of degrees vaporizing all life except for the lucky and hardy single celled organisms. There would simply be no way to predict or prevent such a catastrophe. Scientists predict that supernovae along with their gamma ray burst happens in the milky way every fifty years or so, however for a burst to hit us straight on the accuracy it would need to hit us at the distances of light years is so extraordinary that we shan't need to worry about it. But the chance of such an incident happening is completely random and unpredictable.
ARTICLE: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20040108&slug=extinct08

5. Galactic Cloud
Another quite unexpected possible cause for the Apocalypse is that our solar system is going through an energetic section of the galaxy. This cloud is most likely made from the debris of a nova or supernova and is made out of hydrogen and left over radiation. As our solar system flies through this cloud the solar winds emanating from the sun pushes the cloud out of the way much in the way a boat pushes the water away at its bow. And like a ship plowing through water the gases are cresting up and the "bow" of the solar system and are beginning to push through and leak into the solar system. These gases and radiation are adding more and more energy to the planetary systems and in the past couple of decades uncharacteristic patterns in planetary weather are being detected, a frozen moon on Saturn has had geysers on its surface that have not been seen since its discovery and a new red spot has been detected on Jupiter that may become as big as the first big red spot that's an electromagnetic storm larger than the planet Earth. As this energy reaches Earth it could increase the effects of global warming and puts more pressure on Earth's magnetic shield. When this energy reaches the Sun it could easily unbalance and energize the complicated systems in the Sun. If it reaches the sun at solar maximum, which is already supposed to be really strong the extra energy could make the this solar maximum the largest sunspot storm in human history. If the shield weakens due to the polar shift or the energy cloud at the same time we have an unprecedented solar maximum the consequences to human civilization on 2012 could be unimaginable.

6. Meteor
Probably the most famous way to bring about the Apocalypse would have to be a meteor colliding with the Earth. Popularized in many movies and brought the end to the most famous family of animals, the Dinosaurs, 65 million years ago the threat of a meteor is a serious threat. According to this chart: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/ there are only two known asteroids that threaten Earth, 2011 AG5 and 2007 VK184 which might hit us by 2040-2047 and 2048-2057 respectively. Luckily they only measure a 1 on the Torino scale where 0 is absolutely non-threatening and 10 is the most dangerous, so they are the most non-threatening while still being a threat. However there are many unknown asteroids and comets which could hit us at any moment. Threats come from three main areas; the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter has 700,000 to 1.7 million asteroids with a diameter of a kilometer or more. This is the most likely place for an apocalyptic object to come from but also the most observed, although an unexpected collision among two large asteroid could send one towards us. Another place is the Kupier belt reaching from the orbit of Neptune past Pluto which are estimated to hold 70,000 objects with a diameter larger than 100 kilometers while only over a thousand are known about. The last and most unknown source of dangerous objects is the Oort cloud which is about a light year away from the Sun. The Oort cloud is most believed to be the source of the 200 year comets that have highly elliptical orbits. As these comets head almost directly into the sun these icy comets could easily careen into the Earth.

As always the question of the Apocalypse is not how but when. As Godwin's law says that the longer a conversation continues the probability of Hitler being brought up approaches 100%, the longer Humanity lives on the probability of an Apocalyptic event destroying us approaches 100%. One day a catastrophic event will happen that will change what life will be like on the planet Earth. According to geological records of animal fossils major extinctions the scale of the fall of the Dinosaurs and greater happens 62-65 million years and the last major extinction was 65 million years ago. Hopefully this post shows the importance of Human colonization of other planets. In the future humanity needs to have other places to live so we would be able to evacuate any planet that is threatened and be able to reterramorph the planet and repopulate it. This would be the only way to ensure our survival until the end of the Universe or the end of time.


  1. Gonna build me the best apocalypse proof shelter evar!

  2. http://educate-yourself.org/cn/projectbluebeam25jul05.shtml