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Sunday, September 2, 2012


I've been subscribing to WIRED for several years now and have finally come to a realization that, as technology in general has surged past my competence (I can now only vaguely understand my wrist watch and barely get by on my various computers), so has the editorial content of the magazine.  WIRED first made a presence almost two decades ago, founded by Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly (of WHOLE EARTH CATALOG--the original was published in 1968 and their 30th anniversary edition in 1998 now sells for $300--fame) and many others.

Well, their latest edition must have technically retrogressed a lot because I actually comprehended goodly portions.  I will have a two part posting of this September edition, starting today with APOCALYPSE NOT.  

As we all know by now, according to the Mayans, the world will come to an end on 21December2012, the winter solstice, or shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  Well, that is how oddballs (New Agers, eschatological scholars...whatever  you want to call them--can you believe people make a living out of this??) throughout history have interpreted the surviving 17 or so calendars.

The Maya civilization might have begun as early as 2600 BC, and maybe earlier, as the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar begins on 11August3114 BC.  They flourished from 200 to 900 AD and the population then crashed, probably from a 200 year drought.  When the Spanish came in the early 1500's, the Maya had no leader and were scattered from the Yucatan Peninsula into a good part of central America (map to right).  However, the Spanish conquerors took almost 170 years to prevail.  Reflect on this a bit, for this period would take us back to 1842, before the Civil War.  The Mayans are still around today in Mexico, Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador.

One analysis of what the Mayans prophesized is that the Sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way, and, therefore, all hell will break loose.  First of all, the Sun is always aligned with the center of our galaxy.  Two points in space always are.     Now, when you add Earth to this equation, the conjunction of all three will not happen for another 4 million years.  Of course, it is more complicated then that, for there is a supposedly  25,800 year cycle where the Sun's precession of the equinoxes come into play, a curved line, which further confuses me because our Sun takes about a quarter billion years to orbit around the center of the Milky Way.  Anyway this astrophysical mumbo-jumbo confounds me.

Further, all this antiquated forecasting effort occurred a millennium before Copernicus had the courage (on his deathbed) to declare that the Earth went around the Sun.  The Mayans sort of identified Venus, but this was before telescopes, and, let's face it, they knew less than I do about the Universe.  With a giant telescope I can barely find Saturn, and as much as I know more astrophysics than any ancient Mayan, I wouldn't be able to portend doom on 21December2012 under any celestial singularity.

So what form of doom have these seers predicted?

  1.  There is a galactic alignment every 26 million years when mass extinctions occur.  This has something to do with the Oort cloud, Sagittarius A, Jupiter and a bunch of other synchronicities that might happen on 21December2012.  Don't lose any sleep over this one.

  2.  Solar flares will peak in 2012, according to Michio Kaku.  Nope, says NASA.

  3.  We are at the point of geomagnetic reversal, possibly to be triggered by #2.  Anyway, if this happens this year, it takes from a thousand to ten thousand years to complete, and no deaths are forecast.

  4.  Planet X will collide with us.  There is a connection to alien life, with a high giggle factor.

  5.  2012, the 2009 movie (63% audience rating in Rotten Tomatoes), with John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson, etc.  There were various references to solar flares and the Mayans.  Toss in a mega earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, eruption of the Yellowstone caldera and the Ark (yes, to save a selected few) and you have a film I'll have to see.  Maybe Netflix has it.  It made almost a billion dollars.

  6.  Heard of the Photon Belt?  Not worth mentioning.

  7.  The red supergiant Betelgeuse will go bang and become a supernova.  However, it is 600 light years away, and will take at least that long to reach us.  Yet, suppose this already happened almost 600 years ago?  Not to worry, as astrophysicists have calculated that this star, which could, actually explode at any time, will only cause us problems if it were 25 million light years away, or closer.

  8.  Ah, among my favorites:  alien invasion.  According to the English edition of Pravda, a digitized sky survey by SETI showed three large spacecraft due to arrive very soon.  To quote:

The spaceships were detected by HAARP search system. The system, based in Alaska, was designed to study the phenomenon of northern lights. According to SETI researchers, the objects are nothing but extraterrestrial spaceships. They will be visible in optical telescopes as soon as they reach Mars's orbit. The US government has been reportedly informed about the event. The ships will reach Earth in December 2012.

Again, be reassured, for Seth Shostak (left), chief astronomer of SETI, has debunked these claims.

I treat Doomsday 2012 as a joke, but 10% of global citizens fear the possibility of the world ending on 21December2012:

Twenty two percent of Americans believe that the end of the world will occur in their lifetime!  Well, a similar percentage doesn't believe in God, so maybe there is a correlation here, although the logic is contradictory.

Jay Leno joked about late night shopping channels and purchasing a 2013 Mayan calendar, calling himself a moron. The best truth is that the current Mayan calendar ends on 21December2012, and 22December2012 merely begins another cycle.  So the next one should be good for, maybe, 5000 years.  He thus got a bargain.


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