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Armageddon – Episode 7

September 18, 2012 2 comments

Over Sunday roast this weekend it was bought to my attention by a friend and fellow blogger Slyph, that at no point during my Armageddon “feature” had I pointed out that the “belief” that the Mayan calendar in some way indicated the end of the world was incorrect, and another friend and new blogger posted his own Armageddon themed post so I thought I better get to it and get a very late Episode 7 done.

So as I am running pretty short on ideas as to how or why the world could end in December I thought I would use this late episode 7  to take a look at the Calendar and where all the hype has come from.  My recent visit to visit to Mexico and specifically Chichén Itzá obviously makes me an expert!

The basis for the entire “end of the world in 2012” theory, or at least the one based on the Mayans is the end of their calendar on the 21st December 201, this however is not actually true.

What the calendar actually shows is the end of the current b’ak’tun. A period of time that the Mayans used that is equal to 144,000 days or 394(ish) years. The fact that we are in fact currently in the 13th b’ak’tun, in itself implies that one ending is not the end of the world.

Saying that, there is at least some “reasoning” behind this idea, some scholars believe that that when the Mayan Long Count reaches 13 b’ak’tun’s it resets itself like below.

12.19.19.17.19 3 Kawak 7 Kumku August 10, 3114 BC
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahau 8 Kumku August 11, 3114 BC
0.0.0.0.1 5 Imix 9 Kumku August 12, 3114 BC

Which in relation to the current cycle would lead to the below.

12.19.19.17.19 3 Kawak 2 Kankin December 20, 2012 AD
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahau 3 Kankin December 21, 2012 AD
0.0.0.0.1 5 Imix 4 Kankin December 22, 2012 AD

This is however only one scenario, there are others who believe that the count would rather continue with 13 as the b’ak’tuns, being 13.0.0.0.1, and then 13.0.0.0.2, and so on up until the 14th bak’tuns, being represented as 1.0.0.0.0. (Source: http://mayan-calendar.com/ancient_longcount.html) and others that believe that like the other place values in the count, they are a cycle of 20, meaning that even in the event that the calendar was some kind of doomsday clock its end is a long way off.

There are in fact cycles that are higher than the b’ak’tun, which can be found on inscriptions in Palenqu, Copán and Coba among others.

 

Table of Long Count units Days

Long Count period

Long Count unit

Approximate solar years

1   1 Kin  
20 20 Kin 1 Uinal  
360 18 Uinal 1 Tun ~ 1
7200 20 Tun 1 Ka’tun

19.7

144000 20 Ka’tun 1 Bak’tun

394.3

2880000 20 Bak’tun 1 Pictun

7885

57600000 20 Pictun 1 Kalabtun

157808

1152000000 20 Kalabtun 1 K’inchiltun

3156164

23040000000 20 K’inchiltun 1 Alautun

63123288

 

To me at least it seems odd that they would have a measurement of time for something that theoretically shouldn’t happen.

More to the point at various sites across Mesoamerica there are references to dates beyond December 12th 2012, at Palenque for example where a text in the Temple of the Inscriptions talks about the anniversary of its Ruler K’inich Janaab’ Pakal on October 21st 4772. Planning a party for almost 3000 years after the end of the world seems more than a little redundant.

On a side note you should check K’inich Janaab’ Pakal out, he is the guy famously shown in Erich von Däniken’s “Chariots of the Gods” as proof of the supposed extraterrestrial influence on the Maya.

 “In the center of that frame is a man sitting, bending forward. He has a mask on his nose, he uses his two hands to manipulate some controls, and the heel of his left foot is on a kind of pedal with different adjustments. The rear portion is separated from him; he is sitting on a complicated chair, and outside of this whole frame, you see a little flame like an exhaust.

Anyways let’s say that the theories were correct, that December the 21st was indeed the end of the current era/cycle what should we expect? Well we don’t know, Mayan text offer no insight as to what the end of the 13th b’ak’tun might hold, although we do know that the end of each one was considered a time of great change.

The end of the 8th, 9th, 10th 11th and 12th did indeed bring some pretty big changes for those concerned.

The beginning of the 8th bak’tun (41 AD)
The last of the Olmec cities, some surviving for almost 1000 years, were abandoned and never reinhabited.

The beginning of the 9th bak’tun (435 AD)
Teotihuacan’s influence began in the Maya world, resulting new cities, a flurry of new dynasties, and warfare.

The beginning of the 10th bak’tun (830 AD)
The end of the Classic period and the still unexplained abandonment of 100’s of cities.

The beginning of the 11th bak’tun (1224 AD)
The abandonment of Chichen Itza in Yucatan and the rise of Mayapan.
The beginning of the 12th bak’tun (1618 AD)
The last great Maya empire, the Itza of Lake Peten, sent emissaries to the Spanish announcing they are ready to embrace the change the turn of cycles will bring.

Although it’s fair to say that many of these changes could have been driven by the Mayans belief in the change that the end of a b’ak’tun would bring as opposed to any event caused by its ending.

To finish ill give the views of somepeople who despite my visit to Mexico this year are even more knowledgeable on the subject than myself.

Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that “We have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end” in 2012.

“For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle,” says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday event or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”

“There will be another cycle,” says E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute (MARI). “We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.”

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Armageddon – Episode 6

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Once again I’m late.

Saturday should have seen my monthly Armageddon post but I missed the deadline. Luckily I’m not in charge of the apocalypse or we could a lot of very relieved people come December 22nd, who get a nasty shock 3 days later.

As I mentioned last month finding end of the world scenarios, either remotely realistic or totally out of this world are becoming tougher and with five more entries (including this one) to go I am pretty worried that I’m going to run out of steam before the big day.

So to stretch the material a little I figured what I would do today is rather speak about a specific scenario I would look at where the word Armageddon comes from.

As I’m sure you all know the word is biblical and comes from the Book of Revelations, specifically Revelation 16:16.

According to Wikipedia

Armageddon (from Hebrew: הַר מְגִדּוֹ‎, Har Megiddo, lit. Mount Megiddo; Ancient Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn,[1][2] Late Latin: Armagedōn[3]) is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location. The term is also used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world scenario.

Megiddo itself is a real place in Israel and was a site of great importance in the ancient world, due to it guarding a narrow trade route between Egypt and Assyria, and has been the setting for many historical battles right up to World War 1.

The site was inhabited from 7000BC until 586BC and excavations have unearthed approximately 26 layers of ruins, but since that time it has remained uninhabited meaning the remains have been undisturbed since then, coincidently this final inhabitation coincides with the destruction of Solomon’s temple and the exile of the Israelites.

I’m sure with some clever characters, conspiracy and a little imagination there is a Dan Brown/James Rollins style book just waiting to be written tying all these things together.

Armageddon – Episode 5

June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

OK so this segment is getting somewhat harder to write, despite the copious amounts of websites related to the supposed end of the world, when it comes to the theories on how, people have been somewhat less prolific.

Most theories that have come across whilst trying to find inspiration for tonight’s post have essentially been slightly differently worded versions of what I have written about in previous episodes.

For those of you who haven’t read them and would like to, they can be found below.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

So I was struggling to find a topic for tonight’s Episode, then I came across this one. All of the theories that I have so far posted are at best unlikely and at worst wild speculation and tonight’s is no different, although I’m pretty sure it falls closer to the latter end of the spectrum, and especially so when tying it in with 2012.

 

Grey Goo Hypothesis

 

Grey Goo is an end of the world scenario based on the emerging technology of nano robotics, essentially it is a scenario whereby out of control self-replicating nano robots consume all matter on earth whilst building more of themselves.

The term was first coined by Nanotechnology Pioneer Eric Drexler in his book Engines of Creation, although he has since stated that he wished he had never used the term.

In chapter 4 of his book, Drexler explains quite how fast these tiny machines could work.

 

Imagine such a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself…the first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight. At the end of ten hours, there are not thirty-six new replicators, but over 68 billion. In less than a day, they would weigh a ton; in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth; in another four hours, they would exceed the mass of the Sun and all the planets combined — if the bottle of chemicals hadn’t run dry long before.

 

Now imagine that the bottle of chemicals is Earth, potentially scary stuff.

 

 In chapter 11 he goes on to describe “Grey Goo”

 

Early assembler-based replicators could beat the most advanced modern organisms. ‘Plants’ with ‘leaves’ no more efficient than today’s solar cells could out-compete real plants, crowding the biosphere with an inedible foliage. Tough, omnivorous ‘bacteria’ could out-compete real bacteria: they could spread like blowing pollen, replicate swiftly, and reduce the biosphere to dust in a matter of days. Dangerous replicators could easily be too tough, small, and rapidly spreading to stop — at least if we made no preparation. We have trouble enough controlling viruses and fruit flies.

 

Like I said scary stuff, but we have no need to worry just yet, first of all more recent research has discovered that a scenario like this is much less likely than first thought, and to be honest the chances where pretty slim in the first place. Secondly its has since been widely accepted that such self replicating nano robots are not needed and last of all, as far as I can tell nanotechnology of this type is very much in its infant stages and so is highly unlikely to make it in time for December!  

That’s not to say that these tiny machines are totally safe, whilst the Grey Goo Hypothesis may not be a very likely scenario there are still a number of concerns around nanotechnology all of which are far more likely and in some cases equally as concerning.

Dangers of Molecular Manufacturing

Armageddon – Episode 4

May 21, 2012 1 comment

So it’s the 21st and that means another End of the World post.

Ive been struggling with this one, whilst I thought this was a cool quirky idea when I first started it, there really only so many “believable” scenarios.

Despite extensive searching of the internet Short of writing about Alien Invasions or a Zombie Apocalypse things are starting to dry up. Im already dreading next month’s instalment, anyways onto this month’s scenario.

Global Pandemic

In recent years we have had a number of scares in this department, Swine Flu and Avian Flu featured heavily in the news and whilst they ultimately seemed to be over reactions, the possibility and the fear involved with it seems to be very real.

There are many forms of illness that could potentially cause such an occurrence but it seems the Flu to me at least, seems to be the most likely culprit.

Personally what I think makes it so dangerous is that the initial symptoms are so commonplace, realistically how many people are even going to pop to the pharmacist let alone the doctors for a runny nose and fever.

There is also the fact that even the “common” flu evolves very quickly, hence the need for people to get a new shot each year.

As it stands the bog standard normal Flu kills between ¼ and ½ a million people each year, albeit normally people already suffering from another medical complication or those susceptible to most illnesses such as the elderly or very young.

A new Flu pandemic occurs roughly 3 times a century; the last recognised one being in 2009, although only 18000 fatalities were reported, a massive drop from the ¾ million in 1968-69. Obviously this is largely due to modern medicine and the ability to treat secondary infections which has most likely reduced the toll dramatically.

The most deadly Flu pandemic in recorded history was the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 which killed somewhere between 2 %and 5% of the world’s population. It’s believed that as many as 25 million people died in the first 25 weeks of the pandemic, the same amount of people that HIV/AIDS has killed in the first 25 years of its existence.

This was truly global pandemic hitting places as far away as the Arctic and remote pacific islands, and this was in a day and age when it took you months at least, to get from one continent to another.

Whilst medicine has clearly come on leaps and bounds and the likely hood is that even in the event of a pandemic we would survive, a recent study suggests that even with all this in mind if a strain as virulent as the Spanish Flu was to emerge today it would still kill between 50 and 80 million people.

Armageddon – Episode 3

April 23, 2012 1 comment

I didn’t realise the date yesterday (2 days now as I missed the midnight deadline) so I’m afraid my Armageddon post has come a day (2 days) late. Luckily it wasn’t December so I’ve still got this chance to write it.

As I mentioned earlier this month, whilst reading The Devil Colony on holiday I got the topic for this month’s post.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet read The Devil Colony and plan to, the content of this post could give you inkling about some of the events. Whilst no specific plot elements are given away it might make some of them less of an AHHA moment.

I have once again chosen to stick with earth bound apocalyptic events, partially due to reading said book, but also as much as they may come by different names most of the extra terrestrial are fairly similar but with a different name.

 

SUPER VOLCANOES

The most famous Super Volcano is of course situated under Yellow Stone Park. So like so many other end of the world theories is this just another scientifically plausible but highly unlikely and blown out of all proportion event.

It would seem not.

Many scientist believe it is not “if” but “when”

The most recent super volcano event happened approximately 74, 000 years ago at the Toba Caldara in Sumatra, Indonesia.  It was possibly the largest explosive volcanic eruption in the last 25 million years.   It destroyed and area of around 7,800 square miles, deposited ash as thick as 600m at the main vent, as well as covering the entire of Southern Asia in 6” of Ash.

Supposedly a super volcano erupts every 50,000 years or so, as you can see we are long overdue. Yellow Stone itself supposedly erupts every 600,000 years and its 40,000 years overdue at this point. Saying that, as far as we know there have only been 3 eruptions, so there are not really enough statistics to make it a pattern.

So what are the potential outcomes of the eruption of a Super Volcano like Yellow Stone or its “Big Sister” Toba Caldara?

They are pretty grim.

To quote the discovery channel

There is no argument that a major eruption at Yellowstone in modern times would be devastating. It would obliterate the national park and nearby communities, spread ground-glass-like volcanic ash from the Pacific coast to the Midwest, and cause worldwide weather changes from the airborne dust and gases, according to Smith, who described the potential effects in detail in his book Windows Into the Earth, published in 2000.

But is it only Super Volcanoes we need to worry about? What about plain old Volcanoes?

Take the Laki Eruption of 1783, its eruption and aftermath are responsible for an estimated 6million deaths,.

But with all these things, it’s not the End of the World. Even if you buy into the more extreme views we have survived them before, that Eruption I mentioned in Indonesia earlier, well humans where around then and of course we are still around now.

Armageddon – Episode 2

March 22, 2012 4 comments

It’s that time of the month again.

As promised I bring you my monthly feature about the immanent end of the world as we know it.

Last month I focused on Nemesis, A hypothetical star. This month I figured I would move away from space and take a look at something that could happen right here on earth.

The Magnetic Polar Reversal.

Basically in this End of the World scenario the magnetic poles would, well reverse. North would become south, East would become… well actually I’m not sure how that would be effected technically East and West are just a direction based on where North and South are, I mean Technically there would be no reason for these to change, I mean it would already be confusing enough adjusting to living in the North despite still living in the same house, without also adding into the equation that I’m now living in the North West rather than the south east.

Saying that, much like explaining Left and Right to an alien via a radio, without a point of context east and west are pointless directions, so I would guess we would go with the flow and change them to.

Anyway I digress, this is all well and good but im sure you all want to know is how likely is it that this could happen and what the consequences could be.

Well first off, yes this is a scientific possibility. Unlike Nemesis this is not theoretical, this has already happened on a number of occasions, the last time was about 730,00 years ago, and as far as we know there is no rhyme or reason for this, so could it happen in 2012?

Sure.

Could we predict it?

Not really.

As we currently have no known cause it’s impossible to say whether it will happen in the near future or some time a million years from now, on the occasions it has happened there is no pattern so whilst 730,000 years may well give the impression that we are “due,” it has in the past happened at both longer and shorter intervals.

So what are the side effects of such a shift, well obviously there hasn’t been one in recorded history so let’s be honest we can only speculate, but theoretically increased seismic activity resulting in earthquakes and volcanoes is likely, changes in the behaviour of various animals, birds for example are generally believed to use the magnetic field, and it would apparently effect all electronic devises.

That’s right people; shocking as it is your shiney new Ipad3 might not be all that useful in a measly 9 months time, but lets be honest by then the Ipad3S will be out and it will be redundant anyways.

 

 Much as we have no recorded history of this event, there is some good news.

SOURCE

Human beings have been on the Earth for a number of million years, during which there have been many reversals, and there is no obvious correlation between human development and reversals. Similarly, reversal patterns do not match patterns in species extinction during geological history.

Some animals, such as pigeons and whales, may use the Earth’s magnetic field for direction finding. Assuming that a reversal takes a number of thousand years, that is, over many generations of each species, each animal may well adapt to the changing magnetic environment, or develop different methods of navigation.

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