Monday, 2 December 2013

Apocalypse 2012 - What was it about?

Many friends  received emails highlighting a cataclysmic end to the world; esp. human life as we know it this year (2012). Some of them asked my opinion on the subject. I had then decided to answer them after the year was complete. My earlier entry (on the topic) was titled "End(s) of the World" written on May 20, 2011 as a rebuttal to the failing voice of Harold Camping.

The world did not end in 2012, or several dates marked prior to this where cults waited on hilltops or committed mass suicide. It is an unlikely event. Historically the most disastrous event we know is heavy volcanic activity forcing many people of the Minoan civilization to relocate.

Atlantis is a legend, perhaps even a fictional residue of a multitude of events as much as Troy of the Illiad. There is little proof to support existence of civilized life over 5,000 years ago. Although, there are those who believe that 10,500 BCE held some special civilization composed of hybrid homonids or only homo-sapiens (It would be only 2,500 years after the Neanderthals vanished en masse.) 

Despite several massive extinction events in the past, including the K-Pg or K-T event, life has never left planet earth nor has an entire genus been wiped clean. 

Before we confront the unfounded fears or subconscious "needs" of mass-destruction, let's take a look at the theories that spawned and turned out to be nothing ...

Who were the Mayans?
A Mesoamerican culture with an oldest known settlement in 1800 BCE are identified as the Mayans. The earliest written inscriptions of the Mayans are between 200-300 BCE. Between 250CE and 900CE Mayan culture reached its peak. Thereafter it lent itself to stagnation leaving the only historical records from the 900CE to the Spanish conquistadors arriving during 1500CE.

Their fall seems to have been brought by a systematic self-destruction of the very ecological systems within which they existed. The resultant droughts and famines induced a cycle of destruction that finally brought down, what was once a thriving civilization. This is still under scientific research.

In comparison to the Mayans, the earliest Greek written historical record is during 700-600 BCE. The Egyptians are at least another 500 years earlier in having invented writing. The Sumerian and Harappan civilizations have hieroglyphs dating earlier than 1500 BCE making them yet older in pre-classical historic record.

Europe interaction with Mayan Culture
When the Spaniards met the Mayans in the 16th century CE they existed as a hierarchical cluster of city-states, much like ancient Greece before the time of Alexander (the Great.)

All civilizations that were disconnected from the European mainland were "presumed" to be less advanced during initial interactions. These interactions usually resulted in actions of the 'self proclaimed betters' to exterminate the native culture. The same was done systematically to the Mayans - especially when all written material in their possession was labeled heresy and burnt.

It is ironical that we turn to their calendar (after having burnt their subsequent works written on 'reed' paper [perhaps no one thought to read them then]) to refer to their short-count calendar as a definition for a large-scale hazard event in which they do not have any major stake.

The long-count calendar does go much farther suggesting that the Mayans did improve their time-keeping techniques at a later stage or simultaneously.

With all their records not being preserved, this only reminds me of how Nostradamus, the Jewish physician's hobby of hallucinated looks into the future became used by both Allied and Axis sides during World-War-2 as propaganda.

"An" (Babylonian god)
Most doomsday-prophets who (continue to) refer to the end of the world ought to watch more of the 'James Bond' movies for less sillier Natural extinction level events. Anyone who has watched "Moonraker" would have received a crazier yet more realistic idea.

The idea of associating the name 'Nibiru' from an ancient Babylonian legend (all of which are almost impossible to comprehend considering our cultural anachronism relative to them) with a planet and thereafter one in a collision course with the earth is merely bad astronomy.

Recently a few objects from the Kuiper belt, got caught up in the Sun's gravity and headed like missiles for a straight collision. One object even managed to explode on impact with the Sun's Corona. Thereafter the comet ISON, also suffered a similar fate, something that seems common during the solar climax.

Most people have no knoweldge of Babylonian gods - like Nebo who later arose to prominence although originally conceived as a Sun-God. El, Enki, Ba'al are all part of the same pantheon and were once ranked higher. Nebo-ru, is a substituted perspective of "Nebo" for those who have at least skimmed through Babylonian mythology.

To the right is a carving of  a Babylonian-Sumerian-Akkadian cognate, "An", who later became either overshadowed or contextually overwritten by 'Nebo' (the Sun God) [after whom, Nebuchadnezzar - cup bearer of Nebo was named.] An, does have other names including "Anu", "Annunaki" (originally a different diety) and his consort for 'Ishtar' (the fertility Goddess, and the origin of the festival literally named after her 'Easter'.)

Solar Climax, Pole Shift
Yes, the sun has a climax every 12 years (, it doesn't have a partner.) The sunspot cycle took some time to be identified but has been identified accurately. Several events of astronomical significance have already taken place in 2012. All of these teach us more about space and our situation in relevance. The earth's magnetic poles have reversed at least twice before when life existed and nothing strange has been correlated to it - especially not an extinction event or a mass extinction event.

The Sun's magnetic field (in conjunction with this cycle) reverses every 23 years ( twice the sunspot cycle duration. ) This has a strange correlation with weather patterns, a theory spotted by Kieratov who was researching world socio-economic trends. He created the K-Wave whose harmonics (both super-harmonics and sub-harmonics) seemed to coincide with major shifts in socio-economic welfare which was a direct byproduct of multiple natural events that coincided with the 11.5 year K-Wave.

Global Warming
The cause of global warming is ill understood. Recent papers (c. 2012, 2013) have at least confirmed that water vapor is the most voluminous greenhouse gas with maximum heat capacity as opposed to Methane or CO2.

I have written a post that puts together the jigsaw of Global climate change.

It is known that the volume of green house gases was much higher during prehistoric times, though it has only left little evidence of a phenomenon such as global warming as we witness it today (which I have explored in another post.).

While human beings are quick to blame ourselves - we could also deem that conclusion premature as all attributed reasons are inconclusive. Oceanic salt concentration creates a balanced cycle to preserve climatic cycles in the event of heavy dilution of oceanic water by melting glaciers and ice shelves.

The Galactic Vortex
It is only with our present knowledge of astronomy that we are certain (at least within the past 2 to 3 thousand years) that we are most likely passing through a part of the universe we have never been through before. This part of the universe is being transcended by the Milky Way, not the Solar System in isolation. Our understanding of Magnetars and Dark Matter is nascent and gaining access to a region of the universe which we by our own travel technology could not have achieved could only give us knowledge to preserve ourselves from any hazards predicted in space. Hence passing through a Galactic Vortex is unlikely to swallow us to extinction. Our understanding of the Universe has been slowly increasing.

Nuclear war
While everyone has their own Nuclear war deterrents, Nuclear war alone is unlikely to cause complete extinction of mankind. It would definitely set us back by several centuries, slow down the rate of growth we have achieved and make life and livelihood extremely difficult. However, such a "difficult" phase might improve evolutionary prospects and therefore provide us with all necessary mutations to survive such a situation in the future. War has always been a key element in human evolution that has induced major changes to society. The social aspects have indeed been bitter and despicable. Yet, the net result on evolution (looking at population difference from World War 2 until today) is positive. Hence this would create setbacks, but not necessarily drive all life to extinction. This continues to be a looming prospect, but most nations have chosen to avoid such a confrontation as there are more powerful socio-economic disruption tools that cause less devastation being employed as strategic weaponry. The "Arab Spring" was definitely not an uprising from the people, but had been seeded in the minds through newer strategies of geopolitical warfare.

Alien Invasion
There have been multiple discussions of having first contact and debates that any "self confessed: advanced" alien settlers would attempt to neutralize the native inhabitants. This too can be understood as social pressure which would undoubtedly erupt.

Although, evidence of existence of another intelligent sentient life form  - or a non sentient space faring life form would only change our outlook towards life, that effect might not be as accentuated as believed. Native populations of all conquered continents during the colonial period did survive and there were specific reasons. The dumb assumption that all "Native populations" which are less advanced in technology were enslaved is a rather naive, although during the 'Age of Naval Exploration', this happened in more places.

Historical expeditions under the Ming Dynasty by China undertaken by a Eunuch to Africa shows evidence of no such dominance. The Arabs who had maximum contact with multiple continents, did not subjugate entire civilizations. They did participate in every kind of trade, including morally questionable slavery and assassinations at one time (practiced by specific groups within them.)

Although cooperation would be more preferable, this is less likely irrespective of the level of understanding achieved by whatever alien life form we come across. Any form of alien sentient life may be so different from our physiology that interactions may never be possible at least for the current century itself.

Climate Nightmare
The Earth has had levels of climate unrelated to human or biological intervention of any sort that may force us to have to adapt very quickly to completely new patterns. Our original purpose for creating calendars was to predict such climate changes, but most attempts at creating long term periodic calendars that coincided with climatic changes (not seasonal changes) were met with disappointment. Hence this is one subject on which we do not have any accurate modeling and need to respond in the immediate. An unexpected coronal mass ejection from the sun which happens without us being able to monitor, predict or notice it might create problems.

In simple words, all life forms on earth can, at any point of time, be wiped out by a 'Cosmic' accident (an accident from our perspective.) There is nothing that pins this calendar time to the possibility of an extinction level event as much as it could have fallen on any other date.

The dinosaurs too weren't busy thinking of a possible event, and were taken in by accident. Some  did survive by evolving into birds (a product of evolutionary pressure) with reduced average size per life-form. Any singular catastrophic event will only affect evolutionary pressure and therefore cause changes in us that would become evidence of the original cause.

The ongoing Holocoene extinction is another process that humanity merely stands witness to. We can accelerate or try to slow the process down, but this process actually permitted human dominance.

Glossary and Terminology
CE - Common Era (earlier referred to as AD on Anno Domini)
BCE - Before Common Era (Earlier referred to as BC or Before Christ)