End of The World- So Long and Thanks For All The Fish
As my ponderings on the commitment of the perfect murder were so popular - if only because it outraged so many- I thought I would continue on with my sunny day by presenting a piece on one interesting topic that affects us all: the end of the world.
Think of this as a short guide to surviving the end of the world if not preventing it altogether.
You may be wondering what evidence I have to present that could suggest the pending apocalypse aside from the easily misinterpreted predictions of Nostradamus taken from the supermarket tabloid. Simple, really: the Volkswagen bus of a bunch of New Age hippies broke down in front of the house and they’ve been camped out in the front yard ever since. I try to avoid them if at all possible - the smell of patchouli burns my eyes - but there’s only so much you can do before you end up listening to the monosyllabic droning of people in patched bell-bottoms who go on and on amongst one another as if they’re actually capable of human speech. Now I know how Jane Goodall felt.
There are two bases for this belief that actually hold water: The Mayan Calendar and the I Ching prediction.
The calendar of the ancient Mayan people of Mesoamerica was surprisingly accurate, predicting the rise and fall of celestial bodies with a margin of error only recently surpassed by modern astronomy. This calendar extended forward many hundreds of years in the future, being instrumental in religious ceremony. The calendar ends at dawn on December 21st, 2012. It is unfortunate that the method by which the calendar was calculated is no longer known as their culture was subsequently destroyed by the arrival of European man, else we might know why.
The I Ching is a very old book which means “Classic of Changes” in ancient Mandarin. It’s essentially a symbol system used to derive order from random events. It’s composed of 64 possible line configurations known as hexagrams. Early on it was used in conjunction with the casting of yarrow straws as a method of divination.
Over the past 50 years, the I Ching has received more serious consideration given that the hexagrams were configured in a manner quite similar to that of binary computer code. This was taken one step further by the McKenna brothers, who, in their 1993 book, Invisible Landscape, posited that the I Ching was based on a combination of astrology which was used to determine humanistic events as well as an account of past history. Essentially the six lines of each hexagram multiplied by the 64 different possible hexagrams turned out to be 384, the number of days in the early 13 month lunar calendar used by the early Han dynasty, from which the book originates.
They then used this basic information to develop a Mandelbrot fractal. Laying this fractal over a time scale pointed out a frightening number of accurate peaks in human history. Each peak pointed out a time of great social upheaval on earth. The significance of a Mandelbrot fractal is that each peak is subsequently smaller than the one that went before it, though the pattern continues.
Patterns in this case are the key. The pattern of the human race’s activity is speeding up with each passing day. For example, 500 years ago the printing press was invented, the single greatest key to the advancement of knowledge and its practical application. 100 years ago the automobile was invented and a way to mass produce them was developed, changing how we do business and live our daily lives; both at work and at play. 50 years ago the computer was invented, allowing for millions of calculations to be performed in minutes if not seconds. 30 years ago we managed to land on the moon, the closest celestial body to this planet. Every 18 months the processing speed and memory capacity of the modern computer doubles, allowing for greater advancement in technology, production, and quality of life. The pattern is speeding up.
And at what point does the pattern reach a speed where it’s no longer capable of being discerned on a timeline? December 21st, 2012.
Implications: While the Mayan calendar was based on the movement of celestial bodies, the I Ching pointed out patterns in human behavior and the upheaval of civilization. This paints two very different and diverging pictures of what might happen come December 21st, 2012. (Though I wouldn’t bother spending much money of Christmas gifts that year if I were you. The return policies will be the least of your worries.)
Essentially the two basic beliefs are that the world will end due to an event involving the heavenly bodies, or that mankind will end due to one of any number of disasters we bring about on ourselves. Throw in the religious beliefs saying that God (by whatever name you call him) will choose to end the world on or about this date and you’ve got the trifecta from hell. So lets go through a few of the more popular concepts, shall we?
The Pole Shift Hypothesis states that the planet’s axis of rotation has not always been as it is and that only during this era of relative calm has the human race had the time to evolve. The concept of Polar Wander has been established as a genuine occurrence, though historically this happens at a rate of one degree per million years. However there is no rule to say that a faster or more sudden pole shift could not occur, it just hasn’t happened yet.
The sum total of what this would do to life on this earth is not extreme in that life would continue on, for some species at least. Imagine that the landmass of Florida should become the site of the new north pole, aside from it effectively snowing in Hell, the climate shift would kill off all flora and fauna not able to cope with the new extremes of heat or cold. Tropical plants would freeze, and penguins would fry in the tropical heat. (It’s not like they can fly away). The danger to mankind is that there would be widespread starvation while the plants and animals of the planet die off and realign with the new poles.
This hypothesis is one of the celestial bunch, seeing as mankind can do little to influence such an event. As for preventing it, I can think of only one method, everybody in the northern hemisphere needs to lose weight so we won’t tilt the planet out of balance.
Coronal Mass Ejection
Coronal Mass Ejection: The concept here is that our star essentially vomits. It fires a mass of plasma out of its corona with such force that the mass’s momentum exceeds the gravitational pull of the sun and slams right into our planet. The odds of this are pretty low given the fact that earth is constantly moving and a CME can fire in almost any direction.
Don’t think of this so much as an Armageddon asteroid hitting the planet so much as Mother Earth getting tasered. The mass of the ejection is dispersed across the side of the planet that it impacts against, disrupting the magnetosphere. As plasma is essentially electrons and protons, this creates a huge electromagnetic potential between the day-side and night-side of the planet, generating an electromagnetic burst.
All electrics, radio waves, TV waves, and all the earth’s satellites would be destroyed and send us rocketing back into the Stone Age. Civilization would panic and tear itself apart as essential services such as electricity, heating, food, and water come to a grinding halt.
My advice is to move out to a part of the Nevada desert where no one else is, stock up on supplies, and wait it out. Unless of course I’m wrong, in which case I look like an idiot and you’ve become a hermit. Oh well, I look like an idiot often enough for it not to bother me.
Everyone knows what the issue is with this one.
Solution: get Bruce Willis out of his wheelchair and tie him to a rocket.
First off, nearby is a matter of perspective. For example, the distance between the Earth and the Sun is a little over 149 million kilometers. This equates to one AU or Astronomical Unit. A star roughly equal in size to that of our own sun could conceivably hit earth with high-charge particles from its explosion as far as 58,000 AU distant. A supernova occurs in the Milky Way about once every 50 years, though it takes so much time for the light from the dying star to reach us that it might be more than 10 years before we find out about it.
While the low powered photons in the visible spectrum would only be seen as a minor flash in the night sky, other types of light energy released by the star could be much more damaging. Gamma rays, X-rays, Micro waves, and Ultraviolet light are all released at once in sufficient quantities to match the sum total of all the energy the sun would release in its entire lifetime.
The danger lies in not those rays would do to us, but to our atmosphere. The ozone layer serves to protect the earth from highly charged particles. However, in sufficient quantities, Gamma Rays can eat away at the ozone layer until its gone. This allows cosmic rays and highly charged particles thrown out from our own sun to cook us like eggs.
Solution: Invest in sunscreen production.
What with the past swine flu scare this seems to be becoming a real issue. Antiviral medications are still mostly a dream and antibiotics are being so over-prescribed for every cough and sniffle that bacteria are becoming immune to most countermeasures. Factor in the unpleasant truth that most diseases take up to a week of incubation in a host before they show any outward sign of illness and the disease has already managed to spread halfway across the planet before it’s been detected.
I think at this point in our society’s progression the greatest problem we face now is disease. I know it’s morbid, but often the great plagues in the past were what prevented severe overpopulation for so long, such as with England and Europe. Look at us now, 6 billion and counting. It never ceases to amaze me. The average rate of births for the entire planet is 20 newborns for every 1,000 people each year. Do the math on this one folks: 1 birth per 1,000 people in a year with the current population at roughly 6 billion, that’s 6 million babies a year! Factor in the actual birth rate being 20 times that (which is on the low side by the United Nations’ opinion) and you’ve got 120 million births every year! That’s one third the current population of the United States! That’s twice the number of people who died in World War 2, on all sides, including civilians! Every. Year.
Let’s face it folks, we’re breeding like roaches. Every second on this planet, four new babies are born. It’s gotten to the point where if I walked into a McDonald’s, whipped out a shotgun and spoiled everyone’s Egg McMuffin, they would all be replaced before I could finish reloading. Right now the population cannot be constrained by war or even famine, but disease will spread much more quickly from person to person because we’re all packed elbow-to-elbow, making it all the more likely.
A major point which will aid in the spreading of disease is people’s misconceptions. If you see someone walking around with a mask over his face, chances are that it isn’t doing a darn thing. N95 masks are the average surgical mask used in the healthcare industry. They are capable of catching microbes both leaving and entering the weave as small as one micron in diameter thanks to a thin, air-permeable layer.
Here’s the rub: your average dust mask that you can pick up at the hardware store doesn’t have such a protective layer, but the two look identical. I’ve even seen the things advertised in stores as being surgical protective masks despite their packaging explaining that they are only designed for construction work and to prevent one from breathing in excess dust.
This common misconception creates a false sense of security, meaning people who are sick or are afraid of becoming sick will think themselves protected, wear the wrong mask and go about in public, spreading infection or risking catching something.
Solution: Boil everyone thoroughly before touching. Give it a few years and scars will be back in vogue.
Rise of the Machines
Arnold Schwarzenegger movie extras will take over the earth.
In actual fact, this suggestion was made back in the heyday of such science fiction geniuses as Isaac Asimov. Essentially it states that as the programming language we use in computers becomes more complex and able, machines will surpass humans in intelligence, thereby making mankind reliant upon them for our day-to-day needs. Smart Cars, AI traffic signs, Android servants, basically whatever you can imagine that makes people less reliant upon themselves and is supposed to improve the quality of life.
At some point these artificial intelligences will gain self-awareness and reason that mankind is obsolete. There are several ways this could play out. As per Terminator and The Matrix, machines will seek to exterminate the human race and create their own utopia of logic, though one can’t help but wonder what an artificial intelligence would want for. The other theory is one where machines are programmed to stay subservient to mankind and cater to their needs, eventually deciding they know what’s better for humans than humans themselves per I Robot.
I personally would welcome the presence of an artificial intelligence on earth. Then at least there will be one group of intelligent beings here.
Solution: Don’t do anything. Did you really think that we would have the brains and resources to generate an artificial mind when we don’t understand the minds that we ourselves have?
Nanotechnology: The invention of organic machinery so small that its capable of functioning at a near molecular level. Each individual machine is also known as a nanite. The premise is that they work in swarms with a hive-like mentality and programming in order to complete large tasks quickly and with a never-before-seen degree of precision.
This concept has been spoken of highly in the medical field, though it’s mostly science fiction at the moment. Imagine if you had a broken arm. Once the bone was set you would receive an injection of programmed nanites that would mend the bone in the course of a few minutes. What’s more, imagine nanites being able to heal wounds, tone muscle, burn fat, cure cancer and other viruses, all from the inside, patrolling like a man-made secondary immune system without the body, turning man into superman.
Sounds cool, huh? The only problem is that with the way technology is being limited all nanites would be licensed by Microsoft and have Windows Vista installed. As a result the nanites would malfunction and subsequently dismantle the human form into a pile of protoplasmic goo. It would not be dissimilar to the swarms of metallic insects from the recent remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still.
Solution: Invest in Mac while you still can.
This is the Christian belief that the end of the world will come in stages, though it’s not universally accepted (What is?). The first, being the Rapture, is that all the Christians of the world will be collected and transferred into heaven. The next stage is that Christ will return to earth, leading an army against all sin and unbelievers. All life on the earth will subsequently be destroyed and all sinners cast into a lake of fire. Christ will sit upon his millennial throne in Jerusalem and subsequently destroy the world because it is stained with sin, recreating a new pure world free of the devil’s influence.
First off, how can Jesus sit upon his throne in Jerusalem if he just destroyed the place?
Aside from that I can foresee a number of problems for all the poor buggers like me who probably won’t be welcomed by the choir invisible. First off, our economy is going to be problematic. We’ll have to outsource to all the non-Christian countries for cheap labor…. Oh, wait. We already do.
Do you realize how much money all the Christian churches pump into the market with construction and operation expenses? They're a small country in and of themselves. Also there’s the fact that much of the world’s population will be gone, meaning we’ll have a lack of an actual workforce, though I should think there would be an over-abundance of CEOs, high-ranking businessmen, politicians, and lawyers hanging about with no one to swindle and lie to.
Then there’s the question of the dissolution of the Church, be it protestant, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox. Tons of priests will be out of work! The Pope will be on the street digging in dumpsters for wafers and communion wine! After all, there’s not much point of having so many intermediaries if the Big Man’s on earth in the flesh now is there?
Solution: Live as you normally would and repent on December 20th.
The actual translation of The Rapture. Essentially the same thing happens with all the good folks being taken to Heaven, except now Jesus returns leading an army of dinosaurs to retake the earth.
Solution: Get rid of as many dinosaurs while you still can. Burn all the fossil fuels before 2012; drive a Hummer.
Having gone through some of the more likely scenarios, it’s become quite apparent that the average view of the apocalypse is an anthrocentric one. The world won’t end, just man’s part in it. Whether it comes about by celestial, religious, or self-induced means, it seems far more likely that what will occur will be a great social upheaval and a loss of our current way of life.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Perhaps December 21st, 2012 should be looked forward to, rather than worried over. Think of it as a new beginning, rather than an ending. That’s the wonderful thing about endings if you look at if from the long point of view; nothing ever really stops, it just experiences a transition from one state to the other.
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