Look around you. Of the next ten people you see, it’s likely one of them believes the world is coming to an end on Dec 21, 2012 (Reuters). And there is a good chance they are right.
Why Dec 21, 2012? That’s the day the Mayan “long calendar” returns to zero. The last time it did that was 3114 B.C. The Mayan calendar returning to zero is considered to be a doomsday prophecy.
But how? What catastrophe will take place to wipe us off the face of the earth? There are plenty of ways we could meet our collective demise! Let’s look at the top five most likely ways the world will end in 2012.
A pandemic is a very real threat that could spread quickly and impact major populations. There have been four different historically significant flu epidemics, as well as other threats like SARS and HIV. Some scientists say that another major epidemic is almost assured. In 1918, a flu outbreak eradicated more people than were killed in World War I. If a similar deadly virus broke out today, it would spread significantly faster and infect much more of the world’s population.
The threat is not just from Mother Nature. Mankind’s own biological weapons could be the evil stroke of destiny that eradicates us all. Anthrax, cholera, and Ebola are all examples of biological phenomena that man has at one time or another made into a weapon.
Many countries now possess nuclear capabilities in today’s world. On top of the destruction from the nuclear weapons, the radiation and contamination of food, water and air, and the elimination of power supplies affecting medical, transportation and communication efforts would create chaos. The following nuclear winter would seal the deal.
Nuclear weapons being detonated would put huge amounts of debris and smoke into the Earth’s atmosphere, which would reduce sunlight for a very long time, possibly years. The nuclear winter would create severe cold and hinder farming, planting and growing food.
In the early 1980s, a monitoring outpost near Moscow Russia received information that five nuclear missiles had launched from the United States and were heading toward Russia. The supervising officer was skeptical about the new equipment they had just installed, and decided to wait for more information. That was a good call–it turned out to be a false alarm.
While the Cold War is over, nuclear threat remains from old enemies and new. There are many terrorist cells and hate groups around the world. In 2008, a study from Physics Today reported that a regional war involving 100 bombs would plunge the planet into icy temperatures. The report said that a war involving thousands of nuclear weapons would basically eliminate most of the universe’s inhabitants.
Several million years ago, a huge volcano erupted in the Northwest United States, sending miles of ash into the Earth’s atmosphere. The blast was thousands of times bigger than the amount of debris Mount Saint Helens sent into the Earth’s atmosphere in 1980. If a super volcano erupted today, it would impact the earth on a huge scale. There would be a huge loss of life, and airplanes could not travel for years.
We may be in for a super volcano blast soon because they take place around every 600,000 years. The last one was 640,000 years ago.
Although there is plenty of publicity about the dangers of global warming, the result of a super volcano would put enough particles in the air to block the sun, plunging our planet into icy storage. If the earth is covered in ice long enough, solar energy would be reflected back into the surrounding space settling earth into an icy state. Some scientists believe that the earth already has been in an ice age, completely frozen over, and the situation was remedied by some strong volcanic springs that turned the tide.
Zombies are often portrayed in movies and TV as almost cartoonlike figures. However, we are surrounded by many aggressive viruses that could create proto-zombies. Rabies is an example of a virus that makes humans violent. If rabies were to spread through the atmosphere, you would have the equivalent of a zombie apocalypse. Many scientists agree that a rabies-based flu is possible.
Parasites are another way zombies could be created. For example, a parasite called Toxoplasma Gondii changes the brain. It is a single celled parasite that is spread by rats. The parasite infects the rat’s brains, and makes them even more likely to be eaten by cats. This is because the rats with infected brains don’t respond to cat scent, making them vulnerable to a cat’s attack. If a similar process took place in humans, it would not be long before zombielike humans are wandering the earth.
Technology is advancing so fast that some believe in the year 2012 a computer will become self-aware, and learn to duplicate itself, and take over the world. Very quickly, they would take over financial systems, medical hospitals and transportation hubs. Artificial intelligence allows computers to become smarter. Within a short period time they could learn to control all systems and eradicate humans.
Some experts, like scientist Stephen Hawking, believe that this is a real threat. Who’s to say that the reality we experience right now isn’t some computer program run by smart machines?
Less Likely (But Possible) Methods of Destruction
If these five scenarios aren’t enough to get us, there are some other possibilities that could send us to our maker. Some are dangers from the natural world. Others are man-made, self-inflicted wounds that could have been avoided. Here are even more ways that the world may end in 2012:
Every 11 years the sun is more active–2012 represents a peak of solar activity including flares and solar storms. Solar storms produce tremendous amounts of electromagnetic radiation. They also produce huge gas bubbles containing magnetic fields. These giant plasma balls shoot toward Earth, and when they arrive, release tremendous amounts of visible energy. They emit giant static discharges that can knock out power supplies. Also, solar flares can hit the earth within a few minutes from shooting off the sun, and can have disastrous results.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States says that our power systems are so interconnected a large sun flare up could cut power to over 130,000,000 residents in the U.S. alone. The problems would take years to repair, and cost trillions of dollars.
Solar storms could be disastrous to Earth. In 2011, a solar storm catapulted particles at the earth at 4 million miles per hour, affecting the Northern Lights. It could be seen as far south as the southern United States. The Earth’s magnetic field takes care of the danger to some extent, as it absorbs much of these particles. Still, the particles create strong currents that can affect power grids for months, ruining major economies.
The 10th planet in our solar system is known as Nibiru, or Planet X. The Planet X theory says that Nibiru’s orbit will come into the gravitational pull of the Earth sometime in 2012. This will cause major worldwide earthquakes, flooding and other destruction.
People that believe this theory point to weather data and earthquake records that show increasing influence from Planet X. They also point to historical Egyptian records that indicate the last time Planet X came close to the earth, it resulted in the great flood of Noah, and Atlantis being covered with water as it sank to the bottom of the ocean.
Many astronomical experts say there’s really no evidence to back up the Planet X theory. There’s also the story that many Planet X proponents originally thought that the Planet X phenomena would take place in 2003, and when it didn’t they changed their prediction to 2012. Too convenient.
The damage from a hand grenade is not only from the shrapnel of the exploding shell. Even more destructive is the increase in air pressure around the grenade. It can scramble a human’s brain.
In a similar way, a nuclear blast can create a large electromagnetic radiation pulse that could wipe out transportation, communications and medical structures in an instant. For example, a blast over North America would kill over 90% of human inhabitants within 12 months, according to a study by the Congressional EMP commission.
The electromagnetic pulse could also happen from solar activity. The destruction level would depend on how close to the earth’s surface that the electromagnetic pulse took place.
Although Hollywood has entertained us with Armageddon and Deep Impact, the possibility of an asteroid hitting the earth is very real. Many people have seen craters on the moon. Those are the results of hundreds of objects impacting the moon over a long period of time.
If an asteroid a mile wide hit the Earth at extremely high speed, it would wipe out most of the animal, human and plant life on the planet. If you were unfortunate enough to survive, you would live in a world of ash-filled air and no food.
When a star passes on and explodes, it uses up all of its nuclear fuel and collapses into a black hole, pulling stars and other matter into it. Next, powerful gamma rays filled with charged particles would shoot into the surrounding stars.
These GammaRay bursts can be observed by scientists on earth. But anything in their path is killed quickly. The danger zone can be as wide as 3000 light years. There is a GammaRay burst in your average, everyday galaxy about every 10 million years. That means that the chance of us being impacted is small.
After the dinosaurs passed from the face of the earth, carbon dioxide increased significantly in the Earth’s atmosphere. The waters of the oceans became very acidic as they absorbed carbon dioxide. The result was extinction for many species.
The problem is carbon dioxide is again on the rise. It’s rising 10 times faster than ever before. Scientists in England have created models, and report the damage is most visible in coral reefs around the world’s oceans.
If the reefs die off, it would be disastrous for 25% of the animals in the ocean. Many cities on our coasts would experience giant storms and huge waves. The destruction of the reefs would create worldwide economic and environmental problems.
The good thing is that ocean acidification does not seem to be an immediate threat to humans. The acid levels would attack deep-water animal life, but would probably not affect the fish caught by major commercial vessels.
While the magnetic North Pole is near the rotational North Pole, that wasn’t always the case. Many times throughout the earth’s life, the North and South have swapped magnetic poles. This is called geomagnetic reversal. It takes place only occasionally, between 100,000 to 1,000,000 years. The last one was 780,000 years ago. A magnetic reversal would cause the geomagnetic field to collapse temporarily, which would throw off power grids, communication satellites and energy pipelines.
Artificial Black Hole
The danger of atomic weaponry is not limited to the immediate destruction the weapon can render. A man sued to shut down the Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York, in 1999 because he said that the collision of subatomic particles would create small black holes that would grow until the earth was swallowed up.
While the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory has not created any black holes, the same man is saying the same thing could happen at Europe’s large Hadron Collider. Scientists dismiss his claims, explaining that there is not enough energy in the colliders to produce black holes, and that cosmic rays in space contain much more energy.
The X Factor
There are some X factors that may not be conceivable in our present understanding, but may be potential dangers in the future. Several scientists believe there are threats we do not fully understand yet.
For example, there is a theory of “vacuum decay,” which states that our world might shift to different quantum state, effectively destroying everything inside it. Another theory says that invisible structures known as branes could smash into each other, also producing an apocalypse.
Astronomer Derrick Fox told Popular Mechanics he believes these theories are interesting but unlikely.
Yes, it’s possible that there are things out there in the universe there could be a threat to life on earth that we don’t know about yet, Fox says. But I don’t think these are the things we need to be most worried about. Every night, astronomers are looking into the universe, looking back 10 billion or more years into the past, and they’ve never seen any signs of the source of (these) things.
The Top Five and A Few Extra
There you have it. The top five most likely ways the world will end in 2012, and a few extra dangers just as a backup. Because if we don’t get hit with a pandemic, nuclear holocaust, super volcano, zombies, or robots taking over, there’s always a chance we’ll see solar storms, damage from Planet X, a huge electromagnetic pulse, asteroids, GammaRay bursts, or ocean acidification.
Either way, the clock is ticking. And time is running out.