For centuries, prophets have been heralding the end of the world. Many saw catastrophic floods, others conjured up images of fire from the heavens and still others predicted utter chaos in the midst of our crumbling civilizations. Nostradamus, one of the great prophets of the middle ages, had prophesized destruction and chaos between the years 2009-2012. Even the Mayans’ calendar ends Dec 21, 2012. Is that how the world will end, in utter chaos? It has only come to the attention of scientists in the last few decades that certain activities of the cosmos could actually end life on earth. All the experts tout the cliché, “It’s not if the event will occur, but when it will occur.” Here are ten ways life on earth can end.
1. Super Volcano Eruptions
2. Meteor/Asteroid Strikes
3. Global Warming
4. Snowball Earth
5. Magnetic Polarity Change
6. Major Solar Flare
7. Magnetosphere Loss
8. Quasars—Gamma Ray Burst
9. Black Holes
10. Galaxy collision
1. Super Massive Volcanoes. While geologists were looking for evidence of a calamity from the fossil record, where a mass extinction had occurred, they found a curious layer below the dead zone. They noticed that large deposits of ash had preceded extinction episodes in recent times. One of the periods that concerned investigators most was the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago, where an unusually large ash build-up occurred. This period is important because the dinosaurs disappeared right afterwards. When geologists studied this phenomenon, they realized that only a super massive volcano could have produced such extensive deposits. Could a super massive volcano have killed the dinosaurs?
They found the smoking gun in the Yellowstone Caldera. It seemed that a super massive pocket of magma beneath Yellowstone National Park is just waiting for the right moment to erupt, and according to recent geologic studies, it’s growing. Christopher C. Sanders of the Yellowstone website advised state officials as recently as January 1, 2009 that a potential state of emergency exists in Yellowstone. (Sanders, 2009) When it finally erupts, a large amount of the animal population within a substantial radius of the event center would not survive. When Yellowstone grumbles, it is a likely reminder that nature is giving us a warning. (Krajick, 2004) It is likely to spread an extensive blanket of ash around the planet, blocking out the sun for extensive periods of time, creating a global winter for years, destroying the food supply world-wide. One of these occurred just prior to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Could it happen again? Of course!
Eruptions in the Yellowstone Caldera occur like clockwork every 600,000 years or so. (Brill, 2009) The last one was 640,000 years ago, which means that we are overdue. Geologists estimate that it would be 2,500 times as powerful as the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980. (Tyson, 2008) Yellowstone is not the only super volcano. Sumatra in Malaysia (India Daily, 2007), has also shown a cyclical nature similar to Yellowstone, only its cycle is 75,000, and is ironically due in 2012. Some say, (McCaffrey, 2001) its power is even more destructive than Yellowstone, some ten thousand times bigger..
2. Meteor or Asteroid Strikes. Unfortunately, investigators disagree. Many think that another possible reason could explain the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. It seems that also during this period, a strange form of quartz, known as shocked quartz occurs in the deposition. Since this kind of quartz is only produced from a massive meteor strike investigation is justifiable. Could a giant meteor striking the earth 65 million years ago have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs?
The evidence around the Yucatan Peninsula in a crater called Chicxulub in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 180 kilometers in diameter, (Kumo, 1995) suggests that such a massive impact may have also spread a blanket of hot debris over the globe. One reason why the crater was not discovered earlier stems from the fact that it can only be seen from the air. Could a massive meteor or asteroid end life on earth today? Meteors, asteroids and comets often exceed speeds of 50,000 mph. At that rate, we would only have a few seconds warning. We would see a bright flash in the sky, followed by a massive shock wave seconds later, which would rip us apart and raise the land temperature to thousands of degrees, hot enough to melt steel and even rock, turning it into lava. We would not stand a chance. Then, hot debris would rain down, further heating the atmosphere. This might continue for months, blocking out the sun. The result of this is a nuclear winter. So, whatever the impact missed the nuclear winter will take care of. We would not survive. Scientists say, “Why not?”
3. Global Warming. Another calamity, global warming weighs in the background. Its unassuming role in the earth’s systems fails to capture our attention until it grows into a monster. The obvious greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, which we can readily see develop from our automobiles’ emissions and emissions from industry. But a much more insidious greenhouse gas is waiting to spring forth in an overwhelmingly profuse manner. Deep beneath the ocean lie massive deposits of methane hydrate, a frozen form of methane. It is only stable because of the cold ocean currents. But as global warming continues, these deposits will begin to free themselves from the depths and contribute to the global warming issue, exacerbating the problem. Aside from the obvious effect of changing climate and warming waters, which will spurn intensive storms, the ice sheets will melt. This is by far the gravest issue since most of the world’s population occupies coastal areas. A rise of only a few feet will have a dire impact. Researchers see a rise of as much as 100 feet. This condition will also decrease the living space by as much as 25%, which the world population would find intolerable.
4. Snowball earth. Evidence suggests that it happened before and can happen again.
But global warming is episodic and can and has been reversed by nature. Solar activities change from time to time, which would have an independent effect on climate. There have been extensive periods on earth during which all tendencies to warm the planet fail, plummeting the earth into mini-ice ages. One is documented during the middle ages, from 1500 to 1850, with a peak around 1800, (Behringer, 1999) causing much havoc on summer crops in Europe. If a number of facts that contribute to cooling occur at the same time, the climate of earth could reach a point of no return and propel the system into freezing more extensively than in the past. Logically, more snow and ice would tend to repel the sun’s rays inhibiting the earth’s ability to retain heat. Snowball earth can become inevitable under such circumstances, scientists say.
5. Magnetic Polarity Change We are protected by our magnetosphere. Magnetic currents deflect solar flares and cosmic rays, protecting our fragile atmosphere. A shift in magnetic polarity would devastate many of the earth’s systems, throwing off the rhythm of nature. Studies have shown that change is a natural phenomenon. (Hoffman, 1995). Magnetic polarity change is already underway. Certain parts of the southern hemisphere have already begun to show weakened magnetic fields. (Twietmeyer, 2009)
6. Solar Flares. Solar flares are common, some have caused minor problems by disrupting magnetic fields on earth. These are temporary and localized. What if a major solar flare arrived? We would have little warning. Occasionally, however, massive flares jet out of the sun, whisking all kinds of dangerous particles along with it at near light speed velocities. Scientists calculate, (Whitfield, 2003) that occasionally massive flares jet out thousands of miles above the sun’s atmosphere. When these occur they create all kinds of havoc on our electrical systems and magnetic fields, disrupting power and navigation on both ships and aircraft.
7. The Magnetosphere. The magnetosphere protects us with a veil of magnetic energy, which deflects certain kinds of particles from entering earth’s atmosphere. Just a glimpse of celestial bodies that are not protected by a magnetosphere reveal how vulnerable they are in space. The Moon and Mars are just two examples. The pot-marked surface also tells us how vulnerable we are. Even the small meteorites that are normally deflected by the intense magnetic fields on earth would hammer the thin atmosphere on Mars and grind the Moon’s fine material on its surface to powder. Cosmic radiation is another problem that a lack of magnetosphere creates. Can the collapse of the magnetosphere on earth have a similar devastating effect? You bet!
8. Quasars. The most destructive force in the universe is what is known as a quasar. They occur when a super massive star, usually a neutron star implodes creating a massive black hole. At the event horizon, so much energy is created by the dynamic particle movement that gamma rays are blasted away from and perpendicular to the event horizon at the speed of light. These are known as gamma ray bursts. This is where Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc2, takes on significant meaning. Here, matter is transformed into energy at a rate far exceeding the production of any star. Scientists claim that the amount of energy is equivalent to all the energy produced by a galaxy. See Jochen Greiner’s research. (Greiner, 2009) Imagine if this energy were focused at a target like earth. In 2001, such a gamma ray burst was located in the sky. It was visible to the naked eye. The most astonishing aspect of its occurrence was that it originated halfway across the universe! If we could see how spectacular this event was from so far away, imagine what a quasar could do from our own back yard, within our own galaxy! Some scientists say that even if it were as close as a star in Ursa Major, say, Polaris is (430 light years away), it could have a damaging effect on the surface of the earth, most likely scorching it, destroying all life. Could it happen? It may already have hundreds of years ago, but the fallout has not reached us yet.
9. Black Holes. Black holes lurk menacingly in the dark of space. Some are brightly lit, like quasars. We know where they are by their feeding habits. Matter orbits it at the accretion disc at nearly the speed of light. This much movement drives out large amounts of energy, producing intense light, which can be seen across the galaxy. But black holes that stop feeding are still moving through space and time. Could one happen to stray through our part of the galaxy and threaten our blue marble? You bet!
10. Galaxy Collisions. The most dynamic and cataclysmic event in the universe occurs where two titanic galaxies collide. There might be a way to throw a meteor or asteroid off course. There may be a way to escape the worst of a super volcano. We can prevent global warming by conservation. We can even avoid a black hole by moving the path of the earth at least theoretically. A galaxy collision is so broad and so encompassing that there is just no way that humble man could erect a barrier to stop a crash two hundred thousand light years across.
One of the paramount and possible results of galaxy collision is the potential for two black holes to attract each other. If that were to happen, they would first orbit each other until finally absorbing each other, forming one giant black hole. In the process of doing that, their movement and forces on gravity would create gravity waves or ripples of gravity through the star clusters within the colliding matter, creating further chaos. Anything caught up in this colossal gravity distortion would surely be met with weird expressions of the laws of physics assuming they would follow those laws at all. Perhaps, during such an event, all the laws of physics break down.
While Nostradamus made it very clear in his writings that one calamity can lead to the next in a series, like dominos, and imbalances in world systems can affect each other in negative ways, it was his lost book, the book of symbols that completes the prophecy. Although the work seems controversial, some scholars even doubt his authorship. Irrespective of this debate, the authenticity of the symbolism cannot be denied. Even though it may have been a copy of the original Nostradamus book, some people have gone through a lot of trouble to keep the writings alive. It would have been very risky for someone like Nostradamus to maintain ideas that opposed the church.
What is Galactic Alignment? Very powerful symbols tend to indicate, according to certain experts (Jenkins, 2009) that a cataclysmic calamity waits to show itself on a cosmic scale. It seems that the sun is moving into the final position of its 26,000-year cycle, to line up directly between the earth and the center of the galaxy. No one knows the perils that will manifest at that moment. But one thing is known: it will occur in 2012. We can also say how it can affect us. 1) The line up may affect gravity, which in turn would affect ocean tides. 2) Line up could affect the magnetosphere by weakening it or even reversing its polarity. 3) The production of solar flares is another concern that could grow out of excessive gravity wells.
We humans have only been on the earth for a very short time relative to the long life of the earth. The catastrophic geologic activities won’t cease just because humans have appeared on the scene. While these possibilities paint a gloomy picture for the future of the earth, they occur infrequently and over vast amounts of time and should not disrupt our day-to-day activities. In any event, we are relatively helpless to stop them. However, science and technology are advancing at astonishing rates, opening up new possibilities. Perhaps we can escape our demise by colonization of other planets or by developing new and powerful methods of cosmic manipulation. In any case, we must keep an optimistic attitude if we plan to survive as a species.
Behringer, W., 1999, Climatic Change and Witch-Hunting: The Impact of the Little ice Age on Mentalities. Climatic Change, 43:33
Brill, Richard. Quake Swarm at Yellowstone May Signal Blast. January 4, 2009. Star Bulletin. Retrieved Feb 3, 2009 from http://www.starbulletin.com/news/20090104_Quake_swarm_at_Yellowstone_may_signal_blast.htm
Greiner, Jochen. Retrieved Feb, 3, 2009 from http://www.mpe.mpg.de/~jcg/
Hoffman, K. How Are Geomagnetic Reversals Related to Field Intensity? Vol. 76, July 18, 1995. P. 289. American Geophysical union.
India Daily, 2007. Toba in Sumatra a candidate for super volcano in 2012—increasing harmonic tremors have started after the Tsunami two yeas back. Editorial by India Daily Technology Team, Jan 6, 2007. Retrieved Dec. 15,
2008 from: http://www.indiadaily.com//editorial/15051.asp
Jenkins, J.M. What is the Galactic Aligment? Alignment202.com. Retrieved Jan 21, 2009 from http://www.alignment2012.com/whatisGA.htm.
Kamo, S.L., and Krogh,. T.E. 1995. Chicxulub crater source for shocked zircon crystals from the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary layer, Saskatchean: Evidence from new U-Pb data. Geology 23: 281-284.
Krajick, Kevin. Yellowstone Grumbles, July, 2004. Smithsonian Magazine.
McCaffrey, R., Wark, D.A., & Roeccker, S.W. Distribution of magma beneath the Toba caldera complex, north Sumatra, Indonesia, constrained by three-dimensional P wave velocities, seismicity, and gravity data. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, an electronic journal of the earth sciences, published by AGU and the Geochemical Society. Vol. 2, April 16, 2001. Paper number 2000GC000096. Sanders, C., C., Yellowstone Supervolcano Getting Redy to Blow Its Cork. Retrieved Feb 3, 2009 from
Twietmeyer, T. Magnetic Pole Shift May Be Underway. Rense.com, Retrieved Jan. 21, 2009 from http://www.rense.com/general51/mag.htm
Tyson, Peter, The Next Big One, Retrieved Dec. 12, 2008 from Nova Website:
Whitfield, J. Solar Storms Trip Magnetic Flip. Nature.com. Nov. 17, 2003. Retrieved January 9, 2009 from http://www.nature.com/news/news-features/index.html
(Copyright © 2009 by D. Wayne Dworsky)