|A sunny view of oblivion
By Alan Caruba
Despite a plethora of television programs and books on the topic, predicting the End of the World has become boring.
For example, on June 10th you had a choice between watching the 61st Annual Tony Awards or "Last Days on Earth" on the History Channel. "Scientists explain seven of the deadliest threats to humanity," was the topic and, later that evening, you could check out "Mega Disasters" with its story of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Indeed, hardly a week goes by without some television program devoted the planet's extinction.
Many ancient cultures developed a highly sophisticated understanding of astronomy. An obsession of the Mayans, the more they learned, the more they understood the relationship of the Earth, the Sun, and the observable solar system. In a curious coincidence, China's ancient I Ching is a book that, like the Mayans, predicts 2012 as the end of the world.
Ever since Galileo invented the telescope in 1610, the notion that the Sun is at the center of our solar system has come to be an accepted fact, but oddly the Sun does not receive credit for the Earth's climate. More than any other factor, however, the Sun influences and determines known climate cycles such as Ice Ages.
Deliberately confusing people still further is all the blather about an Earth-threatening "global warming" caused by scary "greenhouse gases." This silliness is used to justify the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, i.e., limiting the use of any and all energy sources. I guess we're really lucky that two billion people still don't even have access to electricity. Of course, they may not be thrilled by it.
Aside from the fact that 95% of greenhouse gas is water vapor, scientists with no agenda other than, well, science, are far more concerned about what the Sun has been doing of late and what it is likely to be doing within five years. If they're right, humanity is in big trouble.
Lawrence E. Joseph has authored Apocalypse 2021: A Scientific Investigation Into Civilization's End ($23.95, Morgan Road Books) and, aside from scaring the reader with some interesting science, history, and conjecture, the book performs the useful service of getting one to focus on the Sun, a huge, gelatinous mass of roiling gases that, depending on what it is doing, either heats or cools the Earth.
What it is doing lately is behaving oddly.
We're all familiar with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the four 2004 hurricanes that hit Florida in rapid succession. Then following all that hurricane activity, none made landfall in 2006. The connection is the way sunspot activity correlates with climatic conditions on Earth. Lawrence notes that, "By every scientific measure, 2005 was supposed to have seen very few sunspots", explaining that, "Sunspots are larger-than-Earth magnetic storms that blemish the solar surface."
In fact, on Halloween 2003 sunspot activity generated the largest radiation storm ever recorded. Happily, most of it missed the Earth, but the real mystery is why it occurred at or near the solar minimum, the point in the eleven-year cycle when there is supposed to be little solar sunspot activity. Scientists have long known that sunspots occur in cycles of nine to thirteen years, most often lasting about eleven years. The next cycle will begin in 2012.
Sami Solanki of the famed Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany believes, "Except possibly for a few brief peaks, the Sun is more active currently than at any time in the past 11,000 years." So, yes, the Earth may be warming slightly, but it has nothing to do with human activity.
Moreover, 11,000 years ago coincides approximately with the end of the last Ice Age. Depending on whom you believe, we are either due a new Ice Age or the Sun is about to roast the Earth like a marshmallow.
Lawrence bases his prediction of nasty things on the theory of an interstellar energy cloud. Such a cloud would destabilize the Sun. To his credit, Lawrence does not believe the end of the Earth will occur in 2012, but he does believe we are entering a period of "unprecedented turmoil and upheaval" as the result of the Sun's odd behavior. A lot of science appears to support his view.
By the time you get to the end of his book, he recommends you grab hold of any mythology or theology that works for you because he admits he hasn't a clue if or when doomsday will occur.
People have been predicting the End of the Earth or the End Times for a very long time, dating back to the Mayan civilization that, you may have noticed, isn't around any more. The Bible has similar predictions and Islam, too, subscribes to its own version.
Given the science-based scenarios and the fact that the Earth has gone through some fairly astonishing changes over the last five billion years or so, it is likely that some very unpleasant events will occur sometime.
Fear not, the cockroaches will survive.
Want to see what the Sun is doing? Visit http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com. His book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy", is published by Merril Press. © Alan Caruba, July 2007