Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And I feel fine

Unless you lived under a rock, you were probably aware the world was supposed to end twice in 2011 (May 21, then October 21, per Harold Camping) and once in 2012 (December 21, per Mayan "scholars"). Exactly why they're so fond of the 21st remains one of those mysteries (I'm assuming because it's 1/2 of 42).

This is nothing new. Since the beginning of time, people have predicted the end of the world, thus far without success. The number of failed predictions is huge, and too long to list. People hoping for an apocalypse make Cubs fans look pessimistic.

William Miller (1782-1849) was another unsuccessful doomsday seer at 0-3. An American preacher, he initially predicted the world would end between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844 (again with the 21st!).

When the second date passed without incident he re-scheduled the apocalypse to April 18, 1844. Then, after nothing happened, postponed it to October 22, 1844. The last failed prediction so rocked his church that it became known as "The Great Disappointment" (why they were disappointed is beyond me).

Miller himself felt the errors were from incorrect translation of the Bible's chronology. He believed the end of the world was imminent, and continued to do so until it ended for him in December, 1849 at age 67.

There have been, and will continue to be, many others.

Now I, Dr. Grumpy, will tell you how, and roughly when, the world will end.

As the sun converts hydrogen to helium, it's luminosity will slowly increase over time. The rise in solar radiation will reach a critical point somewhere between 500 and 900 million years from now, reducing the carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere below the level at which plants can survive. As the plants die out, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere will decrease, and all animals will be lost, too.

About 1 billion years after all life is gone, the surface temperature will increase to where liquid water can no longer exist, and the oceans will gradually vaporize into the atmosphere. Some will also collapse into the planet's mantle, due to venting of the mid-ocean geologic ridges.

What's left of the Earth, which will likely be similar to our neighbor Venus, will continue to orbit for another 3-4 billion years. At that point the Sun will reach the red giant stage of its life, and start to expand. Its increased size will take it beyond the orbits of Mercury and Venus, incinerating them.

The now widely-expanded solar atmosphere will gradually pull the Earth's orbit inward, until it too becomes ashes scattered through the outer layers of an aging star.

Eventually the Sun will throw off the outer layers, becoming a planetary nebula with a white dwarf star at the center.

The ejected layers will travel through space for another few billion years, eventually being taken up by a cloud of dust that's slowly condensing into a new solar system - just as ours formed 5 billion years ago - and again become part of a new star and its planets. Just as we're made of the base parts of a long dead solar system, so we will become another.

And that's how the world will end. And begin, again

My dogs couldn't care less about the end of the world. And I will take that cue from them.


Mal said...

Every time the world 'ends' we have an 'end of the world' party or do something off our 'bucket list'. In the sense of - if the world is going to end this 21st, lets go swim with the dolphins while we have the chance.

Every time it fails to end on schedule, we have a 'yay-the-world-didn't-end-after-all' waffle breakfast.

Because these predictions should be duly honoured, and observed with all seriousness.

Anonymous said...

YAYYYYYY!! 'Bout time somebody talked sense about the "apocalypse."

Vets BehavingBadly said...

Now I'm depressed. Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

Global warming extremest!

Anonymous said...

When I was in 2nd grade we were learning about the solar system. On the way home from school that day, I solomnly told my mother that I knew when the world would end. I told her it would end when the sun died (my 2nd grade understanding of what a red giant was). She was not alarmed that the world would end.

Barb said...

So you're saying I SHOULD go ahead and pay my bills? Dang.

Skeeter Davis said...

It ended when you said goodbye.

brent said...

quit being such an alarmist!

Jono said...

Skeeter, thanks for the earworm!

Anonymous said...

..dust to dust... .. . .

Ms. Donna said...

Earworms, and yes, you have to pay bills. *Sigh*
I recall being at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago in the 5th or 6th grade on a school field trip when the planetarium show demonstrated what would happen to Sol (and Earth) in umpty-million years.
I cried, but realized that my (how many greats do I need?) grandkids would have figured a way off the rock or evolved into something else.
I mentioned the "evolved" part to my teacher, Sr. Fleurette, and got whacked on the hands for such an impious thought. She then called my mother, who was already annoyed w/ Sister for tearing up her copy of "Travels witrh Charlie" Long story, but Sister was invited to visit a Very Warm Place. Permanently.
As Mom is devout and educated by nuns, this was a big step.
I guess the lesson is to enjoy the day and do your best.

Deus Ex Machina said...

Sigh.... oh how I love you.

BobF said...

The pedestrian line from him to her was, "I'm not sure if I'll make it back or not, so tonight we should..."

The more upscale line was, "The world may end tomorrow, so tonight we should..."

So you went and blew it!

was1 said...

well, i hope that is a thursday so i dont have to work the day the world ends.

uneko said...

The Mayans never, not once, even a little bit, said "and then the whole planet explodes in a fiery ball of doom."

They actually didn't even say "The End".

See, the Mayans had a really weird calendar: They had days of course. They had a 365 day year, made up of 18 "months" of 20 days. (plus 5 extra days). But they also had a 260 day "count" called the Tzolk'in which was basically a cycle of 20 named days (Monday, Tuesday, etc, only because they were Mayans it was 'crocodile' and 'snake') with a cycle of 13 numbers: so you had Crocodile 1, Wind 1, Darkness 1... and so forth to Sun 1, then you had Crocodile 2, Wind 2 and so forth all the way to Sun 13, then you went back to Croc 1 again. Pretty straight forward, and honestly a little more clear then "last Tuesday" or "Three weeks from today, on the following Friday" or the terrifyingly ambiguous "Last Wednesday or last week Wednesday?"

Now, this 260 day cycle obviously doesn't fit neatly into 365 days... 260+260 = 520, after all. Which seems like a rather terrible over sight until you realize that after 52 years, the two systems will have the same number of days. So this combination of calendar items forms a 52 year cycle they call the Haab. So while we might say January 7th 1997, they can specifically refer to, say, 7 Pop 8 Snake and be referring to one specific day in that 52 year period.

The Mayans were pretty big on this kind of stuff.

So they had that stuff for keeping track of the 'short term' stuff. If you were talking about 12 Xul 5 Dog, after all, there's only one every 52 years: you're either talking about the one coming up next or the one that had already passed.

So, when they wanted to talk about 12 Xul 5 Dog that happened 3 or 4 cycles ago, they had a different calendar. It was the Mayan Long Count Calendar, which is the one that caused all the fuss.

Now, let's back up a little. The Mayans called a day a K'in. 20 k'in were a winal. 18 Winal made a tun. 20 tun made a k'atun. 20 Ka'atuns make b'ak'tun.

Makes sense. It's also a LOT of time right there, with a k'atun taking up about 20 years.

They kept track of all this with a simple number--much like our year... only instead of today being March 6th 2013, let's call it 2013.03.06 ... Okay, tomorrow will be 2013.03.07, until it wraps around to 2013.04.01, then eventually 2014.01.01. Simple enough idea, right? Except for our weird number of days per month and months in a year. Hey, good thing the Mayans were RELATIVELY consistent with their 20's up there. But if they'd put 20 winal in a year, it'd be .. well.. a year and 2 winal, rather then 1 year. :)

But anyway: So they kept track like this: -- 1 k'in, or 1 day -- 1 winal, 5 k'in, or 25 days -- 1 tun, which is to day, 1 solar year, or 360 days (remember, 18 winal is 1 tun, not 20.)

So, for us, on December 20, 2012, the calendar looked like this:
On December 21st?
On December 22nd?

So, wait, yes, you're seeing that correctly. No End of the World as We Know It. More like "Yay! Happy New B'ak'tun!" This last happened back in 1618 to little ill effect. It will happen again in 2407 when the B'ak'tun count goes from 13 to 14.

Now, in 4772, we'll complete our 20th b'ak'tun and the count will change from to and the following day, it will be (yay! we added a new number!)

So.. the SHORT version of ALL of this is that the whole Mayan calendar thing was ridiculous and getting upset over that is as silly as getting worked up about the calendar saying 1999. Oh wait. We did that, didn't we?

March 6th 2013 - 1 Men (Eagle) 18 Kayab (Turtle)

Loren Pechtel said...

My understanding is that it's not resolved whether the Earth burns or not. The Sun will expand to eat anything in Earth's orbit but it's also going to be shedding a lot of mass in the solar wind and the result will be that Earths' orbit will grow bigger.

StorytellERdoc said...

I just finished this science chapter with my sixth-grade daughter--while I may send her to your post to read just a bit more about the end of the world, I, too, like you, may take a cue from my dogs and go lick myself! LOL Your ending made me crack up! Thanks, bud.

Anonymous said...

So we'll still have to put up with the Harlem Shake until then?

Vicki said...

This wasn't Harold Camping's first attempt to predict the end of the world. In 1994, my senior year of high school, my Bible teacher told us about his prediction that the world would end in October that year. "And just to show what I think of that, we'll study the end of the world in May."

At that point, my classmate burst out with, "Uncle Harold!" That's right. He is her great-uncle and lived with her family when she was small. But he was always weird. So now, we all know this nut-job as Uncle Harold!

My friend put on a big "end of the world BBQ" last year on the prediction date, but announced that the steaks wouldn't be ready until after the rapture, so the heathen would have to finish the job! :) I'm glad she's got a good sense of humor!

Laura said...

The tl;dr version of what uneko said: it's just the Mayan calendar recycling itself. Thinking that the Mayans were saying that's when the world was going to end is as stupid as if people were to think that the world was going to end in our calendar year 2000... what's that? They did? oh.... *sigh*

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