2012: End of the World? (Part 2)

There are numerous claims for 2012. One might be worried if any of them look as if they might be right. But one should also be extra skeptical if any of them should prove to be trivially wrong. I mean, if someone tells you five things, and one of them is wrong, or a lie, then perhaps the others are wrong, or outright lies. And we already have one that is wrong – the Mayan calendar. The Bible warns of wolves in sheep’s clothing. That is, beware of people who lie to you. It’s not a new problem.

Another prediction is, once again, a shift in the magnetic poles. Oddly enough, there is evidence that the magnetic poles of the Earth flip North and South from time to time. There is evidence of drift in the position of the magnetic pole over time. We are even, in some sense, overdue for a magnetic pole reversal. However, there do not appear to be any mass extinctions that coincide with these events. Life seems to be able to cope. One thought is that they happen so slowly, that life appears able to adapt. There doesn’t appear to be any significant problem with cosmic rays (which are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field), the ozone layer, and so on. So, the evidence is that even if such a shift happened in 2012, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

A related pole shift prediction is that the Earth’s axis of rotation would somehow flip. This is unlikely in the extreme. The Earth’s Moon keeps the Earth’s axis of rotation locked into a pretty stable tilt, over the lifetime of the solar system. It’s not likely to change much in a couple years.

Nibiru is hiding behind the break.

Jupiter, with fresh scar from an impactBut, the claim is that a large planet, the size of Jupiter and named Nibiru, will come into the inner solar system, and sweep from the outer solar system, and either strike the Earth or come very close. The name comes from Egyptian texts, apparently. And the similarity it has to the size of Jupiter is not just a coincidence. It appears that Nibiru was a name used by the Egyptians for the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is not heading our way any time soon. Certainly not in 2012.

Let’s say that there was a Jupiter sized planet coming our way in 2012. Where would it be now? Well, it would have to be well inside the orbit of Neptune. And even if it was black as tar, it would be incredibly bright. The Moon is as black as tar. And it’s much smaller than Jupiter. The millions of amateur astronomers would have seen it by now. And if, as has been suggested, that it’s only visible from the southern hemisphere, then thousands of amateur astronomers who happen to live far enough south would have seen it. If an object happens to be overhead south of the equator, that doesn’t mean that no one in the Northern Hemisphere can see it. From 42 degrees North, (Detroit), one can see 48 degrees South of the equator. That’s more than half of the Southern skies. And It should be pointed out that thousands of people would not be able to keep a such a secret. After all, a hundred people weren’t able to keep the Watergate scandle quiet. And, of course, amateur astronomers routinely post their latest finds on the internet, often minutes after discovery. Most of the conspiracy theories i’ve heard have this problem. Huge numbers of people can’t keep secrets. The obvious conclusion is that this object, Nibiru, does not exist.

Another claim was that 2012 was to be the year of the most recent solar maximum. However, the Sun isn’t cooperating. The current solar cycle has taken longer than usual, and it isn’t expected to reach maximum until some time in 2013. And, we have such a maximum every eleven years, more or less. We’ve survived them so far. So much for that idea.

So, what is known for certain about the end of the world? Well, we know that nothing is permanent. The world will end. Eventually. Just not in 2012. For one thing, at about 4,500,000,000 years old, the Sun is middle aged. As it ages, it gets a bit hotter. Some estimates are that the Earth will be too hot in just another 150 million years. And in five billion years, give or take, the Sun will expand into it’s Red Giant phase. The surface of the Sun will expand out to approximately the diameter of the Earth’s orbit. The Earth will pull a tidal bulge out from the Sun, which will cause gravitational drag, causing the Earth to spiral in, and be consumed – vaporized. And such an event would be the end of the world, to be sure. Even if it is billions of years after the oceans boil away.

On the face of it, this fate seems certain. However, the Earth currently enjoys a peculiar chemical reaction which we call life. That includes us. And we’re already clever enough to know how to save the Earth(!). We’d be stupid indeed, if we don’t. It’s a big project, but calculations suggest that we have plenty of time. The physics are already well understood. There are some fairly minor technical (engineering) details to attend to. But the general idea is to put a large asteroid on a figure eight orbit between the Earth and Jupiter. We steal some orbital energy from Jupiter (which will hardly notice), and give it to the Earth – expanding it’s orbit. As the Sun heats up and expands, we move the Earth out in it’s orbit, keeping it at a nice temperature. One can get a big asteroid moving by using smaller asteroids moving by it. One must be careful. An accident could cause the end of the world – which is what we were trying to avoid. It’s a bit of irony that the technology to save the Earth can also end it.

While we’re saving the Earth, we might as well save Venus. It has similar gravity to Earth. We’d need to cool it down, spin it faster, and fill it back up with water. Without it’s runaway greenhouse effect, it would freeze where it is. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds. A few thousand years at most to bring down the temperatures. These orbit moving projects take millions of years. Terraforming Venus would be finished before we knew what was happening. And, as the temperatures on Venus have been hot enough to melt lead, it’s almost certainly currently lifeless. Unlike Mars, which still seems quite likely to have some sort of life on it. We could infect Venus at our leisure without any pesky ethical questions.

And after the Sun’s Red Giant phase, it stops any nuclear fusion, and collapses into a White Dwarf phase. So, we reverse the outward spiral of the Earth, and keep the Earth at that just right toasty warm distance. At that point, the Sun slowly cools, but estimates are that we have trillions of years left. Plenty of time to colonize the rest of the Milk-dromedae galaxy.No, i didn’t see the 2012 movie. I’d like to be able to enjoy such a spectacle, but there are limits to my abilities in the area of suspension of disbelief.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.– Robert Frost

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