Apocalypse 2012: An optimist investigates the end of civilization Paperback – 19 Feb 2007
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From the Author
Don't look up
It won't help. You can't get out of the way, you can't dig a hole deep
enough to hide. The end is coming, and there's nothing you can do about
So why read this book?
Because you can't look away when not just the religious fanatics are saying
we're all going to be destroyed but the scientists are in on the act too.
Here's what they're saying:
* We're a million years over due for a mass extinction.
* The sun at radiation minimum is acting much worse than at solar maximum,
and one misdirected spewing of plasma could fry us in an instant.
* The magnetic field--which shields us from harmful radiation--is
developing a mysterious crack.
* Our solar system is entering an energetically hostile part of the
* The Yellowstone supervolcano is getting ready to blow, and if it does, we
can look forward to nuclear winter and 90 percent annihilation.
* The Maya, the world's greatest timekeepers ever, say it's all going to
stop on December 21, 2012.
So, see? There's nothing you can do, but you might as well sit back and
enjoy the show.
That's why you should read this book.
If there were a chance that opening this book could set off a chain of
events that would lead to Apocalypse, to the end of Life as we know it,
would you be tempted? Finger poised uncertainly above the flashing red
button? How about if the Apocalypse promised to result in a new age of
enlightenment, a Heaven on Earth like never before?
Personally, I'll take the security of my cozy life over a chance at
nirvana. But status quo may no longer be an option, for any of us. This
book will convince you that there is a nonnegligible chance that the year
2012 will be more tumultuous, catastrophic, and, quite possibly,
revelatory, than any other year in human history.
Parts of this book are best read with a bowl of popcorn: looking into the
jaws of a great white shark in search of the meaning of death; touring a
picturesque Guatemalan town with Mayan shaman just weeks before it is
utterly destroyed. Other sections go better with a tranquilizer, such as
the impending eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, or the mass
extinction headed our way--on the scale of the great collision that
destroyed the dinosaurs and 70 percent of all other species, our best
scientists contend that it's now overdue. Nail-biters should beware the
fact that the next peak in the sunspot cycle, due in 2012, is widely
expected to set records for the number and intensity of solar storms
pummeling the Earth with radiation and igniting natural calamities such as
earthquakes, volcanoes, and Katrina-sized hurricanes. And that our entire
solar system appears to be moving into a dangerous interstellar energy
Is it a coincidence that the burgeoning war between Christianity and Islam
seems hell-bent for Armageddon? Or that numerous other religions,
philosophies, and cultural traditions are signaling that the end is near,
with 2012 emerging as the consensus target date? A new era is about to be
born, with all the pain and blood and joy and release that birth naturally
Facing oblivion, or at least mega-metamorphosis, is something that few of
us are emotionally prepared to do. Thus my excuse for the gallows humor
that pervades this story. In a memorable Mary Tyler Moore episode, Mary
cracks up laughing at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown who, dressed as a
peanut while marching in a parade, was shucked to death by an elephant. If
Mary can giggle in the face of death, so can we.
With kind regards,
Lawrence E. Joseph
From the Back Cover
THE END IS NIGH-ISH.
Will 2012 be the year we all burn/drown/fall off the face of the planet as
the solar system goes loco? The answer, frighteningly, is 'maybe'.
NASA, seismologists, paleontologists, geologists, meteorologists,
vulcanologists, astronomers; the great ancient traditions, the Mayan
calendar, the I Ching and the Bible Code - it seems that people are lining
up to predict that we shouldn't bother making any long-term plans.
Lawrence Joseph - journalist, science consultant and the only person who
can write about potential disaster and make it funny - gets the bad news
from astronomers in Siberia, observatories in South Africa, geophysicists,
Mayan Shamans and psychics. Casting a sceptical if worried eye over claims
of deadly solar radiation, a supervolcano under Yellowstone Park and the
earth's magnetic field cracking up (among other potential dooms), he also
provides fascinating insights into the science behind it all. Not to
mention handy hints on what we might do to survive it, or, alternatively,
where might be the nicest place to watch it all happen ...
Top Customer Reviews
If you feel we live in turbulent times, yet are not sure why, this is the book to fill some of your blanks.
It is a science based book, but it is not a doctoral thesis, so do not expect it to be a New Scientist style essay. That said it is not merel a comedy piece either. There is something for most discerning readers, and I would say its the best 2012 related book yet.
It is a good read - it might just shake the reader from it's stupor to realise that all's not too well in the world right now and that we might turn things around, or not...
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, the theme of this book is that the Mayan calendar ending 2012 portends the end of civilization at that date. The author rather glibly moves from the descriptions of variability of these natural phenomena to the conclusion that his scientific investigations support the end of civilization at this date. It is quite a leap from saying we may be hit by a meteor at any time, to saying science tells me its 2012.
PROBLEMS WITH THE BOOK'S SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION
Since the author builds his case on unrelated facts in several fields, his scientific case rests entirely on the validity and total weight of those independent, incremental threats. I have therefor largely skipped over what I think are inaccurate or irrelevant observations and just focused on a few examples where it is easy to exhibit errors. However, the major science writing flaw is not the facts themselves but the easy morphing from mentioning something as a possibility and then assuming it to be firm prediction. An example is Yellowstone major eruptions 2 million , 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago which the author spins as "probability statistics" indicating "that we are right on schedule for the next big blow". If this is really his idea of probability statistics he should definitely stay away from Las Vegas.
Magnetic Pole Shift: In this discussion the author mixes discussion of a possible potential magnetic pole shift and an impossible physical pole shift. Obviously a physical pole shift would have enormous climatic and tectonic consequences with tremendous changes in rotational kinetic energy. The earth would literally tear itself to pieces, but with no extremely large external energy input this is not possible. No mainstream scientists have proposed that this is even remotely possible. When the author states that the intensity of hurricanes and tornadoes will be effected by a magnetic pole shift he can only be confusing the coriolis effect (caused by the physical rotation of the earth) with the magnetic effect. Nonetheless, a magnetic pole shift is a matter of concern, but no evidence has been presented that it is scheduled for 2012.
Volcanism: Aside from the example above there are some factual mistakes. One bit of silliness is the claim that the Bush administration has "authorized the drilling of an additional 10,000 oil wells in Yellowstone, in addition to the 5,600 already there." There are no oil wells now and none planned. Besides the fact that no mineral extraction is allowed in the National Parks, oil is found in sedimentary basins so it wouldn't make sense to drill into a caldera looking for oil. I guess blaming politicians and oil companies for the end of civilization gives credibility to the book?
In a second bit of silliness, the author writes of the possibility that terrorists would insert a thermonuclear device into the Yellowstone caldera, igniting the super volcano. One would suppose that terrorists possessing such a weapon, presumably tactical in size, would opt for setting it off in a major city rather than undertaking to move a hard rock drilling rig into a National Park and risking the probability that almost nothing would happen when it exploded underground.
A third problem with this section is the confusing of cause and effect. The author frequently invokes the Gaia Hypothesis about which he has written a previous book (which I have not read). At one level, about which there is not really any scientific controversy, the Gaia hypothesis is merely that the total geologic, climatic, and biological systems of the earth exhibit remarkably stable equilibrium in that they can recover from large perturbations. If the systems were inherently unstable some of the extremes (the snowball earth, the ice free earth) would tip into instabilities such as a hothouse Venus or a frigid Mars. At another level, Gaia becomes almost a philosophy of "Mother Earth" taking care of herself and is outside the realm of scientific inquiry. The author seems to me to be unsure of which of these he is invoking and to some extent by bringing in the Gaia Hypothesis he undermines his apocalyptic message.
In the section on volcanoes it is correctly stated that volcanic eruptions affect the climate. The author states that the eruptions cool the planet and that volcanic eruptions are the Gaia response to global warming, ergo since the earth is warming we are going to have massive volcanic eruptions to cool it. COOL! Except that while volcanoes both cool and warm (they are a major source of carbon dioxide so that they cool in the short term but warm the climate in the longer term) they are the cause of some climate changes, not the effect. There is no evidence that climate causes volcanic eruptions.
Sun Spots: Scientifically this is the most interesting part of the book and presents a clear picture of how dependent we are on a fluctuating heat source which emits radiation which could also fry us. Joseph points out that extreme climate variability has happened in the historic era. As he points out Iceland lost half of its population and the colony in Greenland died out entirely in the Maunder Minimum. It is well known by historians that Iceland and Greenland before 1300 both supported Viking farming communities with the climate being warmer than it is today. Strange this doesn't show up on Al Gore's hockey stick temperature chart, but then propagandists must learn to fudge the data when necessary to motivate people to do the right thing!
It is difficult to make the Sun scary. Joseph perhaps tries too hard in describing the proton storm of January 20, 2005, or perhaps he just got his physics wrong. Joseph reports that the protons got to Earth in 30 minutes, traveling at about a quarter of the speed of light. "At even a fraction of the speed of light, the mass gets much heavier. So those protons instead of being nearly weightless, would have impacted the Earth with the force of tiny pebbles." If we assume for ease of calculation that Joseph's "tiny pebble" weighs one gram (1/26th of an ounce) then he would be claiming that the mass of one proton was multiplied by 6.022 followed by 23 zeros.( 600 billion trillion). Chemists will recognize this as Avogadro's Number. As the speed of a particle is increased its kinetic energy increases with the square of the speed. Under Einstein's E=mc2, that energy increase actually increases the mass. Combining the kinetic energy equation with the e=mc2 gives us the formula for computing the mass increase. For a speed of one fourth of the speed of light the mass increase is only just over 3%, not 600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times!
Space: This section almost entirely rest on the theories of A. N. Dimitriev and could have been (was?) written by reading his paper "PLANETOPHYSICAL STATE OF THE EARTH AND LIFE." This article is very strange, seeming to be more mystical than scientific. Example. "These fundamental processes of change create a demand within all of Earth's life organisms for new forms of adaptation. The natural development of these new forms may lead to a total global revision of the range of species, and life, on Earth. New deeper qualities of life itself may come forth, bringing the new physical state of the Earth to an equilibrium with the new organismic possibilities of development, reproduction, and perfection." And it goes on and on. At this point in the book I am beginning to think that perhaps I am one of the last to be in on the joke.
The giveaway the book is possibly meant as a parody is in the conclusion of Chapter 8, Heading into the Energy Cloud. Joseph says that we may have to escape the Earth by colonizing the stars.
"Work is underway. In southwestern New Mexico .... the mandatory neofascist/Freemason cabal secretly run out of the Vatican by rogue elements of the CIA, working day and night to liberate trillions in mob accounts (illegally and immorally held hostage by greedy international bankers), with which they will buy up tracts of land, where they will create an underground city (because if the city were above ground people might start asking questions), breed special livestock and foodstuffs, and assemble a modular spaceship enabling a pod of 160 (the ideal number) or 144,000 (the other ideal number) chosen individuals to flee the earth just before it blows apart in December 2012 and soar, using a miniature controlled nuclear fusion reactor, to a nearby star system that we, for the purposes of this off-the-record discussion, will call Rom, where a type M, earth like planet awaits colonization."
Conclusion: Okay, so maybe the book is some sort of spoof. If so, Joseph is ridiculing the significant part of our population which is gullible enough to believe in the end of the world theories. But, on the other hand, he seems to be marketing the book as apocalyptic, not as a comic send-up of such books. Certainly a lot of money was made on the Millennium scare so maybe Joseph is just trying to cash in on the genre.
For starters, the book jumps frenetically from one topic to another with nary a transition to be found. The first 20 pages are so disorienting that you wonder whether a Ritalin prescription isn't in order for Mr. Joseph. Our friendly author also can't help throwing in personal experiences that - while presumably cathartic for him - have nothing to do with the book. So we hear about his divorce, his parents' divorce and his dad's subsequent death, his own financial and writing woes from time to time for no apparent reason.
Then there's the topic... that the world will endure some massive transitional (and death-filled) moment on 12/21/2012. This is accoring to Mayan astrological study. Joseph doesn't seem to know whether to mock the hypothesis or take it seriously for most of the book, which incidentally comes off as a faux-science scary bedtime story. After discussing global warming, human threats, the transit of our solar system through a rough galactic patch, super-volcanoes, terrorism and religion, Joseph seems to decide that something big is indeed in the works and that our best bet to prepare is to: 1. Pray; 2. Smash Volkswagon Phaetons (I'm serious); 3. Build underground cities with the money we'd otherwise spend experimenting with nuclear fusion.
So why even three stars? Because the book does manage to capture your imagination in plenty of places and gets you thinking some big existential thoughts and that's an acomplishment in its own right.
A goofy, disjointed ride that might just be worth your time if you like scary bedtime stories.
But this book is not only about the Mayans - it's about the possible ramifications of observed earth changes, global warming, solar changes and meteors - all scientifically validated as far as I know from my own research.
On top of this, there's fascinating information on Jewish, Christian and Islamic doctrine. The Messiah from everyone's point of view - politics, mythology, and a very interesting chapter on the I Ching, or Book of Changes, revealing a time code hidden within the hexagrams. Also covered is Drosnin's "The Bible Code".
I'm a little perplexed as to why this book has attracted (some) such negative reviews. There was certainly no religious fundamentalism, fanaticism - or even fatalism within its pages as far as I could decipher. Just an extremely well researched gathering of facts, history and probabilities.
Even if you're not at all interested in the Apocalyse - you will learn much from this book. And there will be quite a few chuckles along the way. Highly recommended!
Such a broad thesis allows the Author to assemble a rather diverse array of physical phenomena, metaphysical concepts, that may support the author's general thesis.
I paid $40 bucks for the audio download ... BIG WASTE OF MONEY.