Apocalypse now or later

By Brandon Smith

As the infamous Mayan calendar doomsday date of Dec. 21 approaches, one question persists: Will the world end?

There have been some pretty outrageous apocalyptic theories throughout history, but people  have never been able to scientifically calculate their probability until recently. From the Yellowstone supervolcano to solar flares, scientific institutions have been working for years to predict and anticipate

cataclysmic events.

But what does calculating the end of the world mean?

According to Ames Hawkins, an associate professor in the English Department who teaches Writing, Language and Culture: Rhetorics of Apocalypse, the word “apocalypse” originates from the ancient Greek language and actually means “to unveil or reveal something.” She said that definition could completely change what people think about the end of the world.

“What is being unveiled?” she asked. “Our fears.”

While the Mayan calendar may be the trending apocalyptic prediction in Western culture, there are several scientific apocalyptic theories that are equally  valid.

Magnetic Pole Reversal:

Some believe that if the magnetic poles suddenly reverse, it could cause massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. However, Kim Koverman, a professor in the Science & Mathematics Department, said only part of this theory is true. She said shifts in Earth’s magnetic poles have occurred several times throughout the planet’s history, but there is no physical evidence suggesting they have ever caused

natural disasters, just directional problems with compasses.

Yellowstone Supervolcano:

According to Gerald Adams, an associate professor in the Science & Mathematics Department, the eruption of the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is long overdue. He said there is evidence in rock layers that indicate the volcano erupts approximately every 610,000 years. Adams said it last erupted 650,000 years ago. If it were to erupt again, the streets of Chicago would be buried under at least a foot of ash that would blanket the country, and heavy ash clouds would cut off sunlight, Adams said. The ash would block sunlight for such an extended period of time that plant life would completely obliterated in the Northern Hemisphere, he said. Though this may not kill off humanity, Adams said it would certainly cause a mass exodus from the U.S. to places below the equator.

Solar flares:

According to NASA’s website, the sun tends to flare every 11 years when it reaches a “solar maximum.” These flares produce geomagnetic bursts of energy and particles with the potential to interfere with electronics. However, it is impossible for solar flares to destroy the planet, according to the website. The only real fear is an extremely powerful solar flare called a coronal mass ejection. If a flare like this were to occur, it could reach the planet’s surface, causing transformers to blow and disrupting satellites that control cellphones and GPS systems vital for airplane navigation.

“It is a problem like hurricanes are a problem,” NASA said in statement on its website. “One can protect oneself with

advance information.”

Let’s just hope that when the next solar maximum occurs in 2013, we don’t get the Superstorm Sandy of  solar flares.

Planet Nibiru:

Of all the Earth-shattering natural phenomena that could occur, the planet Nibiru is probably the most ridiculous, said NASA researcher David Morrison in a YouTube video. Nibiru is allegedly a rogue planet that travels through the solar system every now and then. Some people speculate it will either crash into Earth or come so close that it will destroy all life in a truly hellish way: by burning off the planet’s atmosphere. Morrison explained that this scenario is completely fake, and if there were a rogue planet zooming around space on a collision course for Earth, every single astronomer would be tracking it.