By Ginger Costen Patriot Correspondent
Region: Never before in the history of this planet has one moment in time been so significant to so many cultures, religions, scientists, governments and people all around the world. In a recent Google Internet search for the date "December 21 2012" produced 96 million results.
There are entire websites dedicated to this date as well as blogs, discussion boards, chat rooms and scientific studies. Numerous books have been written on the subject, television documentaries and several full-length feature films have been produced.
As scientific, historical and religious communities debate whether the world will be ending in 351 days, one of the most visited Internet websites is busy providing a collection of verified information about everything associated with the pending doomsday and the world events leading up to December 21, 2012.
After studying the possibility for more than a decade a self-taught researcher and Louisville, KY, based web developer, John Kehne, started a website in 2006. Currently averaging five million page views a month from visitors in 76 countries, www.december212012.com, is one of the most active and comprehensive "December 21 2012" websites.
"It all started when I read a children's book based on the Mayan calendar," said Kehne. The site offers links, published articles from all the interrelated opinions, open discussion forums, "and anything else we can uncover relating to this moment in time," he added.
Citing a recent increase and severity in natural disasters as proof of his claims, Kehne said, "I don't think humanity will come to an end on this date but I think those disasters are going to lead to economic and social problems and it's going to be a domino effect."
For hundreds of years people have quoted Bible predictions about the Rapture and Antichrist, as well as Nostradamus's prediction of the Planet Comet as evidence of Earth's civilization coming to an end. However, most of the December 21, 2012, prophecies are tied to the ancient yet highly sophisticated Mayan calendar which went out of use more than a millennium ago.
According to many of the websites the Maya believed the Earth's final day to be December 21, 2012. Native Americans, Egyptians, Chinese and others arrived at a similar conclusion, each without a knowledge of the other. The Maya claimed that this future end-time would include a solar shift, a Venus transit and mounting earthquakes.
"The Maya never said anything about the end of the world or anything about a great change in the universe on that date," said David Stuart, author of "The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth About 2012" and Professor of Mesoamerican Art and Writing at the University of Texas. "The doomsday predictions are mostly coming out of new age interpretations and mysticism about Mayan calendrics, which are not based on archeology, anthropology or scholarship."
According to Stuart the Mayan calendar not only continues after December 21, 2012, it goes 70 octillion years into the future.
The Mayan calendar is actually a combination of three calendars: the religious calendar; the solar calendar; and the Long Count. The Long Count can record any day in history because it is supposedly the measure of days from the beginning of humanity to the end.
The calendar is based on a set of calculations that counted the number of years since a mythical creation date. The first day of the Long Count is labeled 0.0.0.0.1 which is the equivalent to August 11th, 3114 B.C. on our current Gregorian Calendar. The Long Count calendar ends at 188.8.131.52.20 which is the equivalent to December 21, 2012.
John Kehne also sites a looming cosmic event as proof the prophecy will come true. "The Earth, planets and sun will align with the center of the Milky Way galaxy in a so-called galactic alignment," Kehne said. "The Earth's balance will shift and the sun will produce flares of increasing intensity."
Although NASA has confirmed there's going to be intense solar activity in 2012, they dismiss the claim that the occurrences will happen all on the same day. They are also saying that even though December 21, 2012 won't be the end of the world, it will be another winter solstice.
Much like Y2K, NASA scientists state that the 2012 projections have been scientifically analyzed and contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the end of the world statements quickly unravel when pinned down to the 2012 timeline with scientific facts.
"There apparently is a great deal of interest in celestial bodies, and their locations and trajectories at the end of the calendar year 2012," said Don Yeomans, NASA Senior Research Scientist. "Now, I for one, love a good book or movie as much as the next guy. But the stuff flying around through cyberspace, TV and the movies is not based on science. There is even a fake NASA news release out there."
The increased interest in the 2012 prophecy has brought NASA Scientists into the Mayan website discussion as well with their equally popular webpage: 2012 - Beginning of the End or Why the World Won't End,? which provides answers to the doomsday most frequently asked questions. The page is located at: www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html.
Yet John Kehne states on his website that every 11 years our Sun goes through what's called a solar cycle (pole shift, magnetic reversal). During the peak time of the cycle, the Sun's magnetic poles switch. The magnetic field of the Sun does a 180. But remember, this is a 180 degree magnetic flip; the physical part of Sun doesn't actually flip. During the peak time of this "flip" sunspots and solar flares become more frequent. This is what's called the "solar maximum".
Solar flares are pieces of the sun which leap into space, discharging radiation and strong electrical currents that travel outward into space. They often fall back to the surface of the Sun. Sometimes, a very strong flare, called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), actually leaves the Sun and this deadly mass shoots out from the Sun towards the planets like a bullet. They usually don't hit anything, but they occasionally hit a planet like Earth. Most flares are small, but even a small flares can be dangerous. In 1989 a flare hit the North American continent and fried electric lines, zapped power grids in the US and Canada, and created large power blackouts.
"Flares can also affect our moods and physical health," adds Kehne. "In theory, a large flare impacting the Earth could zap the ionosphere and irradiate the surface, killing every living organism that it touched."
During early 2001, the Sun's solar cycle was completed and the Sun switched magnetic poles, so the Sun is due for another cycle in the year 2012. NASA further states that while these solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 timeframe and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history.
John Kehne explains that the solar cycle of 2012 is more significant than any other for several reasons:
1. During this time the two biggest planets in our solar system, Saturn and Jupiter, will be in line with each other. The gravitational effects of the two planets on the Sun will cause it to wobble during its pole shift. This can have huge effects on the magnitude of the CME's the Sun will be tossing into space. The Earth regularly gets hit with small CME's and research says that the increased magnitude of these CME's are one of the major causes of global warming, and changes in the ecosystem.
2. Right now the Sun's south magnetic pole is in line with the Earth's north magnetic pole. Since opposites attract, the Sun, along with its gravitational influence from Saturn and Jupiter, may cause the Earth to switch magnetic poles too. With the magnetic field of the Earth switching in a matter of minutes, there can be huge disruptions in the Earth's geological and ecological system. It can cause mass earthquakes and volcano eruptions all over the world. After it's all done, compasses will point South, the Sun will rise in the West and set in the East. But remember, this is a magnetic switch only.
3. The most farfetched possibility and probably the most catastrophic is the phenomenon called "polar wander". Polar wander is a result of the Earth's outer crust shifting at a rapid rate. The magnetic poles stay put but Antarctica becomes the equator and the tropics become the North Pole.
"I really don't have to stress why a polar wander could be catastrophic because if you picture a phenomenon like this happening in a matter of minutes, you can understand why," said Kehne. "There is evidence of a polar wander occurring before in the distant past due to the fossils of Coral in Greenland and Woolly Mammoth bones found in Central America. Of course, in order for a polar wander to occur, it would take a huge amount of imbalance, like an asteroid collision, in the Earth to trigger it."
NASA has a much different answer to the polar shift theory.
A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. There are slow movements of the continents (for example Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago), but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles.
NASA also feels many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-shift to fool people. They claim a relationship between the rotation and the magnetic polarity of Earth, which does change irregularly, with a magnetic reversal taking place every 400,000 years on average. As far as NASA knows, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth and a magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia.
4. The final event that will occur on December 21, 2012 will be at 11:12 GMT. It's a phenomenon that the Mayans referred to as the "Sacred Tree" and it happens every 25,800 years. At that time our Sun will line up directly with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. For thousands of years, our solar system has been hovering around the top of the galactic plane and this galactic alignment could have huge effects on our solar system.
"This ecliptic movement will cross over the Milky Way at a 60 degree angle near the constellation Sagittarius," said Kehne. "And this is exactly where the December solstice sun will be in A.D. 2012."
There is supposedly a black hole in the middle of the Milky Way holding everything together. Our solar system is around the outer edge of the disc. "When our solar system lines up with the center of the galaxy, we will be at the strongest part of the galaxy's magnetic field where there is maximum gravitation," said Kehne.
With the Sun's solar cycle being at its maximum, the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter, and the alignment of the sun with the equator of the Milky Way, will really cause an increase in the magnitude of the Sun's solar flares. Of course the gravitational complexities will also have an influence on whether or not the Earth will undergo a magnetic pole shift. There is also speculation that the Earth may reverse its rotation since we'll be in the opposite hemisphere of the galaxy.
"According to the Mayas, the center of the Galaxy is the cosmic womb; The place of dead, transformation, regeneration and rebirth. This moment shows the end of their calendar," said Kehne.
NASA doesn't agree and argues that phenomena will not occur causing planets to align in a way that would impact Earth. There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.
There are a lot of questions that will be answered in the year 2012. Although the Mayan calendar has a mystery on a specific date, some of the scientific complexities will gradually become observable. Depletion of the ozone, increase in volcanic activity, and changes in weather patterns are all natural results of some of the events explained. However, whether or not the Mayans had some sort of insight into the future will remain a mystery.
Should people fear the possibility of "The End" coming in 2012?
"Don't look to the heavens. Look to your neighbors and the people you see on the street," said Kehne. "The notions of apocalypse brings out the crazies. They load up survival gear, sell off their possessions, cause general hysteria. People are the biggest threat to your well-being." When it comes to the Internet, watch out for spam, scams, malware, phishers and poisoned websites that breed on the hysteria or curiosity of the public.
NASA is asking where is the science? Where is the evidence? "There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012."
Nonetheless, people are preparing and some are also making money.
Many of the websites sell ad space as well as 2012 related novelty items and hundreds of high priced disaster preparedness products. Not surprisingly, they are not the only industry to capitalize on the moment. Tourism packages are already selling for December 2012 vacations in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.
Mexican government officials are predicting a surge of visitors to the five southern states that comprise the country's Maya region. In Belize, which bills itself as "heartland of the Maya," airlines have committed tens of thousands of extra seats to accommodate projected interest from foreign visitors. In Guatemala, the country with the most living Maya, officials predict a 10 percent across-the-board increase in tourism.
The end of the world, it turns out, may also be marked by an economic boom.
"2012 will be a momentous occasion, not only for Belize's large Maya population, but for all Belizeans," said Yanick Dalhouse, the Belize Tourism Board's Director of Marketing. "Given the amount of interest we're seeing from around the world, it's generating global excitement as well."
This region, along with parts of Honduras and El Salvador, make up the Mundo Maya, a diverse tropical region which includes the flat lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula and the verdant high country of Guatemala. Today, some ten million Maya descendants still live in the region and speak 30 indigenous Mayan languages.
In the southern Mexican states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán, officials are expecting 52 million visitors next year (both domestic and international), and are planning over 500 Maya cultural events throughout the year. Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced at a special summer solstice press conference in 2011 to launch Mexico's Maya 2012 tourism efforts.
"The idea is to celebrate 2012 with the respect, excitement and significance it deserves," said Lucy Fleming, a lodge owner in Belize and co-chair of the National Maya 2012 Committee.
Katie Valk, founder and director of Belize-Trips.com, is a Belize travel specialist who is already seeing increased bookings for 2012 over last year.
But the commercial prospects don't stop Kehne from taking the predictions seriously. He has built a "72-hour room," a 12-by-12 foot underground concrete bunker, where he stores food, water, cash and rifles to protect and shelter his wife and two children in case the worst happens.
"I am not scared. I think of life one day at a time," said Kehne, a Roman Catholic. Each week, he attends Mass to "pray for the strength for whatever comes."