Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation Into Civilization's End

Front Cover
Morgan Road Books, 2007 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 261 pages
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 it.

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 galaxy.

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.

You’ll get a good chuckle.
That’s why you should read this book.

Dear Reader,

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 cloud.

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 entails.

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

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User Review  - dream51403 - Overstock.com

This book raised a lot of questions for me and also gave me some answers. This is the book that introduced me to the many theories of 2012. Since I completed it I have started a personal journey. The ... Read full review

I love this book

User Review  - ChelZ - Borders

I love the way that Lawrence Joseph wrote this book. He gives the deep details that most books leave you wondering about! I have not yet finished reading it, but I can tell you that I am having trouble sitting it down because it is so good! Read full review

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About the author (2007)


Two hours’ tromp through the tarantula/crocodile jungle where a recent Survivor series was set, past an ancient Mayan ball court where both losers and winners were sacrificed (that certainly would have boosted Survivors ratings) and then a steamy clamber up the hundred steep and crumbling steps of the 1,800–year–old ruin known as the Great Pyramid, the centerpiece of Mundo Perdido (Lost World), the oldest section of the Tikal ruins, was rewarded with the following: “The problem has got to be with your server. Call tech support and tell them to reconfigure… ,” explained one twenty–something to the other.

Rip out their beating hearts, toss their lifeless carcasses down the stone steps, and chalk it all up as a human sacrifice to Bill Gates. Deep in the Guatemalan jungle, atop an ancient sacred temple, and these geeks still couldn’t get their minds out of their computers.

I had gone to Tikal, where some of the most ancient Mayan prophecies originated, to get a feel for what, up until then, was just a mass of factoids—for example, that in the Mayan calendar the current age, known as the Fourth Age, began on August 13, 3114 BCE, which in the Mayan calendar is represented as (Day One) and will end on December 21, 2012 ce, or (Day Last). I could repeat that fact and many others accurately enough but, like twelfth–grade calculus (the derivative of n cubed is 3n squared, but what is a derivative, exactly?), I didn’t really understand what I was saying.

The problem was calendars, to me a blah staple of contemporary existence. Navigating life without them would of course be unthinkable, but that’s not going to happen, so why think about it? Apparently there once was a dispute between popes about how many days February and August should have, but that’s all been settled for half a millennium. And at the stroke of midnight beginning 2006, the official atomic clock–keeper somewhere added a second for the first time since 1999 because the Earth’s rotation is being slowed by the moon’s increasing gravitational pull, which might be an interesting development if we had enough time in our busy lives to figure out why.

Fundamentalists insist that it’s all in whatever their holy book might happen to be, but my visit to Mayan Guatemala was the first time I’ve ever been told that it''s all not in their book but in their calendar, which is all I would ever need. The Maya love their calendars, see them as visual depictions of the passage of time, which is how life unfolds. They charted this unfolding with not one but twenty calendars, only fifteen of which have been released to the modern world; the remaining five are still kept secret by Mayan elders. Mayan calendars are pegged to the movements of the Sun, the Moon, and the visible planets, to harvest and insect cycles, and range in length from 260 days to 5,200 years and beyond.

In the Cholqij, the 260–day calendar that represents a woman’s pregnancy cycle, and also the number of days that the planet Venus rises in the morning each year, each day is represented by one of 20 symbols representing spiritual guides or deities, called Ajau. The number 20 is sacred to the Mayans because a person has 20 digits—10 fingers to reach to the sky and 10 toes to grasp the ground. They regard the number 10, so significant to our mathematics, as half a loaf at best.

According to Gerardo Kanek Barrios and Mercedes Barrios Longfellow in The Maya Cholqij: Gateway to Aligning with the Energies of the Earth, 2005, thirteen forces influence the 20 Ajau deities. The number 13 is derived from the fact that there are 13 major joints (1 neck, 2 shoulders, 2 elbows, 2 wrists, 2 hips, 2 knees and 2 ankles), which serve as nodal points of bodily and cosmic energy. Thirteen forces times 20 deities equals 260 uniquely specified days.

The Mayan prophecies for 2012 are the province of the Long Count calendar, also known as Winaq May Kin, which covers approximately 5,200 solar years, a period the Maya call a Sun. In the curious Mayan reckoning, a year has 360 days; the remaining 5.25 days (4 x .25 accounting for the leap day) are considered “out of time” and are traditionally devoted to thanksgiving for the previous year and celebration of the year to come. Thus 5,200 of these Mayan years translate to approximately 5,125 of our Gregorian years. Since human civilization arose, we have passed fully through three Suns, and now are completing the fourth Sun, which will end on 12/21/12.

The Mayan counting system is primarily vigesimal, meaning that it relies on powers of 20, rather than 10. In this system the first placeholder (the one farthest to the right) is reserved for units of one day; the second for units of 20 days; the third for units of 360 days, or one Mayan solar year; the fourth for units of 7,200 days, or twenty Mayan solar years; and the fifth for units of 144,000 days, or 400 Mayan solar years. Interestingly, the number 144,000 figures prominently in Revelation, though it refers to the number of people who will be saved and serve the Lord during the Tribulation, the period of tumult that precedes the Second Coming of Christ.

In, the Mayan way of expressing the 12/21/12 date, the number 13 refers to the number of baktuns, periods of 400 Mayan solar years/144,000-day periods. The number 13, as noted, is sacred in their cosmology. One Sun works out to be 13 times 144,000 days, or 1,872,000 days long, 5,200 of the 360–day Mayan solar years. On the day after a Sun is completed, the Long Count calendar starts all over. Thus, December 22, 2012, the day after apocalypse, if such a day does come, will once again be the Mayan date,


How did these people become so time–obsessed, out in the jungles and the highlands? It’s not like the ancient Maya were catching planes or texting messages or even traveling anywhere.

“At first glance it might seem an exaggeration to attach so much importance to the sacred [Mayan] calendar. Yet anyone familiar with its role in the life of pre–Columbian Mesoamerica realizes that bound up with the calendar are many if not all of the more sophisticated aspects of the region’s early intellectual life: the awareness of a cyclicity in the movement of celestial bodies, the evolution of mathematical skills by which they could manipulate the numbers derived from those cycles, and the development of a system of hieroglyphics for recording the results…with it must have come most of the trappings of civilization—astronomy, mathematics, writing, urban planning,” writes Vincent H. Malmstrom of Dartmouth College.

We all know intuitively that time occurs in both lines, as though arrows were being shot, and cycles. Time’s arrow refers to the simple fact that each minute follows the next in a straight line to infinity, or until Time ends altogether. Time’s cycle refers to eternal continuums, such as day and night, winter, spring, summer, and fall, the waxing and waning of the Moon. Time’s cycles and arrows can also be seen as reflecting different attitudes toward history: “those who ignore it are doomed to repeat it” (cycle) versus “yesterday''s news” (arrow). I’d always tended toward the latter camp, that history, though it made for good stories, was past. But after separating from my wife at roughly the same age, and with more or less the same height, weight, and features as my father did when he was separated from my mother, the “doomed to repeat it” scenario did ring a bell.

Cultures tend to have predilections for either arrow or cycle. Contemporary postindustrial Western society certainly emphasizes the arrowlike onrush of time, passing faster and faster, blinking and beeping on watches, microwave ovens, cell phones, and turnstiles. An arrow–affinity speaks to a society’s orientation toward change and progress, though sometimes to the point of ignoring recurrent, eternal values. This imbalance may well have resulted from our shift away from an agriculturally based economy, which of course is finely attuned to seasonal cycles, and toward industrial and informational production, which are less dependent on such natural rhythms.

The Maya were and are a cycle society. They see cycles in everything, and they love what they see. Progress is not nearly as important in their cosmic ethos as the serenity that comes from being in harmony with the eternal movements of Nature. The downside of course is that, being fixated on eternal cycles, the Maya might not notice the day–to–day changes occurring around them, a disregard that helps explain why, as many historians have noted, classic Mayan society degenerated and collapsed abruptly, without their ever having taken heed of the warning signs. Theories range from voluntary disengagement, meaning that the Mayans simply abandoned their cities and much of their lifestyle for (occult) reasons of their own, to internecine strife, to claims that the civilization never really fell so much as went underground.

The current scholarly bet is that environmental degradation did them in. Indeed, Jared Diamond''s recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, depicts the ancient Maya as the case study of what societies ought not to do to the local environment. Diamond methodically presses the argument that the Mayans overfarmed, deforested, and overpopulated their land. A 2004 NASA st

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