So it's 2012 - Wasn't that Big Magnetic Space Ribbon Supposed to have Killed us by Now?

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

So it's 2012, and the earth is still here, despite all paranoid schizophrenic claims to the contrary. As we all know, the Mayan Long Count calendar ended this year. People with the unfortunate combination of an anxiety disorder, scientific illiteracy, and waaaaay too much time on their hands have concluded that a stone age band of savaged who thought human sacrifice was keen, and who hadn't discovered the wheelsomehow could foretell the future. Well, ok, sure, whatever. You can't have an average IQ without at least half the population having a below-average IQ. I learn to ignore it.

Now, about this time last year, the whack-a-moles who believe such things discovered "We're heading into a magnetic death cloud ribbon thing which will end all life on earth." Again: how are Mayans supposed to have known this?
"Greetings, Luxachuxapetal. Funniest thing, Wikimokalop and I were just torturing the slaves for no reason, and one of them started screaming that he was having a vision about a magnetic field that the earth will move into 1100 years from now."
"Why Mixaklubklubgit, that's astounding! We, as a people, don't know the earth moves at all, and have not discovered the magnet! Truely this must be the work of the gods, or possibly aliens! You should write this down."
"Yeah, I agree. Now let's go cut the hearts out of some more sacrificial victims."
"Kickass! Sounds like a Friday night to me!"

Ok, here's what I got:

Firstly, I've long assumed the Mayan Long Count callendar stops there because the guy who was figuring it out got bored or pissed off or whatever. "That's it, I quit. F_ck it. You want another ten thousand years of this crap, let Larry do it." Or it could simply be, as a variation on this idea, "Well, that's good enough for now. We'll do another century or two in a century or two." There need be no bigger mystery than that.

There's a curious relationship, psychologically, between calendars and religious psychology: There happen to be 365 days in a year, which is pretty close to 360 degrees in a circle, so people assume there must be a significance to it, and go so far as to simply ignore the five inconvenient days, neglecting to consider that the reason a circle has 360 degrees rather than 720 or 100 is because the Sumerians were kind of obsessed with sixes and tens when they made up the system. Why? Dunno. Ask a sumerian. So I don't really attach much significance to the long count. I expect its end was simply a pragmatic thing that probably had religious significance attached to it later on. (Much like "A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day" getting interpreted literally to mean that Jesus will come again in 1996 because that's exactly 6000 years from the creation of the world, and we all know the 7th day is the day of rest so...oh, wait, He didn't show? Ok, then it must be 2996 AD, then.

Secondly: The sun - and hence the solar system - are moving really slowly. About 93 million miles per 1500 years. If we *were* headed into a death ribbon, we ain't gonna' hit it for a long time.

Thirdly: As best I can figure from the sources I've read, the "Electromagnetic Ribbon" isn't a ribbon actually, and it'll never hit earth because it's part of our solar system, and hence moves along with it. Here's the deal:

The sun sends out charged particles, as does every other sun. We call this "The solar wind." It's pretty weak. A square kilometer of it has roughly the equivalent force of a postage stamp being dropped one foot. A lot of it can build up, though. We're 2/3rds of the way from the core of the galaxy, which has (Scientifically speaking) 10^6 metric assloads of stars, all cranking out solar wind. This produces a pretty strong 'current' coming out from the core in all directions, and it tends to pick up more 'wind' as it passes more stars along the way. Taken as a whole, it's strong, much stronger than the solar wind from our own star.

So the solar wind from our own star flies out a thousand AU or so, meets up with the vastly more powerful galactic wind, which overpowers it and forces it back. Think of a garden hose spraying water directly up. The water falls back, but tends to spray out as it goes. It's all going down, but in a different pattern than it went up in. Or: think of rain hitting an umbrella, then dripping off the sides. The "Ribbon" that the Voyagers found is this solar wind being blown back by the galactic wind.

So we can't hit it because as we move, the umbrella moves too.

Get it?