Before the story of our past got a makeover during the British Empire, conventional wisdom held that humankind had survived a golden, silver and copper age. Here's a look at the old legends, the latest investigations of Atlantis and other advanced civilizations in prehistory, and what might happen when the current Iron Age ends.
Every 26,000 years, the wobbling Earth causes the zodiac constellations to slip backwards in their carousel around the night sky. Early civilizations placed a lot of stock in this cycle, referring to it repeatedly in their legends, monuments and mythology. Could this "Precession of the Equinoxes" hold the key to predicting periodic mass extinctions?
While everyone has their opinion about what will transpire on December 21, 2012, two questions remain. Why did the ancient Mayans create a 5,125-year "long count" calendar in the first place? And why were they so obsessed with the "Dark Rift" at the center of the Milky Way?
From the Cumean Sybil in Rome, to the Hopi Indians, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce, a confluence of warnings suggests that the mother of all cataclysms may strike in the 21st century. Here's a rundown of the forecasts, including Cayce's vision of coming tectonic shifts.
When Erich von Daniken published his controversial book Chariots of the Gods in 1968, he didn't know about the predictions for 2012. Today, the possibility that aliens traveled here at the time of a previous mega-disaster takes on a whole new meaning.
While most academics dismiss myths and prophecies that warn of a doomsday approaching, an indefatigable band of history detectives is racing to connect the dots. In recent years, the History Channel and other networks have given them a forum to make their case.
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Just as the legends about a Great Flood turned out to be true, climatologists now suspect other apocalyptic tales from antiquity may be based on hard reality, and not simply the active imagination of the storyteller.
There's a lot of talk about the dwindling population of polar bears, but global warming is just the prelude to other threats on the horizon. An ice age in the northern hemisphere, a surge of volcanism and the release of deadly methane gases are being tracked by university teams worldwide.
A caldera the size of Tokyo simmers fitfully beneath Yellowstone National Park. Geologists like Robert Smith and Bill McGuire have warned that when this supervolcano blows, life will never be the same on Earth. And it's only one of several such cauldrons churning beneath the American west.
In 1859 a massive solar flare struck the Earth's atmosphere, disabling the telegraph system. Now that the infrastructure of modern society is dependent on lightweight satellites and centralized power grids, a similar event could cripple entire countries for years. With the next peak in the sunspot cycle due to start in 2013, what's the plan?
Is the reduction of solar wind allowing cosmic rays to breach the heliosphere? A Russian astrophysicist is adamant that the Earth and other planets are already feeling the heat from deep sapce. Meanwhile, 6,000 light years away, a star called WR104 looks like it's on the verge of exploding.
As illustrated in films like Contagion, the potential for out-of-control epidemics and no drugs to fight them with looms ominously on the horizon. Here's a detailed introduction to the scary world of epidemiology, with plenty of tips and advice on how to steer clear of a killer infection.
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