We’re all gonna die! Or are we? The polarized debate over the upcoming 12/21/12 doomsday prophecy worries some, intrigues most, and irritates others; yet with the date rapidly approaching, we wonder what merit—if any—there is to all this buzz.
How did this hubbub about 2012 even begin? The presence of a small planet called Nibiru is said to be in a path that will collide with Earth and force the end of, well, everything as we know it. The collision was predicted for May of 2003, however, and since that obviously failed to occur, the revised date was set to coincide with the end of the Mayan calendar, which concludes on December 21 after more than 5,000 years. Different translations of the Mayan calendar disagree on what will actually happen on or after December 21, but some speculations about the apocalypse include solar storms, total blackout, planetary alignment, zombies, meteorite crashes, and reverse rotation of the Earth, just to name a few.
NASA and other organizations and researchers, though, have pointed to the lack of concrete evidence for any of these claims. Rather, they hold that the end of the Mayan calendar is just like the end of any calendar: when it ends, the next one begins. It doesn’t actually suggest the end of time, just the end of that year. December 21 marks the winter solstice, when the Sun is at its most Southern point in our sky, and the beginning of winter, and it happens annually, so there doesn’t seem to be a need to get worked up or even concerned about the end of time.
Regardless of the clarification offered by scientists and trusted sources, there are a surprisingly large amount of people who are regarding the Mayan prophecy as a very urgent matter. NASA’s Ask an Astrobiologist page has been stormed over the past few years with questions and genuine concern over whether the world really is coming to a violent end. Some have simply gone nuts for emergency kits and preparation for complete societal collapse (Doomsday Preppers, anyone?), and there are even others who wonder if suicide is the only answer to avoiding whatever awaits civilization. The rise of conspiracy and distrust in our government and the information we are given from authorities also plays a role in what extent that reassurance from scientists is accepted.
I will be more than happy to forget paying back my student loans and head to Europe instead to experience the beginnings of civilization now that the end of it is near—if this is the end. If the world were to end in just a few weeks, what would you do with your time?