Note from the author: The purpose of this article is to provide factual, scientific information to debunk the idea that Dec. 21, 2012 will be the end of the world. It is important to remember that such claims are frightening and can have a negative impact on particular people, especially children, and should be discussed with caution and discretion.
Dec. 21, 2012.
If this date doesn’t ring any bells, then you’ve managed to avoid rumors that 12/21/2012 will be the day the world ends – that is, until now. It’s a theory that began swirling decades ago, when historians and mathematicians pieced together ancient artifacts that, as some believe, foretell the end of days. Others interpret said artifacts to indicate the beginning of a new age that brings peace and enlightenment, while others think everything will go on as it has for billions of years.
But those who subscribe to the school of thought that the world will end tomorrow are misinformed. How do we know this? Science. More specifically: NASA.
Apparently NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has been so inundated with questions regarding the world’s demise that they’ve set up an FAQ section on their website specifically dedicated to the topic.
But before we get to what NASA has to say, let’s dissect the history behind this particular doomsday prediction.
The Dec. 21, 2012 doomsday date has its roots in the Mayan Long Count Calendar, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First, let’s talk about who the Mayans were, and why we should even care what they had to say. Mayans were members of Maya, a Mesoamerican civilization that had its peak between 250 and 900 AD. The Mayans are admired by modern civilization for their art and architecture, which included ornate sculptures and pyramids.
But their pottery and buildings aren’t what’s behind the doomsday phenomenon.
The Mayans were also whizzes when it came to astronomy and math, and their now infamous Long Count Calendar was created to track the beginnings of human life and the world. The Long Count Calendar is fairly mathematically complicated, and includes powers and multiplication. To put it plainly, it’s not as straightforward as the modern-day, wall-hanging grids printed with puppies and celebrities that we’ve all grown so familiar with.
But the calendar is nonetheless at the heart of this end-of-the-world prophecy.
Why? The Mayans projected their calendar backward to begin on Aug. 11, 3114 BC, and forward to end on Dec. 21, 2012 AD, a period of roughly 5,125 years that Mayans called a “Long Count.” There’s also something called a “b’aktun,” a period of 144,000 days. The Mayans, like modern day superstitious folk, had a strong connection to the number 13 – it was sacred to them. So 13 b’aktuns was a big deal.
Why does this matter? It so happens that on Dec. 21, 2012, the Mayan Calendar will read 22.214.171.124. (13 b’aktuns) for the first time in 5,125 years. And so a theory that the world will end is born.
This rare phenomenon has led some to believe that the Mayans essentially predicted that Dec. 21, 2012 would be the end of the world, though many argue that, like Dec. 31 on our modern day calendar, it’s simply the end of a calendar cycle. Therefore, a new cycle will begin – no end in sight!
But with media hype, movies like the destruction film “2012” and Internet hoaxes to add fuel to the fire, conspiracies surrounding Friday’s date have exploded.
There are rumors that aliens will descend upon a French hamlet named Bugarach and take only a chosen few from the Earth. There’s theories that the Earth will flood, which has spurred Lu Zhenghai, a Chinese man, to spend his life savings of $160,000 on making an ark. When it comes to doomsday theories and the bizarre prep that goes along with them, the sky is the limit.
And speaking of the sky, let’s get back to NASA’s FAQs about how the world won’t end this weekend.
First, NASA starts with a broad-based question for those who either don’t have the attention span or actual interest to read the rest of their Q and A.
“Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012?”
Unsurprisingly, NASA says no. “Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.”
Great. Now, for a few more specifics, that tackle a handful of the strange and bizarre theories produced by sensationalists worldwide. Take the theory that the world will experience a total blackout from Dec. 23 to Dec. 25 due to an extremely rare “alignment of the Universe.” NASA says it’s poppycock.
“There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. One major alignment occurred in 1962, for example, and two others happened during 1982 and 2000. 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.”
NASA also addressed an Internet hoax that said a planet (called both “Nibiru” and “Planet X” depending where you look) would collide with Earth – there is no factual basis for this, either.
“If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye,” writes NASA. “Obviously, it does not exist.”
Another planet, Eris, was also touted as a threat by Internet conspiracy theorists. NASA said that, although Eris is real, the closest it could ever get to Earth is about 4 billion miles. That’s not so close.
And what about a meteor hitting the Earth? NASA debunked that, too.
“The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today, NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Spaceguard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit.”
NASA posts their findings to the NASA Near-Earth Object Program Office website, and they have no evidence of anything predicted to hit this year.
Then there were theories that something would occur on the planet itself, no Universe involvement required.
NASA addressed what has been coined “polar shift theory,” where the magnetic polarity of Earth and its rotation have been erroneously linked. Though NASA said a reversal of Earth’s rotation is possible, they don’t believe it will be harmful to life on the planet, or that it will occur any time soon.
“Many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-switch 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 we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. Scientists believe a magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia.”
Another thing to remember is that this is not the first (and, regretfully, not the last) time the end of the world has been predicted. Proclamations of an impending doomsday date back to ancient Rome, and have occurred ad nauseum since then. In recent history, Harold Camping, a talk radio host and Christian numerologist, predicted the end of the world twice in 2011. Ronald Weinland, founder of the Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God, predicted the end of the world twice, too. Clearly, they both got it wrong, though each had devout followers (some of whom sold their homes or left their jobs, a devastating result).
End of the world predictions for the future all have roots in religion, and it is not until the year 500,000,000 that some scientists predict the planet will become uninhabitable for natural and environmental reasons. And that’s a long, long way away from Dec. 21, 2012.