Did you hear the theory that the world will end next month, on December 21, 2012? Scary thought, eh? But wait a minute. Haven’t we been down this “impending disaster” road before? If, like me, you’re getting on in years, you can probably think back to several such predictions. Dates were proclaimed, news stories were written, nerves were frayed, TV news-channels had stories for months on end and nothing happened.
Here we go again. Books written, speculative TV shows produced and there’s a movie on the subject, too — 2012, a $200-million disaster movie features cracking continents, plunging asteroids, burning cities, and a tsunami throwing an aircraft carrier through the White House. So are we to take this latest catastrophic prediction seriously or cast it aside as another ridiculous ill-founded theory?
In my mind, the most recent disaster prediction was back at the turn of the century. Remember when we entered the new millennium and there were dire predictions of doom and gloom in anticipation of the changing of the calendar plus the Y2K computer-date bug? But as before, nothing happened.
Much like Y2K, 2012 has been analyzed and the science of the end of the Earth has been thoroughly studied. Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the science behind the end of the world quickly unravels when pinned down to the 2012 timeline. Here’s what NASA scientists have to say about several issues regarding 2012. According to NASA, our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four-billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.
So what’s the origin of this prediction? It appears that the story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened, the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012; hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012. The Mayan calendar, by the way, does not cease to exist on this date. It’s merely the end of the Mayan long-count period. And then, just as our calendar begins again on January 1, another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.
Other danger claims:
• Planetary alignment — There’s a theory that planets will align in a way that impacts Earth. But NASA says there are no planetary alignments in the next few decades. Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments did occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December, the Earth and the Sun align with the approximate centre of the Milky Way Galaxy, but that is an annual event of no consequence.
• Meteor collision — The Earth is in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012? NASA says the Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, which went poorly for 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. They’ve already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA NEO Program Office website. So you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.
• Giant solar storms — Solar activity has a regular cycle with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. It’s true that the next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-14 time-frame, but it’s predicted to be an average solar cycle, and will be no different than previous cycles throughout history.
• The polar-shift theory — A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. Mind you, it is true that there are slow movements of the continents. For example, Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago, but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles. However, 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, on average, every 400,000 years. As far as is known, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. A magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia, anyway.
So, from the scientific perspective, NASA says that for any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, there needs to be science and evidence. There is none. For all the fictional assertions, that simple fact remains. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.
So until we hear something new — and scientifically supported — we can breathe easier.