2012: It’s not the End of the World!

It’s the end of the world as we know it….or maybe not.

Predictions of the end of the world have often been made throughout history.  However, few have captured the attention of so many such as the 2012 end of the world saga; brought to the forefront of consciousness by the Hollywood depiction 2012 and of the course through the internet. Doomsayers have been predicting that the world will end this year, some even suggest 21 December 2012 as the specific date for Armageddon, but what has triggered these prophesies and is there any truth to them?

 

One such claim is based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends on 21 December of this year.The Mayan people were an ancient civilization based in Mesoamerica, modern day Central America.They were an advanced nation in mathematics, astronomy, art and architecture, with many stone tablets found with Mayan writings and hieroglyphics.The Mayans had skillful mathematicians, and used the number zero before many other civilizations.The Maya also measured time passing using different calendars simultaneously.They had a Venus calendar for example. They also noted days, months and years in units called Kin, Uinal and Tun. The Maya counted Katuns which is around 20 years, and Baktuns which last 400 years. The Mayan long count calendar lasts for 5126 years to count the days from a start date set by the Maya corresponding in our Georgian calendar to 13 August  3114 BC (their mythical creation date), running through to 21 December 2012.

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The Mayan calendar components (Image credit:Wikimedia.org)

 

The Mayan population began to decline in the 9th century AD most likely due to drought and its effects. With the colonization by the Spanish, many remnants of the culture were destroyed. The Maya did not actually predict that the world will end this year. Instead their Long Count calendar ends. This happens at the end of each year with our very own Georgian calendar. Every 31 December we start a new year and a new calendar. December 22nd 2012 marks the beginning of a new Baktun in the Maya long term calendar, and marks three days left for any last minute Christmas shopping. To be totally clear, the Mayans did not predict a cataclysm for 21 December 2012.

Other theories suggesting a potential doomsday lie in the thought that lurking behind the Sun is a mysterious planet called Nibiru or Planet X which is going to collide with the Earth causing catastrophic effects for us all. Conspiracy theorists claim that this planet has a 3600 year orbit and was known to the Mayan people, they also claim that many astronomers and space scientists are tracking and monitoring this rogue body and are part of a worldwide conspiracy of keeping an official silence policy.Turning the clock back to May 2003, accounting to many of the same conspiracy theorists a very similar fate was to be had then by the Earth when Nibiru was due to make its way into the inner Solar System.Needless to say this never happened and now 2012 is the new Doomsday date.

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Image captured by Hubble Space telescope of the red supergiant star V838 Monocerotis in the constellation of Monoceros the Unicorn.This is neither an image of Nibiru nor an artist’s impression of the fictional planet.(Image credit:NASA)

 

Some claims suggest that this ‘planet’ is three times the size of Earth, others even suggest it could be as large as Jupiter.For something of this size to exist in our Solar System but to remain hidden behind the Sun all the time is impossible.The multitude of satellites in orbit around the Earth studying the Sun, Earth and planets would detect such a body.Scientists are also aware of exoplanets around other stars and have discovered hundreds of planets orbiting other stars outside of our own solar system so for an object such as a killer planet to be so close to us it would surely be visible through a telescope if not by the naked eye.It seems very unlikely every possible astronomer both amateur and professional was lying and part of some official silence!Many online videos claiming that Nibiru has been discovered have in actual fact clipped up pieces of media coverage from 2003 when dwarf planet Eris was discovered, located in the Kuiper Belt of our Solar System.

Image of eris and moon

Could this be Nibiru passing by our moon?No, not at all!This is an artist’s impression of dwarf planet Eris with its moon Dysnomia.(Image credit:Wikimedia.org)

 

By coincidence, other disastrous events are due also on 21 December ( “I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse” ) if we are to believe this hoax and accompanying online tirade of doomsday approaching.  One such theory is that the Earth’s poles are going to reverse, north will become south and vice versa caused perhaps by the impact of previously mentioned planet Nibiru. Even Einstein apparently predicted this demise of the Earth. In reality Albert Einstein, wrote a foreword to a book, Earth’s Shifting Crust by Charles Hapgood, about Earth’s crust displacement, which suggests every 20-30 thousand years the Earth’s poles move gradually taking around 5000 years to occur for the pole to shift a massive 40⁰ (this theory is not taken seriously today, Einstein was outside of his own field and failed to see the book’s failings).

The Earth’s magnetic poles are indeed moving and are not constant.There is however no reason to suggest that this signals the end of the world. The magnetic north pole has been moving since first discovered in the 19th century up to 40 miles per year, but this has and will not cause us any harm.   Also the Earth’s magnetic field strength will not disappear totally leaving us to the mercy of huge solar flares that will wipe out all electrical communications. It is declining slightly which may perhaps just mean that the aurora borealis may be more visible further south than usual but again not a sign of the End Of All Things.

If in doubt check out this video from NASA:

With the internet it is becoming increasingly easier for little ideas to blow up into huge conspiracies.It seems mankind has a fascination with conspiracy and predictions of terrible events, anybody remember the Y2K scare?  The fear that seems to be spreading that we have just months left on this Earth is nothing more than an internet hoax, despite the videos and the various scientific claims, December 21st 2012 is set to just another day, so no need to stockpile your cupboards or build a bunker in the garden anytime soon.

 

(Article by Martina Redpath, Education Support Officer)