Is Doomsday Coming? Perhaps, but Not in 2012
Source : By DENNIS OVERBYE
The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs and proposals, which posit that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur in the year 2012—perhaps on or around December 21, which is said to be the end-date of a 5,125-year-long Mayan Long Count calendar. These beliefs may derive in part from archaeoastronomical speculation, alternative interpretations of mythology,numerological constructions, or alleged prophecies from extraterrestrial beings.
A New Age interpretation of this transition posits that, during this time, the planet and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and that 2012 may mark the beginning of a new era. Conversely, some believe that the 2012 date marks the beginning of an apocalypse. Both ideas have been disseminated in numerous books and TV documentaries, and have spread around the world through websites and discussion groups.
NASA said last week that the world was not ending — at least anytime soon. Last year, CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, said the same thing, which I guess is good news for those of us who are habitually jittery. How often do you have a pair of such blue-ribbon scientific establishments assuring us that everything is fine?
On the other hand, it is kind of depressing if you were looking forward to taking a vacation from mortgage payments to finance one last blowout.
CERN’s pronouncements were intended to allay concerns that a black hole would be spit out of its new Large Hadron Collider and eat the Earth.
The announcements by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in the form of several Web site postings and a video posted on YouTube, were in response to worries that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, when a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close.
The doomsday buzz reached a high point with the release of the new movie “2012,” directed by Roland Emmerich, who previously inflicted misery on the Earth from aliens and glaciers in “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”
In the movie, an alignment between the Sun and the center of the galaxy on Dec. 21, 2012, causes the Sun to go berserk with mighty storms on its surface that pour out huge numbers of the elusive subatomic particles known as neutrinos. Somehow the neutrinos transmute into other particles and heat up the Earth’s core. The Earth’s crust loses its moorings and begins to weaken and slide around. Los Angeles falls into the ocean; Yellowstone blows up, showering the continent with black ash. Tidal waves wash over the Himalayas, where the governments of the planet have secretly built a fleet of arks in which a select 400,000 people can ride out the storm.
But this is only one version of apocalypse out there. In other variations, a planet named Nibiru crashes into us or the Earth’s magnetic field flips.
There are hundreds of books devoted to 2012, and millions of Web sites, depending on what combination of “2012” and “doomsday” you type into Google.
All of it, astronomers say, is bunk.
“Most of what’s claimed for 2012 relies on wishful thinking, wild pseudoscientific folly, ignorance of astronomy and a level of paranoia worthy of ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ ” Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory, in Los Angeles, and an expert on ancient astronomy, wrote in an article in the November issue of Sky & Telescope.
Personally, I have been in love with end-of-the-world stories since I started consuming science fiction as a disaffected child. Scaring the pants off the public has been pretty much the name of the game ever since Orson Welles broadcast “War of the Worlds,” a fake newscast about a Martian invasion of New Jersey, in 1938.
But the trend has gone too far, suggested David Morrison, an astronomer at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., who made the YouTube video and is one of the agency’s point people on the issue of Mayan prophecies of doom.
“I get angry at the way people are being manipulated and frightened to make money,” Dr. Morrison said. “There is no ethical right to frighten children to make a buck.”
Dr. Morrison said he had been getting about 20 letters and e-mail messages a day from people as far away as India scared out of their wits. In an e-mail message, he enclosed a sample that included one from a woman wondering if she should kill herself, her daughter and her unborn baby. Another came from a person pondering whether to put her dog to sleep to avoid suffering in 2012.
Read complete story at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/science/17essay.html?_r=2
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