Doomsday: Scientists explain why the world will not end in 2012
Let us count the ways that the world is supposed to come to an end in 2012. There’s the one about the alien planet with a funny name that will sideswipe Earth. The worry about the Earth’s magnetic poles
flipping like a pancake and causing earthquakes everywhere. And the fear of colossal physics experiments going wrong, spawning world-munching black holes.
But doomsday hoo-hah doesn’t come any bigger than the “2012” apocalypse, born out of the interpretation of ancient Maya calendars, which led some to believe the world will say adios on or around Dec. 21 this year. (The bright side: No worries about Christmas bills.)
Made famous three years ago by the disaster-thriller movie 2012, starring John Cusack, the warnings revolve around the Maya calendar turning over. A Maya inscription from one small ruin, mistranslated to imply big doings on that date, grew into forecasts of doomsday.
And what does the cool, calm, rational voice of science say about our impending demise?
“Bull. It’s all bull,” says astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, head of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York.
“Crazy. People always worry about the wrong things,” says MIT physicist Max Tegmark, who studies ways the universe could really end — in billions of years.
“The end of the world isn’t something the Maya made prophecies about,” declares Maya expert David Stuart, author of The Order of Days: The Maya World and the Truth About 2012.
Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? So, we challenged these folks to use their fancy scientific evidence to explain away popular doomsday scenarios.
Start with ‘Nibiru.’ This planet supposedly discovered by the ancient Sumerians is on a side-swiping course with Earth, says a Wisconsin woman who famously claims contact with aliens. No, says astrophysicist Tyson: “There’s no planet Nibiru. We would have seen anything the size of a planet headed our way a long time ago.” In fact, he notes that the most recently discovered dwarf planets reside in orbits farther away than Pluto, which is 40 times more distant from the sun than Earth is. Sumerians didn’t even know about Uranus, which astronomers spotted in 1781.
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