Still worried about flaming space rocks inextricably falling from the sky? Losing sleep over nonsensical "killer" solar flares? Got your knickers-in-a-knot over the non-existent Planet X?
If you answered "yes," you obviously haven't been paying attention. And no, this isn't a conspiracy or some fantasy coverup, the "great" Mayan Doomsday of 2012 is a hoax, a farce, a "marketing fallacy," a pink elephant, a lie, complete and utter bullsh*t (don't take my word for it, Penn & Teller said so).
But just in case there is any shred of doubt in your mind about Dec. 21 and the end of the world, here's a quick and dirty guide (plus links for further reading) to some of the key doomsday scenarios invented by a few questionable people who have been vying to make money out of your fear. I make no apologies for my sarcasm; I've been debunking this stuff for over four years — I'm all Apocalypsed out.
1) Did the Maya predict doomsday? NO. If the ancient Maya didn't predict doomsday, then what's all this "Mayan Doomsday" baloney? Exactly. It's all made up, invented, fabricated, a big turd. More: "Mayan Doomsday Is Not The Apocalypse."
2) What about Planet X/Nibiru? Isn't some large planetary body predicted to zoom through the inner solar system causing all kinds of carnage? In a word: No. In two words: heck no. Anyone with good eyesight or a low-end telescope would have spotted an incoming planet (or brown dwarf) in the night sky a long time ago. More: "Nibiru: Imaginary Planet Blamed for Earth's Woes"
3) Any marauding asteroids or comets? As far as the world's asteroid-hunting programs are concerned, 90 percent of the massive, 1 kilometer-wide, civilization-ending asteroids have been discovered. No imminent smaller asteroids (i.e. ones that could cause regional/city-wide damage) have been detected. Of course, a bus-sized space rock could flatten your house tomorrow, but really, what are the odds? More: "WISE Discovers 95 New Near-Earth Asteroids"
4) What about a killer zombie hamster uprising? Now you're just being silly (although it does have potential to be the cutest doomsday scenario of all doomsday scenarios).
5) OK, will the Earth flip and swap poles? No. The Earth doesn't work like that (unless it got hit by something big — refer to #2 and #3). What about a crazy geomagnetic shift? That could cause all kinds of mayhem! Um, no, not likely. Although the magnetic poles of the Earth tend to wander and they have changed polarity in the history of our planet, there's no indication of any rapid geomagnetic change any time soon. More: "2012: No Geomagnetic Reversal (Universe Today)"
6) Killer solar flares — come on, that's a realistic doomsday scenario, right? Although the sun is reaching "solar maximum" — a period in the sun's 11-year cycle when flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are more frequent — there's no evidence to suggest that Dec. 21 will include the eruption of a any powerful solar flare. Sure, the sun might produce a flare that could cause radio interference in our atmosphere, but this solar cycle is a comparatively weak cycle, and nothing big is forecast. Space weather is a serious concern, however, as solar activity can interfere with satellites and power grids, but it certainly cannot generate "killer" solar flares. That is a serious misconception as to how the sun works. More: "2012: No Killer Solar Flare (Universe Today)"
7) I'm getting so bored with this. I need a vacation.
8) Galactic alignment? According to many doomsayers, the solar system is passing through the center of the galactic disk right now. They've nailed it down the a specific day — right when the Maya Long Count calendar ends! While it's true there is some wobble in the sun's orbit around the Milky way, there's no real way of knowing when we go through the "center" of the galaxy's equator. Modern astronomy cannot pin that moment down to a year, let alone a day, so how the heck did the ancient Maya do it? Yeah, they were good astronomers, but they weren't that good. Some doomsayers also profess to some divine knowledge that when the sun eclipses the supermassive black hole (Sagittarius A*) at center of the Milky Way during this alignment, some magical force will influence Earth. The fact that the sun isn't even close to eclipsing the galactic center, let alone the presence of a made-up magical force, should reveal that it's all complete bunkum. More: "The Great 2012 Doomsday Scare (NASA)"
9) About that black hole in the center of our galaxy — it's scary right? Not at all. It's located over 20,000 light-years from Earth. It's not going to suck us in any time soon. More: "Lost In The Galactic Core? There's a Map For That"
To be honest, there are many more crappy doomsday scenarios based around Dec. 21, but each and every one is flawed. Some may have been spawned from a shred of scientific fact, but each have blown the significance of the Maya Long Count calendar out of proportion.
However, all doomsday scenarios are born from individuals who want to make money out of people's fear. They've been writing books and making movies all with one goal in mind: to scare you into buying into the hype so they can make money. It's a sinister marketing ploy that has been used for generations, but this "2012 doomsday" has been especially viral because the Internet has aided the spread of scientific disinformation.
So, as Friday arrives and we look forward to Christmas, in the future when you hear about another doomsday, please check the science and do your own research. Do not swallow the lies of a few crazed individuals who want to profit from your fear and confusion. No one has ever prophesized the future, and no calendar end date has signified the end of the world.
On Dec. 21, please raise a glass and celebrate the ancient Maya — their descendents are planning on celebrating the end of the 13th b'ak'tun as a "dawning of a new age." They created an amazing calendar system that has, sadly, been lost in the Western fascination with the Apocalypse. This is the last breath of an ancient civilization that dominated Central America hundreds of years ago. Celebrate Dec. 21, don't fear it.
Want more proof? As Dec. 21 is well and truly underway in New Zealand, I checked in with my Twitter buddy @Nightwyrm, who informed me what the Apocalypse is like down-under:
Image: The view of Earth by Apollo 17 astronauts. Credit: NASA