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Apocalypse, not

Why scientists always knew we would be chill (for the next 48 years at least)

Under Dark Matter, Founder of Monolith Magazine Lore Oxford discusses fringe science and the paranormal every month.

Today has become one of the World’s most anticipated dates. According to the Mayan calendar, December 21st, 2012 marks the end of the 13th bak’tun (a 144,000-day cycle), at which point the calendar resets and the world — apparently — ends. Avid believers have trekked across the globe to find solace in French mountain ranges, or alternatively celebrate their imminent end at festivals and spiritual gatherings. Those who aren’t prepared to write off the human race quite yet have taken pleasure in euphemised alternatives, involving a mass awakening of the collective consciousness or a long-awaited alien invasion. 

If displayed in modern typography, the Mayan calendar would be similar to a cars odometer, consisting of five ascending cycles. Its rotating digits give time a cyclical, and in turn, repetitive nature. December 21st, 2012 is the date, which the calendar reads for the first time since it began, on August 11th, 3114BC. This concept of repetition in time led the Mayans to prophesise and create rituals for the beginnings and ends of certain cycles, often based upon imagery connoting rebirth or occurrences during previous time cycles. While the completion of the most significant rotation on the calendar was indeed symbolic, apocalyptic prophecy that dates back to the Mayans is actually suspiciously scarce.

Science has already covered its bases, aggressively disproving apocalyptic predictions wherever an opportunity arises. NASA released a fact-filled micro-documentary on December 13th (so confident in their findings, they released it 10 days early), entitled, The World Didn’t End Yesterday, and articles have littered newsprint and e-publications alike, listing all the reasons that Earth will absolutely still be here tomorrow. If a meteor, comet or planet were on a collision course with Earth, it would be a beacon of imminent destruction on our horizons. The Sun is currently undergoing its weakest solar cycle of the last 50 years, and since solar flares have thus far failed to destroy the human race, it’s highly unlikely they’re about to start now. Moreover, the suggestion of galactic alignment — that today the sun lined up perfectly with the centre of the Milky Way — isn’t even particularly accurate. According to NASA, our sun passed 6.6 degrees North of our galaxy’s centre, and was actually closer to it a few days ago.

Besides, this is hardly the first time that the imminent annihilation of the human race has been supposedly certain. One of the first doomsday predictions dates back as far as 2800BC. An Assyrian tablet discovered in 1847, which dates back to an empire that existed until around 3,000 years ago, proclaims, "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common." Since then, a number of cases of galactic alignment have also been predicted. One previously esteemed meteorologist, Albert Porta, was adamant that the position of certain planets on December 17th, 1919 would create a “magnetic current that would pierce the sun”, ending the world in a fiery Armageddon. Even Isaac Newton predicted the end of the World, although he was hesitant to give an exact date. According to a letter he wrote in 1704, though, Earth’s got at least until 2060 before bunker building and food stock-piling become a real necessity. He aptly noted, "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end."