Following the Hollywood blockbuster 2012, there has been widespread interest in the 2012 Mayan prediction for the end of the world. As professional scientists running this website we had received several requests for our views on this doomsday prediction.
Of course the event has now passed and life goes on. What really amazed us was the number of people on the news thinking and acting as if the world is about to end. How very sad that they cannot see that it was all just hype and nonsense. It all starts from the ancient Mayan calendar (a great feat by any measure, for example they predicted a lunar month lasted 29.5305 days, a mere 34 seconds out). This calendar ends abruptly on a date they record as 126.96.36.199, or 21 December 2012. Nobody knows what this means and although an ancient stone tablet was uncovered in Mexico which describes 188.8.131.52 it was damaged with some of the hieroglyphics illegible.
It surprises us that people take Hollywood movies at all seriously. We are based in England and have learnt over the years that Hollywood has no issues with reporting historical events wrongly in the name of entertainment. For example, war films made by Hollywood where Americans defeat the Germans in a particular battle where historically America had not entered the war and it was the British that were doing the fighting. I remember a Hollywood producer being interviewed in Britain, stating that his war film could not be historically correct as it would not have appealed to the American public. The film 2012 is no exception, as we shall explain.
In the Hollywood film 2012, a planet called Nibiru is heading towards Earth. Let's be clear about this scientifically, if this were true in 2009 Nibiru would be the second brightest object in the night sky after the moon. You would be able to see it with the naked eye - just think what all the amateur and professional astronomers would be doing. It would be impossible to hide.
It is true that Earth could be hit be a large comet or asteroid, but to wipe out life on Earth it would have to be huge, several miles across. NASA's Near Earth Object Program has reported that there are no serious threats for the foreseeable future. If you really want a doomsday scenario to worry about, we suggest the supervolcano under Yellowstone park. It will explode one day and when it does it will have a massive impact on life on Earth. However, even this will not kill all life - although it may knock us back to the stone age for a while!!
If you're interested in learning more click on the links below. The column with the Union Jack is in Pounds Sterling and the Stars and Stripes in US Dollars.