The supposed end of the world is only days away — some are predicting mass destruction when another planet collides with Earth, and some are waiting for a solar storm to wreak havoc on the world.
It all goes back to the Mayans, that ancient Mesoamerican civilization that preceded the bloodthirsty Aztecs. A strikingly sophisticated culture, the Mayans are renowned for their architectural achievements and for their preoccupation with astronomy and the passage of time, which played a key role in their religion, politics and culture.
That the 5,000-year Mayan Long-Count calendar, incidentally one of three calendars the priest class used to mark special events and track the fortunes of the civilization, comes to an end on Dec. 21, 2012 has been the subject of New Age speculation for decades.
But it carries no weight with the scientific community.
Still, speculation about cataclysmic events has been so high that NASA issued a statement this month regarding the turning of the Mayan calendar cycle, noting that it's nothing to get worked up about — it's no more exciting than tacking a new calendar to the wall on Jan. 1.
“Their calendar does not end on Dec. 21, 2012,” a report on the agency's website said. “It's just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one. It's just like on Dec. 31 — our calendar comes to an end, but a new calendar for the next year begins on Jan. 1.”
The space agency also spoke out about specific ideas of the form the supposed apocalypse would take.
It squashed the theory of Niburu, a planet four time's Earth size, crashing into our home planet by stating the flying entity would now be visible to the naked eye.
“This enormous planet is supposed to be coming toward Earth, but if it were, we would've seen it long ago and if it were invisible somehow, we would've seen the effects of this planet on neighbouring planets,” NASA stated.
An Earth-shattering solar storm is also quite unlikely.
“Now, solar storms do exist,” NASA stated. “The sun's activity goes through a cycle that reaches a maximum every 11 years. The next solar maximum when you might expect enhanced solar activity will take place actually in May of 2013.”
Any other sort of natural disaster, like an ill-causing planetary alignment, are highly unlikely. Claims of the sun, Earth and other planets lining up to cause tidal effects just aren't realistic.
“First of all, there are no planetary alignments in December of 2012 and even if there were, there are no tidal effects on the Earth as a result,” NASA stated.
“The only two bodies in the solar system that can affect the Earth's tides are the moon, which is very close, and the sun, which is massive and also fairly close.”
Over the years, there have been “thousands of predictions” for the end of Earth, however, the planet is still turning.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” NASA experts stated.
A number of Sudburians asked on the street said they weren't at all concerned about the looming doomsday. Most were planning to go about their daily tasks — going to work, preparing for Christmas and not worrying about the end of the world.
News reports state others have expressed concern, though. An article published through PRNewswire out of Edinburgh, Scotland, said there has been an 41-per-cent increase in one-way searches to rural farming villages.
However, most are spending their money on more conventional flights. Across Europe, Dec. 22 is poised to be the busiest getaway date of the year, with people travelling for the holidays, the article stated.
The occasion has sparked an interest in emergency preparedness. Many have taken the date as a reminder to prepare for disaster situations. According to the Canadian Red Cross, it's always a good idea to have emergency items, whether or not the end of the world is coming.
They recommend having four litres of water per person per day, packaged or canned food that's replaced annually, walking shoes, rain gear, spare clothing, blankets and sleeping bags, a first-aid kit and prescription medications, personal supplies, extra glasses, a battery-powered radio and flashlight and extra batteries, extra cash, spare car keys, a cellphone with contact information and important documents for all family members.