So here we are, 2012, supposedly the countdown is on to the end of the world.  There are some excellently constructed theories and explanations on both sides of the debate. With all the physics-and-astrology babble flying around, I had to sit down and do some research for myself. This is what I’ve found.

At the forefront of the sandwich-board argument there is the ancient Mayan calendar, which ominously ends on December 21 2012. Since it is such a widely popular theory, science has gone ahead and poked a lot of holes in it. For starters those who study Mayan civilization explain what exactly this calendar was to the Mayans. The Mayans had four calendars which each served specific needs. For example, “The Round Calendar” spanned about 52 years, similar to the approximate life time of an individual. It was used to chronicle day to day life events for people.  However, when the desire to chronicle historical events or mark days which might be more than 52 years in the future arose, a new system was required. Hence, the long count calendar hailed by conspiracy theorists. Historians tell us the calandar’s end is not likely intended to say “this calendar will end at doomsday,” but it is more likely intended to say “you can’t possibly have wanted to plan something more than 5126 years in the future. When I end, start over”. Furthermore, it is difficult to translate time events on the ancient calendar into time frames on our modern (Gregorian) calendar. Still, conspiracy theorists insist the Mayan end date can be trusted because of the Maya’s known obsession with astrology and impressive-for-their-time skill at studying the sky.

Scientists point out that there are concerns that some of their reference points may have been based on mistakes. For example, the date of a particular battle was set by the position of Venus, which some modern researchers believe may actually have been a meteor. This would mean that while the Maya’s could recognize and usually follow Venus, in terms of this particular event, they got their date mixed up by a misidentification of Venus, throwing off our ability to place this event on their calendar.  I tried to go through a number of theories, including “In December 2012 Earth will be in perfect alignment with a huge black hole in the milky way”, “the Sun’s magnetic shield is weakening, allowing it’s solar flares to escape and reach us” (no I’m not kidding, some people think that), “Our magnetic field is weakening so solar flares will knock out our power grid and a series of natural disasters will be sparked”, and (one of my personal favourites) “The Earth is going to stop spinning, then start spinning the other way, so quickly that enormous earth quakes and tsunami’s will be caused and they will wipe society out.”

I once fancied going through these individually, picking out highlights and debunking them (or supporting them, had science warranted it) on a personal, individual basis, much as I have done with the Mayan Calendar story above.  I was stopped from doing this when scientists (mostly from NASA, as so much of this is astronomically based) responded to each conspiracy in a way too similar to be repeated for each scenario.  It all comes down to “science” as a whole collective body saying to the panic-inducing and the panicked alike: Stop being ridiculous. If that little phrase isn’t comforting enough however, here’s some of the logic that it’s based on.

Geophysicists have a habit of examining rocks, dug up from deep within the Earth, to learn what the atmosphere was like when that particular rock was at the surface.  In this process they can examine the metal in the rocks, and the position of that metal, to determine the magnetic atmosphere of the Earth at that time.  It is through this process that we have learned the Earth’s poles can flip.  They don’t do so on a whim; usually only once every 200,000 years… except they haven’t actually flipped since about 780,000 years ago.  Conclusions to be drawn from this are that yes, we’re sort of due for a pole reversal because it’s happened before but remember, life on Earth went on. It did not destroy the planet or life on the planet.  Ah-ha! So the poles will reverse! Yes. They will. Our magnetic shield today is indeed approximately 10% weaker than it was when we first began measuring it in 1831.  We recognize the weakening of the shield as the beginning of a process during which the shield will dissolve into multiple magnetic North and South poles which will all travel sporadically before the shield begins to strengthen again and voila! As it strengthens one single North pole and one single South pole will prevail, and they will be in positions opposite to where they are now.  There’s no need for us to be alarmed though, because this process will take thousands of years; we who are living now, without some speedy fantastic miracle medical breakthrough, will not be able to witness the pole switching, or even the period of multiple travelling poles, for that matter. We’re kind of here for the boring part.

So as the Earth’s shield weakens, and problems with our Ozone layer continue, we are at a risk for some solar flare activity. This is not expected to end us though. We should see some increased aurora activity (aka more pretty Northern lights) and be prepared to handle a few power glitches. Again, nothing that should wipe out life on Earth. Furthermore, various scientists would like the general public to know that the black hole which will reportedly be in line with on December 21 2012 will not affect us; it’s been there for a while, and we’re fine. Being “in line” with it is not expected to change that. They also inform us that “Planet X” also called “Niburu” does not exist. Plain and simple. It’s not real, so it cannot hit us and thusly will not destroy us.

We should be able to recognize that if there was a planet, meteoroid, asteroid, super nova, black hole or other space thing that was causing us danger, we would see it coming. We have huge telescopes stationed around the world which are operated by numerous highly educated people, likely more educated than many of the conspiracy theorists, and certainly more educated than I, who dedicate their adult lives to knowing when we are in danger, and figuring out how to get us out of danger. If they’re not panicking, I’m not so sure I need to be.

But just in case you aren’t finding my calm contagious, you can browse Google and find that there are hundreds of websites and ”documentaries” dedicated to explaining why science is wrong or how the truth is being hidden from us. You can purchase any number of expensive gadgets and last-forever-store-up-a-few-years-worth kind of food. You can also invest in a secret bunker in a remote location which will shield you from any cosmic disaster. You and your family can stay safe, eat fake preserved food, and survive the end of the world, for just a few million dollars.