Cutting-Edge Science Reveals: World Won't End on December 21, 2012

By Eliza Strickland | October 19, 2009 5:20 pm

2012Mix one part science fiction, one part misunderstood Mayan history, one part Hollywood movie hype, and quite a bit of public credulity, and what do you get? A new wave of doomsday hysteria that is causing scientists to step forward to reassure the public that the world is not, actually, going to end on December 21, 2012.

The rumors flying around the Internet offer a number of ways in which the world may end, including a planetary collision and changes to the Earth’s rotation or magnetic field, but they all agree on that date of doom. You can bet that the viral marketing campaign promoting the upcoming planetary disaster movie 2012 has a little something to do with the recent uptick in paranoia.

“Two years ago, I got a question a week about it,” said NASA scientist David Morrison, who hosts a website called Ask an Astrobiologist. “Now I’m getting a dozen a day. Two teenagers said they didn’t want to see the end of the world so they were thinking of ending their lives” [Los Angeles Times]. In response, Morrison put together a list [pdf] of 10 frequently asked questions about the potential for apocalypse, and refuted them one by one. The clamor has grown so loud that Morrison coined a new word to describe the phenomenon: “cosmophobia,” a fear of the cosmos.

The frenzy has its origins in a handful of fictional, mythological, and downright confused ideas. To take the fiction first: a writer named Zecharia Sitchin has spent his career promoting the idea that a rogue planet named Nibiru is on an extremely elliptical orbit around the sun, and in 2012 it will return to crash into the Earth–or maybe just to tragically disrupt its rotation or orbit. Devotees of the Nibiru notion suggest that NASA and the world’s governments probably know about this, they just aren’t telling us. But scientists wearily note that if there was a Nibiru heading our way, one of the 100,000 amateur astronomers on Earth would have spotted it long ago. “You have to be pretty dumb not to realize that Nibiru is a no-show,” Morrison says [Washington Post].

The mythological component comes from a misunderstanding of the Mayan culture, a pre-Columbian civilization that had a number of sophisticated calendars. One calendar, which is referred to as the “long count,” measures out a cycle of 394 years; the current cycle comes to an end on December 21, 2012, and some books and Web sites have suggested that the Mayans foresaw the end of the world on that day. Anthropologist Rosemary Joyce explains that the Maya never predicted anything. The 2012 date is approximately when the ancient calendar would roll over, like the odometer on a car; it did not mean the end — merely the start of a new cycle [Los Angeles Times]. As Morrison writes in his list: “I note that my desk calendar ends much sooner, on December 31 2009, but I do not interpret this as a prediction of Armageddon. It is just the beginning of a new year.”

The movie 2012 builds on all these ideas to create what looks like, from the preview, an excellent bit of disaster entertainment. But some scientists are worried that the movie’s viral marketing campaign will mislead the gullible. Sony has set up a fake Web site for something called the Institute for Human Continuity which uses scientific-sounding language to detail the upcoming shredding, torching and obliterating of the world from so many directions it makes your head spin (“large amounts of solar radiation will bombard the Earth and heat up the molten, semi-liquid layers beneath the lithosphere, thus allowing the crust to shift more easily”) [Washington Post]. The site lets people vote for the leader of the post-2012 world, and suggests that they sign up for a lottery that will determine who is saved when the crisis comes.

Among the other ideas being circulated for what will happen that fateful day: the direction of the Earth’s rotation will suddenly reverse, the planet’s magnetic field will fall away, or maybe the Earth will align with the sun or some other planets in such a way as to, um, destroy us all. But as astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson notes in a short video clip refuting such ideas, “It’s just Hollywood.”

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Image: Sony Pictures

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  • Angela

    I seriously don’t believe that the world will end in 2012. Something terrible might happen just not the end of the world! Justlive your life to the fullest. Any way it goes, you live and you die.

  • Alexander

    Many of us have had to take a second look at people like Gerald Celente and others who correctly predicted the present financial meltdown. With this in mind I decided to listen again to a Sitchin audiobook that seemed crazy at the time but has a lot of merit when you hear it again in 2009. His website of is full of “I told you so” statements, including the most recent scientific Journal-Nature- which notes that most other solar systems include “Yo-Yo planets” that have very long elliptical orbits.
    Sitchin quotes the Sumerians who say Nibiru orbits the sun every 3600 years. And Sitchin says it will not be back for a least the end of this century.
    We should all worry more about the Gerald Celente prediction that America will be in the greatest depression ever by 2012. And he has had a perfect track record so far. I would love to see that movie!

  • 2012hoax

    Another, more detailed, resource for 2012 information is We seek to discover, define and debunk every claim made about a 2012 doomsday.

  • Frank

    I saw a campaign sign that said “Palin in oh 12” …

    If the Mayans were so smart they wouldn’ta played polo with human heads, or diefied smelly spaniards on horses.

  • Dennis

    My prediction for December 21, 2012: Hundreds of idiots will do something idiotic. Oh, wait, that happened today, too. Yep, and yesterday, too. Oh, last Thursday there was a big up-tick.

  • Brian

    I like the calendar cycle roll over explanation. It’s a lot more elegant than my old assumption that the Mayans just got sick and tired of keeping such a lengthy calendar.

  • scribbler

    Here’s some simple math: When gas goes up to over four dollars a gallon and the Fed doesn’t intervene, the economy will tank…


    There are so many people “predicting” so many things every day that by the laws of probability, so many will be correct…

    Didn’t Edward Casey say something like that???

    Here’s a bit of metaphysics for ya: When you die, as far as you are concerned, the whole Cosmos ends as well…

    People die every day and at most, you get what, a little over a hundred years? What significance would there be if all died at the same moment?

    If there is no God as some claim, as Dr. Manhattan so eloquently puts it: “And the universe won’t even notice…”

    :-) (sorry, I don’t know how to put a little blood stain on it)

  • bigjohn756

    I think it would be great if the world ended on December 21, 2012. Then I wouldn’t have to go in for my colonoscopy on December 23, 2012.

  • Dan

    The hysteria of the thought that the world will end may cause mass chaos itself. People will say, “the heck with it, why not rifle some pcp into my veins and go nuts.”

  • Marvin

    This will all end in tears, I just know it.

  • parmeshwargupta

    nice picture

  • Nathan

    for those who believe in God, they know that he says that the end will happen when we least expect it, and if everyone is expecting it to happen it wont, plus if for some reason this is truely the right date then the rapture will happen before hand and we will have nothing to worry about

  • Carrick S.

    God doesn’t exist, the rapture is bulls**t and 2012 is just another year. I will laugh at each and every person who kills themselves or pumps themselves full of drugs to avoid having to deal with “The End”.

    [Moderator’s Note: edited out the cuss word.]

  • Joe

    I’d be willing to place a bet with someone that the world won’t end in 2012…. how about a million dollars?

  • Cobra

    Nibiru – big planetary fun?

    “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860)

    San Francisco Chronicle (October 19, 2009): Nibiru – big planetary fun:

    Have you heard about Nibiru? Well, neither had I, and that shows how out of the mainstream both of us are. Nibiru was invented in 1976 by Zecharia Sitchin… Finally, and perhaps most important: If a planet or whatever Nibiru is (uninformed authorities differ) did come close to our planet every 3,600 years, we would have heard about it – 3,600 years ago is about 1400 B.C.E., and the great New Kingdom of Egypt was entering its golden age, and one would think that at least one of the scribes of some of history’s most famous pharaohs would have taken time out to note “thing larger than the moon in the sky.” But they didn’t. Nobody did. It must have been the stealth planet.Full story:

    – CBS News (Jan. 19, 2009) – (AP) Nature turned against one of America’s early civilizations 3,600 years ago, when researchers say earthquakes and floods, followed by blowing sand, drove away residents of an area that is now in Peru…
    – In 2003, the Science et Vie magazine (the February issue) presented the elliptical trajectory of another planet in our solar system.
    – “Planet X confirmed” – cosmonaut and pilot Marina Popovich… Russian Television Reports on Nibiru…
    – The Planet Eris/ Nibiru periodically getting closer to Earth once in 3,600 years generates numerous climate changes:
    – 7,200 years ago, during the cataclysm known as “Noah’s flood“, “sudden changes in temperature, violent storms and water avalanches from Antarctica broke off from their ‘ice prison’ Dr. John T. Hollin at Maine University (U.S.A.) considers that large pieces periodically came out of the Antarctic ice field creating a huge tide” (Zecharia Sitchin, The Twelfth Planet).
    – 3,600 years ago, during the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt in the middle of the second millennium B.C., the Earth suffered big cataclysms. “A celestial body that recently entered our solar system – a new comet – came very close to Earth [causing – A/N] the eventual disappearance of the glacier layer“ (Immanuel Velikovsky, “Worlds in Collision“)… ECOLOGICAL EVIDENCE from Previous PLANET X Passages:

  • JP

    The 2012 apocalypse will be as exciting as Y2K….The day will pass like any other and people will wonder why they believed such irrational proposals. In the Mayan calendar it symbolizes the alignment of the planets and start of a new cycle. As for the pole shift theory, I had a professor that spoke about it briefly, he said according to records Earth is due for a reverse in polarity, which could cause natural disasters, etc. I’m still not buying that theory, but I do believe sun spot activity around 2012 could cause some issues, knocking out satellites perhaps.

  • JD

    They forgot a couple of sources fueling some of this hysteria.

    Didn’t the Hopi in Arizona also predict something around that date? And there’s also Terrence McKenna. He did enough LSD by himself to declare 5 people legally insane and then devised some type of ‘Novelty Calendar’ that among other things, predicted a sort of transendental, consciousness-expanding event around that date.

  • frank

    this is all good information, but perhaps a little incomplete. as a teacher, i’ve been asked quite a few times about the poles shifting; ie, the magnetic field of the earth switching so that the north pole becomes the south pole. my response has always been, in the fossil record there is evidence that the poles have shifted in the past, millions of years apart. i researched it, but only found hints of facts. i asked someone i know, who has a doctorate in geology, his response was that no one really knows why the poles have shifted in the past and testing the earth’s core is impossible at this time. he did go on to say that scientists have speculated that the earth’s molten core has currents and the shifting of these currents may have caused the pole shifting in the past.

    there is more hype about the mayan calendar. more than 20 years ago the hype was around, only it was a little clearer as to the source of the predictions. i researched it then, and the mayan calendar expired on different dates and even years, it all depended on who was interpreting the data. later, people would add that the calendars of other ancient peoples expired on the same year or even day. this was just repeating an unfounded idea over and over until it became fact when people accepted it from hearing it so many times. i researched this and couldn’t find this correlation, and for some cultures, i couldn’t even find that they even had a highly evolved calendar, let alone that it would expire on 2012. in the beginning to mid ’80’s many people were saying the mayan calendar was ending in 1987, in august; there was an event.
    hinged on this, was a peace movement from the ’70’s about ‘ring a bell for peace’ on december 12th, at noon. this made a comeback in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. it evolved into ‘think peace everyday at 12:12pm.’ people wrote books about it and eventually someone planned a new age event that year on december 12th. new people wrote new books. it was being called, “twelve-twelve.” predicting the future in books and from psychics, an upcoming major event would be the ‘twelve-twelve’ on 2012. it was still a far off event, which is their favorite way to predict; “sometime in the future other than right now.”

    25 years later, many of the little details have been forgotten and we are stuck with this monstrous, erroneous belief of fear, revisiting the absurdness of Y2Krap.

  • nanleeann

    “Catastrophic thinking” is an emotional/mental disorder which requires concerted personal mental effort and understanding by the individual who desires to have a more healthy mental and emotional life, and/or help from a professional. Obviously, given the popularity of this prognostication and Tinsel Town’s “fright” movies, there is a significant amount of human beings who just love to live in a state of hysteria and fear. Wake up folks, there are countless other ways of determining that You exist.

    My complements to the folks above who responded above to this phenomenon with opinion, wit and tongue-in-cheek.,,, [especially bigjohn756 who Says: “”I think it would be great if the world ended on December 21, 2012. Then I wouldn’t have to go in for my colonoscopy on December 23, 2012.”, he has my empathy.]

  • Em

    I think it will be interesting to see what happens in the days prior to 2012. I’m assuming mass hysteria, looting, rioting, suicide, homicide… etc. However it may be a good thing, I know I’ve been asking Mother Nature to please reclaim the earth for a while!

    If it is a doomsday scenerio I know what I’m stocking up on!

    Canned Food
    and of course- toilet paper.

    Hey, they’re going to be precious commodities in the post-apocolyptic world. Everyone will want to protect themselves and after they down that food and water they’re gonna have to go sometime!

  • b.j

    I thingk its pritty scary that all this is out thair about 2012 i wonder if it will happen or not my ansesters always said when they were kids thair ansesters told them that the world whould end on the year 2000 but nothing.But they also said that the world was gona end by fire or water.I am trying not to beleave that this may happen.Just to freak us out even more they had to make a movie about it.

  • Pat Torngren

    Someone above quoted Edgar Cayce. He was a very interesting phenomenon, and some of what he predicted was in fact correct (especially his diagnosis and cures for sick people.) However much of what he predicted didn’t happen. For e.g. he predicted that in the 1980s, when all the major planets lined up, there would be massive earthquakes and the entire coast of California would sink under the sea. He predicted the same for New York. He also gave a list of places it would be safe to live, and some people actually moved there. In warning, a book about this, called “The Jupiter Effect” was published in the 1970s and people became very concerned as the time approached. But the 1980s came and went… Even George Orwell’s 1984!

    People have predicted the end of the world throughout history. Christians who hold an “escatalogical” view, have given many dates, but nothing has happened. One group predicted the “second coming” at a certain date in the early 1900s. When nothing happened, they said the “second coming” did happen on that date, only most people didn’t notice it.

    It’s unlikely that the world will end. But unless we clean up our act and stop polluting the world and causing global warming, human life on the earth may end. That might be a good thing as it would give the planet, and nature, a chance to recover from the damage we are doing.

  • The Sine

    I nominate David Morrison for Planetary Ambassador!

  • don

    The world is going to end on December 21, 2012.

  • Daniel Hazelton Waters

    We are living in extraordinary times. I believe people will survive whatever is going to happen in the future. At least until we evolve into a higher lifeforms. There is going to be a rough time ahead as our economic system fails some more. I would not be surprised if some major event actually occurs on 2012. But I think we are going to get hit now with economic chaos. 2012 is the beginning of a new world. As for people who think nothing will ever happen no this eventually all fiat currencies come to an end. Our US dollar denominated world is probably reaching it’s expiration date. It’s leveraged to untold amounts and backed by untold debt. Yes the end for this system is near… I would be surprised to see it continue on like it has for the rest of my life.

  • Harry

    You all might enjoy googling “The Newest Pretrib Calendar” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” – both definitely NOT recommended by rapture traffickers like Lindsey and LaHaye! Harry

  • Ian

    Best know where your towel is eh?

    Not that anything is going to happen. Sorry folks but the world isn’t going to magically fix itself.


    “SPEND ALL YOUR MONEY NOW”! The end of the world is coming! Stop saving all your money we’re all gonna die! Sell your house and car and quit your job and travel the world! 2012 is right around the corner!



  • Joe Anderson

    If someone wants to take their live before this date because they dont want to see the END of the World, you should let them for their will be less stupid people on our planet taking up valuable resources.

  • parveez

    Dear All,

    I hope it will happen, as u known history will not an mistery,
    for every event their is behind a reason, better leave to think about this concept & lead ur remaing life wit helping other’s,& love..
    keep rocking ,,

  • Filipe

    The world will end, not necessarily in 2012, but when it reaches the end of its cycle. By human intervention(nuclear missiles exploding, deterioration of the environment) or via the collapsing of the Sun-which will happen in no less than a billion years from now. Disasters caused by human intervention could, in fact make it happen much sooner. But I just don´t believe such thing happens in 21st Dec. 2012. It won´t end, it´s just gonna get a little worse everyday. It´s what we´ve seen so far for the last 3 or 4 decades…

  • Haley

    It says in the bible that God is the only One who knows when the world is going to end and it will be at a time when people least expect it. Just live you life to the fullest and be a good person who follows the path God wants you to take and you will have nothing to worry about. He will take all Christians like “a theif in the night” and we will not be here for the chaos and madness of the end of the world. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”-Matthew 6:27. I am not a “bible beater”, but I do hope that everyone will give God a chance to make a difference in their life by reading their bible and having faith and trusting in Him. It really is a weight lifted to have Him take all your cares and concerns away…even if the world ends! :)

  • Trish

    Ever heard of Y2K? This is the same idea.

  • KatieLouise

    I’m really worried.
    I have seen some good evidence that has made me believe this isn’t going to happen, but on the other hand, I also believe some of the sites that say it will happen.
    I’m so confused! And I don’t want to die when I’m just 17!

  • Anonymous

    Listen to me. You’re not going to die. The world is not going to end, and this kind of obscene viral rumoring should be really made illegal. There has to be a limit to how much bulls**t you could throw around on the less educated sectors of society, specifically the kind of bulls**t masquerading as scientific “facts”, since a lot of people have no conception of a reliable source, let alone the workings of the scientific process. And to anyone who understands the deep ridiculousness of this hoax, please do not allow that type of unestablished garbage to spread around unchallenged. Do not disregard it as an idiotic joke or underestimate its potential to do real damage. Remember that this is how religions originally started, a seemingly benign combination of rumors and unfounded stories, slowly maturing into deep seated beliefs with real, harmful potentials.

    [Moderator’s note: edited out the cuss words.]

  • Hal

    For the real skinny on the Mayan Calendar and the current crop of Gold Mayan-ers, Google “The Newest Pretrib Calendar” and, since even rapture-ranters are promoting the hoax, Google “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty.” Hal

  • http://yomomma Anonymous

    someone has 2 announce the truth without people searching 4 answers on the internet. soem answers coudl be false others so called true. see what obamas gota say about the end of the world!! so that poeple dotn kill them self be4 that date

  • Nitin

    I seriously believe that the world will end in 2012. Something terrible happen, but we need to do strongly stand on it, how the educated all the people regarding this cricies.

    God always with you and ur family ………

  • Anonymous

    All I know the world won’t end It will just start a new cycle! You don’t have to listen to me. But I am trying to say that how I may know how the world won’t end! Well not just because I am Native I listen to the spirits and what they say to me (Listen Carefully) The spirits’ say “When you grow up..” And thats how I know the worlds not going to end. But any way how can’t we celebrate Jesuses BirthDay So theres one way how I Know!!


  • CPT

    Were some individuals really given the knowledge to say definitively either way that there will or won’t be catastrophy, chaos or an end to all on Dec,21,2012? The answer would very likely be no, so it quite arrogant some of the replies I read so far and how people are so CERTAIN of their point of view.

    I myself have read many differing opinions/thoughts and theories and just cannot say i am convinced either way…time will reveal the reality I guess.

    However at the worst I would say take this opportunity to grant yourself access to the knowledge of our reality(aka our unviverse and all thats in it ie. our planets/solar system/galaxies/stars etc…) So at the end of all this even if nothing were to happen you would have learned something about the ASTOUNDINGLY AMAZING place in which we “exist”. It truly is AWESOME!!

    *note that also i’ve read that things will begin to change(start to happen) on the dates nearing and leading up to 12/21/12 not just on 12/21/12 itself.

    take a read here if the scientific factors of that date and the dates leading up to it intrigues you or peaks your curiousity. In my opinion its a really good read and the related article links within the article too are must reads.

    Peace-be kind to ALL beings that we share our world with!

  • http://doscover Allen Peters

    What is the potential of some catastrophic event happening when the sun aligns pefectly with the center of the galaxy on December 21, 2012? Ad the fact that the earths magnetic field, the magnetosphere has been reported over 10 years ago as having a huge hole in it.
    Why is the United States government constructing huge (300,000 square feet) underground living quarters under the Denver airport? There are 13 construction companies working at a feverish pace to this day to build something there! There is evidence this is not the only one being built coast to coast and it has been ongoing for 10 years…secretly.

  • http://thisone Poppy

    if antaricar and north pole do not swap places in time then the world will end!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Itopa

    what would happen to Africa if world come to an end? some people may have there evil plan on how to distroy some inportant part of the world

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  • JustAGirl

    can anyone explain me what is the point with October 21st, 2011? Or some similar date, but this year. Recently a friend of mine posted a link with some theory that planet x + comet elenin are coming this year? and that the first proof we ll have is on August 3th when we ll see 2 suns in the sky. And then after that, the megatsunamis, -earthquakes, pole shift, etc.
    Wtf??? 😛

  • amblipygid

    And when the end comes you will all die a horrible lingering death. You should not wait until the end comes. You should all end it NOW. But before you do, convince 10 of your friends to go with you, and they to convince 10 of their friends, etc. And if you cannot convince them to go with you by choice, you should do them the favor of taking them by force. Imagine if there were ten million James Jones of Jonestown, Guyana!! That would account for five billion fools that the earth would be shed of.

    As for me, when you fools do that I will LAUGH AND LAUGH and revel in a world devoid of FOOLS. The majority of these replies clearly illustrate the pathetic ignorance of the majority of the population. Most of you cannot even write in a coherent or even grammatically correct manner. You prefer to believe a bunch of bulls–t and ignorance that cannot be proven than the cold hard facts of scientific reason. It is simply beyond your kin to grasp the concepts of reality. You live in a vapid cloud of blissful stupidity. But there is nothing that I nor anyone else can say that will convince you. You wallow in your ignorance as pigs wallow in mud. The difference is that pigs wallow for a reason. You wallow because you have no reason. Please take my advice above, and good riddance to you.

  • M

    Dear amblipygid,

    By your ranting, you sound like quite an angry, sad, and miserable person. If I had a choice to live with people in ignorant bliss or cynical hate filled anger, I would choose bliss.

    You might want to ask yourself why you are so angry and miserable. Just because someone believes in something that is not proven or bigger than themselves does not make them ignorant, it makes them visionaries. Without them, we would still believe the earth is flat and living in the dark ages.

  • Daniel Hazelton Waters

    I read in the book sacred geometry last night that long before some people believed the world was flat in the dark ages there was a person who actually calculated the circumference of earth to astonishing accuracy using poles in two different places. Ancient people were pretty much as clever as ever. Though more information is available all the time. at an exponentially increasing rate…


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