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Apocalypse? Not now, probably.

It might be the end of the world as we know it on December 21 but Eoin Ryan feels fine…

Image: Apocalypto press pack via Buena Vista

NOT BOTHERING TO buy any Christmas presents. Giving up going to work. Ringing anyone who’s ever annoyed you and telling them what you really think of them. Building a shelter in the garden.

If you’ve recently found yourself doing any of the above, chances are you’re one of the minority who believe the world, or at least human civilisation will end on Friday/today.

The fuss is all down to the 5,125-year ‘long count’ calendar used by the Mayans, a central American civilisation you might have seen cheerfully sacrificing humans in Mel Gibson’s gorefest ‘Apocalypto’, which apparently finishes on 21 December.

The only problem is, it doesn’t. Mayan scholars believe that, rather than being proposed as the day Earth comes to an end, it is merely the last date of a ‘cycle’, not unlike our own millennia.

And just like in the run-up to the year 2000, with the hysteria over the ‘Y2K bug’ that would supposedly send computers worldwide hawywire – how did that turn out again? – there are plenty of conspiracy theorists willing to stir up panic.

One of the most widely-circulated theories is that tomorrow will bring an encounter with a planet called Nibiru, which might well be wearing a novelty moustache and glasses, as it is apparently a master of disguise which has been hiding behind our sun, despite being described as four times the size of the Earth.

Some believe that it will emerge this week, with far too little time to call in Bruce Willis and the Armageddon crew, and – either by colliding with the Earth or causing a ‘polar shift’ – that will be the end of us.

The main proponent of this theory is American Nancy Lieder, who claims to be in telepathic contact with beings from the star system Zeta Reticuli, via an implant in her head. Something to consider for those of us still lacking adequate broadband?

Unfortunately for Nancy, she first proposed 2003 as the date Nibiru would swing by, then, when the unobliging ‘planet’ stood her up, chose this week for its arrival instead.

All very silly and improbable you might think but, amid reports of panic buying of candles in China, sales of shelters going through the roof  in the US and people flocking to a so-called ‘Alien evacuation’ site at in France, governments, scientists and religious leaders have been concerned enough to try and address fears.

NASA, who have received thousands of anxious queries about our alleged looming doom, have released a YouTube clip, with one of their scientists calmly rubbishing the Nibiru theory and other theories about solar storms, planetary alignments and shifting magnetic poles.

“It can’t hide behind the sun forever, and we would’ve seen it years ago,” he said (hopefully without his fingers crossed behind his back).

(via NASAtelevision/Youtube)

The US government’s official website also assured concerned citizens that “scary rumours about the world ending in 2012 are just rumours” while the Vatican, although giving the theory short shrift were perhaps hedging their bets when they reminded us that “Christians believe death can never have the last word”.

Meanwhile, in China, authorities have arrested almost 1,000 alleged ‘cult members’ after rumours began to circulate of ‘three days of darkness’, and inventor Liu Zhenghai has built an ark.

Qiyuan hasn’t actually finished it, mind you, but he pragmatically plans to turn the Noah tribute into a tourist attraction if the weather proves more clement than feared.

Jean Pierre Delord, mayor of tiny French Pyrenean town Bugarach – population 176 – is dealing with an influx of apocalypse believers who are convinced that the mountain of the same name is where the Earth’s hidden aliens have parked their spaceships, making it the only place to catch a lift off this godforsaken rock.

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While the mayor has proven a bit of a spoilsport, banning access to the mountain on Friday, some locals have enthusiastically embraced ‘the end’, charging €15 for a bottle of ‘healing’ water and €400 for a camping space in a field.

Warnings about the end of the world are nothing new course, as our friend from NASA noted:

Since recorded time there have been hundreds of thousands of predictions for the end of the world – and we’re still here.

Some of the more interesting ‘doomsdates’ that have come and gone include: Pope Innocent’s apparent prediction that the world would end in 1284, 666 years after the founding of Islam, the Millerites, followers of an American preacher who were so convinced that the second coming of Jesus would be in 1844 that many gave away all their possessions and Nostradamus’ forecast of a ‘king of terror’ arriving in July 1999. He was nearly right; Robbie Williams played Slane that August.

In terms of how the world will actually end, scenarios range from the unlikely – the wrath of a vengeful God – to the debated – global warming leading to a rise in sea levels that will swallow cities – and the very long-term – our Sun is expected to expand into a red giant star and consume the Earth in around five billion years, sniff.

Interestingly, a Hollywood-style catastrophic asteroid strike is a possibility, though a remote one.

NASA suggest that an asteroid impact serious enough to threaten mass extinctions occurs every million years or so but, happily, they don’t expect any for the next few hundred years at least.

So, if you’ve been swept up in a giddy apocalyptic fever and haven’t bothered with the Christmas presents, it might be best to get a few selection boxes in for the relatives – just in case…

Read: Stock exchange analyst predicts earthquakes for ‘Mayan Apocalypse’ Day>
Doomsday is when again? The world will end in 2012, 2023, 2026…>

About the author:

Eoin Ryan

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