We are now officially one month away from the End of the World as We Know It. On December 21st, 2012, a never-before-seen planet will collide with the Earth. (Wait, let me try that again). On December 21st, 2012, a massive solar flare will lead to the Earth’s polarity reversing. (OK, OK, one more please). On December 21st, 2012, Earth’s alignment with the center of the galaxy will rip a hole in the fabric of space-time and bring forth the Old Ones of Lovecraftian lore. (All hail Chthulu!)
Obviously none of those things will happen. And December 21st, 2012 will pass on like New Year’s Day 2000 passed – when the Y2K Bug didn’t lead to crashing airplanes and launched nukes – with nary an end in sight and a lot of disappointment from people who’ve spent years telling us the sky is falling. If it doesn’t and I’m somehow wrong, I’ll refund you the entire cost of this blog post. Of course, that’s if I’m still alive.
But the fact remains that there is a whole industry invested in the whole “Potential Doomsday” scenarios. History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic and TLC have countless hours to fill and they can’t just put more marathons of “Blue-Collar Guys Doing Jobs You Don’t Want to Do.” In the eternal words of Governor LePetomaine, “We have to protect our phoney, baloney jobs!” So you can bet that there are enough incentivized individuals to ensure that, even when their 12/21/2012 predictions and fear-mongering are all for nothing, we are going to get more “Apocalypse” specials and shows trying to cram Nostradamus down any possible opening available.
So in order to help you out, here’s some of the more notorious dates that will come to stand in place for 12/21/2012 when that day passes. Get the popcorn and prepare yourselves!
The asteroid 99942 Apophis made headlines when it was discovered in 2004 due to predictions that it could hit the Earth in 2029 (1 chance in 37). Then, when further analysis revealed that it’s a 0 chance of a strike, the fear became that it would pass through a “gravitational keyhole” (a spot in space where the path of the asteroid would be affected by Earth’s gravity and tugged into a collision course with Earth when it returns seven years later. By 2006, the odds of either of those events happening were downgraded even further. Now don’t let me mislead you: Apophis will pass close to the Earth; right between us and the satellites we have in geosynchronous orbit – akin to having a bullet shot go under your armpit. But it won’t hit the Earth.
February 5, 2040: 2011 AG5 passes near Earth
The second of third potential asteroids with near-Earth trajectory, 2011 AG5 will pass the Earth twice. First in 2023, then once again in 2040. Why is 2040 more interesting? Because it’ll have a 1 in 500 chance to strike the Earth. Neither opportunity is expected to end with a massive blast – and 2011 AG5 isn’t big enough to wipe humanity out – but I doubt that’ll stop anyone desperate to tell you it will.
September 8, 2040: The Next Planetary Alignment
Part of the push for 2012 as the End Date is that a planetary alignment is occurring. Apparently some people put great stock in the idea of celestial bodies in a straight line. Tidal waves churn and the pull of gravity increases or some such. Except that planetary alignments occur every 57 years. The last one was in 1983 and, despite the fact that Van Halen broke up afterwards, the world didn’t end. But again, it’s a nice date and a nice celestial event to pin the End of the World Date onto.
Imagine humanity creating Skynet or The Matrix. That’s the short short (VERY short) version behind the technological singularity, an event where humanity’s drive towards creating newer, faster and better computers eventually gives birth to some great intelligence that supersedes us. Proposed by writers like Vector Vinge and John von Neumann, it’s gained popularity thanks to the work of futurist Ray Kurzweil. He proposes in his book, The Singularity is Near, that by 2045, technology will have reached that point. Super-intelligent computers? Well, we know what follows afterwards.
June 3, 2048: 2007 VK184 passes near Earth.
Another asteroid? Well yes. Should Apophis and 2011 AG5 pass us by, the get ready for 2007 VK184 (I’m sure that by then, it’ll have a new name. Maybe Susan. Suuuuusssssaaaannnn). It’s got a 1 in 3000 chance of hitting the Earth. You’ve a better chance of writing a bestseller, winning an Academy Award and having the Social Security Administration declare you dead due to a glitch! In any case, by now it should be clear that near-Earth objects are common. And while they should be researched and catalogued, they shouldn’t be feared just for the sake of being afraid of something.
In 2003, the BBC ran a program detailing some of the lesser-known and more occult beliefs of Sir Isaac Newton. Amongst them were his obsession with researching The Bible for hidden codes. Letters from Newton reveal that he believed that the world could end in 2060 – he added 1,260 years to the birth of the Holy Roman Empire (800 AD) based on his readings of the Book of Daniel. Which readings? No clue. He gives no details as to the End but clearly expects the latter chapters of Revelation to play out. Expect that, if all the other dates pass us by, this will be the next big year that people will pick up on. 2012 is so yesterday. 2060! It’s time to Party!
Do I think the world will end? In time, yes. But of course, everything ends. That’s the nature of the universe. Entropy always wins. But remember, just because someone tells you that The End is Near doesn’t mean it is.