Will the world end in 2012? Not likely

The premise of ABC's hit show, "Wife Swap," is that two women swap lives with each other for two weeks. The first week, the new "wife" must follow the rules of her host family, filling in to do whatever tasks the wife normally does in that particular setting. The second week, after observing the host family, the new wife can change things up by changing the rules for the host family.

It's a rather tense situation at times, because the wives each go into their host homes thinking their own way of living is best. Each and every time, the wives, as well as their families, learn something about themselves and the lives of their families.

In a recent episode, a mom from a family who focuses all of its energy on the eldest daughter, who is a golf prodigy, swapped places with the mom from a family who believes the end of the world with take place Dec. 21, 2012. The end-of-the-world mom was adamant about her beliefs, and spent much of her visit with her host family trying to convince them she is right.

But is she right? Is there any truth to her belief? Why do so many people believe this date marks the end of life as we know it?

Believers point to the ancient Maya cyclical calendars, the longest of which renewed itself approximately 5,125 years ago and is set to end again, supposedly with catastrophic consequences, in 2012. They point to the ancient Egyptians, who saw 2012 as a year of great change as well. Believers also say science proves the theory – case in point, the sharp increase in the number of sunspots and sun flares for 2012, sure to cause electrical failures and satellite disruptions.

Proponents say 2012 will bring unprecedented catastrophe. There will be, they say, a polar reversal, whereby the north will become south, and the sun will rise in the west. There will be shattering earthquakes, massive tidal waves and simultaneous volcanic eruptions. Nuclear reactors will melt, buildings will crumble and a cloud of volcanic dust will block out the sun for 40 years. Predictions also say the sun will come in a perfect line with the black hole that is situated in the center of the Milky Way on Dec. 12, 2012, the date of the winter solstice.

Believers are more adamant about one point than the fact that the events will occur: only the prepared will survive.

This may all sound crazy, but there are thousands of people all over the world who are preparing for the end. Survival groups exist in Europe, Canada and the United States. A single search for "2012" and "the end of the world" brings up more than 300,000 hits.  There are countless Web sites dedicated to counting down the days and helping followers get prepared.

But is this thing real?

First of all, a polar shift couldn't possibly happen on that date, since a shift of that magnitude takes roughly 5,000 years to complete and doesn't start on a specific date and time.

Second, the Mayan calendar wasn't designed to calculate dates beyond 2012. Modern calendars simply roll over when they reach the end of a cycle. Just because the Mayan calendar ended in 2012, it doesn't mean the world will end. It just means they didn't calculate any higher.

According to NASA, there is no real basis for this belief. NASA's scientists say, "For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012."
Published Monday, July 19, 2010 3:41 PM by bulldog
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