Although nobody seriously believes the world is going to end tomorrow, Dec. 21, 2012, as the Mayan Calendar and other doomsday scenarios suggest, that hasn't stopped people from discussing it like it was a serious theory to begin with. The existence of other Mayan calendars that stretch even further in time than the impressively accurate 5,125-year stone calendar that Friday's end-of-the world prediction is based on — including a calendar that will still be reasonably accurate 7,000 years from now — should have nipped all this talk in the bud — but where's the fun in that?
Here's why it's not going to happen:
1. Nate Silver hasn't said anything on his blog, FiveThiryEight.com. In the last U.S. election, statistician Silver batted almost .1000 by accurately predicting the results of the presidential election and nine swing states. He wasn't perfect (he missed some races in Nebraska or something) but pretty damn close. If he's not posting graphs to show the end of the world is happening, then it's not going to happen, 99 per cent guaranteed, 19 times out of 20 with a margin of error of +/-3 per cent.
2. NASA is skeptical. So skeptical that they even took a break doing serious science-y stuff like crashing probes into the moon and steering three rovers around mars to post a whole section online about Dec. 21. "The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along fine for more than four billion years and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012."
Here's why NASA's opinions matter. The Mayan calendar is only part of the Apocoalypse theory, with the other part being a Sumerian legend that a mystery planet would crash into the earth right about now — an acient prediction that shoehorned nicely with the Mayan calendar. But if a planet was going to smack into us on Dec. 21, I think NASA would have seen it — after all, they can now see planets orbiting stars a thousand light years away. They can also rule out stray asteroids, violent solar flares and our magnetic poles spontaneously reversing.
3. There's no money in it. Gambling sites are offering 1,000,000 to 1 odds against the world ending — although to fair it's a bet they'll never have to make good on. You can, however, still bet on this Sunday's football games... the smart money's on Denver.
4. Back in 2010, Discover Magazine put together a list of 30 ways that the world could end, looking at everything from scientific experiments gone wrong to interactions with clouds of dark matter to meteors impacts. While almost all of the reasons are still plausible in a cosmic sense, almost all of them would be predictable in some way. One scenario even suggests that humanity will never end as we merge our consciousness with machines and become living computers — immortal and therefore able to travel immense distances to other planets if there's ever a problem with this one.
5. We've been wrong before. There were some people that thought the Large Hadron Collider would usher in the end of the world, but the particle collider has really only done what it was built to do, and that's advance particle physics and potentially discover the Higgs-Bosun particle that would unify theories of mass, gravitation, etc. However, they are shutting the collider down to repair a flaw that meant it could never operate at the highest available power so there's always the chance the world could end after the upgrades are complete and it fires back up in 2015.
6. Nostradamus was probably full of it. While some of his predictions were eerily correct, famed French seer Nostradamus has made hundreds of predictions that haven't come true. His prediction for 2012 (it is slightly disturbing he even had one) calls for a comet to pass by earth close enough to trigger earthquakes and tsunamis.
Again, NASA hasn't seen anything large heading our way — though a five kilometre-wide asteroid named Toutatis did buzz earth last week, passing within six million kilometres.
7. Friday's no good for me... George R.R. Martin has two books to go in his Song of Ice and Fire series, and there are two more installments of The Hobbit still to come. Armageddon will just have to rescheduled.
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