Entries in Doomsday (5)


Not Happening: NASA Debunks Mayan Doomsday Prophecy

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- We’ll never know if they were wrong.

NASA has quietly published a web video explaining why the world will not come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012.

The date of its release, Dec. 11, was no mistake, even if doomsayers would likely call it one last act of earthly hubris. NASA uploaded the four-minute “ScienceCasts” explainer, titled “Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday,” (the video begins from Dec. 22) in an effort to answer hundreds of calls and emails they receive daily. It also has a dedicated website that’s received at least 4.6 million visitors — people asking if the Maya prophecy is coming true and what they should do about it.


“If there was anything out there, like a planet headed for Earth," said NASA astrobiologist David Morrison, it would already be one of the brightest objects in the sky,” the narrator explains in a cheerfully pedantic voice. “Everybody on Earth could see it. You don’t need to ask the government, just go out and look. It’s not there.”

(Note: Still not convinced? Consider this: Even if the Maya, a declining Mesoamerican civilization wiped almost entirely off the map by 17th century Spanish conquistadors, are to be trusted with this kind of high-stakes stuff, scientists agree that reports concerning their prediction of our collective demise have been greatly exaggerated, if not fabricated. Anthropologists say the Mayan calendar was cyclical, and frequently restarted without ending.)

As for rumors about solar flares and reports the sun is reaching the “max of its 11-year solar cycle,” well, that’s all true. But NASA calls is it the “wimpiest cycle” of the past 50 years.

Anyway, “the sun has been flaring for billions of years and it has never, once, destroyed the world.”

Dwayne Brown, a senior public affairs officer at NASA, said the space agency felt a sense of duty as the date neared. People have been calling in to headquarters “who want to do harm to their families” in an effort to protect them from the unknown horrors expected to arrive with the Maya apocalypse, he said.

“As the attention on the issue is growing,” the video’s producer and director Michael Brody said, “we didn’t want the rumors growing…. The idea is to take a straight, stoic, standard [scientific] look… and give it a hook.”

“You’re the smart guys, you know what’s up in space,” Brown said, his way of distilling public sentiment toward NASA.  “Well, we do!”

And what they know is quite simple. The world might end on a Friday, but it won’t be tomorrow or the one after. Most scientists agree we have about five billion years of battery life, in the form of the sun, to go before the time comes to get nervous.

Brown’s best advice: “Let’s take it day-by-day.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oldest Known Maya Calendar Found; No Signs of 2012 Doomsday

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Archaeologists, excavating the ninth-century Maya complex of Xultun in Guatemala, say they have found what may have been a workspace for the town’s scribe. Paintings on the walls, they report, appear to include calculations related to the Maya calendar.

The researchers, writing in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, say the calculations project 7,000 years into the future. There’s no hint that the calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012, despite popular belief.

“Why would they go into those numbers if the world is going to come to an end this year?” said Anthony Aveni at Colgate University, a scholar of Maya  astronomy and a co-author of the paper. “You could say a number that big at least suggests that time marches on.”

Some of the hieroglyphs, painted in red and black, appear to represent regular cycles charted by the Maya, say the researchers — the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of the planet Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars.

“For the first time we get to see what may be actual records kept by a scribe, whose job was to be official record keeper of a Maya community,” said William Saturno of Boston University, the lead author, in a statement put out by the publishers of Science. “It’s like an episode of TV’s Big Bang Theory, a geek math problem and they’re painting it on the wall. They seem to be using it like a blackboard.”

Xultún was actually found almost a century ago, but not excavated until now.  The structure in which the markings were found has three surviving plaster walls, say the researchers.  On one wall is a painting of a king, wearing a headpiece with blue feathers. Near him are numbers that correspond to previously-known cycles in the Maya calendar — and others that researchers had not seen before.

Saturno and his team say four long numbers on the wall represent one-third of a million to 2.5 million days — up to 7,000 years into the future from A.D. 813, a year scratched into the wall in another place.

Saturno, like other scientists who have studied the Maya civilization, says the Maya appear not to have thought much, at least in their writings, about an end to the world.

“The ancient Maya predicted the world would continue, that 7,000 years from now, things would be exactly like this,” Saturno said. “We keep looking for endings. The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It’s an entirely different mindset.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Doomsday Visitors Flock to French Town

Bugarach Mayor Jean Pierre Delord with a postcard showing a ‘UFO’ in front of the village. (Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)(PARIS) -- The town of Bugarach in southwest France has an unusual tourist problem: More visitors are preoccupied with witnessing UFOs than soaking up the local culture.

The town of approximately 200 people at the base of the Pic of Bugarach mountain is at the center of a few odd predictions including one that prophesies that aliens will arrive at the mountain on “doomsday.”

Jean-Pierre Delord, the town mayor, has become uneasy with the influx of visitors especially as he expects the number of visitors to increase exponentially around December 21, which is the date many online conspiracy theorists are predicting the “end of the world.”

A report released last summer by Miviludes, the French sect watchdog, explained the potential dangers of “doomsday” groups congregating. The agency is concerned that the groups gathering for “the end of the world,” including those at Bugarach, could be involved in mass suicides.

According to The Independent, up to 100,000 people could visit the site by December 21.  However, a few enterprising individuals have found that the end of the world can have a silver lining. American travel agents are offering one-way deals to the site, according to The Independent, and a neighboring village has produced a wine for the occasion.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Doomsday is Now One Minute Closer

David Goldman/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- As the iconic '80s band R.E.M once sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it....”  Or is it?

The Doomsday clock, which represents a symbolic end of the world through a countdown to midnight, was moved one minute closer to midnight Tuesday.  The decision to move the hand back to where it was in 2007 was made because of what the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said in a statements was “inadequate progress on nuclear weapons reduction and proliferation, and continuing inaction on climate change.”

The last time the clock’s hand was moved was 2010, when it was moved back from five minutes to six minutes to midnight.

Lawrence Krauss, co-chair of the BAS Board of Sponsors and professor at Arizona State University, said “it makes sense to move the clock closer to midnight” as the developments seen two years ago were not sustained.

“As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity’s survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions,” Krauss added.

Energy and climate was one issue close to the heart of the decision to move the hand.

“The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere,” Allison Macfarlane, BAS chair said. “The actions taken in the next few years will set us on a path that will be impossible to redirect.”

Macfarlane cited International Energy Agency projections saying that societies need to start building alternatives to carbon-emitting energies in the next five years, otherwise “the world is doomed to a warmer climate, harsher weather, droughts, famine, water scarcity, rising sea levels, loss of island nations, and increasing ocean acidification.”

The other main issue cited by the BAS was the differences and disagreements recently seen between Russia and the United States, as well as failure to act on a Test Ban Treaty by leaders of nuclear states that would have cut off production of nuclear weapons materials.

“A world free of nuclear weapons is not at all clear, and leadership is failing,” said Jayantha Dhanapala, BAS Board of sponsors and former United Nations under-secretary for Disarmament Affairs. “The world still has approximately 19,500 deployed nuclear weapons, enough power to destroy the world’s inhabitants several times over.”

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Board of Directors, along with consultation by its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates, makes the decisions to move the clocks hand. The clock was created in 1947 by the board.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Peruvian Potatoes Sent to 'Doomsday Vault?'

File Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PERU) - Several species of Peruvian potatoes, some that date back to the Inca Empire, are being sent to a figurative "doomsday vault" amid fears that several varieties are at risk of disappearing, reports the BBC.

The ice vault, located inside a mountian in the Arctic circle, will soon house samples of around 1,500 varieties of potatoes from farmers in the country who want to protect certain South American highland species.

"Peruvian potato culture is under threat," Alejandro Argumedo, a plant scientist involved in the project, told the BBC. "Sending seeds to the [vault] will help us to provide a valuable back-up collection - the vault was built for the global community and we are going to use it."

The crops will join other samples of the world's food supply that have been sent to the Svalbard seed vault  to be protected from natural and human disaster.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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