With its roots in the notion that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, that year has found a place in the public consciousness. Between a high-budget, highly publicized movie by Sony, the History Channel running documentaries on it, general misinformation floating around the internet, and even mentions in many mainstream news outlets, the rumors, stories and predictions regarding 2012 are numerous. These range from apocalyptic scenarios to vague spiritual transformations, or an evolution of the human species. With so many differing stories, though, what's the truth?
This article will examine many common claims about 2012. This is far from comprehensive, as there are so many claims that no single article can cover them all, and not even a full website dedicated to debunking 2012 can cover them all. Instead, this article will be a general overview of 2012 and an examination of some of the most prominent stories and rumors surrounding it.
One thing to keep in mind when examining 2012 is that it is scientifically impossible to prove a negative. So if someone claims that the poles will reverse on December 21st, 2012, you cannot prove that this absolutely will not happen until the date passes. You can use science to show how a given scenario is unlikely, but until the date passes, you can't prove it will not happen.
These are claims surrounding the Mayan Calendar.
The Mayan Calendar Long Count Calendar ends in 2012.
The Mayans actually used three different calendars, not one: their secular 365-day calendar (haab) was a solar year, and their sacred 260-day calendar (tzolkin). These two calendars synced every 52 cycles of the haab (every 52 years), and this is called a calendar round, or 18, 980 days. The Long Count calendar was to measure longer periods of times, and it was structured with five digits to express dates. The date for the start of the Long Count is 0.0.0.0.0, and this date has been pinpointed as August 13, 3114 B.C. in the Gregorian Calendar. Without going into complex cycles and terms irrelevant to the claim itself, the notation is baktuns (395 years), katuns (19.7 years), tuns (360 days), uinals (1 month consisting of 20 days) and kins (days) in that order. At the end of each respective cycle, the number increments. What's going to happen on December 21, 2012 is that the calendar does not mysteriously end, but it's going to complete a cycle, and roll over to 184.108.40.206.0, the start of the 13th baktun since the start of the Long Count.
This ending of the calendar represents a Mayan prediction of...
There have been many claimed predictions (and we'll examine these later in the article). However, archaeologists have found no evidence that the Mayans predicted anything to go with the start of a new cycle in the Long Count calendar, and certainly not some cataclysmic event to cause the end of the world. But many proponents of 2012 believe the Mayans predicted something, whether it be some cataclysm or a vague 'spiritual transformation'. In fact, there are statements from the modern Maya regarding the '2012 prediction', that it's "made up".
There are some other 2012 predictions that float around the internet, and we'll take some time to briefly examine some of those.
Nostradamus predicted the end of the world in 2012.
There are no credible sources that Nostradamus said anything about 2012 in any of his quatrains, and certainly not that the world would end. In fact, his quatrains extend to dates as far as 3797. If Nostradamus did claim an end of the world in 2012, why would his quatrains include dates into the next millennium? This is rarely presented by proponents of Nostradamus 2012 predictions.
There are Hopi prophecies about 2012.
Like Nostradamus, there's a lack of credible sources that the Hopi had any prophecies specifically about 2012, and the one linked above appears to just be riding on the coattails of the hysteria about the Mayan Calendar ending in 2012. As far as I can tell, Hopi prophecies relating to 2012 were made up by proponents of the 2012 Apocalypse.
The webbot has predicted the end of the world in 2012.
Web bots crawl the web and look for general trends, new web sites, key search terms being put into search engines, and the like. They also do analysis to determine the meaning and context of the data it finds - for example, if it crawls the web and finds a lot of people Googling "end of the world 2012" and finds a lot of websites that talk about the end of the world in 2012, the bot will likely predict end of the world in 2012 based on web activity. The issue is that the predictions are vague, and thus vulnerable to shoehorning, and no better than chance. Essentially, webbot predictions should not be taken particularly seriously, especially for things like natural disasters that are often inherently unpredictable.
The Biblical Armageddon will take place in 2012, and the Chinese I Ching says so too.
This claim was in a chain e-mail, that also often appeared on forums (like the linked source). This same "7 reasons" e-mail also referred to some predictions already examined, and others that will be examined later in this article.
Starting with the Bible, I think it's fair to be skeptical whenever the Bible is invoked to support an end of the world claim. That's because the Biblical Armageddon (and other "end of worlds") have been predicted countless times through history, and we're still here. This is also yet another reason to be very skeptical of the 2012 hysteria.
As for the I Ching, it is the Chinese Book of Changes. It contained a divination method, as well as some philosophy dating from ancient Chinese civilization . Again, I find a complete lack of credible sources that the there is anything in the I Ching about 2012. The I Ching prediction about 2012 appears to originate from 2012 proponent Terrence McKenna's use of it in developing his "Timewave Zero" theory, but this is not something to be considered a credible source.
And now we move onto some specific claims about what will happen. We'll start with geological disturbances that are supposed to bring about the end of the world.
There's been a rise in earthquakes, and it's a sign of the end of the world in 2012.
This is an extremely common claim on 2012 sites, but this claim fails at basic geology. There are on average 50 earthquakes a day (or about 20,000 a year), but most are too small to be detected by humans. Also, more seismographs to detect earthquakes are being installed around the world, so it's only logical more earthquakes would be detected. There's also global communication, and now with instant communication via twitter and other social media, when there is an earthquake, it can take minutes or even seconds for the news to spread around the world. However, according to long term trends (starting in 1900), you can expect, on average, seventeen 7.0-7.9 magnitude earthquakes worldwide a year, and one 8.0 or above a year. As this is average, this means that some years will deviate...there may be more or less in any given year.
The Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano will erupt in 2012 and destroy North America.
Put simply...geologists do not know when the Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano will erupt next. Teams of scientists monitor the volcano, and there are no signs that a major eruption (like an eruption in 2012) is imminent. But if there is an eruption, it would most likely be a small eruption that releases steam, and maybe creates small craters up to a kilometer in diameter. It is highly unlikely that a supervolcano eruption would occur.
The poles will suddenly reverse in 2012, bringing on major disasters.
The earth has magnetic poles and rotational poles (axis). Earth's magnetic poles may be slowly shifting, but this shift will take centuries to complete, so for this to suddenly happen in 2012 would be unprecedented event. There is currently no reason to believe Earth's magnetic poles will suddenly shift in 2012. The same applies to the Earth's axis. The Earth's axis moves at a rate of approximately a half-degree per century. Thus, the poles suddenly shifting is a highly unlikely scenario, given what we do know, and as such, poles shifting will not cause sudden geological disasters, since the first event is unlikely to occur in the first place.
Now, other doom objects...from SPAAAAAAAACE!
Earth will be hit by an asteroid in 2012, which will cause a mass extinction.
It is true that several asteroids will make close approaches to Earth in 2012. But impact? Not likely. All the known asteroids approaching in 2012 are going to miss. AU is astronomical unit, or a unit of measurement approximately equal to the average distance from the Earth to the sun (149,597,870.7 kilometers or 92,955,807.3 mi). So, for example, the first object that'll make a close pass in 2012 will be with 0.139426 AUs from Earth. So let's do some quick math, and convent from AUs to miles, by multiplying .139426 AUs by 92,955,807.3 miles, which again equals one AU. It comes down to a distance of approximately 12,960,456.3 miles. That's MILLIONS of miles from earth. Not an impact risk, and look at, and all the known objects to approach in 2012 are going to miss by millions or billions of miles. This is an unlikely scenario.
A new planet named Nibiru will cause mass destruction in 2012.
The Nibiru rumors became so prevalent NASA itself has directly addressed them. Many times. The ancient Sumerians supposedly discovered a 10th planet, called Nibiru, which supposedly orbits the sun every 3600 years. The Nibiru story became popular in 2003 with Nancy Lieder, a woman claiming to be in contact with aliens. She claimed that the aliens had warned her that Earth was in danger from Nibiru in 2003. This obviously failed to happen, so doomsday by Nibiru was moved to the popular 2012 date. However, despite efforts to locate Nibiru by professional astronomers with highly advanced equipment, such as infrared telescopes and satellites, Nibiru remains elusive. Objects thought to be Nibiru were later identified as galaxies. Within the astronomy community, including NASA, research astronomers affiliated with universities (not NASA) and other entities not affiliated with NASA in anyway, Nibiru is a myth. This has not stopped doomsayers from claiming there's a conspiracy and Nibiru is cloaked or invisible, or from taking a ton of pictures and videos.
But on those videos and images that are everywhere on the internet that claim to show Nibiru. However, these objects that show up in these videos have a much more mundane explanation...lens flare, foreign objects on the camera lens, scratches, light reflections and other optical things can produce the effect in. There are even how-to videos on YouTube on producing a fake Nibiru in pictures and videos. So let's apply Occam's Razor (the simpler of two explanations must be true, or the theory that makes fewer new assumptions must be true) and it's more reasonable to conclude the objects in such images and videos are light effects or objects on the camera lens, not a planet that professionals have so far been unable to discover. An object that does not exist cannot cause disasters. The burden of proof rests on Nibiru proponents that Nibiru will arrive in 2012.
There will be solar storms/flares in 2012 that will cause disasters.
This claim is true only as far as there will be solar flares and storms in 2012. The sun goes through 11-year cycles, which means that modern human civilization has gone through solar minimum and maximums before, and we're still here. The next solar maximum will hit between 2012-2014, so there will be solar flares and solar storms, but again, this has happened before and we're still here. The most that may happen is some disruption of satellite communication, which again, has happened before. There is no reason to think that a potential 2012 solar activity maximum will do anything that previous maximums haven't done.
Now to the vague 'spiritual transformation claims'. Some 2012ers propose a transformation or evolution of humanity, instead of disaster.
A Planetary and/or Galactic alignment will cause a spiritual transformation of humanity.
The claim here is that 'energy' is sent to earth when planets line up a certain way. However, this is a 'subtle' energy, a spiritual energy. Oh really? Well, what is energy? Albert Einstein defined energy...E=mc2, or Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Energy is a measurement of work. Energy can either be potential or kinetic. I am unable to find anything credible about energy being some spiritual force, that enlightens people if they absorb it, so we have yet another claim lacking legs.
As for alignments themselves, they actually do happen. There was an alignment in 1983 that caused hysteria about doomsday, but of course, nothing happened that was out of the ordinary (there was no enlightenment that turned everyone into a hippie either). Planets can align in two ways...one is if you were to be viewing the solar system from above, and the planets form a line straight out from the sun. The other is when planets make a line when viewing them in the sky from Earth's surface. Now, think for a second...there have been alignments before. Did anything happen? Now, let's see where the planets will be in 2012, specifically December 21st.
WORST. ALIGNMENT. EVER.
There is no special alignment. There is no spiritual 'energy' that'll transform humanity coming from something that A) doesn't occur when the Mayan Calendar resets, and B) has happened before without anything special happening.
Earth will pass through a photon belt that will trigger a spiritual transformation.
Everything in the previous section about energy still applies. As for the photon belt itself...I could not find one credible source for its existence. Not one. What it comes down to is that there are clouds of dust within the Milky Way galaxy's inner arm. These clouds get names from 2012ers, including photon belt and dark rift. However, passing through these poses no danger to the Earth, even if it blocks our view of the center of the galaxy...and it certainly won't be releasing non-existent 'energy' to enlighten humans into a species of hippies.
This article has only given a brief overview of some of the more common claims, but does demonstrate how many claims put forth by 2012 proponents are either unlikely, or outright false. There are many many more claims about 2012...but again, the subject as a whole is so big an entire site, let alone one article, can't cover it all. Of course, this will not stop proponents who might read this from claiming 'you didn't debunk this thing because you can't!', and that is what we call 'moving the goalposts'.
If history is any guide (think Y2K), the day will pass with nothing extraordinary happening, and the proponents will glom onto another doomsday, but one far enough in the future that they have produce books and DVDs on their pet theory, how to prepare/survive, and then sell them.