If the Mayan calendar is correct — and really, what inexplicable, cyclical, pictographic, dubiously translated calendar could be more accurate? — we’re all toast Friday. The world is ending.
The Mayans didn’t say how, exactly, perhaps as their final revenge for being eradicated off the planet themselves by invading Europeans. But the Internet is foaming at the mouth with rumors: asteroid strike! Another whole planet strike! Viruses! The Rapture! Wars and rumors of wars! The sun going supernova! Super volcanoes!
Those sticks in the mud at NASA, however, with their insistence on, you know, facts and logic (yawn) insist that we’ll be fine. For now.
On a web page established especially to address the rumors and fears, and tens of thousands of calls and e-mails, NASA scientists had this to say, basically: Not gonna happen.
“For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence?” NASA scientists wrote on the website. “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.”
But they make a good point, that the end of the world has been a favorite theme for artists throughout time. Heronymous Bosch couldn’t get enough of it. Mary Shelley was writing about it way back in 1826. And since then, there has been a flood of books and movies and songs and comics about how we’ll meet our end. Why, just this fall, NBC offered “Revolution,” a post-apocalyptic weekly drama in which everyone’s hair always looks clean and fabulous and their clothes look new and machine-made, despite having no electricity for a decade.
The reasons for creating end-of-the-world visions are inscrutable, though the fact that it is simply good entertainment certainly is a factor. And maybe it’s easier to think about the epic ways we could meet our end — a super tsunami, say, or the apes taking over — than the ways we actually will: old age, accidents, inevitable disease. How mundane. How hopeless.
Because the rub of life is that it ends, for all living things. And that’s the hardest thing to face. So, write a book about alien invasion instead! (And, it must be mentioned, pride of species or just mammoth hubris leads so many writers and movie makers to imply that if humans end, the world ends.)
Here are some highlights from the end of the world: