It’s going to be the end of the world as we know it.
This is true, though probably not any time soon. And probably not in 2012.
As our Sun runs through it’s main sequence, we’ll have about another 500 million years where we can live comfortably. Beyond that – cooked. This is inevitable.
There is always the incredibly low probability that the Earth will get smacked with an asteroid (mass extinction-type asteroid impacts occur about 1 in every 100 million years or so)*. But we’ll probably be gone by then anyways, at the rate we are going – some estimates put the end of humanity at around the year 11,000 (using the Doomsday Argument as a basis). Discover Magazine lists 20 ways for Doomsday, and they are legitimate.
So, it will all end, eventually.
But will the dates of these events be predicted?
Every few years, there’s a hot and sexy new prediction that catches the media’s attention. A so-called prophet, maybe with a direct line to God, will spell out (with great certainty) the end of the world. Or maybe someone will read between the lines of an ancient text and decipher a cryptic message signifying the apocalypse. Or someone will look at some old scrolls and say “See? That’s what [insert false prophet’s name here] meant when [insert nasty event here] happened.”, which is a great example of reading patterns in data after-the-fact.
Chris Nelson has compiled a list of doomsday predictions on his site abohota.info. Here are the stats thus far:
Correctly Predicted Doomsdays: 0 (zero)
Incorrectly Predicted Doomsdays: 400+
The latest doomsday prophecy is scheduled for December 21st, 2012. This is the end of the Mayaan calenda, and all sorts of chaos and destruction is supposed to happen. When this doesn’t happen, and the world continues, will they write about it? Will it even make the news? Will they show “documentaries” about the prediction and how it failed?
I believe we should stop wasting time with silly predictions and focus on the real issues that are certainly having a negative impact on our planet: population growth, mass consumption of resources, loss of biodiversity, destruction of the oceans and other habitat loss, climate change, terrorism and nuclear proliferation into unstable countries, territorial disputes, religious intolerance, war, famine, disease, pollution… the list goes on.
This week, the doomsday clock was been set back a minute, so we’re good for at least a little while…
* If you are terribly worried, you can ease your mind by viewing NASA Near Earth Object Program’s sentry risk table.
References and futher reading: