Why the world will NOT end in 2012: Nasa scientist debunks conspiracy theories
By Niall Firth and Claire BatesLast updated at 7:49 AM on 22nd October 2009
Skyscrapers crumble to the ground, fiery meteorites smash into Earth and a Tibetan monk cowers as a massive tidal wave swamps his mountain retreat.
It is a vision of the coming apocalypse thrillingly captured in the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
But fears that the world is due to end in December 2012 is just a myth fuelled by internet rumour, according to a leading Nasa scientist.
Doomsday? The film 2012 will inflame existing fears about the possible end of the world
Dr David Morrison, who runs the space agency's 'Ask an Astrobiologist' service, says he has received more than a thousand emails from those worried that the world is due to end in 2012.
Read the full list of questions and answers here
In an article published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Dr Morrison has answered the top 20 questions in an attempt to assuage these fears.
According to the theories on the internet, the calendar used by the ancient civilisation of the Mayans is due to come to an end in December 2012.
Luckily for conspiracy theorists, this coincides neatly with predictions by an obscure sci-fi author, who wrote about the ancient Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer, that a planet named Nibiru will collide with the Earth on that date.
The Mayan calendar ends in 2012, but Dr Morrison said this did not mean the world would end
Fears have been further inflamed by an apocalyptic film called '2012' starring John Cusack, which is out this November. A quick search on Amazon reveals there are 175 books listed that deal with 2012 doomsday.
First off Dr Morrison dismisses the possibility that the planet Nibiru even exists.
He writes: 'The bottom line is that Nibiru is a myth, with no basis in fact.
'To an astronomer, persistent claims about a planet that is "nearby" but “invisible” are just plain silly.'
And Dr Morrison laughs off suggestions that the government has been complicit in hiding its existence from the public.
'Even if they wanted to, the government could not keep Nibiru a secret,' he says.
'If it were real, it would be tracked by thousands of astronomers, amateurs as well a professional. These astronomers are spread all over the world.
'I know the astronomy community, and these scientists would not keep a secret even if ordered to. You just can’t hide a planet on its way to the inner solar system!'
He also addresses the concerns of those who worry that the Mayan calendar is due to end in 2012.
'Ancient calendars are interesting to historians, but they cannot match the ability we have today to keep track of time, or the precision of the calendars currently in use.
'The main point, however, is that calendars, whether contemporary or ancient, cannot predict the future of our planet or warn of things to happen on a specific date such as 2012.
'I note that my desk calendar ends much sooner, on December 31 2009, but I do not interpret this as a prediction of Armageddon. It is just the beginning of a new year.'
He added although many believe prophecies by the sixteenth century seer Nostradamus predict the end of the world in 2012, there is no evidence he has correctly predicted anything.
He also tackles the belief circulating on some internet forums that an alignment of planets in our galaxy the Milky Way could in some way disrupt the Earth's gravitational field or reverse the Earth's rotation.
'A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. It has never happened and never will,' he said.
He added that although the magnetic polarity of Earth does take place around every 400,000 years scientists don't believe it will take place for another few millennia and there is no evidence it would do any harm.
Nasa scientist David Morrison (left) has moved to calm fears that the world will end in 2012, as predicted by sixteenth century seer Nostradamus (right)
Publicity for the film '2012' also comes under attack for stirring up fear about the date.
Like many Hollywood blockbusters nowadays, '2012' uses a sophisticated PR campaign which incorporates elements of 'viral' marketing.
In the trailer for the film, which plays on conspiracy theorists' fears that the truth is being somehow hidden, viewers are directed to a 'faux scientific' website.
The website purports to be the home for The Institute for Human Continuity, an entirely fictitious organisation which allows visitors to sign up for a lottery which will decide who will be saved when Armageddon comes.
'The whole 2012 disaster scenario is a hoax, fueled by ads for the Hollywood science-fiction disaster film “2012”,' he says.
'I can only hope that most people are able to distinguish Hollywood film plots from reality.'
Dr Morrison noted that a growing interest in outer space has led to a general 'cosmophobia', that is a fear of the cosmos.
He said he found people were frequently worried about the sun's magnetic field, solar storms, black holes and a rift in the Milky Way.
'Previously these would have merely been interesting astronomical ideas to explore, but now for many young people (who read misinformation about them on the web) they are objects of dread.
'This cosmophobia could be one of the worst long-term consequences of the 2012 doomsday hoax - to make people fearful of astronomy and the universe.'