Expert insists end of world is not nigh


DESPITE WHAT you might have heard, the world is not set to end on December 21st, 2012. There are no asteroids to worry about, nor astronomical alignments nor changes in the Sun that will destroy Earth, according to one of Ireland’s top astrophysicists.

Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell was in Dublin yesterday to deliver a talk for the Royal Irish Academy as part of Science Week, which comes to a close this weekend.

“Will the World End in 2012 - the astronomical evidence” was the title she chose to discuss the issue, which she says was unfortunately frightening some people despite being complete nonsense.

Apparently we have the Mayan civilisation from 2,000 years ago to thank for the scare story, Dame Jocelyn said in advance of her talk. “This is based on the Mayan calendar, which comes to an end on that date and that probably started it.”

Our calendar ends after 12 months, but the Mayans got better value with theirs, which lasted thousands of years. They did not claim, however, that the world would end on that date, Dame Jocelyn said.

Aside from the calendar, there is no other evidence suggesting that 21/12/2012 will go down as the ultimate bad luck day. Dame Jocelyn listed a number of astronomical claims made by supporters of the end of the world, but dismissed them out of hand.

One claim is that on that date we will be dragged into a massive Black Hole and face complete destruction. “We can’t fall into the Black Hole at the centre of the galaxy. Travelling at light speed it would take us 26,000 years to get there, so we would be very late for 2012,” she said.

Another claim says there will be a grand alignment of Earth with the Sun and the rest of the galaxy and that will see us off, but Dame Jocelyn says no. “There are definitely no alignments of the planets in 2012, but if one did happen, and there have been many, it would have zilch effect on Earth.”

She quickly ruled out an asteroid with Earth’s name on it. “We are watching for asteroids and none are due to impact on 2012.” In fact the next really close asteroid fly-by isn’t due until the 2080s, she added. They only positive thing coming from these kinds of claims was they offered a useful way to teach astronomy, she said.

The claims also provided some with a way to make money and some of the sites promoting the 2012 prediction were selling survival equipment such as gas masks, water purification tablets and survival manuals.