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Science’s Prediction? Life Goes on After 2012 (Sorry Mayans!)

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Roland Emmerich’s latest doomsday flick, 2012, hasn’t just been good for the box office; it’s given conspiracy theorists a new pseudoscience to call their own. Despite a lack of evidence, more and more people are preparing for the end of the world. Will planetary alignment, solar flares and neutrinos destroy the Earth on December 21, 2012 (thus fulfilling the Mayan “prophecy”)? I hate to break it to the believers, but [Spoiler Alert!] the answer is no.

I know what you’re thinking: “Just because something is science fiction doesn’t mean it’s not based in reality.” Except in this case. There are no naughty neutrinos heating up the Earth’s core. To be fair, there are neutrinos that come from the sun, but they’re nice neutrinos: They pass through the planet without ever interacting with regular matter and more than 50 trillion solar neutrinos pass through the human body every second. Don’t believe me? Believe MIT.

True, the scientists in Emmerich’s movie explain that their neutrinos aren’t normal; they’re coming from the largest solar flares in human history — a result of planetary alignment — and that’s why they’re boiling the Earth’s insides. And indeed, increased solar activity is expected around 2012, so more solar flares and coronal mass ejections will exist. But this peak of activity is not expected to be as bad as past peaks. Remember what happened on Nov. 4, 2003, the day of the largest solar flare recorded to date? Neither do I. Sure, the Sun spewed several billions of tons of plasma in Earth’s direction with the equivalent radiation of 5,000 suns impacting our atmosphere, but as Ray Villard points out in his Top Ten Top 10 Reasons Why the World Won’t End in 2012, “We’re still here.”

As for planetary alignment (that old conspiracy chestnut), there isn’t any scheduled to occur in 2012 or even in the next several decades. Even if there was, we already know that when planets align, (as they did in 1982) nothing happens.

What about those meteors Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is seen dodging as he pilots Woody Harrelson’s Winnebago across Yellowstone? The Earth has been impacted by comets and asteroids before, which may explain how the dinosaurs died off. Surely if such a thing could kill dinos, it could kill us. Allow NASA to put your mind at ease: Their astronomers are watching large near-Earth asteroids closely and nothing is predicted to hit in 2012. The asteroid Apophis could become a problem in 2029, but as Curtis says in the movie, “What are the odds?”

It’s easy to get confused. The movie trailer tells viewers to “find out the truth” by searching for “2012” online. That’s fine if it takes you here; but what if it takes you to News Done Right, a fake site promoting the world of the movie? Worse yet, you could end up at a site equating the end of the Mayan calendar with the end of mankind. That’s also been debunked by the way: Mayan calendars don’t end; they reset, like odometers. And there’s only one inscription in the entire Mayan world that refers to December 21, 2012 and it has to do with a building dedication.

Sorry to be an apocalypse hater. I like a good conspiracy as much as the next person, but science suggests 2012 really won’t be that different from 2009. The movie is, well, just a movie. So sit back and enjoy this latest CGI — it won’t be your last.

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