We’ll never know if they were wrong.
NASA has quietly published a web video explaining why the world did not come to an end “yesterday,” Dec. 21, 2012.
The date of its release, December 11, was no mistake, even if doomsayers would likely call it one last act of earthly hubris. NASA uploaded the four-minute “ScienceCasts” explainer, titled “Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday,” in an effort to answer hundreds of calls and emails they receive daily. It also has a dedicated website that’s received at least 4.6 million visitors — people asking if the Maya prophecy is coming true and what they should do about it.
“If there was anything out there, like a planet headed for Earth, said NASA Astrobiologist David Morrison, it would already be one of the brightest objects in the sky,” the narrator explains in a cheerfully pedantic voice. “Everybody on Earth could see it. You don’t need to ask the government, just go out and look. It’s not there.”
(Note: Still not convinced? Consider this: Even if the Maya, a declining Mesoamerican civilization wiped almost entirely off the map by 17th century Spanish conquistadors, are to be trusted with this kind of high-stakes stuff, scientists agree that reports concerning their prediction of our collective demise have been greatly exaggerated, if not fabricated. Anthropologists say the Mayan calendar was cyclical, and frequently restarted without ending.)
As for rumors about solar flares and reports the sun is reaching the “max of its 11-year solar cycle,” well, that’s all true. But NASA calls is it the “wimpiest cycle” of the past 50 years.
Anyway, “the sun has been flaring for billions of years and it has never, once, destroyed the world.”
Dwayne Brown, a senior public affair officer at NASA, said the space agency felt a sense of duty as the date neared. People have been calling in to headquarters “who want to do harm to their families” in an effort to protect them from the unknown horrors expected to arrive with the Maya apocalypse, he said.
“As the attention on the issue is growing,” the video’s producer and director Michael Brody said, “we didn’t want the rumors growing…. The idea is to take a straight, stoic, standard [scientific] look… and give it a hook.”
“You’re the smart guys, you know what’s up in space,” Brown said, his way of distilling public sentiment toward NASA. “Well, we do!”
And what they know is quite simple. The world might end on a Friday, but it won’t be tomorrow or the one after. Most scientists agree we have about five billion years of battery life, in the form of the sun, to go before the time comes to get nervous.
Brown’s best advice: “Let’s take it day-by-day.”