Apocalyptic Films Explore 2012 End of World Prediction

2012

The iPhone application Twenty12 counts down the moments until the world's destruction -- just three years, 89 days, 13 hours and 15 minutes until Dec. 21, 2012.

That's the date that the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar marked as the end of a 5,126-year era, resetting the date to 0 and signaling the end of humanity.

But today, as that date nears, doomsday chatter echoes across the Internet. The search term "Dec. 21, 2012" produces 3,650,000 results on Google.

One Web site, december212012.com, declares itself "official" and is selling t-shirts announcing the end of the world is nigh.

And they aren't the only ones cashing in. In November, two apocalypse-themed films open -- "2012," starring John Cusack and "The Road," with Charlize Theron.

A whirlwind of interest in eschatology -- the study of the end of times -- has been escalating since the advent of the 21st century, according to Robert Thompson, professor of media and popular culture at Syracuse University.

"When we got to the millennium, people tended to get exorcized to mark the end of time," he told ABCNews.com. "Then they boosted the Y2K scare and having people in authority, smart leaders, predict planes falling from the sky, no money in cash machines and breakdown of the electric grid. We lived with those headlines."

Terrorist Attacks Foreshadowed Doom

But the "big 400-pound gorilla in the room" was 9/11, according to Thompson.

"We experienced the visual and cultural [impact] that day -- a little dress rehearsal for the apocalypse, watching those buildings go down," he said.

"Whenever there is a period of massive change, your mind tends to turn toward the end of days," said Thompson. "Things change so quickly that you can't even get a grip on Monday. History is out of control, like a boulder rolling down a hill. We are in those times."

Some end-of-times zealots point to events like the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as the near-collapse of world financial institutions in 2008. Pandemics like the growing swine flu are also cited as proof that the end is near.

Mayans Predicted End of World in 2012

But the Mayan predictions have held the most sway with believers.

At the height of that Mesoamerican civilization from 300 to 900 A.D., advanced mathematics and primitive astronomy flourished, creating what many have called the most accurate calendar in the world.

The Mayans predicted a final event that included a solar shift, a Venus transit and violent earthquakes.

Modern astronomy also confirms that on the winter solstice in 2012, the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years.

Many point to similar end-of-times predictions among Native Americans, Chinese, Egyptians and even the Irish.

The prophecies of the Irish saint Malachy, the 12th century bishop of Armagh, have said there will be only one more pope after the current one, Pope Benedict XVI, and during his reign comes the end of the world.

Nasty Things to Come, According to Bible

From a Biblical standpoint, the apocalypse paints a nasty picture of what's to come: natural disasters, a pandemic, asteroid impact, alien invasion, global warming, eco-system collapse, global conflict and divine intervention.

Christians look to Revelations, the last book of the Bible, written in 90 A.D. by John the Apostle, for details on the seven-year "tribulation" that fundamentalists say began at the winter solstice in 1999.

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