Met the Mayans. The guys doing the bit of not quite voluntary surgery to the left, otherwise known as human sacrifice. Gotta keep the Sun God happy you know.
Their civilisation was interesting and advanced in some ways. It was also somewhat brutal and stupid. It self-destructed a few hundred years ago with more than a little help from the Spanish.
They had a calendar. Calendars have cycles and calendars end. The Mayan calendar for the current cycle ends (in our time system) on December 21, 2012. A couple of decades ago, some New Age clowns with books to sell, figured out that this date therefore, had GREAT SIGNIFICANCE.
And another end of the world scare story was born.
So, with nearly three years to go before our inevitable doom, or rebirth, or something, the message is starting to sink in to the unwashed and ill-informed masses. I have a voluntary weekend job as a science explainer. Most of the time I explain astronomy and space exploration to tourists. Increasingly I am getting furtive questions about this '2012 business'. While not actually scared (yet) there is a touch of concern in the enquiries.
I thus explain a bit about the nature of calendars, the nature of new age authors, and the simple fact that the Earth was here for 4.7 billion years before the Mayans briefly had a civilisation, and how it will probably still be here 4.7 billion years after the Mayans briefly had a civilisation.
A little less politely than the way I explain it to tourists would be:
HOW THE FUCK WOULD A PRIMITIVE CULTURE WHO BELIEVED SACRIFICING YOUNG CHILDREN TO THE SUN GOD EVERY DAY TO MAKE SURE THE SUN WOULD RISE TOMORROW HAVE ANY IDEA AT ALL ABOUT THE DATE OF END OF THE WORLD?
Oh yeah: Aliens told them. The ones that won't talk to us. The ones that DIDN'T bother to explain that human sacrifice was brutal and stupid. They probably did tell them about the mysterious planet Nibiru that is lurking out there somewhere. Nibiru which is completely undetectable by astronomers world wide is going to swing by in 2012 and rip us a new one. Really? Who cares as long as it sells books...
I just know that this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Why humans seem to need to believe in the imminent end of the world, or how the sky is falling makes no sense to me at all.
Without our 'help', the world won't end for billions of years. But some of you just know that I must be lying...