End of the world - or not, as the case may be

Erin Attfield is optimistic the world will still be around tomorrow. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Erin Attfield is optimistic the world will still be around tomorrow. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.

The world ends tomorrow morning, according to some.

Which is a bit of a shame, because things were going so well.

The Mayan Mesoamerican calendar clicks over a 5125-year cycle at 12.11am tomorrow (tomorrow being December 21, 2012, on the other side of the international date line), sparking Doomsday fears around the world.

An anti-Armageddon ceremony is being held in Bolivia and an end-of-the-world party in Sydney, while a Hong Kong restaurant is hosting a last supper, where diners will only be charged if they are still alive at midnight. However, Dunedin appears disconcertingly underprepared for the end of the world.

''It's all a bit of a joke among my friends. If I thought the world really was really ending I'd be opening up my Christmas presents early,'' Dunedin retail assistant Erin Attfield (24) said yesterday.

University of Otago classics lecturer Prof Robert Hannah attended an international astronomy symposium in Peru last year which examined the 21.12.12 Doomsday phenomenon.

''I think whenever we pass a millenia there's usually a fair bit of Doomsday thinking. I suspect the same panic occurred when 1000AD first passed. It's something that people find fascinating and plays on the insecurity in the human psyche,'' he said yesterday.

The Mayan calendar passes a round figure, or bak'tun, every 394 years. The last time it occurred was in 1618.

''The Mayans used the calendar as their way of counting the passage of time and it turns around like a wheel, just like our four seasons do. We don't attach prophecies to our four seasons,'' Prof Hannah said.

''But, it's economics as well. People are making a killing out of this.''

The End of the World As We Know It, or Teotwawki as it is being promoted, has been a boon for Central American tourism. US space agency Nasa was still moved to dampen fears of Armageddon this week, after being swamped with panic calls.

''Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012. December 21 will be another day,'' Nasa spokesman Dwayne Brown said.


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