Here at the Tacoma Weekly, we debated publishing this week's edition. Why bother? The world's gonna end today. The Mayans said so. Forget how blindsided they were by the demise of their own civilization. We figure there must be something to this Mayan Apocalypse stuff if they dedicated an entire John Cusack movie to it. We figured it was best to err on the side of caution after NASA weighed in with this statement: “The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.” Yeah, we should probably listen to those guys. They're pretty smart. And people have been freaking out about the end of the world since, well, before there was dubious info from the Internet to prop up their half-baked theories. Then again, speaking of the Internet, we've also read some pretty scary headlines lately. From credible sources, even. And who knows when any one of a dozen potential doomsday scenarios will escalate and end existence as we know it? We can't make up our minds. So, without further ado, here are a few reasons to blow off this Mayan Doomsday nonsense, along with a few reasons you might not want to make plans this weekend.
1 - First century: Early Christians anticipate the coming of the Beast and his evil minions, as alluded to in the Biblical “Book of Revelation.” Christian writer Tertullian predicts the Antichrist will show up when humanity's last line of defense, the Roman Empire, is out of the way. Rome eventually jumps the shark, but no demonic forces show up to wreck stuff. Just barbarians.
2 - 1524: Anxious Europeans build boats and move to higher ground in anticipation of a cataclysmic flood, a panic fueled by astrologer Johan Stoffler's prediction, 25 years earlier, that the world would end this year.
3 - 1843-44: About 100,000 Millerites – followers of American preacher William Miller – take to the hills in anticipation of Jesus' return. Nothing happens as multiple deadlines pass. And you thought “Star Wars: Episode 1” was anticlimactic.
4 - 1999: Y2K mania has everyone imagining power grid failure and planes plummeting from the sky, all because our stupid computers apparently can't tell 2000 from 1900. Software sales soar; mayhem does not ensue.
5 - 2011: Radio evangelist Harold Camping has to eat crow after predicting the world's end on May 21. His gullible followers aren't clued in by Jesus' apparent regard for time zones (the Rapture was to start at 6 p.m. in each one) or by Camping's previous prediction that we would all go bye-bye in 1994.
See also: Killer bees, Bird Flu, SARS and a bunch of other stuff that was supposed to wipe out most of us and make the world all Mad Maxy for the rest. Yeah, right. We've got 50 good years before global climate change fries us.
Five reasons you should maybe freak just a little bit
1 - North Korea completes a long-range missile test: It's North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's turn to prove he can live up to daddy's James Bond villain-like megalomania. He's got nuclear weapons, now with apparent long-range striking ability. Hey, what's the worst that could happen? Hey, did no one see that remake of “Red Dawn”? Not even Chris Hemsworth will be able to save us.
2 - There's new, “improved” SARS: Granted, we just blew off the last SARS scare in the previous section of this story. But we must admit it's a bit worrisome reading about the new, more highly evolved version of the severe acute respiratory syndrome scientists are tracking in the Middle East. The SARS caronavirus may even be able to jump species, from people to pigs and bats. Great, now we have to duck plague bats.
3 - Space is full of killer asteroids: Aerosmith didn't write bombastic theme music, and the government didn't ask Bruce Willis to suit up. But we did have a couple of close encounters with hefty space rocks this month. Asteroids 2012 XE54 passed within the Moon's orbit of Earth and 4179 Toutatis was a bit further out, at 4.3 million miles. According to Universe Today, the latter is “a biggie (and) a potentially hazardous asteroid because it makes repeated passes by the Earth, about every four years.” That's reassuring. And did we mention scientists discovered XE54 just days before its fly by?
4 - And did we mention “supervolcanoes?” You know, Yellowstone National Park? That scenic paradise where you can watch buffalos and geysers and stuff? It's basically a ginormous volcano. So is Indonesia's Lake Toba, which may have reduced the human population to less than 10,000 the last time it blew, with the force of 5,000 Mount St. Helenses, between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago.
5 - … and don't forget that guy that ate the other guy's face: They tried to blame Miami face eater Rudy Eugene's bizarre crime on “bath salts,” but toxicology tests found only marijuana in his system. The “wacky tobacky” does not lead to those types of munchies. But you know what does? Being a zombie. Luckily, we don't appear to be in the midst of a fast-spreading “28 Days Later” outbreak. Better safe than sorry, though. Board up your windows and remember to bash 'em in the head. Just make sure your uncle isn't just sleepwalking first.
See also: Black holes, world crop failure, Gulf Stream shutdown, antibiotic resistant “super bacteria,” and out of control, self-replicating nanobots. Eh, that stuff probably won't happen. Happy Mayan Doomsday, people!