February 10, 2016

The end of the world as we know it?

Today marks another possible day when the world will end. Or it may just end up being another normal day in the history of the world.

The belief that the world will end on December 21, 2012 is based on one of the Maya calendars, created thousands of years ago, which ends its cycle today. UW-Madison folklore expert Robert Glenn Howard says researchers in the 1940s synced that calendar to the modern. Then, in the 1960s they began to interpret the archeological evidence to predict a possible cataclysmic event or spiritual transformation to coincide with the end of the calendar. Howard says the idea of a spiritual convergence was popular during the 1980s and many still believe the date, which coincides with the winter solstice, will bring some change to world.

The more modern doomsday scenarios took hold in recent years, largely on the internet. Howard says the ability for people to think together at the same time about a specific moment has been dramatically changed by technology, which has resulted in more people focusing on the date as the herald of some sort of cosmic event.

As for whether or not the world will end today, Howard says there’s no scientific evidence to back up that belief. It does not rule out the possibility of some man-made disaster or individuals acting on their own, but Howard thinks doomsday believers will find some relief in seeing the world is still here when December 22nd rolls around.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:03)

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