Isaac Newton: World Will End in 2060, not 2012

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While many Americans likely intend to skip town on Friday, December 21st and head out on a holiday vacation, they might inadvertently find themselves skipping the Earth altogether.

In case you haven't heard, a plethora of Doomsday scenarios are portended to play out on that date. (Soothsayers are covering all the bases, I suppose.) With such death and destruction imminent, why spend money on expensive plane tickets or resort accommodations? Even if you survive the Apocalypse, chances are that it will still spoil your holiday (what with the kids whining about fire, brimstone, and a lack of McDonald's). So don't risk disappointment! In Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fashion, you can lie down and put a paper bag over your head, instead!

Let's run down the predictions. If these aren't mutually exclusive, we'll certainly be in for a world of hurt:

  • The Earth may collide with Planet Nibiru.

  • Earth's magnetic polarity may suddenly reverse, crushing us all to smithereens.
  • A giant, unforeseen asteroid will strike the Earth.
  • There will be a planetary or galactic alignment that will somehow overload the Earth with, uh, gravity... cosmic rays... dark matter... and... um... sheer awesomeness? 

Should we take any of these scenarios seriously? At the risk of serious castigation from conspiracy theorists, I'm going to go out on a limb and say not, "No way," but, "No how."

V838_Mon_HST.jpg Though purported as planet Nibiru, this is actually the star V838 Monocerotis, and it won't collide with Earth.

There is no evidence that Nibiru exists, and if it did, astronomers would have been well aware of its destructive trajectory for over a decade. Geomagnetic shifts -- reversals in Earth's polarity -- actually do take place every 400,000 years or so, but they are quite harmless to planetary life and occur over thousands of years, not in one, supposedly bone-crunching moment. No asteroids are slated to pose a risk to Earth until 2020, and that asteroid -- 2012 TC4 -- has a 1 in 43,000 chance of impacting our planet. And astronomical alignments aren't remotely menacing, only tacitly fascinating to astronomers.

But while we may be in the clear this year, it's certainly not too early to be worrying about the next cataclysm that almost certainly won't happen! Calamitous portents abound over the coming decades, but I'd like to gloss over those fantastical predictions from zany whack jobs and focus solely on the forecast provided by one Sir Isaac Newton. After all, he was correct about gravity, the laws of motion, and the spectrum of white light -- heck -- why not about the end of the world?

GodfreyKneller-IsaacNewton-1689.jpgContrary to what you might think, Newton was not always the supreme rationalist that we've come to revere. He actually wrote more about theology and alchemy than science and math combined. Newton voraciously sought out patterns and hidden codes within the Bible and other holy texts, with the same dedication he lent to inventing calculus.

After much reading and surprisingly simple calculation, Newton arrived at a date for the end of the world as we know it: 2060. Luckily for us, he didn't mean "end" in a literal sense. He picked 2060 as the approximate date that Christ would return and establish a global kingdom of peace. Of course if Newton's prediction comes to pass, we might have to endure the great battle of Armageddon first, which probably won't be too pleasant.

(Images: 1. NASA and ESA   2. Sir Godfrey Kneller)

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