Y2K (Year 2000)
Several years behind the Hale-Bopp comet and the infamous Heaven’s Gate mass suicide of 1997 (which spurred some apocalyptic hysteria of its own); Y2K became the new face of doom in the years leading into the Millennium. In short, the debacle centered on a simple yet prickly programming oversight: To save money in programming, a two-digit abbreviation system was employed to denote the year as opposed to a four-digit system. As the problem became clear, fears mounted that computers would go haywire when faced with the year ‘00’, confusing 2000 for 1900 and a pre-computer era. “With 300 million interconnected computers worldwide,” writes Brian W. Fairbanks in Surviving Y2K: Staying on Top in a World Turned Upside Down, “computers now carry the burden of Atlas, balancing the entire globe on their shoulders. But now there’s a bug resting on those powerful biceps. On January 1, 2000, that bug will start to move, crawling on those ticklish arms.” Through a consorted effort by the powers that be and billions of dollars in research and implementation, the bug was effectively squished and the big “what if” surrounding Y2K quickly became a “remember when?” to the relief of the world.
Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Black Hole Scenario
When you set out to uncover the structure of space‐time and demystify the fundamental constituents of matter, you may raise a few eyebrows.vii But when word caught on about the potential for the LHC to create a ravenous black hole, well it’s no surprise that doomsayers had ruffled feathers. Of all the fears on this list, perhaps the LHC had just enough scientific oomph to legitimize the brief stint of concern that many people felt. Fortunately, when they finally fired the LHC up in 2010, the Earth wasn’t swallowed by a black hole.viii
‘Doomsday’ Comet Elenin
An unwanted visitor from the outer solar system (the Oort Cloud) came into our galactic neighborhood in late 2010, prompting some marginal hysteria and interesting headlines. “Also known by its astronomical name, C/2010 X1, Elenin somehow quickly became something of a “cause célèbre” for a few Internet bloggers,” wrote NASA on October 25, 2011, “who proclaimed this minor comet could/would/should be responsible for causing any number of disasters to befall our planet.” NASA dispelled the rumors, adding, “There are no known credible threats to date.” Certainly, the tendency of doomsayers to grasp onto the “death from above” scenario always comes into sharper focus when a NEO (near-earth object) enters the scene. Hopefully going forward, people will leave the predictions to the scientists!
Harold Camping’s Rapture
Harold Camping’s highly publicized predictions for Rapture on May 21, 2011, came undone when the date came and went like any other. A real headline maker, major news outlets covered the rise and fall of the prediction. Writes Garance Burke of the Huffington Post: “Camping, a retired civil engineer, had originally forecast that some 200 million people would be saved when the globe was destroyed, and warned that those left behind would die in earthquakes, plagues and other scourges until Earth was consumed by a fireball.”x
In the end, Camping admitted the error of his prediction as doomsayers changed their gaze to the next big date, December 21, 2012.
December 21, 2012
In recent years, the grossly skewed and misinterpreted “2012 Maya apocalypse” cluttered the internet and airwaves with unrelenting speculation and prediction. Yet the slightest bit of research could have easily disproven even the most outrageous of 2012 apocalypse claims.
Perhaps the first step for those touting the 2012 Mayan apocalypse should have been to reanalyze the incorrect assumption that the Mayan calendar ended in 2012. In fact, a simple read in a text book reveals that the ancient Maya believed in cyclical time and thus, a Baktun transition into a new era.
A very complicated equation can be used to describe this incredible breakthrough in logic:
Transition ≠ End of Days
With no shortage of doomsayers, just a few of the catastrophic scenarios caught in the magnetic pull of misinformation included the Niburu (aka Planet X) collision fears, massive solar storms, a shift in the magnetic poles and a rare planetary alignment that would cause colossal tidal effects. NASA swiftly put those fears to rest in a series of statements and videos (for example, eeny, meeny, miny, moe) leading up to (and following) that most auspicious of dates.
In the end, with the passage of the date, this very tired story was put to bed once and for all. For those still in disbelief, feel free to read up on “Why the World Didn’t End” on 2012, courtesy of NASA.
Marlon Heimerl is a writer for HalloweenCostumes.com, a leading online retailer in Halloween costumes, accessories, and décor.