The end of the world as we know it - Science, News - The Independent:
Forget man-made threats – the catalyst for the apocalypse will come from outer space, warns astronomer Chris Impey
"Apocalyptic thought has a tradition that dates to the Persian prophet Zoroaster in the 14th century BC. Recently, anxiety has grown over the prediction of the end of the world in the Mayan calendar.
It's true that the Mayan odometer will hit zeros on 21 December 2012, as it reaches the end of a 394-year cycle called a baktun. But this baktun is part of a larger 8,000-year cycle called a pictun, and there's no evidence that anything astronomically untoward will happen as the current baktun slides into the next. However, that hasn't stopped the feverish speculating that sells books and cinema tickets.
What kind of catastrophe would it take to end the world? Astronomical intruders provide a potentially serious threat..."