Welcome to the end...

IF you're reading this, we're all still alive. The world didn't end. Phew.

Pretty amazing really. Who would have thought that an ancient race of Central Americans who couldn't even predict their own end at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors would have incorrectly foreseen the demise of the entire planet?

The Mayans may have been great farmers and architects and developed complex forms of writing and mathematics, but they were lousy when it came to making calendars and prognosticating Doomsday.

Still, they're not the only ones.

Since 1980, the end of the world has come and gone more than 60 times.

There are full lists, which make for inadvertently hilarious reading, at Wikipedia ("list of dates predicted for apocalyptic events") or the delightfully named website A Brief Of The Apocalypse (www.abhota.info).

Last year alone, we survived three predicted apocalypses and three Raptures.

For those not familiar with the concept of the Rapture, it supposedly entails the Second Coming of Jesus, when the true Christians will be taken up to Heaven and the rest of us filthy non-Christians will be left behind, probably in some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The Antichrist may also rise and there will be a great war. God may also whip up a special punishment for those left behind, possibly involving a rain of fire or lava or toads or something.

There may also be seven-headed beasts and horsemen of the apocalypse.

The Bible isn't terribly clear on the specifics but luckily we survived three of those last year including two predicted by the same guy, who adjusted his date after the first one didn't go down so way to go, humanity.

Last year was a particularly busy one in the business of apocalypse predictions, but the end of the world as we know it has been scheduled by all manner of psychics, gurus, religious figures, cult leaders, pseudo-scientists, and nutjobs at least once a year since 1980.

In 2010, the world was supposed to end, according to a group of occultists known as the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn.

By 2009, much of the world was supposed to be underwater thanks to a previous 20 years worth of flooding, according to advertising manager-turned-prophet Lori Toye of Arizona.

In 2008, the world was supposed to end via floods, nuclear attacks and volcanic explosions, according to a "bible decoding" group called The Lords' Witnesses.

In 2007, the world was supposed to be destroyed, according to prominent American preacher and Republican Pat Robertson. Mr Robertson also predicted that the world would end in 1982, that a tsunami would strike America's north-west in 2006, and that Mitt Romney would win the 2012 election.

And so on and so forth.

So it's not just Nostradamus or the Mayans making these predictions. In fact, the rise of the internet has given every lunatic with a half-baked theory a voice with which to tell the world that is "The End Is Nigh".

Sandwich boards are no longer required these days you just need a website.

Not that Doomsday-ing is the sole domain of the internet nutter.

The Romans were predicting their own demise more than 600 years before Jesus turned up, and history is littered with apocalyptic prognosticating.

Christopher Columbus, two popes, and Martin Luther were said to have forecast the end of days (in 1658, 1284, 1000 and 1600 respectively).

And if you thought it was only humans getting in on the apocalypse action, guess again. In 1806, long before Paul the Octopus was tipping World Cup winners, a hen in Leeds reportedly started laying eggs with the words "Christ is coming" on them.

Unsurprisingly it was a hoax someone had been writing the Rapture-predicting phrase on the eggs and re-inserting them into the chicken (keep this in mind when old people tell you they used to "find ways to entertain themselves" before the advent of television).

But back to the Mayans just how exactly was the world supposed to end yesterday?

The list of potential disasters was impressive. Geomagnetic reversal, an earth-crust displacement, a photon belt, a collision with the hidden planet Nibiru, a distant star going supernova, and an alien invasion were all scheduled for this year, according to a large selection of idiots.

Although maybe I shouldn't speak too soon. Some interpretations of the Mayan calendar's end date suggest it will happen tomorrow!

mneal@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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