Few people have destroyed the world more than Roland Emmerich. In his mega-hit "Independence Day," aliens laid waste to pretty much every metropolitan center on the planet, and in his eco-thriller "The Day After Tomorrow," much of the northern hemisphere finds itself buried under ice. In his third crack at presenting the apocalypse, this fall's "2012," Emmerich taps into the angst of thousands of astrologers, doomsday enthusiasts, and conspiracy theorists who fear that a massive cataclysm will strike the earth on December 21 of that year. Yet unlike previous dates tied to the Earth's expiration, this one has its roots in various sources throughout history including interpretations of the Mayan calendar, astrology, and the ancient Chinese fortune-telling text the "I-Ching."
The Mayan Calendar
2012 gained the patina of doom with the best-selling 1966 book "The Maya" by Harvard archeologist Michael D. Coe. He noted that the Mayan culture's famously complex "Long Count" calendar simply ends on 12/21/12, speculating that civilization might come crashing down on that date. Other scholars argue, however, that the Mayan calendar would merely flip over like an odometer that reached 100,000 miles.
Astrologers have also pointed out that during the winter solstice of 2012, the orbital planes of the solar system and the twelve Zodiacal constellations will intersect with the "Dark Rift" -- a black bit of the Milky Way located next to Sagittarius. Some argue this intersection is precisely why the Mayans -- who were brilliant astronomers -- ended their calendar when they did. But other astrologers believe that this conjunction will usher in a great shift in consciousness.
And then there's ounterculture thinker Terence McKenna whose Timewave Zero theory -- drawing off of elements from the "I-Ching," the teachings of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, and modern fractal mathematics -- which determined that 12/21/12 is, you guessed it, the exact date of a profound change in world. Roughly speaking, the Mayans, astrologers and McKenna are all predicting global doom or the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
Sunspots and Pole Problems
So if the apocalypse is set just in time for holiday shopping season three years from now, how exactly will the world end? One theory that actually has some traction in the scientific community is that a solar flare will cause a sudden shift in the magnetic orientation of the Earth's poles, causing all kinds of planetary problems like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. NASA is predicting strong solar activity around 2012 and there's evidence that the magnetic poles are slowly weakening, something that reportedly presages a reversal. Of course, most scientists think that this reversal will take centuries, not days, to occur.
So how does Roland Emmerich end the world in his upcoming epic "2012"? "Pole reversal," he said in an interview this week. "All kinds of stuff going on. But it's basically major earthquakes and volcano eruptions which kind of cause this global flood."
"We found this obscure theory of 'Earth crust displacement,' written in the '50s by someone called Professor Hapgood. Albert Einstein wrote the foreword to his book. It pretty much [says] every X number of years the whole Earth's crust shifts, all together. We thought that that was a great underlining theory that can explain why there can be a flood."
And what is the director going to do in preparation for that fated date? When asked he said, "I'm a pretty down to earth guy. Even [though] I made movies about aliens, I don't believe in aliens. And I don't believe that the world will come to an end in 2012, but it's a great scenario."