The origin of the belief comes in part from the Mayan calendar, in which the date Dec. 21, 2012, denotes the end of a 394-year time-cycle the Maya called Baktun 13. But historians say the Maya didn’t believe this signaled an end to the world as we know it. Another ‘source’ is author Zecharia Sitchin, who has written about a mysterious planet called “Nibiru,” which is unknown to modern astronomers but whose existence was taken on faith by the ancient Sumerians. The planet, according to Sitchin, has a highly elliptical orbit of the sun, and returns to the inner solar system every 3,600 years. The author says that it was a collision between Nibiru and another planet that created the Earth and the asteroid belt, and that ancient astronauts from Nibiru came to Earth and created modern humans. And because a truly bad idea hardly ever goes unexploited, Sony Pictures is bringing its $200 million blockbuster, “2012,” to the screen on Friday, November 13th. The movie’s trailer shows the entire planet coming unhinged, with, among other on-screen disasters, Los Angeles falling into the sea, and an aircraft carrier crashing into the White House. To promote the film, Sony is using the slogan, “2012: Search for It.” The studio has set up a fake Web site (www.instituteforhumancontinuity.org) for a fictional entity called the Institute for Human Continuity, which employs scientific-sounding babble to explain the ‘forthcoming’ destruction of the planet (“large amounts of solar radiation will bombard the Earth and heat up the molten, semi-liquid layers beneath the lithosphere, thus allowing the crust to shift more easily”). The truth about the universe is that it does, in fact, contain all sorts of black holes, gamma ray bursts, and exploding stars, not to mention asteroids, meteors, and comets could conceivably be up to no good (from an Earth-centric standpoint). But it is also true that the Earth is in a fairly quiet area of the Milky Way galaxy, a backwater where not a lot happens in any given “time-cycle.” As with most junk-science, real science provides a backdrop from which all manner of convoluted “facts” come to light. For instance, while there’s no planet called Nibiru, there is a dwarf planet past Pluto called Eris, but it’s in a stable orbit and not coming anywhere near Earth. And if a Nibiru or other rogue celestial body was aimed at the third rock from the sun, one or more of the planet’s 100,000 amateur astronomers would have spotted it years ago. In the November issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, Edward Krupp, an astronomer at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles debunks “2012,” comparing it to previous cosmic prophesies, like 1987’s “Harmonic Convergence,” when New Agers gathered at geological points to create what the article calls a “synchronized and unified bio-electromagnetic collective battery.” Pseudo-science has a long and storied “history.” Among the many books detailing projected ends of the world, Immanuel Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision” posed the idea that various planets traveled wildly across the solar system thousands of years ago, causing Biblical phenomena (the parting of the Red Sea, the plagues of Egypt, etc.). In modern times, astronomers have studied and mapped the asteroids close to Earth that are two miles in diameter or larger. Nothing so far observed represents a clear and present danger to the planet. One asteroid, named Apophis, will pass close to Earth in 2029, as well as in 2036 and 2068, but calculations indicate it won’t get any closer to the planet than around 18,000 miles. For anything closer, you’ll have to see the movie.