My, Oh Maya

The world's not ending--but can NASA persuade the terrified?

Illustration by Liz Meyer for TIME

If you want to see a roomful of people roll their eyes, just walk into a gathering of astronomers and shout, "Mayan apocalypse!" For years now, the idea that the earth will be destroyed in a terrible cataclysm on Dec. 21, 2012, has been bouncing around the Internet and showing up in articles, books and even movies. But despite what the tinfoil-hat crowd insists, an asteroid is not about to hit the earth. Neither is an imaginary planet called Nibiru. Our world isn't going to be abruptly flipped upside down like a burger on a griddle. What's more, Maya astrologers never...

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