The countdown to the supposed "Mayan apocalypse" some are saying could hit Dec. 21 of this year has begun and some people are already thinking of taking drastic measures in order to prepare for end-of-the-world events.
David Morrison, senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, shared with the Daily Mail that he receives 10 emails a day from people who are "seriously, seriously upset" about the prospect of a coming apocalypse.
He shared of a message from a woman in Denmark who wrote: "Mother of one daughter and another coming. Yesterday I was considering killing myself, the baby in my stomach and my beloved two-year-old daughter before December 2012 for fear of having to experience the Earth’s destruction."
A 13-year-old American reportedly wrote: "I am considering suicide. I am scared to tears . . . I don’t want to live any more, I deserve an explanation."
These fears are based in large part on a 5,125-year-old calendar by the Mayans, who are said to have been exceptionally gifted in astronomy. The calendar ends Dec. 21, 2012, and there has been a lot of discussion among researchers and the public about what this abrupt end actually means.
An ancient stone tablet discovered at ruins in Tortuguero, southern Mexico, in the 1960s, talked of a Mayan god of war and creation who would "descend from the sky on the appointed day," which added further fuel to doomsday theories. Some researchers, however, insist that there is no concrete evidence to suggest the prophecy is referring to the destruction of Earth.
"There's no real prophesy that says this is going to be the end of the world," Christopher Powell, an archeologist who studies Mayan culture, shared with ABC News. "Not from the Mayan ruins, anyway."
NASA has stated that it has received more than 5,000 questions from people about possible end-of-the-world scenarios, the Daily Mail article shared, revealing even more cases of people asking whether they should go ahead and kill themselves and their loved ones rather than face what Dec. 21 may have in store.
Talk potential catastrophes and widespread public fear have encouraged Californian businessman Robert Vicino to start a project building luxury bankers in secret locations around the world. The shelters are sold for $10,000 per person, according to the official website of the project, named Vivos.
Although it features a section discussing end-of-the-world prophecies and has a "countdown" clock that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until Dec. 21, 2012, Vivos is not focused exclusively on the Mayan apocalypse. It advertises that its shelters can be used for a great number of disasters that may hit the planet, ranging from natural catastrophes like solar flares and global tsunamis, to man-made threats such as terrorism and anarchy.
Vicino shared with the Daily Mail that more than 5,000 Americans have already booked their places, and they are expanding operations into Europe. One such man who has reserved a spot, Steve Cramer, said: "We’re not crazy people: these are fearful times. My family wants to survive. You have to be prepared."
Another member, Jason Hodge, a father of four, described his decision as an "investment in life."
"I want to make sure I have a place I can take me and my family if that worst-case scenario were to happen," he explained.
From the many theories of what may happen on the Mayan date, SPACE.com is said to have shared reports of a rogue planet called "Nibiru" that is headed for Earth, and according to Nancy Lieder, a self-proclaimed Nibiru expert who claims she is in contact with aliens from Zeta Reticuli, Nibiru will strike Earth on Dec. 21, 2012.
NASA representative, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object program office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., debunked Lieder's claims and told SPACE.com that "Nibiru is ridiculous because it doesn't exist -- it never existed as anything other than a figment of the imagination by pseudo-scientists who don't seem bothered by a complete lack of evidence."
"There are no known near-Earth objects in 2012 that present a credible risk to Earth," Yeomans concluded.
James Beverley, a professor of Christian thought and ethics at Toronto's Tyndale University College & Seminary, explained that apocalypse theories associated with the Maya were often misinformed New Age theories. He said they lack grounding in Mayan anthropology or religious studies, and that such theories assume a future that is God’s alone to know.
"The Bible tells us that the world as we know it will end sometime, but Jesus also tells us that no one knows the hour," Beverley said. "So, the 2012 prediction deserves no respect, though people who truly believe this theory should be treated with love."
Family Radio Stations, Inc. founder Harold Camping predicted the end of the world incorrectly on several occasions. He predicted the world would end in 1994, then said that the rapture would occur May 21, 2011, and his latest prediction was an Oct. 2011 rapture.
As a result, many believers sold their homes and gave up their wealth to fund campaigns advertising the Christian broadcaster's claims. They bought t-shirts and other merchandise and stood on street corners telling of the upcoming rapture.
Steven L. Sherman, author of The Revelation of Christ: Understanding the Apocalypse, said such things happen when people are not "Bible literate."
To Sherman, people who believe the Mayan calendar predicts the end of days believe in paganism. "I don't put any credence in it, but Christians have to be prepared for persecution one day," he concluded.