With over 4 million articles, Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, whether you're throwing a term paper together at the last minute, or figure out which end-of-the-world bandwagon you can jump on now that the Mayans didn’t pan out. But follow enough links, and you get sucked into some seriously strange places. We explore some of Wikipedia's oddities in our 4,433,724-week series, Wiki Wormhole.
This Week's Entry: List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events
What It's About: As long as there’s been a world, there’s been someone anxiously awaiting its end. Theologians, scientists, psychic friends—would-be seers of every stripe have made prediction after prediction about our collective demise, undaunted by the fact that none of these bold predictions have come true. At least not until 2015, when America becomes a dystopian socialist nightmare, like Sweden, and gives its terrorized populace eighteen months maternity leave before launching widespread nuclear annihilation. Thanks, Obama.
Strangest Fact: While there are plenty of religious predictions, the scientific ones are the most interesting. John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann’s 1974 book The Jupiter Effect claimed that the planets would align in the spring of 1982, and their combined gravitational pull would bring about earthquakes and other catastrophes. French astronomer and early science fiction author Camille Flammarion predicted that Halley’s Comet’s 1910 flyby would “impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.” And in a subtle mixture of science, mysticism, and good old-fashioned crazy, the Heaven’s Gate cult believed the 1997 appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet was cover for a spacecraft that would allow cult members to escape the earth before its doom.
Controversy: If you practice a religion, odds are good your faith both claims it has all the answers and has failed spectacularly in predicting the end of days. The bulk of the list’s predictions are courtesy of priests, prophets, and the occasional rabbi. The always-reliable Pat Robertson predicted in 1990 that the world would end on April 29, 2007. Colleague Jerry Falwell went with the ever-popular January 1, 2000. But Christians have been proclaiming the end of the world since Martin, Bishop Of Tours declared the Antichrist had been born, and would bring about the end times no later than 400 A.D. And that was centuries after the Jewish Essene sect saw their revolt against the Romans in 66 A.D. as the final battle ushering in the apocalypse. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses get the medal for persistence, as various members of the faith have predicted the end on no less than 20 different occasions between 1877 and 1989 (and that’s not counting Prince’s “1999”).
Thing We Were Happiest To Learn: With the Mayan Apocalypse behind us, end-of-the-world enthusiasts still have something to look forward to. While we blew past Rasputin’s prophecy of a firestorm eating all life on land before Jesus’ return back in August, February 22 is Ragnarök, the Norse apocalypse. John Charles Hagee, pastor of Texas’ Cornerstone megachurch claims the four blood moons between this April and March of 2015 fulfill end times prophecies from the Book Of Luke. The late newspaper astrologist Jeane Dixon predicted that between Jesus would return between 2020 and 2037. Dixon was probably motivated to pick a safely distanced and nonspecific timeframe after her February 4, 1962 prediction failed.
Thing We Were Unhappiest To Learn: Eventually, one of these predictions will be right. While it probably won’t involve antichrists or UFOs, as many of these do, scientists have a reasonable amount of evidence that within a billion years the sun will expand to the point that Earth will become too hot to support life. In 5 billion years, the sun will turn into a red giant, swallowing up the Earth. And in a billion times a billion years, scientists predict the heat death of the universe, where the universe’s energy will have become dispersed to the point where no movement or life is possible. In other words, don’t make any long-term plans.
Also Noteworthy: Some big names made end-of-the-world predictions. Sir Isaac Newton researched the Bible and concluded that the world would end by 2060. Christopher Columbus, when not sailing the ocean blue, wrote a Book Of Prophecies in 1501 claiming the world would end in either 1656 or 1658. Martin Luther never expected his Reformation of the Catholic Church to last, as he expected the world to end by 1600.
Best Link to Elsewhere On Wikipedia: If you prefer your predictions to have some basis in reality, Timeline of the far future is a list of scientists' predictions for the extremely distant future (most of the dates are in the millions or billions of years), mostly astronomy-based, although there’s also a mention of a date thousands of years from now for when we're expected to get a followup to Chinese Democracy.