So, the world probably won't end in 2012, but that's the date for plenty of imagined apocalypses. We look at the various ways the world ends (or at least radically changes) when the Mayan Long Count Calendar runs out.
2012: It's pure global catastrophe in Roland Emmerich's film. Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions — every possible natural disaster seems to conspire to wipe out all life on Earth.
Decipher by Stel Pavlou: The year 2012 sees an increase in solar flare activity as scientists see unusual energy signals coming from Antarctica. It soon becomes clear that the sun could be on the verge of triggering a deluge, and all the world's cities could go the way of Atlantis.
Death from the Skies
2012: Supernova: If you're looking for something beyond the usual asteroid strike, here's a different sort of celestial doomsday. A nearby star goes supernova, threatening the Earth's survival, prompting an international team of scientists to launch nuclear warheads to reduce the effect of the impact.
2012: Doomsday: On December 21, 2012, one day before the predicted apocalypse, it is revealed that a celestial object is about to collide with Earth. But this time, it's religion, not science that averts the ultimate disaster.
World War III
Blood of the Beast: Roughly half the population dies in the war of 2012, but the world's chemical weapons render nearly all the men on Earth sterile. The world is repopulated by clones, but 19 years after the first clones are harvested in 2012, the world goes to pot once again.
Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection: The dead start rising early in 2012, and soon the plague has spread across much of North America. And corporate greed has ensured that you can become a zombie even if you've never encountered the walking dead.
I Spit On Your Rave: The film doesn't get released until next year, but its zombie apocalypse starts at the 2012 London Olympics, when a virus is released. Humanity is quickly gobbled up, leaving the zombies to their own devices.
The X-Files: Alien colonization has always been a distinct probability in the X-Files universe, and in the episode "The Truth," the Cigarette Smoking Man reveals the date of invasion: December 22, 2012.
2012: The War of Souls by Whiley Strieber: Michael Bay is looking to adapt this tale of alien invasion. It turns out that the world's ancient monuments provide a gateway for alien invaders looking to conquer Earth and eat humanity's souls. And, if the invasion is not prevented in time, the gateways will open December 21, 2012.
RahXephon: The end of the Long Count Calendar marks another alien invasion, this one by the Mulians. The Mu declare war on humanity and enclose the city of Tokyo inside a spherical barrier.
Domain Trilogy by Steve Alten: Scientists may suggest that the dinosaurs were killed off by a meteorite, but the truth is that they fell prey to an ancient weapon buried beneath the Gulf of Mexico. And, if we don't learn the truth about those extraterrestrial exterminators by December 2012, we could be next.
Doctor Who "Dalek": Fortunately, the Doctor and Rose manage to stop Henry van Statten's captive Dalek before it can surface from his Statten's Utah bunker in 2012. Otherwise, the Dalek could have very well exterminated a good chunk of humanity.
A Glitch in the System
Wapsi Square: It's not that the Mayans predicted the end of the world in 2012, it's just that the quantum clock that runs the world must be reset at precisely the time and date the Long Count Calendar runs out. Otherwise, time resets back to an earlier point in time, trapping us all in a time loop. But you won't notice it — after all, it's happened several times before.
Goats: After the untimely demise of God, the Mayan programming firm One Death was hired to keep the multiverse going. Unfortunately, a glitch in the system will cause the multiverse to crash on December 21, 2012, unless the prophesied Programmer can be located in time.
PW2: 2012 by MC Miller: Former professor Hamilton Ray begins to notice strange patterns and synchronicities in in the universe, and develops a theory about a Probability Wave, something that's about to bring about a radical change in the universe at the end of 2012.
The World Is Radically Transformed
The Invisibles by Grant Morrison: The world as we know it may come to an end on December 22, 2012, but it's hardly doomsday. Instead, humanity ascends to the Supercontext, the next level of existence, at the word of Jack Frost.
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki: The priest Enrico Pucci acquires the stand Made in Heaven, which gives its user the power to rewrite the universe. And in 2012, Pucci attempted to remake the universe to suit his master Dio Brando. However, Pucci died before the universe could be completely rewritten, causing it to return to something close to its original form.
Shadowrun: Similarly, the world doesn't end in the Shadowrun universe, but as the Mayan calendar resets, the world undergoes a dramatic transformation. Magic returns to the Earth, allowing individuals, governments, and corporations to utilize a potent combination of cutting edge technologies and newly harnessed magic.
Additional reporting by Josh Snyder.