Waiting for 2012? Not the movie, but the real thing.
Reports indicate that the 2012 end of the world prediction made by the ancient Mayans has sparked real fears, with some people displaying "end times" anxiety.
NASA's Ask an Astrobiologist Web site, for example, has received thousands of questions regarding the 2012 doomsday predictions-some of them disturbing, according to David Morrison, a senior scientist with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
"A lot of the submitters are people who are genuinely frightened," said Morrison, who thinks movie marketers, authors, and others out to make a buck are feeding some of the fears.
"I've had two teenagers who were considering killing themselves, because they didn't want to be around when the world ends," he told National Geographic News.
"Two women in the last two weeks said they were contemplating killing their children and themselves, so they wouldn't have to suffer through the end of the world," he added.
Part of the worry, according to Morrison, is being fanned by a suite of Web sites created by the distributor for '2012', the movie.
The sites appear to represent scientific organizations, press releases, and 2012 whistle-blowers, all intent on telling the "truth" about our upcoming doom.
Now, all the 2012 marketing sites display clear disclaimers that the contents are "Part of the 2012 Movie Experience."
"But, those labels weren't there from day one, adding to the suggestion that the doomsday scenarios might have some truth behind them," Morrison said.
Conspiracy theorists often believe that world governments and those "in power" know all about some impending disaster, but are doing nothing to save the rest of us.
Now, thanks to the Internet, such theories can gain traction quickly and spread more widely than ever before.
According to Anthony Aveni, a Maya expert and archaeoastronomer at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, "I got into an email dialogue with a high school student who was quite seriously concerned that the world was going to end. This person thought we were all going to die."
"For a lot of people I think it's almost kind of a parlor game. But there are also people who take it very seriously," said University of Wisconsin historian Paul Boyer.
"What strikes me is the total lack of historic awareness that people who get caught up in these things seem to exhibit. The most elementary look at history shows such a series of these episodes that are then proven false," he said.
"Yet despite that, there always seems to be a market," he added.