EPFL survived the end of the world, vintage 2012
22.12.12 - If you are reading this sentence, it’s because December 21, 2012, was a Winter solstice like any other. We can therefore stay calm… until the announcement of the next apocalypse!
Once again, astrologists and prophets of all sorts were unable to predict the exact date of the end of all time. The date 21 December, 2012 – which according to some punctuated the end of the last cycle “planned” by the Mayan calendar – led finally to… 22 December 2012. And to end of year festivities, which incidentally we hope will be joyous!
Two days before this doomsday, Science ! on tourne was host to an astronomist from the Observatory of Geneva, Sylvia Ekström, and an honorary professor of French literature from the University of Lausanne, Jean Kaempfer. During EPFL’s science-café, they both evoked possible meanings of “the end of the world” from the point of view of their domain of competence.
So, at a scale that amounts to billions of years, there is reason to believe that our poor planet Earth will end its career as life’s crucible, either under the assault of the Sun turned blowtorch as it becomes a giant star and therefore gobbles up the Earth, or by the exhaustion of fuel in fusion at the heart of our planet, or perhaps due to some disastrous collision with a celestial body. In the near future, however, astronomers fortunately expect no cause for worry.
Apocalyptic deadlines, more or less earnestly calculated, is still a recurrent theme in the public eye. And it’s not necessarily without reason. Predicting the end of the world, be it due to natural or anthropic causes, and describing it through works of apocalypse survivors, is food for thought : how do we go about rebuilding humanity from square one?
Given that reprieve was granted, let us seize this opportunity to deepen our reflections on this subject. These thoughts could be nourished with the help of a bibliography assembled by EPFL librarians, and by watching this new edition of Science! on tourne.