The prediction from some corners of looming apocalypse is being met locally with reactions ranging from shrugs to snickers.
"We've got nothing," McGuckin Hardware marketing manager Randy Barker said Wednesday. He said the store was seeing no run on survivalist supplies in the face of Friday's forecast -- according to some people's interpretation of the ancient Mayan calendar -- as marking the end of the world as we know it.
"It's certainly nothing like what we saw with Y2K," Barker added. "People are focused on Christmas first -- and now, also, with the weather."
In Boulder, where many people find virtually any occasion easy to convert into an opportunity to throw a party, evidence also does not abound that people are making plans to greet a potential doomsday with drink in hand.
"Not that I'm aware of," said Liquor Mart store manager Rob Locricchio. "I haven't heard too much of a buzz," other than seeing various spoofs appearing across Facebook. "Everybody's focus is still on Christmas."
He hastened to point out it still isn't too late to panic -- or at least, for folks to make merry in defiance of a possible date with disaster.
"I'd gladly help someone plan their end-of-the-world party, if they need," Locricchio said.
At the Boulder Army Store, where the inventory includes any number of items people might want if they were, just for example, facing relentless waves of marching zombies, co-owner Pat Long has seen scant sales activity indicating people are concerned.
He certainly isn't.
"I'm worried about at least 50 things before that -- probably even more than 50," Long said. "In fact, I'd forgotten all about it, until you just mentioned it."
A non-scientific Facebook survey suggests that Boulder's what-me-worry attitude mirrors a wider trend. A Facebook page titled "End of the World 2012" has so far registered more than 24,200 likes. But one called "2012 is Not the End of the World!!" shows in excess of 119,000 likes.
Two men who don't like -- or, at least, aren't buying -- the end-times talk are among those who should know best what's in store Friday, or, more accurately, what isn't. University of Colorado professors Payson Sheets and Larry Esposito both poured cold water on fears of fiery infernos and other cataclysmic scenarios.
If -- or when -- the world does come to its end, there has to be a mechanism for our demise. Esposito, a professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences at CU, cites two prior noteworthy mishaps Earth has suffered.
About 4.5 billion years ago, he said, something about the size of Mars struck our planet, "splashing" off, in his words, the celestial body we now know as our moon. Much more recently, only about 65 million years ago, it is believed that an asteroid struck Earth, killing the dinosaurs, most large animals and even most plankton in the sea.
Understandably, then, modern-day astronomers are scanning the heavens for any similar incoming disrupters.
"We have a pretty good inventory of the objects that might hit the Earth, and there is nothing on its way toward the Earth, no secret planet, no 'mirror Earth,' no killer asteroids," Esposito said. "From an astronomical point of view, it's not impossible that there is something we don't know about. But we have been looking, and we don't see any candidate at the moment."
Additionally, there is the unknown potential of what our own sun might do to us. It is true that the sun is approaching what astronomers call "solar maximum" -- that is, the end of the 11-year solar cycle, when solar spots and solar flares become more numerous. But, Esposito said, just because the sun is in a more "energetic" phase, that does not mean scientists can predict a devastating solar flare Friday, or any other day, that would incinerate everything.
"Just like I can't predict the weather here in Boulder with certainty on Friday, I can't say that there will not be a solar flare on Friday," Esposito conceded. "We may wake up on Friday and the sun may flare; that's certainly possible. I can't deny the possibility that the sun might flare in a way that we have never experienced, before -- but that is extremely unlikely."
Sheets, a professor of anthropology at CU, points out that end-times theorists are also misinterpreting what the Mayan calendar even says. The "long count" Mayan calendar, he explained, simply shows that Friday marks the end of the current "baktun," which is a cycle roughly equivalent to 400 years.
Rather than the end of anything, Sheets said, the Mayan calendar merely indicates a new baktun -- the 13th -- beginning with sunrise Saturday, assuming we make it that far. Sheets is confident we will do so, just as we dodged disaster with the so-called Harmonic Convergence of 1987 and the feared Y2K global computer meltdown at midnight Jan. 1, 2000.
"I've had a fair number of inquiries and arguments over the year from new-agers who are making these dire predictions," Sheets said. "One thing I do with every one of them is I say, 'I will be glad to bet you any amount of money.'" He said he has "yet to have a penny show up" from those forecasting doom.
"My bet is that, going from Friday to Saturday, there really won't be much difference," Sheets said.
Still, Sheets concluded with a bit of bet hedging.
"If we all come to end of the world, my apologies," he said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.