Over at LiveScience their senior writer Stephanie Pappas has written Mass Hysteria? Strange Mayan Apocalypse Freakouts.
This was my response.
Stephanie you seem surprised at these freakouts but you forget all we're bombarded with from the moment we're born's end of the world scenarios from so-called scientific quarters.
At the moment it's global warming but when I was a kid in the Sixties/Seventies it was a new ice age or variants thereoff and of course there was the incessant theme all through the Sixties Seventies and Eighties we were only minutes off nuclear winter due to World War III. In fact that meme was so pervasive my cousin a university educated girl with a degree had a nervous breakdown from which she never really recovered. So convinced was she by all the doom mongering all it took was for a car alarm to go off or fire engine to sound its siren and she'd immediately scurry for cover distraught out her mind that any moment now the nukes'd start landing.
All things like Nostradamus' 1999 or the Mayan's 2012 provide's a kind of hook to hang all the neuroses of the civilization on allowing people like my cousin to defeatedly say okay let's hope this time it really is here and we're finally getting the damned thing over with.
This's what makes me laugh when sane well adjusted scientific types mock Mayan apocalypse types. All you have to say to reveal them as being as nuts as everyone else is to mention "You heard the latest research? They now reckon we've only got 14 months before the sea starts flooding Europe."
Instead of questioning this rationally many scientific types simply break into a cold sweat and go "I knew it wasn't far off but my god so soon?"
And if you doubt what I say try it. You may well be surprised.