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With the year 2012 fast approaching, the Institute for Human Continuity has announced that after “more than two decades of rigorous research from the world’s top astronomers, mathematicians, geologists, physicists, anthropologists, engineers, futurists…we know in 2012 a series of cataclysmic forces will wreak havoc on our planet.” In response, they have begun a series of initiatives aimed at ensuring ‘human continuity’ beyond the disaster, the details of which can be found on their website.

Now before you busily grab a shovel and start construction of your bunker, it’s worth pointing out that the IHC website is just a piece of viral marketing for Roland Emmerich’s upcoming disaster movie 2012 (along with ThisistheEnd.com and FarewellAtlantis.com). But the site is so well constructed and straight-faced that some are now saying – including Caltech planet-hunter Mike Brown – that it tips over the line from marketing into a dangerous hoax:

Brown found some spam among his email, an ominous missive that purports to be from the director of the Institute for Human Continuity. It warns: “The IHC has uncovered evidence indicating that the disasters of 2012 are both real and unavoidable. We believe with 94% certainty that … cataclysmic events will devastate our planet and many who inhabit it. December 21, 2012 cannot be ignored.”

A link in the email to the IHC’s supposed web site actually takes you to a site that is so cleverly designed, an unsuspecting person who doesn’t recognize the actors on the page might think the IHC is real, that the end is near, and that buying a ticket (to somewhere, on something, who knows?) is the only hope of survival.

…Brown, who is a pretty smart guy, admits that unlike many doomsday websites designed by quacks, it took him a while to figure out this web site is a fake.

“It is slick. It is professional. There is no obvious sign anywhere that this is the work of kooks,” he said.

The LiveScience story also inspired a follow-up which discusses the Planet X/Nibiru claims, and references NASA space expert David Morrison’s FAQ on the topic. It all makes for interesting reading – personally I’ve never seen too much of substance in the 2012 meme (and it seems a majority of TDG readers agree), but if you’ve got some good resources or insights to the contrary feel free to discuss in the comments section.

So what do you think – does the marketing for 2012 cross the line?