If you’re waiting until December 22 to start Christmas shopping – just in case the Mayan end of the world December 21 prediction comes true – this is a reality check. Think about it. If the Mayans were that good at predicting the future, why didn’t they foresee the Spanish Conquistador invasion of the 16th century?

The truth is that historians are unanimous in their belief that the Mayans never did actually predict the world would end in 2012. But somewhere along the way, their ideas became entangled with Western nitwits who have been pushing end of the world prophesies for centuries.

The most recent example was U.S. preacher Harold Camping who, twice in 2011 and once in 1994, predicted a world-destroying, cataclysmic event. But as far as most experts can tell, the Earth – such as it is – is still in existence.

Over the centuries, various nutty characters have predicted a less-than-eternal fate for the Earth. Many of these world-ending prognostications had their origin in religious doctrine which, for some reason, attracts leaders who delight in making depressing predictions of Armageddon.

Consider the actual case of New Yorker William Miller who – modest man that he was – founded the Millerite Church back in the 1800s, and predicted the end of the world would come on April 3, 1843. When the world failed to disintegrate, the disgruntled preacher revised his predictions and foreshadowed earth’s demise on several more occasions over the next year. But, much to Rev. Miller’s continued annoyance, the Earth stubbornly held together each time.

Oddly enough, despite his failures, Miller (like Camping) was revered by many in his Millerite gang, which is a bit hard to fathom. I mean, if you’re going to follow someone “to the ends of the Earth,” at least wait until the guy gets the date right before you begin worshiping him, right?

As it turned out, some of the Millerites eventually became disenchanted with their doom and gloom leader.  It’s just a pity they didn’t form a splinter group, the Miller Lites, which surely would have been a merrier, relaxed bunch.

As for the Mayan apocalyptic predication now just a few days away, those clever, ancient, lads from South of the Border are making some folks a little nervous with their December 21 forecast of the Earth’s demise.

There are even people claiming that if something does happen, science may play a role. That’s because scientists have now turned on the world’s most powerful atom-smasher, to study the building blocks of the universe.

Known as the LHC, or Large Hadron Collider (as opposed to the Small Hadron Colliders available through mail-order from Lands End), this multi-billion dollar contraption is designed to investigate dark matter, extra dimensions, string theory, subatomic particles, and search for the ever elusive Higgs boson. (If you’re curious what that is, it’s a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle – just wanted to clear that up for you).

Built 600 feet underground on the French-Swiss border, there is some concern that when the LHC is operating at full power, it could malfunction just a tad. Are we talking about fusing out a few villa toasters in the Alps? Blowing out the street lights in downtown Geneva? Melting down the European power grid?

Nope. How about spawning a hungry, black hole that could swallow up the entire Earth, maybe on December 21?

Fortunately, the physicists reassuringly swear there is nothing to fear. They’ve even calculated that the chances of the Earth being vaporized by the LHC are about the same odds as winning Lotto.

But I’m not sure how reassuring that is since, when it comes to planetary meltdowns, I personally find a probability of ZERO to be a little more comforting. But who knows, maybe the Mayans knew their particle physics long before Einstein realized that E = MC Hammer.

Perhaps what is most amazing about all these predictions is the degree of accuracy that these End-of-Worlder wackos claim. Harry Camping, for instance, had calculated the exact time (6 pm) that the world would end on May 21 in 2011.

Along these lines, perhaps in future (assuming we have one), these end-of-worlders could channel their powers of prognostication for something much more practical for humanity –like predicting the exact time the Cable repairman will show up.

So relax folks.  Even the feds have spoken up on the Mayan prophesy, declaring in a formal announcement that the world will not end in 2012. And knowing how we all trust our leaders, isn’t that reassuring?

(Thomas’ features and columns have appeared in more than 250 magazines and newspapers.)