A lot of press has been given to the so called doomsday prediction linked to the end of the Maya long-count calendar. Doom mongers suggest that the end of this calendar indicates that the Maya believed the world would come to an end via some cosmic disaster or social disorder. In reality, the end of the Maya long-count calendar simply indicates the end of a period of time that has been tracked by this ethnic group for thousands of years. It is just like the end of our calendar. Just because the last day has been marked off on your Joke-a-Day calendar does not mean that no other days will exist beyond today. It just means that a new period of time, in this case a new year, will begin and the annual calendar will be refreshed for the next year.
So why are so many people panicking over the date December 21, 2012? A lot has to do with the fact that every generation has end-of-times prophesies that they promote and believe in. This fear is linked to human psychology that fears the unknown. We do not know what will happen in one year, or ten years. It is because these unknowns exist, that humans have to find a way to gain control over time and space, through the creation of end-of-days predictions and prophesies. These things give us a mythology to explain what will happen in the future. Regardless if they come true or not, they give us some piece of mind.
So how much energy would it take to destroy the earth, or to at least bring about mass extinctions on the planet? This is a question that you can approach in your next science fair project. In your project do not forget to think about what could produce the amount of energy needed to create various levels of destruction on the planet.