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Eternal Fascinations with the End: Why We're Suckers for Stories of Our Own Demise

Our pattern-seeking brains and desire to be special help explain our fears of the apocalypse
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Editor's note: This is the introductory article for the September 2010 special issue "The End".

Once again, the world is about to end. The latest source of doomsday dread comes courtesy of the ancient Mayans, whose calendar runs out in 2012, as interpreted by a cadre of opportunistic authors and blockbuster movie directors. Not long before, three separate lawsuits charged that the Large Hadron Collider would seed a metastasizing black hole under Lake Geneva. Before that, captains of industry shelled out billions preparing for the appearance of two zeros in the date field of computer programs too numerous to count; left alone, this tick of the clock would surely have shaken modern civilization to its foundations.

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