Deadlines of the universe

I am always a little disturbed by news of the end of the universe, especially when the scientists themselves can't agree whether it will come in 35 billion, or 56 billion, or 69 billion years -- depending on just what's up with "dark energy," as reported today in a NYT article on the coming "Big Rip" by Dennis Overbye. With such huge discrepancies in the calculations, how can one possibly plan for such an event? I have enough trouble just planning to the end of the year, when I'm supposed to have my novel sold and most of the draft of the book on Latin American architecture and urbanism completed. But, if the universe is going to end anyway, what's the point?

Actually, though the end of time may be tens of billions of years off, the end of our world, and presumably of anybody interested in reading the books I'm working on, is scheduled for much sooner. "A more immediate problem," according to the illustration with the article: "The Sun swells up and destroys the Earth in about five billion years, well before the Big Rip." So much for phrases like "The immortal works of Shakespeare," or of anybody.

Not worried about an event five billion years away? OK, how's this? According to the sages of the Maya, the present Creation Cycle -- that is, everything we know -- which began some time in August (by our present calendar), 3114 B.C., is set to end on December 21, 2012. So, if there's anything you want to get done in our current universe, get busy!

Maya calendar