The global economic crisis shows little sign of ending. Stock and bond markets remain volatile, while food and energy prices continue to rise. A real estate bubble is emerging in China, threatening to plunge the world into further chaos. With protests continuing in many countries, various movements for change are emerging, aided by social media like Twitter and Facebook.
Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II
February 2012 marked the 60th anniversary of the Queen's accession to
the thrones of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
(as well as the 60th anniversary of her becoming Head of the Commonwealth).
Celebrations were held in these countries to mark the occasion.
there is an extra public holiday in the UK. An event is staged in London
which includes a concert produced by singer-songwriter Gary Barlow,
formerly of Take That. A maritime parade of boats and events takes place
along the River Thames, in which up to 1,000 boats take part (the largest
flotilla to be seen on the river in 350 years) and a million people
watch from the riverside.* Street parties
take place around the country.
in 1897, is thus far the only other monarch in the histories of Britain,
Canada and a few other Commonwealth realms to have celebrated a Diamond
2012 UEFA European Football Championship is hosted by Poland and Ukraine.*
hosts the Olympic Games
London hosts the Olympics for the third time in its history, the only city to have done so on this many occasions. The event takes place amid the largest security operation ever seen in peacetime Europe. London is transformed this decade by a number of massive construction projects. In addition to the Olympic Games venues themselves, there is neighbouring Stratford City, a whole new business district with over 13.5 million square feet of floor space. Then there is Crossrail – a £15 billion rail connection, linking Heathrow Airport with the central and eastern parts of the city. Several new landmarks dominate the skyline, including the 87-storey Shard of Glass. This becomes the tallest tower in Europe (until surpassed by Mercury City Tower in Moscow) and the first to break the 1000 ft barrier.
Mars Science Laboratory – nicknamed Curiosity – is by far the largest and most powerful rover ever sent
to Mars. Among its many instruments is the first video camera
taken to another planet. As well as filming the surface, it also records the descent through the atmosphere, in HD quality. The rover also features the first 3D camera on Mars.
8 features a much faster startup, an App Store, integrated web applications,
improved digital media support (including AVC HD and 3D video), faster
resumes from low-power states, and support for both USB 3.0 and Bluetooth
3.0. It also includes facial recognition (due to the increasing use
of webcams integrated into computers), which can log a user in automatically.
There are major improvements for touch usage.
Quad-core smartphones and tablets
The first quad-core smartphones and tablets were released in 2012, offering a major boost in processing power. This new generation includes the Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC Edge, HTC Zeta, HTC Quattro tablet and the Asus Transformer Prime.**
launches the Wii U
Wii U is the first of the 8th generation games consoles – the others
being the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which are launched in 2013. The
Wii U features gameplay in full 1080p resolution, 8GB of flash-based
memory for storing game saves, a touch tablet controller with built-in
camera, and game discs with 25GB of content using a Nintendo-proprietary
format based on that of Blu-ray Discs. It is backward compatible with
Off the southeastern
coast of England, construction
of the largest ever offshore wind farm is underway. Known as the London Array, it will supply
enough power for 750,000 homes – a quarter of all those in London.* With a
total of 341 turbines, it will reduce carbon emissions by nearly 2 million
tonnes per year, an important milestone in the government's plan
to cut emissions by 80% by 2050.
Offshore wind power is growing rapidly in Britain.
Numerous other large-scale wind farms will be constructed in the coming
decades – greatly reducing the country's dependence on foreign energy
and creating thousands of new jobs in the green industry.
The Abraj Al-Bait Towers are completed in Mecca
Also known as the Mecca Royal Hotel Clock Tower, this becomes the second tallest building in the world, behind the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.* It is made up of seven different towers, with the Hotel Tower, the tallest, soaring to a height of 601m (1,972 ft).
Built by the Saudi Binladin Group, Saudi Arabia's largest construction company, it has cost over $15 billion and taken almost eight years to complete. Along with its place among the world's tallest, Abraj Al-Bait now holds the record of largest habitable floor area at 16,150,000 square feet (1,500,000 sq m). The hotel tower and its signature clock also hold the records for tallest hotel, tallest clock tower and largest clock face.
It is built to model the Islamic architecture of the old city and is located adjacent to the mosque Masjid al-Haram, Islam's most holy site and home to the Kaaba. The Abraj Al-Bait complex serves to accommodate the enormous numbers of pilgrims and worshippers visiting the site. This eases certain stresses on the city during the Hajj when millions of Muslims arrive as part of the pilgrimage. The towers are able to hold up to 100,000 people, with a large prayer room capable of holding up to 10,000. The complex also boasts a five-story shopping mall, heliports, residential areas, conference and business rooms, an Islamic Museum and a lunar observatory used to sight the Moon during holy months.
The tower sparked a global outcry during its development, however. The site was previously occupied by the historic Ajyad Fortress, an Ottoman castle built in 1781, and this was demolished to make way for its construction.* The new tower receives further criticism for its dominating stature over the rest of the city and its out of place modern appearance.*
The Mayan calendar reaches the end of its
The Mayans were an ancient people that lived thousands of years
ago, in what is now Central America. They are noted for having the only
fully-developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas –
as well as its art, architecture, mathematical and astronomical systems.
As part of their culture, the Mayans used a Long Count calendar. This
identified a particular date by counting the number of days from a starting
date, which is calculated to have been 11th August 3114 BCE in the Gregorian
calendar. A b'ak'tun was the longest unit of measurement in
this system and was equivalent to 144,000 days, or 394 years. When correlated
with the modern Western calendar it can be shown that the 13th b'ak'tun ends on 21st December, 2012.
has generated enormous publicity, with many predicting the end of the
world, or a transformative event of some kind. This is despite no record
of the Mayans themselves believing that any such event would occur.
plays a huge role here, whipping up a frenzy of speculation. Though
mostly tongue-in-cheek, it is enough to influence many gullible and/or
vulnerable people. Various threats are debated: from a polar reversal
of the Earth, to a global computer crash, runaway climate disaster or
other cataclysm. On some talk shows, even the second coming of Christ
is predicted. There are numerous pranks on the Internet and elsewhere,
creating further confusion and paranoia during this time. Some people
engage in panic buying of food, or build shutters and barricades around
their homes. Others spend their entire life savings to enjoy one "last
day" before the end of the world.
minority of people become involved in more serious activity. For these
troubled individuals, it becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In their misguided belief that the world will actually end,
they resort to extreme or illegal behaviour, putting themselves and
others at risk. Consequently, there is a brief spike in the number of
murders, rapes, accidents and suicides worldwide.
for the vast majority of rational people, the date passes without incident
– and life continues as normal on 22nd December.*