Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The 2012 'Doomsday' Prophecy

So this weeks topic was suggested a couple of weeks ago by the fantastically hilarious Thundercat832 (a word of warning on her blog, it's not exactly work safe.) She felt I could give a good take on the whole 2012 thing.

So what will happen in 2012? Well, there will be earthquakes, volcanic eruption, hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards, floods, drought, disease, and several tons of space rock will rain down. Sounds like a pretty standard year to me, in fact, all of this stuff happens all of the time. It is tragic, but is the nature of living on an active and dynamic planet. Heck, without these processes, life might not have arisen in the first place and evolved to the point of human intelligence.

Well then, what is all this mumble jumble that people seem to be saying about 2012? Apparently it has to deal with the Mayan Calendar. The basic belief that I think people have is that the world is predicted to end on December 21st, 2012. The Winter Solstice.

This. Is. Bologna.
Just ask my friend Oscar Mayer.
People apparently, wholeheartedly, believe this to be the truth. They are buying doomsday bunkers and food stores and everything else just for some event that most likely won't happen. If it's the end of the world, how do they expect that to help them anyways? As if the entire Earth would stop existing over night because of supposed Mayan Prophesy.


The apparent story behind the Mayans is that their long count calendar ends there, and this is a supposed to be a cause for alarm. But do you freak out every New Years Eve when your yearly calendar ends? No, you end up drunk watching Dick Clark's android countdown to the robot revolution. 

So the mere end of a calendar isn't prophetic of massive doom?

Yes, now you get it. The calendar was put together by a rather advanced civilization with knowledge of astronomy, writing and other skills around 250-900 CE (common era, aka AD). These guys had an empire that stretched from southern Mexico, through Guatemala, Belize, and El Salvador, and into Honduras. Probably aside from this little snafu are most remembered for their pyramids and intricate building style.

This is a society that also valued calendars: with social, agricultural, commercial, and administrative elements, but mostly there was a religious element. Every day had a patron saint for specific use. The Calendar Round was a combination of calendars that lasted 52 years, or approximately one generation. They even had a the "Venus Cycle" incorporated, being keen astronomers, based on it's position in the sky.

This calendar wasn't great for recording history though. So they expanded on to it in what became known as the "Long Count" calendar, which lasts 5126 years. However, this calendar is a bit confusing to read, it relies on the Mayan use of base 13 and base 20 numbers, where our calendar uses base 10. But one way of interpreting is that it starts on the arbitrary date of August 11th 3114 BCE, and ends on December 21st, 2012. The arbitrary start date is because the Mayan's had to account for the history of time before the calendar was made.

So, it is merely the end of a cycle, and the calendar my actually continue on until around 8000 CE. If anything though, the actual Mayan mythologists and archeologists suggest that they predicted an age of enlightenment, not a doomsday. The ideas of catastrophe are most a reflection of our own society reading into the end of something as bringing about the end of civilization. Which just is NOT the case.

So, no. Do not expect Planet X to knock the Earth off axis or Gamma Ray Bursts to cook the planet or a sudden change in the magnetic poles that sends us into a deep ice age. You will be safe. And if anything, you should kick back and celebrate the rich Mayan heritage as an era passes. Another good read on the subject can be found on Universe Today.

 Also, make sure to vote for next weeks topic, you have until Monday!


31 comments:

Lost.in.Idaho said...

CE? Wow, I haven't seen CE in a while.

Zombie said...

All this talk of the end of the world makes me want a sandwich!

Matt said...

Good explanation! I always thought it was great how there was all this hoopla for essentially going from December back to January again.

Astronomy Pirate said...

Yeah Idaho, I've taken a liking to the 'proper' terminology.

Melanie said...

So, I read an article about six months ago or so that claimed researchers are saying that they are probably off on the end date of the Mayan calendar by about fifty years, and that it has probably already happened. I think we might make it.

Grafted said...

Awesome, I was afraid this was going to be a 'Doomsday, start collecting water!' kinda post. I probably would have lost all respect for you.

BrAd? said...

Very informative, great post.
Also Bologna ftw

Jason said...

i love cartoons explaining things.

Jay said...

....an age of enlightenment...where our robot overlords rule over everything.... :|

MuteMath Fan (& news junkie too!) said...

If I have to eat bologna, the world will end.

Kim Anders said...

i love bologna! i'm gonna hamster it for when the world ends in 2012

Alan said...

This is it, calendars were a human invention and so one decided that at a certain mark on this the world ends (which is just weird).

JaksonHunt said...

Repent the end is near D:

Robert said...

I Wasnt really afraid of the 2012 disaster theory. I think its just a way for companies to make money. If you scare people, they will buy things to take that fear away.

Glovey said...

Another great post! keep up the good blogging!

mac-and-me said...

great post, in 2012 you can be like "told ya"

Banacek said...

You're right. It's just the end of the cycle. There is nothing about the world ending.

THUNDERCAT832 said...

lmfao the rock cartoon made me pass out with laughter BECAUSE IT'S SO FREAKIN' TRUE!!!

Meghan Moran said...

I wonder what all the crazies will look forward to once 2012 passes.

Fourra said...

nice post, thx for sharing

Necroticism said...

There's only one thing that worries me: no matter what, people will panic and they'll do some crazy shit, like massive suicides, or even killing other people. Let's see how far they get.

What's going on in the world? said...

I'd be willing to put money on 2012 not being the end of the world ;D

Rob said...

I think I'll have to show everyone this. Despite the fact that I doubt anyone who believes that 2012 is a real cause for concern will believe you, or anything else...

Aaron M. Gipson said...

It seems like there's ALWAYS some impending doomsday coming up to smite us all. In my lifetime, it's been 1982 (some planetary alignment), 1988 (another one), 1990 (MC Hammer's first album), 2000 (Y2K), and now 2012.

If the Mayans were so darn smart, what are they up to NOWADAYS? How's that Mayan space program coming along (and no, datura trips don't count)?

kgp318 said...

It's great to know that the world won't end less than a year after I graduate. Very funny cartoon too!

Taylor said...

Im gonna stock up on twinkies!

WanderingWriter said...

As you pointed out, the Mayans are still around and their elders who have preserved the tradition make it clear that the calendar only marks the end of an age-not the end of the world. If anything, they see it as a time of upheaval, difficult for awhile, but culminating in positive change. Good post- baloney, indeed.

Polybius said...

I don't see why anyone would trust a calendar that has a man with his tongue sticking out in the middle of it.

Malkavian said...

The end of the world has been coming since man has reason and memory, why do you think we celebrate each year??

Buckaroopopcorn said...

"...there will be earthquakes, volcanic eruption, hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards, floods, drought, disease, and several tons of space rock will rain down."

OMFG!!! I knew it! 2012 is doomsday! I hope Jesus isn't coming back: I hate granola.

KillerKun said...

It will be a good year for the bunker building companies

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