Well, you have to give it up for the Mayans, ye ancient people who some folks believe have predicted the end of the world in 2012.
Earth may have survived Y2K, but after the subsequent wild ride of catastrophic terrorist attacks, wars, global economic collapse, killer flu pandemics, and the Gosselins, those crafty ancient Mesoamericans were prescient enough to make sure that their calendar will run out in just a couple years, bringing the world to a fiery end and putting us poor suckers out of our collective misery.
At least that's what Hollywood and the Internet tin-hat collective would have you believe. But put those cans of beans back in the bunker and pack away the Kevlar underwear, because we're not going anywhere soon -- at least, not because of the Maya.
The general idea behind the 2012 end-of-the-world prophecy is that the ancient Mayans had a 5,125-year-long calendar that "ends" on December 21, 2012. There are hundreds of theories out there regarding what will happen on this day, ranging from a deadly comet strike, to the reversal of the Earth's magnetic poles, to the return of a mysterious "Planet X," to a massive collision between Earth and a black hole. While there are plenty
of friendly astrophysicists
available to debunk
these threats for you, I'm here to point out why the whole idea of the 2012 "prophecy" is a load of crap to begin with.
1. There's no such thing as "the Mayan calendar."
The ancient Mayans were a number- and date-obsessed bunch and actually juggled three standard calendar systems. (Just to make life miserable for archaeologists, they threw in a couple extraneous calendars for kicks.) There's a Mayan calendar that "ends," for instance, every 240 days. The calendar that everyone is freaking out about is known as the "long-count" calendar, which last began in 3114 B.C. and continues for 13 baktuns (1 baktun = 144,000 days), and ends its cycle on December 21 (or 23rd, depending on whom you ask), 2012.
2. There's only one -- count it, one -- inscription in the entire Mayan world that refers to December 21, 2012.
That one inscription (and an incomplete one, at that) doesn't contain a shred of prophecy about the world ending. Actually, the guys who are able to read Mayan glyphs believe] it has to do with a building dedication 1400 years ago
. Obviously not a subject you can make a great disaster-porn flick about.
3. Mayan calendars don't "end."
Mayan calendars actually reset, like odometers. So, on December 21, 2012, the Long Count goes from 188.8.131.52.0 back to 0.0.0.0.0 and starts all over again.
4. There's plenty of evidence that the Maya thought the world would continue far beyond 2012.
The guys at Tikal had a long-count calendar
that wouldn't reset until the 19th baktun (4378 A.D.), while there's a king at Palenque
who's supposed to get crowned in 4772.
5. Think about it.
Finally, if the Mayans were so damn brilliant at predicting the future, how come they never foresaw their own apocalypse? The arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s and the near-destruction of what remained of their entire culture? Just sayin.'
So what happens after the long line of upcoming disaster films and panicky news reports pumps us up for the ultimate 2012 letdown? No worries. There's an Aztec calendar that "ends" in 2027.