THE END OF THE WORLD IS (NOT) NIGH!
By now you must have caught up with the prediction that, according to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world will end on December 21, 2012.
The Maya, a civilization with a deep fondness for calendars, liked to anchor their historic events in “cosmic time”. They were extraordinarily skilled astronomers who were able to accurately predict the movements of the galaxy for centuries in advance.
According to their calendar – a detailed list of astronomical events that occurs over 13 cycles of 144,000 days – December 21, 2012, marks the end of the 13th and final “B’ak’tun,” or “end” cycle.
Translations of the messages in the calendar by devotees of New Age religions have come up with this quote: “This is the destruction of the world. This then is its end.”
How could the world end?
Ideas abound – including a polar planetary shift, a shift of the Earth’s magnetic poles where “north becomes south” ; an increase of Earth’s gravity which would attract more comets and asteroids to hit Earth; a series of solar flares and other astronomical phenomenon ; a collision with another planet or that the Earth will be swallowed up by a black hole that opens up in the galaxy.
The Mayan calendar has fascinated since the Spanish explorers way back in the 1550s collected a detailed history from the Maya and a sacred book they titled the “Popol Vuh.”
This states that at the end of the calendar “there will occur a blackness (or spectacle), and the god of the nine will come down to the (Earth).”
However there are plenty of academics around to debunk the doomsayers. Including one Professor Christian Wells, associate professor of anthropology at the University of South Carolina, who studies Maya culture and says the message has been taken out of context.
“The Mayan Doomsday prophecy, I think, is actually a narrative about sustainability,” Wells said in a lecture this past week.
“The Maya were great astronomers and knew exactly where they were in relation to larger cycles and trends in the environment and the universe. That’s what sustainability is all about — knowing your place in the world.”
“We have reason to be worried about climate change and the fiscal cliff that’s coming up,” Wells said. The biggest threat to the earth in 2012 is “the human race itself,”, he added.
And, not so fast, say a couple of US archaeologists who say they’ve discovered the oldest-known version of the ancient Maya calendar adorning a lavishly painted wall in the ruins of a city deep in the Guatemalan rainforest.
The hieroglyphs, painted in black and red, along with a colorful mural of a king and his mysterious attendants seem to have been a sort of handy reference chart for court scribes — the astronomers and mathematicians in A.D. 800.
Contrary to popular myth, this calendar isn’t a countdown to the end of the world in less than two weeks time, in fact, quite the opposite, they say.
Archaeologist David Stuart of the University of Texas, who worked to decipher the glyphs, says: ”The Mayan calendar is going to keep going for billions, trillions, octillions of years into the future. Numbers we can’t even wrap our heads around.”
Anthony Aveni, professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University said, “It’s like the odometer of a car, with the Maya calendar rolling over from the 120,000s to 130,000.”
That means the calendar will merely click over and begin again. (Makes sense.)
So, how do you like your apocalypse predictions – historical, religious or scientific?
There are lots of lists of Doomsday predictions that didn’t come true.
We like this Top Ten from the Global Post for its rich mine of links and references.
1. Mount Vesuvius buries Pompeii (79 A.D.)
The infamous Italian volcano has erupted more than 50 times over its hundreds of thousands of years of activity, but no eruption was more earth-shattering than the one that engulfed Pompeii in the year 79, History.com reported.
The deluge of volcanic ash “shrouded the city in a darkness … like the black of closed and unlighted rooms,” according to one witness, echoing the predictions of Roman philosopher Seneca that the Earth would go up in smoke, according to National Geographic.
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