From Abracadabra to Zombies
Note: by the time you read this, you won't need to read this because you'll know the world didn't end as some people said it would on December 21, 2012. Doomsday predictions are a dime a dozen. Why anyone believes them is the real mystery.
In a nutshell: The Mayan prophecy for 2012 is something made up by people who don't know much about the Maya. The Maya didn't predict anything, much less the end of the world.
The idea that the Maya predicted the end of the world on 12-21-2012 is a hoax.
The Maya had several calendars and one of them starts over in 2012. Some people think this means they predicted the end of the world. Why? I don't know. Maybe they like to scare people. The Maya didn't predict the end of the world. But even if they did, so what? The Maya couldn't even predict the end of their own civilization, which collapsed over one thousand years ago. Anyway, anyone can predict anything about the future. That doesn't mean their prediction will come true.
Mayan civilization was at its peak for over 750 years in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and parts of Central America. The Maya, like all farming societies, had to study things that affect the soil and the growth of plants. They studied the pattern of the seasons and knew when to plant and when to store up food for the dry months. Their studies led them to create several calendars. We don't really know much about these calendars. For example, we know that the Long Count Calendar—the one that ends on 12-21-2012—began about 5,000 years ago on August 11, 3114 BCE. We don't know why the Maya started their calendar on that date and we don't know why they ended it on 12-21-2012. We don't even know if 12-21-2012 is the actual date the Long Count Calendar ends. All we know is that the Maya reset this calendar to day 0 every 1,872,000 days, a period known as The Great Circle. We don't know why they thought this number was important. It's a big number and amounts to more days than the oldest Egyptian pyramids have been around.
We know that the Maya had a large empire, but they were not able to solve some important problems. They had too many people on too little land. They destroyed their own environment by cutting down too many trees and by farming in ways that ruined their soil. Climate change brought long periods with no rain. Why should we think the Maya prophets would be any better at seeing the distant future than failed prophets of other times and other peoples?
The fact is that anybody can predict the end of the world, but nobody knows when it will happen.
Some people think the Maya knew that there would be some sort of alignment of planets, stars, and imaginary lines through the Milky Way galaxy on 12-21-2012. They say that this "alignment" will bring about Earth's destruction. The claim that an "alignment" will destroy Earth is a story told by astrologers.
Scientists know that alignments of planets, stars, and imaginary lines through galaxies don't destroy the Earth. Such beliefs come from astrologers, not scientists. Any astronomer will tell you that an alignment between the Sun and any point in the Milky Way will just bring us another day on planet Earth.
This is not the first time astrologers have scared people with their stories. Astrologers predicted the world would end on May 5, 2000, because on that day Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were aligned with Earth. This alignment, they said, would cause the polar ice caps to melt. Astronomers knew of the alignment and knew it would not melt the ice caps or have any other effect on Earth. The astronomers were right and the astrologers were wrong. It's happened before and it will happen again.
Something spectacular will be happening in 2012, but it won't be the end of the world. On June 5th or 6th (depending on where you live), Venus will pass between the Earth and the Sun. We will be able to see what is called the transit of Venus, something that happens in pairs eight years apart every 121 years. You won't need a telescope, either, but be sure to protect your eyes and don't look directly at the Sun. The next time this happens nobody alive today will be around to see it. That's what science tells us and science is a heck of lot more accurate than astrology.
postscript: Thousands of people have predicted the end of the world. One of the earliest such predictions that we know of was in ancient Assyria (northern Iraq). Here is a translation of what somebody wrote on a clay tablet nearly five thousand years ago: "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common."
Many have predicted the end would come because of our bad behavior. Others think the end will come when planets are lined up in a certain way. Here's a short list of few such predictions in recent times:
- Baptist preacher William Miller (1782–1849) said the world would end on 22 October 1844;
- Bishop Ussher (1581-1656) said the end would come on 23 October 1996;
- Dorothy Martin (1900–1992) said the end would come on 21 December 1954;
- Jeanne Dixon said the end would come on 5 February 1962;
- John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann predicted the end would come on 10 March 1982;
- Richard Noone said the end would come on 5 May 2000;
- Harold Camping predicted the end would come on 21 May 2011;
- Michael Travesser (aka Wayne Bent)predicted the world would end at midnight on 31 October 2007.
Science tells us that the Earth will be unable to sustain life in about 1 billion years because the heat from the Sun will have evaporated our atmosphere and our water. The chances are pretty good that you and I will not be around a billion years from now, so why worry?
The Maya finally speak up about the meaning of 2012 "The Maya have taken center stage because many fear the supposed end date of their calendar marks the end of the world. Most of this information comes from non-Mayans and it is not accurate...." --Wandering Wolf
2012: Are we all going to die? (The answer is no. Go to this astronomer's site to find out why the world won't end in 2012.)