It's already 12/21/2012 in New Zealand and it's still there, so the rumor that the world would end Friday appear unfounded.
But how did this theory start?
Someone posed a question on Mountain View-based Quora's site and NASA engineer and instructor Robert Frost answered. Here's how the conversation started:
Quite simply, they ran out of space on the calendar. We run out of space on our calender every December 31st. It isn't a big deal. We just start over the next day.
The Mayan calendar is no different. It is designed to optimize space by using a series of concentric circles that act like gears. A full revolution of one circle is equivalent to a cog on the next circle.
The hierarchy works as follows: a day -> 20 days -> 360 days -> 7200 days -> 144,000 days. That last unit (144,000 days) is called a Baktun. Their long count calendar is designed to equal 13 Baktuns.
There is absolutely no evidence to believe that the Mayans felt that 13 Baktuns from the initiation of the long count calendar would align with the end of the world. They could have designed their calendar so that the Uinal (20 days) wheel was actually 30 days, like our month, in which case the calendar would last another 2000 years. The number for each wheel was selected because it was a number of significance to them - not because it would work out so that the calendar ended when the world ended.
Any Mayans around today, still using their calendar, rather than celebrating the end of the world on December 21st, will be celebrating the start of a new long count calendar on December 22nd.
And since Quora is a question-and-answer based site, Frost's answer led to more answers, like these:
James Kelly: The Mayan calendar does not end on Dec. 21, 2012. It's just the start of the next baktun (#13). The next phase of the calendar - aka, piktun - is actually Oct. 13, 4772.
Frank Touby: It does make sense, since the 21st is the winter solstice. It's the Mayan equivalent of the end of the year. So Dec. 22 is New Year's Day and the start of the 14th Baktun for those of the Mayan "persuasion."
Shekar Chandrasekaran: Last year, when I was at Belize, I spoke to some of the Mayan elders and they mentioned the same. They said it is festive time for them, they rebuild their houses, celebrate the new calendar cycle etc. When I asked about end of world, they said that it is yet another media sensationalization, indeed.
Since the world will not end, will you celebrate the start of the new baktun with some sort of spiritual renewal? Or is this business as usual?
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