By Anna Sachse
Independence Day nearly took us all out with alien invasions and The Day After Tomorrow suggested that a minor problem called climate change might be our eventual demise, so how does 2012 plan to kill us off? Well, according to the Creation myth of the pre-Columbian Mayans, December 21, 2012 is the last day of the current “great cycle” of thirteen b’ak’tuns, periods of 144,000 days each, supposedly beginning on August 11, 3114 BC. The Long Count keeps time in units of 20, thus 20 days make a uinal, 18 uinals (or 360 days) make a tun, 20 tuns make a katun, and 20 katuns (or 144,000 days) make up a baktun. After 13 baktuns, written 126.96.36.199.0 in modern notation, we arrive at the end of the 5,125-year calendar, which just so happens to be December 21, 2012.
Which, of course, means we’re all gonna die. It’s kind of like Y2K Redux, except this one has a fun ethnic spin instead of being related to an intensely naïve fear of technology. But unfortunately for all you folks who still have your bomb shelters packed with bottled water and Twinkies, it’s all a bunch of bullcrap.
For starters, scientist and author Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki points out the fact that when any other calendar comes to the end of a cycle, it just rolls over into the next cycle. In our Western society, every year Dec. 31 is followed, not by the End of the World, but by Jan. 1. Similarly, 188.8.131.52.0 in the Mayan calendar will be followed by 0.0.0.0.1. This “roll-over” theory is also akin to the units and tens columns of a car’s odometer which reset to zero each time a hundred miles are completed.
Also of note is the fact that many scientists and Mayan scholars actually don’t agree on the exact dates that form the calendar. Some actually believe it started on August 13, 3114 BC, which means we could all die on December 23, 2012 instead. Further, because the Mayas used both 13 and 20 as the root of their numerical systems, 184.108.40.206.0 might not matter at all, but all of our heirs living in 220.127.116.11.0 (about 7890 AD) better beware.
In addition, I’d like to point out that the Long Count calendar was actually set up around 355 BC, which begs the question, “How the hell did the Mayans know that the world began on August 11, 3114 in the first place?” Was it because they knew that Hulk Hogan would someday be born on August 11?
Regardless, perhaps the strongest piece of evidence that all this Y12K hullabaloo is just a bunch of hogwash is that there is zero scientific or historical evidence that the ancient Maya themselves attached any apocalyptic significance to the year 2012—it was just a date way in the future.
Some writers and mystics suggest it could actually signify a positive shift, a collective kumbaya of sorts, and perhaps a miracle or two. Like maybe, despite the fact that The Day After Tomorrow sucked, Republicans will recognize that climate change might really kill us after all.