Counting down the days until December 21, 2012

What if you knew the world were going to end? Next week. On December 21.

By now, every Mayanist scholar in the world has tried to clarify how the doomsday soothsayers have misunderstood the Maya calendar. At best, the date Dec. 21, 2012, signifies the end of a cycle of 394 years, known as a bak’tun, in Maya culture. When one cycle ends, another begins. Just like your calendar on Dec. 31. At worst, the date means nothing because interpreting the hieroglyphs of an ancient civilization leaves a lot of room for interpretation.Mayan calendar

In the cartoon version of Dec. 21, two Mayas are staring at a large chiseled calendar. One asks, “So how come it ends in 2012?” The other Maya replies, “I ran out of space on the rock.” That’s the story Religious Studies Professor Andrea Seidel tells when she’s asked about the Mayan calendar.

“They conceived of the universe in cosmic cycles,” Seidel says. “The worlds spiral toward progressive perfection.”

The Maya calendar prophecy has been further confused by mass destruction tales of a less spiritual and more galactic sort. There’s Planet Nibiru, which emerges from ancient Sumerian texts, that is supposed to collide with Earth on Dec. 21. Except, Nibiru doesn’t exist. Then there’s the universal alignment that will plunge Earth into darkness forevermore. Fact is, alignments do occur, have occurred and none of us noticed. NASA has a site explaining it all: Beyond 2012, Why the World Won’t End.

“There is really nothing at all here,” says FIU astronomer James Webb. “It’s amazing it gets so much press and so much attention.”

Click here for full FIU News story.