DECEMBER 21 — next Friday – is when the world is supposed to come to an end, according to one interpretation of the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
Most researchers of ancient civilisations, however, do not think so. They say while the Mayans may, indeed, have made prophecies, they are not about the end of the world but rather about climate-change calamities like droughts, floods or disease outbreaks. Certainly not a planetary demise!
Experts who met recently in Mexico to discuss the implications of the Mayan Long Count Calendar (comprising 394-year periods called baktuns), estimated that the counting started in 3114 BC and will have run through 13 baktuns (5,125 years) around December 21 this year.
They explained that since 13 was a significant number for the Mayans, the end of the 13-baktuns cycle would mark a milestone — not an end.
Fears that the Calendar does point to the end have cropped up in recent times, triggering speculations the Mayans may have known of impending astronomical disasters that would coincide with 2012.
As we are told, these supposed full-blown destructions range from fiery solar storms that could neutralise power grids to a galactic alignment capable of reversing Earth’s magnetic field with dire catacylsmic consequences.
End-times panic has even spawned a fanatical doomsday group called preppers. These are people who prepare for catastrophies, including apocalyptic disasters.
Mexican archaeologist Alfredo Barrera said Mayan predictions were made “not in a fatalistic sense but rather about events that in their cyclical conception of history, could be repeated in the future.”
Only a couple of references to the 2012 date equivalency have been found carved in stone at Mayan sites and neither refers to an apocalypse, according to the experts who point out that such apocalyptic visions have been common for more than a millennium in the thinking of other cultures and are not exclusive to Mayan psyche.
The Mexico National Institute of Anthropology and History has also assured that although December 21 is mentioned, there is no apocalyptic prediction on that day in Mayan texts or the Calender.
In fact, TEOTWAWKI – acronym for The End Of The World As We Know It – has produced many false alarms such as the unfounded Killer Blob scare four years ago and the failure of CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) scientists “to reduce the Earth to goo when they switched on their new particle smasher” in October.
According to an AFP report, experts are skeptical about another TEOTWAWKI moment or the Big One this December 21, noting that one thing all apocalyptic predictions have in common is they are false — they never happen!
But there are those who take TEOTWAWKI seriously — not in a mystical context, of course. The reason, according to the wire service report, is that today’s seven billion humans live in a complex and mainly urban society, dependent on long supply chains for food, power and water. One big bang and this fragile structure starts to crack.
The report also quoted an Oxford University astrophysicist as saying one thing many people may not have appreciated is that if there is a bad solar storm that knocks out several communications satellites, things like the GPS (the Global Positioning System) will go down.
“In the worst scenarios, many millions could die, economies could collapse and civilisations could retreat or die, even if the planet — and humans as a species — survived.”
In another twist to the end-of-the-world script, doomsters are insisting that NASA has been tracking Nibiru (also known as Planet X) and that the rogue cosmic object could already be seen with the naked eye from the southern hemisphere by 2009.
Fatalists argue that Earth’s axis is already tilting and daytime is changing under Planet X’s influence. So is Nibiru an astronomical truth or baloney?
According to NASA, there is no evidence of Nibiru’s existence and so far, none of the identified objects pose any direct threat to Earth.
While many astrologers remain unconvinced, the scientific community at large believe Armageddon isn’t likely to happen on December 21.
Some even call Nibiru a hoax, saying it’s the ancient Akkadian name for the planet Jupiter and its prophesised bump into Earth six days hence is pure conjecture.
The most recent failed doomsday prediction came from the warning by preacher Harold Camping of a massive earthquake on May 21 last year but when it did not happen, he revised the end of the world to October 21 the same year!
More ominiously in 1997, thirty-nine members of the Heaven’s Gate cult in the US, convinced the world was coming to an end amidst a firestorm of rumours that aliens were arriving behind the comet Hale-Bopp, committed mass suicide.
Despite all the assurances, there is nothing to stop people — both believers and non-believers alike — from wondering whether 2012 will pass just like all the preceding years. What if it didn’t?
Then we would be missing a lot of interesting events next year, wouldn’t we? Like the 13thgeneral elections, for instance.