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No Doomsday in 2012

Did the Mayans REALLY predict a doomsday event?
Apparently, the world is going to end on December 21st, 2012. Yes, you read correctly, in some way, shape or form, the Earth (or at least a large portion of humans on the planet) will cease to exist. Stop planning your careers, don’t bother buying a house, and be sure to spend the last years of your life doing something you always wanted to do but never had the time. Now you have the time, four years of time, to enjoy yourselves before… the end.

So what is all this crazy talk? We’ve all heard these doomsday predictions before, we’re still here, and the planet is still here, why is 2012 so important? Well, the Mayan calendar stops at the end of the year 2012, churning up all sorts of religious, scientific, astrological and historic reasons why this calendar foretells the end of life as we know it. The Mayan Prophecy is gaining strength and appears to be worrying people in all areas of society. Forget Nostradamus, forget the Y2K bug, forget the credit crunch, this event is predicted to be huge and many wholeheartedly believe this is going to happen for real. Planet X could even be making a comeback.

Related 2012 articles:

For all those 2012 Mayan Prophecy believers out there, I have bad news. There is going to be no doomsday event in 2012, and here’s why…

The extent of the Mayan empire

The Mayan Calendar
So what is the Mayan Calendar? The calendar was constructed by an advanced civilization called the Mayans around 250-900 AD. Evidence for the Maya empire stretches around most parts of the southern states of Mexico and reaches down to the current geological locations of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and some of Honduras. The people living in Mayan society exhibited very advanced written skills and had an amazing ability when constructing cities and urban planning. The Mayans are probably most famous for their pyramids and other intricate and grand buildings. The people of Maya had a huge impact on Central American culture, not just within their civilization, but with other indigenous populations in the region. Significant numbers of Mayans still live today, continuing their age-old traditions.

The Mayans used many different calendars and viewed time as a meshing of spiritual cycles. While the calendars had practical uses, such as social, agricultural, commercial and administrative tasks, there was a very heavy religious element. Each day had a patron spirit, signifying that each day had specific use. This contrasts greatly with our modern Gregorian calendar which primarily sets the administrative, social and economic dates.

Venus Express observation of Venus (ESA)

Most of the Mayan calendars were short. The Tzolk’in calendar lasted for 260 days and the Haab’ approximated the solar year of 365 days. The Mayans then combined both the Tzolk’in and the Haab’ to form the “Calendar Round”, a cycle lasting 52 Haab’s (around 52 years, or the approximate length of a generation). Within the Calendar Round were the trecena (13 day cycle) and the veintena (20 day cycle). Obviously, this system would only be of use when considering the 18,980 unique days over the course of 52 years. In addition to these systems, the Mayans also had the “Venus Cycle”. Being keen and highly accurate astronomers they formed a calendar based on the location of Venus in the night sky. It’s also possible they did the same with the other planets in the Solar System.

Using the Calendar Round is great if you simply wanted to remember the date of your birthday or significant religious periods, but what about recording history? There was no way to record a date older than 52 years.

The end of the Long Count = the end of the Earth?
The Mayans had a solution. Using an innovative method, they were able to expand on the 52 year Calendar Round. Up to this point, the Mayan Calendar may have sounded a little archaic – after all, it was possibly based on religious belief, the menstrual cycle, mathematical calculations using the numbers 13 and 20 as the base units and a heavy mix of astrological myth. The only principal correlation with the modern calendar is the Haab’ that recognised there were 365 days in one solar year (it’s not clear whether the Mayans accounted for leap years). The answer to a longer calendar could be found in the “Long Count”, a calendar lasting 5126 years.

I’m personally very impressed with this dating system. For starters, it is numerically predictable and it can accurately pinpoint historical dates. However, it depends on a base unit of 20 (where modern calendars use a base unit of 10). So how does this work?

The base year for the Mayan Long Count starts at “”. Each zero goes from 0-19 and each represent a tally of Mayan days. So, for example, the first day in the Long Count is denoted as On the 19th day we’ll have, on the 20th day it goes up one level and we’ll have This count continues until (about one year), (about 20 years) and (about 400 years). Therefore, if I pick an arbitrary date of, this represents the Mayan date of approximately 1012 years, 7 months and 1 day.

This is all very interesting, but what has this got to do with the end of the world? The Mayan Prophecy is wholly based on the assumption that something bad is going to happen when the Mayan Long Count calendar runs out. Experts are divided as to when the Long Count ends, but as the Maya used the numbers of 13 and 20 at the root of their numerical systems, the last day could occur on When does this happen? Well, represents 5126 years and the Long Count started on, which corresponds to the modern date of August 11th 3114 BC. Have you seen the problem yet? The Mayan Long Count ends 5126 years later on December 21st, 2012.

When something ends (even something as innocent as an ancient calendar), people seem to think up the most extreme possibilities for the end of civilization as we know it. A brief scan of the internet will pull up the most popular to some very weird ways that we will, with little logical thought, be wiped off the face of the planet. Archaeologists and mythologists on the other hand believe that the Mayans predicted an age of enlightenment when comes around; there isn’t actually much evidence to suggest doomsday will strike. If anything, the Mayans predict a religious miracle, not anything sinister.

Myths are abound and seem to be fuelling movie storylines. It looks like the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is even based around the Mayan myth that 13 crystal skulls can save humanity from certain doom. This myth says that if the 13 ancient skulls are not brought together at the right time, the Earth will be knocked off its axis. This might be a great plotline for blockbuster movies, but it also highlights the hype that can be stirred, lighting up religious, scientific and not-so-scientific ideas that the world is doomed.

Could an asteroid wipe out the Earth? (NASA)

Some of the most popular space-based threats to the Earth and mankind focus on Planet X wiping most life off the planet, meteorite impacts, black holes, killer solar flares, Gamma Ray Bursts from star systems, a rapid ice age and a polar (magnetic) shift. There is so much evidence against these things happening in 2012, it’s shocking just how much of a following they have generated. Each of the above “threats” needs their own devoted article as to why there is no hard evidence to support the hype.

But the fact remains, the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy is purely based on a calendar which we believe hasn’t been designed to calculate dates beyond 2012. Mayan archaeo-astronomers are even in debate as to whether the Long Count is designed to be reset to after, or whether the calendar simply continues to (approximately 8000 AD) and then reset. As Karl Kruszelnicki brilliantly writes:

…when a calendar comes to the end of a cycle, it just rolls over into the next cycle. In our Western society, every year 31 December is followed, not by the End of the World, but by 1 January. So in the Mayan calendar will be followed by – or good-ol’ 22 December 2012, with only a few shopping days left to Christmas.” – Excerpt from Dr Karl’s “Great Moments in Science“.

Sources: Dr Karl’s Great Moments in Science, IHT, 2012 Wiki

Leading image credits: MIT (supernova simulation), WikiMedia (Mayan pyramid Chichen Itza). Effects and editing: myself.


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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • April Seiple May 21, 2011, 11:23 AM

    they say if new zealand had and earthquake today that is the first sign of it.

  • John Agcaoili May 21, 2011, 3:26 PM

    Hello everyone!!!!! This whole news about the end of the world is nothing but a lie. I don’t know how many of you here go to church, read the bible or participate in religious services but tell u wat, I did all of it and i never heard nor read that May 21, 2011 is the exact date of the end of the world. Honestly, Harold something something has so much time to speak about this because he wants to get attention and ask for money from people. Just like what the bible says, only God knows when this tragedy would occur. It doesn’t state the exact time or date in the bible when will Earth meet its end. I also suggest that reading the bible itself and understanding God’s teachings would help you all to understand the details about this. Do not believe on anything that a local priest or prophet would say to you cuz’ I can guarantee that half of the things theyre saying about this are LIES!!!!!

  • Strangling that duck over ther May 21, 2011, 3:52 PM

    I’m still alive

  • Strangling that duck over ther May 21, 2011, 3:52 PM

    I’m still alive

  • Anonymous May 21, 2011, 4:34 PM

    Wait if I’m to die i’d like to know something….If they say the world will end at 6pm…what if im in a different time zone…whose time zones dies at 6pm…i mean come on …if its at 6 pm my time then new zealand time zone is like the next day. so?????????

  • Anonymous May 21, 2011, 5:41 PM

    just to say only god knows when the world is going to end we dont cause we are not god

  • Anonymous May 21, 2011, 5:43 PM

    the world is not going to end we dont know only god knows so we r not god so we dont exactly know when the world is going to end god does

    • Torbjörn Larsson May 22, 2011, 6:31 PM

      Wrong, since all the rest of us knew that the world would continue to high certainty. You are mistaking factual knowledge, with its concomitant uncertainty, with philosophical “truth”, which admits no certainty but also no actual knowledge.

      Then you make a real mess by attributing such philosophical “just so” storytelling to religious myths.

  • Aunt Rainey May 21, 2011, 1:38 PM

    Trust me, if the world was to end, nobody would be able to predict it. It would be over in a matter of seconds without warning.

  • Juhi Manral May 21, 2011, 7:37 PM

    that is what i read….
    Its not going to end tomorrow… its the judgement day. Its ending 5 months frm then on 21st october 2011…!!!!

    • trshwachy019 May 22, 2011, 5:41 AM

      noits not it wont be judgement day for a while, stop listening to camping hes 89 and is going crazy

    • KittycatBree May 22, 2011, 12:37 PM

      Yeah but it would have started yesterday, which means 200 million people should have ascended into the heavens. Which obviously did not happen.

  • Johans De La Lastra May 21, 2011, 9:39 PM

    Oww Please! NO ONE… Can predict the end of the world… If you really believe in God… Then stop believing this nonsense predictions from some fanatic preachers..
    As Jesus clearly says: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” Mark 13:32-33

    • Torbjörn Larsson May 22, 2011, 6:30 PM

      Wrong, since all the rest of us knew that the world would continue to high certainty. You are mistaking factual knowledge, with its concomitant uncertainty, with philosophical “truth”, which admits no certainty but also no actual knowledge.

      Then you make a real mess by attributing such philosophical “just so” storytelling to religious myths.

  • Johans De La Lastra May 21, 2011, 9:39 PM

    Oww Please! NO ONE… Can predict the end of the world… If you really believe in God… Then stop believing this nonsense predictions from some fanatic preachers..
    As Jesus clearly says: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” Mark 13:32-33

  • Devon May 21, 2011, 10:21 PM

    and now they say iots gnna end today…..5/11

  • Devon May 21, 2011, 10:21 PM


  • Devon May 21, 2011, 10:22 PM

    and then they said were suppose to have contact with aliens in 2011 ..where the fk r they?o.O

  • Anthony Webb May 21, 2011, 11:59 PM

    @Jakeisha White, agreed i think the wirdos and paranoids with those “the is nigh” signs. They just want to make us spaz out. But they just cant’t make up their minds.

  • Kyler May 22, 2011, 12:36 AM

    Y2K was not a “end of the world” conspiracy, it was saying all the computers would not be able to switch over to the year 2000 and they would all shut down. The only reason they thought that was because when computers were created in the 1940’s all computers ever seen were the 19’s. What i’m saying is that if you say the world is going to end and you give an eligible reason behind it, you will get people to listen and follow.

    • Torbjörn Larsson May 22, 2011, 6:29 PM

      The Y2K problem was based on the most widespread date algorithm (not Apple’s for example) having a 99-00 turnover at year 2000 due to lack of century numbers. Which in turn was from lack of foresight.

      No one thought that the computers would not last into the 00’s, if that is what your somewhat cryptic sentence refers to (“all computers ever seen were the 19’s”).

  • K C May 22, 2011, 3:11 AM

    I am a human being and hold my sparkle in this divine universe, And I do not criticize religion no matter that it was created in an age of rage and rebellion and when mankind needed hope, then as proved by the the professors of religious study discovered that it was comprised over four to five decades by as many as three to four authors and then later before the catholic crusades that several books were removed. It was also released later within the last decade that it has been man who has created the devil. In a right mind perspective, Yes we are spiritual people and if this God, were a punishing one, he would not tolerate alterations or modifications to not only his word, but the viewpoint of his intent for mankind. Out of the over 200 recognized religions, I feel that mankind has been duped and threatened for no reason at all.Even as early as the mid 1600’s there was saying, it is not that which is above, or below, ahead or behind. If you can figure this out you will know the gift and the connection we hold with all life.

    Secondly, in the late eighties and early nineties was a great time for Mayan study, I followed many scholastic libraries and essay’s and when you people see as posted above, there were so many factors intertwined into this calender system not to mention the religious and almost Pagan directive, I find it ridicules to conceive a system of destruction from such a source, as this. Mayans also show how religious and ritualistic beliefs don’t bring you any closer to your god, only to fade into a multifaceted Hispanic gene pool. It does not mean that it was not great in it’s time, but the system they used did not ensure anything for them.

  • Anonymous May 22, 2011, 3:15 AM

    Well this goes out to everyone that does not believe in god, I wish the best for you and I will continue to pray for the individuals who are lost and not awake in this world! No matter what anybody says about me and my Christian beliefs, I will not let ANYONE take my love for god away! Yeah I am not perfect I have sinned before, but I have always asked god for forgiveness, and god is a forgiving god so I know he understands that NO individual in this world is perfect! But I honestly still believe that the Illuminati are the devils troops! And all they want to do is take over the world! But what they do not know or fail to realize is that god has something far more punishable for them! And only god know’s when the end is going to come! I love you god!!!!!!

  • michael ledbetter May 22, 2011, 3:16 AM

    “if you could reason with religious people there wouldn’t be religion” – doctor house

  • Anonymous May 22, 2011, 3:18 AM

    on No Doomsday in 2012 2 days ago

    I would have to agree with Bridney Gibbs! Man was not the creator of this earth so how is man going to predict such a thing, God is the ruler of our earth and man is known for just going off technology and so on. I honestly think if something does happen in 2012 like a world changing disaster, then it was not God trying to end the world! It’s the corrupt devil worshipers that lead our country, leaders that are behind a sick plan to take over the world, like our presidents and government and music artist and so on! Why do you think T.V. was invented???

    To have mind control over your mind, so that they can send a so called positive message and we would believe it! That’s bullshit if you ask me! Excuse my language but the Illuminati are not fooling me! The messages are clear in music, movies, children cartoons, etc. It’s your choice to hear and see them! My mind is made up though, the news is bullshit! The history channel is the biggest manipulating channel that talks about 2012 and how it is going to be a so called “Natural” World Disaster but yet the messages in television and music video’s says otherwise!
    Oh yeah and if the illuminati is successful with their planned world disaster there is a underground facility called FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and what this so called positive Agency does is help surviving individuals during massive world disasters! But we all know that bullshit! They only allow private clubs and other wealthy individuals who are on their list! Don’t believe me? Watch Snoop dog ft T-pain music video- BOOM! I have my own beliefs but I follow god! You can choose to make your own pathway of life and follow god or just let the illuminati take control of your mind and possibly your life!

    • Torbjörn Larsson May 22, 2011, 6:24 PM

      “the illuminati”? ‘Nuf said.

      • Anonymous May 22, 2011, 10:05 PM

        People are so funny!