On December 21st 2012 – or maybe the 23rd, depending on whose translation you go by – the 13th baktun of the Mayan calendar will come to an end. A baktun is a period of 144,000 days or 394 years. Since the 1990s some have been saying the world will end on that day.
Through the Internet it has become the best-known prediction of the end of the world ever.
The Maya themselves seem to be pretty calm about the whole thing. Some of them say it will bring a birth of human consciousness, others that it is just a cool date to celebrate, like January 1st 2000. Either way the world will not be destroyed.
The Maya have three calendars. The one that supposedly ends in 2012 is the Long Count. It comes from the Olmecs and was the first ever to use zero. It fell out of use long before the Spanish came.
December 21st 2012 appears in two places in what is left of the ancient Mayan writings, both written in the 600s. One talks about it in passing as a cool date. The other one says:
… it will happen a ‘seeing'[?]. It is the display of B’olon-Yokte’ in a great “investiture”.
B’olon-Yokte was a god of war and the underworld. He was present at the creation of the world and will appear again on December 21st 2012 – though maybe just as someone dressed like him to mark the day.
Pseudoscientist Erich van Daniken, he of the ancient astronauts, says B’olon-Yokte is a being from another world who has been here before and will come again.
According to the ancient Maya this is the fourth world created by the gods. The third one lasted 13 baktuns, from about 8240 to 3114 BC. In 2012 this world will reach the very same age. This is how some Westerners got the idea the world will end. But the Maya themselves, both now and in the past, do not seem to believe that. The ancient Maya seemed to think this world will last at least 17 baktuns. That would give us another 1,577 years.
No planets will line up on December 21st 2012.
Some say that the Earth, the Sun and Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the centre of the galaxy, will line up. Even if true, it would have no noticeable effect on the earth: the black hole is way too far away. (That black hole is slowly pulling us in, but the Sun is the bigger threat: it is slowly getting hotter and will boil away the oceans in a billion years.)
NASA says there is no science to support the idea that the world will end in 2012. An asteroid or comet could hit the earth and wipe us out but nothing that big will hit the earth in 2012 and probably not for at least another hundred years. One of the scientists who looks out for things like that is going to buy some egg nog and enjoy his Christmas.