Friday, October 29, 2010

The end of the world has been . . . er . . . postponed . . .

I'm highly amused to find that the doom, gloom and disaster crowd, who are predicting the end of the world next year on the basis of the Mayan 'long count' calendar, might have to revise their plans.

Doomsday believers, you might be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The much-hyped "prediction" that, according to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012 may be based on a miscalculation.

According to recent research, the mythological date of the "end of days" may be off by 50 to 100 years.

To convert the ancient Mayan calendar to the Gregorian (or modern) calendar, scholars use a numerical value (called the GMT). But Gerardo Aldana, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says the data supporting the widely-adopted conversion factor may be invalid.

In a chapter in the book "Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World," Aldana casts doubt on the accuracy of the Mayan calendar correlation, saying that the 2012 prophecy as well as other historical dates may be off.

"One of the principal complications is that there are really so few scholars who know the astronomy, the epigraphy and the archeology," Aldana said in a UCSB press release. "Because there are so few people who are working on that, you get people who don't see the full scope of the problem. And because they don't see the full scope, they buy things they otherwise wouldn't. It's a fun problem."

The GMT constant, named for early Mayan scholars Joseph Goodman, Juan Martinez-Hernandez and J. Eric S. Thompson, is partly based on astronomical events. Those early Mayanists relied heavily on dates found in colonial documents written in Mayan languages and recorded in the Latin alphabet, the release said.

A later scholar, American linguist and anthropologist Floyd Lounsbury, further supported the GMT constant.

But, through his research reconstructing Mayan astronomical practices and reviewing data in the archeological record, the release said Aldana found weaknesses in Lounsbury's work that cause the argument behind the GMT constant to fall "like a stack of cards."

"This may not seem to be much, but what it does is destabilize the entire argument," he said.

. . .

At the height of that Mesoamerican civilization from 300 to 900 A.D., advanced mathematics and primitive astronomy flourished, creating what many have called the most accurate calendar in the world.

The Mayans predicted a final event that included a solar shift, a Venus transit and violent earthquakes.

There's more at the link.

Aw, gee! Apocalypse postponed? But what will we do with nothing to worry about next year?



Billll said...

The world ended about 500 years ago. The paperwork is still in process.

Anonymous said...

"But what will we do with nothing to worry about next year?"

You're kidding, right? Washington, DC, is still on the map, and Pebbles and Obambam are still in the White House. As long as that's the case that question will never apply.


Jenny said...

I once red of a group 'bout a hundred years ago that predicted the end of the world. Well the Great War came, and the Great War went, and when the sun rose the next morning, they were asked essentially "bet you feel stupid, hunh?"

Their reply was essentially "oh, you don't understand. It *has* ended. You just don't know it yet."

I confess there have been times I haven't wondered if they were right.

For serious though, I think we're actually a decade or two into what posterity will look back on as the beginning of another Renaissance. But that don't mean it won't be messy.