The number one film at the box office this weekend was 2012, raking in an impressive $65 million despite lackluster reviews. The movie is about a theory that the world will end on December 21, 2012. This is based on the Mayan calender's end -- no more calender, no more world, claim believers. But is this what the Mayans intended when they made up their calender thousands of years ago?
Back in 3114 BC, the Mayans came up with is called the "Long Count" calender, which lasts 5,125 years. It runs out on on the 21st (or 23rd, depending on whom you listen to) of December, three years from now. Back in the 1960s, one scholar wrote a book saying the Mayans suggested Armageddon would come when the calender runs out, and a movement was born.
As the day was drawing near, in the 1990s other scholars looked into the prediction, and decided perhaps it would be a day of celebration, rather than doomsday. Now, it's a matter of just whom you want to believe.
It should be noted that the modern-day Mayans themselves don't put much stock into the doom-and-gloom predictions. Except for some Guatamalan tribes, Mayans don't even use the long count calender anymore. In addition, Mayan experts say the concept of an "apocalypse" is a Western idea, and is not even part of the Mayans' beliefs.
But that doesn't deter believers. A writer named Lawrence Joseph is one of them. In his book and Web site, Joseph claims his scientific study shows the end is near:
Joseph concludes that we are in a race against time. Apocalypse 2012 is an authoritative and deeply unsettling appraisal of just how close the earth, or at least our species, might be to extinction.
Nonsense, says Ann Martin, a doctoral candidate in Cornell University's department of astronomy. According to an article in Science Daily:
The Mayan calendar was designed to be cyclical, so the fact that the long count comes to an end in December 2012 is really of no consequence, according to Martin. Simply, it is the end of great calendar cycle in Mayan society, much like our modern society celebrated the new Millennium. It does not mean that the "world will end." In fact, the Mayan calendar does not end then, and there is no evidence to suggest that the Mayans -- or anyone for that matter -- has knowledge for the world's demise.
So is the world going to come to an end on December 21, 2012? Or is this just a bunch of Y2K-like nonsense? All we can do is cross our fingers, hold our breath, and wait for the day to come, and hopefully, go.