There are some people who are certain the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012 means bad things are going to happen here on planet earth as that day arrives. I predict that on December 21, 2012, the gravest impact will be on the scheduling of the History Channel, figuring out what to run in the time slots previously used to talk about planet Nibiru, the galactic alignment, and other elements of the gloom and doom mantras.
While I find the dialogue on the topic fascinating and good after dinner talk, I believe the Mayan experts when they say there is no end coming on that date. They point out that the Mayan looked at life here on earth as going through cycles, and that the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012 is merely the end of a cycle.
Every calendar ends, and each calendar's end means the end of that particular cycle. We use annual calendars and we understand that when December 31 of the year rolls around, it means that year has ended, and only that year. It doesn't mean the world is coming to an end or that any calamity faces the world because the year ends. It means an artificially contrived moment in time is picked for the change in what we know as a year. The year we measure is based upon astronomic events, namely, the earth completing its annual trip of three hundred sixty five and one quarter days around the sun. We use that extra day in leap year every four years to play "catch up" with those one quarter days accrued each year.
The Mayan lived and thrived between about 200 and 900 of the Common Era, or 200 A.D. to 900 A.D., as many of us know it. The science behind some of their astronomical work, however, is believed to predate them. The Olmec of Central America were believed to be their predecessors. The Mayan were similar to many peoples of ancient time, in that they watched the skies, particularly the night skies, and made sound observations about the movement of celestial bodies across the sky. Their sky watching helped them develop accurate measurements of time involving many millennia.
There are several parts to the mythology surrounding December 21, 2012. One theory is that an unknown planet called Nibiru is headed on a collision course with earth, and that such planet was spoken of in ancient middle eastern texts. Scientists at NASA have gotten into the fray, as literally thousands of inquiries to them have sought information on the supposed flight of the errant planet alleged to be this planet Nibiru. Scientists at NASA insist that no such planet exists, and there is certainly no such planet streaking toward earth. They point out that if such a planet was on a collision course with earth, it would already be visible in the skies. Such logical approaches to illuminating the topic have not swayed those dedicated to the myth of the planet Nibiru. Ominous tones and dire warnings on you tube videos warn of the coming disaster.
Another prominent theory holds that the celestial alignment which occurs on December 21, 2012 is one which very seldom occurs, as the planets in our solar system align. It is supposed by some that this alignment will cause cataclysmic events on planet earth. The most common disturbance predicted is the shift of the magnetic north and south poles, which would bring utter chaos to electrical machinery throughout the globe.
Scientists have attempted to debunk that myth, as well, with little luck. Astronomers have pointed out that this galactic alignment occurred before as recently as 1998, when such alignment was even more complete than it will be this December 21, 2012. Such sensible talk is dismissed by those enraptured by the lure of end times, which is a compelling one for some humans. So let me go on record saying it. Nothing catastrophic will occur on December 21, 2012. The next day will be Saturday, December 22, 2012, and on that day, my column will be here and it will say "I told you so."