Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's the end of the world as we know it; or not.

Has everyone ticked off the last item on the bucket list? Bid your family and friends farewell? Why not; don't you know the world ends tomorrow?

Yes the 21st day of the 12th month of the year 2012 is the end of time... according to the Mayans. Well actually not according to the Mayans, but according to all the kooks who happily misinterpreted Mayan inscriptions.

In essence:

from BizarroBlog (was BizarroComic)

That's pretty much it. The 21st represents the end of the 13th B'ak'tun and the date using the Mayan Long Calender flips to Of course this being an end of a cycle and featuring the dreaded number of 13 got some people's knickers in a twist.

Firstly - seriously it's a calendar based on an arbitrary point in time just like the dominant Western Calendar. Heck the Islam Calendar starts with the first hijra why not when the Mohammed received revelation 12 years earlier? Someone just said "Let's start counting from here".

Secondly this is the end of the 13th b'ak'tun marking the start of the 14th. It's not even the end of the first p'ik'tun which won't occur until 13th October 4772; strictly speaking the date will flip over to Why bother to create another unit of measurement if the world is coming to an end?

Thirdly, and related to my second point, consider if you knew the world was ending at the end of 2012; would you buy a 2013 calendar? Would you then mark on that calendar a business trip in March, anniversaries, birthdays, bin collection days etc.? Kind of pointless; yet that's the equivalent of what the Mayans did. They've set up reminders for feast days etc. that extend well past the 'end of the world'.

Fourthly. Why the hell should we be treating this with any form of seriousness at all? We don't get all excited about turning points in the Roman calendar; hell we don't get excited about changes in the Judaic or Islamic calendar and they're still being used. Nope just the Mayan's because you know they had all this secret wisdom; and were visited by extraterrestrials... sigh.

Fifthly. Ah but wait what about the great celestial alignment that's going to see the Sun, and Earth aligned with the black hole at the centre of the galaxy (and/or some dust cloud) with gravitational forces doing nasty things to us? We're not even going to be at the closest point to the black hole, we move in and out all the time anyway, and the effect this has is about 1 part in 900,000,000.

Or of course there's Nemesis (or Erin, or Nibiru) which is either some rogue planet or Earth's orbital twin that's going to suddenly appear and hit us. Again gravity, if there were a planet out there, we'd  know about it due to the gravitational effect it would have on other planets, recall that's how Neptune was discovered as a planet. Any sort of rogue of that magnitude on a cyclical orbit would show up. As for a 'twin' in order to remain hidden behind the Sun would a) require some serious rewriting of physics due to the speed differences as we orbit the Sun and b) if it were catching us up (or the other way around) its high relative motion would show up on pretty much every astronomer's telescope (including amateurs for the tin-foil hat brigade).

But hey if there's anyone reading this who absolutely truly believes that the world is about to end; then I have  a PayPal account you can transfer all your worldly assets to; not as if they're going to help you and if you're a Christian dying poor is supposedly a good thing.