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"2012" a Miscalculation; Actual Calendar Ends 2220 600

boombaard writes "News is spreading quickly here that scientists writing in a popular science periodical (Dutch) have debunked the 2012 date (google translation linked) featuring so prominently in doomsday predictions/speculation across the web. On 2012-12-21, the sun will appear where you would normally be able to see the 'galactic equator' of the Milky Way; an occurrence deemed special because it happens 'only' once every 25.800 years, on the winter solstice. However, even if you ignore the fact that there is no actual galactic equator, just an observed one, and that the visual effect is pretty much the same for an entire decade surrounding that date, there are major problems with the way the Maya Calendar is being read by doomsday prophets." I wonder what Amazon's return policy on a box full of 3 doomsday wolves shirts is?


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"2012" a Miscalculation; Actual Calendar Ends 2220

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  • Re:Greeeeeat..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:12PM (#29875799)

    Ah, the false millenium meme. Here is a play relative to that but set in 1900: []

  • Re:Slashdotted link (Score:5, Interesting)

    by traycerb ( 728174 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:16PM (#29875847)

    It's not another link to the original site, but in the NYT recently Errol Morris was researching an unrelated Civil War story, and one of the sources was David H. Kelly, who did major work deciphering the Mayan script. In passing Errol asked about the 2012 thing: []

  • by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <> on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:19PM (#29875887) Homepage Journal
    has run a lot of dubious programming. This was one of the things they were actually pushing.
  • Re:Wrong diagnosis (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rainmaestro ( 996549 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:22PM (#29875921)

    Precisely. Hell, the *Mayans* didn't envision any doomsday scenarios. We don't even know for certain if the long count calendar cycles at 13 or 20 k'atuns (Mayan counting was base-20, though many scholars believe the calendar cycles after 13). Assuming 13, in Mayan culture the end of a cycle would be a major event, a time of celebration. Nothing in the archaeological record suggests they thought this world would end precisely 1 cycle after it began.

    All this nonsense is just another way to scam the gullible. These doomsday criers are worse than the Y2K nuts. At least Y2K had a grain of truth to it (the rollover *could* have caused problems if it hadn't been patched in time).

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:33PM (#29876055) Homepage

    ...was that I got halfway through the article before I realized I was viewing it through Google Translate. Yeah, I wasn't paying much attention. And yeah, I had noticed some errors -- but my mind just dismissed them as poor proofreading before publishing. I'm still impressed by how far online translation services have come from the early days of AltaVista Babelfish.

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:37PM (#29876115)

    Yep, they do have the occasional lunacy. I was rather disgusted when I saw them pimping the "crystal skulls" fraud. Still, they're nowhere near as bad as the History channel.

  • Re:Amateurs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Snowgen ( 586732 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @03:58PM (#29876351) Homepage

    We have a doomsday once every 365 days (except on leap years) when our calendar hits December 31.

    I'm just being pedantic, I know, but our calendar (the Gregorian calendar) actually has a cycle of 400 years. The most recent cycle transition was in year 2000 (which was a leap year when it otherwise wouldn't have been).

    Of course the rest of your comment is spot-on!

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted@slashdot ... minus physicist> on Monday October 26, 2009 @04:17PM (#29876621)

    and then say, "See, the world didn't end afterall."

    You have no idea how that really works, do you? ^^
    I know how it works, because I was there. In the 80s. On a end-of-the world camp. With my mother.
    We sat in a tent, had a bonfire with kumbaja-singing, bongo drumming, ate out of a tajine... and when it was time, and nothing happened... ...people simply decided that they must have been wrong in their calculations, decided for a new future date, and continued what they always did.

    Schizophrenia (even the mild one, called superstition or religion) can't be healed by blatant in-you-face facts. Because schizophrenia is by definition a disease where you are detached from reality, and deduce everything from a inner reality.
    The reason is, that the outside world became too horrible to bear, without falling into a state close to brain death. It's a emergency state (that became constant).

    And the only help, is to again make reality more inviting and tempting than their inner world, and offer them a way out that lets them keep their self-respect. (E.g. by allowing them to say that they always did the right thing, and weren't crazy. But that now they do something even better than before.)

    As this is usually really hard, modern society has given up, or thinks that that human is not worth the effort, and just throws pills into them, so they get "out", but at the same time lose a important part of their personality, because of the brain-wide all-eradicating air fuel bombs that these pills are. (Lobotomy light, one could call them.)
    It's easy to fall into the circular reasoning, that a person is not worth that huge effort, because he is such a "worthless, crazy" person (, ...because he is ill, because nobody helps him out of it!!)!

    In terms of psychology, we're still in very dark ages. We see the light in the distance. But it's still a long way to go.

  • Re:Amateurs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by carp3_noct3m ( 1185697 ) <slashdot@warri o r s - s h a d e . net> on Monday October 26, 2009 @04:27PM (#29876791)

    I, being the information junkie I am, have read fairly extensively into this whole thing and have found some interesting information. The key thing is that all the really crazies seem to latch on to things like this and give it a bad name. The Mayans did not predict the end of the world, only the end of an age. In their thinking, there are basically cosmic seasons in the form of every 25k years. Also in their viewpoint, all previous transitions of ages were relatively catastrophic, but by no means end of the world. On top of all this, there happen to be a lot of coincidences scientifically with the date. The primary ones I have seen are the alignment of the planets on the galactic plane, and the best theory I read was that the potential for magnetic changes on the sun could make it a flurry of activity or the opposite. Im no scientist, but I gleaned past the hype and saw some good facts that at the least are interesting. Regardless, its not the end of the world, but it is also not the completely ridiculous y2k idea either (y2k = no scientific basis).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 26, 2009 @04:29PM (#29876827)

    I'm sure that "future" date was carved by some ancient conspiracy nut who would not accept that 2012 was the end of all things....


  • Re:Assuming... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @04:45PM (#29877089)
    I don't know about today, but even during the peak of Mayan civilization, estimates of literacy in their society by archaeologists and anthropologists was less than 5%. (IIRC)
  • Re:Damn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @04:57PM (#29877273) Journal

    Actually, I'd like to explain a bit more in depth on that. It's an interesting story.

    The Passover matzah is unleavened. It represents the bread which the Israelites took with them when they fled Egypt; in their haste they had no time to wait for bread to rise. Thus, unleavened bread.

    The wine is an icon of the blood which was sprinkled on the doorposts of Israelite homes so that the angel of death would pass over their homes and spare their first-born sons when the sons of the Egyptians were killed. It was sprinkled in three places, on either side and above the doorframe.

    The custom was for the youngest at the meal to sit next to the teacher or elder (who would be at the head of the table, wherever that was). The youngest would ask what each symbol meant, and the elder would explain it. This was to commemorate the Jews' escape from Egypt.

    Instead of following the standard script, Jesus said the bread was his body and the wine his blood. Then he completely changed the focus by saying they were to do it in remembrance of him – not the escape from Egypt! No doubt this caused a good deal of puzzlement in everyone present...

    Then Jesus was eventually crucified, and the blood on the cross matched up with blood on either side and above the doorway in the original plague in Egypt – tying the whole thing together and showing that it was a prophetic sign of Christ from the beginning.

    Even if you don't believe it, and I have no doubt you don't (and I'm not trying to convince anyone), it's a fascinating marriage between Judaism and Christianity. All the original Christians were Jews, remember.

  • Re:Assuming... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @05:07PM (#29877419)
    We must have different ideas of fun.

    I think I know who has proven to be worthy of their geek card and who has to hand theirs in.

  • Re:Amateurs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eil ( 82413 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @05:45PM (#29877985) Homepage Journal

    Penn and Teller did an entire Bullshit episode on this. Basically, the conclusion was: The Mayans themselves never predicted any doomsday. At all. They couldn't even predict the annihilation of their own civilization, let alone the human race. Their descendants don't know anything about a supposed doomsday. The whole was something invented by some crackpot authors to sell books to and get attention from gullible people. Just like every other doomsday prophesy in history.

  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @06:32PM (#29878495) Homepage

    My favorite example of a prediction retroactively corrected (albeit more tongue-in-cheek than most) is the Subgenii [], who, when the world didn't end in 1998, decided that they'd gotten the date upside down! The correct date, they now proclaim [], is 8661. :)

    (Actually, they apparently now have end-of-world celebrations every year, just in case, but I remember when the 8661 date was on the front page of the Subgenius website, and that date is still commemorated in the ddate man page as above, and is mentioned in lots of related material.)

    Ironically, the page you linked to includes the original Subgenius date with no commentary on either the nature of Slack [], er, Bob [], er the CoSG [], nor any mention of the updated 8661 date.

  • obligatory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TRRosen ( 720617 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @07:01PM (#29878755)

    Tonight were gonna party like its 2219?

  • Re:Assuming... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @07:20PM (#29878917) Homepage Journal
    Well, that's a point, but I think it's a sort of naive affect that smart people put on to say that the Spanish conquistadors might have found something they would have considered valuable. Of course, we really want to read those documents and understand the Maya better. That doesn't mean that the conquistadors did ( though a few of them may have ). They just wanted gold, slaves, and other imperial resources -- they were interested in sharing or having a Thanksgiving dinner, they wanted to conquer and dominate. Burning the books was a conscious effort on their part to destroy Mayan culture. They didn't have any sociological or anthropological interests.
  • Re:Assuming... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @09:14PM (#29879821) Homepage Journal

    Yup. It's the Mayan Y2K bug. Good thing their calendar is based on mechanical circles. People discussing a 2012 apocalypse are discussing where a circle begins and ends.

    Pretty much. And it's even stupider than that.

    The 2012 date is when the Mayan base-20 calendar overflows from (as the common translation to decimal notation would say) to The 5-digit date is actually 3 years plus a 2-digit day withing the year; that's why that funny 18.4 is the end of a year. 18*20+4=364, which is the last day of the year if you start counting at zero as the Mayan calendar does. (They ignore the extra .24 day in the solar year, so their New Year day slowly drifts over the centuries.)

    Overflowing to is sorta like our year overflowing to 2000/1/1, of course. But it's obviously not the end of the calendar; that will be at, some 2400 years later. And even then, the Mayan calendar doesn't really end. There are some old inscriptions implying that the 5-digit date was considered a truncation, and it should have 2 or more likely 3 more high-order digits. So people using the Mayan calendar will just have to stop dropping 3 digits, and use at least one more. So will be followed by, which will look sorta cool on the stelae that will no doubt be erected to celebrate the occasion.

    Anyway, even with 5 digits for the year instead of 3, we have a few million years until the calendar runs out, and if 6 digits is the correct length, the Mayan calendar will probably outlive our species.

    Base 20 numbers do use a lot fewer digits than base 10, especially when you get to big numbers.

  • by rnelsonee ( 98732 ) on Monday October 26, 2009 @10:38PM (#29880255)

    True - and it's almost the opposite of the end of the world scenario.

    The long count flip is only significant (other than being the largest rollover possible for the calendar) because that's how long the previous world existed. Mayans believed that gods didn't like their first three worlds (presumably because there were no Mayans to worship them) and took a good 13 baktun (or 5,000 years or so) to scrap them and start over each time.

    This date simply marks the time where this world lasts longer than the other world - it is not Doomsday, it's a celebration to revel in the fact the world is going to last so long.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous