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ScienceCasts Why the World Didnt End Yesterday
music Why the World Didn't End Yesterday, presented by Science@NASA Dec. 22, 2012: If you're watching this tutorial, it means one thing: The World Didn't End Yesterday. According to media reports of an ancient Maya prophecy, the world was supposed to be destroyed on Dec. 21, 2012. But look around you. 'The whole thing was a misconception from the very beginning,'
says John Carlson, director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy. 'The Maya calendar did not end on Dec. 21, 2012, and there were no Maya prophecies foretelling the end of the world on that date.' The truth, he says, is more interesting than fiction. Carlson is a hardnosed scientist a radio astronomer who earned his degree studying distant galaxies. He became interested in the 2012 phenomenon 35 years ago when he attended a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
and learned about the Maya. Where the rain forests of Mesoamerica now stand, a great civilization once flourished. The people of Maya society built vast cities with a population density comparable to modern Los Angeles County. They mastered astronomy and developed an elaborate written language. Most impressive, to Carlson, was their expansive sense of time.
'The times Mayas used dwarf those currently used by modern astronomers,' he explains. 'According to our science, the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago. There are dates in Mayan ruins that stretch back a billion billion times farther than that.' The Maya Long Count Calendar was designed to keep track of such long intervals. 'It is the most complex calendar system ever developed.' Written using modern typography,
the Long Count Calendar resembles the odometer in a car. Because the digits rotate, the calendar can 'roll over' and repeat itself; this repetition is key to the 2012 phenomenon. According to Maya theology, the world was created 5125 years ago, on a date we would write 'August 11, 3114 BC.' At the time, the Maya calendar looked like this: 188.8.131.52.0
On Dec. 21, 2012, it is exactly the same: 184.108.40.206.0 In the language of Maya scholars, '13 Bak'tuns' elapsed between the two dates. This was a significant interval in Maya theology, but, stresses Carlson, not a destructive one. None of the thousands of ruins, tablets, and standing stones that archeologists have examined