Is the End of the World Coming? Not Quite

The world will go on after December 21, 2012, despite what some might claim. Noted archaeoastronomer E. C. Krupp explains the cause of Maya mania in a free download.

A Maya Long Count inscription carved on a stone stela at Quirigua in Guatemala notes the start of the current epoch (known as Baktun 13) in the Mayan calendar. Most experts think that epoch began on August 11, 3114 B.C. and will end on December 21, 2012.
Cyrus Thomas (1904) Mayan calendar Systems II

The end of the world is coming. Or so 1 in 10 people might tell you, according to an international poll conducted by Ipsos Global Public Affairs. In fact, 1 in 7 people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime, and it seems most of these people are buying into the much-publicized calamity that ancient Maya calendars supposedly predict for December 21, 2012. The hysteria seems to be hitting some parts of the world harder than others.

In reality, of course, the world is in very little danger of ending on December 21st or any other day soon. But even if you already know this, chances are, you know someone else who doesn't.

Here's what you can tell them: December 21, 2012, really is a big flip-the-page date in the ancient Maya calendar — but they didn't believe the world would end then. And all the planetary and galactic lineups that doom-mongers are trying to associate with that date are flat-out wrong.

Back in 2009, when the movie "2012" came out, we did our part at Sky & Telescope to counter the hysteria. Noted archaeoastronomer E. C. Krupp explained all the details and history of the Maya mania in the November 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope. Download Krupp's article (PDF) and share with friends, family, and whoever else might need to hear it.

In the same issue, S&T editor-in-chief Robert Naeye wrote about cosmic disasters that actually could happen — but aren't likely to anytime soon. It makes for a fun read if you're tired of hearing about fake Maya prophecies. Download Naeye's article (PDF) and share it wisely.

20 thoughts on “Is the End of the World Coming? Not Quite

  1. terry durbin

    Thanks for the article. With three years to go yet before we get the hysteria behind us I’m sure I will refer many people to E.C. Krupp’s fine piece of work.

  2. Karl Nymon

    I can’t thank you enough for making these articles available. I have many friends asking about 2012, and your authoratative articles are just the ticket to set them at ease, and explain the reality of this contrived panic to them.

  3. Mike

    These areticles are NOT authoritative. It amazes me people pay attention to what ST is saying about 2012…ie nothing impressive. The Mayans never said the world would end. What they were in tune with was how the sun/stars/planets operate. They had math skills most people today will never beleive. What I would love to see ST do is a real article on the math and relationships between the celestial objects and pyramids all over the world that were all clearly built based on those objects…oh but I guess to political to ask ST to do something like that.

  4. T Fleming

    Soomething is always up. Those who dont learn from history…….
    Comets were harbingers of doom in some ancient cultures. Worked pretty well because disasters were always coming around. Kept the Astrologers in business.

    Fanning the flames of ignorance should be reserved for the monthly mag Horoscope and Telescope.

  5. Alex Forbes

    Thank you SO much for posting the two archival PDF’s for the benefit of those who don’t have access to S&T backissues – which I do, and which I read with great interest and pleasure.

  6. Rod

    Did any read Revelation 16:17-21 in the bible, the 7th bowl judgment? The movie pictures presented in S&T report look like they were borrowed from the biblical passage vs. the Mayan text.

  7. Tom Whiting

    Haven’t we already been thru all this? The planetary alignment of the 1960′s? The Jupiter Effect of the 1970′s;
    The Halley Comet effect of the 1980′s the Hale-Bopp effect,
    and on and on and on. I’m sure the doomsday sayers are
    already producing a “reason” that it didn’t happen to give
    us on December 22, 2010. Let me guess…the sun cooled
    down so there were not enough solar flares, or Jupiter
    re-oriented the incoming asteroids. Whatever…
    I can already predict the next doomsday event from them
    after December 2010…it will be the asteroid Apophis in 2029…and so it goes. Tell them….It gets old after a while.
    Clear Skies,
    Tom Whiting
    Erie, PA

  8. Norma

    The End of the World? Again?

    The movie may be for pure entertainment, but it may hold some truths. The Mayan culture studied the stars, built their entire existence on the movement of the heavenly bodies and even sacrificed human beings under those same stars. And one of those star readings (comet passing by) foretold the end of their own way of life and the onset of this country. The prediction of the end of the world may really be the end of their world (their way of existence for thousands of years) and the beginning of the New World with the arrival of the Europeans (and, the rest of us!)

    Earthquakes, landslides, dry spells, waters rising – these have occurred from time to time and yet, we, are still here. Well, some civilizations still are. But, the end of the world, when it does come, will be known by a few that will survive, that were, I believe, allowed to see the signs so they may have time to be saved. I have faith in God, that He truly loves this little blue planet of ours and, goodness, it is too beautiful to let it go “Puff” because some of us did not take care of it?

    I love science But I love God even more and I’m on his side not the Mayan. Still, a little “the sky is falling” and “run for your lives” is a good wake up for the world to stop hurting this tiny, beautiful, blue reflective orb of time…

  9. Norma Iris

    The End of the World? Again?

    The movie may be for pure entertainment, but it may hold some truths. The Mayan culture studied the stars, built their entire existence on the movement of the heavenly bodies and even sacrificed human beings under those same stars. And one of those star readings (comet passing by) foretold the end of their own way of life and the onset of this country. The prediction of the end of the world may really be the end of their world (their way of existence for thousands of years) and the beginning of the New World with the arrival of the Europeans (and, the rest of us!)

    Earthquakes, landslides, dry spells, waters rising – these have occurred from time to time and yet, we, are still here. Well, some civilizations still are. But, the end of the world, when it does come, will be known by a few that will survive, that were, I believe, allowed to see the signs so they may have time to be saved. I have faith in God, that He truly loves this little blue planet of ours and, goodness, it is too beautiful to let it go “Puff” because some of us did not take care of it?

    I love science But I love God even more and I’m on his side not the Mayan. Still, a little “the sky is falling” and “run for your lives” is a good wake up for the world to stop hurting this tiny, beautiful, blue reflective orb of time…

  10. Patricia del Valle

    Some of the foregoing comments are great.
    Love your articles…thanks so much for the downloads. My brother will love to include some of this info for his sermons…and these articles make great conversation for the worriers…Ques. How can I find a layman’s explanation of how “they know the polarities have switched?” Has Scientific American ever pub. on this?
    Thanks,
    PS My grandchildren enjoy what I send them from you too.
    Patricia

  11. Gene

    This all reminds me of a friend of mine back when I lived in southern California. Every single day, she would tell me that it was “earthquake weather”, “it felt like a quake was coming”, her dog was acting funny, etc. without end. Then, after a couple of years of this everyday littany, I had to dig myself out of the stairwell of the office building I worked in. I was in early on 16 January 1994 and we’d just had the Northridge quake. And she spent the next week or so saying that she’d told me this was coming! Lesson I learned … regarding disasters … if you shout warnings everyday, and you live long enough, one day you WILL be RIGHT! And no one will remember all the times you were wrong!

  12. Gene

    One thing for sure … we will all know on the morning of 22 December 2012 how this all plays out. I suspect nothing will happen reminescent of those religious folks back during the Flu Pandemic of 1918. That was supposed to be the “End” but it didn’t work out that way. The “religion” is still around but now, when I ask them at my front door, what happened back then, they will try to wiggle out by saying that they never said the End was Near. Now I remember the old guy back in the early sixties who stood on a street corner. He had the classic long beard, robs, and sign stating that the World Will End on 17 October 1962. Well, he was right. A truck got him after he stepped into traffic during rush hour that morning. Witnesses said that he was trying to dodge vehicles as he J-walked. He was dodging when he got his … it wasn’t a suicide. He had a plane ticket to another city on him. Looked like he was planning to move to another location and start another doomsday thing. I guess the panhandling thing was enough of a living for him. And those Hale-Bop yoyo’s who lived down the road from me in California … all they did was off themselves and stink up a nice house.

  13. Solitare

    I agree with Mike *** What I would love to see ST do is a real article on the math and relationships between the celestial objects and pyramids all over the world that were all clearly built based on those objects.. Com’on Man, Lets see what ya got By the way great work to the staff of ST I really enjoy the information your magazine and web site provide *** Keep it up Thanks

  14. Jack

    Mike: Why don’t YOU prepare that “real article” you’d love to see and submit it for publication in S&T (or, better yet, a peer-reviewed journal) so we can all be enlightened about the relationships between celestial objects and pyramids? Oh, wait, I forgot: it’s a conspiracy of silence, isn’t it?

    Hint: spell-check your article before submitting.

  15. D.Hankel

    So here we have a primitive society with a little math skill and a lot of superstition. And some people today want to believe them? It appears to me humans are like dogs and are always looking for their master. Some choose aliens others the occult, still others choose to follow ancient (and extinct) societies as their version of supreme. Common humans! Wake up and start believing in yourselves!! We ARE the aliens, the devils, the gods and of course the ancient societies. Can’t we learn from our past?

  16. Hell Stunter

    Qwll people these scintists are right. The world is not made to get end, & specially all are scared cuz of that crap movie 2012. No need to fear, nothing gonna happen on that day.

    ThankYou.

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