I recently watched a trailer for the new 2012 movie. It seems like a pretty decent apocalyptic movie written and directed by the same guy behind two other similar movies – Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. Famous actors, staggering visual effects and the genre-mandatory destruction of the White House by a ship are all included. It was enough to get me hooked, fully hoping for another immersing experience and the nightmares that will surely follow.
While the movie will probably be a blockbuster and deserves its credit, the concept behind it – an apocalypse occurring on December 21, 2012 predicted by the Mayan; is a misunderstanding at the very least. The Mayan, as any other respectable civilizations, had a calendar of their own to keep track of time. In particular interest is the long count – a cycle of approximately 5129 years. According to it, a day is called k’in. 20 k’ins are one winal. 18 winals are one tun. 20 tuns are one k’atun. 20 k’atuns are one b’ak’atun. Each b’ak’atun is 144,000 days, or approximately 394 years. A long count cycle consists of 13 b’ak’atuns, or 5129 years. Day zero, believed to be the creation day, is August 11, 3114 BC. Mayan math is base-20 and so date can be represented by five digits. In ye olde times that would be five groups of a bunch of stripes and dots listed from top to bottom. To make things more manageable for us modern people, a series of 5 modern numbers separated by dots is used. Today, for example, is 188.8.131.52.16. That is 12 b’ak’atuns, 19 k’atuns, 16 tuns, 10 winals and 16 k’ins or 5125 years since day zero.
Through various reasoning, certain academic scholars have concluded that at the end of each such cycle comes a grand and possibly cataclysmic event. Mayan scriptures make no direct reference to such an event and my personal belief is that interpretation of 13-b’ak’atun-ia party invitations have gone seriously awry; but an even simpler explanation exists.
Much like modern day engineers, Mayans had to carefully balance versatility and resources and perform a cost-benefit analysis. Understandably, they decided including the long count index in every date would be a waste of resources. Instead of carving six digits, accommodating for multiple long count cycles, they opted for ambiguity by implying the long count cycle. Imagine the vast amount of stone that would have gone to waste should every contract, ticket, advertisement, news paper and document of Mayan times had included another digit, just so it could be valid 5000 years into the future long after they and everything they knew was dead. That brilliant decision probably allowed the construction of another pyramid or two.
In fact, the Mayans are to be admired. When our modern day engineers faced the same challenge, they opted for a century time frame in favor of resources thus unleashing the infamous Y2K bug onto an unsuspecting world. It was believed date ambiguity would cause banks to fail, computers to crash and burn, zombies to overrun the streets and anniversaries to be forgotten thus eliminating any possibility of further human reproduction. Much of the same and more is being predicted for 2012 with the same reasoning. The apocalypse is looming at an arbitrary date due to green and efficient Mayan engineering. But despite widespread usage of technology and date abbreviation in our days, short of a few minor glitches, nothing occurred on January 1, 2000. Considering the 2012 bug concerns ancient technology no longer in use, the idea seems even more absurd.
Therefore, assuming you are not using Mayan computers, live in a mortgaged Mayan pyramid or somehow related to Indiana Jones; you’re welcome to join me for a Mayan themed end-of-the-world movie marathon on 0.0.0.0.1, or December 22, 2012.