Dec. 21 and the Mayan calendar apocalypse myth in a nutshell

Every news site and its mother has a story about Mayan Calendar — explaining the apocalypse myth and, more important, their version of the misinterpretation.

I’ll spare you the Google searches. In a nutshell:

  • The ancient Mayans kept time in a different way than we do — theirs was based on the idea of counting days and was tied to the solar year — and maintained three different calendars.
  • The Long Count Calendar seems to end on or about Dec. 21, 2012 — triggering the Doomsday predictions across the world in recent years.
  • In reality, the Mayans did not predict the end of the world. Dec. 21 was just the completion of a major cycle — a 5,126-year cycle —  and marked the first winter solstice in 26,000 years when when the sun and Earth will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way. Some reports say they even marked down a few plans for after Dec. 21.
Dec. 21, as depicted by Desert Sun copy editor Will Toren

Dec. 21, as depicted by The Desert Sun copy editor Will Toren, who won draw off to draw this.

But the truth be damned.


#ApocalypseConfessional is trending nationally on Twitter as I write this.

NASA has received about 90 calls or emails per week with questions from people about the Mayan calendar, LA Times reported on its blog:

The questions range from myth (Will a rogue planet crash into Earth? Is the sun going to explode? Will there be three days of darkness?) to the macabre (Brown said some people have “embraced it so much” they want to hurt themselves). So, he said, NASA decided to do “everything in our power” to set the facts straight.

That includes producing this video:

And variations of Google search terms — calendar 2012, mayan predictions, mayan calendar end — have continued to climb:


Google Trends for mayan calendar, worldwide since 2004


(By the way, the No. 1 city in the world for searching “mayan calendar” is Hyderabad, the capital and largest city in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.)