NASA released a new ScienceCasts video yesterday, but rather than talking about something that has just happened or something that will happen in the future, it instead talks about something that will not be happening in the future — specifically the December 21, 2012 Mayan apocalypse.
The video, entitled Why the World Didn't End Yesterday, speaks to the viewer from the perspective of them watching it on or after December 22nd, and goes on to explain the Mayan calendar, the misconceptions behind the supposed prophecy, and provide expert testimony from noted astronomers to refute the various agents of our destruction that the doomsday 'seers' have been going on about for years.
The origin of the doomsday 'prophesy' comes from Mayan theology. The Mayans believed that the world was created on their calendar date 220.127.116.11.0, which is the equivalent of August 11, 3114 B.C. by our modern calendar. Their calender then continued the next day, counting from 0.0.0.0.1, until it reaches 18.104.22.168.0 again on December 21st, 2012.
"In the language of Maya scholars, 13 b'ak'tuns elapsed between the two dates," states the video narrator, quoting Dr. John Carlson, Director of the Center for Archeoastronomy.
"This was a significant interval in Mayan theology," the narrator continues. "'But', stresses Carlson, 'not a destructive one.' None of the thousands of ruins, tables and standing stones that archaeologists have examined foretell an end of the world."
To address the various ways that our planet is supposedly to meet its end next Friday, the video quotes from several experts.
The head of NASA's Near Earth Object program, Don Yeomans, is quoted as saying "no known asteroids or comets were on a collision course with Earth," and the narrator continues, stating "Neither is a rogue planet coming to destroy us."
"If there were anything out there, like a planet, headed for Earth, it would already be one of the brightest objects in the sky," said David Morrison, a NASA astrobiologist. "Everybody on Earth could see it. You don't need to ask the government. Just go out and look. It's not there."
"The Sun is not a threat either," said Lika Guhathakurta, head of NASA's Living With A Star program. "The Sun has been flaring for billions of years, long before the Maya even existed, and it has never once destroyed the world. Right now, the Sun is approaching the maximum of its 11-year activity cycle, but this is the wimpiest solar cycle of the past 50 years. Reports to the contrary are exaggerated."
Rather than dreading the coming rollover of the Mayan calendar, states the video, John Carlson is looking forward to it. He'll be visiting the Yucatan Peninsula next Friday, "and thinking back to the height of Maya civilization, when ancient humans contemplated expanses of time orders of magnitude beyond modern horizons, and, of course, appreciating the fact that the world didn't end [on December 21st]."