21st Dec, 2012 : The day before forever

So the world is going to end on 21st Dec, 2012. If not “end”, at least something cataclysmic is going to happen, and it will change the whole world. What that cataclysmic event could possibly be, is of course, open to imagination, and every ripe brain out there, has gleefully jumped on the bandwagon. There are books to be sold and money to made.

Lets first understand, what this brouhaha is all about.

21st December, 2012 is the date, when one of the Mayan calendars is coming to an end. The Mayans believed, that, prior to the current world, that they lived in – or we still live in – there existed, 4 preceding worlds, which were destroyed by some mythological cataclysmic events. The current world would, likewise come to an end, when the current cycle comes to an end and a new world would come into existence with the start of a whole new cycle. This cycle is the Long Calendar (also called Long Count), and it comes to an end, i.e. completes its cycle on 21st Dec, 2012.

Lets dive in, shall we.

Mayans used several calendars, which made their calendar system pretty complicated. The reasons for this complication are not so much well known. Tzolkin calendar Probably because, these calendars were perfected over quite a few generations, and, probably because, these calendars were used by a very small group of people, like the priests, nobles and the royalty, and not by common people, the Mayans did not feel the need to simplify their calendar system. The calendar system was amazingly accurate, and only differs from our atomic clock, by a mere fraction. This level of accuracy stands testimony to their systematic study and understanding of nature and its changing seasons.

The Mayan numerical system is vigesimal, i.e. a system with base-20. In other words, each unit is incremental by 20. (Our decimal system, on the other hand, is incremental by 10, i.e. base-10. We have 10, 20, 30, 40 and so on, increasing by 10, while for the Mayans, it was 20, 40, 60 and so on increasing by 20). Four of the most important calendars were:

  • Tzolkin : A cyclic calendar system that represented a period of 260 days, consisting of 20 individually named “days” (read group), which in turn consisted of 13 days, numbered from 1 to 13. Thus 20 x 13 days = 260 days = 1 Tzolkin. This calendar did not have a specific beginning or ending and it continued in cyclic manner i.e. a period of 260 days was followed by another period of 260 days, so and so forth. It was used only for ceremonial purposes and is called, Ceremonial calendar.
  • Haab’ : Also, a cyclic calendar system, that represented a period of 365 days, consisting of 18 “months”, which in turn consisted of 20 individually named days. In addition to 18 months, there used to be 5 unnamed extra days. Thus, (18 months x 20 days) + 5 unnamed days = 365 days = 1 Haab’. This too had no beginning or ending and continued in cyclic manner. This calendar, however, was used for agrarian purpose and is called, Vague calendar or Solar calendar. This calendar is used even today, by their descendents in Peru and the neighboring regions. The Mayans were very much aware of the leap year problem, but for some reason, they did not incorporate it in their calendar system.
  • Calendar Round : Mayans used the combination of Tzolkin and Haab’ to identify a specific date. Each such combination lasted for 52 years – 52 Haab’ years or 73 Tzolkin years, (since, 365 x 52 = 260 x73 = 18980, is the least common number between the Tzolkin and Haab’ calendars) after which, this combination would repeat itself again and again. This was an effective way of identifying a date within the Calendar Round – each date in Tzolkin, having a corresponding date in Haab’ thereby giving an unique name to each of the 18,980 days within a single cycle.
  • Long Calendar: The short (52 yrs) Calendar Round, created a problem for the Mayans, because, it did not enable them to identify any date,  accurately beyond 52 years. For example, if I say that I was born on 6th  September, it won’t tell you anything about my age. For that you have to know the exact year in which I was born. Calendar Round created a situation roughly equivalent to the example. It will accurately tell the Mayans the exact date – since each date would be unique – within the span of 52 years. But, this span was repeated over and over again. So beyond a single span, no one could accurately identify the span, which the unique date referred to. So they devised the long calendar, which unlike all the other calendars, was continuous. This calendar had a start and it had an end, after which another “grand cycle” would continue afresh. The purpose of the calendar is a little vague. There is evidence that suggests, that this calendar was used to relate the King to the mythological events that they believed to have occurred in the past.

There are other calendars as well, 17 in total, but is not essential for the current topic. So lets look at this Long Calendar, little closely.

Long Calendar consists of 5 digits, and starts from to end in These digits are read as, Baktun.Katun.Tun.Winal.Kin. Read from, right to left, these digits represent,

1 Kin = 1 day, maximum of 20 days,

1 Winal = 1 kin x 20 days = 20 days, maximum of 18 Winal, (an exception to the vigesimal system)

1 Tun = 18 Winal x 20 days = 360 days, maximum of 20 Tun,

1 Katun = 20 Tun x 360 days = 7,200 days, maximum of 20 Katun,

1 Baktun = 20 Katun x 7200 days = 144,000 days, maximum of 13 Baktun.

Thus, a long date of, (a real inscription) means, 1,125,698 days from the beginning of the calendar, which is calculated, as below :

7 x 144,000 1,008,000
16 x 7,200 115,200
6 x 360 2,160
16 x 20 320
18 x 1 18

Using this method, the total number of days, from the beginning date, which is, till end date, which is, would be;

13 x 144,000 = 1,872,000 days (approx. 5125 yrs)

Now, the question is, what is the equivalent date of in our calendar, which, by the way, is the Georgian calendar. The archeologists had earlier, discovered that the equivalent of beginning date, in Calendar Round, is, 4 Ahau 8 Kumku (interpreted as, the 4th day in the 20th period of Tzolkin calendar corresponding to the 8th day in the 18th month of Haab’ calendar). After much deliberation, the equivalent Georgian date was arrived as, 11th August by Goodman or 12th August by Martinez or 13th August by Thomson, who later changed his mind and supported the 11thAugust date, in the year 3114 BCE. In honor for their work, these three dates are collectively called, GMT Correlation. Many people came up with other dates as well, but were later proved to be erroneous. GMT is the widely accepted date range. Even within this date range, 11th and 13th August, 3114 BCE, are the most popular dates.

If GMT is taken to be the “Date Zero”, then the equivalent Georgian date for the end date, i.e. is 21st, 22nd or 23rd Dec, 2012, respectively. It is a simple process of adding the number of days that would pass between the start date and the end date, while considering the leap years of Georgian calendar, and that there is no 0 BCE. (After 1 BCE, there is no O BCE or O AD. The Georgian calendar jumps from 1 BCE to 1 AD.)

[Instead of so much brain storming, you can use any of the numerous Mayan calculators, available on the Net, to find the equivalent dates of modern calendar in terms of Mayan Long Calendar. You can us this or this as well.]

Note, that 18 Winal, pointed out earlier, is a deviation from the vigesimal system. The reason was, to fit the period as closely as possible to the Haab’ year of 365 days. 360 days is certainly closer to 365, than (20 x 20) 400 days. Note also, that the beginning date of 11th August, 3114 BCE, is based on study of astrological, not astronomical, interpretation of the Mayan rituals.

Now that we know how we have arrived at the date, 21st Dec, 2012, which is nothing more than pure coincidence, lets now look at the different claims of cataclysmic events that are supposed to occur on that date.

Sun aligning with the plane of Milky Way :

This is probably the most popular prediction of what is going to happen on that date. 21st Dec, 2012 is the winter solstice. On that date, the Sun will, apparently “align with the plane of the Milky way”, whatever that means, and this will open a cosmic portal to the underworld. The world, we are told, will no longer remain the same.

The first problem of this theory is the date itself. If you have read above, how the Mayan dates are converted into Georgian dates, then you already know that the date, 21st Dec, 2012 is just a coincidence, a result of simple arithmetic. There is nothing mysterious about the date. But mystery is a necessary ingredient in all end-of-world theories. If there is none, manufacture one. So we have an ingenious mystery, brute forced into the date.

Instead of adding the days from the start date, the theorists, count from the end date. They believe, and would like us to believe, that the Mayans used their astrology to first derive the end date, i.e. 21st Dec, 2012, so that it fell precisely on the date on which this world would come to an end, and then they fitted their Long Count to retrospectively accommodate all their mythological events. Truly ingenious.

Needless to say, that there is, so far, no evidence to support this bizarre theory. On the contrary, it is more than likely, that the whole destruction of world concept was built around the calendar itself. In other words, the calendar was devised first, for over quite a few generations, and then the whole story of destruction of world was woven into it. Remember, this Long Count was used to glorify the King by narrating his exploits in mythological battles or events that they imagined to have taken place, thousands and even millions of years ago. Long Count was devised to look into the past and not into the future.

The aligning of the Sun, with the plane of Milky Way, is, in itself a misinformation. Let me quote from Cornell University :

On the winter solstice, the Sun always has a Declination of -23.5 degrees, and a Right Ascension of 18 hours, but exactly where this is on the sky [,] relative to more distant stars[,] changes very slowly due to the “precession of the equinoxes”. We have a posted answer explaining this effect but how it’s important in this answer (and how it was first noticed) is by the fact that it moves the position of the equinoxes, and solstices with a period of 26,000 years in a complete circle around the sky westward along the ecliptic. So the position of the winter solstice moves 360 degrees in 26,000 years. That means that it moves 360/26000 = 0.01 degrees a year. Defining an exact boundary for the plane of the Milky Way is tough, but it’s at least 10-20 degrees wide across much of the sky, meaning that the solstice can be described as being “in the plane of the Milky Way” for 700-1400 years! To put it another way, the winter solstice that just past (2005) was only 0.1 degrees away from where it will be in 2012, a distance smaller than the size of the Sun itself (which is about 0.5 degrees in diameter). In any case the Sun crosses the plane of the Galaxy twice every year as we orbit around it, with no ill effect on Earth.

It was also, impossible for the Mayans to know of the apparent astronomical event, that is going to take place on 21st Dec, 2012. Of the volumes of inscriptions and writings that have been deciphered, none hinted at anything remotely similar to, the Sun aligning with the plane of the milky way.

Shift in Earth’s magnetic poles :

This is another theory that makes partial use of a true but rare phenomenon. Earth's interiorAccording to this theory, on that fateful day, the magnetic poles of the Earth will switch places and in the process, the Earth will end up loosing its magnetic field altogether. This will naturally expose the earth to a constant deadly dose of radiation from the outer space. You can only imagine what will happen if it really happens that way.

It would seem that we will all wake up on the 21st Dec, 2012 to see that the magnetic poles have switched their places while we were sleeping. But that is too farfetched to say the least. Shift of magnetic poles has happened in the past, and perhaps,is  likely to happen again. But the process takes somewhere between 2,000 to 5,000 years to complete and is extremely unpredictable.

The current location of the north magnetic pole is near Resolute Bay, Canada and shifting north at the speed of about 40 km/year. So by 21st Dec, 2012, it would have moved just about 160 odd kilometer to the north. Hardly a cataclysmic pole flip scenario. From this NASA article, it becomes clear.

Such reversals, recorded in the magnetism of ancient rocks, are unpredictable. They come at irregular intervals averaging about 300,000 years; the last one was 780,000 years ago. Are we overdue for another? No one knows.

According to Glatzmaier, the ongoing 10% decline doesn’t mean that a reversal is imminent. “The field is increasing or decreasing all the time,” he says. “We know this from studies of the paleomagnetic record.” Earth’s present-day magnetic field is, in fact, much stronger than normal. The dipole moment, a measure of the intensity of the magnetic field, is now 8 x 1022 amps x m2. That’s twice the million-year average of 4 x 1022 amps x m2.

So you can say, that the magnetic fields are shifting, or rather wobbling, as we speak, and it is a perfectly normal phenomenon. But are they going to flip completely and that too, on that specific date. Highly unlikely.

But then, what happens when it completely flips ? Does it result in a complete loss of magnetic field ? Here’s what the same NASA article has to say:

Reversals take a few thousand years to complete, and during that time–contrary to popular belief–the magnetic field does not vanish. “It just gets more complicated,” says Glatzmaier. Magnetic lines of force near Earth’s surface become twisted and tangled, and magnetic poles pop up in unaccustomed places. A south magnetic pole might emerge over Africa, for instance, or a north pole over Tahiti. Weird. But it’s still a planetary magnetic field, and it still protects us from space radiation and solar storms.

Thus, in case of a complete flip, the magnetic field does not become non-existent, but just, disordered in a bizarre way.

Shift in Earth’s crustal poles :

This is by far, the most bizarre theory. Not bizarre in the sense that it is not possible, but because, it is expected to happen overnight, just like magnetic pole Continental drift flip. On the dooms day of 21st Dec, 2012, the Earth’s poles are supposed to do a physical flip. In other words the entire crust will physically shift in a way so that South pole will be at the north end of the Earth and the North pole at the south. Well not exactly a 180 degree reversal, but close enough. [The animation to the left depicts continental drift due to plate tectonic movement, for over millions of years]. We are talking of a high speed plate tectonic movement in a gigantic scale.

The Earth’s crust floats on a pool of semi-solid, semi-viscous rock, called the Plate tectonic movementmantle. To use a much used parabole, if Earth is an apple, then its crust is the skin of the apple. This crust is moving at an average speed of 2 inch/ year. Not much of a breakneck speed for an overnight flip of the poles. Windows to Universe, explains it in absolute layman’s term.

Earth’s center, or core, is very hot, about 9000 degrees F. This heat causes molten rock deep within the mantle layer to move. Warm material rises, cools, and eventually sinks down. As the cool material sinks towards the Earth’s core it is warmed and rises to the top again. This type of movement is called a convection cell.

We used to assume that Earth’s plates just surfed on top of the mantle’s giant convection cells, but now scientists believe that the plates themselves play an important role in the convection process.

How can plates play an active part in the convention process instead of just surfing along? Just like convection cells, plates have warmer, thinner parts that are more likely to rise, and colder, denser parts that are more likely to sink.

New parts of a plate rise because they are warm and thin. As hot magma rises to the surface at spreading ridges and forms new crust, the new crust may actively push the rest of a plate out of its way. This is called ridge push.

Old parts of a plate are likely to sink down into the mantle at subduction zones because they are colder, thicker and denser than the warm mantle material underneath them. This is called slab pull.

An overnight flip, is however possible. Only if a huge meteorite or any other celestial body, with massive gravity, passes through very close to earth. Or if a giant volcano suddenly erupts at one corner of the Earth, resulting in accumulation of massive amount of magma. But, so far, there is absolutely no indication of anything of that sort happening.

Shift in Sun’s magnetic poles :

I am not sure, if this qualifies as a doom’s day prediction. The sift of sun’s magnetic poles are supposed to occur in 2012. But, it has hardly any catastrophic impact on Earth. The sun flips its poles, like a clock work, once in every 11 years. It has done so in the past, and will do so in the future. Only recently, did sun go through its routine pole shift. If nothing happened then, why would anything extraordinary happen in 2012 and particularly on 21st Dec. ?

The Mayans had a superior numerical system, a highly accurate calendar system, an advanced knowledge of astronomy, but that does not imply they could look more than 5000 yrs into future. If they could, then they would have predicted their own downfall, or the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

Also, if they could look so precisely and accurately, into the future, should there be any doubt, that they could look back into the past with such precision. If a la 21st Dec, 2012, is indeed the end date, predicted by the Mayans, wouldn’t it automatically mean that a la 11th Aug, 3114 BCE, was indeed the beginning of the world. But, not surprisingly, no cataclysmic event is known to have happened on that day.

I am willing to bet that we will live to see the day next to 21st Dec and all the subsequent dates, months or years. Just like several other useless prophecies, this too, will fail to live upto some people’s expectations.

But, by that time, our hoaxstars will find another hoax to make money on.


http://www.dartmouth.edu/~izapa/CS-MM-Chap. 6.htm

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11 Responses to “21st Dec, 2012 : The day before forever”

  1. Lynette Says:

    I’m contacting you to see if you have any spare time or space on your web site to advertise my website. I am trying to inform as many people as possible of some of the truths in the world that have been twisted and distorted and that need to start being addressed, by everyone.
    The site also gives ideas and advice on ways that each and everyone of us could try to start helping to change society for the better and making the world we live in a happier, safer, fairer place for every single person to live in.
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    Thank you for taking the time to read this message and I hope we can all start doing things to make the world the kind of place it could and should be.

  2. zodiaclove Says:

    I do not agree with what you said really….
    please explain in detail a bit more for me :d


  3. praveen Says:

    i want d mayans calender. if possible pl send my id

  4. praveen Says:

    i want d mayans calender. if possible pl send my to id

  5. RAMYA Says:


  6. RAMYA Says:


  7. Deepak Bisht-earth Says:

    what a rubbish nothing will happen on 21st dec 2012

  8. Diana Davis Rumbold Says:

    I don’t understand why we are taking advice on the future from a culture that thought ritual human slaughter in the thousands was appropriate and necessary to keep the sun rising. They also thought to cure a water shortage by tossing rotting corpses into their only existing water sources. The whole Pole Flip thing was originally supposed to happen on 5/5/2001. Didn’t happen. It was a concept originally dreamt up by Charles Hapgood and somewhat endorsed by Einstein. Which just tells us really smart people can believe really stupid things.

  9. nishantraju Says:

    i also agree that the world began end means it will be start 2010. but there one no react seriously in that year so people dnt affair of the day of dooms and booms.

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