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Another Panic Averted? PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Randi   

RandiMayanDamn! Every time we look forward to The End of the World, we're disappointed! What could be the problem...?

Well, here’s another news flash: While the world – it’s true – is inevitably coming to an end, that event’s not due for several billion years. Unless paper has a far longer life than I ever imagined, no reader of my books need fear being consumed by a Black Hole or vaporized by a visiting galaxy. Being pursued by lawyers or asked to visit your IRS office, are far more likely and dangerous fates to expect. Certainly, we should relax the popular notion that all – everything, toute le monde – ceases in this year 2012, largely based on the delusion that the Mayans, in the still-unsolved cessation of their highly-developed community, chuckled their way to extinction knowing that we were doomed to follow them in 2012. No, their very complex calendar does not end on December 21 or 23, 2012. They just ran out of room on the big chunk of stone on which they incised the calendar, and that was also the end of one major "epoch" in their calendar system... And, in any case, if they were so damn smart, why weren’t they able to discover that those Spanish chaps who showed up on their shores in 1524 were not really so friendly…?

Another very popular belief is that the 2012 End will be brought about by a rogue planet colliding with the Earth. NASA has an excellent grasp of such a possibility. They tell us that if such a collision were really coming up, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. NASA insists, succinctly and definitively:

Credible scientists worldwide know of no astronomical threat associated with 2012.

I suggest that any of my readers who doubt this assurance sit through the next few days, see what doesn’t happen, and vow that they’ll not panic when the woo-woos ring this tired old alarm again. But they will raise another alarm, be sure of that…

While the initial wild theories had set this disaster to happen back in May of 2003 – and nothing happened then, either – the prophets moved the date forward to the winter solstice of 2012, which conveniently coincides with the end of a cycle on the ancient Mayan calendar. Now, I hate to disenfranchise the doomsayers, but the Mayan calendar in fact does not end on December 21, 2012. Another period begins immediately afterward, which the artists of the Yucatan peninsula didn’t get around to carving into stone, perhaps because they didn’t have a bigger stone, or maybe they just didn’t care. Come to think of it, have you ever seen a printed 2030 calendar? If not, will you decide that the world will end in 2029…?

Relax, folks. We'll still have taxes, war, upheaval, crime, and trouble to deal with...

There! Isn't that comforting news...?

James Randi is founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation

Comments (4)Add Comment
written by lytrigian, December 20, 2012
They just ran out of room on the big chunk of stone on which they incised the calendar

I understand you're joking here, but just in case someone might take you seriously:

What's really happening is that a large digit in the modified base-20 number system that ancient Mesoamericans used to count long periods of time is turning over. (It's modified in that the second place goes only to 18, not 20.)

If the commonly accepted correlation between the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar and the Gregorian is correct -- and that's not certain -- then today corresponds to a Long Count Calendar date of, the last day of the 13th "b'ak'tun". (The Maya started their count from zero, not one.) Tomorrow will therefore be, beginning the 14th b'ak'tun. It's just like our own calendars going from 1999 to 2000 (or, as a Maya expert I heard on the radio today said, more like going from 9999 to 10000) and with almost equal realistic expectation of disaster.

As it happens, we had more reason to expect disaster at the year 2000. Fortunately, a lot of computer programmers around the world worked very hard to avert the potential problem built into a lot of computer systems, and nothing actually happened. As far as I know, no computer in the world suffers from a "14th b'ak'tun" bug.

Watch out for the year 2038 though...
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Oh ye of little faith!
written by Ricsuth, December 21, 2012
Once again you skeptics lead by your false prophet Randi have got it all wrong! This just in:

DATELINE: 21 December 2012

To all those who mock and snigger at our previous predictions of the impending end of the World, we wish to announce that due to errors caused by previously undetected shifts in the time/space continuum, combined with a re-calculation of the quantum energy field, along with the discovery of a piece of fossilized pretzel from the Mayan era bearing new information we are delighted to announce that we have re-calculated.

The end of the World will still happen. Have no fear. As of today, we can confidently predict that the correct date will be 21/12/2013.

We are sure that no one can have failed to notice that next year ends in the digits 13, which have long been known to foretell doom and disaster.

Doubt us at your peril. For we are the enlightened ones. May your crystal balls be with you.

So you see, just because the end has not apparently happened today, we can now be absolutely certain, without a shadow of doubt, that we only have 12 more months to wait. Repent ye doubters!
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Oh Mayan...
written by Mike Syxx, December 21, 2012
Up to yesterday, the media was running wild with badly written stories about the Mayan calender. I am not sure what happened to fact checking in journalism, but most of these articles started with something along the lines of "The Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world". It's of no surprise to me that so many people bought into this when the providers of the news picked sensationalism over reality.

The biggest question now? What will be the next Woo date or event that will destroy or elevate mankind? 11/12/2013 maybe? Maybe someone who is not a quantum physicists can tell us all about how quantum physics will effect us in the coming years!
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I'm not panicking but
written by Zoroaster, December 21, 2012
From what I can gather, the fear of a surprise asteroid impact is not entirely irrational.

This article is three years old so maybe they have detected all or nearly all of the large near earth asteroids by now - but I still haven't heard of any concrete plan of what to do if one is headed our way.
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