December 21 D-Day debunked

Pia Ranada
Is it the end of the world as we know it? Scientists say absolutely not.

WHAT DID THE MAYANS MEAN? While people wonder if the end of the calendar means the end of the world, scientists explain that it isn't so. Photo of the Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, Mexico from the Mayan Calendar 2012 Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – December 21, 2012

According to the ancient Mayan civilization, this is the day the world will end.

But before you start hoarding rations, digging bomb shelters and kissing everyone you love goodbye, it would be good to note the various scientific studies that debunk this apocalyptic prophecy.

The ancient 12/21/12 doomsday scenario was first predicted by the Mayans, a Mesoamerican civilization that dates back to 1800 BC and lasted until 900 AD when, mysteriously, the Mayans abandoned their cities. At its height, the Mayan civilization created a fully-developed written language and a calendar more accurate than the Gregorian calendar, perfected techniques in architecture and agriculture, knew how to perform inter-cranial surgery and independently developed the concept of zero. 

Their advancements in astronomy led the Mayans to devise a calendar much like ours today, based on a cycle of 365 days. The Mayan “Long Count” calendar which began in 3114 BC ends on December 21, 2012. 

Many New Age spiritualists take this “end” to mean the end of time as we know it. Mayan scholars, however, clarify that the Mayans had a cyclical concept of time and never foretold a definite ending. When Mayan writing was interpreted to say, “the 13th calendrical cycle will end on December 21, 2012,” many have assumed it meant the end of the world.

Rappler corresponded with Dr. Mark Van Stone, a Maya hieroglyph expert, archaeoastronomer and author of 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya, who countered this false interpretation.

“There is proof that the Maya calendar continues after the 13th baktun to the 14th, and the 15th, and on to the 1st piktun or 20th baktun,” he says.

A baktun is a cycle in the Mayan calendar containing more than 5,000 years. 

“It is in the third panel of the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque (a pyramid structure in Mexico built by the Mayans). This inscription tells us that the Maya priests at Palenque expected the calendar to go on.”

Debunked by science

Stepping out of ancient history and into modern science, Rappler spoke with Bamm Gabriana, founder of the University of the Philippines Astronomical Society and now instructor at the Rizal Technological University Department of Astronomy.

He disproved 4 of the most popular 12/21/12 doomsday scenarios:

1) A massive solar flare will roast the Earth!

Though solar flares do exist and occur from time to time, the next one is not scheduled until May 2013. Even if it does happen, it won’t be enough to destroy the Earth.

2) The Earth’s axis will suddenly shift and lead to catastrophe!

The axis of the Earth can’t shift so easily because the orbit of the moon around it stabilizes it. Shifting of the axis is very gradual and occurs over a period of a thousand years; when it does shift, the effects are far from catastrophic. You can say that this shifting is natural.

3) Planetary grouping will cause massive changes in the tides of our oceans leading to volcanic eruptions and storms!

If you calculate the total tidal force of all the planets combined, it’s only 1/10,000th of the tidal force of the moon. If so, the world would have ended already because of the moon. In any case, we won’t have a planetary grouping on December 21.

4) A rogue planet, called Nibiru or Planet X, will smash into the Earth!

If there is a planet approaching, we would have detected it years ago. If it is invisible, we would have already seen its effects on nearby planets.

According to Gabriana, scientific communities all over the world are unanimous in declaring the predicted doomsday as a mere scare tactic with no basis on fact. 

End-of-the-world predictions abound in many cultures and civilizations. They have come and gone while the Earth continues to exist.

“The ‘next’ end-of-the-world, by the way, at least according to the Aztecs, is 2027. You shall probably start hearing about the ‘Aztec prophecies’ in a few months,” says Dr. Van Stone.

Dr. Rodrigo Torres, a professor of astronomy and president of the Rizal Technological University, says there are more pressing doomsday scenarios that need our attention.

Napakaraming doomsday predictions na lumalabas from time to time (So many doomsday predictions come up from time to time). What we need to guard against to prevent doomsday is the destruction of our environment.”

Ironically, December 21, 2012 is to be a day of celebration for Mexico and countries in Central America. Festivities will feature fireworks, concerts, the participation of heads of state and spectacles in key archaeological sites.

Far from preparing for the end of the world, the region is getting ready to welcome an onslaught of tourists. 

These celebrations are in honor of the end of the 5,000-year era marked by the Mayan calendar. For the people of Central America, on December 21, a new era begins.

So instead of worrying about the apocalypse on December 21, perhaps the best thing to do is to buy a new calendar. – Rappler.com


(Even Korean viral superstar Psy did not escape the end-of-the-world hoax. To find out how, click here.)

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.