By Mike Krumboltz
In fact, NASA is so confident that it recently published a video that appears as if it were intended to be aired on Dec. 22. Titled "The World Didn't End Yesterday," the four-minute clip explains how the idea of the Mayan apocalypse was a huge hoax and how the rumors began. A commenter on YouTube jokes, "The correct title for this video: Told ya so!—Love, NASA."
Time magazine reports that the space agency has been besieged with questions from citizens worried that their lives are about to end. NASA is taking the fears seriously, not because there is any danger, but because irrational fears can sometimes lead to irrational and dangerous actions.
NASA's official site features an area dedicated to debunking the claims. "The world will not end in 2012," NASA writes. "Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012."
A misunderstanding of the Mayan calendar has sparked panic the world over, sending people from Russia to China to the U.S. into extremes of preparation frenzy or suicidal depression. Working on two fronts, scientists and indigenous experts have embarked on a common mission: to calm everyone down and convince them not to do anything rash in the face of the upcoming winter solstice.
The passing of the Mayans’ Bak’tun 13, otherwise known as the end of the Long Count Calendar, is a cause for celebration rather than dismay, and this weekend the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) sets out to highlight just that. Bak’tun 13: A Guatemalan Celebration of Time, a free festival from December 14 through 16, will showcase dance performances, lectures, workshops for families and Guatemalan cuisine in the museum’s Mitsitam Café.
It will include a presentation on Saturday December 15, Maya from the Inside: The 13 Bak'tun as Challenge to the Western Mind, a lecture by scholar Victor Montejo (Jakaltek Maya). His and other lectures will be webcast live at www.nmai.si.edu/webcasts, and the museum is encouraging visitors to tweet their questions to @SmithsonianNMAI using the hashtag #MayaCalendar.
Don't quit your day job. The Mayans didn't predict that the world would end tomorrow
By Alex Halperin
Tomorrow is the date 184.108.40.206.0 in the Maya’s (the generally accepted anthropological term) “long count” calendar. Remember the hoopla attending Y2K? This milestone is “almost exactly analogous to the end of the millennium for us,” according to Todd Little-Siebold, a professor of history and Latin American studies at the College of the Atlantic.
Amid this resurgence, Sitler notes the “pizza effect,” by which Maya spiritual leaders have reincorporated some of the new international theories about the Maya into their own beliefs. On Saturday, assuming we’re still here, we can look forward to a new era of interpretation.
By Alexandra Alper
But many of today's ethnic Maya cannot understand the fuss. Mostly Christian, they have looked on in wonder at the influx of foreign tourists to ancient cities in southern Mexico and Central America whose heyday passed hundreds of years ago.
"It's a psychosis, a fad," said psychologist Vera Rodriguez, 29, a Mexican of Maya descent living in Izamal, Yucatan state, near the center of the 2012 festivities, the site of Chichen Itza. "I think it's bad for our society and our culture."
"It's a date for doing business, but for me it's just like any other day," said drinks vendor Julian Nohuicab, 34, an ethnic Maya working in the ruins of the ancient city of Coba in Quintana Roo state, not far from the beach resort of Cancun.
Watching busloads of white-haired pensioners and dreadlocked backpackers pile into their heartland, Maya old and young roll their eyes at the suggestion the world will end.
"We don't believe it," said Socorro Poot, 41, a housewife and mother of three in Holca, a village about 25 miles from Chichen Itza. "Nobody knows the day and the hour. Only God knows."