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Catholic Online: END OF THE WORLD is Dec 21, 2012! (not)

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 21st, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

On December 21, 2012, according to many experts, the Mayan calendar will run out. Naturally, there's a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the date. If some are to be believed, this will be our last Christmas on Earth.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The predictions of doom and gloom have been coming quickly for some time. Hollywood blockbusters, History Channel documentaries, and a plethora of websites and books of all tell us of dire things that might happen on December 21, 2012.

The day is considered astrologically significant for two reasons. First, it is the winter solstice when the sun appears at its lowest point in the southern sky. The solar nadir is it expected to align the Earth and Sun with the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It also roughly coincides with the solar maximum -- a period of peak activity on the sun. 

Second, it is the most popular and accepted date for the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. Many people involved in astrology, numerology, and other such practices believe that the Maya were possessed of a secret knowledge that foretold when the end times would be.

Of course, astronomers explain that all this is nonsense.

First, there is no secret cosmic energy which radiates any differently between the center of the galaxy, the Sun and Earth, when they appear to be in some sort of alignment. In fact, the very alignment itself is an optical illusion caused by the orientation of the planet, (axial tilt) and the ultra-slow wobble of the Earth on its axis, a phenomenon known as "precession."

As for the solar maximum, the Sun appears to have a natural 11 year cycle of activity during which sunspots and solar flares become common, then virtually nonexistent.

Interestingly, the Sun's average activity is now substantially less than what scientists believe it has been in the past. Some even believe that the sun is experiencing what is known as a "minimum" in its cycles. Such minimums have happened before, and they may last decades or even hundreds of years. They are perfectly natural. So in 2012, the Sun isn't even expected to be as active as it has been in decades past; no need to worry about solar flares engulfing the Earth (they cannot do so anyway--Earth is much too far away).

Of course, none of these phenomena affect conditions on planet Earth in any significant way. While solar flares do have the potential to disrupt radio communications and the electrical grid, such events are rare, temporary, and can now be reliably forecast and safeguarded against. They have never posed any threat to life on Earth--ever.

Which brings us to the Mayan people themselves, many who still inhabit southern Mexico and much of Central America. For them, the date does not appear to hold any special significance. None of have been seen reverting to tribal practices, building arks, or bomb shelters. However, many have been happily cashing in on the tourism boom and attention.

Experts on the Maya cannot even agree amongst themselves that December 21, 2012 is actually the date on which the Mayan Long Count calendar comes to an end. The whole world could have it wrong by a matter of days, or even years. So the December 21, 2012 date is merely a best guess by leading archaeologists, but is by no means the final word on when the Mayan calendar actually ends.

The fact is, the Mayan calendar is cyclical -- much like the calendar we use today, with the exception that the Mayan calendar repeats every so many thousand years. Of course, the calendar was only used for a few hundred years -- during the height of Mayan civilization. Still, the Maya had no idea how long their civilization would last, or if the calendar would be used by their descendents in perpetuity.

The reality is, the end of the calendar has about as much significance as the end of the calendar year to any culture. It is simply the end of one day, and the start of another.

And for anyone who believes anything more, they should look to see if something has been added to their Kool-Aid.

 

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