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Physics and the so-called Mayan prediction of the end of the universe

from USA Today

The popular media and internet has been abuzz with the idea that according to the Mayan calendar the world will end on Dec. 21. The notion is so intellectually bereft that it barely deserves comment by serious physicists. But on the other hand it does provide a grand teachable moment, a challenge that prominent astrophysicist, Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, has taken up with great skill. This whole buzz of the world ending is born from a misinterpretation of an inscription found at a now-pulverized Maya site in Mexico's Tabasco region. On Dec. 21, or thereabouts, the ancient Maya calendar will indeed roll over to start a new 394-year century, or baktun. But ancient Mayans did not see the world in terms of endings, but rather in terms of constant renewal. Archeology research reported in Science earlier this year uncovers markings in Mayan ruins that tracked Venus, Mars and dates corresponding to a time after the year 3500. So Mayans likely saw a world beyond the year 2012. more

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