Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is the world coming to an end?

At a recent talk, I was asked if the world would come to an end on December 21st 2012, as the ancient Mayan calendar predicted. I did some digging and found some things I hope you’ll find interesting.

In Mayan:
A day is 1 kin;
20 kin (20 days) are 1 uinal;
18 uinal (360 days) are 1 tun;
20 tun (19.7 years) are 1 kactun;
20 kactun (394.3 years) are 1 backtun; and
13 bactun (5125.3 years) are 1 epoch.

Their calendar apparently started on August 11th, 3114 B.C. (Some say it started two days later – why quibble?) and it stopped at the end of one epoch (13 bactuns).

Just for fun, I wrote a program to compute Mayan dates from our dates (Gregorian calendar dates). Today, February 19th 2009, is Mayan standard time (12 bactun, 19 kactun, 15 tun, 1 uinal and 14 kin). Incidentally, counting all the leap years, that’s 733,456 days after January 1st of our year 0.

If anyone wants to know the Mayan for their favorite date, just let me know.

The Mayan End Date is, which corresponds to December 21st 2012 on our calendar. This is the day of the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. It turns out an unusual astronomical event will occur on that date. More on that later.

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