By Emily Eiermann
“The end of the world is coming,” Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Tuesday. “It turns out the Mayan calendar was true. Whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell beasts or from the total triumph of K-Pop, if you know one thing about me, it’s this: I will always fight for you to the very end.”
The viral video is a commercial for Triple J’s Breakfast Show, a morning radio program in Australia. Although it is a spoof of the hysteria surrounding Dec. 21 and the predicted Apocalypse, some countries are not taking the matter lightly.
There are various ideas about how the world will end, ranging from giant solar flares to strange planetary alignments to the collision of the hypothetical planet Nibiru (sometimes referred to as Planet X) with Earth, according to NASA’s question-and-answer page titled “Beyond 2012: Why the World Won’t End.” The most common theory, however, involves the Mayan calendar.
The long-count calendar created by the Mayan people divides time into cycles called Bak’tuns, according to National Geographic’s website. The 13th Bak’tun ends on Dec. 21, after almost 400 years, but the calendar resets itself instead of continuing to the 14th cycle. The main source of this information comes from a stone tablet on a monument in Mexico, though the hieroglyphics are partially damaged. The scholars who translated the stone originally thought it might be prophetic, as it made mention of a god descending at the end of Bak’tun 13. They recently revisited the translation and decided it likely serves as a dedication of the monument.
Archaeologists also discovered the workroom of a Mayan scribe in 2011, according to another article from National Geographic titled ”Unprecedented Maya Mural Found, Contradicts 2012 ‘Doomsday’ Myth.” Inside, they found a lunar table and an object known as a ring number, which was used to help establish a base date for planetary cycles. The calculations span nearly 7,000 years in the future, contradicting the idea of an apocalypse.
These findings have not calmed the general public, however. According to The New York Times, countries like France, Russia and the U.S. have issued official statements that the world will not end this year, hoping to quell the fears of panicked citizens. Alongside the NASA page that addresses the main rumors (and asks, “Where is the science? Where is the evidence?”), usa.gov posted a blog meant for children and teenagers. The blog states, “The world will not end on Dec. 21, 2012 or any day in 2012,” and adds a frightening statistic: Senior scientist at NASA David Morrison, known for answering questions about astrobiology from the general public, receives messages at least once a week from children or teens who say they are ill or contemplating suicide because of the possibility of the world ending.
This does not seem to be the feeling at Rider, though. Jessica Canose, a senior Spanish major who researched the origins of the Mayan prediction for her From Colonies to Nations class, feels confident that the world will not end in the near future.
“The end of the cycle is not supposed to be an end — it’s supposed to be a new beginning,” she said. “Sometimes they cite it as social change or new revolutionary leaders. They’re generally positive things. I think it’s just hype.”
Recent Rider graduate Amar Kapadia, ’12, feels similarly.
“It’s nothing but ignorance on many people’s parts,” he wrote on The Rider News Facebook page. “Just because the Mayan calendar ended on a certain date doesn’t mean that the Mayans actually predicted the end of the world on that exact date. I’m very sure the world will still be spinning and humanity and other species will be thriving well into 2013 and beyond.”
Regardless of people’s confidence that humanity will live to see Dec. 22, once Doomsday hits, many will still be a bit more cautious than usual, according to Canose.
“I think people get caught up in the sentiment,” she said. “I do too, actually — I’m scared of everything. I think I’m going to stay home that day.”
The band R.E.M. once sang that it’s the end of the world as we know it, but as Dec. 21 approaches, the world is not feeling fine.
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Printed in the 12-7-12 edition