Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's going to happen on December 21st 2012?

Will the world end on 21st December 2012 because of the end of the Mayan calendar or because the winter solstice is "aligned" with the Milky Way?
It appears that Mayan ideas about time keeping and calendars were very cyclical. This is actually easy to understand because it's quite like our calendar which has cycles of various sizes very familiar to us. For example there is a:
  • 1 Jan every year
  • day 1 every month
  • Monday every week
  • 1am every day
The Mayan cycles were a bit more complex, such that every day in a 52 year period had a unique name from a combination of various different cycles (similar to the idea that there is a Monday 1st January only every 7 years or so). This 52 year cycle has is called a Calendar Round. To keep track of dates on longer time scales the Mayans then had what's known as the Long Count, which provides a unique numerical indicator for each day. Mayans did not count in base ten like we did, but usually instead in base 20 (although not always). The Mayan long count can be summarized as:
#daysMayan count
11 kin
2020 kin1 uinal
360360 kin18 uinal1 tun
72007200 kin360 uinal20 tun1 kactun
144000144000 kin7200 uinal400 tun20 kactun1 bactun
The name for a Mayan epoch apparently translates as 13 bactuns, which you can see is 13*144000 days or 5125.26 years (roughly). There is actually some minor disagreement over when the current Mayan long cycle started, but it was probably either August 11th or 13th 3114 BC, which means it comes to an end on either Dec 21st or 23rd 2012.
As I mentioned above the Mayan calendar was designed to be cyclical, so the fact that the long count comes to an end in Dec 2012, while having some significance for the Maya as the end of a great cycle (much like we celebrated the millennium (incorrectly as it happens) on Dec 31st 1999), does not mean that the "world will come to an end". It's actually true that there are Mayan names for periods of time longer than 13 bactuns, so that their calendar doesn't even end then, and even if it did there is no evidence to suggest that they (or anyone for that matter) have any special knowledge about the end of the world.
There are however a lot of theories knocking around the Internet which use the end of this calendar cycle to predict the end of the world. They often also mention the fact that Dec 21st is the winter solstice, and that the Sun on the solstice that year is "aligned" with the plane of the galaxy. On the winter solstice, the Sun always has a Declination of -23.5 degrees, and a Right Ascension of 18 hours, but exactly where this is on the sky relative to more distant stars changes very slowly due to the "precession of the equinoxes". We have a posted answer explaining this effect but how it's important in this answer (and how it was first noticed) is by the fact that it moves the position of the equinoxes, and solstices with a period of 26,000 years in a complete circle around the sky westward along the ecliptic. So the position of the winter solstice moves 360 degrees in 26,000 years. That means that it moves 360/26000 = 0.01 degrees a year. Defining an exact boundary for the plane of the Milky Way is tough, but it's at least 10-20 degrees wide across much of the sky, meaning that the solstice can be described as being "in the plane of the Milky Way" for 700-1400 years! To put it another way, the winter solstice that just past (2005) was only 0.1 degrees away from where it will be in 2012, a distance smaller than the size of the Sun itself (which is about 0.5 degrees in diameter). In any case the Sun crosses the plane of the Galaxy twice every year as we orbit around it, with no ill effect on Earth.
To conclude:
  • The Mayan calendar does not predict the end of the world on Dec 12th 2012.
    1. The exact date of the end of the current Mayan Long Count is still a matter of debate amongst Mayan scholars, although it is likely to be around Dec 21 2012.
    2. The Mayan calendar is cyclical, and there are names for cycles longer than 13 bactuns of the Long Count which are coming to an end in 2012.
    Even if the Mayans did believe that the world would come to an end at the end of the Long Count (which I don't believe is true), there is no reason to assume that they have any special knowledge which would allow them to make this prediction correctly. You are free to believe the Sun won't come up tomorrow, but it will anyway....
  • The fact that the winter solstice on 2012 is "aligned" with the plane of the Galaxy has no significance.
    1. It takes the winter solstice 700-1400 years to cross the plane of the Galaxy.
    2. The solstice last year (2005) was within 0.1 degrees (or 1/5th the size of the Sun) of where it will be on 2012.
    3. The Sun crosses the plane of the Milky Way twice every year with no ill effect.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Heart Touching

Boy: Hey, hun!

Girl: Hey.

Boy: I missed you at school today. Why weren't you there?

Girl: Yeah, I had to go to the doctor.

Boy: Oh really? Why?

Girl: Oh, nothing. Just some annual shots, that's all.

Boy: Oh.

Girl: So what did we do in math today?

Boy: You didn't miss anything that great, just a lot of notes.

Girl: Ok, good.

Boy: Yeah.

Girl: Hey, I have a question...

Boy: Ok, ask away.

Girl: much do you love me?

Boy: You know I love you more than anything in this world.

Girl: Yeah...

Boy: Why did you ask?

Girl: ...>silence<...

Boy: Is something wrong?

Girl: No. Nothing at all.

Girl: much do you care about me?

Boy: I would give you the world in a heartbeat if I could.

Girl: You would?

Boy: Yeah of course I would. >sounding worried< Is there something wrong?

Girl: No, everything's fine...

Boy: Are you sure?

Girl: Yeah.

Boy: Okay...I hope so.

Girl: ..........would you die for me?

Boy: I would take a bullet for you anyday, hun.

Girl: Really?

Boy: Anyday. Now, seriously, is there something wrong?

Girl: No, I'm fine. You're fine. We're fine. Everyone and everything is fine.

Boy: ......okay.

Girl: ....well, I have to go. I'll see you tomorrow at school.

Boy: Alright, bye. I LOVE YOU!

Girl: Yeah...I love you, too. Bye.


Boy: Hey, have you seen my girlfriend today?

Friend: No.

Boy: Oh.

Friend: She wasn't here yesterday, either.

Boy: I know. She was acting all weird on the phone last night.

Friend: Well, dude, you know how girls are sometimes.

Boy: Yeah, but not her.

Friend: I don't know what else to say, man.

Boy: Okay, well I gotta get to english. I'll see ya after school.

Friend: Yeah I gotta get to science. Later.





Girl: Hello?

Boy: Hey.

Girl: Oh, hi.

Boy: Why weren't you at school today?

Girl: Uh, I had another appointment with the doctor.

Boy: Are you sick?

Girl: ……, I have to go. My mom’s calling on the other line.

Boy: I’ll wait.

Girl: It may take a while. I’ll call you later.

Boy: Alright…………I love you.

>very long pause<

Girl: (with a tear in her eye) Look, I think we should break up.

Boy: What!?

Girl: It’s the best thing for us right now.

Boy: Why??

Girl: I love you.



Boy: Hey dude.

Friend: Hey.

Boy: What’s up?

Friend: Nothing. Hey…have you talked to your ex lately?

Boy: No.

Friend: So you didn’t hear?

Boy: Hear what?

Friend: Um, I don’t know if I should be the one to tell you…

Boy: dude, what the hell just tell me!

Friend: Uh….call this number…433-555-3468

Boy: Ok…





Voice: Hello, Suppam County Hospital. This is Nurse Beckham.
Boy: Uh, I must have the wrong number. I’m looking for my friend.
Voice: What is their name, sir?
(boy gives info)
Voice: Yes, this is the right number. She’s one of our patients here.
Boy: Really? Why? What happened??? How is she???
Voice: Her room number is 646 in building A, suite 3.
Voice: Please come by, sir, and you can see her. Goodbye.
Boy: WAIT! NO!

dial tone


Boy: Oh my God, are u okay??
Girl: ..................
Boy: Sweetie!! Talk to me!!
Girl: I..........
Boy: You what?? YOU WHAT???
Girl: I have cancer and I’m on life support.
Boy: .....................>breaks into tears<......................
Girl: They're taking me off tonight.
Boy: Why??
Girl: I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t .
Boy: Why didn’t you tell me????
Girl: I didn’t want to hurt you.
Boy: You could never hurt me.
Girl: I just wanted to see if you felt about me the same as I felt about you.
Boy: …?
Girl: I love you more than anything. I would give you the world in a heartbeat. I would die for you and take a bullet for you.
Boy: (crying)
Girl: Don’t be sad. I love you and I’ll always be here with you
Boy: Then why did you break up with me?
Nurse: Young man, visiting hours are over.

The boy leaves and later that night the girl is taken off of life support and dies, but what the boy didn’t know is that the girl only asked him those questions so she could hear him say it one last time. She only broke up with him because she knew she only had 3 more weeks left to live and thought that it would cause him less pain and give him time to get over her before she died.


The boy is found dead with a gun in one hand and a note in the other.


“I told her that I would take a bullet for her, just like she said she would die for me.” :'( :'(