The year 2012 will not destroy the Earth

This looks like a pretty terrible movie. Let's be honest, there's going to be 25 to 30 minutes of widescreen destruction and then a plot and dialogue so formulaic as to be procedurally generated.

This flick, by comparison, looks totally awesome sweet, but I attribute that mainly to the largely bongo-oriented soundtrack.

Here's the thing: 21st December 2012 represents a fairly major digit rollover in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. It's the Mayan Y2K. 12.19.19.17.19 will roll over to 13.0.0.0.0. That is all.

We don't use Mayan software. We don't use it because the original engineers who created that software were wiped out five hundred years ago and you can't get the support contracts anymore. Even if we did all use Maya OS, we'd just patch all the vulnerable systems and it would be a non-event like Y2K was. And even if we didn't do that, the failure of every computer on Earth would not bring about the fall of human civilisation because well over fifty percent of human civilisation still doesn't rely on computers.

The reason I'm talking about computing is because this is the only way that a major calendar digit rollover could possibly harm anyone or anything.

This is because dates are not real.

The real world does not care what year it is. Do you have a desk calendar which ends on 31st December 2010? OH NO IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD. Dates and times are almost entirely arbitrary constructs, used by humans to provide a sensible, internally consistent reference framework for the recording of past events and the planning of future ones. In theory, all events past and future could be described with reference to the present time; "I was born 25 years ago" rather than "I was born in 1983". But this makes it impossible to record time-sensitive data in a static format, such as written text (a year from now, "I was born 25 years ago" will be incorrect), so instead we choose an arbitrary universally accepted reference point to start counting time from, an "epoch", and then when I say "1983" I mean "1,983 years after the epoch" and you understand that to be "1,983 years after the epoch" and we are talking about the same year because we have the same definition of "the epoch".

By choosing a different epoch or a different calendar system, any day you like can be 6/6/6 or the year 10000 or whatever number of significance you wish to generate. What makes one epoch more significant than another? The fact that a lot of people use it? There are millions of people who use calendars other than the Common Era. As for the number of people still using the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, that is almost exactly zero. A friend of mine created a decimal calendar which counts backwards. To what? Nobody cares.

It's superstition, like being frightened of the number 13. It's numerology, it's a distraction, and it's passing the responsibility. If you want the Earth to be destroyed, you can't just sit at home tabulating thousand-year-old religious texts for patterns which aren't there and then sit and wait for the moment when all your stupid graphs cross. The end of the world is not something that happens because cosmic forces aligned and decided it was time for the world to end, and even if it was, figuring this fact out in advance would not hasten it.

The destruction of Earth is something that you go outside and invoke with your own two hands. Make it happen.

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Discussion (36)

2009-09-12 14:56:30 by YarKramer:

I thought it had *already* happened? ;)

Also, the Discordian Calendar uses a calendar with an epoch in 1166 BCE ... (man, I really need to reread the Principia ...)

2009-09-12 18:19:11 by EthZee:

I want to see '2012: It's A Disaster!!!' very much.

I find plot gets in the way of many a good explosion, war or collapsing temple complex; like an elderly relative with no sense of timing standing up to get a cup of tea and blocking the screen, just as the good bit of the film occurs. Transformers was probably the most recent film I watched which had this heinous crime; who cares about squishy humans? YAY ROBOTS FIGHT

Also, we need more bongos in films.

I agree with you, Sam. Either way, though, it's a win-win situation; if you're wrong, there won't be anybody to make snarky remarks or say "I told you so".

2009-09-12 20:44:10 by Cody:

Yay! I'd never thought of that reasoning so far (despite how obvious it is). I like how you ended it, too. I've threatened to destroy the Earth in 2012 just to shut everyone up!
May I use / link to this (with full credit given, of course) on my 2012 website?

2009-09-13 10:18:47 by Lucas:

I heard that the Mayan calendar actually ended on that date, and that there is no 13 for it to roll over to, hence the "OMG!"? OR was that just plain wrong? lol.

2009-09-13 15:18:31 by jymbob:

Thanks for the mention of my decimal time implementation (and standard-length months). Krikian time - you know it makes cents.

2009-09-14 04:33:24 by Jordan:

XKCD had a wonderful comic about this very topic a while back and I cannot find it for the life of me! If anyone finds it, it sums this up perfectly.

2009-09-14 05:42:50 by Typhon:

The Maya never ever said the world would end in 2012, it's new age bullshit.

2009-09-14 15:10:33 by JoetheRat:

Lucas - Mayans primarily used a base 20 system, so we don't have anything to worry about until 19.19.19.17.19. That's when the *real* fireworks will happen.

2009-09-14 19:32:16 by Aaron:

Jordan: I searched (admittedly not very thoroughly) and found nothing about a Mayan long-count calendar rollover xkcd comic. I do recall this dinosaur comic, however: http://www.qwantz.com/index.php?comic=1528

It says basically the same thing as this article in 6 panels, but with fewer links to bongo-soundtracked disaster movie trailers.

2009-09-17 14:56:50 by vincent:

is this thing you say about the rollover true?
does 11.19.19.17.19 roll over to 12.00.00.00.00?
if so source pls, i couldn't realy find anything on that.

2009-09-22 21:28:17 by JoeCoffee:

The calendar ends at 12-31-2012 quite simply because the poor bastard that was chiseling the stones just got tired of doing it and said "WTF, 12-31-2012 is far enough! I quit". In Maya of course.

2009-09-23 17:15:45 by AndrewFL:

I agree. However, what bothers me is that I've heard of other sources for the 2012 date. I know it's crazy but why would people with no communication with one another agree on something like that? Do I sound stupid? If so, sorry to bother you with a silly question.

2009-09-23 19:28:42 by qntm:

Sources for "2012" are either a) modern, and therefore quite definitely in communication with each other or b) ancient, but do not actually specifically point to the year 2012. There's a little bit of middle ground, where an ancient source has a fairly vague prediction which modern readers have massaged to appear to point to 2012. It's not a coincidence, it's a bunch of people feeding each other's theories.

2009-09-24 13:45:46 by sisk:

Something will almost certainly happen on 12/21/2012. We'll see some interesting tidal phenomena due to so many significant celestial bodies being in alignment at the same time. That is all.

Oh, and possibly some rioting from people who believe the world is about to end. That might do some damage. Maybe one of the rioters will get their hands on a huge mass driver and start shooting chunks of the Earth at the sun....

2009-09-24 14:17:39 by qntm:

There is no planetary alignment on that date.

Even if there was, the only celestial body which is close enough and massive enough to have any effect on the Earth's tides is the Moon. Yes, there will be tides that day, but tides are extremely pedestrian phenomena and one body is not an alignment.

2009-10-02 19:58:56 by Cory:

I really do want to see 2012:It's a Disaster! I'm very glad for the link.

Anyway, a source for the calendar rolling over: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesoamerican_Long_Count_calendar
It says how the calendar works.

2009-10-07 21:44:00 by PaulN:

My understanding is that the Earth, Sun and our galactic center will be in alignment on 21Dec2012. Could that cause the "End of the World"? Well maybe. But it depends on how "End of the World" is defined. If it means wiping out humanity, then maybe. If it means actually destroying the planet, then no way. I say no way because this alignment occurs every ~26,000 years and, given the Earth's age (~4.5 billion years), this alignment has occurred roughly 175,000 times, if I did the math right. If the earth hasn't been destroyed after being exposed to the alignment 175,000 times, I doubt the 175,001th time will make a difference. Getting back to wiping out humanity, I suppose it is possible that every 26,000 years there is a mass extinction.

2009-10-08 07:14:10 by qntm:

Well, that's incorrect on several levels. The galactic centre is in the constellation of Sagittarius and the Sun travels through the constellation Sagittarius every year, between December 18 and January 18. There is definitely not a mass extinction every year.

In fact, there is definitely not a mass extinction every 26,000 years. There have only been about five mass extinctions, EVER.

Also, why would that alignment cause a mass extinction? Answer: it could not. The galactic centre is 25,000 light years from us. Always has been.

2009-10-11 15:40:07 by PaulN:

So Sam, it sounds like we agree that the earth will not be destroyed. As for our alignment with the sun and the galactic center, I believe the event that is said to occur every ~26,000 years is a PRECISE alignment. I understand your argument that there is an alignment every year, but by that argument you could also say that the moon aligns between the earth and sun every 28 days; however only a PRECISE alignment will cause a full solar eclipse visible on earth, which is a rare event.

I also appreciate your argument that the galactic center is and always has been very far away. I don't believe the precise alignment in and of itself will cause anything; but is it possible that this alignment might coincide with our solar system's oscillation within the galactic plane at a point where we might be more vulnerable to comets that otherwise would remain in undisturbed orbit in the outter part of our solar system?

2009-10-11 15:47:31 by qntm:

There's no mass extinction every 26,000 years, so, statistically, no.

Also, anything can coincide with anything else without necessarily influencing one another.

Also, comets aren't just wandering icebergs in space which are denser in some parts of space than in others. Comets come from the Oort Cloud which is a few light-months from Earth, and pretty much static with respect to the Sun. And of course, the Sun and all of the Oort Cloud are light-years from the nearest other major celestial body. There's nothing out there that would randomly start flinging comets towards the Sun, that would be ridiculous.

2009-10-11 21:51:45 by Supernumerary:

I've long thought that if their calendar ends in 2012, the polite thing to do would be to buy them a new one, but apparently making a move about the world ending was more fun.

On an unrelated note, I have come from the year 2013 to warn you that existence comes to an end in December of 2012 (Ironically, just one month after the warranty expires).

2009-10-15 21:51:44 by Jordan:

Aaron--
That's it. I'll fix this faulty memory of mine one day.

2009-10-18 12:36:16 by webmaren:

It's my understanding that the other correlating sources are related to the end of the Zodaic Age of Aquarius, which itself is a similarly arbitrary phenomenon.

And confirmed that the only reference to 2012 in the XKCDverse is an election-junkie comic.

2009-10-21 17:36:03 by Boter:

Well, the argument is basically, "*Last time there was a December 21, 2012, the world ended. It stands to reason that the next time there's a December 21, 2012, the world will end again!" Not logical by any means (not too many sciences use a sample size of 1, SETI excluded), but there it is.

2009-10-21 18:42:36 by qntm:

except that last time there was a December 21, 2012 the world didn't end

2009-10-22 20:08:37 by Boter:

"The previous creation ended on a long count of 12.19.19.17.19. Another 12.19.19.17.19 will occur on December 20, 2012..." -Wikipedia

Creation, or "the world as we know it", ended the last time that date came around (in Mayan myth, obviously, not in the reality I believe in). However, a rational explanation while perusing the article is, "That's coincidence - we're in the fourth creation, there's no record that the first and second lasted as long as the third, so no pattern has been identified. Also, the third creationw as imperfect, whereas this one is suitable for men."

Longer way to get around to it, but yeah, a date.

2009-10-22 20:10:02 by Boter:

Ah. But if you're arguing that creation did not actually end, then yes, you are correct. It's a matter of what we're arguing - what the Mayans believed, or what we (as in, modern science) believe.

2009-12-03 13:37:54 by inhahe:

it seems like a straw man argument to point out that dates are not real. the very fact of two possible dating systems (ours, and the Mayans', say) means it's already directly implied by the 2012 argument itself that dating systems are relative.

i think the point is more that we put more faith in the ancient mystic culture's knowledge of the big picture than ours (and, i could argue, not without good reason) and presumably that that might have been a basis for their decision to end their calendar in the year 2012.

but of course, even if they *were* more cosmically aware or just smoking the same stuff Nostra Damus had, it doesn't necessarily mean that their calendar ends in 2012 because they thought the world would end. so it seems like a lot of if's to me. but i guess it's not as bad a bet to assume that they thought a worldly era would start/end at or near that time; one would assume they designed their calendar to be in harmony with natural cycles, etc. as far as they were aware of them.

of course whatever happens at, before, or after 2012 is all our own doing and we don't really need mystics to tell us what the ultimate results of our exploits will be... so either way the idea is just a big distraction.

here's a link to a good multi-sided documentary on the subject, scientists and visionaries included - http://www.2012dvd.com/

here's a link to a good (scathing) article about the 2012 movie and other 2012 hype: http://hplusmagazine.com/articles/art-entertainment/2012-carnival-bunkum











2009-12-30 00:54:31 by NonNewAgeTheorist:

A few things will happen in 2012, just not on any Armaggedon factor. These are the events: American Presidential Election, Venus, Earth, and the Sun perfectly aligning, a lunar/solar eclipse, the galactic eclipse (which may cause some minor magnetic pole shifting, possibly jumbling the continents, and compasses), and finally solar maximus(which may launch some solar flares against the *Possibly* weakened magnetic field.)

So I assure you that there is nothing to worry about, except rioters.

2009-12-30 01:00:17 by qntm:

How could a galactic eclipse possibly affect the Earth's magnetic field, let alone "jumble the continents"?

2009-12-30 19:32:59 by NonNewAgeTheorist:

Well, in theory, the combined magnetic stresses of the supermassive black hole at the center of the universe(could be useful for something...)and the Sun may realign the magnetic north and south poles. Of course, it's all theory.

2009-12-30 23:30:19 by qntm:

No, in theory that can't possibly happen at all.

We don't even know for sure that there is a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. We certainly can't detect its magnetic field, let alone be substantially influenced by it, if it even has a magnetic field, which black holes aren't known for.

2010-01-01 17:45:25 by NonNewAgeTheorist:

Yes, it might not affect the Earth's magnetic field, but IF it does, there will be some tectonic shifts, either rapid or gradual.

On another tangent, there may be nothing truely spectacular(if you count a glactic eclipse as unspectacular) in 2012, the worst thing that could possibly happen is some 2012-ee getting their hands on some unconventional weapons(such as biochmical agents, nuclear warheads, or a small quantity of antimatter) and detonating it over some large, highly populated city, because he/she is angry that the world didn't end.

2010-01-01 22:21:49 by qntm:

There's no "if" here. An external magnetic field which is too weak to detect is, by definition, too weak to have any measurable effect on the Earth.

And, external magnetic fields don't alter tectonic shift, either rapid or gradual.

I'm pretty sure nobody will know precisely what the 2012 prediction actually predicts until sometime in early 2013. Of course, that's the exact opposite of a prediction.

2010-02-20 21:11:29 by ebenezer:

This is good, because I had been somewhat looking forward to the year 2013.

2010-05-21 01:59:47 by Uhoh:

No, the world WILL end. Forget laughable causes like galactic alignment with supermassive black holes, etc.....there`s a presidential election in 2012, and Sarah Palin`s running. And I don`t mean end of civilization stuff, I mean end of the physical planet, or at the very least permanent end to all life.