Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12

Enough already! I know humans like repetitive numbers, but...besides. This one isn't even a palindrome (it doesn't read the same way in both directions).

Of course, now I'm trying to work out when the next palindrome will be. I want to say 12/1/21?

Also tired of the 'Mayan apocalypse'. People, the Mayans have not predicted the end of the world, so saying they're wrong is as bad as saying they're right.

At a basic level, we have a calendar that counts the years up from a significant date. Right now, that's the 'birth of Christ'. In the future, we might decide to come up with an all new year zero. We only have three cycles in our calendar...four if you pay attention to lunar months as opposed to calendar months. Day, month, year.

The Mayans were great astronomers and astrologers. They seem to have grasped the cyclical nature of the universe. First of all, they measured two years. The secular year, which was solar, and used by farmers. The sacred year was the thirteen month lunar year, used by priests to determine when festivals would be held. So, we have two years, lunar months and, of course, days. Oh yes, and they had calendar months as well. Now we're up to five cycles.

The two years produce a sixth cycle...the cycle between instances of the solar and lunar new years coinciding.

On top of that, they had a minor obsession with the planet Venus, which they associated with a major deity. So, this adds a seventh cycle - the Venusian transit/Venusian year.

So, it's gotten really complicated. I'm not going to do the math on exactly how many cycles the Mayan calendar has. However, on December 21, all of those cycles will hit 'zero' at once. All of them (assuming scholars have done their math right and it isn't actually December 23). Now, if your calendar is cyclical and everything hits zero, why bother having a new calendar beyond that? You can just start again with the old one.

No Mayan prophecy of disaster at all. Just a kind of super uber duper New Year. I have to wonder just how loudly the descendants of the Mayans are laughing at us from eastern Mexico right now.