Mayan calendar and 12/21/2012

Friday, December 21, 2012 is the date that the 5.000-year-old Mayan calendar ends. Some say that this means the Mayans predicted the end of the world.
“The Mayans never predicted the end of the world” – said Dr. Peter Dunham, a Cleveland State University professor who teaches about the Maya.
“They have a calendar cycle that’s going to end tomorrow, a big one, over 5000 years” – said Dunham. “But just like our millennia end, as ours did in 2000, another cycle begins.”
What about these Doomsday theories that persist despite scientific evidence to the contrary? Will Planet X, also known as Nibiru, return after it’s 3.600-year journey through the solar system to crash into the Earth?
“If there were a rogue planet that was going to hit the earth tomorrow, you’d be able to see it right now.”
How about an upcoming NASA-predicted solar flare? Will that cause a magnetic shift in the Earth’s core or possibly incinerate the planet?
“If you look at NASA’s projection for this one, it’s not even a serious peak that they’re talking about” – Durham said.

Mayan calendar and 12/21/2012
Mayan calendar.

Seeing that everyone from France to China is cashing in on the Mayan apocalypse, I thought that I might as well too.
My favourite Mayan mathematical fact is that their religious calendar consisted of two cycles running concurrently, a 13-day week and a 20-day week.
The first type of week was denoted by a number from 1-13, and the second by a named day.
Imagine if we had a similar system – say, a five day numbered week, and a seven day named week. The dates of the first fifteen days would be:
1 Mon, 2 Tues, 3 Weds, 4 Thurs, 5 Fri, 1 Sat, 2 Sun.
3 Mon, 4 Tues, 5 Weds, 1 Thurs, 2 Fri, 3 Sat, 4 Sun.
5 Mon, 1 Tues, 2 Weds, 3 Thurs, 4 Fri, 5 Sat, 1 Sun.
This provides a cycle of 35 unique dates, since 5 x 7 = 35. The Mayans had a cycle of 260 unique dates, since 13 x 20 = 260.
When we wake up in the morning, our most important calendrical concern is which day of the week it is. Mondays feel different from Tuesdays, which feel different from Wednesdays, etc.
If we obeyed two concurrent weekly cycles would we hate all Mondays, or just some of them?
(We could always ask the Balinese. Their traditional pawukon calendar is the most complicated ever invented – it has concurrent weekly cycles of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 days!)
The Mayans also had a civil month of 20 days each.
But rather than counting the days of these months from 1 to 20, they counted them from zero to 19.
The first day of the new month was zero in order to give the god that was “carrying the number” a rest.
Yet despite of the mystical justification, to have a zeroth day is mathematically much more elegant – we start the afternoon at 12.00 pm not 12.01 pm, and the millennium began in 2000 not 2001.
The Mayans, whose civilisation peaked in the first millennium CE, had a symbol for zero, a seashell.
However, it was just used as a marker rather than as a fully-fledged numeral that could be added and multiplied. The modern zero was invented in India

Still, the Mayans were a conceptual step above the Europeans living contemporaneously, who had no symbol for zero at all.

Newport Harbor High School administrators sent out a message to parents saying rumors about violence planned on the Newport Beach campus Friday are unfounded.
Schools around the nation have been dealing with rumors – some spread on social media – of problems related to the so-called doomsday scenarios supposedly foretold in the Mayan calendar. Numerous schools in Michigan, in response to the doomsday predictions, closed two days early for the holidays, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Nation Now blog.
In Newport Beach, officials said they don’t know the source of the rumors.
“Several students have expressed concern about coming to school tomorrow, as have some parents” – Assistant Principal Jack Cusick said in an email to parents. “I can assure you that my office has looked into these rumors, and no credible threats exist at this time”
The email did not include what the rumors entailed, but Cusick said students may be worried because of recent events such as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and the shooting at Fashion Island on Saturday in which no one was injured.
“We are forced to look for warning signs, and the coming of the so-called ‘Mayan Apocalypse’ doesn’t help” – he wrote. “This leads to rumors and more fear, and the whole thing can spin out of control pretty quickly; we all need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

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