Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's Not the End of the World

With the new film 2012 being released tomorrow, there's been a lot of talk about the end of the world. Apparently, the film portrays the apocalyptic events that the Mayans may have predicted over a thousand years ago. Why do we assume they predicted the end of the world? Oh, because their ancient calendar ends on December 21, 2012.

Here's how I picture the whole thing going down. Please note that the names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect historic accuracy...

It's been a mild winter on the Yucatan peninsula. As spring begins, crops are being planted, virgins are being sacrificed; it looks to be a banner year for the ancient Mayan civilization. And so, as is often the case, the tribal council meets to discuss what their next big project will be. Picture with me a group of wise elders sitting around a stone table, each enjoying steaming mugs of cocoa.

Ted: Okay, gentlemen, I realize that these meetings are important, but could we please hurry this one along? I'm taking the wife and kids down to Machu Picchu. Apparently the Aztecs have a lovely crystal skull exhibit.

Rufus: Yes Ted, we all know you have a grand vacation planned. You don't have to rub your wealth in our faces every time we get together. Just because you invented chocolate...

Bill: Great cocoa, by the way Ted!

Ted: Why, thank you Bill!

Rufus: ...probably just accidentally discovered it anyway. You want to impress me then come up with a cure for smallpox...

Ted: Are you still talking Rufus?

Rufus: Never mind. Moving on. We really need to come up with another big project. We can't just keep sacrificing the pretty girls. People will start to notice that the only eligible women are all ugly. I say we build another pyramid. There's nothing in that clearing to the west. What do you say?

Bill & Ted: Lame!

Ted: What if we do a big calendar?

Bill: Interesting, do you mean a big one that is too big to hang on a wall? That sort of thing?

Ted: No, no, no... I'm talking about a calendar that will give accurate dates and astronomical events for the next... oh, I don't know... 1200 years? Think we can pull that off?

Rufus: Well, there's no question that it can be done, but what would be the point?

Ted: Look, civilizations rise and fall. We have to be realistic, we're not going to be around forever. Eventually we'll give in to our superstitious beliefs and all the pretty girls will be gone. Our boys won't want to procreate with just the ugly ones. I say we leave our mark on the world. Someday, some crazy archaeologist with a fedora and bullwhip will come along and see our calendar and think, "Man, they knew their stuff!"

Bill: I like it!

Rufus: Of course you do. I'm intrigued though. If we do this, in theory, the calendar could go on forever. We do, after all, have the capability of calculating astronomical numbers stretching into infinity.

Ted: So we come up with an ending date.

Bill: How about December 21, 2012?

Ted: The winter solstice? Why then?

Bill: Seems as good a day as any.

Ted: Sounds good. And you know, I bet when that time comes, people will look to our calendar and think all kinds of crazy things. They'll actually believe the world is gonna end. After all, the guy with the bullwhip already claimed we knew our stuff. I can just see it now. All those crazy people running around, pulling their hair out, crying over disasters that aren't even gonna happen. Best. Practical Joke. Ever!

Rufus: That is a pretty good one. All right, I'll get some scholars on this one right away. We've got some extra chisels in storage that haven't been used for awhile, guess I'll need to dust those off. Have fun in Peru, Ted.

And with that, history was made. Okay, so that might be a little inaccurate. But really, the end of the world? Head over to the Discovery Channel's website for a list of the top ten 2012 end of the world theories and why they won't happen. It's a pretty good read.

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