An Astrophysicist’s Take on the End of the Mayan Calendar

The end of the world is nigh. At least, that’s what some people think will happen when the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. But Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist George Smoot has an entirely different take, one that honors the remarkable precision of the ancient Mayan astronomers and keeps our planet far from imminent disaster.

In “Mayan Cosmology Ends: Precision Cosmology Progresses,” a public talk delivered in front of the Great Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza, the Berkeley Lab scientist discusses what the Mayans achieved solely with the naked eye and comments on the significance of the approaching end of the current World Age of the 5,000-year-long Mayan Long-Count Calendar.

No, the end of the world is not at hand, Smoot says, but it’s true that we’re undergoing a fantastic transition in cosmology. The Mayan view of the universe was based on the sun and moon, a handful of planets, and a couple of thousand stars. Ours is an evolving cosmos reaching back over 13 billion years, based on a cornucopia of data accumulating almost daily and including hundreds of billions of galaxies.

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