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.
In January 2010, UCTV premiered a program from Lawrence Berkeley Lab featuring Saul Perlmutter, along with his colleagues Alexie Leauthaud of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics and David Schlegel of Baryon Oscillation Spectroscope Survey, in a public conversation about the suspected cause of the universe’s accelerated expansion, dark energy, an elusive force that remains science’s biggest unsolved mystery. You can watch the program or download and audio or video podcast file here: