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Students judge theories of Mayan apocalypse

9 December 2012 By Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Editor-in-Chief 6 Comments
Photo Illustration by Matthew Hazlett/ The Towerlight

Photo Illustration by Matthew Hazlett/ The Towerlight

A Google images search for “Mayan apocalypse,” produces pictures of brimstone and fire, colliding planets and ancient glyphs that suggest a calamity of epic proportions.

All nonsense, senior Jean Hurley-Gardner said.

Hurley-Gardner took a course in Native American archeoastronomy, the study of how people observe the sky. In this class, she said Associate Professor Victor Fisher of the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice department, debunked many of the apocalypse rumors.

Internet communities, authors and other “official” sources have promoted the idea that when the Mayan calendar ends Dec. 21, some form of natural disaster will occur. Theories range from planets crashing into Earth, to a mass blackout that will leave the entire planet without essential resources.

“When learning archeoastronomy in general, you learn that you need obvious proof as to what something means,” Hurley-Gardner said. “There’s a whole idea that you can fit any archeological record to your own interpretation—it’s a trap that a lot of people fall into.”

2012 alumna Amanda Menke said that she believes there is a good chance the world will end in December – that way she won’t have to pay off her student loans.

“The Mayans were pretty accurate with their predictions, so I think that lends some credibility,” she said.

Menke said she has met many skeptics of her view.

“I think most everyone is skeptic, myself including, but I realize a long time ago it wasn’t worth it to be concerned with how anyone else views I live life,” she said.

Even NASA is one of those skeptics.

NASA officials developed an FAQ page addressing many of the popular theories as to how Earth will meet its end. It breaks down each speculation scientifically, disproving each one in the process. NASA representatives also participated in a live Google video chat session Nov. 28 that was meant to dispel rumors. This was a necessary measure, officials said, as they often heard feedback from parents that children and adolescents would take rumors to the point of panic. Junior Ben Seigel said many people are frightened of the possibility of death in any form, which fosters hysteria.

“For a variety of reasons, humans are terrified of death, the least of which being because they don’t understand it and they don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Thus the apocalypse has gripped us in a culture of fear that we just don’t understand and don’t know how to handle.”

Junior Cierra Colón said people are simply vulnerable to these types of rumors.

“I think people are caught up in the idea because society is so paranoid and gullible as a whole,” she said.

Colón cited the Internet as the major cause of these rumors.

“The Internet overhypes the phenomenon because most people learn about this stuff through the Internet and YouTube videos,” she said.

The best method of dispelling gossip is education, Hurley-Gardner said.

NASA has publically pushed the FAQ page and video chat session because some of the theories are so easily undone.

Don Yeomans, senior researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, called one theory that involved Earth and another planet colliding completely absurd.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA studies objects that may come into contact with Earth, including asteroids, comets and other space rocks.

“Planets align all the time, but the only objects that have noticeable effects are the moon, which is very close, and the sun,” he said in the video chat. “Even if the sun, moon and Jupiter were to align, the effect of Jupiter would be less than one percent. Alignments occur, they’re interesting from a pictorial point of view, but they don’t have an effect on the Earth.”

Other debunked theories on NASA’s website include a meteor strike, a solar storm and reverse rotation of the Earth.

“There’s a lot of misinterpretation, and we’re not going to get a full picture. We can’t call [the Mayans] up on the telephone. I’m pretty sure that the winter solstice is the only thing going to happen Dec. 21,” Hurley-Gardner said.


  • Mayu said:

    I’m curious about what “predictions” Amanda Menke believes the Maya made. They have no prophecies outside of movements of the sun, planetary alignments, Moon phases, etc. They predicted when would be the best time for planting, harvesting, going to war, etc. They didn’t exactly predict the coming of the Spaniards as many believe. They predicted the return of their bearded white god, and when the Spaniards came, they mistakenly thought that it was him. (many site that since they did not wear beards, they would have no knowledge of bearded men. This is a mistake IMO. They didn’t wear beards, but since most men grow facial hair I’m sure they knew what a beard was. It is also possible they were visited once before the invasion of the Spaniards, and met a mortal man they believed to be their god, who had a beard, and said he’d be back. Not so much prophecy as a series of misidentifications.) There is no direct prophecy of the Maya beyond predicting lunar and solar eclipses, etc… that I can see to point to their accuracy about things like “the end of the world”. In fact, they believe we’d be here in the year 4772 to take part in a great celebration of the anniversary of their great king’s birth. If they believed the world would end, that birth would be meaningless since no one would be left to know who he was or why his anniversary should be celebrated.

  • Mayu said:

    Correction: I deleted a sentence I wanted to keep in by mistake. The sentence should read… “They predicted what would be the best time for planting, harvesting, going to war etc. They didn’t make prophecies like “on August 5th, 2022 there will be a small wind that will knock down grandma Plucket’s bird house in MN.”

    Also, the word should be many *cite not site. Sorry bout that.

  • Ron Obvious said:

    I have seen the future and it is coming.


    Anyone who believes that the world is going to end is a fucking moron.

  • Ralph Menish said:

    TUBLACKANDGOLD – Great job keeping it clean. I don’t think you should be calling anyone else ‘moron’!

  • SMH said:

    +1 for Ralph

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