Living the Mayan calendar cycle

LivingMayaThe time has finally come.  As the minutes tick away to the end of this day, December 21, 2012, will the world end? Do you still believe in the premonitions and soothsayers?

Here’s an interesting story from Professor Emerita Ellen Kintz who has devoted her life’s work to researching, supporting and living in a prosperous and healthy Mayan community.  She has seen the clock strike midnight on the Mayan calendar . . . and lives to tell about it.

“I was in Mexico in early June 2006…actually on the 6th of June.  So the date was 6 – 6 – 6.

That night when I was going off to sleep in my hammock, my friend, Maria, said to me, “so…I won’t see you in the morning.”

“Oh,” I replied, “why not???”

“Well, it is 666, the sign of the devil and so tomorrow, everything will be gone.”

“Really!!!” I exclaimed

“Oh Elena, hahahaha,” she laughed. “It is just a story…about numbers…see you in the morning.”

“So, what will it be when the end of the Maya baktun happens in December 2012?  I don’t know, but the Maya concept of time is linear AND cyclical.  You can actually see what is going to happen if you look behind you in time.  What I have learned from the Maya is that there are many ways to look at the world and the items in it, and the passage of time and relationships.  Their counsel and unique ways, that has made all the difference in my life.

I don’t know what you might post to the blog, but the end of the Maya cycle . . . certainly a wonderful time!”

– Dr. Ellen Kintz, Anthropology


Apocalypsmas: How the world might actually end

First, let’s state emphatically that despite the recent silliness about the topic (even on this blog), the world is not ending tomorrow.  To repeat, the world is NOT ending tomorrow.

On the other hand, it will probably end one day. But when we talk about the end of the world, we are really talking about two different scenarios. First, there are circumstances that could make the earth uninhabitable for human beings, making Homo sapiens just one more in a long list of extinct species. Second, there are the circumstances that could actually destroy the planet, making the list of extinct species much, much longer.

Super volcanoes – Beneath Yellowstone National Park is a super volcano, centered over a hot spot transferring heat from the Earth’s mantle into the crust. Over the past several million years, this super volcano has erupted several times, ejecting enough rock and volcanic ash to cover one third of north America. Consistent monitoring of the area by geologists indicates that an eruption isn’t imminent, but we’re due. The caldera has erupted every 700,000 years on average over the last 2.1 million years, and its been 640,000 years since the last eruption. While an eruption at Yellowstone won’t cause human extinction, it will cause a lot of death and destruction in North America. See this article or the video below for more information.

Man made disasters (e.g. nuclear war) – Of course, we’re also at risk for destroying ourselves. With over 17,000 nuclear warheads, the world has enough nuclear bombs on hand to make life very difficult for the humans who survive an all-out nuclear war. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists maintains the Doomsday clock, analyzing our risk of nuclear war and catastrophic destruction.

Asteroid impact – Remember the dinosaurs? The mass extinction in which the dinosaurs died was the result of a large impact in the Yucatan peninsula region of Mexico 65 million years ago. The resulting environmental conditions decimated many living organism, and almost no large animals survived. Humans might survive a smaller impact, but a large impact is likely to kill us off. NASA regularly tracks objects in outer space that might impact the earth and estimates our risk (not that big, at the moment). For a great book on how scientists discovered the cause of the mass extinction 65 million years ago, read T. rex and the crater of doom.

Artist's depiction of the Snowball earth, 2.3 billion years ago.
Artist’s depiction of the Snowball earth, 2.3 billion years ago.

Snow ball earth – Starting about 2.3 billion years ago, the Earth went through several cycles of the “Snowball Earth” in which the entire earth was covered with ice and snow from pole to pole for millions of years. This was before most multicellular organisms and animals evolved, and it was the unicellular bacteria that were able to live through the protracted cold spell. If such an event were to occur again, humans probably wouldn’t make it. The likelihood of another Snowball earth is small, however. Earth’s atmosphere (considered an important factor in the development of the Snowball) is different than it was 2.3 billion years ago, and the Sun is brighter.

Sun expansion – While there is still some debate about how, precisely, the life cycle of the Sun will destroy the earth, it seems very likely that we won’t survive. The Sun is now about 40% brighter than it was when the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago. As the sun grows brighter, temperatures on the earth will increase until life is no longer sustainable and the oceans boil away. As the sun increases in size, it will also impact the orbit of the earth. The earth may or may not escape being engulfed by the red giant version of our Sun, although recent calculations suggest we won’t make it. Of course, all of this won’t happen for another 7.59 billion years, so you’ll still have to suffer through that family Christmas carol sing along this year. And next. And the one after that.

Artists depiction of what the earth might look like in 7 billion years when the Sun becomes a red giant. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Fsgregs.

One way or the other, the human race isn’t likely to be living on earth in about 8 billion years. We might destroy ourselves, or we might perish when the earth is destroyed, or (most optimistically) we may have colonized other solar systems.

Whatever event causes our demise, it won’t be happening tomorrow. I’m planning to open Christmas presents on December 25th.

Apocalypsmas: Can you name that tune . . .?

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake,
birds and snakes, an aeroplane –

Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn –

world serves its own needs,
regardless of your own needs.
Feed it up a knock,

speed, grunt no, strength no.
Ladder structure clatter with fear of height,

down height. Wire in a fire,
represent the seven games in a government for

hire and a combat site . . .

Six o’clock – TV hour. Don’t get caught in foreign tower. Slash and burn,
return, listen to yourself churn. Lock him in uniform and book burning,
blood letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate. Light a candle,
light a motive. Step down, step down. Watch a heel crush, crush. Uh oh,
this means no fear – cavalier. Renegade and steer clear!

That’s right!  R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” debuting in 1987 (album, Document) references the end of the world, perhaps even conjuring up images of Mayan blood letting (see lyrics above, 2nd paragraph).  This familiar anthem of the 1980’s is but one of many classic references to a coming apocalypse.


Perhaps the following will seem familiar as well:

The Last Man is an apocalyptic science fiction novel by Mary Shelley, which was first published in 1826. The book tells of a future world that has been ravaged by a plague. The novel was harshly reviewed at the time, and was virtually unknown until a scholarly revival beginning in the 1960s. It is notable in part for its semi-biographical portraits of Romantic figures in Shelley’s circle, particularly Shelley’s late husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. (Wikipedia)

Get the Full Text free via Project Gutenberg: The Last Man, Mary Shelley (1826)


The Conversation of Eiros And Charmion” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, an apocalyptic science fiction story first published in Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine in 1839. (Wikipedia)

Get the Full Text free via Hypertexts @UVA: The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion, Edgar Allen Poe (1839)


The Time Machine is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, published in 1895 and later adapted into two feature films of the same name, as well as two television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. It indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in many media. This story is generally credited with the popularisation of the concept of time travel using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposefully and selectively. The term “time machine”, coined by Wells, is now universally used to refer to such a vehicle. This work is an early example of the Dying Earth subgenre. (Wikipedia)

Get the Full Text free via PlanetPDF: The Time Machine, H.G. Wells (1895)

The War of the Worlds (1898), a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, is the first-person narrative of an unnamed protagonist‘s (and his brother’s) adventures in London and the countryside around London as Earth is invaded by Martians. Written in 1895–97,[2] it is one of the earliest stories that details a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. (Wikipedia)

Get the Full Text free via Project Gutenberg: War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (1898)


Shadow on the Hearth is Judith Merril‘s first novel, a post-nuclear war survival story. Some relatively small number of atomic bombs are dropped on major cities; there’s a lot of damage, but not total social collapse. Gladys Mitchell and her two daughters, Barbara (age fifteen), and Ginny (five), struggle through the next week under increasingly difficult conditions. Gladys herself is a rather silly but basically decent woman, who tries to pretend that everything is normal because she believes that that’s her job as the mother. She’s slow to believe important information that calls into question the perfect honesty and perfect judgment of constituted authority, and slow to recognize both the dangers but ultimately willing to take major risks to protect those she has become responsible for. This is an inevitably dated, but nicely done story from the early Cold War. (New England Science Fiction Association)

Get the Full Text free via : Shadow on the Hearth, Judith Merril (1950)

The Martian Chronicles is a 1950 science fiction short story collection by Ray Bradbury that chronicles the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing from a troubled and eventually atomically devastated Earth, and the conflict between aboriginal Martians and the new colonists. The book lies somewhere between a short story collection and an episodic novel, containing stories Bradbury originally published in the late 1940s in science fiction magazines. (Wikipedia)

Get the Full Text free via Google Docs: The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury (1950)

A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer Walter M. Miller, Jr., first published in 1960. Considered one of the classics of science fiction, it has never been out of print and has seen over 25 reprints and editions. Inspired by the author’s participation in the Allied bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino during World War II, the novel is considered a masterpiece by literary critics. It has been compared favorably with the works of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and Walker Percy, and its themes of religion, recurrence, and church versus state have generated a significant body of scholarly research. (Internet Archive)

Listen to the full novel free via Internet Archive Audio: A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller (1959)

Other top picks for young adult-to-adult reading, offered by our Education Librarian, Michelle Costello, include:

Alas, Babylon
“It was one of the first apocalyptic novels of the nuclear age and remains popular 53 years after it was first published, consistently ranking in’s Top 20 Science Fiction Short Stories list. The novel deals with the effects of a nuclear war on the small town of Fort Repose, Florida, which is based upon the actual city of DeLand, Florida” (Wikipedia).

The Road
“In a novel set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity” (Book jacket).

When World’s Collide
“A runaway planet hurtles toward the earth. As it draws near, massive tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions wrack our planet, devastating continents, drowning cities, and wiping out millions. In central North America, a team of scientists race to build a spacecraft powerful enough to escape the doomed earth. Their greatest threat, they soon discover, comes not from the skies but from other humans” (Book jacket).

The Stand
“When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99 percent of humanity within a few weeks. The survivors who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge–Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence” (Book jacket).

Hopefully we can all get these read before December 21, 2012!

Happy reading!

Business News: New Website to Help Entrepreneurs


The Small Business Administration and Department of Labor have partnered on a new website to help states offer assistance to local entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses.

The site is geared toward helping states take advantage of the $35 Million the federal government gave to states to implement Self-Employment Assistance programs to help those looking to create jobs in their communities.

These programs provide Unemployment Insurance recipients interested in starting a business with financial assistance, training and resources to get their businesses off the ground. Among the links to resources on the site, there is a link to the New York State fact sheet on how to apply for local assistance through this program.

Apocalypsmas: What’s wrong with this image?

Memes aplenty are scattered on the internet stoking the flames of the Mayan Calendar prophecy. The trouble is, there is a very big mistake in nearly all the images and representations of the Mayan Calendar. Do you know what it is?



We’ll give you the answer below, but first… here are a few of our favorite memes:

No more twinkies…
Grumpy Cat Believes
Neil De Grasse Tyson…

For more of our favorite memes, check out our Apocalypsmas Pinterest Board.  If you have any to recommend, give us a link in the comments and we’ll add (the PG-rated!) them.

(Oh! The problem with so many of the pictures? They are using the image of the AZTEC calendar, not the Mayan!)

The End of the World — Jeeze, Again?

The current Mayan Calendar “end-of-the-world” prophesy is only the latest in a long line of doomsday predictions.  Here’s a very abbreviated list:

Papal Prophesy–– Pope Innocent III launched a crusade in 1213 to wrestle the holy land from the hands of the Islamic infidels, which he saw as the anti-Christ.  He also proclaimed that the Second Coming would be in 1284. The year passed without major notice, but not, of course, for those killed by the Christian crusaders.

Artful Apocalypse —  Painted by Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, the painting Mystical Nativity includes a prediction that the “loosing of the devil” would be in A.D. 1504. Fueled by the teachings of fanatical preacher Savonarola, Florentines quaked at the apocalyptic references.

Botticelli’s Mystical Nativity

It’s Just A Little Rain Shower – Despite the drought that plagued Europe in 1524, German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Stoeffler declared, after careful calculations, that floods would engulf the earth on February 1st (or 20th by some accounts) of that year. Thousands in London and elsewhere built arks, creating an economic boom for boat-builders. When it started to drizzle on the appointed day in Germany, crowds stormed one three story ark, killing several people, including the builder and owner of the ark.  The rain stopped soon after.

Credit: chris24w via Flickr

Halley’s Comet — The 1910 occurrence of Halley’s Comet sparked panic when an astronomer named Camille Flammarion announced that when the earth passed through the tail of Halley’s, the toxic gas cyanogen would penetrate the atmosphere and kill off all life forms on earth. Gas masks were purchased and silly remedies sold well since the same newspapers that quoted scientists explaining that there was no danger also carried tales of the end of the world.  A good time was had by all, and a lot of money was made by some.

The End – Again — Using numerology and the Bible, California-based Family Radio host Harold Camping has predicted the end of the earth numerous times, including September 15 or 17 of 1994, May 21, 2011, and October 21st, 2011. His followers continue to give him millions of dollars to pay for billboards that encourage the public to prepare their souls for the newest “last day.”

Y2K — Due to short-sighted computer programmers, the change from the year 1999 to 2000 was predicted to throw a computer-dependent world into complete chaos. Millions of people stocked up on food, weapons, flashlights, batteries, etc. What happened on January 1? The same major clean-up of confetti, party-hats, and vomit (depending on the maturity level of the revelers) that happens every January 1!

Year 2000

Large Hadron Collider — Scientists built a 27 kilometer-long particle accelerator on the border of France and Switzerland in an attempt to recreate the Big Bang. In the months before it was due to be turned on (on September 10, 2008), many people (including scientists) expressed concern that it could generate a black hole that would envelop the earth! In the end (pun intended!), the project went forward without destroying the earth. But then again, it isn’t due to be turned off until… 2014!

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider via Google Maps

And if we survive the end of the Mayan calendar, some scientists believe that the sun will reach the next stage of its development in one billion years, rendering the earth either completely scorched or burned to ashes. But there’s plenty of time to create Plan B!

Apocalypsmas: The Mayan Calendar

Welcome to our 10 Day Countdown to the “Apocalypsmas” or the ‘end of time’. Join us each day to learn a little bit about the significance of the Mayan calendar and the date 12/21/2012.

First up: An introduction to the Maya calendar from Geneseo’s very own Dr. Jim Aimers (who will be giving a lecture on the Maya collapse at the Toledo Museum of Art in April for the Archaeological Institute of America).

Credit: NOVA

Mesoaamerica is an ancient cultural area which includes parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  Mesoamerica was one of seven global “cradles of civilization” in which advanced states developed in part due to the large populations made possible by maize agriculture.  Civilizations of ancient Mesoamerica included the Olmecs, the Zapotecs, the Mixtecs, the Aztecs, and the Maya.  These socially stratified groups shared cultural characteristics including religions involving animal and human sacrifice, and a ballgame played for religious, political, and recreational reasons.

Another feature shared by Mesoamerican cultures is a sophisticated calendar consisting of two interlocking cycles:  a 365 day “solar” cycle that, like ours, follows the course of the solar year and is relevant to all agricultural peoples.  The other, specifically Mesoamerican cycle was the 260 year “ritual” cycle used for scheduling events including ritual and warfare, and also for naming and prognostication. Among the Maya these were called the Haab and the Tzolkin. The two cycles are often depicted as interlocking wheels (for a short video, see below) and it took 52 years for the two cycles to run their combined course, which is called the “Calendar Round.”

In addition to the 52-year Mesoamerican “century”, the ancient Maya also developed another way of measuring time which is more familiar to us because it measures time in linear fashion from a mythological starting point. Our start date is 0 AD and in our system the Maya start date was 3114 BC (we do not know for sure why they chose this date).  Like other Mesoamericans, the Maya counted in base 20 (vigesimal) rather than base 10  (decimal) as we do.  Using this base 20 system, time was measured in the following units:

Credit: Stevan Davies, Misericordia University

1 day = 1 kin

20 days =1 winal

360 days =1 tun (approximately a year)

7,200 days =1 katun (approximately 20 years)

144,000 days =1 baktun (approximately 400 years).

On December 21, 2012  a very large Long Count cycle of 13 baktuns (1,872,000 days  or5,125.37 years) will end and a new one will begin.  This has been widely misunderstood to signify “the end of time” in the United States and elsewhere.  Did the Maya believe this?  Why do we believe it?