Exposing PseudoAstronomy

October 31, 2010

Planet X and 2012: When Is “2012,” Anyway?


I was gone for over a week, without much e-mail contact nor modern things like air conditioning or heat. Which would have come in handy in sub-40° temperatures sleeping in a tent. During that week, it came to my attention afterwards that a chapter in a new book by Gerardo Aldana – an actual professor at a university (of California) as opposed to an “independent amateur scientist” – casts doubt on the alignment between the Gregorian calendar and the Mayan Long Count calendar.

What does this mean? “2012” doomsday via the Mayans may have happened up to 100 years ago. Interesting … we’re all still here.


As I explained nearly two years ago in my “Primer on the Mayan Calendar,”, we don’t know for sure when the Mayan Long Count calendar started relative to the calendar that most of the world uses today. The very basic way these two calendars are lined up is based on the timing of known events that were recorded in both, and then counting the years forwards or backwards.

For example, if I say that today is October 31, 2010, on the Gregorian calendar, how would you know what day it is on the Hebrew calendar if you didn’t have someone keeping track? Let’s say that, also, American independence was recorded on the Gregorian calendar (it wasn’t, it was Julian, but let’s just be nice) as July 4, 1776. It also happened to be recorded by a living Jew as 17 Tamuz, 5536. Now, you may not know what today is, but you can count the number of days since July 4, 1776, and get an idea what day today is on the Hebrew calendar.

Getting back to the issue at hand, the correlation to get December 20, 2012 = on the Mayan long count was based on work done a few centuries ago based on colonial documents (1500s) written in both Mayan and the Latin alphabet. It was later bolstered by an American linguist and anthropologist, Floyd Lounsbury, who did work with a Mayan almanac that charted important celestial events of the planet Venus.

Current Work

The latest work is by Prof. Gerardo Aldana of the University of California – Santa Barbara, who is a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies. In his book, Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World, he casts doubt on the correlation with the Venus tables. If the Venus tables’ interpretation is not correct, then that casts serious doubt on the historic correlations, since those were always less certain than the astronomical data.

Unhappily for doomsday proponents, perhaps, Aldana does not provide a new correlation, but simply the incremental work suggesting the old one is wrong.

Final Thoughts: What This Means

As I did mention in my original post on the Mayan Calendar, and as I suggested above, doing this kind of work is very difficult. There are many assumptions that need to be made, and there is often conflicting data. Fellow blogger and my internet acquaintance Johan Normark writes more on this issue in his post, “2012: The Long Count may be off by at least 60 days,” and I highly recommend reading it as he actually studies the subject.

I should also emphasize that this is one person’s analysis, and it was published in the popular literature as opposed to scientific (though in archaeology, the standards may be a bit different than in “hard sciences,” and I am led to understand from Johan’s post that he has been publishing this idea for a few years). Regardless, I am always wary of a single person’s analysis, and one should always withhold judgement until the other experts in the field can weigh in on it (even if it supports your own conclusions!). However, this is another piece that does add to the idea that the December 21, 2012 = may not be the correct alignment.

I have already shown that all of the major physical claims of doomsday proponents will not be happening around that time, and this is a nice addition to the story — that the supposed “triggering event” may not even be happening at the suggested time, either.

Will this change anything? Very very unlikely. I would be surprised if even one true believer were swayed by this new analysis. Fence-sitters, perhaps, but people who are invested in this idea will not change. After all, many still cling to the idea that a solar event will happen in 2012 because about 8 years ago, that was when it was predicted the height of solar activity would be in the next sunspot cycle. But forecasts for the last three years by the same people have shown that the height of solar activity will be in 2013 to 2014 instead … and yet out of the hundreds of people I’ve listened to spout doomsday ideas, only one has actually incorporated this new data into it.


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