Leapday and the Mayans

No Nerd Philosophy in far too long, so I thought I’d take today to do that since… it’s Leap Day!!!!

It being Leap Day seems to have inspired someone, thought I can’t track down the exact original source, to have done some calculations, remembering that there’s no Leap Day on the Mayan calender. The internet is a buzz right now on various message boards, from Snopes to Straight Dope and probably farther, with various people all explaining how the lack of a Leap Day on the Mayan calendar means that the end of the world happened already, some time last year.

Unfortunately that means nothing because the Mayan’s weren’t using the Gregorian calendar. We extrapolated 12/21/2012 from the calender ourselves, so unless the people making the translation forgot about Leap Day… it’s accurate.

But why does it matter? Why do we need to look for technicalities regarding dates and calendars to reassure ourselves that the world isn’t going to end because an ancient calendar arbitrarily ended on some particular date hundreds and hundreds of years after the civilization in question died out.

If we all died out what would they say about our calenders? They go out pretty far in digital format. Would future people assume the end of the world was at the end of our iCals? or would they realize that computers have space limitations and we would have updated it had we lived long enough for it to be a problem? How can we not realize that a circular stone calendar likewise simply has a space limitation?

What is it about human society that causes us to reach out into the void of the future and try to predict it based on the most tenuous of premisses? Are we this desperate to feel in the know about our futures? Are we so unable to tolerate uncertainty that we’ll make things up? Is it about control? Pride? Fear?

I don’t know… do you?


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