Monthly Archives: January 2013

Happy New 14th B’ak’tun!

If you’re reading this, the Mayan Long Count Calendar reset on December 21, 2012 and the prophesied end-of-world disasters didn’t happen. Or maybe they did happen, and another version of you is here in one of those theorized infinite number of almost-identical multiple universes, except now you have two left thumbs and everyone is Mormon. Either way, welcome to the start of the new Mayan epoch known as the 14th B’ak’tun.

That’s right, the 13th B’ak’tun has ended. This excerpt from Wikipedia makes it all clear:

A full Long Count date not only includes the five digits of the Long Count, but the 2-character Tzolk’in and the two-character Haab’ dates as well. The five digit Long Count can therefore be confirmed with the other four characters (the “calendar round date”). One can check whether this date is correct by the following calculation: The Tzolk’in date is counted forward from 4 Ajaw. To calculate the numerical portion of the Tzolk’in date, add 4 to the total number of days given by the date, and then divide total number of days by 13.

I note that in the above calculation it may be easier to find out how many days there are since 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u, and show how the date 5 Kib’ 14 Yaxk’in is derived. Don’t forget to carry the K’ank’in.

Since my recent induction as a substitute teacher and the creation of my own personal apocalypse, several Junior High School students have seriously asked me if I think the world would end on December 21st. Seeing this as an opportunity to discuss the differences between religious belief and scientific theory, I responded, “Well, many people believe it will end, but in the USA we teach science.” Then their bright little eyes glimmer with the hope that I, as the scientist they know me to be, will say that there is no scientific evidence that the world will end on the 21st. And I do say that, and then I also say, “But we also know that the earth could end for other scientifically valid reasons at any minute, like a huge asteroid crashing into us or a huge volcanic eruption that will block out all sunlight and we will die painfully from starvation if not from fire. “So, yes class,” I continue, “the world will no doubt end—probably not on December 21—but it could happen within a very few months.” Their eyes get huge and they suddenly ask for a bathroom hall pass, which I joyfully withhold.

Now that I really have the students’ attention, I neglect the teacher’s lesson plan on the geography of Antarctica, and instead we discuss the Mayans. I explain that they had wars simply to take prisoners whom they could sacrifice to the gods, usually by decapitation and sometimes by cutting out the beating heart. The class can relate to this because over the millennia Sir Charles Edison Graham-Bell’s scientific theory of the Natural Selection of Principals has caused 7th graders to often eat substitute teachers alive after the tardy bell rings.

Just at the start of my explanation about Ixtab, the Mayan Goddess of Suicide, one geeky kid raises his hand and says, “Mr. Woodside, could the Moon’s and Sun’s gravity add together to make the space rock crash into the Earth faster and kill everyone in a week instead of a few months?”

I reply, “Very good, Norman. That is correct because, as we have learned, the Earth has a magnetic field that literally pulls stuff, even light, closer to us according to the Wright Brothers’ Theory of Gravity”. As Norman considers this another kid hits him in the ear, deservedly, with a spit ball.

Steering the topic back to the Mayans, I have just enough class time to resume explaining that one time in a 5th grade class Ixtab was running in the hall with Kish, the God of the Stingray Spine, and they both tripped and Kish speared Mr. Yum Kaax, the God of Corn, through the heart, who was that day substituting for Mr. Hun Batz, God of the Howler Monkey. The school went into lockdown and eventually all Substitutes were allowed to bring concealed low-caliber skull-piercing darts to school.

If your world did end, and if you now find yourself in a new universe as a Mormon substitute teacher with two left thumbs, may your classes contain only Advanced Placement High School science students. And may you have a very happy 14th B’ak’tun.