By NIKKI YOUNK
& The Associated Press
IRON MOUNTAIN - Plenty of doomsday predictions have come and gone throughout the years. Will Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, the end date of the Mayan Long Count calendar, be the same?
Theresa Peterson/Daily News Photo
Amanda Griggs, young adult specialist at the Dickinson County Library in Iron Mountain, looks at a book entitled “The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It’s Too Late” by Laura Barcella. Some people believe that the Maya people of Mexico predicted that the world will end this Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.
The Mayan Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as baktuns. The Maya wrote that the significant 13th baktun ends Dec. 21.
Occult writers, bloggers and New Age visionaries are foreseeing all manner of monumental change on the date, from doomsday to a new age of enlightenment.
The 2009 disaster movie "2012" helped spark doomsday rumors, with its visions of Los Angeles crashing into the sea and mammoth tsunami waves swallowing the Himalayas.
Foreboding TV documentaries and alarmist websites followed, sparking panic in corners of the globe thousands of miles from the Mayan homeland.
To understand this latest doomsday prediction, it helps to know a little bit about Mayan culture.
Russell Magnaghi, professor of history at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, explained that Mayan culture is based in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and dates back to ancient times.
Although the Maya people survive to this day, the Mayan classical period lasted from approximately 250 A.D. to 900 A.D.
Magnaghi said that the classical Maya can be compared to the ancient Greeks, who were more known for their intellectualism, while other native Mexican cultures like the Aztecs can be compared to the ancient Romans, who were more known for their empire building.
According to Magnaghi, the Maya of the classical period were highly scientific. They developed systems of hieroglyphics and mathematics, and studied astronomy.
Careful observations of the night sky led the Maya to devise extremely accurate calendars. In fact, Magnaghi pointed out that their calendars were even more accurate than our current calendar for recording leap years.
Magnaghi added that these calendars were based on calculations, not predictions. Therefore, the end of the Long Count calendar could simply be the end of a cycle instead of a prediction of the end of the world.
"Any calendar has a cycle," he said. "What does the end mean?"
Magnaghi noted that the correlation between the end of the Long Count calendar and the end of the world may just be a case of outside cultures misinterpreting classical Mayan culture.
Daily News readers who responded to a poll and Facebook question were also skeptical that the world will end on Friday.
Poll results show that 86 percent of respondents do not believe the doomsday prediction, 10 percent do believe the prediction, and four percent are unsure.
"Don't believe it will happen," Jessie Mercer posted on Facebook. "And I wouldn't prepare for it if I thought otherwise. I choose to live life not live life planning for the end of it!"
Sheri Davis Fetterman had similar feelings.
"The Mayan calendar dates back further than 2000 B.C.," she posted. "Did anyone ever think that maybe the person that made the calendar just finished, not knowing what would happen? We have had these 'Dooms day' predictions for years and we are still here."
"I'll let you know on the 22nd," Dan Schaut wrote about his thoughts on the prediction. "Better yet, why even waste your time thinking about it. Enjoy the Christmas season with your family and friends instead!"
Local residents do not seem to be turning to their local library for more information on either the Maya or doomsday predictions.
Librarians at the Dickinson County Library in Iron Mountain, including Young Adult Specialist Amanda Griggs, said that they have not seen an increase in people checking out books on the subjects. Of course, plenty of information is readily available on the internet.
The internet, however, has helped feed the doomsday frenzy, spreading rumors that a mountain in the French Pyrenees is hiding an alien spaceship that will be the sole escape from the Dec. 21, 2012 destruction. French authorities are blocking access to Bugarach peak from Dec. 19-23 except for the village's 200 residents "who want to live in peace," officials said.
"I think this tells us more about ourselves, particularly in the Western world, than it does about the ancient Maya," said Geoffrey Braswell, an associate professor of anthropology and leading Maya scholar at the University of California, San Diego. "The idea that the world will end soon is a very strong belief in Western cultures...The Maya, we don't really know if they believed the world would ever end."
As the clock ticks down, scenarios have mounted about how the end will come.
Some believe a rogue planet called Nibiru will emerge from its hiding place behind the sun and smash into the Earth. Others say a super black hole at the center of the universe will suck in our planet and smash it to pieces. At least two men in China are predicting a world-ending flood. They're both building arks.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.