A painted wall of a Mayan site
A painted wall of a Mayan site

Here’s what’s not going to happen this year: the earth won’t end on Dec. 12; it won’t be swallowed by a black hole, consumed by the sun or get taken out by a collision with the imaginary planet Nibiru. Here’s what will happen: as of today, more people than ever will believe that those calamities will occur on precisely the day they’re predicted to. The reason: a new discovery — just reported in the journal Science — of the earliest known Mayan astronomical calendar, featuring elaborate and detailed work by one of the most impressive civilizations that ever lived.

It was earlier interpretations of other Mayan calendars that gave rise to the Internet-fueled doomsday scenarios of the past few years — mostly because one calendar cycle the Mayans computed ends Dec. 12 (though no one paid much attention to the fact that another one was supposed to begin immediately after that). If people can stay focused on the science this time though, they’ll find a lot to be impressed by in the new findings.

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