End Games
The mysterious Mayan calendar may be prophesying our imminent doom … or giving us yet another reason to party
by Jocelyn Murray

People across the globe have become obsessed—or, at the very least, mildly interested—with the December 21 “apocalypse” supposedly foretold by the Mayan calendar.

Locally, news channels are having experts weigh in on the rapidly approaching date, while cultural institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology are featuring exhibits that showcase the history and concepts behind the predicted doomsday. Meanwhile, some venues in the city are hosting end-of-the-world parties on the night of the 21st where revelers will celebrate our supposed collective demise in a manner befitting a New Year’s Eve gala.

Philadelphia native and bestselling author Steven Alten—most famous for his “Meg” and “Domain” series of science-fiction books—has invested a good deal of time researching these theories, using them as the backbone for his most recent novel, “Phobos: Mayan Fear.” As Alten discovered through his research, if the world were to come to an end this month, it would happen through one of a variety of natural disasters and allow us only eight hours’ warning before humanity was wiped out. In that brief window of time, Alten would likely spend his final remaining hours with family and friends. “I would probably do a radio show,” he adds, “and say ‘I told you so but you never listen.’”

Given past predictions forecasting the world’s end—Y2K, interpretations of Nostradamus’ quatrains, the May 2011 “rapture” prophesied by Christian broadcaster Harold Camping, etc.—most people are worrying less about the world’s imminent demise and more about holiday shopping … and paying for the bills that will inevitably follow. But even if the end does happen in the coming weeks, many believe it’s not worth worrying about something we cannot control. 

Fortunately, the world of science doesn’t see much reason for us to worry about the end as it relates to the Mayans. On the other hand, the jury’s still out as the nation speeds toward another December deadline: the one that will bring us to the edge of the so-called “fiscal cliff.”