Well, the 2009 calendar came to an end last Friday, but the world didn't. Why is that remarkable? Because evidently the ancient Mayan calender is coming to an end in Dec. 2012, and there is a movie, a few thousand websites and a few hundred books out there that are trying to make a case that the end of the Mayan calendar on the winter equinox means the end of the world in 2012.
Or, at least, the end of the world as we know it. The topic has been the most popular on NASA's questions from the public website for the past two years.
So, it seems that a calendar ending has a considerable consequence, at least in the minds of some folks. Of course, all calendars end - as did the year 2009 last week on the Gregorian calendar, the one now universally accepted, and it ended without any sort of "end of the world as we know it" event. Just like every other year.
There are also Hebrew, Chinese, Indian and Islamic calendars, among others. In fact, the Mayans had a couple of dozen different calendars. The one in question is called the "long calendar," measuring a period of over 5,000 years. What happened when all the other Mayan calendars ran out?
Nothing. But a lucrative cottage industry has developed around people saying "something" is going to happen on Dec. 21, 2012 that will be the "end of the world as we know it," perhaps the end of life on Earth, or perhaps just universal enlightenment.
I refer to predictions like these about the Mayan calendar as quantum leap "logic," something very common among secular and religious prophets. They start out with what seems logical reasoning, and then, at some point in the process, they take a quantum leap to a totally unrelated point.