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Don't Panic! The World Won't End Tomorrow

Mayan.jpg
Rich Renomeron, via Flickr
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It may be the end of our calendar year, but for the Mayans', tomorrow is the last day on their calendar...period.

And many people have interpreted that to mean the world will end.

But Lake Effect astronomy contributor Jean Creighton says this is simply the case of the Mayans getting some "bad press."

"The calendar that they used for special cultural events had very much like an odometer, registers," Creighton says, "and if you maxed out all the registers, which we will on the 21st of December, you go to zero again, so we start a new epoch.

"As far as the Mayans are concerned, that doesn't mean that the end of the world has come. It just means that a whole new era will begin and that just signifies a very special New Year's Eve."

Creighton is the Director of the Manfred Olson Planetarium, located on the campus of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

She says other end-of-the-world theories stemming from so-called "mysterious" alignments, like that of the sun with the center of the galaxy, are just as incorrectly interpreted.

"I'm thinking that maybe in the back of people's minds, they buy into this idea because they know that something interesting is lurking at the center of our galaxy, and there is, of course, a super massive black hole," she says.

But she assures us, that's nothing to worry about. She plans to be back with us in January for another year of astronomical discussions.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Dr. Jean Creighton has always been inspired by how the cosmos works. She was born in Toronto, Ontario and grew up in Athens, Greece where her mother claims she showed a great interest in how stars form from the age of five. She studied physics at the University of Athens and went on to earn a Master’s degree from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Waterloo. She began teaching astronomy at UW-Milwaukee in 1999 and in 2007, she took over as director of UWM's Manfred Olson Planetarium.