As we're closing in on December 21st 2012, the stories I see about the end of the world are getting annoying. Even the jokes look really bad, because quite frankly, even the jokes are based on lies. So for those who wonder if the world will end on December 21st.. no, it won't. And here's what mass media and doomsday tellers and others who want to capitalize on "the end of the world" won't tell you:
The conceptual end of the calendar is not religious per se
The calendar in question is not the religous Tzolkin calendar, but the civil calendar. While the religious calendar has names of gods and energies, the civil calendar is a series of numbers. The combination of the civil calendar and the religious calendar made a cycle of 52 solar years. Obviously, the world has lasted more than 52 years, just ordinarily, that's about the time span you'd usually need to address.
In terms of having to date beyond 52 years, the long count was introduced, where there are 20 days in a winal, 18 winals (360 days) in a tun, 20 tuns (7200 days) in a k'tun, 20 k'tuns (144000 days, ca 394 years) in a b'ak'tun. So it is this calendar that comes to an end, right? No.
The calendar doesn't end on December 21st
I know, everyone are saying that the calendar ends. So let's look at the facts. The long count is written in the format b'ak'tun.k'tun.tun.winal.kin (kin is a day). So December 20th is 126.96.36.199.19. So, move on to the next day, 19 is the last kin, so take that back to 0 and increase the winal. 17 is the last winal, so set to 0 and increase the tun. 19 is the last tun, so increase the k'tun. 19 is the last k'tun, so increase the b'ak'tun. 12+1=13. Hence, December 21st will be written 188.8.131.52.0.
Which means that the date is about as significant as going from 1999 to 2000.
So when does the Mayan calendar really end? Well, based on those 5 numbers, the last day would be 184.108.40.206.19 - October 12th 4772.
And that is not the end. Because 20 b'ak'tuns make 1 piktun (ca 7885 years). 20 piktuns make 1 kalabtun (ca 157700 years). 20 kalabtuns make 1 k'ilchintuns (ca 3.15 million years), etc. The date of creation is expressed as 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.0.0.0.0, where the units are 13s in the nineteen places larger than the b'ak'tun.
These are incredibly large dates. So while the last day of the world according to the Christian calendar is December 31st 9999 because we run out of digits for the years, the Mayan calendar will be able to specify dates after the entire universe has collapsed and been recreated. Twice.