Luckily, the world did not end Friday as some predicted based on the Mayan calendar. The Mayans wanted to predict astrological events like eclipses and planet movement. They created a mathematical structure that would allow for the prediction of such events and this led to the creation of a calendar. Our current calendar is based on the Earth's rotation around the sun and lasts approximately 335 1/4 days (thus the need for leap year every 4 years). The Mayan calendar is much more complicated.
The idea of the number 0 originated with the Mayans as did positional notation. You may ask yourself, as I did, what exactly is positional numbering? It is the base 10 numbering system. So the number 195 is 5 in the ones position, 9 in the tens position and 1 in the hundreds position. Easy as Pi right?
The Mayan calendar is written in a circle and has 13 days in a month, 20 months and 365 days in a year. The calendar is cyclical and restarts every 394.3 years. Instead of predicting doom the Mayans celebrated this calendar turn over.
Another interesting astrological fact about 2012: December 21 was the winter solstice and the Sun was aligned with the center of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from Earth for the first time in 26,000 years.
Want to know more about the Mayan calendar? Check out our online database Science in Context.