End of the world this week? Mayan myth has legs

  • Johannes Zachbauer helps Gail Caughie, of Sebastopol at the front desk of the Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa, near Bodega, on Thursday, December 13, 2012. The hotel is offering an end of the world package. For $55,000, forty guests can toast the apocalypse with a $25,000 bottle of Cristal champagne, get massages and enjoy meals during a two-night stay on December 20 and 21. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Judith Dides isn't planning a trip to the ancient ruins of Mexico.

And she's not going to run up her credit card luxuriating at a fancy resort.

Instead, the Santa Rosa Junior College lecturer and anthropologist will spend Dec. 21 -- the last day of the Mayan calendar -- caring for a sick aunt.

She doesn't believe the world will come to an end Friday, despite myths of a coming apocalypse.

If anything, she said, the date will mark the beginning of a new era.

"I'm just hoping I'll wake up the next day and be a better person," said Dides, who studied the ancient civilization for 40 years and taught a six-week course called "Maya 2012: End or Beginning?"

NASA scientists and most people agree: Nothing will happen when the 5,125-year "long count" calendar runs out Friday. But that hasn't stopped speculation and frenzy that has been building for years.

Believers in a doomsday scenario think Mayans forecast the Earth's destruction. Some think the end will come from an astronomical event, such as an asteroid strike, solar flare or the Earth being sucked into a black hole.

The notion has been fueled by media reports and has whipped up a global paranoia. Last week, Russians prepared by buying up vodka and stocking up on matches and candles. A Southern California businessman reportedly is building secret luxury bunkers for the rich. Mass suicides were feared.

Scientists have debunked any such global catastrophes and questioned New Age beliefs in a positive transformation. NASA even posted a video on YouTube explaining why the world will continue to exist on Saturday.

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