make their tale even more intriguing, he said.
"The Mayans are very mysterious -- or perceived as mysterious -- and everybody loves a good story," Fallaw said.
When he gave a presentation about the Mayans in the spring, he discussed how Mexico, Guatemala and other Central American countries are celebrating the calendar's end as the start of a new Baktun, and are using it as a marketing tool to entice tourists.
He also made room for far-fetched stories that the ancient native people were assisted by beings from another planet.
"It's remarkable how much is out there" on the Internet, Fallaw said. "I'm afraid some people -- even those who read all this -- will still believe."
Fallaw, who has been to Mayan cities in the Mexican state of Yucatan, said much of the hype around the Long Count calendar is focused on one broken stone text found in the 1960s at the Tortuguero archaeological site in Tabasco, Mexico.
"It's damaged. Imagine reading a newspaper and half of it was missing," Fallow said.
Some say the damaged text described the return of a Mayan god, while alien theorists believe an extraterrestrial will return, at the end of the 13th Baktun.
NASA has its own theories about how the Mayan apocalypse story got started, and posted a question-and-answer section titled "Beyond 2012: Why the World Won't End" on its website.
The alignment of planets, the reversal of the Earth's magnetic field, solar storms, and "the secret planet of Nibiru" are all debunked by the NASA website.
"The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth," the site states. "This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012 and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 -- hence the predicted doomsday date of Dec. 21, 2012."
Bangor middle schooler Nick Canarr, 12, said recently that he went to the NASA website a couple of months ago.
"I Googled it one day and NASA said the world would not end on Dec. 21, but they did say havoc may come," he said. "I thought it was going to end. I was wondering if it was true."
Bangor resident Eve Preston said Friday that her granddaughter believes the world is coming to an end, so to "humor" her the family will not go Christmas shopping until Dec. 22.
"She's 17 and she's sure we're not going to make it," Preston said. "I think probably the calendar was meant to roll over and I'm not worried."
Her granddaughter may be a believer but still has started a Christmas list, Preston said with a smile.
The Jordan Planetarium's Nov. 16 Mayan presentation drew about a dozen people who sat under the planetarium's dome watching computer animations and video interviews to learn about the rituals of the Mayans -- including human sacrifices -- and how the culture's Long Count interlocking circular calendar worked.
When asked why they attended the show, one person in the dark said, "Just curious." Another voice said, "Debunk some myths."
Chicken Little said, "The sky is falling," and everyone believed it. The folktale makes fun of the mass hysteria created by the chicken's actions, and Donald Rice, University of Maine student leading the lecture, used the story to describe what is happening with the Mayan calendar.
"I'm here to be a scientific voice for you," he said. "Dec. 21 will be nothing but a [winter] solstice like every year."
Others in the planetarium group agree the calendar is just that, a calendar.
"I don't think it's the end of the world -- it's the beginning of a new era," said Sherri Kinney of Gorham, who drove up to UMaine with her husband, Don, just for the presentation.
"The Long calendar is not the only calendar they had," Don Kinney said of the Maya.
His wife added she first became interested in the Mayans six years ago.
"I think this was debunked a while ago ... with a different calendar," Paul Villeneuve, an associate professor of electrical engineering technology at UMaine, said after the Jordan Planetarium presentation. He was referring to a story last spring about archaeologists digging at a Maya site in Guatemala who discovered Mayan calendars. The story dismissed notions that the ancient sky-gazers prophesied the end of the world.
"These deep-time calendars can be used to count thousands of years into the past and future, countering pop culture and New Age ideas that Mayan calendars ended on Dec. 21, 2012 [or Dec. 23, depending on who's counting], thereby predicting the end of the world," says the story in The Washington Post.
"Like the year 2000, this is a cause for celebration, not disaster," Rice said.
"We're all going to wake up and say, 'Huh.' Then we'll go on and enjoy the holidays," Don Kinney said.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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