People Who Believe the Mayan Calendar Predicts the End of the World
Some quick background. One form of the Mayan (Mesoamerican) calendar is called a Long Count calendar. This calendar is used for writing their history and is expressed in larger periods than just days, for example 20 days = 1 Winal, 7,200 days = 1 K'atun, and 144,000 days = B'ak'tun.
The problem arises that the Long Count Calendar only lists out 5,125 years. The calendar starts at the beginning of the Maya 3114BC, so the end of that calendar ends up being in Dec 2012. The Mayans/Mesoamericans called this period of time a "Great Era."
So some people think that since this 5000 year calendar ends, that means the world ends. Guess what? My calendar ends every December, never once did I think the world was going to end because of that. But why go to 5000 years and stop? Well they probably didn't really need to go 5000 years, but since it was a calendar cycle the could also use this calendar for recording past events too. So 5000 years covered all their history and gave them plenty of future dates to go forward...the calendar was created so that the date of creation was approximately in the middle of the calendar. Half in the past, half in the future. Seems like a good plan if you are creating system for past and future dates.
Also remember at this time, such things as this calendar would be carved in stone. If you were carving something out like this would you really feel the need to carve out more than 5000 years worth of dates? I doubt it. Plus the whole thing is cyclical, so basically it would just start over.
Another reason people interpret the end badly is that it happens to be the end of the 13th B'ak'tun...and now people associate the number 13 with bad luck. Again, this is basically the length of time they needed to cover past and future events, it doesn't mean an end.
What people ignore is that the Mayan often did predict the future and never did they really predict an apocalypse at the end of the Great Era/Cycle. The apocalypse idea came about in the 1950s (and was popularized in the 1980s), 2000 years after the creation of the calendar. Most modern scholars believe that the end of the Great Cycle would be a time of celebration not destruction. Plus the end of the world idea completely ignores the fact that Mayans do have predictions and celestial events after the 2012 date carved onto their monuments. Doesn't sound like the end of the world to me.
I just don't like when people automatically assume an ancient culture must have been smarter, more advanced, or knew more about the world than we do now. Yes they did great things. But their predictions didn't help them save their own civilization. Let's live in the present and forget about the doomsday talk, that is just an excuse to keep you from living your life the right way. Just remember there have been many doomsday cults before this and we are all still here. Fanatical believers will just end up looking foolish or dead at their own hands.
Note: all this info was from the days when I was interested in such (when I was a teenager) so there may be some details that are a little mixed around but the essence is correct.