Sunday, November 4, 2012

Will the World end on 2012 ? what about 2038 ?

"The end of the world on December 2012" , probably the most feared and widely discussed thing these days. This has been probably aggravated by the recent natural disasters faced by the world such as hurricane Sandy. Though there are no scientific evidence to suggest the end of the world on 2012 most of the people reluctant to accept it as just a myth.

They claim the Maya calender ends on December 21st 2012. So whats the big deal ? Calenders do need to have an end. In fact every thing do need to have a beginning and an end. The Maya calendar starts from 3114 BC . Does that mean that the world started or began on 3114 BC ? not really. The years 3114 BC and 2012 were the years where Mayans had to remove their old calenders and get a new calender. Just as we change our calenders on January 1st. The only difference is Mayan calender was so huge and one calender was enough for massive number of generations (Calender making would not have been a prosperous business in Mayan culture).  They may have further extend their calender if they had more space and time to write the calender.

Similar problems of running out of space for keeping the time occurs even in the modern world. The Year 2038 problem is one example. This will occur on January 19th 2038.The reason is that we use 32 bit integers to represent the date objects in computers and digital systems. In these systems the date is represented as the number of seconds since January 1st 1970. The maximum integer that can be represented  by 32 bit representation is 2147483647. This is the number of seconds up to January 19th 2038. So effectively our digital calenders ends on 2038. So will the world end on January 19th 2038 ? May be in the future when a more civilized and developed society finds about this conflict, they may fear that the world ends on that day. 

Although this 19th January 2038 does not physically end the world, many problems will arise in digital systems. Almost all the systems now been used would not be able to perform date calculations. The day will be reset to Friday 13th December 1901 after 2038 causing many problems. The solution is to increase the number of bits used to represent a date in digital systems. But this will introduce backward compatible problems with current software architectures. So still a universal solution have not been found. But probably in the near future people with come up with many plausible solutions and there is no need to fear about the end of the world, unless we dig our own grave due to wars and environment pollution.

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