Discovering a parallel colleague is a little like suddenly finding Nibiru

Before I was a professor (that is, certified with a Ph.D. and a tenured teaching job), I was a professional calligrapher.  It takes some doing to earn the title of “professional educator”.  But unlike education, calligraphy in this country is completely unregulated; there exist no respectable institutes to grant us professional credentials, and all one has to do to qualify as a “professional” is to charge money for lettering something for someone.  (At least in the eyes of the IRS!)  The simplest regular work of this type is hand-addressing envelopes, beautifully, for a wedding or other fancy event, and it pays anywhere from a dollar an envelope to five dollars a line.  Higher-ranked scribes work for Hallmark or American Greetings, or letter book jackets for publishers (who do you think produces all those gushy titles for romance novels, or the manly lettering for Tom Clancy books?); or, in California, letter movie titles.  Now, calligraphy is a tragically undervalued art, and very few of us do it full-time, simply because we would starve to death.  Few towns have the critical mass of lavish parties, like Washington DC, New York, and Hollywood, to support a steady stream of envelope gigs.  And type design, an honorable and well-paid profession when Hermann Zapf was in his prime —you use Palatino or Optima or even Hunt Roman?— now is going the way of investigative newspaper reportage.  (Adobe, which used to employ a large stable of type designers, has laid off all but two, last I heard.)  So, like aspiring actors or painters-in-a-garret, most calligraphers do something else, some *real* job, to pay the rent, and practice their art, their passion, only part-time.

I write this by way of preface to introducing an “amateur” astronomer.  Professional astronomer jobs are far rarer than art-history professor positions; probably fewer than one for every hundred people called by the siren song of the telescope.  So, it is with some embarrassment that I am forced to refer to Bill Hudson as an “amateur” astronomer, because he is far more serious about it than, say, the average “Sunday painter”, or model-railroader, or the others we refer to as “amateurs”.  Like spelunkers, or car-customizers,  “Amateur” astronomers are a breed apart.  They occupy a kind of intermediate position between heaven and earth:  If professional astronomers like Carl Sagan are gods, the ranks of these serious amateurs are their genies or angels.

Like most such stargazers, Bill Hudson volunteers in schools, sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for the heavens with wondering children.  He often does this for free, simply because, in the infinite wisdom of our tax-supported educational system, celestial knowledge is esteemed about as highly as type design, and there is no budget for honoraria to visiting astronomers.

And, he tells us, a few years ago his audiences started asking him frightened questions about the End of the World in 2012.  So he started posting FAQ’s to his regular blog , and eventually founded , which has become a clearinghouse for astronomically-correct information about all the crazy claims made for the 2012 “event”.  He and his colleagues are willing to call a spade a spade, and I recommend this large and knowledgeable website with the highest praise.  Like the best informational websites, it is compendious and dense.  Sit down to it as you would the Sunday New York Times, with plenty of time to spend and refreshment close at hand.

Bill defers most of the credit for this site to his many colleagues, and lists contributors in this order:

*Bill Hudson, amateur astronomer and a professional computer geek,
*Alene Y., chemist,
*Emma T., astrophysicist,
*Dave M., student,
*PoshNinja, at ,
*Physicist Kristine Larsen at CCSU,
*Archaeologist Johan Normark,
*Astronomer Phil Plait,
*Astrobiologist David Morrison.

Highly recommended!


Discovering a parallel colleague is a little like suddenly finding Nibiru — 6 Comments

  1. Hi, I’m a 19 year old girl who is really freaked out about 2012. All the
    things on your PDF presentation seem to point to the Mayans not predicting anything
    bad about 2012. But I heard about the ‘Bolon Yokte’ that Monument 6 talks
    about being a god of war, conflict and underworld.

    You know the whole end of the world/rapture/whatever you want to call it,
    that religious people are always predicting? I’m afraid that this
    underworld /war god descending, combined with some stuff from Chilam
    Baklam saying things about ‘blood-vomit’ coming and ‘kuklucan’, means that
    the Mayans were predicting all the ‘Satan/devil’ huge war thing from the

    I’m REALLY worried about this ‘creation’ coming to an end because of some
    huge war between good and evil… 🙁 I’m also confused because they said
    the creation date was 3000-something BC when it’s obvious the world and
    humans were created way before then. Why should I be afraid of this, when
    the last creation they were talking about didn’t actually happen?

    My family keeps telling me, supernatural stuff with the ‘Devil’ and Gods
    is bogus and made-up stories. They say that the Mayans were just talking
    about the solstice or some other astronomical event, and that they didn’t
    believe in a real re-creation and that it doesn’t apply to anyone but the
    Mayans. But I’m still so scared!! If this had been disproved before and it
    was just someone changing the date every time it didn’t happen, then I
    wouldn’t be scared as much. But who knows if this is the real thing or

    Please E-mail me back right away and help!

    • Dear Tabi,

      Perhaps you recall that when you were nine, the “Y2K Bug” was predicted to wipe out all our computer hard drives.

      When I look at ALL the evidence (see my 2012 pages at for an analysis of it all), I first want to remind you that the evidence is VERY fragmentary. What we know about their culture is as if viewed through a keyhole: We see only a tiny part of their world and world-view. (Please allow me to plug my book 2012 – Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya, which is finally out and available at … I examine ALL the evidence there.)
      But from what we CAN see, I discovered that the Maya never predicted anything important for 2012. Most of them, perhaps all of them, did not even think that their date was even the end of a “Great Cycle”, that the next baktun would be, then, and on up. Apparently they thought that the last (back in 3114 BC) was a unique hiccup in the Long Count. All that “prophecy” about the “End of the Calendar” or the “End of Time” or whatever, is all modern fantasy, or rather projection from modern people. I discuss the motivation for these projections in my blogpost on “The Drunken Taxi Driver” (in this website).

      The Tortugureo text tells us that Bolon Yokte’ is planning to “get dressed” (that is, put on a costume for a religious ceremony) on 2012. That’s all. While it is true that Bolon Yokte’ is a god of conflict, He (or they – “bolon” means “nine”) is a very minor god, kind of like Cerberus, Pluto’s guard-dog, rather than Pluto himself. There are much more powerful gods of Change and War (Tlaloc for the Maya, and Huitzilopochtli for the Aztecs), and I cannot think of a single “Maya Prophecy” website that mentions THEM coming back… At best, they call on Quetzalcoatl, who promised to return in a 2-Reed Year. (Or was it a 1-Reed year?) The next 2-Reed year is 2027, not 2012. Why should we believe the Maya and not the Aztecs? Which do you prefer?

      Mark my words, when you are in your early thirties, I prophesy that the internet (or whatever we will be networking with then) will start to chatter and moan with worries and predictions about “The Return of Quetzalcoatl – New Fire Year – End of the World” in 2027 …

      Here’s another reason to doubt that the Maya had a special gift for prophecy: They missed the Conquest. Pretty big oversight, don’t you think? Now THAT, if anything, qualifies as the end of their world. And they never mentioned it. Never, not till long after it happened. The Chilam Balam “prophecies” were being reconstructed in the 17th and 18th centuries, by Maya priests who decided what to predict by looking back at what had happened the PREVIOUS K’atuns and so forth: During the previous Katun 4 Ahau, they had had an epidemic of “blood-vomit”, so they expected the next time that K’atun came around (around 1760, and we’re living in the next one now), there would be “blood-vomit” again.

      Please don’t worry about the “Maya Prophecies”. They’re really 20th-century worries, projected onto an innocent civilization by people who aren’t taking responsibility for their own hopes and fears.

  2. Tabi:

    If I can add something to what Dr. Van Stone has said…

    Rumors of the apocalypse have been with us for as long as there has been recorded history. So far they have a track record of being 100% wrong. Check out “A Brief History of the Apocalypse” at

  3. Hahahaha! I do feel really up-to-date coming after some Albanian Hotels.
    Nonetheless, I just thought you were ASTOUNDINGLY charitable in saying:
    «The simplest regular work of this type is hand-addressing envelopes, beautifully, for a wedding or other fancy event, and it pays anywhere from a dollar an envelope to five dollars a line. »
    Beautifully? The most recent HIGHLY PAID envelope addressers I’ve seen appear to need remedial letter-structure, or just–nope. They leave me speechless. All you need to be a “professional calligrapher” is gaul.
    Surely you’d noticed?

  4. The term amateur is a badge of honor. It has as its origin the Latin amator ‘lover,’ which comes from amare ‘to love.’ Amateurs do what the do for the love of doing it, not for material compensation.
    All my closest friends through the decades have been amateurs in this sense: an astronomer, a geologist, a numismatist, a philosopher, a theologian, and even a Mayanist.

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