Same Message, Different Doomsday Vehicle

Warning: The following article contains criticism of a religious figure. Actually, it’s not really criticism, more pointing fun at a guy who should know better. If you feel the need to get angry in the comment boxes, feel free, but please use your CAPS LOCK sparingly, keep the language reasonable, cite any reference material and above all else, don’t blame the ancient Mayans for anything, they’ve been through enough.

Recognise it yet? Isaac's apartment floor painting depicting the destruction of New York in the TV show Heroes

Isaac's apartment floor painting depicting the destruction of New York in the TV show Heroes (source)

As a rule, I wanted to keep Astroengine.com away from religious debate, but once I became embroiled in the 2012 doomsday hysteria, religious views were bound to creep in. After all, 2012 is the latest date prophesied for Armageddon, End Times and Judgement Day, I was bound to start receiving emails and comments with a toasty religious flavour. That’s fine, everyone should have an opinion. Just because I don’t believe the year 2012 will bring anything of special religious/spiritual significance, that’s my view. I’m not religious and I’m not a religious specialist, it’s not my thing.

However, science is “my thing” so when I see authors banging on about the existence of Planet X, killer solar flares, geomagnetic shift and all the other wild and inventive ways the Universe won’t destroy the Earth, I do have a strong opinion. Now that “No Doomsday in 2012” has had over 1,000,000 hits (that’s a 1 with six zeros after it. I’m now in megahits), it would appear that 2012 is a doomsday theory that might not go away (place your bets on how many millions of hits that article will rack up in the next 3 years!).

However, having written about the key attributes of doomsday theories as presented by authors who use lies to sell a book or drive search engine traffic to their site (fear is a potent moneymaker after all), I know bullshit when I smell it. However, this time the doomsday prophecy doesn’t come from the misinterpretation of a Mesoamerican calendar, it comes from a popular American Christian evangelist. I have to say, I am impressed.

So, using my fool-proof “cheat sheet” on how to spot a doomsday fake, it wasn’t hard to cut through David Wilkerson’s dogma, revealing his “prophecy” for what it really is: rubbish.
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How Do You Spot Science Abuse in the Social Media Soup?

Heads should be held in shame...

Heads should be held in shame...

You know the drill, we’ve all been there.

There you are, minding your own business, participating in the Web 2.0 phenomenon, scanning through the webpages on one of the countless social media sites. And then you see them, like coffee stains on your white upholstery, pages that seem a little out of place. One entry tells you that the world is coming to an end. Another tells you that the Illuminati have built a base on Pluto (with the obligatory IT’S A PLANET!!! comment underneath). Oh, and there’s another, claiming that a comet, twice the size of Jupiter is actually Planet X… and it’s coming right for us!

Of course, our common-sense neurons usually kick in, telling us that the author of the article is either a) nuts, b) an idiot, c) flying at half-mast or d) a troll. In which case, we are able to flex our social media muscles by burying, down-thumbing, down-arrowing, reporting or ignoring the offender.

There we go, social media in practice. One BIG victory for online democracy!

However, sometimes it’s not that simple. What if the author seems to be bona fide? What if the author is a so called “expert”? Say if the article uses some real science to explain their hopelessly flawed theory?

I may have been trawling around the dregs of the doomsday theory ilk for the past year, but the following list applies to pretty much any daft conspiracy theory or outrageous science claim, intended to misinform, scare or cause an online headache as you voyage through the increasingly accessible social media…
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2012 Fear = Money: Sony Pictures Cashes In

ihc

Another day, another inbox with three emails asking me about what this 2012 “thing” is all about.

Another two from concerned (but now relieved) readers and one (from late last night) calling me a fudging idiot (edit the italicized word). I had no idea that my 2012 articles on the Universe Today (and the growing number on Astroengine) would evoke such a spirited and sustained barrage of hate/love/relief mail. I’m a scientist, first and foremost, I’m not used to this kind of attention.

Seriously though, this 2012 insanity needs to calm down. Admittedly, telling “believers” there is nothing to fear about the Mayan calendar coming to the end (or the hopelessly flawed Bible Code is nonsense) is a bit like waving a red cloth in front of a pissed off bull, and any hope that we wont be barraged by doomsday hysteria in 2012 is a lost cause (in my opinion). But mainstream media really needs to lay off the scaremongering tactics.

I can deal with the crackpots, greedy authors, pseudo-science liars, misinformed and weak-minded “YouTube Scientists” spreading prophecies of doomsday, linking ancient prophecy (that has a non-existent prediction:proof ratio by the way) with modern science. But when Sony Pictures jump on the 2012 juggernaut, I think we can forget about having any sanity in the run-up to December 21st 2012.

Enter the Institute for Human Continuity, a Sony Pictures viral campaign…
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“Zapowiedzi Końca Świata na rok 2012 to kompletne bzdury!”

No Doomsday in 2012 Article Now Available in Polish!

No Doomsday in 2012

No Doomsday in 2012

Great news. My original “No Doomsday in 2012” article is available not only in Spanish and Portuguese, it’s now available in Polish!

A huge thank you goes to Dr Piotr Dybczyński from Astronomical Observatory of Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań (Poland), for taking on this huge task.

I am still completely overwhelmed by how popular my writing about the 2012 hysteria has become, and it is quickly becoming clear that word is being spread throughout the non-English speaking world as well.

Check out Piotr Dybczyński’s website. He’s working his way through each of the six (so far) English versions so they can be accessed in Polish too.

No Doomsday in 2012 in Polish:

As the translations are coming in thick and fast, I have decided to build a sidebar widget for a mini-directory of all my “No Doomsday” articles so they can be quickly accessed and brought together. I’ll let you know once this is up and running on Astroengine. I also plan to add links to the translations on the original articles on the Universe Today.

Thanks also to Manuel Herman who has painstakingly kept up with my Universe Today 2012 articles (and others!), translating each into Spanish on his space news website Ciencia Kanija. Also, thank you to Roca at Eternos Aprendizes for translating my recent “2012: No Comet” article into Portuguese! More to come soon

Doomsday in 2012: Science-Lite

Doomsday = Fear = Money

Doomsday = Fear = Money

Something pretty cool has just happened over at that “2012 Comet” doomsday site (I won’t link to it, I can’t stomach sending any traffic to it, but here’s my Universe Today article about the subject).

I’ve had equal measures of praise and criticism for my most recent “No Doomsday in 2012″ article. Most of the praise came in the form of: “I’m really glad you addressed the 2012 comet scenario, those ads were p***ing me off!“. However, it did get criticised for chasing after a “small website” with “very little written on it” which “obviously confuses” what a comet is and what Planet X is.

However, this “small website” (which actually receives an awful lot more traffic than Astroengine.com), has decided to comment on my views on the subject. And you know what? I think it has enhanced their content ten-fold.

Here’s my reply
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I Stand Corrected…

Forget Planet X, a rogue comet, geomagnetic reversal and killer solar flares… this could be what the Mayans were talking about:

Oh no... (PunditKitchen.com)

Oh no... (PunditKitchen.com)

OK, I’ll stop with the humour now. Time to get on with some serious science stuff…

Update: Isn’t that a bit disrespectful of Palin to be signing her name against McCain’s head? Lol.

I really am getting back to the science now…

Source: Bad Astronomy

Universal Death and Impossible Physics… In the Same Box!

The box from Amazon.com cannot contain the awesomeness inside...

The box from Amazon.com cannot contain the awesomeness inside...

Today marks a significant day in the history of my bookshelf.

Having moved to the US from the UK, leaving the bulk of my proto-library collection back in my Bristol hometown, I only transported my most prized science and university textbooks. Alas, I had to leave my treasured collection of Patrick Moore books, my guide to the Universe and several hefty quantum physics texts in storage, bringing the bare minimum across the pond.

Books are important to me, and I have big dreams about having a room filled with them; one of those in-house libraries filled with knowledge and history. But five books hardly constitute a library… heck, they barely fill a rucksack. So action needed to be taken… I needed to turn this proto-bookshelf into a source of reference!

I have a bookshelf. Check.
I have an office. Check.
I have an Amazon.com account. Check.
I have a credit card (it’s strained, but you can’t put a price on knowledge, right?). Check!

So I went shopping and brought Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible (of which I have been promising myself most of the year) and succumbed to Phil Plait’s Death from the Skies! (with a book title like that, you have to obey the calling). Can’t wait to put a crease down the spines of both books, but I am keen to read Dr Plait’s account of how dangerous the Universe can be. Having done battle with the 2012 doomsayers, I need to read a book with a good, scientific rundown of how the world might end – and not fighting against the pseudo-scientific claims about Planet X and those pesky Anunnaki. The world is going to end some time, so look at the facts behind the claims and find out yourself.

The praise from Mythbuster Adam Savage for Death from the Skies pretty much sums it all up, I can’t wait to review the book myself:

Phil Plait has done it again. He brings his unique and funny voice of reason and sanity to bear on making sense of a deadly universe. If things worked the way I wanted them to, any reporter about to do another “sensational” story on deadly meteors would consult this volume and BANG! Common sense would find it’s way into the news. How strange would THAT world be? On his blog and in his books, Plait is an important source of sanity and critical thinking, with just the right sense of wonder, reminding us that the universe is an amazing enough place without having to make crap up about it.” – Adam Savage, from Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters.

For more on his big box of death, check out Phil’s Bad Astronomy blog

2012 Doomsday Debunking Article Makes Slashdot

Just a quick bit of news: my “2012: No Geomagnetic Reversal” article over at the Universe Today was posted on Slashdot.org today! This is fantastic news, as on Saturday it became “popular” on Digg.com and hit the front page. Internet traffic has therefore been a little busy for Fraser’s server of late…

Thank you to everyone who is supporting my work, these 2012 doomsday scenarios are finally being exposed for what they really are. Although some may have a dash of scientific reasoning, most are born from scaremongering and greed, so it is very good to know that the scope of this article’s readership has expanded exponentially :)

I am working on my next couple of articles now, so expect the completed text soon…

Cheers!

New 2012 Article Published: No Geomagnetic Reversal

The 2012 doomsday scenario: geomagnetic reversal. Not in our lifetime...

The 2012 doomsday scenario: geomagnetic reversal. Not in our lifetime...

Universe Today: 2012: No Geomagnetic Reversal

After a long four-month break, I’ve finally written my next in the “No Doomsday in 2012″ series of articles. This time we tackle the prediction that the world will end on December 21st, 2012 after being subject to a massive internal disturbance, effectively weakening the Earth’s magnetic field and flipping the magnetic dipole on its head (i.e. the north magnetic pole will be shifted to the geographical South Pole and vice versa). While this makes for a cool plot for a disaster movie, the doomsayers theory is only half-baked. Yes, geomagnetic reversal has happened in the past, and it will happen again. However, any geomagnetic shift in the future will not happen in four years, it probably won’t happen for a few thousand years. It appears to be a rather chaotic system, and all the (scientific) indications suggest our strong magnetic field wont be doing anything dramatic any time soon…

The series so far:

2012: No Geomagnetic Reversal Now Available in Spanish

With a special thanks, once again, to Manuel Herman, my most recent 2012 article has been translated into Spanish. Thank you Manuel for all your hard work!

Here’s the series (so far) in Spanish:

2012 Doomsday Series Now Available in Spanish

Doomsday articles are now available in Spanish

Doomsday articles are now available in Spanish

With special thanks to Manuel Herman at Ciencia Kanija (Puny Science), four of my Universe Today 2012 No Doomsday articles have been translated into Spanish. Today, as many as 322 to 400 million people speak Spanish world-wide, making it the second most-spoken native language in the world (second only to Mandarin Chinese), so I am overjoyed that my 2012 articles will extend to this huge population of Spanish speakers!

Previously, the popular “No Doomsday in 2012″ article was kindly translated into Portuguese by Nisia Chaves at Chá de Camomila, so to have the complete series translated into Spanish is a massive bonus. I didn’t think that these 2012 articles would be so popular, but it would seem their scope extends far beyond the English-speaking world. So thank you to Manuel for his tireless efforts in translating my work!

Here’s the series (so far) in Spanish:
» No habrá juicio final en 2012 (No Doomsday in 2012)
» No, tampoco habrá Planeta X en 2012 (2012: No Planet X)
» 2012: El Planeta X no es Nibiru (2012: Planet X is not Nibiru)
» 2012: No habrá llamarada solar asesina (2012: No Killer Solar Flare)

This has motivated me to continue writing my 2012 articles. Next up is an investigation into geomagnetic reversal and then the mother of all doomsday theories: galactic alignment. The next two could be the biggest articles yet, so be sure to keep an eye on the Universe Today and Astroengine.com for announcements…