Now, call your friends, grab a beer and celebrate the end of the Maya Long Count calendar’s 13th b’ak’tun and the winter solstice. (Sorry doomsayers, I will not be giving you a reference for your post-doomsday interview, you did a crappy job of the Apocalypse.)
Also, send your congratulations to my sister, Colette! IT’S HER 30TH BIRTHDAY! Congrats Sis!!
On a side note, a few of us appeared on the #TWISmageddon 21 hour marathon to talk about the end of the world (or lack thereof), science and the human propensity for believing the Mayan doomsday bunkum. Thanks to Kiki Sanford, Justin Jackson, Scott Lewis, Blair Bazdarich, Nicole Gugliucci and Andy Ihnatko for a terrific Google+ Hangout. Who knew doomsday would be so much fun! (We start at about 1hr 45mins into the Hangout.)
Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission, agrees with what I’ve been saying all along (especially since all that “Institute for Human Continuity” bullshit hit the internet). He said at the Pasadena Jet Propulsion Laboratory meeting:
“The film makers took advantage of public worries about the so-called end of the world as apparently predicted by the Mayans of Central America, whose calendar ends on December 21, 2012. [NASA] is getting so many questions from people terrified that the world is going to end in 2012 that we have had to put up a special website to challenge the myths. We have never had to do this before.”
Even though NASA agreed that Bruce Willis’ Armageddon was bad, it couldn’t compete with the scientific atrocities 2012 inflicted on its audience. The killer neutrinos, planetary alignment, crustal shift, geomagnetic reversal and super-duper-massive tsunamis proved too much. 2012 has even toppled The Core as worst sci-fi science movie. Now that is impressive.
But what does it all mean? Apart from us science snobs having a chuckle on our blogs, I doubt it will make the blind bit of difference. Why? This is why:
“On the opening weekend of 2012, the movie pulled in 65 million in U.S. ticket sales and an additional $160 million internationally, easily covering the $200+ million budget.
Movies aren’t about scientific accuracy, and it would seem that the hype behind 2012 can stand alone as the biggest moneymaker of all.
Fear sells, science doesn’t. The subject of doomsday will always be a blockbuster. Unfortunately, through the miscommunication of science, fear is usually the end-product.”
EDIT:An earlier version of this blog post stated that the Science and Entertainment Exchange was involved with NASA’s decision to make 2012 “most scientifically flawed” movie in its list. I have received an email from the Exchange’s director that this is not the case. I have therefore edited any mention of the Exchange from the blog (even though my source, the Adelaide Now, still references the Exchange).
So, it’s 2011. A brand new year. Who knows what it holds? Actually, I know what it holds. Trolls. In fact, 2011 will henceforth be the Year of the Troll. (Not the Year of the Rabbit, sorry Bun-bun.)
I’ve noticed a rather crazy uptick in the number of anti-science diatribes and wet doomsday theories in recent months. Most are due to questionable reports written on quasi-news websites (as debunked in “2012 Alien Invasion? Um, No.”), and others are down to the trolls who surf the web dropping comments under otherwise benign science articles. Could it be that Fakemageddon is a year away? Or has the use of computers been granted in kindergarten? Could be both.
Although I joke about the misguided individuals inventing tales of doom to sell books, there is a rather serious undercurrent to my 2012 ramblings. People genuinely worry about this stuff. Sure, I’m totally numb to all this 2012 tomfoolery — it’s all crap, honest — but I’m still receiving messages from readers who are convinced something bad is going to happen on Dec. 21, 2012.
(The only person I know who’ll have a bad time is my little sister, who’ll be turning 30 on that day — don’t worry sis, I’ll be there administering the vodka, it numbs the chronological pain, trust me.)
So where does that leave us? What can we do to divert the nonsense and bring some real science to the table?
For one thing, I’m going to keep writing about the crackpots perpetrating these silly myths through 2011 and beyond. Although fellow debunkers and myself have been under attack recently for even mentioning the 2012 thing — something about a dead horse and a good beating — it’s important to inject common sense into the Internet whenever nonsense appears. If these doomsday theories go unchecked, for some, science and pseudoscience may become confused.
This is where the “Truth Squad” (as MSNBC science editor and Cosmic Log space maestro Alan Boyle has dubbed us) comes in, and I’m pretty sure all space science bloggers will be on the lookout for the doomsayers’ tall stories.
But what’s this? @Mactavish shoots me a tweet telling me to check out typing in “why will” to the Google Search box. As innocuous as it may sound, the auto suggestions are not. I mean, why the heck would anyone need the suggestion: “why will a carrot slice when placed in tap water for several hours become very stiff”?
Kidding. Mary isn’t referring to stiff carrots, I think she might be pointing out the sheer amount of doomsday Crazy going on. Wow. Type in “why will” and you get “why will the world end in 2012”? How about typing in “why won’t” and get redirected here.
Currently sitting in the departure lounge in LAX before I fly out to Washington D.C. to meet up with the Discovery News crew ahead of the launch of our brand new site (keep an eye on Discovery Space, it will soon be integrated into the Discovery News redesign — the beta version looks awesome).
Before I fly, I just wanted to post the news that the Discovery Channel will be airing the documentary I was interviewed for by KPI Productions in August. According to my DVR, the show “Surviving 2012” will be showing on Sunday (Nov. 8th). I’m not certain when it will be showing internationally, but in the US it will be on at 9pm PDT — so check your local listings for any slight changes in schedule. I think it’s going to be a great show as science is the focus, not the hype (unlike the idiotic History Channel-esque Nostradamus nonsense). However, I think fellow interviewee Dr. Alex Young and myself arrived at a very interesting conclusion as to the realities of being hit by an aggressive solar storm. Although our conclusions are far from the rip-roaring, solar blowtorch popular in sci-fi, we do point out that solar physics research is horribly underfunded considering our dependence on vulnerable power and communications systems.
Forget the supposed “Mayan Prophecy” of doomsday in 2012, the Mayan civilization never (ever!) predicted that the world was going to end on Dec. 21st 2012. Really, no ancient Maya elder ever said anything about doom. Also, no Mayan descendent believes that their ancestors foretold doom (and in fact, they’re getting rather pissed off at the insinuation).
Are you seeing a pattern yet? Please say you are.
In short, the world isn’t going to end in 2012, it is simply the end date of the Mayan calendar. There is nothing scary, spooky, weird or ominous about that despite what the doomsayers keep telling us. As I talked about in a previous article, 21/12/2012 is going to be a poignant reminder that the Mayan Long Count calendar represents the last breath of an ancient civilization.
And to be honest, who needs doomsday theories when the history of the Mayan culture is so fascinating anyway. I’m totally blown away by this video:
However, the timing of this news report is no coincidence. Can you guess why?
Hint: in about three weeks time, a fun little movie called 2012 is going to be released. It might have a terrible plot, it might even be over-hyped, but I wager that the 2012 movie will be a blockbuster. Blockbusters = audience. So, why do you think this mother of all coincidences just happened? Why would CNN decide to run this news report now? Do you think it might be the same reason why every media outlet will be pulling apart every aspect of 2012 for most of November?
As we have probably all guessed by now, the Institute for Human Continuity is a viral campaign designed to generate a huge buzz around the upcoming November 13th movie called 2012.
Ever since I started writing about 2012 (way back in May 2008 with “No Doomsday in 2012“), I’ve been inundated with emails, tweets, comments, even phone calls about the 2012 doomsday phenomena. These messages have ranged from mild curiosity to outright panic. I’ve also had many crackpots trying to convince me that my scientific reasoning is not valid (which it is).
However, in the run-up to a perfectly timed movie about the “Mayan prophesy,” Sony Pictures kick-started the mother of all viral campaigns in January. The movie 2012 will be a huge event, but basing an entire marketing ploy on fear and disinformation left a lot to be desired. So for the last 10 months, I’ve been busy writing not so much about the bad science being used in these wacky 2012 theories (check out my 2008 “No Doomsday in 2012” series for the science), but about the various advertising campaigns for the movie.
However, up until this point, there’s been little official comment from NASA about all the nonsense that has been stirred up. This seems surprising as most doomsday theories involve butchered astronomical objects, surely the US space agency should take a stance on the whole matter?
Now, NASA astrobiologist Dr David Morrison has gone on the record to say the 2012 doomsday theories are bunk. It turns out that Dr Morrison has also been flooded with messages from people worried that all the hype might be real.
Interestingly, in response to accusations that Sony Pictures’ viral campaign was irresponsible, Sony’s publicity director said, “It is very clear that this site is connected to a fictional movie. This can readily be seen in the logos on the site.”
However, in January when the Institute for Human Continuity went live, indications that the site had anything to do with a fictional movie could only be found if you dug very deep into the well-polished Flash website depicting Planet X causing death and destruction on Earth. I don’t recall any logos.
As scheduled, the extra-special 2012 teaser trailer appeared on the TV. Mildly excited, I flicked between the channels in the hope of catching a glimpse of what lies in store for November cinema screens. I tried to keep up the typing in real time… alas, it was too hard, the doom was moving too fast for my fingers, but this is what I remember…
We start off with John Cusack’s panic-stricken face warning his family on the phone while driving a stretch limo (stretch limo?) through LA streets, “When they tell you not to panic, that’s when you RUN!!!” Poetry.
Then a scene that can only be described as hilarioussillygratuitousinsane the most over-powering CGI I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
It was basically the Planes, Trains and Automobiles version of doomsday. Just without the trains. Add a crying child.
High-speed car sequences, palm trees snapping, ground cracking, houses folding… ooh look out for the obligatory exploding petrol tanker!!!! [extra !!! for effect] Then, buildings fall to the ground, people dying everywhere… but Cusack, plus brood, fly through the surprisingly uncongested LA streets at hyperspeed! Oh crap! Look out for the– PHEW! The car jumped through (jumped through!!) a disintegrating building (disintegrating building!!!), popping out the other end unscathed.
The Huge Massive CrackTM advances through California, with Cusack and co.’s car always in front of the impending doom that’s unfolding behind them.
Oh! There’s a plane! We’re now on an airfield… it’s okay, the family have an escape route! They fly off, Huge Massive CrackTM ripping through the asphalt as the pilot accelerates into the air. Buildings crashing down, toppling sideways (sideways!!!), crying child looks out the window, people are being squashed by cars down there!! That’s not for young eyes goddammit! They keep flying– NOOO!! More collapsing buildings!! Fly under them!!! YESSS!!! That pilot just flew UNDER a sideways collapsing building. Los Angeles is toast, looks more like the Grand Canyon than a city.
Disclaimer: This in no way, shape or form indicates that I now think something is going to happen in 2012. All of the above is based on a trailer for a movie. A movie people! The theories about doomsday in 2012 are still nonsense. If you don’t believe me, have a read.
No, Jon & Kate aren’t going to be screaming at each other (why do people find that pair interesting anyway?), the 2012 movie teaser campaign will go up a notch after Sony decided it would be awesome if they throw even more money at this over-hyped End Of The World advertising campaign. 2012 will, quite literally, be spewing its CGI glory across the majority of TV stations.
Although it’s probably pretty obvious by now that 2012 is a marketing opportunity rather than anything that might really happen, even after 18 months since my original No Doomsday in 2012 article, I still receive countless emails about the subject. Some emails are angry (how dare I give scientific reasons why Planet X is bunk!), others are weird, but the majority are from people who have a genuine concern that they (and their family) might not live past Dec. 21st, 2012.
So for those of you who think there might be an ounce of truth in the doomsday claims you see on the ‘net, or the ones depicted in tonight’s 2012 trailer, to borrow the advice from Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log:
And why shouldn’t you panic? The simplest reason not to panic is that ancient civilizations (like the Maya) have never, ever predicted anything with any degree of accuracy (and no, just because they apparently had good astronomy skills does not mean they did a good Nostradamus impression). Quite simply, time is a one-way street, you can never foretell anything before it happens. It is a physical impossibility.
If you still don’t believe me and think that the cosmos has marked us for death on Dec. 21st 2012, check out my other articles on the subject: Could Planet X make an appearance?No, nope, no way, nah. What about a solar-fried Earth?Balls, bullshit… grapefruit? Geomagnetic shift?Don’t even go there!
So, in short, ignore the 2012 viral campaign, but enjoy the movie for what it is, a disaster movie (and nothing more sinister). Will I be watching the movie? Hell yes, I want to be one of the first to review it!
I’ve often wondered how doomsayers can monetize their theories of the end of the world. It’s one thing to scare someone, but it’s quite another to get them to willingly hand over a wad of cash. It’s the classic door-step salesman problem: How do you get a homeowner to sign a contract after spending 30 minutes boring him/her to death with the reasons why they really should trust them — sweating in a badly-fitting suit — although they’ve only just met?
As far as I can work out, it seems the best way to profit from this doomsday tripe is to write a book. Apparently, publishers have little concern about what’s printed on the pages. If the cover art looks scary enough, and the numbers 2, 0, 1 and 2 are in bold type, the publication will sell itself. If that doesn’t work, hobble together a YouTube video with depictions of the Earth in flames… and Planet X (because Nibiru is so planet-killin’ cool). Oh, and add narration of some idiot with a superiority complex.
If this amazing marketing ploy isn’t upsetting enough people, build a website. Besides, if you fill that site with enough text, you’re bound to hit all the doom keywords and have a flood of Google search traffic. Hell, if this is the case, you can supplement the future royalties of your best-selling novel with some juicy advertising revenue. Yeah, that will work.
However, all these ploys (including the awfully flawed “How to Survive 2012” YouTube clips) aren’t a patch on what I’ve just seen: a “I Will Save Your Life In 2012 If You Buy My Book” website.
It’s one of those classic “I can show you how to earn $5000/hour” set-ups. One long page, filled with text that takes a whole evening to read. This particular site is called the “2012 Official Countdown” and the URL is http://www.2012officialcountdown.com (I won’t link to it). A screenshot of the top of the page can be seen to the right.
So how do I know this is a scam? You mean apart from the transparent desperation to tell you that the government is lying to the world? The insane statements that “well-meaning experts” have got it all wrong (those silly scientists)? Or is it the the complete overuse of bold type, red type, yellow highlights and claims that they are the only ones that know the “truth”?
Actually, I can look past all that crap, and skip to one key detail that suggests to me that the author has an even looser grasp on reality than all the other crackpots I’ve encountered (thank you Greg for pointing this peach out):
Mr. Sayer is a respected Internet scholar with a concentration on the topics of history, spirituality and exposing untruths.
There is one thing that remains completely undisputed by anyone who is truly informed…
“Every Major Religion… Minor Religions You’ve Never Heard Of… Non-Religious Spiritualists… And Even Atheists And Agnostics Agree…”
In 2012… something will happen.
Aaaah… that’s the issue in dispute. That’s the issue that is causing all the debate.
And that’s where you’re having the most trouble deciding what is fact… and what is pure Hollywood fiction.
Hi. My name is J. Michael Sayer. And… I have the answer.
Unfortunately, the superiority complex is strong in this one. Mr Sayer is a self-professed “Internet scholar” who “has the answer.” The answer to what? Well, something bad is going to happen in 2012! No, really? Really. What’s more, he presents his material like a true soothsayer on a mission. People are pleading for his help! He has the answer! He helps people by telling them the answer! (After clicking on the PayPal button.)
I’ll be honest, I felt a legion of braincells die as I read through the story that ensues. For some reason “James” decides to chronicle the events of Hurricane Katrina and how we can prepare for a similar catastrophe in 2012 if we read his book. But the book is just a re-hash of all the old theories that have come before (as I outlined in No Doomsday in 2012) — ancient civilizations/prophets predict doomsday in 2012 etc. Even though the Mayans never predicted doom when their Long Count calendar ran out, and Nostradamus never accurately predicted what he was going to have for dinner, let alone the events that would happen hundreds of years after his death. In short, it’s all total rubbish.
The one thing that really ticks me off however, are questions like, “How much is it worth to you to have the peace of mind you need for your family?” Apparently, the package James is offering is “worth” (it seems you can put a price on bullshit these days) $7,850. Why? That’s because he’s put 157 hours of “research” into this package (so it looks like he charges $50/hour for his Internet surfing expertise). But wait! He doesn’t want to sell it for $7,850.
We both agree a mere $1,000.00 to change everything about your life and the future lives of your family members. That’s a bargain.
But he’s not even selling it for $1,000! What a guy. A hero.
You won’t pay $99… $89… or even $79. This price cutting is getting crazy.
Oh James, you’re making me cry. You’re such a crazy, crazy guy!
After some more nonsense about throwing in an mp3, another book, and a little piece of his soul, James is flogging this whole kit for $49.95. Amazing, right?
What is amazing is that I actually read that entire page and I’m not dribbling. This is 100% pure-home-grown bullshit, a scam. And I can call it a scam because absolutely none of what he is promoting is provable, and every theory presented can be debunked with real science. Unfortunately, this is the most brazen attempt yet to screw people out of their money. Although I’m fairly sure most people will see the page and know it’s a con, some will see it as a lifeline, unfortunately.
Another very unfortunate thing is that I found this page via a Google Ad on Astroengine.com. It’s now blocked, but I suspect we’ll be seeing more and more of these websites pop up the closer we get to December 21st, 2012.