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.
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.
The funny thing about being involved in a doomsday documentary is trying to find a suitable balance between entertainment and science. This is the conclusion I reached after the interview I did for KPI productions in New York for the upcoming 2012 documentary on the Discovery Channel last week (just in case you were wondering why Astroengine.com was being a little quiet these last few days).
Naturally, the production team was angling for what it might be like to be hit by a “killer” solar flare, what kinds of terror and destruction a brown dwarf could do to Earth and what would happen if our planet’s magnetic poles decided to do a 180°. It’s always fun to speculate after all. However, I wasn’t there to promote half-baked theories of 2012 doom, I was there to bring some reality to the nonsensical doomsday claims. But with real science comes some unexpected concerns for the safety of our planet — not in 2012, but sometime in the future.
An added bonus to my NYC trip was meeting the awesome Alex Young, a solar physicist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Alex was asked to New York for the same reasons I was, but he has a current and comprehensive understanding of solar dynamics (whereas my solar physics research is so 2006). He actually works with SOHO data, a mission I have massive respect for.
My interview was carried out on Wednesday morning, and Alex’s was in the afternoon. The KPI guys were great, a joy to be involved in such a professional project. The documentary producer, Jonathan, asked me the questions in a great location, a huge Brooklyn building that was undergoing renovation. Very dusty with a post-apocalyptic twist. If I was going to shoot a movie about the end of the world, this building would be it.
The KPI documentary will certainly be very different from the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode I was involved with, but it was just as much fun, if not more so (it was like a day-long science fest).
Of particular note was Alex’s sobering words about the woeful lack of funds in solar physics (i.e. Earth-damaging solar flares and CMEs). I hope his closing statement about NOAA space weather prediction funding makes the final cut; it was nothing less than chilling.
Although we both hammered home the point that the fabled Earth-killing solar flare wont happen in 2012 (let’s face it, our Sun is still going through an epic depression, why should solar maximum be anything spectacular?), it is probably the one theory that holds the most scientific merit. In fact, as both Alex and I agreed, for a civilization that depends on sensitive technology in space and on the ground, we really need to prepare for and understand solar storms far better than we do at present.
I won’t go into any more details, but the documentary will be on the Discovery Channel in November, so I’ll give plenty of warning to fire up those DVRs.
Thank you Sarah, Jonathan and the rest of the crew from KPI for making the New York visit so memorable…
I finally managed to watch the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode I was involved with (called Apocalypse) and I must admit, I was very disappointed. The doomsayers who write those idiotic books and edit those insanely inaccurate YouTube ‘end is nigh’ videos really are as insane as they sound!
To steal a phrase from the awesome Penn Jillette, “Does anyone have a fork I can stick into my own eye?” And I agree, some of the nonsense those guys spewed during Apocalypse was totally, and utterly, crazytown; enough to consider personal bodily harm.
After 18 months of writing articles countering the crappy science behind 2012 doomsday theories, I really did think that although their research was pseudo-scientific, scaremongering bunkum full of misinformation and misunderstandings, the people behind the theories must have some semblance of normality. Right?
Wrong. These individuals have been out of circulation for quite some time.
Also, they have no idea how to communicate their beliefs without sounding, and looking, insane. In this superb episode, we have Jaysen Rand bumping tennis balls around on pieces of string, yabbering about his alien abduction experiences and then promoting his scary theory (that we’re all going to die in 2012 via Planet X, or Wormwood) to an 11-year old girl. Then there’s the Belgian guy who seems to be having a panic attack about “an enormous– a gargant– gargantuant solar flare” with some kind of fetish for describing geomagnetic shift with a grapefruit. Then as an entertaining sideline, we have two disco dancing ghost hunters running around the Mayan pyramids in Chichen Itza talking to dead Mayans who think “many will die” in 2012 (their divining rod skills sucked cheese in my opinion)…
Naturally, Penn & Teller: Bullshit! isn’t a scientific study, it is an entertaining show that just happens to be very good at the art of sniffing out, well, bullshit. They bring on professionals who really know what they are talking about and make fun of the individuals who for some reason think they are going to get a fair hearing.
“It’s hard to know who to listen to; the English solar physics guy with a doctorate degree and a decade of study and research experience, or a Belgian guy who fucked up our grapefruit love!” –Penn Jillette (Apocalypse)
It is such a strange feeling to have my Universe Today articles hit the mainstream on an Emmy Award winning show with Penn & Teller.
A huge thank you goes to the production team at Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. I had a great time filming the interview last year and I feel honored to be in a show alongside two skeptical-comedy greats. If you get the chance to watch Apocalypse, please do, especially if you have any concern about 2012… this show will dispel any myths. But to be honest, the doomsayers shoot themselves in the feet, providing Penn with some great material to bring Armageddon to the scaremongering idiots.
Firstly, let’s set the record straight: I love disaster movies.
I don’t care if the Earth is being invaded by aliens, getting hit by comets, being saved by oil drillers or poisoned by angry trees (yes, my brain even shrank through The Happening). It’s fiction, it’s fun and, let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy a bit of global calamity interwoven with a silly plot.
So, today the extended trailer for the November film 2012 has been released (below), and I do admit, I was mildly excited to see what this budding blockbuster had to offer — although I changed my mind when seeing the horridly Hollywooded ‘science’ and the USS John F. Kennedy flatten the White House after surfing a mega-tsunami at the end. That was no cigarette they were smoking in the Sony Pictures cutting room.
The whole 2012 hype has kept my blogging gene active for the best part of a year, so I know for a fact that 2012 director Roland Emmerich has a lot of material to play with.
According to the CGI-fest of a trailer, have some ancient intrigue with “mankind’s earliest civilization” (the Mayans… a.k.a. not mankind’s earliest civilization) predicting the “end of the world” (are you sure?) with their pesky calendar. We also have something astronomical (yep, Planet X is back) careering toward Earth. We get tsunamis flattening cities, flying giraffe, Noah’s Ark, minivans getting hit by Big Flaming Balls Of Fire™, crying children, earthquakes, fire, more crying children, famine, angry politicians and John Cusack. (What?)
This is going to be oodles of fun if you want to see our planet disintegrate into a tortured dust bowl via computer-generated fury, but could this also be the end of the quintessential disaster movie?
This has been my complaint all along about the insane doomsday scenarios being dreamed up by crackpots and greedy authors: You’re trying too hard! What ever happened to the subtle art of doomsday prophesy?
EXAMPLE: Nostradamus says the world will end some hazy time in the hazy future (get that man a Nobel Prize!); a computer expert says, “Hmm, these microchips might reset when the calendar switches from 1999 to 2000,” followed by the aforementioned crackpots and greedy authors telling the scared populous that we’ll be driven back into the Stone Age… all because of a small, overlooked flaw in computer programming.
I miss those doomsday scenarios. They were simpler times.
Now we have 2012 conspiracy theorists compounding doomsayer dogma, bending science to suit their hopelessly flawed doomsday scenarios. 2012 seems to be a hothouse for every impossible planet killer we could possibly imagine. How the hell Emmerich is going to work Nibiru, Planet X, killer solar flares, polar reversal, galactic alignment and geomagnetic hoopla into the plot I’ll never know.
Impossibly jumbled plot to one side, I will still want to be one of the first to see this movie. I’ve examined the real science behind the proposed end of the world in 2012 since May 2008, and I can assure you, I have yet to come across one single ounce of Planet X matter. No planet-wide calamity is expected on December 21st, 2012, and there isn’t a single shred of scientific or archaeological evidence that suggests otherwise. It will be interesting to see if Emmerich hired a science advisor, to actually add any credibility to doomsday, but if recent examples are anything to go by, I suspect it’s going to be science-lite.
Unfortunately, I am still saddened by Sony Pictures marketing ploy. The Institute for Human Continuity (IHC) viral campaign was very a successful yet short-sighted idea, marketing the movie like a multi-million dollar advertising campaign, but pandering to the anti-science sentiment that flows through the heart of doomsday hoaxers.
All in all, yes, I’ll watch 2012, but I can guarentee I’ll be shaking my head for the most part. The choice of cast is a warning sign. John Cusack as the flawed dad who’ll save the day? Danny Glover as President?? Woody Harrelson? Woody Harrelson?
Wow, look at that title for some keyword stuffing! Stuffing… get it?
The Telegraph: bedrock of traditional journalism, pinnacle of UK news reporting– I’m sorry, I can’t finish that sentence, I’m too busy crying with laughter.
Seriously. I mean, seriously. Sure, everyone needs to remain competitive in this ultra-fast world of social media and transient online traffic, but there’s a lot to be said for keeping your integrity too. In this master stroke of continued patchy reporting from the UK’s Telegraph we have a serious ‘news’ report about a crop circle, that depicts the Phoenix flying from the ashes. Or is it a turkey?
What could this possibly mean? Oh yes, I might have guessed. Obviously it means the world is going to end on December 21st 2012. What a coincidence, those Mayan fellas have been saying the same thing all along. Now we have crop circles? And crop circle enthusiasts telling us it’s the end of the world? Holy crapcakes, doomsday really is coming. I’ve been such a fool.
I’d understand if there was a little scepticism in the tone of the report, or perhaps a little light-hearted banter about aliens and their fetish for bending corn, but unfortunately this is an article that jumps to one huge conclusion:
Crop circles = Doomsday
It really is that simple. Reading signs in bent corn has been the fodder for doomsday theorists for as long as there have been doomsday theories and this report does nothing to challenge that. Is it really that hard to find a skeptic/scientist/logical thinker in Wiltshire these days?
I might be missing something here, but where’s the link between these crop circles and doomsday in 2012? That’s right, there isn’t one.
And I’m now certain that crop circle depicts a turkey…