Today, tens of thousands of people are gathering in northeastern Australia to witness one of the most amazing and dramatic astronomical events known: a total solar eclipse. At 2:39 p.m. EDT (19:39 UT) the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun for viewers around Cairns, Australia, leading up to a brief period of totality at 5:12 p.m. EDT (22:12 UT). At this time, the Sun will be completely blocked by the disk of the Moon, revealing the wispy strands of the Sun’s outer corona. It will be a spectacular view that’s possible at no other time, and will give scientists a chance to study some curious aspectsof the Sun’s atmosphere.
“On a scale of one to ten, a total solar eclipse is a MILLION.” – Fred Espenak, aka “Mr. Eclipse”
So the buzz is buzzing about Chevy’s Super Bowl ad and its tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the aftermath from the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. Of course the message is typical — drive a Chevy truck and survive, drive anything else and perish. Which is cute and of course the production value is high, but the problem is that to more than a few people, this is something they are on the fence about already, or even honestly believe in. Which, being bad science, is something I am 100% against.
Luckily there are plenty of science sources that are more than happy to offer fact-based consolation that there is no actual evidence that anything cosmically bad is expected to occur on Dec. 21 (or any other date, for that matter) but the “doomsday” talk continues, hot and heavy, on many pseudoscience sites and forums. Which I would otherwise pay no attention to except that it seems that many honestly uninformed people seem to be running into their wrong science more often than the actual science, due to their prolific postings and unfortunately strong search-engine visibility. This has done nothing but spread confusion, fear and, in at least one case that I heard recently (via Phil Plait of BadAstronomy) a suicide by a young man who feared the coming apocalypse. That’s just sad and intolerable, in my opinion, and should make all those who continue to purposely spread such disinformation ashamed of themselves.
Sadly, I’m sure such people are going to love the aforementioned truck ad.
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It’s only January 5th and already nervous chatter about “end of the world” fears has gone into high gear… except, of course, among those who know that there’s nothing to worry about. Still, I have heard rumors of people, many young people still in school, who don’t know the real information and have heard only the hoaxes put out by “doomsayers” online, citing at least half a dozen different ways the world is “supposed” to be destroyed in December of this year. None of them with any basis in reality, all of them trumped-up hearsay and nothing more than pure imagination.
Imagination is fun, of course, but not when it actually negatively affects people’s lives – and even potentially their safety.
Now that’s we’re officially three days into 2012, the ‘net is already abuzz with talk of impending doom on December 21 of this year. Luckily there are plenty of science sources that are more than happy to offer fact-based consolation that there is no actual evidence that anything cosmically bad is expected to occur on Dec. 21 (or any other date, for that matter) but the “doomsday” talk continues, hot and heavy, on many pseudoscience sites and forums. Which I would otherwise pay no attention to except that it seems that many honestly uninformed people seem to be running into their wrong science more often than the actual science, due to their prolific postings and unfortunately strong search-engine visibility. This has done nothing but spread confusion, fear and, in at least one case that I heard just this morning (via Phil Plait of BadAstronomy) a suicide by a young man who feared the coming apocalypse. That’s just sad and intolerable, in my opinion, and should make all those who continue to spread such disinformation ashamed of themselves.
I can’t stress this enough: there is NO EVIDENCE OF ANY DANGER TO HUMANS OR THE PLANET OCCURRING THIS YEAR OR ANY PARTICULAR OTHER. Not yet, of course. I mean, things happen, wars happen, diseases and natural events happen. But actual scientists who dedicate their lives, reputations and livelihoods to the study of the Earth, the solar system and the Universe see nothing on deck for the immediate future. Period. Maybe they will discover something surprising this year, that can’t be 100% discounted. But… the odds of that are very, very, very, very slim.
So long, Elenin, and thanks for all the conspiracy theories! The comet that has been the subject of so much unfounded fearful speculation since its discovery in December 2010 will be making its closest pass of Earth tomorrow, October 16 – and when they say closest it means 22 million miles, or almost a third of the distance to the Sun! Then again, what’s left of it will be passing by Earth. Based on recent observations – like the images from Mike Mattiazzo above and below from the comet’s discoverer, Leonid Elenin – it seems it may have pretty much fallen apart.
“Folks are having trouble finding it, so I think it’s probably dead and gone.”
– Don Yeomans, JPL
In light of all the curiosity and theories regarding the most recent world-ending cataclysm anticipated for the year 2012 (seems like there’s a new expiration date every decade or so), I thought I’d post a nicely informative article from the NASA FAQ page from last Friday, November 6.
(No time? Bottom line…..regardless of the world’s condition in two more years concerning politics, environment and general human silliness, there’s no looming armageddons on the docket. Read on….and check out the video from NASA’s Don Yeomans.)
2012: Beginning of the End or Why the World Won’t End?
Remember the Y2K scare? It came and went without much of a whimper because of adequate planning and analysis of the situation. Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won’t be the end of the world as we know. It will, however, be another winter solstice.
Much like Y2K, 2012 has been analyzed and the science of the end of the Earth thoroughly studied. Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the science behind the end of the world quickly unravels when pinned down to the 2012 timeline. Below, NASA Scientists answer several questions that we’re frequently asked regarding 2012.
Question (Q): Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.
Answer (A): Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.
Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?
A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.
Q: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?
A: Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then — just as your calendar begins again on January 1 — another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.
Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012.
Q: Could a phenomena occur where planets align in a way that impacts Earth?
A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.
Q: Is there a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Planet X or Eris that is approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction?
A: Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles.
Q: What is the polar shift theory? Is it true that the earth’s crust does a 180-degree rotation around the core in a matter of days if not hours?
A: A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. There are slow movements of the continents (for example Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago), but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles. However, many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-shift to fool people. They claim a relationship between the rotation and the magnetic polarity of Earth, which does change irregularly, with a magnetic reversal taking place every 400,000 years on average. As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. A magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia, anyway.
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Q: Is the Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?
A: The Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Spaceguard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit. We have already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA NEO Program Office website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.
Q: How do NASA scientists feel about claims of pending doomsday?
A: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.
Q: Is there a danger from giant solar storms predicted for 2012?
A: Solar activity has a regular cycle, with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 time frame and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history.
There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.
So. Enjoy the movie for what it’s worth, but don’t cancel your vacation plans or max out the credit cards just yet…Earth is going to be around for a bit longer. (Which is good, because there’s some great exploration missions greenlighted for the next couple of decades and I’d like to be around to post the pictures here. :) )
If anything, we need to make sure we’re not the cause of any more destruction. I doubt even the Mayans could have predicted the extent of the havoc people have managed to wreak upon the world in the last hundred years.