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No Really, the World isn’t Ending

One of the many detrimental effects of poor science education is that people are far more susceptible to woo. This is being exhibited particularly strongly right now with the ZOMG2012 meme, wherein an uncomfortably large number of people are convinced that some moldy Babylonian god a hitherto-undetected planet that the Mayans knew about is going to show up and raise hell in 2012.

NASA scientist David Morrison, who runs the site Ask an Astrobiologist, reports that he’s getting a dozen questions a day about the “prediction” (including some really unsettling ones, like the two teenagers who were contemplating suicide because they didn’t want to be around for the apocalypse).

He’s put together a list of claims about this supposed doomsday scenario and efficiently refutes each one.

6. If the government knew about Nibiru, wouldn’t they keep it a secret to avoid panic? Isn’t it the government’s job to keep the population at ease?
There are many objectives of government, but they do not include keeping the population at ease. (My experience is that sometimes parts of the government do just the opposite, as in the frequent references to various terrorist threats or warnings about driving accidents on long holiday weekends, which are no more dangerous than any other time.) Even if they wanted to, the government could not keep Nibiru a secret. If it were real, it would be tracked by thousands of astronomers, amateurs as well a professional. These astronomers are spread all over the world. I know the astronomy community, and these scientists would not keep a secret even if ordered to. You just can’t hide a planet on its way to the inner solar system!

I’m going to go off in a corner and be mildly depressed that such a list is necessary.

(via 80beats, which also has more details about the 2012 hysteria.)

Posted in Science October 26th, 2009 by Chip
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