This is point of inquiry from Monday, December 26, 2011.
Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m Karen Stollznow point of inquiry is the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs. And at the grassroots. My guest this week is Stuart Robbins, a post-doctoral researcher in astronomy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His research focuses on planetary geophysics, and he’s currently researching craters on Mars and on the moon. Stewart received his P Dean astrophysics through the geophysics program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Stewart has a special interest in astronomy education, especially correcting myths and misconceptions about astronomy. To that end, he has a blog entitled Exposing Pseudo Astronomy and a podcast by the same name. Since 2012 is supposed to be our last year on Earth again. I wanted to talk with Stewart about the Mayan prophecy in 2012. Claims Stewart welcomes point of inquiry.
Thank you. Now, I wanted to talk with you today about the Mayan prophecy in 2012, and it seems that the root of this phenomenon is the Mayan calendar. So could you give us a quick rundown on this topic?
Sure. The Mayan calendar is actually a set of three different calendars that the ancient Mayan civilization use. Now, I’d like to actually stay right up front, that there are still many millions of Maya people still alive today. And that’s something that a lot of people don’t realize. I think that they’re all dead or deceased or they went the way of the dodo is when these Spanish cookie stores came in. But they’re actually several million, Maya, still alive today. They don’t really use this old calendar system anymore. But this old one used three different calendars. One was called the Hobb, which was a three hundred sixty five day year. Another was the Sulkin, which was a 260 day year. There are some people who hypothesize that this is based on the gestational cycle for humans. So how long it takes from impregnation for a pregnancy to come to term? And then there’s the long count calendar. And the first two calendars are the cyclical things that run for their three and six days or 260 days and then start over just like our normal calendar does January through December. It’s the long count that is apparently all the problem for 2012. The long count calendar is really just what it sounds like. It’s a count of gays. And in the short version of the long count calendar, there are about five thousand one hundred twenty five years that go into it. And then it it sort of resets. But that’s not actually the full version of the long count. It’s the abbreviated version.
So it’s sort of like looking at your car odometer and just looking at the first or the last four digits. So the thousands, hundreds Hentzen singles place and saying that that is the short version of my car odometer. And when it hits nine thousand a hundred and nine miles, it resets. That doesn’t mean that your car explodes. That means that it just takes over to the next biggest place and then keeps going again. So it’s a count of miles, just like the long count is a count of days, right.
It’s ending like the Y2K business.
Yeah. It’s just this sort of odd numerology that people like to attach to something to drive, meaning because they don’t have anything else to do or they want to sell books or something else.
Indeed. And when was the long count calendar last used?
From what I’ve seen, the long count calendar was last used only about a thousand years ago. That’s actually one of the problems with it, is that because it wasn’t used in a time period where we actually used our own calendar today that got Gregorian calendar, we don’t actually know how it lines up with our calendar. And so there are some scholars out there today who are saying that the Karmen correlation that’s used called the GMT, not for Greenwich Mean Time, but for the three authors who figured this out, that that might actually not be true. And it could be off easily by 52 years, which is known as a calendar round. That’s when they haab and the token line up with each other. So it could be off by as much as 32 years easily. But then it could be off by any number of multiples of 52 years. It’s so we really don’t know. And so trying to claim that something is going to happen because the Mayan calendar ends at exactly this time on exactly this year is just really making stuff up or it’s going based off of something that we don’t know for much certainty.
Yeah, I’ve heard that there are different calculations and different end dates and that the the Mayan long count calendar isn’t necessarily significant to all mine groups.
Right. They really didn’t use it that much at all. It was more the Hobb and the. It’s okay, because that sort of like, you know, we, you know, maybe on writing checks, we care about what year it is or when planning comes or something, but we don’t actually care as much about what millennium it is. We care about what they have the week it is. And so it’s sort of the same thing with the Maya.
And now what’s the link between the Mayan calendar and claims that the world is going to end in 2012? Did the Mayans have anything to say about the end of the world or just the end of the calendar?
They didn’t really have anything to say about either. It’s really just people attaching a sort of new age twist. They see that, OK, there’s this ancient civilization. And these days there’s this idea that the ancients knew a heck of a lot more than we did. So, you know, ancient Chinese medicine is much better than Western medicine, that kind of thing. So they see this ancient calendar system and then they attach this meaning to it that they never actually meant or there’s no indication they actually meant. So really, the the link between the Mayan calendar and doomsday or enlightenment scenarios for 2012 is just something that’s very much of a modern twist. And it really doesn’t have anything to do with what the Mayans said or thought, at least as far as scholars who actually study and understand my civilization have figured out. Now, that is not to say that there aren’t a few Mayan elders who have capitalized on the 2012 phenomenon. I can’t think of the naming right off my head. But there are a few out there who do go out and say, yeah, yeah, our calendar says the world’s going to end. Now, let’s go to your conference and buy me dinner.
You’ve also written, though, that even the Maya getting sick of the hype and that a lot of people feel like it really detracts from the amazing accomplishments of these people that the culture and their art and architecture in astronomy.
Well, it does, because it focuses on something that they didn’t actually do. It’s sort of like I actually talk with a colleague and I’m working on a certain project that we’re doing. And he keeps thinking that I did work, that I didn’t do. And he keeps on saying, yeah, that work that you did on these Martian River valleys is excellent and we’re doing all this stuff. I’m like, yeah, I never did any of that. You should focus on this other thing that I did. So it’s almost sort of like that. It’s giving them credit where they don’t necessarily want it indefinitely, where they don’t deserve it for prophesying any sort of doom or any sort of great, joyous occasion. Now, that’s not to say that there won’t be a great, joyous occasion because the Mexican Tourism Bureau is expecting anywhere from 10 percent to 100 percent more tourists during 2012 to capitalize on this. There are a lot of new stories out about that right now.
Right. Yeah. And as you said, they’re being positioned as profits.
And, of course, they didn’t foresee their own collapse.
Right. They’re still there. Let’s write in a different form. Right.
So I’d like to touch upon some of the alleged ways in which the world is going to end in 2012. So one of the major claims is that there’s going to be some kind of planetary lineup on December 21st, 2012. Is that true? No.
There is actually, you know, I mean, this this claim of a planetarium moment comes up and I don’t I will say the majority of doomsday claims, but it comes up a lot when there’s something astronomical going on. It’s not a transient thing like an asteroid.
And I mean, it may have come about in the 1980s in the sense that the Voyager spacecraft took advantage of not in alignment, but a favorable positioning of the planets to swing by a lot of the outer planets.
But this idea that all of the planets are going to line up on one side or the other of Earth A isn’t going to happen in 2012. And B, it wouldn’t do anything even if it did.
The actual forces involved are so minuscule compared to the moon and compared to the sun that even if every single other object in this towards the mind up on one side of Earth, nothing would happen.
So I under way this claim comes from then.
I don’t really know. I mean, it’s just people like to think.
And it doesn’t matter how many times people say, no, there is no planetary alignment. You’re always going to have some people just putting their fingers in their ears or you’re always going to have the astrologers come out and say, well, no, there is this planetary alignment when Pluto’s squares Uranus in the house of whoever.
So, yeah. So no planetary lineup on that date. But surely there’s going to be some kind of galactic alignment, right? That’s true. That one’s true, right?
Well, it depends on how you define alignment with the galaxy. There are people who say that the sun is going to be in the center of the galaxy or in the plane of the galaxy, which is wrong. We’re about 30000 light years away from the center of our galaxy and we’re about 50000 light years, not 50000, 50 light years above the plain of the galaxy. And we’re still traveling away from the plane of the galaxy. So there’s no way the sun will get to the center or the central plane of the galaxy in 2012. As for the actual apparent alignment from Earth, it’s also not true that the sun will align with the center of the galaxy, the way that the motions of the sky work because of the way our planet is tilted and the way it orbits the sun. The sun will never appear close to the center of the galaxy, but it will appear in the galactic equator or crossing the galactic equator around the time of the winter solstice in December 2012.
But and there’s an important. But there.
The sun actually crosses the galactic equator twice every year. And it shifts slightly in time when it does that because of Earth’s 26000 year processional cycle. So the fact that this year we’re actually what people are saying, the fact that next year the sun will cross or conjunct with or be aligned with the plane of the galaxy. Well, that’s true in 2012 on the winter solstice. It’s been true for the last 300 years and will also be true for about the next 300 years. The best alignment was in 1998. And we’re actually getting farther and farther away from that best alignment of the sun conducting with these central plane in or on the winter solstice or the December solstice for those you in the southern hemisphere.
Okay, well, that clears things up there and that’s not going to bring about the end of the world then. But what about the pole shift that’s supposed to happen in 2012?
Well, the put with the pole shift, you have to define what pole is shifting. His earth actually has two kinds of poles. It has a magnetic pole and it has a geographic pull, the spin axis. So our night and day cycle and how the sky looks where we’re oriented when we look up is due to our rotational axis and where it’s pointed in the sky. It does change, but on a very, very slow 26000 year cycle. And that’s the processionals cycle. And that’s actually one thing that a lot of 2012 people point to. They’re like while the Mayan calendar is five thousand one hundred twenty five years, it’s long count, which it’s not actually cycles to count of days. So if you do a little bit of math and you fudge the numbers a little bit, that adds up to 26000. So they were actually talking about this, which is wrong. But it’s this processional cycle that will change slightly how the sky looks. But this idea that radically altering Earth’s spin axis, where it’s pointed in the sky or the length of the day, the idea that that’s going to happen in 2012 just lacks any form of actual mechanism to do that. You’d have to exert some sort of talk on the planet.
You can’t just shove it. Even if there were some rogue planet X that comes swinging by that had a profound gravitational effect on the planet and move the Earth out of its orbit somehow.
That doesn’t mean that it would actually cause a pole flip. You’d actually need something like the tractor beam from the Starship Enterprise in order to cause a talk on the planet in order to push it over. So it’s sort of like I can shove a water glass and it will move.
And that’s sort of like what would happen if a star mass type object from a giant planet mass object came close to Earth. It would shove Earth or pull Earth away. I would actually have to put a force on sort of one end of my water glass or water bottle or wine glass or whatever in order to tip it over, in order to cause a pull flip. You’d have to exert that type of torque. And so all of these people who say there’s going to be a geographic pole flip or a pole switch or rotation or something, they haven’t actually proposed any sort of viable mechanism. They just sort of say, oh, well, planet X is going to do it, or this galactic alignment is going to shoot out energy and that’s going to do it, which just doesn’t make any sense. The other kind of pole flip is the magnetic. Now, there are indications that Earth’s magnetic poles or magnetic field is declining and that we might get ready or we might be getting ready for a magnetic polar flip. And Earth’s magnetic pole or poles do flip every once in a while.
And we are, quote unquote, overdue for a magnetic pole flat because last one that happened was about seven hundred eighty thousand years ago. And it used to have it more often than that. We don’t actually know what the signs are leading up to a magnetic pole flip. We don’t know how long they take, but we do know that they take more than just a moment in time. They take hundreds or thousands of years to happen. So even if the are not if the Earth’s magnetic field is declining right now. But even if it continues to decline and we’re going to a period of time, we’re going to have a magnetic pole flip. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen on exactly 2012. That just means that the year 2012 is going to continue that trend.
OK. And what happens in the event of a magnetic pole?
We also don’t really know that because we’ve never had one happen, at least when humans have been around the the papers that I’ve read have basically indicated that the field will continue to decline. But in localized places around the planet, you’ll have sort of this local field, compasses won’t be very useful. But the field strength of earth will probably be or the local field strength will probably be somewhere around 20 to 50 percent of what it is now while the internal field rearranges itself. So it will be it’ll be lower, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to completely vanish.
And it’s hardly likely that this will be prophesied by conspiracy theorists for 2012. Right. Or the Mayans. Now, you just mentioned planet X, and that seems to be one of the favored claims as well. So what is planet X? And is it coming in 2012?
Planet X has gone by many names in the last 10 years or so. It used to be just the use of a normal scientific term that we would use for a planet that we hadn’t found yet. And this came about because the orbit of Uranus was not able to be explained by the motions and the gravitational poles of all the other known planets in the eighteen hundreds. And so some very smart and very proudly bored mathematicians looked at these tables of positions of where Uranus was planned to be saw that it was wrong and then were able to calculate where we should be able to observe a missing planet that we didn’t know about. That would cause these gravitational perturbations on Uranus. They looked for it. And that very night that they first started to look for it, they found Neptune. And to this day, that remains probably one of the best examples of prediction and observation in science or at least in astronomy. I mean, it’s this great story of how it happened. But then there were these issues with Neptune’s orbit and we couldn’t quite explain it. And so the hunt was on for another planet. And so that’s how Planet X sort of came about as we were looking for this planet for decades and decades and decades. And then finally found Pluto, but not where this planet X was supposed to be. And so the search sort of continued, but not really. The problem is that Pluto didn’t explain Neptune’s orbit. Its mass was way too small. And when Voyager two, I believe it was flew by Neptune in 1989, we revised the mass of Neptune. We were off by something like less than a percentage. But that was enough to explain the very small difference between predicted and observed in the position of Uranus and these other planets. And so we in astronomy don’t really believe, if that’s an appropriate word, to use in a planet X anymore. There is no needed missing planet in the solar system to explain any of the motions of any of the objects. It’s possible there’s a planet like mass body still out there much farther away from the sun than Neptune. That means that it’s not going to get here in a year. So all of these people who say that there’s still a planet X out there, that could be true. But those who say that Planet X is hiding behind the sun or that it’s going to swing by Earth in 2012, or that it’s this planet called Nibiru that’s on a third six hundred year orbit and is going to come by planet Earth in 2012 are just wrong because there’s absolutely no way unless Planet X somehow has a cloaking device that used another Star Trek analogy or technology, unless it somehow has a cloaking device, it shields it not only from observation, because if it were a year away, a planet sized object would be pretty much the brightest object in our sky. Maybe besides the moon and the sun. So it would have to have both a cloaking device from light, but also from gravity, because a planet sized object that’s anywhere near the inner solar system where Earth is, is going to be affecting the orbits of the asteroid belt. And it’s going to be affecting the orbits of the other planets. And we have technology that allows us to view these planets in all these planets are to an incredibly high precision and they match where they’re supposed to be versus the predicted with all of the known objects in the solar system. So Planet X would have to be completely hidden in order for it to exist and come by in 2012. And so that’s just a form of special pleading. And it’s like, OK, well, if you’re gonna say that it has this cloaking device, then OK. There’s no way I can prove you wrong. It’s sort of like Carl Sagan’s Invisible Flying Elephant.
Well, I saw an article by David Morrison on the NASA Web site, and he said that most entries about planet X are are incorrect. And that’s a very concerning thing, that there’s that much misinformation out there.
Yeah, well, some people get scared and they listen to late night talk radio shows where the hosts promote this stuff. Well, it could happen. Scientists don’t know everything. Look, they were wrong about and they named the latest thing at a scientist was wrong about and people get scared. And there is a lot of hype out there. And the media likes to promote the hype because they get a lot of readership out of it. And so they sort of tend to print what people want.
I mean, I was just reading an article yesterday, I think because we’re recording this on the 22nd. So yesterday was 21st, which. Will be a year from the 2012 winter solstice. And there were several articles out there saying, and the countdown begins to the end of the world. And on the Mayan calendar, it’s just like, really people. I mean, do you do any kind of journalism? And you read these things and they’re like, well, scientists say that nothing is going to happen. But we talk to this person on the street and they said that, oh, I’m scared.
Well, I was trying to watch some documentaries on this topic in preparation for this interview and everything out there is pro everything is written by believers. It’s really hard to get good information about 2012, right?
That’s why that’s why your listeners can go to my blog and of his life in order to in order to find out the truth.
And when I say the truth, I mean the truth in the scientific sense where we can ever actually approach the absolute knowledge. We can only gather evidence to support the theories. And there is absolutely no evidence to support the idea of the doomsday claim in 2012.
And what about solar flares? Surely that one’s correct.
Well, this is an interesting one, because there’s what’s known as the 11 year sunspot cycle, which is actually a 22 year solar cycle because the Sun’s magnetic field, unlike Earth’s, tends to flip every eleven years.
And so we get this solar cycle of sunspots and heightened solar activity. The last peak of the sunspot cycle and solar activity was around 2001. And so if you add a love into 2001, you get 2012. And people were like, oh, see this? The peak of the sunspots. I go because those Eastern 2012 end of the world.
It’s like, well, first off, this occurs every eleven years and no. But then your listeners may be aware that we were in a very extended solar minimum.
And this is where there were almost no sunspots on the sun whatsoever for several years. And that means that scientists it’s not that they were wrong, but they’ve now revised their models. And for at least the last two years, the people who really study the solar activity have said the sunspot cycle, the peak of the solar activity, is not going to be in 2012, but it’s now forecast by those same people who said 2012, 10 years ago. It’s now forecast to be towards the end of 2013, beginning of 2014.
So these these doomsday people who latched on to this, the solar piglet’s or activity in 2012 thing aren’t updating their data.
They’re just sort of still around for that. Right. They’re just sort of using their old reports.
Well, you’ve also written about the astrologer, Terry Naison, and her 2012 claim. So what are those strange claims about?
Yes. So astrologers are an interesting breed. They have this particular one is I don’t know if it’s Naison or Nisan. So we’ll call her Terry.
Terry Trilla jittery Ebright.
So Terry on her Web site calls herself Terry Meson or Perry Mason on world famous celebrity astrologer. And then she gets her phone number, and that’s in the the title of all of her Web site.
And she charges at the moment a hundred dollars for a 15 minute reading or about 400 dollars for an hour reading, or one hundred fifty dollars if you send her an e-mail. And so she’s this person who is not minor and she charges a lot of money. And apparently she gets business because she’s still around and she gets bookings in terms of she was the opening act for Sylvia Browne, for example.
And so. Yeah, so she’s not this minor person and she hasn’t coming.
Yeah. And a world famous celebrity astrologer, apparently, who doesn’t update her Web site, but that’s a different issue. So she has a Web site up about the Mayan prophecy of 2012. Copyright 2008. And besides her atrocious grammar, her astronomy is just wrong.
She names all of these things like this planet is going to be in this constellation at this time. And it’s wrong. And it’s been pointed out to me that while she’s actually using a different sky. So I mentioned this twenty six thousand year procession cycle.
And this is actually a debate among astrologers. You take into account procession or do you just stick with what the sky looked like 3000 years ago or twenty five hundred years ago when astrology or Western astrology was codified? And my argument is that you should look at where things are now, because that’s kind of like saying, OK, the planet Mars, the god of war in most cultures, the planet Mars is in the constellation Virgo under a processed sky. And so Virgo is the virgin in the constellation that we use now. So the god of war in the middle of the Virgin would probably mean one thing under astrology. But if you go back and you don’t possess the sky, then the God of war is in Leo the lion. So war in Lion versus the Virgin, I think would give you a different interpretation. And so this is something that I argue about with astrologers, and pretty much every astronomer argues with astrologers. But we’re never going to win an argument. But anyway, so she has these positions where everything is just off because it’s she’s using a different sky. But then she says stuff that, like the moon is going to occult Pluto. And that means that the moon is going to cover up Pluto. And I used standard astronomy software and looked pretty much everywhere on Earth. And there’s nowhere on earth that the moon is going to occult Pluto.
So she just sometimes tends to make things up. She also gives it to. I mean, as most astrologers do, some of the New Age mysticism, stuff like God, she says during the solstice is the galactic center bathes us in energy, real particle energy, protons and neutrons, the DNA material that sustains life on Earth.
And it’s just like this is an interesting claim, but it’s absolutely profoundly meaningless. I mean, the galactic center bathes us in energy in the sense that we we receive light, we receive photons form from it. That’s why we can see it. But it’s not like it bathes us in some ethereal astrological or new age energy type. But then she says it’s real particle energy. So it’s like, okay, well, she’s gone from energy to particles. And then she says protons and neutrons, the DNA material. Well, yes, since protons are at the center of every atom and neutrons are at the center of most atoms. Yeah. These are particles that are in DNA. They don’t actually sustain life. They make anything possible in terms of matter at least. It just it’s this thing that sounds interesting but is profoundly meaningless.
And so she says this stuff and I blogged about it and I actually got a mine scholar to blog about it as well, because she made astronomy claims and she made claims about the Maya. Like she said, the mine are all dead. It’s like, no, not. So it would come better getting that from someone who actually studies the Maya than from me, an astronomer. So he and I both blogged about this. And then Terry decided that she was going to email us because she was threatened by her ex-husband because we posted this stuff about her and how her claims were wrong. And then that was immediately followed by I’ve reported you to the FBI for writing about me. It’s like, well, this is this is kind of interesting.
There are some other issues there, I think.
Right. And I consider it a badge of honor because it was the first time I’d been threatened by one of these people and like, cool. That means like, hi, I finally made it.
Oh, and since then, you’ve had Michael Holmes set up an anti fan site for you and you say, oh, yeah, it’s in everything.
Now, I have a bigger page on Michael Horne’s site than Phil Plait does.
I mean, I that’s impressive. I guess the this is the difference between astrology and astronomy and psychics and physics thing, right?
Yeah. We follow the rules of evidence. If you can’t observe it, if you can’t reproduce it, if it doesn’t actually produce something that can give you predictions that you can then objectively test. Then we throw it out. And now astrology doesn’t do that. And New Age Loblaw stuff doesn’t do that either. And they just sort of make stuff up and go with it. And they just look the other way when someone else comes or someone comes and says, you’re wrong.
This is why or you should examine this. They just they may actually agree with you. They may. So this is the analogy that I. News with Michael Horn, at least for those who don’t know, Michael Horn is the North American media representative of the Swiss UFO contact. Billy Meyer. So Michael Horn is the type of person. And Terry Nisan is probably the type of person who will look at you and say to your face, the sky’s green and you look up and say, no, look, the sky is blue. And they look up and say, oh, you’re right, the sky is blue. Then they’ll turn around and say to the next person. The sky is green. So it’s this exact thing where they they may actually admit that you’re sort of right on one point and then they’ll turn around and just completely ignore it.
Mm hmm. And speaking of New Age things, it seems that for some believers, 2012 isn’t about it. Catastrophic end of the world, but instead it’s some kind of new beginning or a new age of transformation. So what’s that about?
Right. So I tell people that I am a. Our an Astro geophysicist. I haven’t quite decided yet which I am. So I said both. I tell them I’m not a MEDEF physicist, so I can’t really talk to this whole. Yeah. This New Age energy is going to come in and it’s going to do something and it’s either going to rip out our souls or infuse our souls with a new level of angelic consciousness because the sun is going to be near the galactic or the celestial equator where all those other stuff. I don’t like to address that because it’s gists. There’s no actual testable observational claim that you can test. I mean, it’s just this random New Age stuff that doesn’t make any sense. That does in a new age energy context, but to an actual scientist is about as meaningless as particles from the galactic center bathing us in stuff.
But there are people who just say all sorts of weird things, like there is one who says that the serpent rope is going to come down from the dark rift and pull every one up or pull everyone’s souls up through a Stargate and sounds like a kind of rupture.
Yeah, well, but in a sort of rapture that’s mixed with a television show that you got the Stargate series and also with something that sort of sounds like it might could be linked to the Maya with a serpent rope. I’m not a mind scholar, so I can’t speak to whether the Mayans actually said anything that a certain serpent rope. But, you know, it’s something that people need to look into when they hear these claims is that they’ll go hear this stuff that sort of sounds like it might be real or it sounds science, see? I mean, I actually heard Jesse Ventura on his conspiracy theory show or whatever it’s called. He said he was talking with a guy who believes in the whole solar activity thing for 2012.
And he said, quote, This Lawrence Joseph guy, he spoke science see to me. So I kind of believe him. And it’s just like, what you someone speak science to you. So you believe them? It’s like, you know, I if I, you know, lacked any scruples, I could start a Web site and make a lot of money by speaking science. He doomsday things and, you know, churn out a book in a day that’s just full of sciences sounding stuff that could sort of sound right. But that people would buy. And I’d be much more wealthy than I am. So you just hear this stuff that sounds science, see, and that it sounds like it could make sense. And if you don’t actually know the background science or the background physics, then you’re at a loss. And that’s you know, I do a presentation where I talk about quantum. And people say, well, quantum mechanics says X can happen. And quantum mechanics to most people just means something weird. You know, they hear about entanglement or they hear about this quantum stuff or quantum leaps and they lack any real understanding of it. And so they say, oh, well, as soon as someone says quantum, that must mean that they know what they’re talking about. Quantum is a big word. And that’s just not the case. People just make stuff up, but they use science.
You sound in words know certainly times like harmonics and energy have been hijacked long ago by bribers. I think that’s a 2012. Definitely brought out all of the Seventh Day Adventists and the date setters and all the doomsday cults. But I want to ask you, what’s your favorite 2012 claim out of all of them?
I think my favorite 2012 claim is probably with the galactic alignment stuff, because I find it. Both incredibly stupid and incredibly interesting at the same time, because there are so many claims about it, whereas if people just spent a minute with any astronomy software, they’d easily see that the vast majority of these claims are wrong. So it’s something that you can do yourself. You can go and see and look and say, OK. By everything that we know, unless you’re just making up some special pleading argument.
No, this is not actually going to happen except for the part about aligning with the galactic plane. And while that does happen, it happens twice every year. But people don’t realize that that, again, they can if they just do a little bit of research themselves. You don’t have to have a degree. They don’t have to understand anything about gravity and planet X and talk and all this other stuff. They have to understand solar physics. They just have to use freely available astronomy software to look at what the sky looks like. And then if they do that, they may actually get more interested in looking into an up at the night sky and learning a little bit of real science in real astronomy at the same time.
I need some quality resources as well.
Yeah. And and just figure out and start to learn and maybe develop a new hobby. And of course, for me, because I am an astronomer and it’s my career and I do get taxpayer funds. I mean, that’s my salary is I get people’s tax money because I get government grants. Then I think that this type of public interest in astronomy is a good thing. I mean, people should be interested in it and they should fund research and they should fund the actual real research as opposed to buying people’s books that tell them that doom and gloom is going to come in 2012 or spending 400 dollars for an hour reading with someone who doesn’t know how long Neptun takes to orbit the Sun.
Yeah. And you’re doing your bit to educate people. I tried to.
Now, just in closing, I told my mother that I was going to be interviewing someone about 2012 and she didn’t know what I was talking about. So I said claims that the end of the world is nine. And she said again. So when December 21st, 2012 has come and gone. When’s the next Armageddon?
That’s a good question. And I’m not really sure when the next Tuesday is going to be claimed. The next astronomy thing that we know about isn’t going to be until 2029. And that’s something like if I can do a quick math in my head, that’s about 17 years from 2012. And I think that’s too long of a period of time for most doomsday hucksters. They want to get their books out sooner than wait 17 years. So they’ll probably come up with something. I’m sure there’s some ancient calendar ending, some period, or they can look back and reinterpret Nostradamus to say something is going to happen within the next four or five years. So I would expect some doomsday claim to come within about five years of 2012. But what that will be? I have no idea. I’m sure that some of the standard claims will come up again. I’m sure that someone will say and link this to this sunspot cycle and say, oh, well, we’re going to be at a solar minimum in 2017. Therefore, the sun’s going to just go out and we’ll lose the sun and we’ll all die. Or the Planet X is going to come by in 2017. They were wrong about 2012, combined 2017, just to pick a year or there’s going to be some alignment with something or there’s going to be a solar eclipse or they’ll they’ll bring back something.
Well, I don’t know if you’ve seen the website of a film called Liem McDade, who who’s an astronomer with the Sacramento City College, and he’s listed hundreds of false alarms going back hundreds of years ago. So the world should have ended many times over already. But I guess since it hasn’t. We have to wait until 2029 or something.
Not until someone comes up with sooner. Right. Well, Stuart, thank you so much for joining me today. It was a pleasure to speak with you. And I’ll see you in 2013.
Yeah. And, you know, tell people to go to my insurance company. You know, I’ll I’ll watch your pets after you die. Just give me one hundred dollars up front.
They keep the pets. Thank you, Stuart. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry. You’ll find Stuart Robbins exposing pseudo astronomy blog ads, pseudo Estero dot word, press, dot com. And he’s accompanying podcast at podcast, dot s.j, our design dot net to participate in the online conversation about this show. Please join our discussion forum at point of inquiry dot org. The views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org.
Point of inquiry is produced by Adam Isaac in Amherst, New York. Now music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. Today’s show also featured contributions from Debbie Goddard on your host, Karen Stollznow.