On Nibiru and Doomsday 2012
latest internet myth to gain traction is the notion that the world
will experience a catastrophe on the winter solstice of 2012, either
from collision with a (mythical) planet called Nibiru or from some
other astronomical cause. A large number of books and websites have
touted this notion for a while, as have documentaries on the History
Channel, but in the summer of 2009, the producers of a major movie
thriller, called "2012" began to spend quite a bit of
money on "viral marketing" -- even setting up fake website
purporting to show the science behind the idea. Lots of people are
worried and asking astronomers about this. NASA's David Morrison
has coined the term "cosmophobia" for the fear of astronomical
disasters, and it appears that cosmophobia is significantly on the
rise, despite the absence of any evidence.
Morrison's introduction to and debunking of 2012:
Top 20 Questions about the Doomsday 2012 Myth (answered by David
David "The Myth of [the planet] Nibiru and the End of the
World in 2012":
E. C. "The Great 2012 Scare" in Sky & Telescope,
Nov. 2009, p. 22. Good introduction to the history of such doomsday
2012 Hoax site (a well-executed, exhaustive examination of claims and counter-arguments by a group of professional and amateur astronomers):
Mayan Calendar Connection:
X/Nibiru Cult Discussion by Phil Plait:
Cain's detailed critiques on the Universe Today website (and
the further columns listed therein):
Miscellaneous Topics in Astronomical Pseudo-science
Plait on Naming Stars for Money:
A. "Hale-Bopp Comet Madness" in Skeptical Inquirer,
Mar/Apr. 1997, p. 25. On
a cult that saw a spaceship behind the comet:
K. "Was the 'Rare Earth' Hypothesis Influenced
by a Creationist?" in Skeptical Inquirer, Nov/Dec.
2001, p. 7. University of Washington astronomer who was secretly
J. "Planetary Groupings and the Millennium: Why Panic?"
in Sky & Telescope, Aug. 1997, p. 60. Analyzes 40 so-called
"alignments of the planets".
Christine Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea. 2007,
St. Martin's Press. A nice history that includes 20th century
groups that believed the Earth was flat.
R. "Did the Moon Sink the Titanic: Astrology, Lunar Phases,
and Maritime Disasters" in Skeptical Inquirer, Jul/Aug.
1995, p. 30. Examination of over 1400 ship disasters to see if there
was any astronomical connection.
Robert Great Comets. 2000, Cambridge U. Press. Chapter 6
discusses the "Heaven's Gate" affair (where cult
members committed suicide) connected with Comet Hale-Bopp.
E. "Lost Worlds" in Sky &Telescope, Apr.
2000, p. 93. Debunks notion that earlier civilizations knew about
Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto, long before they were discovered.
E. "The Sphinx Blinks" in Sky & Telescope,
Mar. 2001, p. 86. Examines some astronomical connections suggested
for the Sphinx and the Pyramids and finds them wanting. (See also,
Sky & Telescope, Feb. 1997, p. 64.)
Lawrence The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved, 2nd ed. 1995,
Prometheus. A librarian researches the extravagant claims about
disasters in a small area of the Earth and finds little to support
J. The Tungusca Event: (Analysis by science writer James Oberg from
1982, debunking the notion that the impact event in Siberia in 1908
was an alien spaceship.)
D. & Lytle, T. "Tidal Forces on May 5, 2000" in
Sky &Telescope, May 2000, p. 109. Examines the effects
of planetary alignments on the Sun in 2000 and through history.
Victor The Unconscious Quantum. 1995, Prometheus. A physicist
examines "new age" claims that quantum mechanical ideas
underlie psychic powers or paranormal experiences.
D. "New Physics Finds a Haven at the Patent Office"
in Science, 21 May 1999; (vol. 284, p. 1252.) Discusses how
weird, new age physics is sneaking its way into U.S. patents.
General Books and Sites that Include Sections on These Topics
Kenneth, ed. Paranormal Borderlands of Science. 1981, Prome¬theus
Books. Science Confronts the Paranormal. 1986, Prometheus Books.
The One Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal.
1991, Prometheus Books. Anthologies of articles from The Skeptical
F. & Eve, R., eds. Cult Archaeology and Creationism: Understanding
Pseudo-scientific Beliefs About the Past. 1995, U. of Iowa Press.
Essays about bizarre ideas in academia and in the media.
Terence Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, 2nd ed. 2003, Prometheus
Books. An overview of many topics, including astrology, UFO's,
ancient astronauts, and mass hysteria.
Paul, ed. Skeptical Odysseys. 2001, Prometheus Books. Essays
by leading skeptics.
Carl The Demon-Haunted World. 1995, Random House. Eloquent,
impassioned, informed analysis.
M. Why People Believe Weird Things. 1997, W. H. Freeman.
Heartfelt ode to skeptical thinking.
Gordon, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal. 1996, Prometheus
Books. Mammoth reference.
A. "Dealing with Astrology, UFOs, and Faces on Other Worlds:
Guide to Astronomical Pseudo-science in Classroom," Astronomy
Education Review, (2004): http://dx.doi.org/10.3847/AER2003022
for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI): Best site -- many articles from Skeptical
Inquirer, links, activities for young people, and much more.
Skeptic's Dictionary: An excellent source of brief reviews,
references, and links on dozens of areas of pseudo-science. Especially
good for beginners or students.
Bad Astronomy Site: Astronomer Phil Plait criticizes movies and
TV shows with bad science, and has several responses to pseudoscience.
Shaeffer's Debunker Pages: Has lots of good information on
UFO's and other pseudo-science. Some of the pages deal with
political issues, however.