Exposing PseudoAstronomy

January 21, 2011

Planet X and 2012: Sun Returns to Greenland … Two Days Early!? And a Major Fail by Time Magazine


This is a very quick post so I’ll dispense with the normal subject headings. A few days ago, Canadian host Karl Mamer of The Conspiracy Skeptic podcast pointed me to a page describing the sun returning to Greenalnd – specifically Ilulissat – two days before normal (January 11 instead of January 13). The most plausible explanation is melting ice decreasing and changing the horizon. But that didn’t stop 2012 doomsday folks from saying it’s a pole shift and all that nonsense in the comments page.

I wasn’t going to post about this until I saw this story on Time‘s website. Zoe Fox’s article has to be one of the absolute worst ones I’ve read on their site in years.

The third paragraph states: “While scientists are yet to agree upon an explanation, ideas are circulating, such as the impending 2012 leap year and the changes in the constellations.”

Changing constellations!? What!? Constellations have nothing to do with what day of the year the sun rises, and they don’t affect Earth in any way, shape, nor form (unless you’re an astrologer, but then I’ve talked about that before). And of course, a coming leap year would also have absolutely nothing to do with the sun rising two days earlier from one year to the next. I’d like to know what “scientists” Zoe Fox interviewed to come to this wacked-out statement.

The next paragraph actually does state the likely cause: “Perhaps the most convincing explanation is Greenland’s melting polar ice caps. The average annual temperature in Greenland was three degrees Celcius higher in 2010 than average. As the ice caps melt, the horizon line sinks, potentially paving the way for an earlier sunrise.” Although Zoe is apparently too busy to use spell-check … it’s “Celsius,” Zoe, not “Celcius.”

Absolutely horrible article on a well-respected news site/magazine.

January 12, 2011

Picking Apart Astrology Methods: 2011 Astrology Predictions from Terry Nazon


Introduction

Ever since I started to write a series of posts (part 1 here) on 2012 claims of “Terry Nazon World Famous Celebrity Astrologer,” and then getting threatened by her (is that some rite of passage for a modern skeptic?), I’ve followed Ms. Nazon on and off.

With my recent post on looking over the 2010 “psychic” predictions made on a popular late-night radio program, I thought that for 2011 I would take a look at some sources other than just who happens to phone in to Coast to Coast.

Astrologic “Predictions”

It’s actually very difficult to look at astrologic predictions and to score them later on for accuracy. It’s really quite difficult to do that with the professional alleged psychics because they know to couch their claims in vague language (a great example being claimed “clairvoyant medium” Christian von Lahr who for 2010 predicted something really big with one of Obama’s daughters involving the letters “P,” “I,” “N,” and “K;” he noted that the letters may have spiritual meaning instead or be turned, like the “P” into a “b,” “d,” “6,” or “9,” or it could also look like a bed or a wheelbarrow … is that vague enough for you?). But I have found that astrologers are particularly bad – or good, depending on your point of view – at doing this.

So I’m not going to really use Ms. Nazon’s “forecast” for 2011 as something I’m going to score at the end of the year. Rather, I’m going to use it to point out (a) why Ms. Nazon still hasn’t a clue about astronomy nor grammar, and (b) how she uses such vague language and escape clauses so that almost anything would be considered a “hit” rather than a “miss.”

Everything discussed here is based on her “Year Ahead 2011 Forecast” as it appeared on January 11, 2011 (and Terry, if you change it, I have a saved copy).

First, the Astronomy

There is really very little astronomy in this forecast other than the common astrological nonsense about houses and having all the planets in the wrong place in the sky.

But in her next-to-last paragraph, Ms. Nazon claims, “Neptune takes about 172 years to complete its transit around the zodiac.”

In common terms, the “zodiac” is basically a line through the middle of the entire sky. In other words, she is stating that Neptune takes 172 years to orbit the sun. My question for her: Terry, how lazy are you? Seriously? The simplest of Google or Wikipedia search tells you that Neptune’s orbital period – its year – is 164.79 Earth years, or rounded to 165. Any astronomy textbook that wasn’t written before 1846 will tell you that, as well, unless it was written by someone who was illiterate. Where the heck do you get “172?!”

Vague Forecasts

Now that I got that out of my system, let’s look at the anatomy of her forecasts.

Part 1: Say something about planets that physically means nothing. “As 2011 begins Jupiter the expansive planet and Uranus the anything goes planet finish their transit through the last sign of the experiential zodiac wheel of life, Pisces.”

Part 2: Say that you (the astrologer) are an interpreter and are reading these signs. “This tells us that how we end things is as important as how we begin things.” Or, “It’s an astrologer’s job to translate what the cosmic consciousness is telling us through the planets.”

Part 3, version 1: Say something vague that will apply to 99% of your audience and that usually will require a precondition to be met that will lead 99% of that 1% that it didn’t apply to to that conclusion anyway. “When minds are focused on everything bad that is happening around us and to those we care about, we naturally fear the worst.” Or, “we are all ending some phase of our lives. No matter where you are in life, starting high school, starting college, beginning your careers, families, winding down your role as a parent or embarking on your retirement, it now is more significant than ever.”

Part 4, version 1: Don’t say what to do, give your client an “if” statement that almost always results in the desired conclusion. “How you end things is very important at this particular time. … So take some time and don’t leave things unfinished, clean your life and your house; don’t carry burdens, fights and garbage into 2011.”

Part 3, version 2: State what happened in the past when Part 1 happened. This makes it seem like you are actually giving a forecast. “Many of these transits, Uranus in Aries, Neptune in Pisces and Pluto in Capricorn have historically triggered major collapses of regimes, governments and economies when things have become too corrupt.” Or, “Could it be a massive volcanic eruption or a meteor hitting the earth ….”

Part 4, version 2: State that that may happen again, but it may not (the escape clause). “Not always though…as I have said before”this isn’t Granny’s depression and we aren’t like our granny’s at all”.” Or, continuing the second example from #3 v2, “… it could but historically it was just the uprising of people taking back their power.”

What it all boils down to is that there is nothing actually predicted here. If any single thing in your life vaguely relates to anything she said – and unless you live in a plastic bubble and don’t move for a year, it will – then it will end up validating something that she wrote because it’s just so vague. No where did she say, “On June 14, 2011, a bridge in San Diego will collapse.” Or, “2011 will have a record-breaking number of tornadoes across the US.”

Nor even did she give a vague “typical psychic” prediction that can be retrodicted to normal events, such as, “There will be a nuclear problem in 2011″ (this could be retrodicted to fit a nuclear bomb, nuclear testing, nuclear-powered vehicles having some sort of problem, an alarm in a nuclear testing facility … you get the idea).

Instead, she says, “The 12th house rules karma. It’s the culmination of experiences and the final test. We’ve been here before, we all know what to do.”

I’ve gotten better predictions in a fortune cookie. And at least with fortune cookies you get to add “in bed” to the end.

And Then There’s the Grammar

I don’t know why it bugs me so much, but Ms. Nazon’s atrocious grammar makes her horrible forecasts and understanding of astronomy and archaeology even worse. Take this gem: “Not always though…as I have said before”this isn’t Granny’s depression and we aren’t like our granny’s at all”.”

First, she misses the space between “before” and the quote. Then she has an apostrophe (possessive) after the second “granny” even though it should not be possessive. Third, she puts the period punctuation outside of the quotation mark (declarative punctuation goes inside). Fourth, she misses the comma joining two sentences with a conjunction (there should be a comma after “depression” since “this isn’t Granny’s depression” and “we aren’t like our granny’s at all” are both complete sentences, and they are joined by the “and”).

Another example is she starts her second paragraph with, “As 2011 begins Jupiter the expansive planet and Uranus the anything goes planet finish their transit through the last sign of the experiential zodiac wheel of life, Pisces.” You may need to read that again. It took me three reads before I could figure out what she was trying to say.

Let me count the mistakes: 1. “As 2011 begins” is an appositive and a comma belongs after it. 2. “The expansive planet” is a description of the noun just used (Jupiter) and should be bound by commas. 3. Similarly, “the anything goes planet” should be bound by commas. Three in one sentence.

Final Thoughts

All this from “Terry Nazon World Famous Celebrity Astrologer” who charges now $99.00 for 15 minutes on the phone, $100.00 for an “E-Reading” via e-mail, and up to $365.20 for a full hour on the phone. Her prices have gone up since I last looked.

Oh, and I do apologize if this came off as a bit more ranty than usual. It’s late night here and my tongue is still partly numb after needing eight injections to go numb enough for a simple cavity filling yesterday.

January 5, 2011

The Year Ahead for This Blog

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Stuart Robbins @ 3:48 pm

The purpose of this post is more logistical than anything. Last year, I had about 50 posts, which somehow averages to just under 1 per week, despite going for great stretches of time without writing. This year, at least for the next three full months, you can expect very little in terms of new posts. I am in the final stretch for my doctoral dissertation, with a deadline for the graduate school for a spring graduation of April 8 for my defense.

So with my defense scheduled at 11:30 PM on April 8 (just kidding), I have a fairly aggressive workload ahead of me. And if I’m going to be writing, it should be my dissertation (or papers that will comprise my dissertation). If for some odd reason you’re interested in what I do, feel free to visit my personal site.

I will still make the occasional post if I hear something particularly outlandish on Coast to Coast or read it in AiG, ICR, or CMI. Or if someone contacts me with specific requests that I want to honor (such as last autumn with the Power|Force bracelets). As I posted a few months ago, I recommend just leaving my RSS feed in your reader and that’ll pick up the odd posts here and there.

After April, I do hope to get back to a more regular schedule of posting, or at least a higher frequency of posts. To those who think I’ve forgotten, I haven’t: I still plan to do a post on why black holes exist, the difference between magnetic excursions and pole flips, looking into the claims that God is a voltage and energy and so the Devil is matter, and dissecting Jason Lisle’s “Taking Back Astronomy” book — all posts that I’ve promised now, some for over a year. I also have some other topics I plan to get into that I think will be interesting, such as do the Giza pyramids (three main ones) really align with the Orion belt stars, and whether or not there’s such a thing as lunar-induced lunacy.

And, based on the poll I posted on November 20, I will likely be writing a book of some sort related to 2012 astronomy claims. 90% of votes suggested I should do it, though the majority of responses seemed to indicate making it freely accessible if written would be best. I haven’t completely decided yet what’ll happen there – perhaps making a freely downloadable draft available with a for-pay formatted copy – but that decision assumes that it’s been written.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

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