Exposing PseudoAstronomy

November 20, 2010

Should I Write an “Astronomy of 2012” Book?


Introduction

It has been suggested to me by multiple people that I should write a book about the astronomy of 2012 and why nothing’s going to happen – at least not based on any of the proposed physical mechanisms by 2012ers. Both of those people like my blog and think that it’s a niche missing out there amidst the mountains of 2012 apocalypse books. Hence the poll.

Responding

Please vote in the poll. I have never done a poll on WordPress before, and after reading that it was made through PollDaddy and that their free account limits it to 100 votes per month … if you can’t seem to vote, then please put your vote in the comments.

Commenting

If you have any comments that go beyond the simple poll, please feel free to make them. To give you an idea of what I am planning, it would be relatively short, having a first chapter going through a brief intro of the phenomenon, and then right in chapter 2 getting to planet x. Then pole shifts, galactic alignments, and solar storms. All of these topics I have written about on my blog before except for the solar one, though I have lectured about it in public talks.

Advice

I have never written a book before. If you think I should write one on this topic and you have experience doing so, please consider sending me relevant advice or put it in the comments. Especially if you have experience in the modern era of eBooks.

Additionally, in many of my posts, I talk about specific people’s claims, including quoting them. If you have legal experience that may be relevant, please e-mail me (as in, I don’t want to get sued if I put in print what Brent Miller said about the galactic “dark rift” on Coast to Coast).

Pricing

Finally, if you have suggestions on price, let me know. Besides ease of not going through a publishing company, I was thinking eBook because I could set the price low. Like $2.99 or something. I’m not really out here to make money on this (unlike many of the doomsdayers), but I do think that something nominal to cover time should be there.

Contacts

Again, if you happen to have gotten stuff similar to this published before, advice (comments here or e-mail) would be much appreciated. If you happen to be an editor or otherwise affiliated with a publishing company that you think would be interested in this, of course please e-mail me.

Final Thoughts

As always, I do actually read all comments posted, even if I don’t necessarily respond to every single one.

Thanks for the input!

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April 19, 2010

Planet X and 2012 and Astrology: Exploring the Claims of Astrologer Terry Nazon on 2012, Part 3


Introduction

Way back when, oh, about two months ago, I wrote a two-part series on astrologer Terry Nazon (part 1, part 2).

When I wrote the posts, I asked fellow blogger Johan Normark who writes the Archaeological Haecceities blog – and who has frequently written about 2012 and the Mayans – to do a guest post here. Johan is an archaeologist and so is much better-suited to address Ms. Nazon’s claims about Mayans. He was on travel at the time and said it would be a few months, but a few minutes ago I received word that he has written the post.

The post appears on his blog entitled, “Prophet of nonsense #12: Terry Nazon and ethnocentric astrology.” Johan has some interesting insights that I completely missed but agree with, especially in that Nazon is an obvious ethnocentrist. He has given me permission to copy it below, so the rest of this post is directly from his site:

Dr. Normark’s Post

While I was travelling in Thailand I got an email from Stuart Robbins who runs the blog Exposing Pseudoastronomy. He asked me to write a guest post on his blog as part 3 of his exposure of the astrologer Terry Nazon’s claims about the Maya. Part one and two are found at his website. I accepted the offer and I have just read what she has to say about the so-called Mayan prophecy of 2012. As you might expect from an astrologer, it is full of disinformation. Here follows some of it.

Puuc iconography

Her first claim is that “the ancient Maya were obsessed with watching the stars and making astrological predictions.” Obsessed is perhaps not the right word here. True, some Maya (a minority) were skilled sky watchers but they were far from obsessed, that is a word that better describe the 2012ers. Neither did they “go on the roofs at midnight, and through 2 crossed sticks X make their calculations. This symbol “X ” is found on many ancient Mayan buildings still, denoting places where the astrologers would go to watch the stars at night or early morning. “ This is her interpretation. First, they did not go on to the roofs of their buildings (this shows a lack of knowledge on how Maya buildings were designed). Few staircases lead up to the “roof”, maybe up to the top of a pyramid, but that is not the “roof”. Although “pecked crosses” were used for astronomical observations the symbol X she refers to on buildings is probably the common crosshatching we find on particularly Puuc architecture. This is believed to represent pop or the woven mat people sat on. It is a symbol of royalty in the Maya area. The four corners of a cross (such as the Kan cross) is otherwise a common theme in Maya iconography but it refers to the Maya cosmological model of a quadripartite cosmos with four corners and a center.

Next Nazon claims that the Maya astrologers “predicted the end to civilization as we know it in 2012, and their calendar actually ends on Dec. 21, 2012. According to others it’s Dec. 8, 2012.!”. No, they did not predict the end of civilization whatsoever and their calendar does not end in 2012. There are at least three inscriptions (at Yaxchilan, Tikal and Palenque) that indicate time periods in the distant future. She claims that “we know it has happened before in their Calendar long count on Aug. 12, 3114 B.C.” What has happened before? The end of civilization or their calendar? Neither option is applicable to the 3114 BC date. It concerns the beginning of the current Long Count but says nothing about the end of an earlier civilization. I have never seen the December 8 date before but it would not surprise me if such a correlation exists.

She speculates, like all other 2012ers, what this “end” means to us. Of course she brings up global warming (as if the Maya 2000 years ago knew that this problem would occur). As an astrologer she obviously focuses on the supposed alignments of planets that she believes will happen on December 21, 2012. However, if she had some critical thinking skills she would quickly see that such an alignment could not possibly occur on the alternative date she presents (December 8). One of these dates must be right but since such an alignment is nothing but pure fantasy in the first place I guess it does not really matter. In any case this alignment will change the seasons and “the length of months may change, years may change, and certain planetary cycles like Venus may change. Something new will have to replace the old calefndar [sic]”. Is it the Maya Long Count or our own calendar she talks about? We never see a reference to the Maya date of 13 Baktun, just the Gregorian date. It would have been illuminating if she had actually mentioned some of the logics behind the Maya Long Count. The Maya never predicted that a completely new calendar would replace the Long Count. It would simply go on and on and on.

More nonsense follows when she says that “The Mayans also correctly predicted the end of their own civilization. It ended when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded Mexico and South America, then fought bloody wars, killed or enslaved all the indigenous people. A clash of cultures ensued, and as the story goes the Mayans just disappeared.” How come roughly 7 million people today speak Maya languages and still have beliefs similar to those who lived before this conquest? They never predicted the end of their civilization and Nazon’s understanding of anthropology, archaeology, etc. is even shallower than her knowledge of astronomy. She is just as ethnocentric as the rest of the 2012ers. She also claims that “the Mayans were initially a very spiritual people, whose cities were settled and infiltrated by more warlike peoples. Eventually they gained power and created a warlike state. Through their spiritual rituals they got the spiritual message “sacrifice your Heart and your life” and well, they took it literally. In their use of ritualistic human sacrifice, they became entrenched in self mutilation, worshiping the dead, and all forms of ritualistic sacrifice.“ Well, this is the old idea that occupied some Mayanists 50 years ago. The warlike and more barbaric “Toltecs” were believed to have corrupted the peaceful and spiritual time worshipping Maya. It is completely outdated and simply reflects ethnocentrism again. Human sacrifice is found in the earliest Maya settlements as well, long before any “Mexicanization”. The Maya did not worship the “dead”. Their “religion” was that of ancestor veneration. Venerating ancestors is not synonymous with worshipping the dead.

There is even a supposed to be a “battle that brought down Chitzen Itza”. This “was started because a spanish conquistor [sic] soldier, stopped Mayan priests from brutally ripping the heart from the chest of a child.” One should perhaps know that by the time of the Spanish conquest Chichen Itza was mainly a pilgrimage site and it lacked political importance of its own. Chichen Itza’s political importance ended around 1050, fully 500 years before Nazon’s “battle”. What she refers to is a minor event but she has misinterpreted it as a Spanish conquest of Terminal Classic Chichen Itza.

More ethnocentric statements follows: “Looking at the planets in 2012 there is a very special alignment that occurs only every 26,000 years, and the outer planets and Venus will be making transits that in the past have lead to civil unrest. Remember 2012 is a US election year !” Of course, the whole Maya calendar was designed to end in a US election year. Once again the common theme among 2012ers is that the whole calendar is in fact related to USA and its evangelical believes in apocalypse and all sorts of related nonsense. I leave Nazon’s astrological interpretations that follow this statement to Stuart (he has already discussed them). I can only say that the Maya knew nothing of Uranus, Neptune or Pluto (and has not Pluto been ditched from the planet category?) Why not include some other dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt? Further, Nazon says that “we traditionally associate the planet Venus with love, marriage, harmony, beauty and luxury.” We? If she is talking about the Maya should she not say that the Maya associated Venus with danger and maybe warfare?

She claims that the Books of Chilam Balam refers to 2012. But “only very small references to 2012, are actually written down as so much of their written books were destroyed in an effort to purge the Mayans of their religious practices.” Not quite, The Books of Chilam Balam were written down at a later period (18th and 19th centuries) and they were written in Latin alphabet. Nazon confuses the 40 codices Diego de Landa and others burnt in 1562 with these books. She says that “there remains only one book on astrology by the Mayans, and one inscription that says during this Galactic Alignment of 2012, A God of War or a God of Creativity descends to the Earth. What we do know is that during every one of these transits sweeping social changes and social unrest has occured.” I am not sure which book she refers to but she believes the Books of Chilam Balam actually is just one book (but there are actually nine surviving manuscripts). If she believes it is a codex (which she never mentions in the text) there are four known codices. The inscription related to 2012 is the one at Tortuguero but it says nothing about a galactic alignment as this is a myth created by John Major Jenkins. She does not specify what transits have created sweeping social changes and social unrest. It would be nice to see some example.

I end with an astrologer’s dirtiest trick: to let the reader believe the predictions are related to him or her. Nazon says “it’s time to start thinking ahead as 2012 is only 3-4 years away! You were born for this moment in time!” Astrologists and other hoaxers try to fool you that you are chosen, there is no coincidence that you live right now. It can all be seen in the stars. Btw, did she predict my and Staurt’s critique? If so, should it not be found on her website? If she predicted it she could have corrected the information before we published our critique. I guess she didn’t. That makes me wonder how capable she is of predicting…

February 16, 2010

Planet X and 2012 and Astrology: Exploring the Claims of Astrologer Terry Nazon on 2012, Part 2


Introduction

This is Part 2 of my two-part series on the 2012 claims of astrologer Terry Nazon, found on her website, “The Mayan Prophecy of 2012,” which I found after seeing the Coast to Coast AM late-night George Noory -hosted radio show for February 15, 2010 on their “Astrology Special.”

Part 1 of this series dealt with Ms. Nazon’s specific numbered claims on that page on her website. This second part will focus on the claims she makes throughout the paragraphical text on the page.

Note: There will be a third part to this series, but it will not be posted for a few months. I have been in contact with Johan Normark, who writes the Archaeological Haecceities blog and he has agreed to write a guest post for me about Ms. Nazon’s claims of the Mayan culture, but he will not be able to do so for a few months.

The Galactic Center — of Our Universe?

“Let me introduce you to the Galactic Center of our universe, the Milky Way 27° Sagittarius. This is where all the creative energy of universe comes from. A Massive black hole, many times larger than our own Sun.”

After reading some of what Ms. Nazon has written, and especially going into her numbered claims as I did in Part 1 of this 2-part post, I would surmise that she knows very little astronomy. I would expect she knows some very basics, like what a planet is, what the ones in the solar system are, and some basics known to laypeople. However, she apparently does not know galactic structure nor the basics of the layout o the universe, as evidenced by the above quote.

In my first part of this series on Ms. Nazon, I very quickly brushed through celestial coordinate systems. I’ll go a bit more in-depth here because this post is MUCH shorter.

If you were to project Earth’s latitude system onto the sky, you get what astronomers refer to as “declination” which is abbreviated as “DEC.” It’s that simple. The North Celestial Pole, at +90 DEC, is very close to the star Polaris and is where Earth’s rotational axis would lie if it were to go on forever. 0° DEC is the celestial equator.

Longitude is a bit trickier. While there are technically 360° in any circle, astronomers divide the sky’s longitude into what’s known as “right ascension,” where the circle is divided into 24 hours (abbreviated “RA”). The reason for this is to make estimating when an object will be visible a little easier. For example, let’s say I’m out observing and Mars is at the 13 hr RA. But, at that time, only objects at 12 hr RA are above my eastern horizon. Then I know right away that in 1 hour on the clock, Mars will rise. This is easier than taking the degree difference and then dividing by 15 to get the time.

So through this system of DEC and RA (where RA rotates with Earth’s rotation), we have a celestial coordinate system so that any astronomer could go to another and say, “I got an e-mail this morning from someone who claims they see Planet X at DEC +34° 12′ 52″, RA 11 hr 53 min 33 sec. Can you check out those coordinates to confirm?”

That is how you use the coordinate system Stating, “Milky Way 27° Sagittarius” is fairly meaningless. However, because I am familiar with to what she is referring as well as these general claims, I will decipher the statement (after first explaining why it’s meaningless). First, because she states 27°, one could assume she is referring to DEC because there is no such thing as degrees in RA. Stating that something is at DEC 27° is like stating that a ship is at 27° latitude. Okay, latitude is nice … but I’m not about to search the entire circle of the globe at that latitude for the ship.

She narrows it down by saying Sagittarius. Unfortunately for Ms. Nazon, the northern-most part of Sagittarius lies just above the 12° mark. Southern-most is just below -45°. So, let’s assume she actually means -27° instead of 27°. Because it’s Sagittarius, we are limited to RA 17h45m to 20h30m.

From the context, she’s talking about the very center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced “A-star”), or Sag A* for short (us astronomers like abbr.). This object, which is a super-massive black hole, is located at the coordinates DEC -29° 0′ 27.9″, RA 17 hr 45 min 40.045 sec. So even if we flip the sign for Ms. Nazon, she’s still 2° off, though not that big of a deal – I may be nit-picking here.

The second main reason why this claim shows Ms. Nazon knows little about structure is that our galaxy’s core has nothing to do with the universe. The universe couldn’t care less where our galaxy is nor where its core may be located. A galaxy is a grouping of stars, gas, dust, and dark matter, bound by mutual gravity. The universe is – by definition – “everything.” To claim that our galaxy’s center is the “Galactic Center of our universe” simply makes Ms. Nazon sound ignorant about the basic astronomy.

Oh, as to the creative energy flowing from the galaxy’s center … I’m going to leave that alone. It’s not worth commenting on other than to make a vague reference to Star Trek: The Animated Series.

To Infinity and Beyond!

“Now the concept of infinity and time has intrigued mathematicians, scientists, physicists and philosophers for eons. It was profound and very spiritual. On the number line with the center being zero, zero is never reached. To think that you can go infinitely in one direction and infinitely in another is not only profound but, it’s the truth. If that’s the case then, when we die or end, and when we are born and begin, is infinity. It’s a continuum of time. Since there is no end on the other side of zero… it is where everything happens, but didn’t.

“Our Galactic center at 27* Sagittarius is a black Hole…Is this where we find infinity?”

If you can understand what Ms. Nazon is saying for the first part of this, I congratulate you and I request that you explain it to me in the Comments section of this post.

As for the last sentence, as I explained above, the galactic center is at a DEC -29°, not 27°, and I think she’s mixing up her symbols with Sag A* and the little degree sign (°) on her “27.”

While you may not consider this to be an important point, it does speak to her lack of familiarity with the topic, and hence should speak to whether or not you want to pay her nearly $330 an hour for a phone consultation.

Real Particle Baths?

“During the Solstices the Galactic Center bathes us in energy. Real particle energy! Protons and Neutrons the DNA material that sustains life on Earth.”

Interesting claim. But profoundly meaningless. First, the center of our galaxy is very roughly 30,000 light-years away. That means that the fastest thing we know of – light – would take 30,000 years to get to us from there. So, perhaps Ms. Nazon is claiming that the Milky Way’s black hole is constantly spewing out material and so that 30,000 light-year distance -> time delay doesn’t matter.

Now, by definition, a black hole cannot emit particles (let’s ignore Hawking Radiation for this discussion). However, material falling into the black hole does emit radiation, and this radiation and any particles can be accelerated to speeds very close to that of light. So in that sense, Ms. Nazon is correct.

But, it’s this whole alignment with the solstices that’s meaningless. By definition, the Winter Solstice happens when the sun is at exactly RA 18 hr, and the Summer Solstice happens when the sun is at exactly RA 6 hr. That’s actually how the RA system is set up, to line up with the solstices and equinoxes.

Granted, 17 hr 45 min 40.045 sec is not that far off from 18 hr 00 min 00.000 sec. But it’s not the same. And this is ignoring that it’s a few degrees off in DEC. So let’s say she’s right – on the Winter Solstice, this event for some reason happens because the sun is only about 14 min away from the galactic center. If that’s so, then why doesn’t this happen for the ~2-4 week period surrounding it? There are a few days around there when the sun is in closer alignment with the galactic center.

And then the same thing for the Summer Solstice, except why would this bathing event happen when the sun is in the opposite part of the sky?

And then, if you think about looking at the galaxy in a top-down way – say, a flat plate representing the galaxy and then a grain of sand representing our entire solar system – why would the orientation of that grain of sand relative to the center of the plate make any difference in the larger picture?

Final Thoughts, Part 2

This post is shorter than the first because there were much less astronomy-related specifics in it.

This post focused mainly on Ms. Nazon’s sketchy new-agey astronomy-sounding claims and why to anyone who studies astronomy they are fairly meaningless and demonstrably insignificant. If you doubt what I’ve written, I suggest you do a little independent reading on your own on astronomical coordinate systems, large-scale structure of the universe, and how an apparent alignment between two objects would have any bearing on anything. I invite you to post questions you may have in the Comments section for clarification.

And I would ask that – even if you don’t believe me completely – you consider the lack of knowledge that Ms. Nazon has demonstrated on her website before you fork over $64.00 for an “E-Reading via email,” or $74.85 for a 15-minute phone reading (or $329.95 for a 1-hour reading).

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