Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 2, 2011

Planet X & 2012: The Myth of the Southern Approach


Introduction

To add yet another post to my lengthy series on the Planet X and/or 2012 phenomenon, I want to focus on one of the pervasive claims within the “Planet X is approaching but it’s a conspiracy and no one is allowed to know about it” community.

An aspect to the conspiracy theory is that Planet X is supposedly approaching from Earth’s south pole or “below the plane of the solar system.” Since “most of the telescopes” are in the northern hemisphere, no one in the northern hemisphere can see it, so astronomers aren’t really the bad guys – we’re just out of the loop, too.

The conspiracy goes on to claim there is a secret telescope that is built or is being built in Antarctica that is the only one that can see Planet X approaching. So, just some of the Privileged Few know about Planet X’s approach, they’re keeping it secret, and of course the Government is in on it.

In this post, I’m going to make short work of this claim and show why it is bunkum.

Your Horizon Line

Let’s assume that we have a fairly flat horizon. Most people probably have this if they walk outside. I don’t because I live a few miles from the Rocky Mountains. But let’s pretend that you’re walking outside now and you see a purely flat horizon. If you were to draw a line from due south to due north, that line would span 180° (half of a circle, which is 360°). That is important.

Now let’s say you are in the northern hemisphere, and your latitude happens to be 40° N. If you look straight up in the sky, astronomers would call that “latitude on the sky” (declination) 40° N. (Astronomers project Earth’s lines of latitude on the sky and we call them “declination.” Earth’s equator, 0° latitude, projected onto the sky is 0° declination.)

So if you’re looking straight up, you see declination 40° N. If you look due south on the horizon, that is going to be 1/4 of a circle, or 90° south of 40° N. Some quick math will tell you that if you project your southern horizon line onto the sky, that is 50° S. If you look due north, then we add 90° to 40°N. So 50° (we have 90-50=40° left to go) gets us to the North Celestial Pole (90° N), and then we go another 40° over the pole and we have declination 50° N on our northern horizon. This means that we can see the entire northern half of the sky from our location (from 0-90°), and we can see down to 50° S from our location.

Let’s take another position on Earth, say, the southern tip of Hawai’i, roughly 20° N. With our 180° field of view North-South, we can see down to 70° S declination and the entire northern hemisphere of the sky.

Now let’s place a telescope on the equator, 0° latitude. Your 180° field of view will show you the entire sky over the course of a few months, both north and south.

(Note: You can’t see the entire hemisphere of the sky at the same instant in time, you can only see half of it, unless you are on the north or south pole. You can see all of it over the course of a few months from your location as the sky appears to rotate above you.)

Why All the Math?

What I was trying to show you through some relatively straight-forward math and geometry is that the claim of, “Only a telescope at the south pole can see an object approaching from ‘below the plane of the solar system'” is completely wrong.

One needs only to be within a few degrees of the equator on Earth to see nearly the entire sky and any approaching object – be it from “above” or “below” the plane of the solar system.

There are professional optical telescope observatories scattered throughout the world. True, the majority are in the northern hemisphere in places such as Hawai’i (United States), Arizona (United States), or the Canary Islands (Spain). But there are also several world-class observatories in the southern hemisphere, not the least of which are the telescopes in Chile.

In fact, some telescopes were built with this in mind. The twin Gemini telescopes (appropriately named) are placed in Hawai’i and Chile for this very reason, and their site prominently states:

“The Gemini Observatory consists of twin 8.1-meter diameter optical/infrared telescopes located on two of the best observing sites on the planet. From their locations on mountains in Hawai’i and Chile, Gemini Observatory’s telescopes can collectively access the entire sky.”

Final Thoughts

This is not the most frequent claim made regarding the Planet X mythos that has been set up over the past few years, but it’s out there and I’ve heard it several times from different people. What the claim really boils down to is a complete lack of understanding of what you can see in the sky, coupled with conspiratorial thinking.

It’s unfortunate that this claim is out there because it is – quite frankly – silly when you really sit down to examine it. But, on the other hand, it’s easily shown to be wrong, which is always nice.

Oh, and that South Pole Telescope? It’s a radio telescope, so it wouldn’t be able to “see” Planet X approaching anyway.

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!

November 6, 2010

Planet X and 2012: My Posts So Far


Introduction

In roughly 19 hours, I will be interviewed on the radio program “Amerika Now.” It is a four-hour (~2 hr 45 min without commercials) radio program broadcast from Fort Collins, Colorado, and I will be “live” in-studio. It will be from 10:00 PM through 2:00 AM Saturday into Sunday evening/morning Eastern Daylight Time for the US (8:00 PM Saturday – 12:00 AM MDT, my local time). It is a call-in program (1-800-259-5791). One can listen to it live on the radio, streamed over the internet, or you can download individual hours of it from this page after it has been aired (I don’t know how soon, though it shouldn’t be more than a day or two).

Interview Topic

The episode is going to focus on the “popular” 2012 phenomenon. As such, I thought it was high time I did another listing of all relevant 2012 posts I have made on this blog:

I have also written a few posts that are tangentially related to the 2012 subject:

I will likely be referring to these during the program. For example, I may, after describing what the sky looks like on December 21, 2012, and that there’s no galactic center alignment, say, “And if you go to my blog, linked from this show’s website, you can go to my post “Planet X and 2012: What The Sky Looks Like On December 21, 2012,” and click on the image and see a star chart of what it looks like rather than going off my verbal description.” Hopefully I’ll be that cogent when actually on the air in the late evening hours (he says, writing this at 1 AM).

Full Disclosure

No, I’m not talking about the government “coming clean on UFOs.” I want to put this in writing, up front, for anyone who may ask, imply, infer, or conspiracize:

1. I am technically a government employee because (a) I am a graduate student on a stipend at a state school in the U.S. that receives state and federal money, and (b) the grant from which I draw salary is funded by NASA. However, I am further removed from being “in” the government than a person behind the counter at the post office. The only thing I have been told I am not allowed to talk about is space mission specifics to foreigners. Since I do not work on any missions, that does not apply to me in any way. I’m about as much a government employee as a bus driver (if the bus company is not privately owned).

2. I do not claim in any way to represent the University of Colorado, the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences department, nor the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. No, I was not told I had to say this, I’m just saying it because I find it humorous when other people do and wanted the opportunity to say it myself.

3. There is no spot on my tax form for “secret government hush money.” If I were being paid to “keep quiet,” I would live in a nicer apartment and drive a better car. And my car would have less dings in it. And I would have a nicer couch rather than a decades-old one I inherited from another grad student. And I would’ve bought Honey Maid graham crackers at the grocery store on Monday instead of Kroger (store) brand.

4. I am not trying to sell anything. I have no books out, no e-books out, no websites with advertisements that give me money, and no movies/films/etc. If you want to be very peripheral, I am trying to excite and keep public interest in astronomy because – let’s face it – astronomy research is mostly paid with federal money which is subject to you, the voters.

5. My goal in doing this is solely to help promote the public understanding of science with a hope that it may also assuage some fear related to 2012: How science works, how science is done, and specifically how it is not done. Depending upon the questions during the program, I may or may not be directly talking about this subject, and I may or may not also address the limitations of science (some 2012 beliefs are purely metaphysical and cannot possibly be addressed by the methodologies of science — and this has always been my position).

Final Thoughts

The radio show is described as: “Amerika Now’s refreshing and provocative discussions take both a serious and ‘tongue-in-cheek’ look at the headlines of the day as well as regularly featuring top-name guests in the fields of politics and political cover-ups, spirituality and philosophy, economics, science and global environmental issues, the paranormal, and other topics of keen interest to the listeners.”

From the episodes I have listened to, it seems much like a smaller version of Coast to Coast AM, for the topics generally trend towards paranormal, spiritual / intention, alt med, and sometimes conspiracy theories. The hosts are friendly towards these topics.

I expect that the interview will be interesting, and I think it will be a learning experience for all involved (I’m including myself in that!). I have never done an interview for – for lack of a better short, encompassing term – a “pro-alternative” program. My lectures and shows in the past have always been for the general public or skeptics groups, and my interviews other than newspapers have been for skeptical podcasts or radio shows (I have those as plural, but I’ve only been interviewed for one podcast and one radio show, though multiple episodes of each … though I should be in a video podcast episode that’s due out in a month or so).

I hope the program goes well and is interesting. I encourage you to listen to it … at least at the moment. That may change afterwards (I always have a hard time listening to myself do an interview). 🙂

October 31, 2010

Planet X and 2012: When Is “2012,” Anyway?


Introduction

I was gone for over a week, without much e-mail contact nor modern things like air conditioning or heat. Which would have come in handy in sub-40° temperatures sleeping in a tent. During that week, it came to my attention afterwards that a chapter in a new book by Gerardo Aldana – an actual professor at a university (of California) as opposed to an “independent amateur scientist” – casts doubt on the alignment between the Gregorian calendar and the Mayan Long Count calendar.

What does this mean? “2012” doomsday via the Mayans may have happened up to 100 years ago. Interesting … we’re all still here.

Background

As I explained nearly two years ago in my “Primer on the Mayan Calendar,”, we don’t know for sure when the Mayan Long Count calendar started relative to the calendar that most of the world uses today. The very basic way these two calendars are lined up is based on the timing of known events that were recorded in both, and then counting the years forwards or backwards.

For example, if I say that today is October 31, 2010, on the Gregorian calendar, how would you know what day it is on the Hebrew calendar if you didn’t have someone keeping track? Let’s say that, also, American independence was recorded on the Gregorian calendar (it wasn’t, it was Julian, but let’s just be nice) as July 4, 1776. It also happened to be recorded by a living Jew as 17 Tamuz, 5536. Now, you may not know what today is, but you can count the number of days since July 4, 1776, and get an idea what day today is on the Hebrew calendar.

Getting back to the issue at hand, the correlation to get December 20, 2012 = 12.19.19.17.19 on the Mayan long count was based on work done a few centuries ago based on colonial documents (1500s) written in both Mayan and the Latin alphabet. It was later bolstered by an American linguist and anthropologist, Floyd Lounsbury, who did work with a Mayan almanac that charted important celestial events of the planet Venus.

Current Work

The latest work is by Prof. Gerardo Aldana of the University of California – Santa Barbara, who is a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies. In his book, Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World, he casts doubt on the correlation with the Venus tables. If the Venus tables’ interpretation is not correct, then that casts serious doubt on the historic correlations, since those were always less certain than the astronomical data.

Unhappily for doomsday proponents, perhaps, Aldana does not provide a new correlation, but simply the incremental work suggesting the old one is wrong.

Final Thoughts: What This Means

As I did mention in my original post on the Mayan Calendar, and as I suggested above, doing this kind of work is very difficult. There are many assumptions that need to be made, and there is often conflicting data. Fellow blogger and my internet acquaintance Johan Normark writes more on this issue in his post, “2012: The Long Count may be off by at least 60 days,” and I highly recommend reading it as he actually studies the subject.

I should also emphasize that this is one person’s analysis, and it was published in the popular literature as opposed to scientific (though in archaeology, the standards may be a bit different than in “hard sciences,” and I am led to understand from Johan’s post that he has been publishing this idea for a few years). Regardless, I am always wary of a single person’s analysis, and one should always withhold judgement until the other experts in the field can weigh in on it (even if it supports your own conclusions!). However, this is another piece that does add to the idea that the December 21, 2012 = 13.0.0.0.0 may not be the correct alignment.

I have already shown that all of the major physical claims of doomsday proponents will not be happening around that time, and this is a nice addition to the story — that the supposed “triggering event” may not even be happening at the suggested time, either.

Will this change anything? Very very unlikely. I would be surprised if even one true believer were swayed by this new analysis. Fence-sitters, perhaps, but people who are invested in this idea will not change. After all, many still cling to the idea that a solar event will happen in 2012 because about 8 years ago, that was when it was predicted the height of solar activity would be in the next sunspot cycle. But forecasts for the last three years by the same people have shown that the height of solar activity will be in 2013 to 2014 instead … and yet out of the hundreds of people I’ve listened to spout doomsday ideas, only one has actually incorporated this new data into it.

July 19, 2010

Upcoming Public Talk on 2012 Doomsday – Fiske Planetarium, CU-Boulder, Colorado


I rarely do plugs on my blog, but this one has two parts to it so I thought I’d go ahead. I’ll be doing a public lecture / planetarium show this Friday, July 23, starting at 8:00PM at Fiske Planetarium on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. The show will be about 2012 with the short title: “Doomsday 2012.” In the talk, I will be discussing:

  • History of the 2012 phenomenon.
  • Geographic Pole Shifts (and Planet X).
  • Magnetic Pole Shifts.
  • Galactic Alignments.
  • “Something” on the Sun.

Should be fun! The poster advertisement is shown in the image on the right. It was hastily put together by me after a misunderstanding today. I had seen a cool image that the planetarium was using to advertise the program, and I figured they had made their own poster, even though I had told them I wanted to make it (since, personally, I hadn’t been a fan of their posters in the past). Since I saw this image advertising the event on their website, I figured they had just forgotten. And also, I liked it, so I didn’t say anything.

I went to practice the talk today at the planetarium (and work out timing for various effects and use of the star projector) and noticed that the poster wasn’t hanging up. So I sent an e-mail asking about it and asking if I could have a copy for personal use. The reply came that they thought I was doing the poster. Sigh.

So I said that I was planning on it, saw they had one on the site, and assumed it was all done. Nope, that was just a small image they’d found online and was about 100×150 pixels … not quite the right size for a 20″x30″ poster. And their graphics guy was out until Wednesday.

So, I spent an hour this afternoon and came up with what you see. It’s not great, and it’s not as cool as the one they had found online, but it gets the message across.

Anyway, another reason (that second one I mentioned) for this post is that I had my fourth interview with a news paper in the last few years. The local newspaper, the Daily Camera contacted me last Friday and asked if they could interview me for a “5 Questions” column about the show. The reporter actually asked me 9 questions and chose the shortest 5 or so, leaving out a few that I thought were much more interesting, but that’s typical of news reporters. There are also two language issues I have with the introduction.

First, he calls me a “self-proclaimed skeptic” which to me sounds similar to a “self-proclaimed [insert topic of your choice].” I dunno, maybe I’m just being over-sensitive. The other is that he makes the ever-common mistake of referring to 2012 doomsday proposals as “theories” instead of “hypotheses” or really just “random nut-job suppositions.” Oh well.

The local skeptics group (Mile-High Skeptics) will be at the show and I’ll be joining them for drinks (FOOD) afterwards. So, if you’re in the area, come on by! I do have to mention that ticket prices are $6 for adults, $3.50 for children/seniors, and $5 for students with ID. Not that expensive, and – come on! – what else are you going to be doing on a Friday night?

June 2, 2010

Ah, the Joys of Stepping on Someone’s Toes: Terry Nazon Redux


Introduction

A few months ago, I wrote a 2-part post about the claims of astrologer Terry Nazon and her claims about 2012. I asked a fellow blogger (Johan), one who knows much more about archaeology than I, to do a third part for the series about her archaeology claims of the Mayans. He kindly obliged and you can read all three parts here: Part 1, part 2, and part 3.

I made a point that her many claims made on her website about the astronomy of 2012 were either (a) wrong, (b) meaningless, or (c) insignificant. Johan’s point in the third part was that her information about the Maya was (a) wrong and (b) reflected a fairly ethnocentric view on her part.

My point was to conclude that she (a) doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about from an astronomy nor archaeological point of view, and (b) if what she said could be shown to be so demonstrably wrong, why should someone pay her several hundred dollars for a phone call ($330 for an hour, or $75 for an e-mail reading)?

Edited to Add: On September 18, 2012, I got an e-mail from my thesis advisor and boss that Terry was planning on suing me for various things. I have updated this post accordingly, leaving the original language but making edits with strikes to indicate deletions and underlines to indicate additions. I also note that while I filed this under “scams,” this is my opinion based on her writings, it is not a statement of legal fact.

What’s Going On

Apparently rather than defending her claims, over the past 24 hours Johan and I have been receiving much spam and angry threats to both our blogs as well as through e-mail. The e-mails were almost certainly from Ms. Nazon, sent from the Comcast IP address 75.149.179.194 in Florida, the same as her area code on her website, and from her eponymous and Comcast-based e-mail address. The comments, attempted to be posted under various names, have also come from the same IP address.

It appears also as though she is now trying to pass herself off as me, posting under the name “astrostu206265” (the ID I happened to choose when I started this blog due to a sort of “inside number” to astronomers of 206265), e-mail address “astrostu206265@yahoo.com” (which to my knowledge does not exist), and of course that IP address (75.149.179.194). She (apparently) has tried to do this on my blog and she has done this on others. I got an e-mail from The Godless Monster blog writer asking if I made the post to their blog under that IP address with the message:

“You are all a bunch of anonymous cowards who hide behind anonymous names and @anywhere emails…no one will listen to anywhos @anywhere.com s
fakes. cowards and phonies who must not believe what they write because they are ashamed to put there name and face to it…stand up cowards and be counted.”

That’s the same message she that person with that IP and that e-mail tried to post to my blog, twice. And she that person with that IP and that e-mail posted it to the comments section of “New Discoveries and Comments About Creationism” where I happened to post a comment or two.

The purpose of this post is to let fellow bloggers know – if they happen to do a search for “astrostu206265” – what’s going on, and to block that IP address and similar messages if she that person with that IP and that e-mail moves computers.

Final Thoughts

I hadn’t really planned on making this whole thing public since I didn’t want to feed it, but I did want to make a quick public statement in an attempt to separate what she’s doing from my own actions. I’m in Colorado, my IP address starts with 67.161.x. Oh, and if anyone happens to know a way to have WordPress actually spoof my handle (astrostu206265) and make it appear as my actual name, let me know, ’cause I’ve been looking for that for awhile I’ve changed my handle here so WP displays it as my name.

I also noticed that, throughout this, she still has the wrong information (and type-os) on her website. And in case she does end up fixing it, I saved a copy of the page like all the sites I talk about as evidence that I wasn’t trying to make straw man arguments. She’s also still claiming that she is, “Terry Nazon, World Famous Celebrity Astrologer.” Interesting way for one of that status to act, assuming it was her.

April 11, 2010

What Happens When All the Planets Line Up Against Us?


Introduction

This is a claim that has persisted for a long time, and though people who believe in the 2012 stuff have propagated it, it is not specifically a Planet X / 2012 claim: If all the planets (plus our moon) lined up opposite the sun, they would pull us out of orbit. As the “lolcatz” say, “Oh noez!”

Gravity

The force felt by an object due to gravity is a very simple mathematical function, codified by Newton’s Universal Law of Gravity:

In this equation, F is the force felt, G is the Gravitational Constant, M m are masses of the two objects in question, and r is the distance that separates them.

To figure out how much more or less two different objects will pull on the same object, we can simply remove one of the two masses, so the equation simplifies to F = G * m / r2.

The Math

To determine the relative forces, one simply needs to know the mass of the planets and sun, and the distances between Earth and those objects. This can be found in any basic astronomy textbook or online source. One then can simply plug in the numbers and figure out the forces.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the sun is on one side of this tug-of-war, and the moon, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and even Pluto are all on the other (Venus and the sun don’t count ’cause they would have to be on the sun’s side). Let’s calculate the force first due to the sun:

Object
Mass (1024 kg)
Distance from Sun (106 km)
Distance from Earth (106 km)
Relative Force
Sun 1,989,100 149.6 0.0059

Alright, now let’s do all the rest, remembering that for the planets, we’ll need to subtract out the distance between Earth and the sun from what are commonly quoted as the planets’ distances:

Object
Mass (1024 kg)
Distance from Sun (106 km)
Distance from Earth (106 km)
Relative Force
Moon 0.07349 0.3844 3.32·10-5
Mars 0.6419 227.9 78.32 6.98·10-9
Jupiter 1,899 778.6 629.0 3.20·10-7
Saturn 568.5 1434 1284 2.30·10-8
Uranus 86.83 2872 2723 7.82·10-10
Neptune 102.4 4495 4345 3.62·10-10
Pluto 0.00125 5906 5756 2.52·10-14
Ceres 0.00095 415 265.4 9.00·10-13

Final Thoughts

This is a really short post because it doesn’t need to be long. To be perfectly honest, I was actually surprised at how small the force of Jupiter actually is on Earth relative to the sun. If we add up the force from all of the other objects, we only get a force that is 0.566% as strong as the sun’s. And then if we take the moon out of the equation because that would be the first to move out of the alignment, then we have a force of only 0.000592% as strong as the sun’s.

If we look at Venus if it were also lined up, helping the sun, its force is 1.90·10-7, or about half as much as all the other planets (again, leaving out the moon), so it would cancel 54% of the effect of all those other objects (again leaving out the moon). The force from Mercury is only about 1/3 that of Mars.

So really, if anyone who makes this claim were to bother to spend about 10 minutes looking up the numbers and plugging them into an Excel equation (what I did), they would quickly see that this claim is simply and utterly nonsense. And this is besides the fact that the planets aren’t lining up any time soon on the other side of Earth to try to pull us out of orbit.

November 3, 2009

Planet X and 2012: Why Gilbert Eriksen’s “Wormwood” Won’t Be Showing Up


Introduction

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted more “research”-type information on the whole 2012 and Planet X nonsense that abounds upon the internet. I was looking through my notes and came across some notes I made while listening to the June 29, 2009, episode of Coast to Coast AM that had an interview with Gilbert Eriksen.

Eriksen is big on Biblical prophecy (given the name he uses for Planet X, “Wormwood,” you could probably guess that). I will not be addressing his links to the Bible in this blog post as that is for someone else to do and is not the subject of this blog, nor is it my area of expertise. Rather, I will focus on the astronomy/geology/physics that he brought up in his interview on the radio show. If for some reason you are more interested in his work, you can visit his website, The Millennium Prophecy.

All posts in this series:

Eriksen’s Sense of Wormwood / Planet X

Eriksen claims several specific things about this object. First off is its orbit. During the second hour of the program, about 11 minutes in, he claims, “[The solstice] line is the line that Wormwood comes in on, arcs up over the sun, and goes back out on. It follows the solstice line produced.” About 12 minutes in, we also have, “Its transit time is about 1800 years … outbound … [so a round-trip of ~3600 years].”

Another area of interest for any astronomical body is its mass, which Eriksen says about 12 minutes into that second hour is “about 60 times Jupiter’s mass, it is about 1/17th of a solar mass.”

What about its diameter? “From the best that we can tell …, military sources, they think that it’s the size of Saturn, possibly as large as Jupiter.” (~12 min. in)

And what about the composition of this giant object? “[I]nstead of being a gas, it’s an iron-oxide [rust] ball – just a big giant iron ball. And it’s really heavy.” (~12 min. in)

But, this conflicts with what kind of object he claims it is: “Wormwood is a brown dwarf star, it is the sun’s binary companion.” (~12 min. in)

And, from what I can tell of his diagrams, he thinks that it is right now within the orbit of Jupiter.

Problems with this Basic Data

Let’s forego the very basic fact that if an object the size of Saturn or Jupiter were within the orbit of Jupiter that everyone on Earth would know about it. I’ve addressed this elsewhere. To be fair, though, he does claim that an amateur astronomer “can probably find it [Woormwood] now.” And it will be visible to any southern hemisphere observer. Of course, none have found it, which to any honest researcher would be a big clue that they should re-examine their hypothesis.

Let’s also forego the idea that an object with a 3600-year orbit in our solar system can’t work, either, as I’ve also already addressed that claim.

Rather, let’s look at his description of the object – a brown dwarf star, but also an object made of solid iron – and the size and mass.

Let’s get the math over with first. The density of pure water at room temperature at sea level on Earth is 1 gm/cm3 (this is by definition). The density of Jupiter is 1.33 times this. So it would sink. The density of Saturn is 0.69 times this, so it would float. Earth’s bulk average density of 5.52 gm/cm3.

Eriksen claims that his object is 60 times the mass of Jupiter. But its volume is somewhere between Saturn’s and Jupiter’s. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt in this calculation and say that it’s the volume of Jupiter. That would mean that the density of the object is 60×1.33 = 80. That’s right, 80 times the density of water. And yet, the density of iron is 7.85 times the density of water.

For comparison, the average density of the sun is 1.41 times that of water. Though, to be fair, the core is about 150-160x (depending upon what model you trust). But still, having such a high average density is an untenable situation. for an object with the features he claims.

Eriksen’s Claims of Activity

Besides the basic parameters of this object, part of the crux of his argument is that this Wormwood has active surface geology: “It’s probably volcanic. It throws massive amounts of iron oxide dust out, which are distributed through the inner node rings.” (~12 min. in)

And then we get to the real pseudo-science (as opposed to fake pseudo-science … or as opposed to what he claimed before) about 16 minutes into the second hour of the program:

What causes the grief is …this thing will spin, too. … This object has a very powerful baryonic field – you know, it has a lot of mass – and you spin it, it develops a node ring or ‘distortion field’ like a series of concentric hula hoops. These concentric hula hoops are then reflected back from the dark matter / dark energy of space (the dark soup, you know), and what you end up with are these concentric rings. Where those rings are around the sun, that’s where the planets orbit. Where the rings are around the Earth, that’s where the moons are. The same thing for Jupiter, Saturn. … If you take a planet like Saturn and really rev it up fast … then the thing will not only generate node rings for moons, but rings for ice and junk and all sorts of stuff. And the Cassini space craft got some excellent pictures. … Each one of the rings are spinning at a different speed with the fastest ones on the inside and the slowest ones on the outside. So spinning bodies generate these gravitational distortions. … And that’s where the asteroids and the space junk orbits Woormwood.

Huh?

Let’s attempt to dissect what Eriksen is claiming in that long quote. He’s basically saying, (1) Objects that have mass and that spin will generate “concentric nodal gravitational rings;” (2) it’s on the sun’s rings that planets orbit, on the planets’ rings that moons orbit, etc.; (3) these rings are also duplicated and made more complicated via reflections off of dark matter and dark energy; and (4) it’s on these rings that space junk orbits and will cause destruction on Earth.

Let’s address the foundational claim, that of the very existence of these concentric rings. Now, I took 14 physics classes in my undergraduate career, and I took 10 astronomy classes. I don’t happen to remember any mention of such a thing as gravitational nodal rings. But, I did a quick Google search just to see if my memory was failing at my ripe young age of 20-something. A Google search of “gravitational nodal rings” turns up only references to 2012, Planet X, Wormwood, or the like. Now, I don’t mean to dismiss this out of hand on that evidence, I suppose it’s possible that such a thing exists (perhaps they are thinking of gravitational waves that are thrown off by very massive objects like colliding neutron stars or spinning black holes?). But, the fact that the only people who are talking about them on the whole of the internet are Planet Xers should tell you something.

So then why (2) do the planets and moons orbit where they do? Because it’s where they happened to have formed or evolved into a resonance with another object. For example, three of the four main moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, and Ganymede – orbit in a 4:2:1 resonance meaning that for one full orbit of Ganymede around Jupiter, Europa orbits twice, and Io orbits four times. The system probably didn’t form that way, in fact there’s evidence that Ganymede didn’t make it into that resonance until about 1-2 billion years ago, but it has nothing to do with gravitational nodes or rings.

As for (3), Eriksen is throwing out scientific-sounding terms when he has no idea what he’s talking about. Dark energy has to do with the expansion of the universe and is not something tangible that something can reflect off. Dark matter is non-baryonic material (you are made up of baryonic material) that we can only detect via its gravitational effects … again, not something that a mystical gravitational node ring could reflect off.

Since I’ve effectively explained why 1-3 are ridiculous, I really think we can eliminate (4) as there’s no longer anything to base it off.

What Destruction Does Eriksen Claim?

Like any good doomsday-sayer, Gilbert Eriksen of course makes specific claims of how this is going to destroy Earth. He has 6 specific claims that he makes during the second hour of the radio show, between about 18 minutes and 25 minutes. The first is taken as a quote from the radio show, while 2-6 are quotes from his website:

  1. “Number 1, a great earthquake. this is where the node rings of Woormwood take ahold of the Earth and just shake the livin’ liver out of it. … I think the first [earthquake] was the [December 25/26, 2004] tsunami, and that grabbed ahold of the plates down there.”
  2. “We get volcanic activity at tectonic plate edges … rims of fire that eject high tonnages of ash plume into the upper atmosphere that block out the sun light over large areas of the earth.”
  3. “Wormwood throws large tonnages of iron oxide dust and debris between the Earth and the moon or into Earth’s atmosphere. When we look through the veil of iron oxide dust, the moon takes on a blood red color.”
  4. “Wormwood throws asteroids and various forms of space junk into Earth’s atmosphere that impact on the surface as meteorites. Expect some severe tsunami events if there are impact pieces landing in the ocean that are of significant size.”
  5. “At least one of the volcanic eruptions will be a large pyroclastic explosion … a volcanic cone that will “blow its top” like Mt. St Helens in May, 1980. The blast concussion feels like the sky is ‘splitting apart’ anywhere within sound range of the cone. The curling action of the mushroom cloud when viewed from below looks like a scroll when it is allowed to spring back into the rolled up position.”
  6. “Tectonic shifting from the Wormwood node ring earthquake will shift the mountains and islands into different places. Displacements may be measured in tens or hundreds of feet of difference but the shifts will be measureable [sic] with modern surveying equipment. Again, with major earthquake activity and island movements expect severe tsunami events to follow for various coastal cities.”

For good measure, at 29 minutes into the program, he also states, “It can reach right through the Earth … and pull a continent down under the waves on one side of the Earth and pull a continent up out of the waves on the other side of the Earth and do it in 20 minutes. Does Atlantis ring a bell? What about Lemuria? There’s a very good chance you’ll see Atlantis rising in 2012 – that’s Woormwood talking.”

Are We Going to See This Destruction?

In a word, “no.” First, #1, 2, 4, and 5 are very general claims. Earthquakes happen. Space junk falls to Earth and we see meteorites landing on a daily basis. And volcanos also blow their tops. It just happens.

#3 won’t happen because in the previous section I explained his entire mechanism is fallacious, which then also applies to why #6 will not happen. As for Atlantis? I’ve addressed Atlantis before, too.

Final Thoughts

Gilbert Eriksen is another doomsday proponent with a Biblical twist that has a book to sell for $16.95, people to scare, but nothing to back him up except a lot of misunderstood terms at best and outright deceit at worst. He has no training in relevant physics, astronomy, nor geology fields, but rather is a “psychologist, linguist, and former helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War.”

What’s strange about him is that he makes specific predictions that are demonstrably false, some now (such as the visibility of this object), and some in the very near future (claiming, for example at 15 minutes into the interview, that in “May/June/July [of 2010] … it’s gonna get close enough to exchange atmospheric gases with the Earth”).

October 11, 2009

Planet X and 2012: “Even the Maya Are Getting Sick of 2012 Hype”


Introduction

Despite “finishing” my series on Planet X and 2012 over 6 months ago, new news stories and questions and interviews on Coast to Coast AM keep rolling in. The news stories are at least half-way decent, and a friend sent me the one I’m addressing today, “Even the Maya are getting sick of 2012 hype: Apocalypse Next? Experts trace fears to modern, not ancient sources.”

All posts in this series:

The Good

Most of this article is very good. I’m quite impressed with AP reporter Mark Stevenson. Well over 70% of the article is dedicated to pointing out the false prophecies and foolishness related to 2012 doomsday, and nearly half of it is dedicated to actually getting the point of view of a real live Mayan. I know — getting the opinion of someone who actually follows the religion/culture that you consider yourself an expert in … who’d’ve thunk it?

The Bad

The article does make one major mistake, though: “Once every 25,800 years, the sun lines up with the center of our Milky Way galaxy on a winter solstice, the sun’s lowest point in the horizon. That will happen on Dec. 21, 2012, when the sun appears to rise in the same spot where the bright center of galaxy sets.”

As explained in my post, Planet X and 2012: What The Sky Looks Like On December 21, 2012, there is NO ALIGNMENT WITH THE CENTER OF THE GALAXY.

The sun will lie very close to the galactic equator on the winter solstice in 2012, but the actual alignment with the equator was in 1998, and the sun at no time gets anywhere near the galactic center, AKA core. And, even if it did, an alignment means pretty much nothing. This is like saying that when I close one eye and move my finger in front of it to block out a very distant street light, or building, that suddenly disaster is going to strike me or my eye and I’m going to ¡poof! disappear, suffer a pole shift, die, or something else. In other words, even if the sun DID align with the galactic center, nothing would happen.

Oh, and for completeness’ sake, I feel as though I should also point out that the sun does align with the galactic plane 2 times every year. Perfectly aligned. Twice. Every year.

Conclusions

I suppose you may sense a bit of sarcasm in this post. Well, it being my first after coming off of a posting hiatus, me still being busy, and being a tad annoyed at all the 2012 hype that’s sure to reach a frenzy next month when the eponymous movie comes out, well, can you blame me?

September 7, 2009

Planet X and 2012: The “Institute for Human Continuity” Is NOT REAL


Introduction

I know I said I wouldn’t be doing another post until around October, but this is just really ticking me off, so I need to post about it. For those who don’t know, I listen to Coast to Coast AM, a paranormal radio show that lasts 4 hrs, in order to get ideas for blog posts. But now, people are calling into the show convinced that a movie promo is a real thing, and they’re getting worried. To me, this is incredibly irresponsible, so let’s talk about it.

All posts in this series:

The “Institute for Human Continuity”

I liked the movie Independence Day. I thought it was good, and I could suspend enough disbelief to enjoy it. But, the director, Roland Emmerich, has not followed up with movies that are as good. First there was Godzilla that got panned by the critics. And there was Day After Tomorrow. Now, there’s the 2012 movie due out this Fall (2009). Once again, he gets to destroy the White House, this time with CGI instead of models.

What does this have to do with the “Institute for Human Continuity?” Well, several months ago, an innocuous website appeared for them. They claimed that they’d been tracking Planet X for years, it’s going to cause all sorts of havoc on Earth when it comes by (in 2012), and that they’re running a lottery for people for spots in their safehouse.

It is a very slick website, and right at the top is a “REGISTER NOW FOR SURVIVAL LOTTERY.” It has movies of destruction, apparent doctors (Ph.D.s) who backup their claims and are involved in their project, a poll of “Which disaster scenario do you think will happen in 2012?” with “Planet X,” “Crustal Displacement,” and “Solar Activity” as the options (as of writing this), and for all intents and purposes it looks VERY convincing.

The only problem is that it’s all fake.

At the time it came up, there was NO disclaimer on the website. The only sign that it may be publicity for a movie was the little © 2009 Sony Pictures at the bottom of the website. In my righteous outrage, I sent them an e-mail saying that I thought it was irresponsible advertising to frighten people with such a website without a disclaimer.

Since then – I doubt it was due to my unanswered e-mail, but perhaps due to their own lawyers – they have made it a little more obvious that the site is to promote the 2012 movie. Unfortunately, that amounts to a small text at the bottom that states, “Explore the 2012 Movie Experience.” I searched their site for several minutes, and that was all I could find.

Irresponsible Advertising and Fear-Mongering

And it’s scaring people. “My daughter and I just saw a commercial for it on the History Channel and there was no indication that it’s fake. It must be real.” That was what a recent caller into the Coast to Coast AM episode I was listening just said. Others are just as convinced it’s real.

In my opinion, this is incredibly irresponsible advertising. But that’s really for a lawyer to decide. It’s using a popular myth and drumming it up, playing off of it in order to create more interest for their upcoming movie.

Final Thoughts

You may disagree with me. You may think I’m over-reacting to something that should – to any reasonable person – obviously be taken as a movie promo.

But it’s not being seen as that. People think it’s real because the popular culture thinks the end of the world is coming on December 21, 2012, and this only adds to that. Sony Pictures has not made it sufficiently clear that this is just a fake site in order to create interest in their movie. There comes a point where there’s personal responsibility for people viewing things on TV and the internet, but there also comes a point where corporations should be responsible for the fear they create.

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