Exposing PseudoAstronomy

February 15, 2010

Planet X and 2012 and Astrology: Exploring the Claims of Astrologer Terry Nazon on 2012, Part 1


While I was supposed to be working today, I was looking at the upcoming Coast to Coast AM late-night George Noory -hosted radio show. Tonight, February 15, 2010, they’re having what has been termed an “Astrology Special” with three astrologers coming in. I went to each of their websites just to nose around, and I found a page on Terry Nazon’s site dedicated to “The Mayan Prophecy of 2012.”

I’m an astronomer. Astrology is to astronomy what alchemy is to chemistry (or, for those about to take the SATs: astrology:astronomy::alchemy:chemistry). And, I’ve written many, many posts on the non-event of Planet X and 2012 (Planet X, 2012, and Planet X and 2012 — yes, those are different). So, this particular woman has combined two things that I just couldn’t help myself to post a break-down.

To do this, I’m going to examine both her numbered claims (part 1 – long!) and then claims she makes in the expository text (part 2).

Note: Several times I link to a NASA website on eclipses in this post. Unfortunately, that server seems to be down as of the time I’m posting this. You can do a search on Google for it and find the cached version of the page in most cases, however.

Other Note: It appears as though Ms. Nazon was cancelled from the show before it went live on Feb. 15. I am not sure when this change happened, but it was no more than 2-3 days before the episode.

Numbered Claim 1

“On December 21, 2012 The Winter Solstice, the Earth and the Galactic Center align. The Galactic Center is also called the Milky Way. The Mayans called the Milky Way, The Sacred Tree, or the Great Mother. This alignment of the Earth and the Galactic Center only happens once every 26,000 years! The Galactic Center is at approximately 26°-27° Sagittarius.”

I’ve addressed this claim directly, twice, on my blog before both in my post “ Planet X and 2012: What The Sky Looks Like On December 21, 2012” and “ Planet X and 2012: The PseudoAstronomy (or Just Plain Wrong Astronomy) About a Galactic Alignment.”

In sum and substance, no, there is no alignment between Earth, the sun, and/or the galactic center in 2012, let alone on December 21, 2012. Now, there was an “alignment” between the sun and galactic equator on December 21, 1998. I personally don’t recall anything special then except maybe taking my last semester exam in 9th grade. For references on this, see the two posts above and/or any astronomy planetarium software.

As for where the galactic center is located on the sky, it is true that it is in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. It is located at the celestial coordinates 17 h 45m 40s RA, -29° 00′ 28.00″ DEC. So while she’s right about Sagittarius, she’s wrong about the galactic center’s location, off in declination (latitude on the sky) by the width of at least four sun / full moon diameters.

Numbered Claim 2

“Uranus squares Pluto at 7° – 8° of cardinal signs. This is the waxing square of the cycle that started in the mid 1960s, with the conjunction of these two planets in mid Virgo. December 21st, 2012 A.D., represents an extremely close conjunction of the Winter Solstice Sun with the crossing point of the Galactic Equator (Equator of the Milky Way) and the Ecliptic (path of the Sun), what that ancient Maya recognized as the Sacred Tree, or the Great Mother. This is an event that has been coming to resonance very slowly over thousands and thousands of years. It will come to resolution at exactly 11:11 am GMT.”

I find this claim interesting. I really can’t say anything about “Uranus squaring Pluto” as that has nothing to do with astronomy, but I find it interesting in that this claim directly backtracks from the previous! She’s changed “Galactic Center” to “Galactic Equator,” which is actually finally correct (almost). The problem with this is that which I pointed out above, and I invite you to go to the links to my previous posts on the alleged alignment.

Numbered Claim 3

“March 16th 2012, A lunar occultation of Pluto occurs today. This is the first anywhere on Earth since January 19th 1935. They will occur every month now from today upto [sic] August 17th 2013.”

Now is as good a time as any to point out that I’m just copying and pasting from Ms. Nazon’s website. If there are spelling mistakes, I am indicating that with the [sic] as is standard practice to indicate it is not a transcription error on my part.

Anyway, I looked into this. I’m not sure what software she’s using, but I was using Starry Night Pro. I started out in my default location of Boulder, CO (USA) and didn’t see any occultation. I then went to France, Iran, a few places in Russia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the UK, Benin, Egypt, Venezuela, China, Australia, Chile … the closest I saw any approach was about 15′ of Pluto to the moon. That means it misses it about a quarter of a lunar diameter, and that was from the Falkland Islands. Finally I tried the south pole, and pluto gets within 6′ of the moon (0.1°). Close, but no cigar.

As far as I can tell, this claim is simply false, unless someone can give me a different location where this happens. (Again, I did this via simulation in Starry Night Pro.)

Now, what’s cool is that after March, the occultations do actually start to take place as seen from Earth, about every 27 days or so after that. Those of us at my latitude in Boulder, CO won’t be able to see this until January 10, 2013, at about 6:30 PM, though at that time they’ll be about 11° away from the sun. And, the occultations will stop around the August 2013 timeframe for those of us in the higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere.

And then this did occur back in January 19, 1935, again from the South Pole, and it just missed occulting Pluto on February 15, 1935.

So while this claim is partly/mostly correct, I’m not sure what the significance is supposed to be. It’s not like it happens on December 21, 2012.

Numbered Claim 4

“May 11th 2012 Saturn conjunct Spica (2nd time) [sic]”

I’d like to see her work on this claim. I checked several locations around the globe for this date, and the closest Saturn gets to the star Spica is several degrees (around 4). With the full moon being 0.5° across, that’s 8 full moons away.

However, I spoke with a friend of mine who practices astrology (yes, I do have friends, and yes, some of them have beliefs outside of my own). According to her, astrologers consider anything within about 5° to be a “conjunction” which is “considered to be mutually enhancing.” So, under that definition, yes, this will be a conjunction.

However, even if it is true … so what? (a) This isn’t December 21, 2012, and (b) what does a conjunction between Saturn and a star as seen from Earth have to do with anything?

Numbered Claim 5

“May 20th 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse at zero degrees Gemini. Central eclipse 23:53 GMT. Eclipse visible from southern USA, central America, central equatorial south America and Africa.”

A solar eclipse is a “rare” and beautiful thing that I hope to observe in August 2017, when totality will be centered pretty much directly over my parents’ house. It’ll be a partial eclipse from Boulder, but it will be occurring right around sunset so I’m not actually sure if I’ll be able to see it (or if I’ll still be in Boulder at that time).

The only thing un-rare about an eclipse is that they generally happen twice a year. And an annular eclipse – where the moon doesn’t quite cover the entire solar disk so you have an “annulus” of sun around it – isn’t the neat kind where you actually get totality. You can go to NASA’s eclipse website to view the eclipses for many decades into the past and future, both solar and lunar.

So, yes, there will be an annular solar eclipse on May 20, 2012. This is not rare. And the time of greatest eclipse will occur at 23:53:53 GMT (so she’s a minute off, rounding, though that’s really nit-picking). And it will be visible from China, Japan, the Pacific, and western United States.

Otherwise, the where on the sky part of this eclipse is completely wrong. The sun and moon will lie within the constellation Taurus (the bull), with the sun at about 20° declination and about 4 hrs right ascension (see the diagram below from Starry Night Pro, location set to Boulder, CO). Far, far away from Gemini. In fact, it’s much closer to Aries than it is to Gemini. 0 RA is in the constellation Pisces … even farther from Gemini. I’m actually surprised that Ms. Nazon made a mistake this large unless she was using the wrong dates or just was making it up – about it being in Gemini. As for Gemini being at 0 RA, well, that just simply doesn’t happen and won’t for several thousand years.

Skychart on May 20, 2012 Showing Solar Eclipse

Skychart on May 20, 2012 Showing Solar Eclipse

Note on reading these images: First, you can click on any of the star chart images in this post for a much larger version. Second, a guide to reading these — Constellation names are in blue. Star names are in yellow. Solar system object names are in pale red. White outlines are constellation boundaries as defined by the International Astronomical Union nearly a century ago. Red grids are effectively the latitude/longitude system that we use in astronomy (declination (DEC) and right ascention (RA)). A green line is the line of the ecliptic – what the sun appears to trace out in the sky over the course of a year.

Numbered Claim 6

“June 4th 2012 Partial lunar eclipse at 15 degrees Sagittarius. Central eclipse 12:03 GMT [sic]”

We experience what are called “eclipse seasons” on Earth. This is when the nodes of when the moon crosses the celestial equator when it’s a new or full moon recur 1-2 times before they move away. In simpler terms, we only get an eclipse when the moon, Earth, and sun directly line up. Since the moon is on an inclined orbit, this only happens twice per orbit. And those locations (“nodes”) move around Earth. If we have a full moon when the moon is on a node, we get a lunar eclipse. If it’s a new moon, it’s a solar eclipse. And because it happens twice per orbit, then if you have one kind of eclipse, chances are very good that 2 weeks later, you’ll get the other kind.

That’s the case here, for June 4, 2012. And it will be a partial lunar eclipse – again, not the most interesting kind, and the time of greatest eclipse will be approximately 11:04:20 GMT (she was an hour off). But I’ll take this opportunity again to ask, “So what?”

The only thing wrong with this claim is that Ms. Nazon again gets the constellation wrong – the moon will be in the constellation Ophiuchus (which I think is the bane of astrologers since, because of precession, there are now 13 “sun signs,” but Western astrologers only recognize the original 12). The moon will be about 13° away from the edge of the constellation Sagittarius for this eclipse … that’s nearly 8% of the way across the visible sky at the time. Again, a fairly big miss for someone who studies the sky.

Skychart on June 04, 2012 Showing Lunar Eclipse

Skychart on June 04, 2012 Showing Lunar Eclipse

Numbered Claim 7

“June 6th 2012 Transit of Venus across the disc of the Sun.”

Now this is cool. Once every 122 years and then again 8 years later, the planet Venus transits across the disk of the sun as seen from Earth. Historically, this has been very important for astronomy because it was the only way to directly measure the size of the solar system and the distance between us and the sun. I invite you to read a bit more about it on Wikipedia if you’re interested.

Anyway, yes, this does happen, and will happen, though unfortunately it won’t be visible from most of the US as it happens from 22:09 June 5 through 4:49 June 6 (GMT). About the best place for this one will be Indonesia or Japan.

While this has historic significance for astronomy, though, I again fail to see the significance of it in foretelling, well, anything that is supposed to happen on December 21, 2012.

Numbered Claim 8

“June 11th 2012 Jupiter enters Gemini.”

If she’s right … So?

But yet again, Ms. Nizan is wrong. I’ll again direct you to any number of for-free or commercial planetarium sky programs and tell you to go to that date and look at where Gemini is and look at where Jupiter is. On June 11, 2012, Jupiter is clearly on the ARES side of Taurus, not anywhere near Gemini. Maybe she got her year wrong — Jupiter enters Gemini on June 27, 2013.

Skychart on June 11, 2012 Showing Jupiter's Location

Skychart on June 11, 2012 Showing Jupiter's Location

Also, Jupiter orbits the sun once every ~12 years or so. That means that about once a year, it moves into a new constellation. About once every 12 years, it repeats the cycle! Gasp!

Numbered Claim 9

“July 15th 2012 Lunar grazing occultation of Jupiter (visible from the UK with a clear horizon ) 02-00 [sic] GMT.”

This claim is true and pretty cool. The moon will occult Jupiter for several minutes at this time as seen from the UK. But it’s just as significant – and even more common – as the lunar occultation of the planet Saturn that was visible from the US and other parts of the world in 1997.

While in analyzing these claims so far I’ve concentrated on showing some of their flaws, I will yet again ask: So what? What does an apparent alignment from an insignificant planet floating in a vast universe have to do with anything?

Numbered Claim 10

“Aug 14th 2012 Mars and Saturn conjunct Spica [sic]”

Not sure what Ms. Nazon has against periods, but she leaves them out a lot in this list. Anyway, Ms. Nazon seems big on conjunctions with Spica. And as I stated for her 4th claim, this is another one that is simply not true. A conjunction is when things come together and appear to be in the same spot. Unless you’re using a very loose definition of the word – perhaps she meant “close conjunction” instead of “conjunction” – then this is again demonstrably false (just go to planetarium software and look!!).

Yes, they’re reasonably close, with about 3.5 full moons separating Mars from Spica, and 5.5 separating Mars from Saturn. I’m really not sure I’d call this a conjunction, especially if you’re trying to link it to some cosmic energy vortex being activated because these objects are supposed to meet. But, I suppose under the 5° idea that astrologers seem to use (based on my friend), the three will be in a “conjunction.”

Numbered Claim 11

“August 22nd 2012 The Moon, Mars, and Saturn are conjunct [sic] Spica.”

Moving the ol’ clock forward on Starry Night software and … Nope! For those familiar with photography, you could easily use a 100mm lens to photograph this close conjunction. You need something with wider than a 5° field of view, as Saturn from the moon is nearly 6° apart — even under the 5° rule we can’t really consider this to be a conjunction.

Now, granted, this would make a neat photograph. And if I remember, I’ll probably try to capture it. But in the grand scheme of things, this really is not a very close conjunction – definitely not a once-in-26,000-years event.

Numbered Claim 12

“October 5th 2012 Saturn enters Scorpio.”

Okay, I’m not sure what Ms. Nazon is using. But Saturn is still pretty much smack dab in the middle of Virgo in October 2012 (see image below). Unlike Jupiter, Saturn takes longer – about 30 years – to orbit the sun once. So, it will enter a new constellation about once every 2.5 years. And 30 years later it repeats. So, is there supposed to be some significance I’m not getting in it staying in Virgo on October 5, 2012 allegedly entering Scorpius?

Skychart on October 05, 2012 Showing Saturn's Location

Skychart on October 05, 2012 Showing Saturn's Location

Numbered Claim 13

“November 13th 2012 Total Solar Eclipse at 22 degrees Scorpio 22-12 GMT visible from north-eastern Australia.”

Let’s see … May + 6 months = November … we have another potential eclipse! Which is what Ms. Nazon is predicting for NE Australia. And, lo!, yes there is an eclipse on November 13, 2012, visible from northern Australia and the southern Pacific.

But in what seems to be a running theme, this takes place in the constellation Libra (the scales), and the declination is about -18°, not 22°. For those who don’t know, Libra is a full 3 constellations away from Sagittarius, over 11% of the visible sky away from Sagittarius. It hasn’t been since about the year 1400 B.C. that the sun was in Sagittarius on November 13 — assuming we use our calendar instead of what was in use at the time.

Numbered Claim 14

“November 14th 2012 The Moon occults Mercury (daylight occultation visible from the UK with a telescope) .”

Yep, the moon occults Mercury, visible from the UK, at about 10AM on November 14, 2012. And it does it again May 9, 2013. Mercury never strays too far from the ecliptic, so the moon has a reasonable chance of occulting it once a month. So again, this is not a rare occurrence, nor does it have any physical significance.

Numbered Claim 15

“November 28th 2012 Penumbral lunar eclipse 7 degrees Gemini. Central eclipse 15:33 GMT [sic]”

Yep, 2 weeks after a solar eclipse, we have the possibility of a lunar one. And not a very good one at that – the moon may appear to dim a little, but it’s unlikely that it will appear to go very red. That’s what a penumbral eclipse is versus an umbral – the good kind! And if Earth’s shadow could stretch farther into space, just a few hours later we would see a Jovian eclipse with Earth’s shadow turning Jupiter red!

Anyway, I’m getting kinda sick of saying it and hopefully I don’t have to post yet another screenshot for you to believe me, but she got the constellation wrong again. This happens in Taurus, not Gemini. And I’m not sure where she’s getting her coordinates from — she either needs a new calculator, better tables, or better software. The moon will be at about 4 hrs RA and +20° DEC … not 7° in Gemini. In fact, the farthest south that Gemini gets is just under 10°. Now, Gemini does cross through the 7th hour RA, but there are 24 hours of RA, not 360, so saying anything about it being 7° is either being completely oblivious about what RA means or making up numbers.

And she’s again an hour off, with the greatest eclipse time being 14:34:07 GMT. This eclipse will be visible in Europe, East Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific, and North America.

Numbered Claim 16

“Uranus will enter Aries in 2011. The last time Uranus transited Aries was in 1927-1935 which we all know as The Great Depression.”

Okay, for some reason this claim was bolded on her site, along with #17 and 18. Perhaps it’s because she actually ties these into past events. Let’s look …

Uranus has a longer year than Saturn, about 84 Earth years. When running open house observing nights on campus, we refer to it as the “once in a lifetime” planet because unless you have an unusually long lifespan, you will never see Uranus in the same location in a constellation (excluding retrograde motion, but that’s a different story). You will never see it in the same place in its orbit (that’s more precise).

So now let’s go through this without looking up to see if she has the constellation right. 1927 + 84 = 2011, so yes, wherever Uranus was in 1927, it will be returning there around 2011. So that would be a correct analysis.

Now, about depressions. For those who don’t know, one of my hobbies is coin collecting. As such, I’ve tracked US inflation rates throughout history and come up with some beautiful graphs. Suffice to say, the US has gone through several “great” depressions – present one excluded because only history will tell if it’s a “great” one. The first was during the Revolutionary War, when inflation skyrocketed. Second was around the War of 1812 – about 40 years later. Third was during the Civil War, when America experienced the largest inflation rates in its history as a country (excluding just after its founding) — that was 50 years later. And then the Great Depression – about 70 years later. If you want to play it forward, we experienced depression-class inflation rates again during WWII (15 years later) and again during the Korean and Vietnam Wars (30-40 years later).

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see an 84-year pattern there.

United States Inflation Rates, 1776-2008

United States Inflation Rates, 1776-2008

Oh, and now let’s see if it’s actually in Aries (looks at Starry Night Pro …) Nope. Uranus is smack-dab in the middle of Pisces. It enters Aries in late 2018. And what would it entering in 2011 have to do with 2012?

Numbered Claim 17

“Neptune will enter Pisces its own sign in 2011. The last time this occured [sic] was 1847-1862 where it last transited during the time of the French Revolution.”

Just because I’m already looking at Starry Night for Uranus and Aries, let’s take a look at Neptune. Neptune takes even longer in its orbit – about 164 years. And in very late 2011 it moves into Aquarius, and finally in December 2023, it will move into Pisces. So, I am honestly curious now – Ms. Nazon, what are you using to make these claims? Are you just making them up? Are you using software that doesn’t account or over-accounts for precession? What’s going on here?

Anyway, about revolutions. Yes, 1847+164 = 2011. Now, I’m not a historian, so I did a quick look-see on Wikipedia … The French Revolution was 1789-1799, while there was a less severe one in 1848. But revolutions take place all the time. The Cuban revolution of the 1960s. The Islamic Revolution in Iran in the 1970s. You could even say the Civil Rights in the 1960s was its own kind of political revolution. Let’s not forget the Communist Revolutions in the mid-1900s in China, Vietnam, and Korea. Or Germany in the 1930s, Italy in the 1930s, the Russian Revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century … need I go on?

This – like the Great Depression link to Uranus – is an obvious example of retrodiction and anomaly hunting. She’s looked at the last time Neptune was in that place in the sky (NOT PISCES) and found something that would’ve made front-page headlines while ignoring any other occurrence of an event of that type that has happened since.

Numbered Claim 18

“Pluto has entered Capricorn, well, the last time Pluto entered Capricorn was 1762-1777 the American Colonial Revolution.”

I’ve heard this from several astrologers on Coast to Coast over the last few years, that Pluto is entering a place in the sky that it hasn’t been since the American Revolution. That’s because Pluto’s year is about 248 Earth years, so it takes quite awhile. The “only” problem is that, yet again, Pluto won’t be in Capricorn until about mid-2024. It’s still in Sagittarius until then.

Numbered Claim 19

“Venus will make a rare planetary loop above the Orion star system, a rare planetary passage over the disk of the Sun on June 6,2012.”

Let’s take this in reverse-order since there are actually two things here. Venus’ year, being an inferior planet relative to Earth (meaning that it’s closer to the sun than Earth), is shorter than ours and once or twice a year it will pass close to the sun. Unless it passes directly in front of it, as is actually the case in 2012, it will appear to pass above or below the disk. And as I already discussed in Claim #7. Double-dipping isn’t allowed.

As for “rare planetary loop,” this happens about once every 20 months – hardly a once-in-26,000-years. When Venus reaches its greatest elongation from the sun (its farthest distance) when it’s an evening star, it will appear to reverse directions in the sky and instead of traveling West-to-East, it will go retrograde and travel East-to-West. So, from Earth’s point of view, it will look like it stops and reverses direction, I suppose appearing as a “loop” in the sky.

This happens when it’s in Taurus in May 2012 (above Orion, yes). It will happen in the constellation Libra in October 2010. It happened in March in 2009 in the constellation Pisces, above Cetus and below Andromeda and Pegasus. In December 2013 it will happen in Sagittarius, just next to Capricornus. And in August of 2015 it will happen through Leo. In fact, just a month before that – on July 1, 2015, Venus and Jupiter actually will have a very close conjunction, appearing less than 0.5° apart in the sky. Too bad it’s during the day, though you may be able to catch them pretty close together just after sunset.

Numbered Claim 20

“We will be in an 11 year Sun Spot Cycle that is known to make us less compliant and more reactive over the slightest provocation.”

Please show your work. And, by the way, we’re always in an ~11-year sunspot cycle.

Final Thoughts, Part 1

Okay, there are two real take-away points from this analysis of Terry Nazon’s justification for why 2012 is meaningful astrologically or that it’s going to lead to something big that the Mayans supposedly predicted.

First take-away point is that she’s quite sloppy. Well over half of the specific claims that she made for where objects would be relative to constellations are demonstrably false – just use any planetarium software you like and you’ll see this.

Second point is really the main debunking point of astrology – what does any apparent alignment of an object with another object from Earth’s fleeting vantage point at that moment have to do with anything?

November 3, 2009

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


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.


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”


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.


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?

March 12, 2009

Planet X & 2012: My Interview on “The Conspiracy Skeptic” Podcast

This is a quick post to alert my loyal readers (hi Hanna) that I have been interviewed for an episode of “The Conspiracy Skeptic” podcast put out by Karl Mamer. I admit up-front – this is a looooong interview, with the edited version being about 111 minutes. But the time just flies by!

In the interview, I touch on nearly all aspects of the 2012/Planet X conspiracy/doomsday stuff that I’ve discussed so far on my blog, but this time in “condensed” form.

The site for the podcast is here, and at present, my interview is at the bottom of the page. A direct link to the episode MP3 is here.

In other news, now that I’m nearly done with a grant renewal and conference poster, I should be getting back to semi-regular posts shortly.

February 18, 2009

Planet X and 2012: Could Planet X Be a Planet Around a Binary Star to Our Own – a “Dark Star?”


This will likely be one of my last posts on 2012 and Planet X in the near future. I’ve been waiting awhile on an interview I sent out to a Mayan scholar but he has yet to get back to me. It may have been because my questions were too long, but we’ll see. If he does, I will be certain to post his take on what the current scholarship is in regards to what the Mayans actually thought about their calendar and 2012 (on our calendar).

This post, however, is about Andy Lloyd’s (not “Andrew” – I just don’t want you to think I’m using a derogatory nickname) ideas on Planet X. And to be honest, they make a lot more sense than most.

All posts in this series:

Andy’s Premise

Andy runs his “Dark Star” website where he advocates his various conspiracy theories and other ideas. He also has a BSc in Chemistry which may be why his “Dark Star” premise (not “theory”) is more plausible than others: He actually seems to have taken actual astronomy into account.

Andy is an advocate of a modified idea of Zecharia Sitchin – the man who thinks he’s decoded Summerian texts that prove a race of aliens called the Anunnaki came from the Planet X, Nibiru, to mine our gold. However, he was dissatisfied with Sitchin’s ideas because they didn’t make sense in an astronomical context: How could Earth-like intelligent life survive on a planet that goes from the frigid outer solar system where it’s maybe -220 °C to the inner solar system where it’s closer to 300 °C? It doesn’t make sense.

So Andy proposes a modification: The sun is in a binary star system – it has a gravitationally bound companion star. Only, this companion star is a brown dwarf, a type of failed star that never gained enough mass to start fusing hydrogen into helium as normal stars do. This brown dwarf star is the one that has a highly eccentric orbit (as many binary star systems do) that brings it from the outer solar system to the inner solar system. And, orbiting around that star is Nibiru, home of the alien race of Anunnaki.

How this Solves Problems

It really beautifully solves a few major problems of Sitchin’s ideas. First, it solves the temperature problem. While a brown dwarf star is not a star that produces heat through fusion, it does produce heat through gravitational contraction. A planet that orbits the star sufficiently closely could conceivably be Earth-like, getting enough heat to bring temperatures near the triple point of water (where water can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas).

In addition, Andy doesn’t think that it has anything to do with 2012. He rightfully knows that a planet (or star) in a regular orbit cannot go from the outer solar system to the inner solar system in just 4 years. Granted, he believes that it’s come close in the past and has delivered its alien cargo and the populace is responsible for lots of things on Earth, but he at least does not in any way connect it with 2012.

He also places its location in the constellation Sagittarius. For those of you not intimately familiar with the night sky, Sagittarius is a rather large constellation that is visible during the summer in the northern hemisphere. Part of it looks like a teapot. But another feature of it is that the core of the Milky Way stretches through Sagittarius, making it one of the richest areas of the sky to look at nebulae, star clusters, and other objects … making it very difficult to search for a small, faint, red object. This – at least to his reckoning – answers the question of why we haven’t found it yet.

Is This Falsifiable? Is This Provable? Are We in Danger?

A problem with his idea that I hinted at in the previous paragraph is that it really still is unlikely that we would not have found a binary companion if it’s really gravitationally bound to the sun (as it is in his hypothesis). A brown dwarf would be one of the brightest infrared sources in the sky (infrared can be thought of as “heat” light). He cites the fact that there is no complete infrared sky survey and so there’s still a chance that his dark star could be in the gaps.

But while there is no one complete sky survey, there are several different infrared sky surveys that do cover pretty much all the gaps. And the ecliptic – the plane of the solar system that passes through Sagittarius – has been thoroughly imaged in high-resolution in searches for solar system objects. While it’s possible that we may have missed an object like a brown dwarf star within our solar system, the likelihood is practically nil.

Which brings us to falsifiability. Andy recognizes that his hypothesis is testable and can be shown wrong by just looking for the object and not finding it. Conversely, it’s obviously provable by finding it. However, since Andy harps on the the IRAS (InfraRed Astronomy Satellite) from the 1980s and does not acknowledge more recent surveys (such as 2MASS, the 2 Micron All-Sky Survey), I am not certain how genuine he is when stating that he would readily accept that he was shown to be wrong.

Rather, he seems to be of the mind that once his condition is met (which it really has), he will either not acknowledge it or will say something along the lines of, “Yes, but it could still be possible because of [fill in the blank].” This is a moving the goalpost logical fallacy (commonly employed by conspiracy theorists and creationists – every fossil just creates two more holes).

Final Thoughts

So what’s the bottom-line here – does Andy’s “Dark Star” with its orbiting gold thieves exist? In the interest of academic honesty, I have to say, “possibly.” But it’s around the same likelihood that when the LHC becomes operational it will create a polka-dotted unicorn that farts out rainbows. Or for those of you who are Simpsons fans, perhaps it’ll make a twonicorn.

In other words, it’s very unlikely. It should be incredibly bright in red/infrared light. And that’s just addressing the astronomical aspects. All the other parts of the idea – the anomaly hunting within historic records – come up short in (a) plausibility, and (b) evidence. In my opinion, from the evidence (or lack-there-of), Andy Lloyd’s “Dark Star” is another failed Planet X premise.

February 6, 2009

Planet X and 2012: Why a 3600-Year Planet X (Nibiru) Doesn’t Exist


Those of you reading the title of this post may be wondering why I choose to address such a specific and odd-sounding claim: Why would I claim that there isn’t a Planet X coming around that has a period (its year) of 3600 Earth years? That seems like such an odd claim.

However, it features very prominently in Zecharia Sitchin’s claims of Planet X (which he calls Nibiru), its alien population known as the Anunnaki, and them coming to steal all our gold in 2012. He was pretty much one of the infamous founding fathers of the modern Planet X movement (at least as it relates to aliens) by his reading of interpretation of Sumerian texts.

I still haven’t quite decided whether or not to devote a post to his claims because I’m not a Sumerian scholar, I don’t play one on TV, and most of his claims deal with aliens’ desire for gold and not with actual astronomy claims. But, he claims that the year of this planet lasts 3600 Earth years, and that the Anunnaki’s planet last came around nearly 3600 years ago.

All posts in this series:

First Off, Why There’s No Planet X Coming in the Near Future

Rather than repeat myself, I will refer to the two posts on this topic that I’ve already written: “Planet X and 2012: The Real and Historical Story of Planet X” and “Planet X and 2012: Why Planet X Is NOT Coming in 2012.”

Why Planet X Didn’t Visit (Almost) 3600 Years Ago

Disclaimer: This is another case of proving a negative, which you really can’t do in astronomy. However, the evidence that I can present that it didn’t come by should either convince you or cast serious doubt on much of the other evidence that people present for it having come by.

And that’s really in this simple statement: Planet X folks place huge emphasis on the skill of ancient civilizations to make astronomical observations. The Mayans had their amazing calendar and knew everything about Venus’ orbit. The Chinese have the oldest records of comets. All 15 major civilizations in 705 B.C. apparently revised their calendar within the next 5 years due to observing Earth’s year had switched from 360 days per year to 365. These are all major pieces of “evidence” for various claims in the Planet X and 2012 doomsday scenario and conspiracy.

So let’s assume that’s correct.

If that is correct, then these same civilizations, a mere 3600 (nearly) years ago must have observed something as large as a planet that reached – if nothing else – as close as the inner solar system. After all, the Chinese could see comets, much smaller than a planet. They could see Saturn, much farther away than Mars (by a factor of around 25 times). And they knew that these objects were different than regular stars. They recorded them. Practically every civilization knew about them.

And yet, somehow, there exist no records whatsoever of a planetary body encroaching on the inner solar system.

If nothing else, this is the blatant logical fallacy of “inconsistency.” They were great astronomers. Yet they all managed to miss this gigantic event.

The only efforts I’ve seen that attempt to explain this simply are required to resort to conspiracy theories: The evidence was there but every single shred of it, and everyone who knew about it, has been kept hidden by the world governments. Except for those token few who manage to get the truth out, past the Army of Darkness, to be brought into the Light. (Yet somehow they are not subject to attempts of silencing.)

Final Thoughts

It occurs to me that in my blog, of late, I’ve strayed a bit into resorting to some sarcasm and a teensy bit of ad hominem attacks. I really haven’t done the latter, at least not directed at any one person. I’ve simply examined the claims directly and only based tests of validity on them. Not said they’re wrong based on the person (or group) making them.

However, I fully admit to the sarcasm seeping into the blog. At least as I continue to explore the 2012 and Planet X claims. I think it’s because I’m starting to get a little weary of the topic when the claims are so demonstrably wrong and not internally consistent (an example of the former being the galactic alignment, an example of the latter being this post). It’s difficult not to get a little snarky, as I did in the last paragraph of the last section.

But the point remains: If you’re going to tell a story, be consistent. A theory has to explain the evidence. The evidence can’t contradict itself. And you can’t selectively look at some evidence and not other evidence. So you simply can’t say ancient civilizations three millennia ago were stupendous astronomers and yet they somehow missed a giant planet that swung by.

February 4, 2009

Planet X and 2012: What The Sky Looks Like On December 21, 2012


Continuing my series on Planet X and 2012, I already addressed the claim that the sun will be aligning with the galactic center on December 21, 2012 (the winter solstice). However, it occurs to me that I made some vague remarks of this galactic alignment not actually being any alignment what-so-ever, despite people saying it is, without actually going into the details of the situation. I wanted to clarify this with a diagram that, in fact, there is no alignment on December 21, 2012, with even the central plane of the galaxy, let alone the center of the galaxy.

What The Sky Looks Like

The Sky on December 21, 2012 (Click to Enlarge)

The Sky on December 21, 2012 (Click to Enlarge)

The above picture (click to enlarge it) shows what the sky looks like on the winter solstice on December 21, 2012 at 11:12 AM GMT (note that the time often quoted is 11:11, but that is not the case). In this section, I’m going to explain what is shown, while in the next section I’ll explain what it means.

The bright white object on the left side that intersects the green line is the sun.

The green line is the line of the ecliptic, which is the line traced out by the sun in the sky. Alternatively, it is the plane of Earth’s orbit through the solar system.

The red grid is the celestial coordinate system, which I briefly alluded to in the previous post. It is really an extension of Earth’s latitude and longitude system projected into space. Declination is the equivalent of latitude, while Right Ascension is longitude. Unlike longitude, which is measured in degrees (360°), right ascension is measured in hours (24 h in the sky). This is because it takes one hour for an object to move one hour of right ascension.

The purple grid is the galactic coordinate system. The horizontal lines are lines of galactic latitude, where the galactic equator (running through the middle) is really the, well, galactic equator – the plane of the galaxy. The vertical lines are the lines of galactic longitude, with the galactic meridian going through the center. Where the galactic meridian and the galactic equator intersect is defined as the center of the galaxy.

The definition of the winter solstice is when the sun is on the 18th hour line of right ascension. That occurs – in 2012 – at 11:12 AM GMT. (Summer solstice is when it is on the 6th hour of right ascension. Spring equinox is when it’s on the 0th hour line while autumnal is when it’s on the 12th hour line. By definition, it is always on the ecliptic.)

What Do We See from This Diagram?

No galactic alignment.

First off, the sun isn’t anywhere near the galactic center. So strike that one right off the list.

Second, the sun isn’t even on the galactic equator. It is 10.86 arcmin (0.181°) away from it. Though in the interest of full disclosure, the sun’s limb will be on it since the sun does have a finite size in the sky.

But, the closest approach to when the 18th hour of right ascension intersected with the galactic equator intersected with the ecliptic was the winter solstice of 1:50 AM December 22, 1998. The sun was only 0.30 arcmin (0.005°) off of the galactic equator. Funny … I don’t remember any doomsday happening then. Granted, I was in high school and not paying much attention to the news at the time, but I think I would have noticed if the world had ended.

Final Thoughts

As you can clearly see, there is no galactic alignment on this date. It already happened. And nothing happened. And in reality, the winter solstice has absolutely no relative importance in astronomy, just like alignments have no importance in astronomy (in the context of affecting Earth in a doomsday-like scenario). So, even if there were going to be an alignment – which there isn’t – it would have no importance anyway. It would happen every year. In fact, the sun crosses the plane of the galaxy twice every year … and yet nothing happens.

I know I’ve berated this claim many times now, but it’s important. I still see people making the claim. Please take note: It is baseless! And even if it weren’t, it wouldn’t matter anyway.

All Posts in This Series

The main blog posts:

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

And my podcast episodes so far on 2012 and Planet X:

And podcasts on which I have been interviewed on 2012:

February 3, 2009

Planet X and 2012: Why Planet X Is NOT Coming in 2012


Continuing my series on Planet X and 2012, one of the main categories of claims deals with the amorphous “Planet X.” I use the adjective “amorphous” instead of “mysterious” or “elusive” because nearly everyone has a different hypothesis about what “Planet X” really is (and I’m going to drop the quotes for the rest of this post because it’s faster to write without them). Is it a large asteroid? Or a rocky planet? Or a gas giant planet? Or is it another star? Or is it something completely different?

I’m going to save going over those claims for another post. I’m also going to save the claims dealing with what will supposedly happen with Planet X for other posts, or ones that I’ve already covered (such as the Pole Shift). Rather, this post is really aimed at nipping Planet X in the butt before I even go over the specific claims – I’m going to show why we know that there is no Planet X coming for us in 2012 – or the near future, in general.

All posts in this series:

The Main Premise Behind Planet X

The basic idea behind Planet X is that a large object is currently approaching Earth and it will get very close to us towards the end of 2012. Doomsdayers disagree as to what exactly the object is, from where it’s approaching (as in within or above/below the plane of the solar system), and what exactly it will do to us. But, the real heart of the claims is that Planet X is out there, and either we just haven’t found it yet (even though it’s only 4 years away) or we have found it, but Big Government won’t let you know about it.

Knowing What’s In the Solar System

I discussed in my first post in this Planet X & 2012 series the real historical history behind the solar system’s Planet Xs. The basic idea is that the planets didn’t behave quite as they were supposed to given the gravitational forces by the other known planets in the solar system. Hypotheses were made about where the hidden mass would be coming from, the region was searched, and planets were discovered.

Today, we have very accurate models that take into account objects in the solar system ~1000 km in diameter and larger (this includes dwarf planets and some moons). These are used to calculate orbits which are included in every piece of astronomy planetarium-like software (such as Celestia, Starry Night, and The Sky on the freeware / commercial side).

Orbits are computed to even higher accuracy for space programs such as ESA, JAXA, and of course NASA, which have to know how everything is going to affect a spacecraft’s trajectory, how much fuel will be needed, and how and when it will get to its target.

The point that I’m attempting to make here is that if there were a large object out there, we would have to know about it.

What Do We Observe?

The claim has often been made that it’s out there but we just haven’t observed it yet — after all, the sky is a big place!

But, this claim is just wrong. We don’t have to observe the object with telescopes to know it’s there. After all, we don’t observe dark matter, but we know it’s there (and I will cover dark matter denialism in another post). We know dark matter is present because we observe its gravitational effects. And so if there were an unobserved, unseen Planet X that was fast-approaching Earth – even if it were 4 years away – we would know about it. Spacecraft would be slightly off-target. Planets would be where they’re supposed to be.

There are thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of amateur astronomers out there who are searching the sky every night to look at known objects or looking for unknown objects. If a planet were experiencing the gravitational effects of an incoming planet or star, the masses of people who rely upon calculated orbits without that object would notice that something was wrong.

The argument that amateurs wouldn’t know any better is also fallacious because quite often, amateur astronomers are better-versed with the sky than most professional astronomers. A professional astronomer – even if they are an observationalist, may know a few constellations, but likely they will only know where their object or objects of interest lie (I’m speaking from experience here). Amateurs, on the other hand, are very well-versed with where objects are in the sky, what you can see if you look in a certain patch, where asteroids will be, and where comets will be. So amateurs are more likely to notice the perturbations than professionals.

The other claim is that Planet X is known about but Big Government is hiding it from You. In other words, the “conspiracy theory.” But again, this is really not possible. For the same reasons given above that many thousands of amateur astronomers would see the gravitational effects of this object, they would also very likely find the object. Amateur telescopes can observe asteroids that are as small as a few tens of kilometers across (the size of a city). There’s no way that they would miss a planet – or especially a star – that is only 4 years away from hitting us. And there’s no way to keep many thousands of amateur astronomers from all over the world quiet.

Final Thoughts

The claim that Planet X is out there and is going to hit us soon is easy to propagate because astronomers are constantly finding new objects in the solar system. New asteroids and Kuiper Belt Objects are being discovered weekly. But people who are lead to believe the Planet X claims don’t take into account what it would really take to “hide” such an object from the tens to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world who observe the night sky. The gravitational effects from the object would be observed, and it should be bright enough – being only 4 years away from reaching us – that it should be plainly visible in the night sky.

And yet, it’s not observed. Its effects are not observed. So Planet X proponents resort to conspiracies to explain it, or they resort to simply ignoring the lack of evidence for it, effectively taking the “oh yeah!?” approach and not answering the questions or criticisms leveled.

As a final piece, in the interest of full academic honesty, I should note that it is not really possible to prove a negative. It is very remotely possible that there is a Planet X out there and we haven’t observed its effects for one reason or another. However, the likelihood of this being the case – as I have pointed out – is as close to 0% as is scientifically possible.

February 1, 2009

Planet X and 2012: The Pole Shift (Geographic / Spin Axis) Explained and Debunked


Continuing my series on Planet X and 2012, one of the main claims of what will actually happen is termed a “Pole Shift.” Sounds scary, huh? The Earth’s pole(s) … shifting!?

But what does it actually mean? Well, Earth actually has two sets of North and South Poles – the geographic and the magnetic. Most of the doomsdayers that I’ve heard seem to imply that they are talking about a geographic pole shift, but some also talk about a magnetic pole shift. Since both are completely different, and since they are significant enough topics by themselves, I am doing separate posts on them. This one addresses the geographic pole, also known as the rotation axis.

There are actually a few different specific versions of this scenario that various doomsday folks have created. The one that I know the most about and will address in this post is that of Brent Miller, founding member of the “Horizon Project,” and the statements that he has made on the November 10, 2008 and January 11, 2009 episodes of the Coast-to-Coast AM radio show. I am not going to use many quotes because there is no transcript for these shows and it’s an awful lot of typing and pausing and typing and pausing for me to supply a direct quote for each claim.

All posts in this series:

Main Premises

Basic Premise of a (Geographic) Pole Shift: The basic premise that Brent Miller argues for is that Earth’s spin axis will change. At present, Earth revolves such that the north geographic and south geographic pole stay stationary with respect to the stars, always pointing at the same location in space. The rest of the planet rotates around this axis. In a “pole shift” event, the geographic location of this axis would change such that two different locations would stay fixed with respect to the stars while the rest of the planet rotates around that axis.

Milky Way’s Black Hole Creates a “Dark Rift:” I addressed this more in-depth in my post about the pseudoastronomy of galactic alignments, but in brief, Miller thinks that the Milky Way’s black hole spins out gravity waves that create a “dark rift” along the center plane of the galaxy.

Properties of the “Dark Rift:” Miller claims the main property of this is an intense gravitational force that (a) will cause Earth’s poles to shift, and (b) contains a lot of “junk” material (my words, not his) such as asteroids that could impact Earth.

Earth’s Continents Are Kept “Afloat” By Earth Spinning on Its Axis: Miller points out that because Earth spins on its axis, the equatorial diameter is 42 km greater than the polar diameter, and that this is proof that the continents are above sea level because they are “pushed out” by Earth spinning. If Earth stopped spinning or if it started to spin around a different central axis, then the continents as we know them would sink because there is no longer the centrifugal force keeping them “out.”

This Has Happened Before and there’s Proof Its Happening Now: He goes through many apparent points of evidence to show that this has happened before (around 11,000 B.C. and something like it in 705 B.C.) and shows apparent evidence that it is starting to now.

Dissecting the “Evidence”

Milky Way, Black Holes, and “Dark Rift:” This is not correct, mostly for the reasons I pointed out in this post. There is no “dark rift.” If the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole is throwing off gravitational waves, at the location we are, they will bend and flex us by less than the width of an atom.

Miller also claims that his “astrophysicists” have now verified we’re moving into the galactic plane (which we’re not) and his “quantum mechanics guys” have shown what the effects of the gravity waves would be. Because I want to really harp on this, here is the quote (from hour 4 of the Jan. 11 program at about 31 min 15 sec into the program): “Pretend the calendars never existed. Independent of the calendars, the quantum physicists have already confirmed that the center of our galaxy really is a super-massive black hole, they’ve confirmed the location of the galactic plane, uh, the astrophysicists have already mapped out the time in which we are going to be crossing the galactic plane, and they estimate it to within 2 or 3 days of [when the Mayans said it would happen] at the end of 2012.”

This really shows that the people who work with him (a) don’t know what they’re doing, (b) don’t read the scientific literature, (c) don’t contribute to the scientific literature, and (d) that he doesn’t know what someone in the fields he’s quoting should be doing. None of this has to do with quantum mechanics. Mapping out the galaxy is for astronomy. Finding “when” we’ll cross the actual galactic plane is for an astrophysicist. Finding the supermassive black hole in the galaxy’s center is for astronomy. Gravity waves are for general relativity (the opposite, pretty much, of quantum mechanics). And gravitational effects are Newtonian mechanics (classical mechanics). So really, this is an example of throwing out very important-sounding terminology and having no idea of what they actually mean, besides the actual information being wrong.

In sum, this will not be, “just like going into the black hole,” as Miller claims. And, as a consequence, his “theory” has now been shown to have absolutely no physical mechanism.

Earth’s Continents Staying Afloat: It’s difficult here to not resort to ad hominem attacks because this simply has no basis in reality. Pretty much the only thing correct in this entire argument is Earth’s equatorial diameter is 42.6 km greater than its polar diameter (from NASA’s factsheets). And it is thought that this is due to Earth’s rotation, that there will be a bulge around the middle that’s the effect of billions of years of rotation.

But other than that, nothing he says about this is correct. The continents don’t “float” such that if Earth’s spin were altered or stopped they’d suddenly sink (he quotes timescales of several hours or days for an entire landmass to sink). Centrifugal force does not keep them above water. Rather, they are less dense than the rock underneath. The average density of continental crust is 2.7 g/cm3. The average density of ocean crust is 3.0 g/cm3 That’s why at zones where oceanic meets continental crust, the oceanic crust goes underneath the continental crust. In addition, the continents have a “root” that goes between 20-70 km down, making an indentation into the underlying lithosphere.

What that all boils down to is that the continents are not tenuously kept above water just because Earth rotates. Claims that they are are incorrect and have no basis in what is the accepted structure of Earth as shown through models and evidence (such as gravity mapping and mapping of the interior structure via earthquakes).

So at this point I’ve now shown that his basic mechanism for a pole shift is wrong, and that his claim of what would happen as a consequence wouldn’t actually happen. But there’s more.

Examining His Historic Evidence: There are many, many points of apparent historic evidence for this that Miller points to To try to organize them a bit, I will address them as bullet paragraphs:

  • Continental Drift – Miller claims that we’ve all been taught that continental drift (the continents moving around on the lithosphere) takes millions of years. He says this is wrong, that it happens very quickly. The evidence he points to is that the crust in the Atlantic Ocean is about the same age – has the same amount of dead animals and mud and silt – as the crust in the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, they must be about the same age, indicating that the Americas separated from Eurasia and Africa very quickly. However, this is based on a misunderstanding of plate tectonics – specifically subduction. While the Atlantic Ocean is growing and the mid-Atlantic Rift is creating new crust, the Pacific Ocean is also creating new crust, but it is sinking once it spreads to the continental plates. The image below shows this reasonably well, and it is color-coded with the age of the seafloor. The dark, solid lines indicate either spreading or subduction zones. So, even if you don’t necessarily trust these ages, you should at least start to doubt the evidence and Miller’s interpretation of the evidence (an interpretation which is not supported by the scientific community).

  • Mayan Prophecy and Legend of Atlantis – Miller claims the Mayans foresaw this event. I have already addressed that in a few posts (here and here, mainly) and so will not do so again here. But Atlantis is a new one. But it is a tired one – Atlantis was introduced by Plato in the same sense that the Empire was introduced by George Lucas in Star Wars: “A long time ago on an island far, far away.” Miller uses the argument ad populum logical fallacy to say that because everyone around the world has this legend of an advanced civilization that had flying machines that all died out, they must have existed. And his twist is that they must have died out because of the pole shift causing their own island continent to sink into the ocean because Earth’s spin no longer kept it afloat. I don’t want to get too much more into Atlantis here since it’s not the focus, and so I will refer you to this 8-minute podcast of the SGU 5×5 for more information.
  • While talking about prophecy, I should mention that he also uses Nostradomus and Casey prophecies, which I won’t address because, as with most “prophecies,” they are so non-specific that they can be retrofitted to fit any event.
  • The Mississippi River Delta – Miller claims that the age of the Mississippi River can be estimated based upon the amount of sediments in the river delta in the Gulf of Mexico. I did a cursory internet search on this and couldn’t actually find much other than various young-Earth creationism claims, so for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s correct. He claims the estimates are to around 11,000 B.C. He says that the river must have formed when the pole shift happened and it shifted the way water flows. Well, how about a different explanation: The last ice age ended 10,0000-15,000 years ago, and retreating glaciers carved out the landscape to form the river. That’s the scientific consensus, in general, that the current Mississippi River owes its course to the last ice age, and it has nothing to do with a pole shift.
  • 705 B.C. Event – Miller claims that in 705 B.C., something happened to cause the Earth to stop spinning, rotate backwards for 10 hrs, then spin back the right way again but slightly slower such that the year had 365 days instead of 360 days. He claims as evidence for this that all 15 “major” calendar systems at the time were all revised “within just 2-5 years” of the event and that a few civilizations recorded it, such as the Chinese astronomers recording that the “sun set twice in one day” on that day. However, other than quotes from Miller, I could find absolutely no evidence to support this claim. And while I’m not saying that is proof against it, one should always be cautious when you cannot independently verify a claim. I would think something that significant would be out there, and so this also gets back to the point I made above that his people don’t publish any of their “findings” … they just sell them in DVDs for $24.95. I should also mention that the mechanism he thinks made this happen is a Planet X. But for reasons that I discuss below in the next section on “What Would it Take to Shift the Poles?” a “Planet X” passing could not do this. In addition, the claim is inconsistent. He states that so many people recorded that this event happened, and that many of them were excellent astronomers. But, they must have been incompetent astronomers if they didn’t notice a giant planet passing very close to Earth (since all ancient civilizations knew about Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn which are much farther away). So this would be the simple logical fallacy of inconsistency.

Examining His Present-Day Evidence: Just as there are many apparent lines of “evidence” of previous pole shifts that I’ve now at least cast serious doubt on if not outright debunked, there’s the question of his present-day “evidence.” However, what this “evidence” amounts to is an attempt to anomaly hunt and claim whatever anomalies one finds (or makes up) are proof of their hypothesis:

  • Chandler Wobble Stopped and Became Erratic – The Chandler Wobble is actually a kinda neat phenomenon and is a genuine pole shift. The wobble is where the rotation axis changes by up to about 0.7 arcseconds (where 1° = 60 arcmin and 1 arcmin = 60 arcsec) which translates to a physical movement of about 15 meters. The wobble has a period of about 433 days and is caused by Earth not being a perfect sphere, but rather more pear-shaped (Since, besides the equatorial bulge discussed above, the north and south hemispheres are slightly asymmetric). Miller claims that the Chandler Wobble was very steady until we entered his dark rift, and then it stopped, and now it’s erratic due to the gravity in the rift. However, he is wrong. There’s simply no other way to put it – he’s wrong. The wobble has varied since it was discovered in the late 1800s, and it has been measured since then and you can download the data for yourself. I graphed the x vs. y position of it since 1980 (shown below) and while it has varried in size, at no point during the last 30 years has it stopped, nor is it now behaving erratically. The only explanation I have for his claim is that either (a) he is completely ignorant of the actual data (perhaps one of his “quantum mechanics” told him wrong, or (b) he’s outright lying.

    Chandler Wobble, 1980-2009

    Chandler Wobble, 1980-2009

  • More and More Earthquakes – This has been a claim of doomsdayers for many years, that the frequency of earthquakes is increasing. This is not true. It’s our ability to measure and locate them that is increasing and hence they can be recorded. The large earthquakes – magnitude 5-6 and above – have remained steady for well over a century. This is according to the USGS (here and here), which is the data that Miller claims to be using. So again a case of inconsistency and just being ignorant of what’s really going on.
  • Weird Weather – This is another catch-all claim by doomsdayers, drawing attention the weird weather around the world (first snow in Baghdad in a century, record flooding and hurricanes, etc.). However, the scientific consensus is that this is due to global warming, where the few-degree temperature increase can easily cause global weather patterns to change, and it has nothing at all to do with the effects of a “dark rift.”

What Would it Take to Shift the Poles?

First off, let’s assume Miller’s basic mechanism of a gravitational event happening “to Earth” is real (assuming this for argument’s sake, and because it’s believed by many others, though they have different causes such as Planet X). If Earth entered a gravitational field of some sort, there is simply no mechanism to shift it (as in a pole shift). While, yes, Earth does rotate on its axis, this axis is an imaginary construct, there is nothing physical to pull on. This is where the analogy of a top spinning fails. And yes, while Earth does bulge at its equator, there is again nothing to really pull on it.

This is especially true when you consider that the field that Miller is proposing would take Earth 20 years to move through. You would need something incredibly focused (think tractor beam on Star Trek) in order to exert a torque (rotating force) on an object in order to spin it. A gravitational field could theoretically move Earth, but the type of field that Miller proposes could in no way exert a specific torque on Earth’s axis to shift the poles a certain amount and then stop.

What about a “Planet X?” Again, even a planet-sized body would exert a tug on Earth as a whole as opposed to through a specific axis and so could not effect a pole shift. I will address this further on a post specifically about what a Planet X could do.

So what would it really take to shift Earth’s poles? Well, in order to rotate something in any direction, you need to apply a force. That force has to be specifically in that direction on the part of the object to make it rotate in that way. For example, if you have a billiard ball and you want to spin it, you normally push it from a side (such as the top). You have provided the force to make it move. Now, if you were to apply that same force to the opposite side of the ball (so push away from you on both the top and the bottom), then it would just move away from you and not spin.

So in order to get Earth to rotate in a new direction, or to “shift” its poles, one would need to apply a lot of force in one direction on only one side. The easiest way I can think of doing this would be a planet-sized asteroid impact. As I have shown now on at least two other threads, even an impactor that is 100 km in diameter would be like a grain of sand plowing into a car. Sure, you’ll get a little dent (and wipe out some life), but the planet as a whole will not care. You need something that is much more comparable to Earth’s mass in order to really shift the poles. Something the size of the dwarf planet Ceres would do the trick – and that object is about 1000 km in diameter (Earth is about 12,900 km in diameter). And I should note that we know where all Ceres-sized objects are that are close enough to cause that to happen within the next few centuries. (Again, I will address that more on a post specifically about Planet X.)

Final Thoughts

This is by far my longest post over the last 4 months, over 50% longer than the previous record. And yet, again, I feel as though I’ve only just scratched the surface of just this version of the pole shift idea. Perhaps it’s because I’ve now listened to 4 hours of Coast-to-Coast AM (the two episodes for the 3 “hours” each that Brent Miller talks) three times each to really get down the bulk of his claims and ideas. And there is still more to get into from him, but for now I want to leave him and let this post stand on its own since it really covers the bulk of his claims. As I’ve stated on other conspiracy-related posts, it’s impossible to get into every single claim because more crop up as soon as you debunk one (much like conspiracy theories).

Hence I have tried to give you the basic information to be able to figure out why the idea of 2012 somehow coinciding with an event that will cause a geographic pole shift has no basis in reality by both debunking or calling into question all of his claims, as well as talking about what it would really take to shift Earth’s rotation axis. If you come across (or have) a claim that I haven’t addressed within this topic, please leave a comment!

January 31, 2009

Planet X and 2012: Quotes from the Archaeology Experts About Mayan Prophecy


Quite conveniently, in the middle of writing this series of blog posts on Planet X and 2012, CNN today posted this article on the subject of 2012 and the lack of any approaching Doomsday. I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised that the article took a fairly incredulous view on the whole doomsday scenario, and it contained a lot of quotes from experts on the Mayans. I want to post them while this story’s still “hot.”

Other posts in this series:

Good Quotes

From David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas at Austin: “There’s going to be a whole generation of people who, when they think of the Maya, think of 2012, and to me that’s just criminal. … The whole year leading up to it is going to be just crazy, I’m sorry to say. I just think it’s sad, it really just frustrates me. People are really misunderstanding this really cool culture by focusing on this 2012 thing. It means more about us than it does about the Maya.”

From David Morrison of the “Ask an Astrobiologist” section of NASA’s Web site: “The purveyors of doom are promoting a hoax.”

From Anthony Aveni anthropology and Native American studies at Colgate University: “I think that the popular books… about what the Maya say is going to happen are really fabricated on the basis of very little evidence. … What you have here is a modern age influence [and] modern concepts trying to garb the ancient Maya in modern clothing, and it just doesn’t wash for me.”

From John Major Jenkins who describes himself as a self-taught independent Maya scholar: “The trendy doomsday people… should be treated for what they are: under-informed opportunists and alarmists who will move onto other things in 2013.”

Final Thoughts

Yes, this is a short post. If I come across other good quotes, I’ll add to it. But, I think this post is somewhat necessary because really, all you hear about 2012 and Mayans and doomsday and all that are from the people who are promoting it or from the occasional skeptic or astronomer who just says, “well that’s stupid” without going into too much detail. I wanted to provide independent views, ones from the archaeology community that I normally don’t really interface with.

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