Exposing PseudoAstronomy

February 18, 2012

Podcast Episode 23: The Fake Story of Planet X, Zecharia Sitchen, Part 1

Ah, modern medicine. As in antibiotics from the pharmaceutical industry (which is NOT an easy word to spell – thank you Google auto-complete!). As in not prayer, therapeutic touch, vitamin mega-doses, yoga, meditating, acupuncture, chi manipulation, homeopathy, exorcisms, magnets, nor any of that other crap. Good ol’-fashioned tested, repeatable, proven drugs.

This episode is late, though back-dated, because I did not get better, I got worse, in my sore throat. To the point of having a fever and noticing white splotches towards the back of my mouth, so I went to the doctor for the first time in almost 8 years, and the first time in over 15 due to an illness (my mom made me get a checkup when I turned 21). I’m surprised that it took so long, but I guess I’ve been lucky to be generally healthy; but when a sore throat lingers for 2 weeks and gets worse and is accompanied by increasing fatigue and fever and chills and white spots in your mouth, I figured it was a good idea to see a doctor. After a day.5 of antibiotics, I’m already feeling much better, though of course I will take my full prescribed 5-day course, and hopefully that’ll be the end of this.

Anywho, the topic of the podcast for (ahem) two days ago is the Fake Story of Planet X. In other words, all that stuff you hear about Planet X being Nibiru, Zecharia Sitchen’s ideas, brown dwarf stars, a 3600-year-long orbit, it approaching from the sun or the south pole so we can’t see it except for the gummament … all that stuff, and why it’s hooey.

The puzzler this time – because I couldn’t think of something else – is more straight-forward math, and it contains two parts — a main question and then a bonus.

I think I’m going to start soliciting puzzlers from people: The next odd-quarter episode, due out March 1 when I’ll be flying to DC, is going to be about the Magnetic Pole Shift. If you can think of a good (decent, half-decent, or passable) puzzler related to that, please e-mail me.


December 26, 2011

New Interview of Me on “Point of Inquiry” Podcast

Quick post to let you know that Karen Stollznow interviewed me for the December 26th episode – last of 2011 – of Point of Inquiry podcast. The subject matter was a summary of the 2012 phenomenon and associated phenomena, and it was appropriately titled, “The End of the World as We Know It.” It’s very, very roughly a 42.62-minute podcast, about the length of my own (so less detail on each subject). Enjoy!

And for reference, I figure it’s time to update my list of 2012 posts so far:

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

And my podcast episodes so far on 2012:

August 2, 2011

Planet X & 2012: The Myth of the Southern Approach


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 6, 2010

Planet X and 2012: My Posts So Far


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). 🙂

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”).

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