Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have put out a new video to address false claims about the "Mayan apocalypse," a non-event that some people believe will bring the world to an end on Dec. 21.
In the video, which was posted online Wednesday (Mar. 7), Don Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Objects Program Office at NASA/JPL, explains away many of the most frequently cited doomsday scenarios.
Addressing the belief that the calendar used by the ancient Mayan civilization comes to a sudden end in December 2012, and that this will coincide with a cataclysmic, world-ending event, Yeomans said: "Their calendar does not end on December 21, 2012; it’s just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one. It’s just like on December 31, our calendar comes to an end, but a new calendar begins on January 1."
Yeomans also attempted to allay fears regarding potential causes of a Mayan apocalypse, including Nibiru, an imaginary planet that some people think is swinging in from the outer solar system just in time to collide with Earth in December. "This enormous planet is supposed to be coming toward Earth, but if it were, we would have seen it long ago. And if it were invisible somehow, we would have seen the [gravitational] effects of this planet on neighboring planets. Thousands of astronomers who scan the sky on a daily basis have not seen this," he said.
Image as seen on Scientific American. "2012 Doomsday Debunked Their calendar does not end on December 21, 2012; it’s just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one. Image: Space.com"
He added that there is zero possibility of a NASA cover-up. "Can you imagine thousands of astronomers who observe the skies on a daily basis keeping the same secret from the public for several years?"
As for solar flares, Yeomans explained that these do exist — in fact, two massive solar flares erupted just days ago, sending bursts of solar radiation into space — but they are part of the sun’s normal 11-year cycle. Radiation from solar flares can damage orbiting satellites, but Earth’s magnetosphere shields its inhabitants from the blasts, and the flares are not a health concern.
"Then we have planetary alignments," Yeomans said. Some doomsayers believe the other planets and the sun will align with the Earth in December and cause catastrophic tidal effects. "Well, first of all, there are no planetary alignments in December of 2012, and even if there were, there are no tidal effects on the Earth as a result. The only two bodies in the solar system that can affect the Earth’s tides are the moon, which is very close, and the sun, which is massive and also fairly close. But the other planets have a negligible effect on the Earth."
(Incidentally, it is perfectly normal for the sun and moon to align, bolstering each other’s gravitational pulls on Earth and generating higher-than-normal ocean tides. This happens twice each month.)
Addressing the claim that Earth’s axes are going to shift on Dec. 21, 2012, he said: "The rotation axis can’t shift because the orbit of the moon around the Earth stabilizes it and doesn’t allow it to shift." He noted that the magnetic field does shift every half-million years or so, but "there’s no evidence it’s going to happen in December, and even if it were to be shifting, it takes thousands of years to do so. And even if it did shift, it’s not going to cause a problem on the Earth apart from the fact that we’re going to have to recalibrate our compasses."
Invoking the astronomer Carl Sagan’s famous maxim, he said: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Since the beginning of time there have been literally hundreds of thousands of predictions for the end of the world, and we’re still here."
"Two criticisms about the article. One minor. One major. Minor: I’d hoped to see written that all this doomsday talk about 2012 does not come from the ancient Maya or their descendents, but is a modern interpretation of the calendar and it’s surrounding cosmology.
Here’s my major criticism: this article is about debunking myths regarding doomsday events relating to 2012 and specifically the Mayan calendar. The photograph you included in the article is of the Sun Stone, made by the Aztecs over a thousand years later by a completely different civilization. Furthermore, the Sun Stone isn’t even a calendar. It’s unclear what it’s original purpose was. So, while your article debunks one myth, it’s perpetuating another.
But thanks for writing this piece!"
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (source)
Ed Note: Why does NASA feel the need to address this issue? Why is it important to the agency that people believe one way or the other about the future?
Does NASA have a campaign debunking the Easter Bunny? When NORAD ’tracks Santa on radar’, does NASA hold a press conference refuting any misconceptions?
DARPA’s mirror-killing membrane could change astronomy, allow total global surveillance 2013 12 06
When it launches in 2018, the James Webb Space Telescope will let us see deeper into the universe than ever before. Its enormous eye is centered around 18 octagonal mirrors which assemble to form the largest telescope mirror ever built, but someday even the James Webb Telescope (formerly the Next-Gen Space Telescope) will outlive its usefulness — and then what ...
The Nightwatchman: Crime-predicting robot aims to patrol our streets and schools 2013 12 06 Get Ready. They’ll be watching.
These new robots that are an unnerving mix between Star Wars’ R2-D2 and Doctor Who’s Daleks, are being touted as the new way to "monitor, map, and secure" the humans around them.
The robots are purported to replace security guards and watchmen, in a bid to reduce labor costs and streamline surveillance.
A company in California ...
Microsoft’s Smart Bra Will Monitor Mood & Reduce Overeating 2013 12 06 Microsoft is designing a “smart bra” that will monitor women’s health by tracking their heart rate, her emotional state, whether or not she is over-eating and more.
Sensors in the bra detect when the wearer is bored, stressed or discouraged and send a warning signal to the woman’s smartphone that she should caution from making bad food choices.
In a paper entitled, ...
“Saint” Mandela? Not So Fast! 2013 12 06 President Barack Obama has compared him to George Washington. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews heralded him as “perhaps the world’s greatest hero.”
The Las Vegas Guardian Express dispensed with the “perhaps,” declaring in headline: “Nelson Mandela World’s Greatest Hero.”
Others have christened him “the greatest man of the 20th century.” Many revere him as “the savior” of South Africa. School children worldwide read books, ...
The Legacy of Nelson Mandela: A Dissenting Opinion 2013 12 06 Nelson Mandela, rights activist, political icon and former president of South Africa, dies age 95
There is no doubt that Nelson Mandela suffered for his cause of an end to bloody apartheid, racial segregation and government oppression in South Africa:
[Mandela was a] South African anti-apartheid revolutionary as well as a politician and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa ...