Debunker of Doomsday: NASA scientist tries to talk some sense into the world

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Swirling with lunacy and paranoia, the theories warn of mayhem and cataclysm. They fill books and websites, inspiring hand-wringing among gullible people. The claim: The world is ending on Friday, the final chapter in an ancient Mayan prophecy carved into stone calendars thousands of years ago.


The stories are a jumble, based on everything from New Age mysticism to biblical “end times.” In some accounts, a giant secret planet is about to slam into Earth, or a solar storm will wipe out the human race. None has any basis in fact, scientists say, but a poll this summer found 12 percent of Americans are worried. Some teenagers have even talked of suicide.

As Dec. 21, 2012, draws near, however, the U.S. government has a secret weapon to hold back the tidal wave of misinformation and pseudoscientific quackery: a bespectacled 72-year-old scientist, often clad in a rumpled cardigan, sitting in a two-story office building off Highway 101 in Mountain View.

David Morrison is Kryptonite for the world’s conspiracy craziness. A Harvard-trained astrophysicist who studied under Carl Sagan, Morrison is the senior scientist at the Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames Research Center. He has worked on many of America’s top space missions, from Mariner to Voyager to Galileo, and published more than 155 technical papers and a dozen books on astronomy.

These days he has emerged as NASA’s most prominent Debunker of Doomsday, answering questions from people all over the world on his website, giving speeches and talking to the media. While some of his colleagues wonder if he’s wasting his time, Morrison holds out hope that reason and facts can win out, even in an age of Internet hoaxes and hype.

“I got my first doomsday question four years ago and wondered what the heck it was,” he said. “Perhaps I made the mistake of answering them, but since then I’ve gotten a little over 2,000 emails. I got 200 last weekend.”

Written By: Paul Rogers
continue to source article at mercurynews.com

39 COMMENTS

  1. Other than “Don’t be an idiot!!”, is there a recommended or more appropriate way to respond to “mothers emailing me saying they are considering killing their children before the end of times”??

  2. Before passing an opinion about the end of the world on Friday, I would like to know Harold Camping’s view.  He got his maths wrong twice about the end of the world.  Would he trust this non-prediction of a pre Christian society ?  Hmmm  !  Difficult one !

    It’s such a shame that a scientist has to waste his time rebutting such nonsense.  Well done, to at least this local paper, for exposing the hollowness of this “prediction”.   Most media are probably happy to run with the scare story. Selling copy n’ all that.

  3. Dear oh dear. It’s not as if valuable verifiable information isn’t now available – everywhere – ; this is such inexcusably childish nonsense.

    Why should anyone waste time on this? Trouble is, this dire rubbish is being planted in the minds of children who may never be able to rid themselves of it. 

  4. This is the same NASA (a One-world Order agency) that faked the “moon-landings” (filmed in Area51); lies about man-made “global warming” (it’s freezing out today); was involved in the 9/11 cover-up (see youtube clips); lied about the Colombia and Challenger disasters (also faked, both reside in Area51); and now relies upon the Russians to transport its “astronauts” (actually, CIA operatives) into space. Aye, right. 

    “David Morrison” – if that IS your real name, is actually an anagram of “Adios Mr Noir” – which says it all really. The Mayans spoke Spanish, and Adios means “Goodbye”… huh, need I say more?

    So, I’m off to Tesco to buy all the matches, candles, freeze-dried corn, canned spam, twine, WD-40, and AAA batteries I can carry. 

    THE END IS NIGH. THE END IS NIGH!!

  5. huh, need I say more?

    Tyler, you forgot to explain that Noir is French for Black, which is a really dark color, the same color the Holes are made of.   And “Mr” is the short form of “Mister”. 

    Just to clear up any confusion.   Enjoy the weekend.  If there is one :-)

  6. Just in case I do not get to post another comment before Friday.  I heard tell that there is a Vogon Constructor Fleet on its way and I hitching a lift off of this rock.  Don’t worry about me though, I have remembered my earplugs in case of poetry.

  7. A superb example of the bullshit brain baffling principle.
    It reminds me of some dick headed Jehovah’s witnesses falsely predicting doomsday about 15 – 20 years ago.
    Various factions ofAmerican Christianity seem to exist on the border of puerile insanity.
    Not to mention modern day pagans who alo believe in predictions of future events.
    I’m disappointed that Private Eye no longer have “cult corner”.

  8.  I’m with you sbooder. I’ve got a nice fresh clean towel and a box of Belgian chocolate to see me through. Extra large, in hopes the Vogons like it too. Anything to avoid the poetry.

  9. Fear not, fellow Earthlings, we’re saved. Saved I tells ya:

    “‘Habitable’ planet discovered circling Tau Ceti star”
    World is one of five thought to be circling star just 12 light years away, say scientists

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/scie

    Disaster averted. Now all we need do is figure out is how to travel 12 light years in the next 48 hours…

  10. “….giant secret planet “

    the idea of a secret plant is IMO awesome. I want to work for the governement agency that keeps the public from finding out about secret planets. I imagine giant secret planets must be the hardest to keep covered up

  11. As Dec. 21, 2012, draws near, however, the U.S. government has a secret weapon to hold back the tidal wave of misinformation and pseudoscientific quackery:

    This is encouraging I must say.  You would expect them on this most auspicious of occassions (a threat to gods cosmic plan) to petition the Poop to ask god to exert his influence or at least have a task force of priests and excorcists to confirm that this pre-christian thinking is baloney and Friday is not part of god’s cosmic plan. 

    I mean god can’t have gone through all this trouble to create a universe so that he could watch his favourite species struggle with good and evil and kiss his arse once a week just to have the whole lot tucked up by a secret planet that he knows sod all about.  Nnnnnnnnnnoooooooooo  Waaaayyyyyy  Jose!

    However……. phone a scientist!  Now that is a novel idea! Don’t let’s bugger around with syllogisms let’s get some real evidence.  Xtians stand back you’re outa your league this time.

  12. SaganTheCat:

    “I imagine giant secret planets must be the hardest to keep covered up”

    Not if you have a large cloth, or, even better, a K-Tel ‘Planet Tidy’.

    Anvil.

    (edit: other ‘Planet Tidy’s’ are available – this post does not seek to endorse any specific product.)

  13. Tyler Durden:

    Fear not, fellow Earthlings, we’re saved. Saved I tells ya:

    “‘Habitable’ planet discovered circling Tau Ceti star”World is one of five thought to be circling star just 12 light years away, say scientists

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/scie

    Disaster averted. Now all we need do is figure out is how to travel 12 light years in the next 48 hours…

    Well, I’m not driving – I’ve had a drink!

    I’ve a good mini-cab number?

    Anvil.

    ps: tried to post this Grundiad article but failed at the quantum tech’ form. Easier gettin a work visa for Oz!!!

  14. It wasn’t the Mayans who claimed the end of the (Mayan) calendar meant the end of the world, it was dingbats from La La Land.

    Anything can happen there and frequently does, although it usually requires retroactive redefinition of past events to make history match with whatever the dingbats said would happen in the future.

    This will be happening again on Saturday, when they all start saying “we were right about the world ending, but got the date wrong” (just like every other time the world was supposed to end but didn’t)

    It would be interesting to know how many of them didn’t buy Christmas presents or gave away all their possessions because they genuinely thought the world really was ending, and how many of them just felt the compulsion to make fools of themselves publicly (none, none, and all of them respectively is my estimate)

  15. yes well clearly that’s the obvious solution but the US secret forces tend to cover things up by convincing vast numbers of people on a small scale simultaneously (look how they nearly got away with that moon landing debacle, they even convinced Sir Patrick and you know what he thought of foreigners) chances are if you’re out planet hunting and point your telescope where it’s not wanted, just try adjusting the focus magnification and see if you notice the silouette of a man on a step ladder holding out a small hankerchief. they’ve been doing that for years and interestingly you can’t find any information about it on the internet.

  16.  

    hellosnackbar
    A superb example of the bullshit brain baffling principle.
    It reminds me of some dick headed Jehovah’s witnesses falsely predicting doomsday about 15 – 20 years ago.
    Various factions of American Christianity seem to exist on the border of puerile insanity.
    Not to mention modern day pagans who also believe in predictions of future events.
     

    Too true!

    http://www.atheistmemebase.com

    http://www.atheistmemebase.com

    http://www.atheistmemebase.com

  17. tsk tsk silly, the world doesn’t ends yet. Its been a theme over the last two thousand years, from the Roman philosophers around c.200 BCE of their vision of the (Roman) worlds demise based on the millennium myth, up through the middle-ages where the Christians usurped the theme as an advertisement for a certain novel. Onward its been revisited by numerous madmen in their sloppy attempt to make them self special in the midst of all the other mad monkeys.
    The Mayans just used another form of a calendar, a much more sophisticated one that is, and the doomsday followers doesn’t even mention October 13, 4772, which is the Long Count at 1.0.0.0.0.0 :/

  18. KitLightning:

    tsk tsk silly, the world doesn’t ends yet. Its been a theme over the last two thousand years, from the Roman philosophers around c.200 BCE of their vision of the (Roman) worlds demise based on the millennium myth, up through the middle-ages where the Christians usurped the theme as an advertisement for a certain novel. Onward its been revisited by numerous madmen in their sloppy attempt to make them self special in the midst of all the other mad monkeys.The Mayans just used another form of a calendar, a much more sophisticated one that is, and the doomsday followers doesn’t even mention October 13, 4772, which is the Long Count at 1.0.0.0.0.0 :/

    Yes, but is that GMT?

    Anvil.

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