The End of the World Is (not) Nigh

Will Nibiru annihilate Earth on Friday? Scientists try (and fail) to calm fears

Other Opinion

SHIRLEY S WANG

Have you heard the doomsday theory about how a rogue planet is going to crash into Earth on Friday and kill us all?
Amateur astronomer Bill Hudson says that it simply isn't true, and he can prove it—scientifically.
The prediction is supposedly based on the end of a cycle of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, which some have interpreted to mean that the Mayans believed the world would end on that day. According to the prophecy, doom may come in a variety of ways, but one key claim is that a 12th planet in our solar system, called Nibiru and orbiting the sun every 3,600 years, will ram into the Earth and destroy it.
That theory has gained credence in certain quarters and has spawned a cottage industry of scammers offering survival kits and backyard bunkers. In France, officials have announced a plan to restrict access on Dec. 21 to the Pic de Bugarach, a mountain that is supposed to protect people, some say by bursting open to unveil spaceships that will bring people to safety.
Mr. Hudson, a Californian whose day job is to run a computer system for a manufacturing company, is leading a scientific insurgency against the Nibiru theory with a website, talks at schools and online chats with other experts to engage the believers. The only way to convince some people, he decided, is to counter their fears with logical scientific arguments about why Nibiru is not nearby (it would have been detected by astronomers), is not about to crash into Earth (it would need to be orbiting elliptically, which would violate Kepler's law) and is not, in fact, actually real.
"That really upsets me that the rumors are out there, and they upset people, especially kids," says Mr. Hudson.
He was spurred to act some five years ago, he says, after listening to several frightened questions from fifth-grade students to whom he was giving a talk on space. An Internet search revealed many questions circulating about the prediction. He began to post scientific answers dispelling the theory on Yahoo Answers, where people can post and respond to questions.
His answers led believers to flag his comments as inappropriate, says Mr. Hudson, and he was eventually banned from posting. Answers that constitute venting or ranting, or that are meant to "solicit others for personal and financial gain" violate the Yahoo Answers community guidelines, according to the website.
In 2009 he began his own website, 2012hoax.org, and engaged the help of experts, including archeologists, anthropologists and an astrophysicist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Last month, he and NASA astrophysicist David Morrison addressed the doomsday prophecy in an online chat sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The site received up to 5,000 views a day this fall, but with the fateful day now approaching, it has drawn more than 10,000 visitors a day.
The website's "planet X" page contains complex math carried out by a U.K. aeronautical engineer that shows why it is physically impossible for an undetected planet to be lurking close enough to the Earth to destroy it soon. To dispel another aspect of the doomsday theory, astrophysicists collaborating with the site have calculated the effect of a black hole if, as prophesied, it did line up with the Earth and sun. Their answer: virtually none.
Dr. Morrison, the NASA scientist, has become the government's de facto defender against the doomsday hypothesis, because of his role answering questions from the public on the "Ask an Astrobiologist" feature of the agency's website. Starting four years ago, he began getting so many questions about the prophecy that he felt he couldn't ignore them anymore.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 18 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 18 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 19 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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