video posted by NASA last week, narrated by Don Yeomans, head of NASA's Near-Earth Objects Program Office, seeks to dispel predictions that Doomsday will happen later this year. This latest round of apocalypse warnings are based on interpretations of the Mayan calendar, along with reports of a giant, invisible planet called Niburu headed our way, solar flares and magnetic pole reversals. They have all featured prominently in blogs, websites and movies recently, heightening the frenzy of the crowd catering to end of the world fantasies.
The two and a half minute video features Yeomans taking down the apocalyptic flights of fancy one at a time. The Mayan calendar does not end in 2012, just a cycle of Mayan time; a planet hurtling our way would never go undetected; solar flares are normal, etc. His calm demeanor is only broken once, when he breaks into laughter at the idea that thousands of scientists around the world have been conspiring to keep the existence of the rogue planet Niburu secret so as to not set off a global panic at our imminent demise.
Is this a worthwhile endeavor for NASA to be embarked upon? While not exactly pushing the boundaries of the known universe, perhaps dispelling the cobwebs of misinformation and ignorance here at home might not be a bad brief for the cadres of scientists and experts who are now wondering what will become of the space agency in the face of austerity measures. Unless Newt Gingrich gets elected this year on the platform of establishing a Mars colony, we might be seeing more NASA video production along similar lines in the years ahead. My hunch is the kooks will call it a conspiracy and get on with the business of scare mongering. How ironic that the real planetary threat whose existence would entail getting off our behinds and doing something other than hoarding cans of Spam, human induced climate change, is called a hoax.
(photo credit: Don Davis/NASA, Wikimedia Commons)