End of the World (or, solving the mystery of 2012, Nibiru, and online validation)

Hey kids, can you say FICTION?

As in: 2012 is a movie that Sony is releasing this November. And the website whowillsurvive2012 is a promotion for that very same movie. Which is, uhm fiction?

Apparently there are a lot of gullible souls out there who have taken the combination of movie imagery, web rumors, and half-mangled truths and managed to convince themselves that the END is nearly here.

Maybe they caught the movie trailer on TV and thought it was a special Fox News report. Or maybe they read so many of the Nibiru-and-secret-government-plot websites that they now subscribe to the notion  ‘if it’s online it must be true.’  Or perhaps they read a novel like Godschild Covenant or The Twelfth Planet and they didn’t quite catch that “novel” means “fiction.”

In any case, there are enough of these concerned citizens that NASA has actually set up a special area to address the question of Planet X, Nibiru, and the predicted end of civilization -- an end which is apparently scheduled for, as the movie title suggests, 2012.

In its Ask and Astrobiolgist section of the its website (http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ask-an-astrobiologist), NASA gives us a  whole dedicated FAQ which goes to great lengths to debunk the myth that ancient civilizations, including the Sumerians, found a tenth planet, called it the Destroyer or Nibiru or Planet X, and predicted it would wipe out Earth on precisely December 21, 2012.

The real proof, these prophets claim, is that the ancient Mayan calendar ends upon that day. The Mayan calendar developers apparently never went beyond that date because they knew that day would be The End.

I just love imagining the ancient dialog in the Mayan governmental agency tasked with future scheduling.

Here we see Innawankia and Abandonowla, two Mayan planners who been working on the endless administrative task of building far-future calendars. The project has been underway seemingly forever. One nice afternoon that just screams “play hooky” they find themselves at a good stopping place in the calculations …

“Yo, Innawankia, I got this future cycle mapped out to December 21 2012. Wanna’ sneak out early today and do a little llama trekking?”

“You bet, Abandonowla! The world’s ending then anyway. Or let’s just say that it is and get the heck of this project and out of here.”

The two laugh at their own cleverness and with a few strokes end the calendar on December 12 2012 and head out for a delightful afternoon of llama-trek.

And because of the darn llama, a few gazillion years later websites with names like the church of critical thinking (http://churchofcriticalthinking.org/planetx.html) are advising you to stay away from the coasts in late 2012. And xfacts (http://xfacts.com/x2.htm) is telling you about the search for Planet X. And … well, there’s a whole lot more along the same line each offering powerful gems of fact including my personal favorite:  “Irrefutable Planet X (Nibiru) Evidence!”

Yes, if it is online it must not only be true, but also irrefutable.

Alas, the documentable truth around the Planet X “conspiracy” is downright mundane. As Ask the Astrobiologist writes:

Planet X” is an oxymoron when applied to a real object. The term has been used by astronomers over the past century for a possible or suspected object. Once the object is found, it is given a real name, as was done with Pluto and Eris, both of which were at some time referred to as Planet X. If a new object turns out to be not real, or not a planet, then you won’t hear about it again. If it is real, it is not called Planet X.

We all know that the web is that microcosm of humanity … where like communities find each other and somehow bond, grow, and replicate. No one ever said that like communities had to be rational, logical, or even reality based.

Both the far reaches of space and the ancient mysteries of time are fascinating passageways that the imagination can easily travel through.  Tales of past civilizations like the Mayans and the Sumerians are intriguing. A good storyteller can weave bits of fact into amazing, lifelike fantasy so real that … a believer creates a whole web presence about it as it were real.

And then a few  people read those pages. And they share half remembered bits to their friends. And their friends can’t remember where they heard about Niribu, but it sounds like science so it must have been on the news.  Some of their friends do a web search to find out more about the half-told story of a missing planet and find – you guessed it – those believer sites. Ah, ha! The truth is confirmed. Irrefutably!

Before you know it, we’re got a bunch of people murmuring about a government conspiracy to cover up the truth that a giant hidden planet is about to create dramatic floods, earthquakes, and people-eating craters. Cities will melt! It will take few brave souls to find that truth and save the human race!

Wow, what a great story that is. What a great movie it would make!

Oh, wait, it is already a movie. Opening November 13. Starring John Cusack and Amanda Peet.Fiction, kids.

Fiction. It’s a beautiful thing that harnesses the power of the human imagination.

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