Debunk It? I Can’t Even Spell It.

Jiiiiim asks

Hentzau a matter of utmost importance has arisen.

According to gentlemen like we are on course to be hit by the planet Nibiru early in the 21st century. Obviously the freemasons are hushing this up but you are a man of science and so I ask: why do you deny that extra-terrestrials from the Zeta Reticuli star system have warned us about this impending catastrophe? It even has a wiki page if that’ll help.


Usually I wouldn’t stoop to laughing at the mentally ill. The true horror of everyday existence is pretty stark and unforgiving — especially in our media-driven first world where everybody has to be the central character in their own particular narrative — and the realisation that you’re just another schlub who isn’t going to get any special treatment from the universe and will be dead and likely entirely forgotten a century from now can be difficult to cope with. So, you know, it’s kind of understandable that your mind might snap (or at least buckle) under the strain and you start to believe that out of all the seven billion people on Earth you and you alone have been chosen to receive thought transmissions from extra-terrestrials in the Zeta Reticuli star system. Perhaps it provides these people with the personal validation and sense of purpose that they’d been so sorely missing up till then, and if it helps them get through life then who am I to judge? Usually, therefore, I would simply pity these people and refrain from mocking them.


However, I do have to draw a line somewhere, and that for me that line is etched into the fucking ground right at the point where the public start to give these crazy people more credence than actual accredited scientists, because after that point it starts to bleed into what I have to deal with in my everyday life. I used to do very bad planetarium presentations for school classes as part of my outreach job. Would you like to know what was by far the most popular question I got asked at the end of these presentations? The question that I could pretty much guarantee would come up, and which I actually had to spend valuable minutes of my time coming up with reasoned, logical answer to? The question was this:

“Is the world going to end in 2012?”

Thanks, Mayan civilization. Thanks, Hollywood. Five hundred years of scientific progress have led to a comprehensive, detailed model of the Earth and the surrounding universe which is easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection, but people just don’t want to know. They’d prefer to believe that the Moon landings were fake because it makes them smarter than the people they think covered it up; they’d prefer to believe that climate change isn’t real because it means they won’t have to feel guilty every time they fill their SUV with 32 gallons of petrol; and they’d prefer to believe that there’s some kind of impending apocalypse which flies in the face of all currently established scientific orthodoxy because… actually I’m not really sure about that one. Believing that we’re all going to die tomorrow in some kind of horrifying nightmare cataclysm is a little bit grim, isn’t it? Especially when there’s so much stuff out there that can actually kill us, and which would likely do so with little to no warning. If I were going to pick a personal delusion to shape my view of the world I’d pick one that was a little more pleasant, one which allowed me to avoid exactly the sort of feelings of abject misery and despair that an imminent global catastrophe would tend to promote in the general population.

But anyway. I must say I hadn’t heard of this particular end of the world theory before, but that’s okay because it’s hardly original. People have been tossing around the idea of rogue planets/stars/black holes taking a little jaunt through our solar system and screwing with things in a decidedly terminal manner for years, although usually in a more appropriate venue such as a science-fiction novel. Briefly, here is why none of these things are going to be happening any time soon:

Rogue star: We’d see it coming. Even if it were a dead one that’s stopped burning or a brown dwarf that never quite made it, we’d still see it coming in the same way that we can see Jupiter as it makes its leisurely way around the Sun.

Rogue black hole. We wouldn’t see this coming directly, but that’s okay because a black hole’s gravitational footprint is a dead giveaway. We’d notice little things like the outer planets being wrenched out of their orbits, thousands of objects being punted inwards from the Oort cloud turning the inner solar system into a celestial shooting gallery, stuff like that.

Rogue planet: The most popular version of this apocalypse scenario because idiots think that a planet can be small enough that it can somehow escape detection. They are wrong. We have some of the most sensitive observational equipment in existence, both on the ground and in space, scanning the heavens for precisely this sort of thing. In order for astronomers to miss it a rogue planet would have to be actually physically hiding from us somehow as in the hilarious counter-Earth scenario, and even then we’d see evidence of its existence in the way it affected the orbits of the other planets. Even if we did somehow completely miss a planetary interloper barging its way into the solar system from outside, it wouldn’t be a problem because sooner or later Jupiter and/or one of its orbital resonances would give it a gravitational bum’s rush out of the neighbourhood. So while rogue planets may be popular, they’re actually the most scientifically implausible apocalypse mechanism of them all. The gravitational interactions of planetary-scale bodies are very well understood and it is physically impossible for a hypothetical planet such as Nibiru to pose any kind of threat to the Earth.

Honestly, if I were a believer in Nibiru I’d be more worried about the Zeta Reticulans. Think about it: you’re an alien scooting through some faraway star system in your flying saucer and you notice that an inconveniently large chunk of rock is due to strike a nearby populated planet. Do you

a)      Inform the governments of the world so that they can do something about it.

b)      Inform one random woman so she can tell everyone via the internet.

If your answer is b), then you are a dick alien. I’m sorry, but there it is.

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3 thoughts on “Debunk It? I Can’t Even Spell It.

  1. aosher says:


    Amazing scenes.

  2. innokenti says:

    I think the other aspect of it all is – even if it was actually going to happen, what exactly could we do about it anyway? As I think you mentioned previously, it’s probably not much that could help.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Build giant rocket thrusters in earth to push outselves out of the way. Duh.

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