Tag Archives: Conversations

We’ll Survive 2012 Apocalypse, So Will Doomsday Fears

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Humanity will survive the supposed December 2012 apocalypse, but, unfortunately, so will irrational doomsday fears, scientists say.

Doomsayers around the world are gearing up for armageddon on Dec. 21, based on predictions supposedly made by the Mayans more than 1,000 years ago. Even after the sun rises Dec. 22, however, many folks will be only momentarily reassured, quickly latching onto another scenario purported to bring about the apocalypse within their lifetime.

The persistence of these worries stems from a variety of factors, researchers say. The deluge of misinformation on the Internet, poorly developed or underutilized critical thinking skills and plain old human nature all contribute, convincing many people to fear the worst despite the lack of compelling evidence (and the poor track record of such dire predictions over the years).

“There have been end-of-the-world predictions every few years throughout history, really,” said astronomer David Morrison, head of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif. “We had two or three last year.”

Morrison spoke at the SETICon 2 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., on June 23 during a panel discussion called “Cosmophobia: Doomsday 2012 and Other Fiction Science.” [Don’t Panic: 2012 Doomsday Fears Debunked]

Flood of Misinformation

Though Morrison and other scientists work hard to tamp down fears of Comet Elenin, the mythical planet Nibiru and other supposed agents of impending doom, their voices of reason have a hard time being heard these days.

“We are completely drowned out by the doomsayers on the Internet,” Morrison said. “It’s very hard for the truth to even get a hearing.”

It’s especially hard to reach young people, most of whom seem unable to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources, he added.

“At the best, they will just count numbers,” Morrison said. “‘Well, there are 83 websites that say the world will end in 2012, and one that says it won’t. So it must be true.'”

Not all of the misinformation is coming from altruistic folks who just want to get the worried word out, said fellow panelist Andrew Fraknoi, chair of the astronomy department at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. Some of it is probably pumped out by people trying to make a buck.

“Today, it seems like money is much more important than truth, that anything goes,” Fraknoi said. “Fear-mongering has become a large and profitable industry.”

Data from the publishing world appear to back him up: A search for “Doomsday 2012” books on Amazon.com returns nearly 200 titles.

It’s Human Nature

But not all of the blame can be laid at the Internet’s feet. Doomsday fears have cropped up repeatedly throughout history, and in most cases they weren’t sustained by YouTube videos and “Nibiru” Google searches. [Oops! 11 Failed Doomsday Predictions]

The Millerites, for example, believed that Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 1843 or 1844, and that the world as we know it would be destroyed in the process. Another group called the Seekers thought a huge flood would ravage our planet on Dec. 21, 1954. The Seekers’ leader, a Chicago woman named Dorothy Martin, claimed to have gotten this information from aliens living on the planet Clarion.

We shouldn’t be too surprised whenever such cults grab the headlines, said Leonard Mlodinow, a Caltech physicist and author of such books as “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randonmness Rules Our Lives” and “The Grand Design” (which he wrote with Stephen Hawking).

“I think it’s a very natural human phenomenon,” Mlodninow said. “People who we consider very rational believe such things all the time.”

He cited today’s major religions, saying that they would have seemed just as odd and irrational as the doomsday cults if we’d encountered them back in the early days, before they became so well established.

“I don’t consider those people particularly weird,” Mlodinow said of modern doomsayers. “I just think that they’re early adopters, you might call them.”

There’s likely some ego-boosting pyschology involved as well, said panelist Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute.

“To some extent, it’s a very empowering thought — that you know something very important that those nerdy, pointy-headed, tweed-jacketed academics down at the local university won’t acknowledge,” Shostak said. “I think you have to look for the answers there.”

Is Education the Answer?

Whatever their causes, doomsday fears are quite prevalent in the United States and abroad.

For example, a poll commisioned by the news agency Reuters earlier this year found that 15% of people worldwide — or roughy 1 billion folks — believe the apocalypse will come during their lifetime. In the United States, the figure is 22%.

Such worries aren’t just interesting sociological or psychological phenomena, Morrison said. They can have tragic consequences for believers.

“At least once a week, I get a question from a young person — usually 11, 12 years old — who says they are contemplating suicide before the end of the world,” Morrison said. “I know of several cases at least of reported suicides, of people who are obsessed with the end of the world in 2012.”

The best way to combat irrational doomsday worries — especially among the young — is education, Fraknoi said. We need to teach better critical thinking skills and instill a love of discovery that will inspire kids to seek out the truth — and make them less likely to be gulled by fanciful rumors.

“Ask yourself the question, ‘Why should I believe a word of this?'” Fraknoi said. “If you know how to answer, ‘Why should I believe a word of this?’ then you’re much closer to scientific truth.”

Artist’s conception of the rogue planet Nibiru, or Planet X courtesy of gilderm, sxc.hu

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/06/science-of-doomsday-fears/

The Gross Side of Space: What Happens to Dead Skin in Microgravity

Warning: If you are looking for a story about the romance of space travel — the adventure, the wonder, the transcendence of what we know in the name of exploring a great unknown — this is not that. Turn away now.

Still with me? Great. Then here’s something from the other side of space. The less romantic, and in fact vaguely disgusting, side. The side that involves drinking recycled urine and using bathrooms that involve vacuums and trimming moustaches with clippers that resemble medieval torture devices. This one involves skin. Skin which, as it naturally does, sheds.

On Earth, we barely notice that process: Our skin cells molt and and gravity pulls them away from our bodies, conveniently and invisibly. In space, however, there is no gravity to pull the dead cells (technically: the detritus) away. Which means that the detritus, left to its own devices, simply floats. Which, given the fact that multiple astronauts live on the Space Station at the same time, and the fact that even highly trained space travelers might get skeeved out by floating clouds of dead skin, is less than ideal.

In the video above, former ISS denizen Don Pettit describes what happens when, in particular, you take your socks off on the Station. “This cloud, this explosion of skin particles — detritus — floats out,” he says. “And you’re in this weightless environment, and the particles have nowhere to go but out.”

That’s even true of foot calluses — which, after a few months of weightlessness, tend to soften. I’ll leave the details to Pettit, but the bottom line is this: If you ever find yourself living on a space station, make sure the station’s ventilation system works really, really well. Because, as astronaut Mike Massimino warns in the video: “This sounds actually pretty disgusting.”

“Well, it is,” Pettit replies. “But it’s part of being a human.”

Image: NASA

This article originally published at The Atlantic
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/08/01/dead-skin-microgravity/

Mashable Weekend Recap: 60 Stories You Might Have Missed

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You might think mid-summer is kind of quiet here at Mashable HQ, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This weekend was rip-roaring, rollicking and all those other “R” words — full of news, views, ballyhoo and woo woo, and we gathered all of it together right here, just for you.

So start your week right, check out all of our posts we did over the weekend here on the Weekend Recap, and then go out there and make it your best week yet.

Editor’s Picks

Sneak Peek: iPad 7? Features Unicorn Horns, Levitation [SUNDAY COMICS]

Advertisers Need to Pay Attention to Connected TV [INFOGRAPHIC]

Next iPhone Will Debut in Fall, Japanese Blog Reports [VIDEO]

Richard Branson Announces Satellite-Carrying ‘LauncherOne’

Top 10 Pinterest Pins This Week

6 Apps You Don’t Want To Miss

Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

News & Opinion

Nokia Knocks Lumia 900 Price Down to $50

How to Watch ‘Breaking Bad’ Premiere Live Online

770,000 Users Demand YouTube-to-MP3 Conversion

Top 6 Comments on Mashable This Week

Watch the Soyuz Lift Off for the International Space Station [VIDEO]

Cutest Thing You’ll See All Day: Man Proposes To Anchor Girlfriend On-Air [VIDEO]

HTC Working on ‘Unique’ New Tablet [REPORT]

NASA Releases Awesome Images of Massive Solar Flare Heading Toward Earth [VIDEO]

Mysterious Photos of a Super Slim Playstation 3 Leaked [VIDEO]

The Real iPod: Elon Musk’s Wild Idea for a ‘Jetson Tunnel’ from SF to LA

Non-Profits to Reap $10 Million From Facebook Settlement [REPORT]

RIM Loses $147,200,000 in Patent Verdict

LEGO Version of ‘Portal’ May Be Coming to a Store Near You

Solar Flare Heading Toward Earth, Could Result in Beautiful Sky Show [VIDEO]

The Chosen One: Meet the Man Who Sparked the Reddit Mystery [VIDEO]

Golden Google Doodle Honors Austrian Painter Gustav Klimt

Fast Food Loves Facebook: Restaurant Chains on Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC]

Amazon Game Network Launch Hints at Kindle Smartphone

Woman Goes to Extremes to Sell $35 Million Mansion

Are FBI’s Android Data-Sharing Apps Hacker-Proof?

Mobile Users Are Checking In as They Check Out of Town [INFOGRAPHIC]

Amy Poehler Gives Fantastic Makeup Advice [VIDEO]

Windows 8 Gets Unboxed

Bieber Hits 25 Million Followers, Twitter Employees Dance [VIDEO]

Are You Afraid of Mobile Phone Separation? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Weekend Leisure

How to Watch ‘Breaking Bad’ Premiere Live Online

Watch the Gruesome Trailer for The Walking Dead’s New Season

5 Fascinating Things We Learned From Reddit This Week

Kickstarter Project: Bring Ancient Artillery into Your Office [VIDEO]

The 10 Most Awesome Breaking Bad Finds on Pinterest

Watch London Cops Pull the Plug on Springsteen and McCartney [VIDEO]

‘Call Me Maybe’ Meets Star Wars: Forced Parody? [VIDEO]

Pack The Perfect Pinterest Picnic

Workout Gadgets Will Soon Be Battery-Free and Powered by You

Top 10 GIFs of the Week

Screen Time: How Much is Too Much for Your Kids?

10 Epic Trick Shot Stunts on YouTube

Who is the Superhero of the Social Web? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Half-Time at Comic-Con: Thursday and Friday’s Featured Films

7 Cosplayers to Follow on Social Media

7 Classic Harrison Ford Movie Quotes as Memes

Who Should Replace Departing ‘American Idol’ Judges?

This Robot Can Express Frighteningly Human Emotions [VIDEO]

Modern Day Heat Wave Problems [COMIC]

Helpful Resources

Reserve These 5 Web Properties for Your Kids Now

Why Analytics Matter to Small Businesses

3 Online Tools for Finding the Perfect Job Candidate

50 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed

Can We Stop Bullying in the Gaming Community?

This Website Uses Social Media to Find Your Dream Job

A Flash Sales Site for Modest Fashion

How to Tell if Your Ad Is Terrible

12 Jaw-Dropping Booths From Comic-Con

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/16/weekend-recap-62/

10 Completely Useless Websites We Found in 2012

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Viral Video Recap: Must-Watch Memes of the Week

Gearing up for a summer vacation? We’ve got some inspiration for you in this week’s viral video recap.

To satisfy your travel bug, this week’s roundup features a juggler who multi-tasks with a GoPro in Iceland. It also includes professional golfer Rory McIlroy going to head-to-head with a robot, a peculiar bit of bead-chain physics, playtime antics with a grown man acting as a 2-year-old and, of course, a cat video.

Which of the memes included in the video above was your favorite? Share your pick with us in the comments below.

Image courtesy of YouTube, ConvosWith2YrOld

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/01/viral-video-recap-36/

Invisible Obama: Exclusive Q&A with the Internet Sensation

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Twitter parody accounts have become a common reaction to any big new event. Some last less than an hour, such as the “cascaded bug” that brought down Twitter. And some become overnight sensations.

That’s what happened following Clint Eastwood’s chat with a chair Thursday night at the Republican National Convention.

After Eastwood’s stunt with “Invisible Obama,” Internet users responded with memes, hashtags, photos — and of course, a parody Twitter account: @InvisibleObama.

The account was created during Eastwood’s speech. Less than 12 hours later, it had more than 50,000 followers. Another account, @ClintsChair, has received significantly less attention.

The self-proclaimed “iPOTUS” is still tweeting, despite having his account briefly suspended. Mashable reached out to the man behind the account, who has requested to remain anonymous. (He is invisible, after all.) Here’s what @InvisibleObama had to say for himself.

Q&A With @InvisibleObama

Are you willing to reveal yourself?

Revealing myself would be counterproductive. I’m invisible, after all.

Why did the account get suspended?

I think it is very possible that the Twitter account suspension was triggered automatically, as a result of gaining a lot of followers in a very short period of time. Getting unsuspended was a breeze through an online form. Invisible hats off to Twitter for automating that process.

How quickly did you decide to turn this moment into a Twitter handle?

I was born about 5 minutes after Clint Eastwood started talking to me on stage. I’m an anthropomorphized invisible miracle baby.

Were you expecting this amount of attention when you started?

There was no way to anticipate how popular I’d become, but it happened. But it seemed like the right time for it. When so many people are watching one moment (that isn’t Honey Boo Boo Child) on TV, the zeitgeist becomes pretty obvious.

Now that you have gained more than 50,000 followers, what do you plan to do with the account?

I can’t just disappear (well, any more than I already have), so I’m going to keep on observing without being observed.

Have you heard anything from either presidential candidate’s party or Twitter? What about Clint Eastwood?

The @replies and @mentions have been coming in so fast (dozens per minute), so some of them may have actually reached out or interacted with me in some way. But none of them have reached out to me via email just yet. Though many prominent journalists on both sides of the invisible aisle have retweeted me.

What happens when other people sit in the chair? Do they become invisible?

When other people sit in the chair they usually get freaked out by feeling like they are sitting on someone else’s lap (that they can’t see). The reactions are priceless. My “and what do YOU want for Christmas” jokes don’t go over too well at that point. Then I just bring up “Invisible Touch” on my Spotify, and say over it, “you just got @invisibleobama’d!”

If you were to become chairman of anything, what would it be?

Let me be clear. I don’t have time for that. I’m an invisible President. Plus, I’m still running Clint Eastwood’s questions through Google Translate. But I guess if I could be the Chairman of anything, it would be Ikea. It would be great to have a full line of invïsibleöbäma furniture. Plus, I bet I’d get unlimited swedish meatballs and access to the ball pit after hours (because during regular hours it would be way too creepy).

What were your thoughts on Mitt Romney’s speech?

I couldn’t really hear Mitt Romney’s speech too well, as I was behind him. But I could read his points off the teleprompter. The entire platform is like Wonder Woman’s invisible jet – not much substance, and dangerously close to a woman’s privates.

Eastwooding! Clint’s ‘Invisible Obama’ Routine Inspires Meme

Viral Video Recap: Must-Watch Memes of the Week

The beginning of summer doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to battle a case of the Mondays. So to beat the sunny swelter and beat the Mondays in one sitting, go find some air conditioning and watch this week’s viral video recap above.

This week’s roundup includes moms (trying) to play video games, a cop dealing with monkey business, giant meteorologist-eating spiders and, of course, the obligatory cat video.

What was your favorite viral video this week? Share your picks in the comments below.

Image courtesy of YouTube, latenight

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/24/viral-video-recap-35/

15 Quotes About Science to Restore Your Faith in Our Future

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Bear Grylls Proposed to His Wife While Naked in the Ocean

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Image: PRNewsFoto/Discovery Channel/Associated Press

Contrary to popular belief, romance is not dead. Bear Grylls just took all of it.

The survivalist and reality star revealed his unique proposal to his wife of 14 years on an upcoming episode of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.

The tale goes something like this: Grylls and then-girlfriend Shara Cannings Knight were skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean when the adventurer attempted to propose.

“I pulled out the ring from my butt cheeks,” Grylls said, according to The Daily Mail. “She was standing there going ‘what are you doing?’… A massive Atlantic roller came in and I went, ‘will you’ — and it went —- took me up the beach.”

Holding his butt ring and covered in seaweed, Grylls said he then tried again. His girlfriend said yes — and the rest is history.

The couple was married in 2000, and the two have three sons.

BONUS: 23 Adorkable Wedding Rings for Geeks in Love

3 Cosmic Events That Will Spark Doomsday Rumors

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Take a deep breath; Dec 21, 2012 is behind us. The Mayan calendar end-of-world debacle is over: zip, zilch, gone!

The silliness, anxiety and paranoia leading up to the predicted end of times was so bad that on Dec. 21st — the appointed doomsday — a worried citizen left a message on my office phone that accused me of skipping town to escape Armageddon.

If history is any example, the next cosmic doomsday prediction is always right around the corner. The Mayan blowout was just the latest in many centuries of bad calls by prognosticators who have the audacity to think they can divine the End of Everything.

So, to be a little preemptive, let’s look at just three cosmic events that might start another pop culture panic. Thankfully these aren’t born out of mythology, psychics and misinterpreted archeoastronomy. They are real events that will inevitably be embellished by the imaginations of modern day soothsayers.

The Comet of the Century

Last September, the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) near Kislovodsk, Russia, discovered comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). Though its closest approach to Earth is a year away, the celestial visitor is already billed as the “comet of the century.” That’s because it may be a first-time visitor to the solar system that will warm and then erupt with a lot of outgassing from pristine ices.

On Nov. 28, 2013, the comet will skim above the sun’s surface at a distance slightly greater than the separation of the Earth and moon. Not doubt there will be pseudoscience predictions of the comet wreaking havoc by raising tides on the sun. The exact opposite will be the case. The sun’s tidal pull could tear apart the comet into small pieces, as has been the case for previous sungrazer-class comets.

Comet ISON is due to pass within 37 million miles of Earth in January 2014. You can expect to see all types of outrageous claims that the object’s feeble gravity will yank on Earth to trigger volcanoes and earthquakes.

Comet ISON has been compared with the Great Comet of 1680 (in above illustration) which, according to contemporary accounts, caused New Yorkers to be “overcome with terror at a sight in the heavens such as has seldom greeted human eyes.” A day of fasting and humiliation was set-aside in order that “the wrath of God might be assuaged.”

Likewise, soothsayers will quickly note that the comet will be at it brightest one month before Christmas 2013. “This comet, if it lives up to its billing, certainly could point to the glorious soon coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven!” predicts one religious website.

The fact that the comet is anticipated to get as bright as the moon will only fuel religious and mystical speculation about its timing and significance as an omen. Chill out folks, it’s just another 4-billion-year-old primeval chunk of ice from the solar system’s deep freeze, the Oort cloud.

Asteroid Apophis

NASA keeps cataloging more Earth-threatening asteroids every year. But the asteroid Apophis, named after the Egyptian spirit of evil and destruction, is legendary because it will be a record-breaker.

On April, Friday the 13th of 2029 Apophis will skim below the orbits of communication satellites and briefly be a naked-eye object scooting over the mid-Atlantic ocean.

Earth’s gravity will deflect the comet’s trajectory. The worst-case scenario is that the chances of it striking Earth on its return on April 13, 2036 will increase to 1 in 5,500.

Apophis is the length of over three football fields. It packs enough kinetic energy to wipe out 10 million people with the power of 100,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. Even in this worst-case scenario, a direct hit would not obliterate all life on the planet. But it certainly would not be a good day for the human race.

People will get very squeamish over the possibility of Apophisgeddon despite the best low-probability collision estimate from astronomers. Parallels no doubt will be drawn to Biblical prophecy. This is especially true because the potentially destructive path of the asteroid crosses Middle East. South America and the west coast of Africa are also along the ground track.

Congress might even debate if steps should be taken to deflect the asteroid. But given that so many legislators are tone-deaf to global warming, don’t expect any preemptive actions to be funded.

Planetary Grand Alignment

Like clockwork so-called planetary grand alignments have taken place in 1962, 1982 and 2000. This does not mean that the planets line up like pearls on a string. But they sort of gang up on one side of the sun within an angle of roughly 10 to 30 degrees — so the definition is a but mushy.

The uneventful year 1128 A.D. saw one of the tightest planetary alignments. The 1982 doomsday best-seller The Jupiter Effect spelled out an improbable chain of events that would be triggered by the planets’ tug-of-war with the sun: Tides raised on the sun’s surface would increase sunspot activity, build up the solar wind that would effect Earth’s weather, and subsequently, Earth’s spin rate, which would then trigger earthquakes.

No geological disasters happened in 1982 short of a 6.0 magnitude earthquake that killed 1,500 people in Dhamar, northern Yemen. In fact the celestial alignment allowed for NASA to pull off the Voyager 2 “grand tour” of the four outer gas giant planets from 1979 to 1989.

Jupiter contains more mass than all the other planets combined, and yet it is still less than 1% of the sun’s mass. Therefore Jupiter’s influence on the sun is inconsequential.

Alien astronomers could measure Jupiter’s gravitational tug as an insignificant 270 mile-per-hour cyclic change in the sun’s radial velocity over the planet’s 12-year orbital period. Only if Jupiter was moved so close to the sun that its orbital period was measured in days, would some serious tidal effects be seen. This is observed with so-called “hot Jupiters,” the exoplanet WASP-18 being the most extreme case.

Running an ephemeris forward in time, with the ease of throttling H.G. Wells’ time machine, the next closest thing to a grand alignment comes in 2163 (shown above). Unless we have bombed ourselves back to pre-Columbian society by then, people in 2163 will be too science savvy to give this any thought. They will be bemused by historical accounts of the feared Jupiter Effect by their science-illiterate ancestors.

What’s ironic is that any casual surfing of the Internet shows that a lot of people are preoccupied with doom and gloom based on mythology, psychics and patently flaky ideas. The real Earth-threats, such as global warming, seem to be too easily shrugged off as lacking solid scientific evidence. Go figure.

Images courtesy of NASA; Russell Schweickart / B612 Foundation

This article originally published at Discovery News
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/01/07/cosmic-events-doomsday/