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Encore: Dr. Debunko

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Date: December 16th, 2012

Title: Encore: Dr. Debunko

Podcaster: Mark W. and Katie from Adler Planetarium, also joined by Dr. Mark Hammergren

Organization: Adler Planetarium – www.adlerplanetarium.org/ www.adlerplanetarium.org/podcasts

Description: Just what is the science behind all of those outrageous stories? Dr. Mark Hammergren gets the tough questions about crop circles, Nibiru, 2012, and more!

This podcast originally aired on March 29th, 2010 http://365daysofastronomy.org/2010/03/29/march-29th-dr-debunko/

Bio: The Adler Planetarium — America’s First Planetarium — was founded in 1930 by Chicago business leader Max Adler. The museum is home to three full-size theaters, including the all-digital projection Definiti® Space Theater, the Sky Theater which utilizes a Zeiss optical projector, and the Universe 3D Theater. It is also home to one of the world’s most important antique instrument collections. The Adler is a recognized leader in science education, with a focus on inspiring young people, particularly women and minorities, to pursue careers in science.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — NO ONE. We still need sponsors for many days in 2011, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at signup@365daysofastronomy.org.

Transcript:

Mark W.
Welcome to a special edition of the Alder Planetarium’s biweekly podcast, Adler Night and Day. The Adler Night and Day podcast provides listeners with a glimpse of what they can see in the night sky, as well as, updates on recent solar weather and riveting conversation. For the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast, we’ll be concentrating on the riveting conversation. So without further ado, I’m your host Mark…

Katie
And I’m Katie. And today we’re joined on Adler Night and Day by Dr. Mark Hammergren, of the Adler Planetarium. Welcome, Mark…

Mark H.
Hi, good to be here!

Mark W.
Today, Mark is going to play a special role for us, he’s going to put on his Dr. Debunko hat. We’ll be throwing out questions and he’s going to debunk, deconstruct, and get to the science and reality behind some of the myths and hoaxes roaming around out there!

Katie
And do we ever have some doozies! I went around, asked a lot of people what questions they had, and questions that they might have been a little afraid to ask and as it turns out… there’s a lot of them!
So, let’s just jump right in. Mark, crop circles… are they the calling cards of intelligent, otherworldly species?

Mark H.
I really wish they were! That’s one thing I really wish would happen. But, uh, ya know, good grief… crop circles. A bunch of designs that have gotten more and more elaborate over time of course, since they appeared on the scene like in the 70′s or 80′s…

Katie
They get more sophisticated just like us?

Mark H.
Just like us! Just like the ability of people to stamp down stalks of wheat, using boards straped to their feet, imagine that?!

Mark W.
So you’re saying the aliens really aren’t that creative?

Mark H.
Well I think the aliens aren’t that stupid! Really, they’re going to come here to the Earth and they’re going to stomp down grain, they’re going to use some magical, mystical force to just kind of, make swirls in corn? Nah, I loved the movie Signs, okay, but no. That’s just, that’s just nuts!

Mark W.
Okay, well… then what about the great pyramids? That’s obviously a landing beacon for aliens.

Mark H.
Oh, ho, ho! I loved the movie Stargate, don’t get me wrong, but ya know, it seems to me that if you’re going to make a landing pad for a spaceship wouldn’t you make it flat? And strong? Rather than a big pointy thing for these things to settle on? Besides, we have good, pretty good understanding of how the Ancient Egyptians made those pyramids. They were built by human engineering. Guess what? They were smart people?

Katie
Well, speaking of intelligence. Is it true that we have X-Rayed the moon and that the dark spots are actually metal plates? Um, this is because was manufactured and brought here to stabilize Earth’s orbit, in order to seed life here. So, aliens could seed life here?

Mark H.
Well, with apologies, that’s the nuttiest thing I’ve ever heard! We haven’t X-Rayed the Moon per say. Although, that brings a really cool image to mind of this enormous X-Ray plate, ya know, a photographic plate behind the moon. But it’s been studied in X-Rays sure, but you can’t penetrate the whole Moon by that and furthermore, those dark spots are impact basins caused by the impacts of giant asteroids. We know what they are, they’re covered with lava, they’re not, frozen lava, that is. They’re not made of giant metal plates. That’s uh, that’s insane. Aliens bringing the Moon here, that’s uh… Wow! That’s bizarre!

Mark W.
Well, okay. Well, this one is not so wild. What about the Earth’s magnetic pole and it reversing it’s polarity. This is something that has actually happened in the past. It could happen again at any moment and end civilization as we know it, right?

Mark H.
Well, let’s see… the first part. It’s happened many times before, absolutely. The Earth’s magnetic poles do flip, on an irregular basis. And this has happened many, many times over the course of the geological history of the Earth. It hasn’t happened for a long time. Uh, gosh, I can’t remember how long it’s been since the last time we’ve had a pole reversal, certainly not during recorded history. But, uh, when you look at the fossil record. Okay, has a massive extinction of life, uh, accompanied one of these pole reversals? And the answer is no. The mass extinction caused by the impact of an asteroid, the KT event, 65 million years ago, occurred during during one of the longest stretches of magnetic stability, so uh, there’s no connection between asteroid impacts and magnetic pole reversals, and there’s no connection between magnetic pole reversals and mass extinction of life. Whether it will have an effect on civilization, that, you know, it might. First of all, our compasses wouldn’t work for a while. The magnetic field of the Earth would decrease over time, probably centuries, thousands of years fall off to nothing.

Mark W.
So it’s not instantaneous?

Mark H.
Not instantaneous, we’d see it coming. We actually might see it coming. The Earth’s magnetic field has decreased by a few percent in just the past couple decades. So, it is weakening. Maybe a prelude to a pole reversal, thousands of years from now, we don’t know.

Mark W.
Yah, of course compasses aren’t the navigational tool that they used to be before GPS, uh…

Mark H.
Yah, it’s going to happen on a time scale for us to adjust to it… and work out a bit of protection to it. Sure.

Mark W.
Well, this leads us to a bunch of theories that are related to 2012, which we all know is the end of the world, and triggers events that will cause massive, if not complete destruction. Let’s start with one that’s right up your alley. Asteroid Toutatis, making it’s way toward Earth at the end of 2012.

Mark H.
Uh, yah, asteriod Toutatis is a near Earth asteroid and it’s a decent sized one, it’s a few kilometers across. And if that thing hit it would cause regional devastation on the Earth. Disruption to a good sized country would result. Not a world shattering event. Not like the one that killed the dinosaurs.

Mark W.
Okay.

Mark H.
But uh, It’s not gonna happen! We know Toutatis’s orbit very, very precisely, very well. It’s going to make a close pass by Earth by solar system standards but it’s going to miss us by an incredibly wide bearth. It’ll be of interest to astronomers who want to study this thing a little closer than it’s been at times in the past. But it’s uh, chances of hitting the Earth in 2012 are zero. I will say that, perfectly zero. Absolutely not. Unless an alien comes along and drags it into the Earth.

Katie
Well, what about the theory that a massive solar event such as a massive solar flare or a CME, coronal mass ejection, will trigger the 2012 event?

Mark H.
Yah, there was something like this in the movie 2012, there was a connection between the output of nutrinos from the sun being absorbed by the core of the Earth and blah, blah, blah, well, let’s set that aside. The connection to geological activity on the Earth. Okay, the Sun does go through a cycle of activity, of sunspot activity and solar storms that lasts about 11years from a maximum down to a minimum and back to a maximum. And we’re heading back up to a maximum in activity somewhere around 2012. Ooh! That’s a scary association there but all that means is that we’re going to have more sunspots, we’re going to have more solar storms, we’re going to have more Northern Lights in the sky. So, this is something for us to look forward to. Now, if a big solar storm is aimed at the Earth, what could happen? Well, we’ll see it coming first of all, cause we’re looking at the sun all the time, for this very reason. And power companies will be able to take steps to ensure that transformers don’t blow when the solar storm hits the Earth. Satellites operators will be able to put them into safe mode. So, yah, there’ll be an effect, but that’s the level of effect. We’re not talking about the tectonic plates slippin’ and slidin’ like an air hockey table.

Katie
So, it’s not going to blast our skin right off our face?

Mark H.
No, no, wow!

Mark W.
That’s a good thing. Okay, so we escape from the asteroid, we survive the coronal mass ejection, but there’s no stopping the grand planetary alignment that’s going to happen at the end of 2012. The combined tidal forces and gravitational pull will rip the the Earth’s crust and cause the super volcano under yellowstone to erupt and any other amount of damage.

Katie
We’re all in big trouble.

Mark H.
Oh, yah we all would be if that was gonna happen. But, first of all, there’s no planetary alignment that’s going to happen in 2012. The planets aren’t lining up.

Mark W.
Oh, sure! Are, are you certain?

Mark H.
Yah, I think we can look back to like a, Issac Newton’s results on the laws of gravity. We understand the orbits of the planets pretty darn well.

Mark W.
Okay.

Mark H.
There’s no alignment that going to happen. The alignment that a lot of people had been talking about is the apparent alignment of the Earth, and the Sun, and the center of the galaxy, which happens around December 21st in 2012 supposedly. Well, you know this actually happens every year around December 21st and it’s just a coincidence, and it’s not that good of an line up anyway. And even if it was, nothings going to happen. It didn’t happen to us this last year and it isn’t going to happen to us in 2012. So, yah, naw, naw, nothing like that is going to possibly, remotely, going to happen. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

Katie
So, what about this one, I’ve heard it in relation to 2012 and then just out there on it’s own. That there is a little known, giant, rogue planet and it only comes around every so often and it’s orbit is so expansive that it actually goes beyond the boundaries of our solar system, but it’s coming back, and it’s on a collision course with Earth!

Mark H.
Oh, yah, yah… this ties into some books by this guy Zecharia Sitchin and the planets name is Nibiru and it was observed by ancient Babylonians. He got this stuff from teaching himself how to translate ancient Babylonian or Sumerian, and yah, guess what? That shows! Yah, he just got so much stuff wrong! And there just isn’t some rouge planet that’s screaming through the solar system. We see no evidence for it in the orbits of the planets or the asteroids. They’re quite stable. We’d have seen an effect like that before. There’s uh, surveys of the sky, like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Other telescopic surveys that would have found such a thing. Ooh, their covering it up! Right, astronomers don’t cover stuff up, astronomers like to blab every secret they’ve ever found!

Mark W.
Okay, then… this one you can’t really deny. Albert Einstein, greatest scientist of the 20th Century, created the Theory of Relativity, which states that everything is reletive, you can have anything that’s an absolute objective truth. They’re always some back and forth, a little of this, a little of that.

Mark H.
Yah, no. Not so much.

Mark W.
What do you mean?!

Mark H.
There is an absolute truth and we’re aspiring toward learning this absolute truth. And the bit about relativity, it’s not that the truth is relative. It’s that the motions of objects in space are relative to one another. So, uh, it’s over-generalizing what Einstein was saying in his theory of relativity.

Mark W.
So that probably explains the grade I got on that essay.

Well, okay then. I’d like to thank you Dr. Debunko, I mean Mark, for joining us today

Mark H.
Oh, I’m quite happy to be here. Good to talk to you.

Katie
And I’d like to thank the listeners of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast. To listen to full episodes of Adler Night and Day please visit www.adlerplanetarium.org/podcasts

Mark W.
And there are plenty more myths and ideas to debunk and so we’ll have Dr. Debunko back on the Adler Night and Day podcast so if you enjoyed the episode go ahead and come on over and sign up for Adler Night and Day.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. Until tomorrow…goodbye.

2 Responses to “Encore: Dr. Debunko”

  1. TWT says:

    I stopped reading after you said that the egyptians built the pyramids… There is still no evidence of that. Anyone who believes that they built the pyramids wants the easy answer, you need to rethink yourself.

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