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Can Giant Airships Accelerate To Orbit (JP Aerospace's Idea)?

JP Aerospace is an interesting company - in the city of Rancho Cordova, CA., California, JP...

Is Fomahault-b A Dwarf Exoplanet - If IAU Definition Is Used?

This is an update to my article: How A "Dwarf Planet" Gas Giant Could Challenge IAU Definition...

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I think the chances of the SpaceX mission around the Moon going ahead on schedule in 2018 is tiny...

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Ethan Siegel has just written an article, "The Science Has Spoken: Pluto Will Never Be A Planet...

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Robert WalkerRSS Feed of this column.

I'm Robert Walker, inventor & programmer. I have had a long term special interest in astronomy, and space science since the 1970s, and most of these blog posts currently are about Mars and space... Read More »

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I have written this for young children and others scared the world is about to blow up. If you read the news announcements today, you can understand why they seem to say this. Take them literally and that is exactly what they say. 

Summary: They have just set the "clock" to two and a half minutes, it does not mean that the world is about to blow up into dust in two and a half minutes. It’s like when a friend says “I could eat a horse”. They couldn’t eat a horse. They also don’t want to eat a horse. But they aren’t lying when they say that. They are just using vivid imagery.

As some of you may know, I've become deeply concerned, and indeed appalled by the large numbers of fake doomsday news stories, because I am so often contacted by people who get very scared and sometimes suicidal as a result of reading these stories. Fourteen tabloids and other papers have published this story so far, and none of them mention that it originates from a site known to publish fake news. The story is that the world is going to end because of two snowy days in Salento in Southern Italy, which they say is a prophetic sign of an imminent massive supervolcano eruption. I think it is a particularly striking case of doomsday news based on chinese whispers starting off from a fake story.

Nibiru easily ranks as the pseudoscience doomsday scenario I get most questions about. Many people, including teenagers, are terrified that we are all about to be killed by a planet called Nibiru which they think is going to hit Earth or do a close flyby in the very near future, for instance many of them have come to believe that it is going to hit us some time before Christmas, or shortly afterwards.

We've had fake news world ending prophecies for centuries. But now we have exaggerated scientific scenarios to add to the list, so that we can get scared by asteroid impacts, nuclear war, runaway warming and so on. These are mixed with pseudoscience, and hoaxes, to the extent that it's often hard to figure out what is fake doomsday news, what is exaggerated, and what is the sober truth. It's easy to get a feeling of a doomsday helplessness. Yet we are far from helpless. These fake scenarios distract us from many real issues that we can do something about. Some vulnerable people, including teenagers, get so terrified by this fake doomsday news that they become suicidal. I've written many doomsday debunking articles, and have now published a new kindle book Doomsday Debunked.

This is something you hear said so often - that we risk being hit by an asteroid that could make humans extinct. But do we really? This is the article I’m commenting on, a recently breaking news story: Earth woefully unprepared for surprise comet or asteroid, Nasa scientist warns. Some are already worrying that it means that we are all due to die in the near future from an asteroid impact. Well, no, it doesn't mean that. So, what is the truth behind it? 

The source of all this is a comment by Dr Joseph Nuth who warns:

How can we predict the climate so far ahead when we can't do an accurate weather forecast even ten days ahead? Well it is remarkable that we can forecast our weather even one day ahead, and by looking at how the forecasters do that we can begin to understand how the models can work over longer timescales. When I was a child in the UK in the 1960s, with our unpredictable weather, a cautious person would take rain gear with them almost no matter what the forecasters said. Even as late as 1987 we had Michael Fish's famous weather blooper. This broadcast is so famous here that it starred in the Olympics 2012 opening ceremony.