Episode 77: 2012 Back-Peddling
Recap: In the long-delayed "2012 Back-Peddling" episode that is this, I talk about a few examples of people saying one thing or group of things is/are going to happen on or about December 21, 2012, and then their reactions (or lack there-of) when it didn't. Or claims that it still did. We'll see ...
Puzzler for Episode 77: There was no puzzler for this episode.
Answer to Puzzler from Episode 76: There was no puzzler for Episode 76.
Q&A: This episode's question comes from Wallace L. who asks: "I was reading ... about the Large Quasar Group, which is alleged to be the largest known structure in the universe -- at least, this is according to the news article I was reading. I would love to hear your assessment of this claim ... . Is it really the largest structure in the universe? Does physics allow for structures even larger than this one? Why does this one exist in the first place? Does this debunk the Cosmological Principle which states that the universe should look uniform when viewed at a large enough scale? What do we really know about this structure, and what is mere speculation?" And I'll provide his links in the shownotes along with a link to the actual article, which is relatively short but fairly technical.
Wallace's questions are a bit long and involved, so I'm going to try to shorten the answer. And I need to preface this by saying this is about the farthest from my field as you can get while still being in the realm of astronomy, so take what I say with a neutron star-sized grain of salt.
First, a quasar is a very bright object but most are very far away. They stand for "quasi-stellar radio source," they're very energetic, and they're an active nucleus of a galaxy that's basically a black hole feeding and sending off giant jets of material. They can be seen across most of the visible universe.
The other part of this question relates to large-scale structure and large-scale structures themselves. Just like our solar system is a group of stuff bound together by gravity, our galaxy is a group of other stuff bound together by gravity, and the Local Group is a group of galaxies bound together by gravity, so too can quasars form large groups bound together by gravity. But the Cosmological Principle holds that over large scales, everything should look about the same to within normal statistical fluctuations. And, you can plug in parameters as we think they are, like the Hubble Constant and amount of dark energy and come up with a number for what the largest structure should statistically be. When you do that with normal parameters and normal, basic assumptions, you get something very roughly around 400 Mpc (1 billion light-years).
What this discovery is, is a large quasar group that has a characteristic size of 500 Mpc (characteristic size being the cubed root of the volume), but its longest dimension is around 1240 Mpc (~4 billion light-years). Or, around 4x bigger than it "should" be. And it's pretty certain that those are its rough dimensions and that these quasars really are in a singular group.
What the news articles of course pick up on is that this challenges this idea of the Cosmological Principle of uniformity. And based on the article, there have been other hints recently of very large-scale structures that also break it.
Without studying this field and being an expert in this, it's hard for me to give a knowledgable commentary, but in my opinion, I think that the assumptions that go into the model to get this breakage need to be studied first before the Cosmological Principle is thrown out. If you put in other values, or assume other statistics, you get different "maximum sizes." But, that doesn't mean that our basic understanding of the universe at large sizes is 100% correct.
To use an analogy from my own research experience, we used to think that Saturn's rings were solid. Then we thought they were made of lots of particles, but they were all uniform. Then we had the Voyagers flyby and we observed stars going behind them and measured the light patterns, and we came upon a "granola bar" model where you have long strands of particles that are dense and packed together - like granola bars - and then empty gaps between them. Then we have Cassini in orbit now and we have even more data and those models no longer hold up, and we have to go on to something more complicated which needs actual simulations of particles to understand - which is what I did for about two years and will be picking up again in a week. And from those, we see webs and netting-like dense structures of particles along with almost an atmosphere-like effect of smaller particles between them.
The point is that we start with a very simple model, and as we get more data, we layer complexity on top of it. To me, that's what this seems like: Another layer of complexity onto a fairly simple model in what is still a pretty young field of investigation.
- Resources for the Q&A
- Logical Fallacies / Critical Thinking Terms addressed in this episode: Retrodiction
- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
Claim: Obviously, the doomsday that wasn't, December 21, 2012, wasn't. We're still here, nothing bad happened, nothing spiritual happened, and most of us went on with our lives. I had planned this episode to be around February of this year because I expected to see major persons, like John Major Jenkins, or Brent Miller, or Calleman, or Barbara Hand Clow, or various others who had predicted something major to basically be disgraced or come up with some stupid back-peddling to explain away what didn't happen. I was disappointed. That's why this episode has been put off. But it had been long-promised, so I've scrounged up some examples of how people have been back-peddling, though they were more minor in the mythos.
John Major Jenkins
Except for John Major Jenkins, and I think listener Jim S. for writing to me about this. In his books and writings, he was very big on the idea that the Maya knew all about what we think are recent discoveries in physics. Like quantum mechanics. To quote from his "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012" book: "The Maya, however, not only knew about quantum anomalies, but were able to conjure them up at will and travel into them."
I talked a bit about his claims in the Galactic Alignment episode, #15, where he claimed this: "Amazingly, the center of this cosmic cross, that is, right where the ecliptic crosses over the Milky Way, is exactly where the December solstice sun will be in A.D 2012. This alignment occurs only once every 25,800 years. ... The bottom line of my theory is that the ancient Maya chose the 2012 end-date because this is the date on which occurs a rare alignment of the solstice sun with the Galactic Center. ... The Long Count calendar is a galactic calendar because it pinpoints a rare alignment with our Milky Way Galaxy, due to occur in A.D. 2012 – a date written as 18.104.22.168.0 in the Long Count."
With the latter point, already in 2011, he was back-peddling, claiming that the alignment isn't actually with the center, but it's with the equator of the galaxy near the central bulge, so that "other people" say it's the center. But he still tried to put a "new age versus establishment" spin on it by saying that physicists and astronomers "reject the galactic alignment notion" to try to imply that because they reject it, his audience should accept it because physicists and astronomers staunchy old white men who don't know anything.
With respect to doomsday, Jenkins has claimed over and over again for many years that 2012 is not a doomsday event, and that it's other people who claim it, but not him. To quote, "Guess what? There is ZERO evidence that the ancient Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012." That's from his alignment2012.com website. In a 2010 interview on Coast to Coast, he claimed that even though the calendar ends, it's us in the west who tend to associate endings with doom, and that the Maya never intended that.
Unfortunately for him, his own book, "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012," published back in 1998, claims the opposite. To quote: "One thing was certain: The Maya believed the world will 'end in A.D. 2012. ... The ancient Maya understood that the future alignment would have apocalyptic effects, and designed their World age mythology to remind us of what is essential, and what can help us through the transformation." Of course, if they could peer through quantum anomalies and travel to any time and place, as he claimed later in his book, you'd think they could have been more clear with this alleged prophecy.
What we really see with John Major Jenkins is someone who started back-peddling several years before 2012. The reason I say that instead of updating his research and changing his mind - as most scholars do over time - is that he kept claiming he never said it was doom and gloom. Despite his book specifically stating it.
As to what he's up to now-a-days, not much.
Dustin C. alerted me to a website with the URL "december212012.com". It's somewhat similar to John Major Jenkins, though the website looks like it was made in the late 1990s. It's similar in the sense that the administrator backpeddled about as much as Jenkins.
On the website, there are various links to things like "Planet X" and "2012 Solar Storms." There's a store that sells t-shirts and books on how to survive the coming end. On the "2012 Survival Guide" page, they clearly state:
Surviving the coming events of December 21 2012 is not necessarily like surviving other natural or manmade disaster. You and your family will have to be more proactive and assume more preemptive strategies for long term or even permanent survival. You need to realize that this will be a global event that will effect each and every living thing on the planet. Food and clean water will be scarce and public utilities will be nonexistent, The world governments can not and will not be able to assist in your continuing wellbeing and you will more or less be on your own.
In fact, they have a FAQ where there's the question: "Aren’t you needlessly scaring people?" The response is: "I don’t think so. I have been studying and researching the facts, theories, prophecies and predictions surrounding December 21 2012 since late 1998, and I have come to the conclusion that something dramatic is about to happen."
And yet, near the end, they shut down the forum and posted to their Facebook page on December 18, 2012: "PLEASE PEOPLE. . . I'm begging you. Do not overreact or make any rash decisions regarding Dec 21st. Anyone who knows anything about the 2012 prophecies, including myself, does not believes that the world is going to end. This date simply marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new. This is an exciting time for our planet and we should consider ourselves blessed to be alive and able to experience a fantastic new existence."
As with Jenkins, perhaps I'd believe him except for the fact that the website is still up claiming doom and gloom. The "December212012.com Network" hasn't updated nor posted to their Facebook page since January 19, and since then, hundreds have posted, mocking them.
So this is really a theme that seems to hold throughout other people: December 21, 2012, is not the end, even though we said it was, but it's a new spiritual beginning with nothing physically changing even though we still say it will. ...That's me paraphrasing, anyway.
Peter Gersten's Vortex Jump that Wasn't
On perhaps a lighter note is the story of Peter Gersten, sent to me by both Graham and Torsten. He ran the 2012leapoffaith.net website, where back in 2010, he stated:
"I sincerely believe that on WS2012@11:11 a cosmic portal will materialize in Sedona Arizona. Based upon synchronistic experiences and intuitive information downloads - which I will explain in more detail in the coming months on this web site - I am convinced that I must attempt a 'leap of faith' from the top of Bell Rock at that moment. My ultimate purpose will be to use that 'doorway' to access the center of the galaxy and the source of our cosmic computer program."
This is on his now defunct website, but you can access it via the internet Wayback machine. I caution you that it's from an era before even the december212012.com site in terms of design, it's just one long page with all centered, italicized, and mostly bolded text. Fun.
Peter continued this until around early 2012, when he grew more quiet. On December 13, 2012, he wrote on his Facebook page: "What's with this "jumping off a big rock"? I agree with Larry that if an extraordinary event does happen, I will not have to risk my life, let alone jump off any rock, to access it." And then he removed that post a day later.
On December 18, he wrote: "I'll be on top of Bell Rock for most of the day/night on the 21st and still expect an electromagnetic anomaly to manifest - but if it doesn't I will be coming down the same way I went up earlier that day."
About a day before, on December 20, 2012, he posted to Facebook: "And for everyone who still thinks I will be jumping off the top of Bell Rock, please read my lips: I AM NOT! I just rented a magical place by Red Rock Crossing for 2013."
When the day came, he apparently was on top of Bell Rock, but he had assured Arizona forestry officials, who manage the butte, that he wouldn't be jumping unless a vortex or portal actually opened. He apparently also had been involved with psychiatric care a few days before the event. This story ends not with a splat, but with a whimper, where, really, nothing much happened except this guy made it into the news. He didn't do anything. And he tried to erase his statements that he did like deleting his blog posts and his website and setting his YouTube channel to private, unlike the other folks I've talked about who left them up there for us to mock 6 months later. Of course, as way too many teenagers have learned, once something is on the internet, it's there and you can't get rid of it.
Coast to Coast AM's December 21, 2012 Episode
Meanwhile, Coast to Coast AM had 17 guests on December 21, 2012. Among them were Richard Hoagland, Mike Bara, and Robert Bauval, all whom I've talked about before on the podcast. They, along with the other fourteen people, all talked about stuff that promoted their own brand of pseudoscience.
Hoagland claimed that he had positive proof that the HAARP facility in Alaska was pinging the pyramids across the world with hyperdimensional physics energy to make sure the world didn't tip over. Since that call, all he's focused on in shows is how he was - what he claims is being arrested but actually wasn't - at Mayan ruins because he didn't call ahead and get a permit to have a laptop.
John Hogue, the go-to guy for Nostradamus interpretations, said that this was never the end, that the true prophet was Nostradamus, and that he had predictions out another few centuries so there was never anything to worry about. L.A. Marzulli said the same thing, except for his own prophecies about the middle east.
Major Ed Dames, the doom-and-gloom remote viewer who has been on since the 1990s with Art Bell, who I don't think has EVER predicted something on the show that came true, claimed that 2013 would be the year of the solar "kill shot" which he's been saying was always just a few months away for the last 15+ years.
Mike Bara, who doesn't know how to calculate the ellipticity of a planet's orbit and thinks that clouds are white because they're closer to a camera in space and oceans are dark because they're farther from a camera in space, claimed that the "2012 thing" did happen, that we all now had a choice to make and we can recreate the world by thinking good thoughts.
Dannion Brinkley claimed that we were moving from one corrupt part of the galaxy to a part called the "Universal Period" that would be characterized by no more secrets.
There was also Whitley Strieber, who in every interview - and there have been a lot, and he has his own show where he has to remind his audience in every episode - that he thinks he was butt-probed by Men in Black in the 1980, came on and blamed the media for the end-of-the-world hype. When it was actually people like him and shows like Coast to Coast talking about it for over a decade that stirred up hype so that the more mainstream media picked up on it to report on the hype. Anyway, he came on to actually correct misconceptions that the planets were actually not aligned and we weren't passing over the middle of the galaxy. He was really the first backtracker of the night and it was mainly in the context of blaming everyone but himself for the hype.
Then we had Wynn Free, an author and publisher though he was introduced as a "researcher." He said instead that on December 21, 2012, a celestial alignment allowed energy to flow into our realm at the strongest magnitude in the history of mankind. This energy is causing the Earth, a third chakra planet, to move into a fourth chakra marked by compassion and empathy. Humans must open their heart chakras to the new energy to continue on their evolutionary track. It was very Deepak Chopra-esque. You can contrast that with claims he made a few years earlier on the show where he did spout doom and gloom.
Bauval, the guy who claims that Egypt's pyramids are aligned with Orion - see episode 34 for that - went on about the precision of Mayan pyramids ... which by extension you're supposed to marvel at the precision he claims for the Egyptian pyramids and their stellar alignments.
There was also Maurice Cotterell, who I'll be talking about in some future episode. His shtick is that astrology is real and god is energy and you can kill parts of god by hurting yourself or some such thing. He was also on basically to say that the Mayan calendar is all about accurate sun cycles and magnetic reversals, which it's not, but it, as with everyone else who was on, plays into his own set of mythology.
All-in-all, there was really very little in the way of back-tracking by the people who were on. If I had to guess, I would say that the producers made very sure to only have on people who had not predicted specific doomy things or very specific crazy things for the day so they wouldn't be confronted by their failures. And since then, the people who had been spouting the doom and gloom or crazy manifesting things about 2012 on Coast to Coast for years, haven't been on.
For example, on August 17, 2004, David Wilcock, the man who thinks he's the reincarnation of Edgar Cayce, claimed that after December 21, 2012, we would be able to levitate, rewind time, and do instant healing ... among other things. The last time he was on was in May 2012, though he used to be on several times a year.
A little of the same happened with David Serida, who I plan to do a show about in the future, who was on 5 times in 2011, 2 in 2010, 3 in 2009, etc., but hasn't been on in over a year. He claimed several similar things, and ranted for a bit about how scientists and "debunkers" don't know what they're talking about because no human has ever been in this part of the galaxy that we just entered on December 21, 2012.
And that seems to be the second theme of back-peddling -- besides claiming it's something spiritual you can't see -- the second main response has been ... [crickets]
As we talked about in episode 62, my interview with Bill Hudson of the former 2012hoax.org and now cosmophobia.org website, the question now is, "What's next?" And the answer is still, "I don't know."
I've heard a few rumblings of various doomsday things still going on for minor events. For example, we had the asteroid 1999 QE2 pass by Earth a few weeks ago. It was WELL beyond the orbit of the Moon, but it was over a mile across and was discovered during its close pass to have its own moon, which isn't that unusual but is still neat. In the first and hopefully only time I listened to radio host Clyde Lewis, he kept replaying some news clip from a guy on a major network saying that even though the scientists say we'll be safe, you'd better stock up on canned food just to be sure. And Clyde Lewis kept saying words to the effect of, "What do they know they're not telling us?"
Obviously, nothing happened. Obviously, it was a case of a stupid newscaster either making a very bad joke or just being stupid. Which as a side note, the hypocrisy still amazes me about the so-called "alternative" shows and media, like Coast to Coast or Clyde Lewis's "Ground Zero" show where they rant about how the "mainstream" media can't get anything right, and yet when they do say stupid things like this that AREN'T right, they latch on and treat them as true. But anyway, that's for someone else's podcast.
The thing is, we still are going to get asteroid flybys. Near misses. And, we're going to be hit. Pretty much every professional astronomer will tell you that the most likely way that the universe is going to kill us is with an asteroid strike. It WILL happen, it's almost a statistical certainty. But NOT in the near future. The likelihood of it happening any given day or year or even century is very small, but the likelihood of it happening in the next, say, 100 million years is very large.
We've found and identified and tracked over 99% of objects that are currently in Earth-crossing orbits that could wipe out human civilization. But not countries, not cities. And despite what Billy Meier's independent spokesman Michael Horn and his ilk would try to tell you, asteroid Apophis is not going to hit in 2036. But, if I had to guess now, I'd say that there will likely be a lot of media attention then and rumblings of doomsday in the year or two leading up to it.
Otherwise, I don't know what the next popular doomsday is going to be. In 2011 it was Harold Camping's predictions. People spent all their money, killed their pets, quit their jobs, and when it didn't happen, they had no recourse. In 2012, it was the Maya alleged end of the calendar. I think there was less extreme real-world response to that than Camping's stuff, but I think it got a lot more media attention.
It's 2013 now, and the only thing I can see this year people latching onto is maybe comet ISON, which I discussed at the end of episode 75. It seems that people - and the media - need a big doomsday every few years. What the next big one is, only time will tell.
Provide Your Comments:
Comments to date: 4. Page 1 of 1. Average Rating:
Rick K. St. Louis MO
8:45am on Friday, June 21st, 2013
What the "predictors" didn't say was more condemning. By the way, was the spelling "back-peddling" deliberate, making a snarky comment about how they earn income?
Stuart Boulder, CO
6:27pm on Friday, October 14th, 2011
I'm glad you liked the talk. Unfortunately, all of the videos are under copyright so I can't post them (I used them in presentations under educational fair use ideas). And most of the slides have transitions within them to make the points. Releasing the still slides would significantly detract from the presentation, so while I've been asked to do that before, I need to decline.
Carnage Location unknown
3:40pm on Friday, October 14th, 2011
The talk was really good. Could you release the slides of the talk?
Chew Old Saybrook, CT
2:26pm on Sunday, October 9th, 2011
Great episode! You covered the major hoax claims perfectly.