I’ve written about the wingnuts and their mysterious planet Nibiru – the so-called Planet X – in the past. It’s one of the furthest wacky conspiracies on the fringe of wackiness, and fairly recent. It mostly sprang whole cloth from the brain (if I can call it that…) of uber-wingnut Nancy Lieder, whose website, ZetaTalk, has been spewing diaphanous piffle of the most banal sort since 1995.
Lieder claims to be in psychic contact with aliens called the Zetas (stop laughing), and has conned a whole bunch of exceptionally gullible folks into believing her (although there have been some bitch-slap moments with former followers along the way).
Here’s how she describes what it’s all about on ZetaTalk:
ZetaTalk answers cover such subjects as portents of a Pole Shift and how this relates to the Transformation in process; how life in the Aftertime following this shift will be different from today; the self-centered or service-minded spiritual Orientation of humans as well as aliens from other worlds and how inadvertently giving the Call to aliens can put you in touch with one group or the other; how Visitations can be more easily interpreted when spiritual orientation is understood; how visitors from other Worlds are watched by the Council of Worlds, which has set Rules regulating their behavior; why we are only gradually getting acquainted with our visitors from other worlds, and what will allow the Awakening to occur faster; to what extent the Government is aware of and interacting with the alien presence; the true nature and reason for the Hybrids being developed by the Zetas to merge the best from both Zetans and Humans; why aliens can disappear and move through walls, and what both physical and spiritual Density changes will be like in the future; what the Zetas have to say about our Science theories; what the Zetas as students of human nature have concluded on what Being Human means; and straight ZetaTalk about our Myths.
I know, my head hurt too, trying to read that convoluted, run-on drivel. And the random acts of capitalization. Sorry for that, but it needed to be put out so you’ll realize just how many cattle this woman is shy of a herd.
Lieder predicted this mysterious, imaginary planet Nibiru (a name derived from wingnut pseudo-archeology spewed by Zecharia Sitchin but debunked by academics – the name doesn’t appear anywhere in Sumerian or Akkadian cuneiform texts) would come close to the Earth on May 27, 2003, cause the poles to shift. The aliens would drop in on us and take over. Gather survival supplies, she warned, build underground shelters, kill your pets, and hide!
Oops. It failed to materialize. Imaginary friends have a habit of not showing up when you need them.
Her following dwindled somewhat after that rather momentous prophetic failure, but she then said that she’d been joshing to fool the Zetans. Those nasty aliens would have taken over the planet and slaughtered us if she’d told the truth. My head still reels from that logic.
Her following has revived somewhat and more gullible entered the fold later. She and her intellectually-challenged followers emphatically embraced the whole 2012-Mayan-Apocalypse nonsense, which again failed to end the world. But still they soldier on, making the world safe for pseudoscience and claptrap by further embracing pretty much any nut factory idea that has come along, if it involves aliens, conspiracies, bizarre animals, fad diets or New Age woo hoo.
No failure in prophecy, no amount of scientific debunking or common sense seems to deter folks from hopping aboard these wacky bandwagons. Like most of the internet’s wingnut community, neither reason nor facts are ever allowed to get in the way of their beliefs.
And the reason I write this today is an article that appeared this week on Slate, by Phil Palit, creator of the late Bad Astronomy blog (Slate is where his columns migrated to). It’s about the resurgence of the Planet X conspiracies (now called Planet Nine since Pluto isn’t in the big-boy list any longer) and the threat to wipe out all life… another TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) conspiracy. Or rather, an old zombie corpse dug up and let loose again.
Now the wingnuts are warning us Nibiru will make its appearance at the end of April with the same effect as the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. And they have photographs of the approaching planet. Okay, they have images of common lens flares… or video artifacts… or even atmospheric optical illusions. Scary.
Seriously: there is no government conspiracy to hide a second sun from you. Or a honking big planet barrelling towards us. Or a swarm of asteroids/comets about to wipe us all out. But what do I know?
Yes, yes, it’s all a bunch of dingo’s kidneys; loonie codswallop that I shouldn’t waste time on, but I can’t help myself. Whenever the wingnuts come out from their dingy basements to squint into the light I feel the need to swat at them. It might be the intellectual equivalent of swatting gnats, but they cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.
First, let’s open with a basic fact: no new planet has been discovered. None. That’s right. What a few astronomers have developed are some mathematical formulae that strongly suggest another extra-solar body is out there disturbing some of the orbits of the outer planets. If it really exists, it’s big (about the size of Neptune), a very long way away, dark, and it moves very, very slowly. But no one has actually seen it.
To give you an idea just how far away it is, Pluto is in an eccentric orbit that takes 248 years to go around the Sun. It is roughly 4.28-4.4 billion km from Earth. It took the New Horizon spacecraft nine years to get there, if it exists, Planet Nine, in its even more eccentric orbit, is estimated to be 30 billion km from the Sun at its closest. It takes 20,000 years to complete that orbit. It would take the fastest spacecraft we can build at least 20 years to reach that distance.
So even if it is real, it’s not coming anywhere near Pluto, let alone Earth. But then the wingnuts picked up on another part of the hypothesis: that trans-Neptune bodies might account for groups of comets being shifted from the Kuiper Belt into the inner solar system. Again, it’s not proof, just a bit of complex math about orbits, periodicity, gravity and statistical clumping.
But the wingnuts read it as proof of the impending apocalypse. Hails of comets wiping out our cities, setting our world on fire!
No, Planet Nine won’t cause a storm of comets to rain down on Earth and cause a mass extinction. It’s not something that happens overnight, even if it could. It would take millennia for the comets in the Kuiper Belt to move towards us – at their fastest. Some comets have orbits in the millions of years. And from the Oort Cloud? Even longer.
Unsurprisingly, the Christian wingnut right jumped on the TEOTWAWKI bandwagon as soon as the theory had been announced. That’s because of a passage in Revelation, 8:11, that mentions a star called “Wormwood” (sometimes translated as Bitterness). Revelation is pretty wacky, we know, which is why it’s a great source of inspiration for the wingnut community. Although an allegorical, apocalyptic tale about Rome (with a bit of madness thrown in…), some deluded folks still treat it like modern prophecy. Go figure.
Some Christian doomsday cults scheduled the end of the world for October, 2015. When that failed, they picked December, 2015 as the date Nibiru would arrive and wipe us all out. Sorry to disappoint you. Again. But wait, they’re back, this time setting the calendar for doom at the end of April, 2016. Two more weeks, I guess, before they pick another date for doom.
Nibiru isn’t the only wingnut notion about astronomy that makes the rounds online, just the latest. Like Nibiru, most conspiracies are loosely based on science, albeit only a small fragment mixed with a big, wacky misunderstanding of that science. Then it’s given an interpretation that makes a Three Stooges script read like Plato’s Republic.
In the 1980s, astronomers hypothesized a dark or dwarf (red or brown) star might orbit the sun far away, in an elliptical orbit every 26 million years, disturbing the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. Searches of space using increasingly sophisticated equipment (like WISE) have failed to validate the idea (but they did discover a binary star system about 6.5 light years out that was previously unknown).
The imaginary star was nicknamed Nemesis, an unfortunate name that has also been applied to the phantom planet by competing cults. But it isn’t there. But lack of proof hasn’t stopped some folks from believing it lurks out there, plotting our destruction.
Similarly, astronomers hypothesized a gas giant planet in the Oort Cloud, nicknamed Tyche, in the late 1990s. Efforts to locate it using the WISE telescope also failed to find a suitable candidate in the area (although the WISE data revealed a lot of surprising material including many previously unknown objects).
The 2003 discovery of Sedna – a dwarf planet that at its closest is about three times as far away as Neptune – suggests that something has perturbed some of the Oort Cloud objects and made them move. The discovery of other small objects like Eris, Haumea, Makemake and (225088) 2007 OR10 show that we can locate objects smaller than Pluto out there, so the likelihood of anything as big as Planet Nine being undetected seems small.
To date, no proof of anything large in the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud has been found. No brown star, no giant planet, no alien craft, no doomsday anything. But a lot of little objects have been found and made the science really interesting.
Hercolubus is another death planet that is supposed to wipe us all out in a few years. This notion was dreamt up by a late Colombian New Age wingnut, V.M. Rabolu, in a book from the late 1990s, but the whole thing never caught fire outside Latin America. You can download a summary of the content.
The book is best described by a reviewer on Goodreads as “crazy, crazy ramblings.” That rather pithily describes all of the New Age woo hoo from chemtrails to homeopathy to creationism and UFOs.
But in a nutshell (how apropos…), it’s all balderdash. Nibiru and all its associated nonsense is easily debunked. It isn’t there, it never was, it never will be.
So sleep peacefully at night, Nibiru nutcases. It’s all in your teeny heads. There is no mysterious planet populated with hostile aliens about to wipe us all out. There is no deep coverup, no government conspiracy, the New World Order isn’t behind anything.