A while back, I noted an awesomely silly end-of-the-world prediction and promised a gleeful follow-up at the end of the month. Since I haven’t posted anything on ChicagoBoyz in a while, I figured that was as good an excuse as any to put the follow-up here instead of on Arcturus.
The original piece was posted due to the anonymous “Bush Country Staff”‘s belief that “[t]he coincidences are incredible” — so after assuring readers that “unless the entire world is introduced to the Anti-Christ in June, we have to believe these events will not be taking place,” they ran it anyway, all 2,900 words and ten screens of it, apparently on the theory that one apocalyptic scenario’s just as good as another. Latitudinarianism in action?
Don’t worry; I’m not going to fisk the whole thing. Let’s cut to the chase, namely the list of falsifiable predictions:
… here are the days and the events which are supposed to happen on them:
- June 8-9 Dust Cloud begins to reach the Earth and darkening of the skies.
- June 18-20 1st impact
- June 24-25 2nd impact
- June 27-28 3rd impact of the “anomaly”
Since I’m writing this in the early evening, Central time, of June 30, I can state with some confidence that there has been no “darkening of the skies,” or even one impact, much less three.
Now notice the “intuitive physics” in the above. “Bush Country” readers are presumed by “Bush Country” staffers to find it plausible that if a cloud of dust enveloped Earth, the result would be darkened skies, as though a blanket of atmospheric cloud had formed, or a dust storm had blown in.
But any particles of dust approaching Earth from interplanetary space will be accelerated by gravity to Earth’s escape velocity plus whatever their relative velocity was beforehand. They hit the upper atmosphere at anywhere from 11 to over 70 kilometers per second. Ironically, a cloud of debris really is approaching us, and the result will be — a meteor shower.
(A cloud of debris dense enough to block sunlight and starlight would create such an intense meteor shower that the radiant heat of the meteors would start wildfires all over the world.)
The plausibility of the multiple comet impacts is undoubtedly based on fugitive memories of Shoemaker-Levy 9. But if a comet had broken into three large pieces that were orbiting Earth in a manner analogous to SL9’s orbit of Jupiter, it would have had to pass within the Roche limit of Earth, which is only 15,500 km from the center of the planet and only 9,100 km above the nearest point on Earth’s surface! For comparison, comet C/2001 Q4, which was briefly visible to the unaided eye last month, was 50 million km away at closest approach. Reduce that by a factor of over 3,000 and it would have been over 10 million times brighter — several times brighter than a full Moon, in fact. I think we’d have noticed.
And if we’re talking about three separate comets hitting us over a period of ten days, well, that’s some mighty fine shooting, partner. First, there’s the historical evidence, which shows only 35 such events within ~15 million km since 390 AD, or about one every 46 years. Three in ten days seems a bit much. Then, turning to this groovy simulator, we find that the typical cometary impact velocity is 51 km sec-1; subtracting the 11 km sec-1 added by Earth’s gravity at the end leaves us with a relative velocity of 40 km sec-1. In the prediction above, the first and second impactors were at least four days apart, and the second and third impactors were at least two days apart. In other words, their physical separations would have been on the order of 14 million and 7 million km, respectively. Earth is less than 13,000 km in diameter. For three comets strung out over 21 million km to hit it, they’d have to be aimed to an accuracy of 2 arc-minutes. This is like hitting a bullseye 2˝ inches across at a hundred yards, three times in a row.
Physical problems aside, every amateur astronomer in the world would have been thoroughly aware of any upcoming event even remotely as dramatic as this one was supposed to be, thanks to this mechanism and discussion groups, web pages, etc, referring thereto; an example is here.
So the formula seems to be: (fascination with apocalypse) + (intuitive physics) + (vague recollection of astronomical events) – (knowledge of existing network for transmitting actual findings) = wildly propagating hoax. Since none of those factors is disappearing anytime soon, my prediction is that there will be more predictions of this type. ;)