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NASA: The World Isn’t Going to End in 2012

Remember the Y2K scare? It came and went without much of a whimper because of adequate planning and analysis of the situation. Impressive movie special effects aside, Dec. 21, 2012, won’t be the end of the world as we know. It will, however, be another winter solstice.

Much like Y2K, 2012 has been analyzed and the science of the end of the Earth thoroughly studied. Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the science behind the end of the world quickly unravels when pinned down to the 2012 timeline. Below, NASA Scientists answer several questions that we’re frequently asked regarding 2012.

Question (Q): Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.
Answer (A): Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.

Q: What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?
A: The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

Q: Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?
A: Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then — just as your calendar begins again on January 1 — another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.

Q: Could phenomena occur where planets align in a way that impacts Earth?
A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.
› More about alignment

Q: Is there a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Planet X or Eris that is approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction?
A: Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles.

Q: What is the polar shift theory? Is it true that the earth’s crust does a 180-degree rotation around the core in a matter of days if not hours?
A: A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. There are slow movements of the continents (for example Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago), but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles. However, many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-switch to fool people. They claim a relationship between the rotation and the magnetic polarity of Earth, which does change irregularly, with a magnetic reversal taking place every 400,000 years on average. As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. A magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia, anyway.

Q: Is the Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?
A: The Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Spaceguard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit. We have already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA NEO Program Office website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.

Q: How do NASA scientists feel about claims of pending doomsday?
A: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.
› Why you need not fear a supernova
› About super volcanoes

Q: Is there a danger from giant solar storms predicted for 2012?
A: Solar activity has a regular cycle, with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 time frame and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history.


The Joy of Facebook

The Joy of Facebook

[SitM: lol!]


Etiquette Lessons in the Digital Age

Etiquette Lessons in the Digital Age

So, you dropped food on the floor—to eat or not to eat, that is the question?

Audrey Fukuman and Andy Wright of SFoodie created a flowchart—“The 30-Second Rule, A Decision Tree”—to guide you on whether or not you should eat what you dropped in 30-seconds, because sometimes the 5-second rule doesn’t apply.

First things first, did anyone see you drop the food you want to eat on the floor?


Have sex in an airplane for only $425

Have sex in an airplane for only $425

Plenty of people have fantasies of joining the ‘Mile High Club’ by cramping themselves into a tiny bathroom to have uncomfortable sex with the danger of being kicked off an airline forever. It doesn’t sound too enjoyable. But what if you were given space and allowed to do it?

A private airline in Cincinnati called Flamingo Air is offering hour-long flights for $425. It includes chocolate, champagne, and enough room to maneuver.

The pilots are described as very “discreet,” and there seems to be some level of privacy. Sort of. Business owner Dave MacDonald tells the NYDN “I have had a high heel in my ear once, been shot in the back of the head with a champagne cork, and thank God we wear headsets.”

Some may be turned off by the removal of the element of danger, but if this thing takes off, business-wise, expect airlines in other cities to start offering up similar deals. The price is comparable to a night at a lux hotel.


British Facebook Users Are Intoxicated in 76% of Their Photos [STUDY]

British Facebook Users Are Intoxicated in 76% of Their Photos [STUDY]

[SitM: is this really that surprising?]

The average British person is under the influence of alcohol in three-quarters of of his or her tagged Facebook photos, according to a new study.

Researchers asked British people to reveal how many Facebook pictures showed themselves drinking alcohol or were taken after consuming alcohol. They estimate 76% of their photographs had some connection with alcohol.

“We’re all guilty of going out and having a good time, but nowadays the photos inevitably catch up with us online, so we wanted to look at how much these photos dominate our presence on social media sites,” says Rebecca Huggler, co-founder of MyMemory, which conducted the study.

Researchers also looked at privacy settings. Only 12% of the 1,781 Facebook users who were polled don’t allow anyone to see their photos, while 58% let friends view their pics. A substantial 26% gave access to anyone.

More than half (56%) admit they had “drunk photos” they wouldn’t want co-workers to see and 8% say their photos might cause “serious trouble at work.”

Ninety-three percent of respondents have untagged photos deemed “too embarrassing.”

Huggler notes many of the photographs with alcohol were taken during special occasions or get-togethers with friends or family. She predicts the holiday season will fuel more photo activity that involves alcohol.

What percentage of your Facebook photos would you estimate feature alcohol or drinking? Are you concerned about who may see them?


What Your Web Browser Says About Your IQ

What Your Web Browser Says About Your IQ

Web users are constantly judged by how they use the Internet. Embarrassing Facebook photos (no, I don’t want to see you do a keg stand), inane tweets (I don’t care what you ate today), and archaic email (Aunt Millie, please get rid of your AOL account) can all be sources of silent disapproval or open ridicule from those we interact with on the Internet. And now there’s another: what your web browser says about IQ. Vancouver-based AptiQuant’s research was elegantly straightforward: it posted an IQ test on its website and looked at the IQ score and web browser of 101,326 people who completed the test.

Though the study isn’t up to scientific standards and IQ is hardly a perfect measure of intelligence (especially on Internet quizes), the results are too juicy not to pick apart. Users of all versions of Internet Explorer (except for those who install Google Chrome Frame, which is a plug-in that turns IE into Chrome) have the lowest IQs of any web users, all falling below 100, the average IQ for the general population. Notably, though, the average IQ score for Internet Explorer users have fallen some 20 points in the five years since AptQuant first did this study. Back then, Microsoft’s browser had over 60 percent browser share. Today, it’s less than 25 percent, suggesting that the smartest browsers on the web have fled to alternatives.

The smartest are users of geeky niche favorites like Opera (who averaged at 126.5) and Camino, a Mac-native version of the Mozilla engine that runs Firefox (124.4). The more widely used browsers fell into the middle of the pack: Safari (113.5), Chrome (111.2), and Firefox (108.7).

“We were not really surprised by the results,” says AptiQuant founder Leonard Howard. He chalks up the intelligence discrepancy to the ubiquity of computers that come with Internet Explorer pre-installed and “the reluctance of people with lower IQ to experiment with newer things.”


Interesting Hypothesis: Intelligent People Tend to Use More Drugs

Interesting Hypothesis: Intelligent People Tend to Use More Drugs

[SitM: don’t necessarily agree with this, but it is intriguing food for thought]

Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing
Published on October 31, 2010 by Satoshi Kanazawa in The Scientific Fundamentalist

The human consumption of psychoactive drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, is of even more recent historical origin than the human consumption of alcohol or tobacco, so the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent people use more drugs more frequently than less intelligent individuals.

The use of opium dates back to about 5,000 years ago, and the earliest reference to the pharmacological use of cannabis is in a book written in 2737 BC by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung. Opium and cannabis are the only “natural” (agricultural) psychoactive drugs. Other psychoactive drugs are “chemical” (pharmacological); they require modern chemistry to manufacture, and are therefore of much more recent origin. Morphine was isolated from opium in 1806, cocaine was first manufactured in 1860, and heroin was discovered in 1874.

Given their extremely recent origin and thus evolutionary novelty, the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume all types of psychoactive drugs than less intelligent individuals. Once again, as with alcohol consumption, the fact that the consumption of psychoactive drugs has largely negative health consequences and few (if any) benefits of any kind is immaterial to the Hypothesis. It does not predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely to engage in healthy and beneficial behavior, only that they are more likely to engage in evolutionarily novel behavior. As I point out in an earlier post, more intelligent people are often more likely to do stupid things.

Consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, the analysis of the National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children. Net of sex, religion, religiosity, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, depression, satisfaction with life, social class at birth, mother’s education, and father’s education, British children who are more intelligent before the age of 16 are more likely to consume psychoactive drugs at age 42 than less intelligent children.

The following graph shows the association between childhood general intelligence and the latent factor for the consumption of psychoactive drugs, constructed from indicators for the consumption of 13 different types of psychoactive drugs (cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, amyl nitrate, magic mushrooms, cocaine, temazepan, semeron, ketamine, crack, heroin, and methadone). As you can see, there is a clear monotonic association between childhood general intelligence and adult consumption of psychoactive drugs. “Very bright” individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals (with IQs below 75).

[snip][end]

People in affluent nations may be more depression-prone

People in affluent nations may be more depression-prone

[SitM: there’s more to spending your life working for a fancy car or house. If more people thought in terms of time, like spending 2000 hours of their time earning $$$ to buy their current car, they might make different decisions. There’s always going to be someone with a nicer car. Don’t get into that cycle, it’s a no-win. Do stuff that makes you happy]

Affluent countries, including the U.S., tend to have higher rates of depression than lower-income nations such as Mexico, a new study from World Health Organization researchers suggests.

In face-to-face interviews, teams of researchers surveyed nationally representative samples of people in 18 countries on five continents — nearly 90,000 people in all — and assessed their history of depression using a standardized list of nine criteria.

In addition to looking at personal characteristics such as age and relationship status, the researchers divided the countries into high- and middle-to-low income groups according to average household earnings.

The proportion of people who have ever had an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime is 15% in the high-income nations and 11% in lower-income countries, the study estimates.
France (21%) and the United States (19%) had the highest rates, while China (6.5%) and Mexico (8%) had the lowest.

It’s not clear what accounts for this pattern, says Evelyn Bromet, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stony Brook University, in Stony Brook, New York. But she stresses that wealth — and happiness — are relative concepts.

“Wherever you are, there’s always people doing better than you,” Bromet says. “You’d think that countries that are better off should have lower rates [of depression], but just because they have a high income doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of stress in the environment.”