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Sony's Film '2012' Spotlights End-of-World Predictions

slogan "2012: Search for It." Someone Googling "2012"

will find plenty of doomsaying. Sony has set up a fake Web site

for something called the Institute for Human Continuity -- -- which uses scientific-sounding language to detail the upcoming shredding, torching and obliterating of the world from so many directions it makes your head spin ("large amounts of solar radiation will bombard the Earth and heat up the molten, semi-liquid layers beneath the lithosphere, thus allowing the crust to shift more easily").

The reality about the universe is that it is, in fact, wild and woolly, with all manner of exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, black holes, not to mention comets that plunge toward the sun and rogue asteroids that just maybe have Earth's number. But it is simultaneously a fact that Earth is in a quiescent part of the galaxy, a rural place where not a whole lot happens in any given epoch. Cosmologically, we're in North Dakota.

As with all pseudo-science, the real science provides a platform from which the human imagination soars to great heights of irrationality. For example, although there is no Planet X, or Nibiru, there is, indeed, a dwarf planet beyond Pluto called Eris. It's in a stable orbit and is not coming anywhere near Earth. If there was a Nibiru heading our way, one of the 100,000 amateur astronomers on Earth would have spotted it long ago.

"You have to be pretty dumb not to realize that Nibiru is a no-show," Morrison says.

Astronomer Edward Krupp of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles debunks "2012" in the November issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, lumping it in with previous cosmic prophesies, such as the "Harmonic Convergence" of 1987. That was the one where New Agers gathered at geological "acupuncture points" to create, as Krupp reports, a "synchronized and unified bio-electromagnetic collective battery."

Alternative astronomy has a long history, including the celebrated revelations of Immanuel Velikovsky, whose book "Worlds in Collision" posited that various planets were careening all over the solar system a few thousand years ago and causing biblical phenomena (the parting of the Red Sea, the plagues of toads, etc.).

Morrison calls this sort of thing "cosmophobia." His efforts to head off 2012 paranoia is ironic in a sense: He's been a pioneer in the study of near-Earth objects that might potentially pose a hazard to the planet. In recent years, astronomers have mapped all the asteroids near Earth that are two miles in diameter or larger, Morrison said. Nothing seen so far poses an imminent threat to Earth.

One near-Earth asteroid, named Apophis, will pass near Earth in 2029 and again in 2036 and 2068, but recent calculations of its orbit show that it won't get closer to the planet than about 18,000 miles. And Apophis isn't really that big -- about the length of about 2 1/2 football fields.

"It would basically take out a small state," Morrison said.

Disastrous. But not Nibiru-disastrous. For that, you'll need to see the movie.

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