This will be the last newsletter until 2013. What a year! You may have noticed the world didn't end last Friday. The internet has been awash with doomsday mongering from all over the world. Here in the US, 33 schools closed
for fear of apocalyptic distractions. In China, almost 1,000 end-of-the-world proponents from a cult called "Almighty God" have been arrested for sowing panic
. This kind of ignorant fear is dangerous, says NASA's David Morrison. In this Time
article, Morrison reports "a tremendous number of emails...from people asking if the world will end, saying they're scared and don’t know what to do. A few even talk about suicide." NASA has been at the vanguard of scientists attempting to quell the paranoia, hosting a Google+ Hangout
in which space scientists and educators patiently and thoroughly refuted a host of doom rumors. These ranged from pending collisions with Nibiru (a mythological planet co-opted from Sumerian, not Mayan, legend), devastating meteors, and a sudden reversal in the earth's rotation. NASA also has a website
devoted to apocalypse debunking and released a video, confidently on December 12, called "Why the World Didn't End Yesterday.
" The video provides an interesting explanation of the Mayan conception of time and astronomy, which did not predict the end of the world. Despite such efforts, however, fear persisted amongst people skeptical of scientific facts. This indicates a broad failure in our education culture, according to astronomer Andrew Fraknoi. We have "not taught children to distinguish between fantasy and reality," he says
. "The real threat in 2012 is the public's low level of science understanding.” For a discussion of the disconnect between scientists and the public and failed predictions in science, check out this podcast coverage of our Pride: Flying Cars and Other Broken Promises
event. To our readers who support science and science literacy, a big thank you! Here
are some of the ways in which the Academy is trying to help as we gear up for the exciting year to come. To all of you, best wishes for a very happy new year!