Asteroid 2011 AG5 missed the keyhole

Welp, there goes another apocalyptic prophecy — this one grounded in reality, mind, but it means we can scrub the 2040 doomsday off our calendar.

Earlier in 2012 only a few observations of AG5 could be made before it got too close to the Sun to see. Those allowed the crude estimate of where it would be in 2040, and that big fuzzy volume of space included the Earth.

However, new observations taken with the monster Gemini telescope in Hawaii allowed a far better orbit to be calculated. The path of the asteroid in 2040 was found, and now clearly does not include the Earth. It will be a clean miss, by about 900,000 kilometers (550,000 miles). This is more than twice the distance to the Moon, if that helps.

With this new calculation, we have little to worry about in 2040. Though, it seems, humanity does love a doomsday. I don’t expect this will truly dissuade people who want another hit of that doomsday high.

Hat tip to Phil Plait in his new digs at Slate.

Welcome to day one of the 14th b’ak’tun

Milk expiry: DEC 21 12. Caption: Well played, milk, well played.

Milk expiry: 2012.12.21. Caption: Well played, milk, well played.

Travelling today. On precious little sleep, too. My sleep schedule has been a complete shambles recently — been only getting a few hours of sleep a night, discontinuously, for at least a week. And I know I can’t sleep on planes, so today might be a bit rough.

I had previously blogged about how patently incorrect the whole idea of a doomsday on December 21, 2012 was. Now that the day has come and gone, and all those doomsayers are eating crow (or, more likely, shutting up for a month or so until the whole “we were wrong again about the apocalypse” blows over til the next big ridiculous prophecy comes along for them to latch onto), I wanted to say something about how horrid the meme and its counter-memes were.
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My CONvergence schedule

I’m on three panels at CONvergence this weekend, in the Science/Skepticism track. I have no idea what panels I’ll be attending outside of these three, which I have to attend by virtue of having a spot on them. So this is all I can confirm right now.

*record scratch*

Wait, I’m on panels!?! WTF!!!
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Obama’s post-Rapture speech

We’re just going to have to get serious here. Hail Satan.

Comments are disabled on the Youtube video, naturally. So feel free to make your comments here instead!

It’s funny how just anyone can now put words, even grossly libelous ones, into famous people’s mouths, with absolutely no skill or grammar prerequisites. I am very tempted to purchase an account for a month just so I can use the Jesus actor to say “the preceding video is ridiculous, and the person who made it knows nothing of my work.” It would be a decent rebuttal for ridiculous nonsense like this one — you could post it on Youtube as a video response even where comments are disabled.

And another that’s a little more atheistic: “Look, guys, I’m not real. I probably never existed as a real person, and even if I did, I’m sure I’m nothing like the guy you people are worshipping. Furthermore, lying about reality in my name is pretty fucking stupid. So please, cut it the hell out, for Christ’s sake.”

Hat tip to Christian Nightmares.

Jose Luis de Jesus: Canada’s own Harold Camping

Billboards proclaiming 666 as the number of wisdom, the day of transformation being June 30 2012, and that there "is no sin".

Tone-deaf billboard photos courtesy of Aaron Lynett of the National Post

Brace yourselves, fellow Canucks, for the day of reckoning is nigh! The National Post covers how, on June 30, 2012, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda and his followers will bodily transform into superhumans with X-Men-like powers, while the rest of us mere mortals will suffer from the worldwide collapse of currencies and governments and the rise of the “new government of the 666”.

[…] Mr. de Jesus also predicts that the “transformation” will endow him, and his loyal followers, with superpowers, such as the ability to fly and walk through walls, said Axel Cooley, the bishop’s daughter.

“[We can] run and not get tired. Go through fire and not get burned…. I could be talking to you right now, and then I could go through that wall. So, you’ll know there is a difference,” Cooley said.

This sounds pretty much like a supervillain origin story to me. I’d better get to work on my Iron Man suit post-haste. Of course, thanks to corner-cutting owing to a lack of funds, so far the best I’ve managed is a Cardboard Man suit. Offensive technologies include throwing toilet paper tubes, and for a mega-attack, a paper towel tube. Yeah, I know, it needs work. But someone’s gotta stand up to the New World Order of religious practitioners suddenly endowed with No Clipping reality-hacks.
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There’s No Tomorrow

This is pretty much what I would answer, if I could do it succinctly, every damned time someone asks Jodi and I why we aren’t having kids.

I think I’m going to go learn how to create flaming swords out of household parts. Also, could you guys kindly give me all your bottle caps? They might… I dunno… come in handy after the collapse. Even if said collapse doesn’t happen as a result of a nuclear apocalypse, I just want to be sure I get ahead of the dystopian future.

SOPA is dead, long live PIPA (or: Computer Armageddon, here we come!)

The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is an empirically bad thing. Cory Doctorow has an hour-long talk explaining the road to this onerous set of laws, this spider-swallowing to catch a fly to borrow Doctorow’s analogy, but the route to this terrible toll bridge on the information superhighway is less interesting than the toll itself. It is a toll that seems easy enough to swallow, like the spider, where all you have to do is accept that companies have the right to assert their copyright and unilaterally have websites removed from the internet. The spider’s consequences on the body of the internet will however be destructive and ultimately deadly.
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When you fail this often, may as well quit while you’re ahead. $75 Mil ahead.

Harold Camping has retired as head of, and the radio website has pulled all mention of the failed apocalyptic predictions, according to the Christian Post.

The move comes soon after Brandon Tauszik, a documentarian who has been attending Camping’s Oakland, Calif., church for eight months, confirmed with The Christian Post in an exclusive interview that the Bible preacher has informed those close to him that he will effectively retire.

Additionally, Tauszik told CP that Camping has changed his views about the possibility that one can know the exact date of the end of the world, a notion that Camping has maintained for at least 20 years; the doomsday prophet made his first public end of the world prediction in 1992, claiming the world would end in 1994.

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Linux is dead? Long live Linux!

Mike Gualtieri of Forrester pontificates on the swan song of the venerable open source computer kernel Linux, declaring its hopes for world domination to be “game over”.

Poor Linux. It struggled so hard to dominate the world. It was the little open source engine that could, but it didn’t. It never even came close to Microsoft Windows on the desktop, with less than 2% share of desktops. The bright spot for Linux is that 60%+ of servers on the Internet run Linux.

But the real end to Linux’s hope for world dominance came when mobile platforms iOS and Android cleaned clocks in the mobile market. Sure, Android is built on top of Linux, but Linux is only one of many piece parts of the Android mobile operating system. It is not Linux.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Linux is, of course, because if anything is Linux, it’s Android.
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2012 Doomsday: Wrong on more than one level.

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now (seriously, how could you not be?), the Mayan long count calendar is due to roll over on December 21st, 2012, as it does every 394.3 years (1 B’ak’tun). December 22, 2012 will mark the first day of the 14th B’ak’tun since the Mayans’ mythical creation date in 3114 BC. And since humankind likes to pick rollover dates for apocalyptic predictions, and thanks to the silly way this approaching landmark has been portrayed in the media, it’s only natural that the year 2012 would accrue a disproportionately large amount of fuckwittery about it. This world is rife with gullible people with fears (or hopes) for doomsday, and seeing a rollover on any timekeeping device is always a jarring experience for them, it seems.

The Earth is on fire... a fire made of numbers!!!

The real mystery about 2012 is why the Earth would be on fire, and why that fire would drip out of it 'south'-ward in space as though there's gravity. Oh, and why the fire is made out of numbers. (From

But as it turns out, the rollover may not be 2012 after all. A number of prominent researchers, including Professor Gerardo Montana in his upcoming book “Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World”, have disputed the GMT, the generally agreed-upon conversion factor between Gregorian and Mayan time. Montana suggests it may be off by 50 to 100 years.

The ABC article’s headline, in typical fashion, blares, “Phew! 2012 Doomsday Date May Be Wrong”. As though it was a narrow miss by an asteroid, or some other potential catastrophe barely averted or postponed. Really, all that’s been done is the target has been moved, so the doomsayers have another, more fluid moving target when 2012 comes and goes with nary a hiccup prophesied from ages past.

In actuality, the Maya made no prediction whatsoever that there would be any sort of calamity at the end of the 13th B’ak’tun, and would (if they are culturally extant today in any analogous way to the ancient people) very likely mark December 21st with a huge festival. You know, like how we partied like it was 1999, and yet the world didn’t end when it rolled over to 2000. Jesus didn’t even show up to have cake and champagne, which is a shame because I hear he could turn water into wine, and if he could manage that party trick, he could probably turn champagne into whiskey.

Anyway, the world didn’t end in 2000, despite it being a full 418 years since Pope Gregory XIII invented the Gregorian calendar which has since become accepted internationally. While it was a landmark in reforming the calendar to mathematically match our actual planetary orbit much more closely than the former Protestant calendar, its Year Zero is again based on a wholly mythical moment in the popular religion of the culture at hand.

There is therefore nothing especially significant about the year 2000 when viewed in relation to the existence of the Earth — roughly 4.54 billion years, plus or minus 1%. Since we’re very unlikely to be able to tell the age of the Earth to any degree of accuracy, and since the rest of the universe cares not one whit for the amount of times that a planet has whipped around its star, and there is absolutely no math inherent to the universe that necessitates working sums out in Base-10, any prophecies predicated on the rollover of a wholly human-created numbering system is egocentrism on a grand and lamentable scale.

Not to mention the idea that the universe works on the same math that we do, or that it works on math at all, or that it hates big round numbers as much as we do, or that our chosen starting points for these big round numbers are anything like accurate outside the limited experience sets our cultures grant us.