Area astronomer interviewed in The Onion

By Phil Plait | June 3, 2010 10:01 am

theonionGuess which astronomer with two thumbs was interviewed in this week’s A. V. Club section of The Onion?

This guy! OK, that joke works better if you could see me pointing at myself with my thumbs, but you get it. I hope.

Anyway, yeah, I was interviewed for America’s Finest News Source about end of the world scenarios as they pertain to terrible, terrible Hollywood movies. Of course, we talked asteroid impacts and that cinematic crapsterpiece, "Armageddon".

mushroom_cloudDespite my brilliant contributions, however, the article fails in two ways. One, in the online version they put me on page two (in the print version it’s like page 20). Page 2! The shame. And B, when it comes to 2012, they did a straight interview with John Major Jenkins, a guy who makes all sorts of weird claims about the Mayans. Apparently, unlike almost every 2012 crackpot out there, Jenkins says there’s nothing to worry about in 2012, but then goes on to say that the Mayans knew about a major Galactic alignment and loads of other things that are clearly wrong. I guess that makes him better than the chuckleheads claiming 2012 will see the Earth cracking in half like an egg or something, but by how much is unclear.

Still and all, the article is pretty in-depth and funny, and worth perusing just to relive all the times you’ve thrown away money on box-office sewage.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: DeathfromtheSkies!, Humor

Comments (26)

  1. You couldn’t have been interviewed by a finer news source. I love the Onion.

    Oh yeah, and make makes you so sure the world won’t end in 2012? It could be the year Palin is elected President. :)

  2. onion, i laugh so much i cry….

  3. “I guess that makes him better than the chuckleheads claiming 2012 will see the Earth cracking in half like an egg or something”

    I don’t know – at least those chuckleheads will be undeniably proven wrong in a couple of years – this guy can go on spouting his garbage with impunity. After all, when 2012 rolls around, he can say “See, I was right.”

  4. The 2012 meme is useful to me. It’s a signpost that I’ve left the land of critical thinking (in a similar way the birthers and truthers point to this in political discourse as they rant about Obama’s birth certificate or 9/11 conspiracies).

  5. Pi-needles

    Congratulations BA you’re getting more and more recognition – first from Glenn Beck* and now the Onion. ;-)

    * Even if Beck did get your cite wrong – not that we should be surprised there! ;-)

  6. Gary Ansorge

    As far as apocalyptic scenarios go, the only one that makes some sense to me is the one delineated in FireFly,,,we just use up earth and some escape to another, more fertile, environment.

    I’d like to see that scenario made into a movie. I can just barely imagine the politics involved in those survivors mindset,ie, “I feel so guilty over leaving grandma behind. Oh well. Onward and outward,,,”.

    Gary 7

  7. Bigfoot

    Wait, The Onion actually interviews actual people? This is more shocking than anything else I might learn this month. Although I love both The Onion and BA, I’m still not sure how I feel about this.

  8. “Of course, we talked asteroid impacts and that cinematic crapsterpiece, “Armageddon”

    So, Bruce Willis won’t save us after all? Hold me, I’m scared!

  9. Gus Snarp

    Jenkins may not no jack squat about astronomy, but he is correct that the Maya had a cyclical concept of time and that applying the linear Western (wait, shouldn’t that be Eastern? The Maya were west of us for all of their great civilization……) concept of time with an ending to their calendar is just one more piece of silliness in the whole 2012 mess.

  10. Joseph Smidt:

    Oh yeah, and make makes you so sure the world won’t end in 2012? It could be the year Palin is elected President.

    But I just saw that Palin was abducted by aliens so that she could run[sic][*] their world.

    It must be true… it was front-page news on one of those papers they sell at the supermarket checkout stand.

    [*] – I almost typed “ruin”. :-)

  11. Gus Snarp

    I spelled “know” as “no”. Most. Idiotic. Typo. Ever.

  12. Still not Corbert.

  13. oops suppose to be Colbert.

  14. Aadam Aziz Ansari

    Worth noting that the AV Club is nominally separate from the Onion. Principally, this section is played straight and is not satire.

  15. JJ

    “Oh yeah, and make makes you so sure the world won’t end in 2012? It could be the year Palin is elected President.”

    Could be worse, Obama could be re-elected.

  16. Love The Onion and that article was a fun read. Some of us (like myself) are naturally born apocalypticists and think it’s all going to end for one reason or another. My bet is not on sudden & total annihilation, but something more along the lines of what we see in well-produced nature documentaries: The population hits an unmanageable peak and “corrects” itself my some means. I envision something like the pride of lions that’s migrating during the drought and finds itself with food enough for only 3/4 of the group, but on a much bigger scale and with a lot more shooting involved. It’s oddly comforting that we are the only species able to laugh at our own (eventual) demise. Well, we’re laughing *now*.

  17. jcm

    EarthSky has an article on galactic alignments. There’s nothing to be worried about.

  18. tesstricks

    Haha, I love that 30 Rock joke!

  19. csrster

    Do you remember this article from The Onion?
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/astronomers-admit-they-made-neptune-up,3454/

    I was speaking to Nigel Weiss a few weeks later and he was still very amused. Apparently
    he had to stop the RAS Press Office issuing a denial of the story.

  20. Matt T

    I don’t know anything about Jenkins… any chance you can explain what things he says “that are clearly wrong” and why? From what I can see of his stuff, he appears to be quite sane, treating the Mayans and their calendar anthropologically. Is it not true that they saw the end of their calendar as a renewal (similar to what we do with Jan 1), rather than the apocalypse? I’m confused. Any chance this 2012 crap can be used as an opportunity to return to the BA roots* and explain what’s valid science and what’s BA (or BS) in Mayan cosmology/chronology? Pretty please?

    *NB: not to be taken as “I came here for astronomy, not ur librul socialist AGW-lovin’ politics — so stop writing your blog on topics that interest you, and do my bidding even though I don’t pay to read this”. Just an acknowledgment that this all started with debunking astro-related woo, and 2012 seems to fit that mold perfectly.

  21. Anchor

    JJ? Who says “Could be worse, Obama could be re-elected.?”

    Allow me to wipe that idiotic smirk off your face with this observation: “Could have been inconceivably worse NOW”. Imagine for a moment (if you care to spare the time) what it would have been like by now if the monumentally mentally-challenged McCain-Palin ticket had been elected to office.

    Jerk Jerk.

  22. JJ

    Didn’t work, still smirking… :-)

    If they were elected we certainly wouldn’t be in nearly as much debt, the feds would be enforcing their own immigration law, while also securing the border, and there would be far less Chicago-style political corruption…They would act a lot faster in cleaning up that oil spill as well…but it’s cool to resort to name calling, Liberals are good at that when they run out of substantive arguments, like this one, which is entirely theoretical and subjective.

  23. Gus Snarp

    @Matt T – I think Phil links to some debunking of Jenkins there, what I would say off the top of my head is that he’s generally right about the Maya calendar’s cyclical nature and focus on renewal, and that there’s no monumental “End” anywhere in it, but I think he greatly overstates the Maya knowledge of astronomy. He may also overstate the importance of 2012 on the Maya calendar, though I’m not certain of everything he says. There’s only a single Maya monument with any reference to 2012. And really, monument isn’t quite the right word for it. The Maya had all sorts of these stone tablets all over the place for any number of reasons.

  24. Anchor

    Well, JJ, speaking of subjectivity, you certainly make your own case. Pity you need to resort to flashing the word “liberal” as if it is a dirty rotten characterization. Smirkmeisters such as yourself undoubtedly learned that peculiar association from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who has handsomely served as the autonomous “thinker” for such ilk as you, who would rather not bother with the toil involved in thinking for oneself.

    In case you are unacquainted with the actual definition of the word “liberal” in the political sense, allow me to introduce you to it: it literally MEANS “free or independent thinker”, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with some dilapidated notion concocted by severely constipated people (like Rush) who imagine that the word properly DEFINES people they regard as possessing none of the virtues of what they equally falsely construe as “conservatism”. Truth be told, MOST EVERYBODY exhibits (or at least strives for) BOTH the virtues of authentic liberal and conservative thinking. Only consummate idiots (presumably, such as yourself) would glue their beliefs so completely onto echo chamber pronouncements that seek to produce some artificial barrier between them in order to acquire a sordid political advantage.

    You, sir, can take your charge of “name-calling” and shove it up as far as it can go. Nobody does the “name-calling” better than those who falsely call themselves “conservative” in a spectacularly liberal way: It is the false conservativism which has created the false distinction, in a very transparent and decidely UNPATRIOTIC effort to DIVIDE the country. You folks are rather good at that…because you cannot so much as abide or tolerate living on the same planet with people with whom you disagree.

    And, last I saw, Chicago seems to be operating as smoothly as every other of the thousands of corrupt municipalities in the country. What’s the problem that Chicago has that isn’t the case elsewhere?

    As for your hilarious assertion that the alternative “conservative” administration would have acted “a lot faster in cleaning up that oil spill”, I am truly astonished. I am amazed and impressed at what evidently passes for an objective “substantive argument” through the echo-chambers of your, um, ‘mind’.

    Hmmm…lessee…the alternate-universe vice president glows red hot whenever like-minded lackeys cry ‘drill baby drill’. AHH, yes of course! That quite obviously would have been an ENORMOUSLY effective tool to stop the gusher.

    Doesn’t make sense? You betcha. Quick, you ought to consult with Rush on how to deal with that dilemma. Get that help. You obviously can’t handle what it takes to figure it out for yourself. Whatever you eventually come up with, we trust you won’t forget to be objective and conservative in your deliberations.

  25. Matt T

    @Gus
    Thanks for the info. I really hope Dr P does some full-on 2012 debunking, old-school BA style. But I realize he has more on his *ahem* plait these days.

    I did follow the debunking link, but I was even more confused by it, given that the author appears to be pedaling his own biblical apocalyptic woo. Add to that the rebuttals of rebuttals and rebuttals, and it was too much energy to sort out who was spouting what nonsense.

  26. JJ

    I never said I was conservative, nor did I ever say I listen to Rush and the right wing echo chamber. My decisions are based on real world facts and court cases, today’s Liberals are not Liberal in the traditional sense based on numerous real world encounters. For example, refusing people the right to defend themselves with guns, such as in “Liberal” Chicago. You should tune into the news, the Obama administration has been surrounded by “alleged” political corruption, 2 cases currently under investigation.

    Also, if left-wing environmentalist wackjobs didn’t ban us from drilling in shallow waters and on-shore, we wouldn’t have had such a catastrophic disaster a mile below the sea. When one plane crashes, do people stop flying? Same logic, these problems are extremely rare, rarer than plane crashes. Drill baby drill! :-) and those are the facts.

    By the way, Louisiana Democrats and some others also favor continued off-shore drilling because it’s safe and economically necessary. If that’s not enough, BP knew about their problems and were negligent, hence the current legal probing for charges of criminal negligence, it has nothing to do with needing more government regulations or President Bush (he left office about 18 months ago if you haven’t noticed).

    “Hmmm…lessee…the alternate-universe vice president glows red hot whenever like-minded lackeys cry ‘drill baby drill’. AHH, yes of course! That quite obviously would have been an ENORMOUSLY effective tool to stop the gusher.”

    You know what the solution is for stopping the current leak, drilling 2 more wells! It’s happening right now and should be done in August. Get informed, stop reading news from left wing think tanks and blogs, like the Democrat representative in California that used a Liberal blog as a source saying Arizona’s law was drafted by known racist, anti-immigration groups…the law was written by Arizona representatives and supported by over 70% of residents and over 55% of Americans! I guess they’re all racist too…

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