Monday, January 17, 2011

Scientist does something cool, internet blows it way the f*** out of proportion. As usual.

First off, Astrology is a load of bologna. Let's just make that clear. Yeah, people born around the same time of year *maybe* have similar personality traits, and it's useful for extreme shortcuts in literary symbolism, but that's about as much credence I give this stuff. Also, if the PG-13 rated title didn't warn you enough, this post will have vitriol in it. Hide the kiddies until Wednesday, when I will either talk about Batman or Pokemon.

So last Thursday, your Facebook page probably exploded in an orgy of "OMG why am I a Gemini now?" or "What the hell is an Ophiuchus?" This is all thanks to the mainstream media catching wind of Parke Kunkle, board member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society. Earth's relation to the sun has changed slightly since the Babylonians created the first western zodiac, but according to Kunkle, the zodiac dates were never updated to reflect this. Since zodiac constellations are so helpful to astronomers in determining the position of the sun, he came up with a more accurate timeline for them. It includes thirteen constellations, simply because astronomers have counted Ophiuchus as a zodiac constellation for years, and anyway the Babylonians had entirely different zodiac signs. (You would think that the astrologers would have caught this earlier, but never mind that now.)

Got all that? Good. Because here is an example of how this has all been reported (and the comments, holy sh*t). Note that OK! hasn't changed it's horoscope page. How rebellious of them.

So basically, an astronomer did something cool to help his fellow astronomers, and unless you study space yourself, this really doesn't affect you at all. But the internet, in a fine demonstration of why I love and hate it, misunderstood what actually happened and lost it's sh*t over it. I find the ways people have been reacting to this story *fascinating*. It's a little more fun than Tricera-Fail because the subject matter is, as has already been stated, baloney. That said, I never knew, until this week, how many people I know took astrology this seriously. It's... unsettling.

No, your birthdate has not changed. Ophiuchus isn't something scientists just made up, it's just usually left out of the zodiac constellations probably because there's twelve months and so it's just easier to have twelve signs (trust me, I'm just learning about this constellation myself). The night sky has not changed either, and frankly it doesn't care what we humans think about it. And finally (this is the one that astonishes me), just because your new astrological sign doesn't match up to your old astronomical sign, doesn't mean that your personality has changed in any way.


Unless you read up on your "new" sign and what it represents. And you vehemently disagreed with it. And yet, somewhere deep down inside, the personality traits of your astronomical sign... stuck.


For the record, I... remain... myself... Dr. Mung-Mung... I mean, a Pisces. Woot. I rather like these proposed new signs suggested by Geek Mom, if only because I get to trade in my fishies for a dragon (wut up, Ness).

Other reassuring things for people affected by the mainstream media misunderstanding and losing their sh*t over a mildly interesting science story. In fact, please copy and paste this into your status if you know someone, or have yourself been affected by the mainstream media misunderstanding and losing their sh*t over a mildly interesting science story. The mainstream media misunderstanding and losing their sh*t over a mildly interesting science story affects the lives of many. There is still no known cure for mainstream media misunderstanding and losing their sh*t over a mildly interesting science story, except for the media getting off their collective fat asses and doing some damn fact-checking. 93% of people won't repost this... Why? Because they probably think reposting this will cause autism or something, which it won't, as determined by science.

1) Pluto is a Trans-Neptunian Object and there are a LOT of them. So rather than have a "My Very Excellent Mother..." mimetic that goes on for twenty minutes, it was time to reevaluate how to define the word "planet". If you're not talking to an astronomer, you can call Pluto whatever you want. Call it a gerbil for all the cold unfeeling objects in space care.

2) Paleontologist Jack Horner started kicking around the idea that maybe the dinosaur we call Torosaurus was really a very old and cranky Triceratops. I have never seen the mainstream press blow a science story so out of proportion as I did when this one got out. Almost no Very few other paleontologists take this theory seriously, and most are just like, "well, that's... interesting, but let's see if we can find more evidence of that first". Point is, Triceratops isn't going anywhere.

I need a hot drink.

Addendum: Oh, I love you, The Onion.

Further Addendum-ing: I love you too, Clever Girl.


Sketch of the Day!

I think you could make an excellent argument that the rise in scientific misunderstanding directly correlates to the lack of a good current "Star Trek" TV series...

1.9.11 Sketchbook Page

Further, further Addendum-ing: I love you too, VG Cats!


Albertonykus said...

I suspected something like this must've happened when I saw all the handwaving on Facebook, but I never followed the story too closely and so didn't really know what was going on. Thanks for clearing that up.

Though I'd contest the idea that almost no one takes the "toroceratops" hypothesis seriously. Most other paleontologists to my knowledge appear to find it an interesting idea, even if they don't accept it outright.

T-rexy said...

You just made my day! PS. I bet Jack Horner totally KNEW he was going to cause a shit ton of ripples in the pond with that one; if not, I bet he would have collected more data first. Thanks for the shout-out! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check my horoscope.