Nov 022011
 
Authors: Moonier Said

With the Mayan calendar ending in 2012 and prophecies of the end of the world on the rise, astronomer Phil Plait seeks to portray Armageddon through scientific facts and evidence.

Plait, a writer for Discover Magazine, began tackling the issue of doomsday with his website, badastronomy.com. He noticed that many end of the world scenarios involved astronomical events such as, “planetary alignments,” or “rogue planets,” which didn’t have significant evidence, and so his journey began.

“That made me angry, so I decided to start tackling them,” Plait said. “That’s when I decided to write a book about real doomsday scenarios.”

Plait decided early on that he would dedicate his life to our universe and did research on astronomical ideas, but then moved to writing about it instead.

Before he began writing ,however, Plait worked for a company that was contracted by NASA to calibrate a camera on board Hubble Space Telescope. He worked at Goddard Space Flight Center for six years.

“I was the first to see Hubble data pretty much every day, and got to work on exploding stars, black holes, stars being born and searching for possible planets around other stars,” Plait said.

ASAP Events Coordinator Heather Jones said this was the right time for Plait to come because people are interested in doomsday theories as 2012 draws closer.

“He has an interesting take because he worked with NASA, and he talks about Hollywood and how it is using end of the world themes for movies,” Jones said.

Junior Alexandra Yuan, who works with ASAP, also felt that Plait held a good standpoint by using evidence to disprove doomsday theories.

“End of the world theories never actually happen,” Yuan said. “Phil’s evidence isn’t fictional, so it’s more believable.”

Since most of the doomsday theories are astronomical compared to the religious leaders who use sacred texts to gain a backing, Plait is able to use his knowledge of astronomy to place an emphasis on real situations that need time and effort instead of made up ones.

“It just takes a little bit of math to show the truth, and experience dealing with astronomical topics,” Plait said.

Conspiracy theories happen and will always happen, but Plait believes through books and education, the truth can be distinguished from the false.

“You have to look at the evidence, examine it scientifically,” Plait said. “That’s the only way to separate fact from fiction … and there’s a big gap between the two here.”

Collegian writer Moonier Said can be reached at news@collegian.com.

  • Lecture “Death From the Skies: The Science Behind the End of the World”
    By: Phil Plait
  • When: Tonight at 7 p.m.
  • Where: Lory Student Center East Ballroom
  • Cost: Free
  • Put on by: ASAP Contemporary Issues
 Posted by at 4:32 pm

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