Wishing for the end of the end times

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It’s just about time for this year’s end of the world. On April 23, Earth will meet its demise, courtesy the rouge planet Nibiru. Sometimes going by the more sinister-sounding Planet X, Nibiru brings together two normally disparate groups: End-time Christians and those who prefer a more alien or deep space flavor to their ultimate mass extinction events.

These groups normally don’t get along, though the antagonism is mostly from the former camp, whose members consider the other bunch to be messing with demonic gateways akin to astrology, fortune telling, and Ouija Boards. The star searchers, meanwhile, are normally indifferent to the religious pronouncements of doom, although some occasionally use Biblical interpretations to bolster their case. Such persons are notionally religious and have undertaken a conversion of convenience because they can use one small aspect of a faith to support their cause.

For example, self-described Christian numerologist David Meade has interpreted upcoming celestial arrangements as a “sign exactly as depicted in the 12th chapter of Revelation. This is our time marker.” However, most Christians reject such definitive statements as, “The world will end on April 23,” because of Matthew 24:36. This verse declares of Earth’s final moments, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Still, a  minority of Christians see it otherwise and will point to verses which suggest that discernment and signs in the skies make it possible to know when God is about to call them home.

The latest Nibiru cataclysm – there have been many – embraces the biblical apocalypse angle. An alleged alignment of planets on April 23 is said to be referenced by Revelation, which tells of a “great sign in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”

With their being no reference there to Earth, April 23, or the destruction of every man, woman, child, dog, ladybug, and fern, how does one manage such an interpretation? Elizabeth Howell at space.com wrote that Nibiru believers think the verse references the second coming of Christ and the advent of the rapture.  

Hence, believers conclude that on that day, the sun and moon will be in the constellation Virgo, as will Jupiter. The latter is said to be a euphemism for Jesus, though this conclusion seems to be reached only because Jupiter will be in Virgo, not because there would is any logical reason for our solar system’s largest planet to represent a Galilean Jewish religious leader.

In any event, Howell notes that celestial bodies will not be arranged the way doomsayers are expecting. “Jupiter is actually in Libra all day and night on April 23, while the moon is between Leo and Cancer,” she wrote. “The sun, out of view when Jupiter and the moon are in the sky, is by Pisces.”

While not occurring on April 23, the arrangement cited by believers does occur every 12 years, which would be a huge strike against the notion of it portending gloom and doom. This has led to an ad hoc rationalization that Nibiru represents the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and that its addition to the alignment will push us over the cataclysmic brim.

This planet, for which there is no evidence of existence, is touted by enthusiasts as a rocky giant in a massive, haphazard orbit, which will eventually bring about our destruction, though the dates and methods keep changing. In fact, if we all wake up on April 24, the Nibiru doomsayers already have a backup apocalypse in place, as they say it is on target to pass near Earth in October and unleash volcanic fury. I’m not much on guessing the future, but somehow I think I’ll be writing about that prediction again in early November.

 

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“Bridge under the water” (Lemuria)

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Lemuria is doomed to always be the scrawny kid brother of lost continents. Atlantis has appeared in culture for millenniums, from Plato’s Republic to a 1970s television program starring Patrick Duffy. It shares its name with a Bahaman resort and a Donovan song. Lemuria, meanwhile, is mostly found only in reddit threads and on obscure skeptic blogs.

But Lemuria, while fictitious, was born from a plausible scientific theory. Nineteenth Century Zoologist Philip Sclater proposed the existence of a now-sunken land bridge in the Indian Ocean that might account for apparent inconsistencies in human and animal migrations and in ecosystems. He was especially perplexed as to why lemur fossils were found in Madagascar and India but not in mainland Africa or the Middle East. Eventually, plate tectonics solved the puzzle of lemur fossils, as  Madagascar and India had split and drifted apart.

That’s the way science works. Ideas are tested and researchers go where the evidence leads. Pseudoscience on the other hands meanders down a myriad of alternate paths, all while being loose with the facts or dismissing them altogether.

For example, Lemuria has been adopted by Tamil nationalists, who speak of a great landmass that once connected Madagascar, India, and Australia. In this tale, bigger means better and the lost continent is portrayed as home of an advanced culture with mighty warriors, tireless inventors, and exemplary artists. The upshot of claiming that all this took place on a sunken landmass is that no one is going to go descend to the ocean floor and seek contrary evidence.

Another nationalist connection associates Lemuria with Kumari Kandam, a fictional landmass in Tamil literature. While Kumari Kandem was originally presented as make-believe, it is embraced by Tamil nationalists in the same way that Ken Ham will cite ancient drawings of dragons as proof the fire breathing creatures were real. Trying to transform fictional writings and drawings into fact is a common ploy in psuedo-archeology, Zermantism, ancient alien hunting, and among those out to validate religious writings, such as the Book of Mormon.

Lemuria is tied to still another Indian myth, which teaches that the islands between Sri Lanka and India are the remains of a bridge built for the Hindu deity Rama.

While Tamil nationalists appropriated the idea of a sunken Indian Ocean continent in the early 20th Century, they were beaten to it by the forerunners of today’s New Age movement. Most of the blame goes to Helena Vlavatsky, who in the 1880s proposed that humans had evolved from seven humanoid species who lived on various lost lands. To make it more interesting, our ancient ancestors were described as mentally-challenged, seven-foot tall, egg-laying hermaphrodites. Sounds like a Sleestak. Vlavatsky further labeled them as spiritually aware, not bothering to define this term nor offering evidence for any of this.

While there likely were no such egg-laying giants on a lost continent, Vlavatsky herself gave birth to the Lemuria cottage industry. It has since added many branches. In one version, the truth of Lemuria is being repressed by the Catholic Church. In another, the lost continent somehow explains Easter Island. It is telling that Lemuria is not said to be aligned with Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati, or any other South Pacific locale except Easter Island – the one with a mysterious, mystical bent. Without the Moai, the location would be little known and would not be a focus of New Age spiritualists.

Still another version has Lemuria being a confirmation of Edgar Cayce predictions. If none of those excite you, it is also associated with alien travelers or is envisioned as a peace-loving utopia. While these differing shades of Lemurian thought mostly attempt to promote to positive ideas, a darker version warns that the geological calamity that befell the continent and could happen again, sending us to a watery mass grave.

There are even a few who say Lemurians are still with us. Ramtha is described as a Lemurian warrior whose spirit is channeled by J.Z. Knight. Another tale has flesh-and-blood Lemurians living under Mount Shasta, Calif.

Which of these Lemuria variants are embraced is determined by the interests of the believers, not by the amount of evidence produced. I have no bias for or against any of them. They are all equally worthless.

 

“H2No” (Water-fueled vehicles)

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A water-fueled car is a hypothetical but unworkable devise that runs on dihydrogen monoxide.  About a dozen persons or organizations have claimed to invent  this. Some were genuine believers who thought they had found a breakthrough and others were fraudsters who were scamming investors. In either case, pseudoscientific ideas were the focal point.

The best-known claimant was Stanley Meyer, who also tinkered with an attempted perpetual motion machine. He died in 1998 of an aneurysm, which conspiracy theorists translate as “murdered.”

Like many pseudosciences, the water-fueled car features genuine terms being bandied about but being misapplied. One example would be “electrolysis.” Though this means, it is possible to split the hydrogen and oxygen within a water molecule and this is presented as a potential working mechanism for a water car. But doing so uses as much energy as is released when hydrogen is oxidized to form water.

The laws of thermodynamics are in play here. Releasing chemical energy from water in equal or greater amounts than the energy required to manage such a production negates the fantasy of a water-fueled car. There’s no free lunch and no free energy, either.

Meyer’s cell involved modifying existing internal combustion engines so that they could receive fuel directly. The supposed mechanism involved using hydrogen-oxygen reactions to power the engine and consume electricity in the fuel cell to split water into these components. Now, it’s true that hydrogen gas will react with oxygen to produce energy and that the only product of this reaction is water. Indeed, that is a rudimentary description of what goes on inside a fuel cell. But while energy results, it id first necessary to input energy.

If interested in hearing the other side, kindly visit YouTube or the website of Henry Makow, who insists that, ““Humanity is being held hostage by the Illuminati bankers who control the oil cartel.”

The problem with claims of repressed water-fueled cars, perpetual motion machines, or hidden cancer cures is that researchers, from amateur dreamers to post-doctoral fellows, are all working within the same laws of physics and chemistry. And most are following the same Scientific Method. Brilliant minds and forward thinkers have tried to accomplish all of these and they likely would have if the notions were possible. And it would have happened more than once, so trying to repress it would necessitate being aware of each time it occurred and silencing the inventor, through intimidation or bribery, before he or she announced it.

I had a great uncle who was naturally gifted in mechanics and who spent years trying to perfect a replacement for the eternal combustion engine. If it were possible to devise a water-fueled automobile, he or someone like him would find it. So if Meyer was killed for his creation, only the man would have been destroyed, not the idea.

Another flaw in the repressed invention theory is that oil company executives would never decline the chance to embrace a lucrative innovation. Doing so would  cost them billions and they would run the risk of their competitors discovering the invention.

One variant of the water-fueled car centers on supposed generators that turn water into HHO gas. From this gas, it is alleged that resulting electrons can be used to power automobiles. This is the claim made by the Japanese company Genepax, who tellingly made this claim to a press conference of mainstream reporters instead of submitting it for peer review to mechanics experts.

The holes in this idea are similar to what were present in Meyers’  device. Dr. Steven Novella of the New England Skeptical Society wrote, “It takes energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. When you then burn the hydrogen by recombining it with oxygen, you generate some of that energy back. But the laws of thermodynamics stipulate that the energy you get back must be less than the energy you put in.”

In what passes for its explanation, Genepax throws around the word “catalyst,” a typical pseudoscientific tactic where a science word is used in an attempt to impress, not educate. But Novella noted that a catalyst in merely a means to enable a reaction to run more quickly or efficiently. It would not be the avenue for a reaction to go from a low energy state such as water to a higher energy state such as hydrogen and oxygen.

Alas, the only major water-related automotive invention has been the cup holder.

“Think tanked” (New Thought)

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The New Thought positon can be summed up as, “Believing something makes it so.” By that logic, since I believe that the New Thought movement is bonkers, it is. But let’s delve a little deeper.

Proponents do not believe that if I think that I am a cow, I am. Rather, they think that consistent and correct thinking regimens will lead a person to get what they want out of life, be it money, love, peace, or that extra-cushy recliner.

The movement’s central point is that our thoughts or beliefs determine our existence, especially in the  health realm. New Thought began in the 19th Century and, rare for the time, was primarily led by women. It had been founded, however, by a man, Phineas Quimby, in days when people were named Phineas Quimby.

He felt that that tapping into the power of the mind was how Jesus performed healing miracles attributed to him in the Gospels. While Quimby was unable to manage the instant fix that his savior did, he saw about 500 patients annually and explained to them that their condition or disease was something their minds could control. By combining low overhead with religious trappings, Quimby developed an ideal business model. Customers came in, emptied their pockets without getting a product or service in return, and left to recruit others.

One of Quimby’s disciples, Mary Beth Eddy, formed the Christian Scientists, who maintain a form of New Thought with their extreme faith in the power of prayer. Contrary to popular belief, Christian Scientists are free to seek medical care in limited circumstances, but the church holds that prayer is most effective when there’s no accompanying treatment. Using medicine is seen a demonstrable lack of faith and if the patient would only show more trust in God, he would heal them.

One of Eddy’s students, Emma Hopkins, took the New Thought movement national. Her contemporary, William Atkinson, attributed his recovery from mental, physical, and fiscal setbacks to the power of belief.

They and others in the movement downplayed creeds and rituals, and most departed from traditional Christianity by rejecting, or at least redefining, the notion of sin. They projected an optimistic view of human nature and felt that the divine could be found within all of us. This gave rise to the idea of a power being inside everyone, and this power could be harnessed to change one’s lot in life, including the vanquishing of mental and physical ailments.

Despite their iconoclastic views, they embraced the Bible when it fit their agenda, such as favoring Mark 11:24 (“Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”) These days, the Home of Truth follows the teachings of Hindu advisor Swami Vivekananda and the New Thought movement has some Buddhists in its ranks. Most adherents, however, are quasi-religious in nature and a few are even secular.

One secular example is Tony Robbins, who while not completely onboard with the movement, ascribes an unrealistic amount of potency to mental exercises, affirmations, and self-confidence. Another secular example was Norman Cousins, who treated his collagen disease with intravenous Vitamin C, comedy movies, and a peppy attitude. While he recovered, exactly how much his unorthodox treatment had to do with was never ascertained.

Among the quasi-religious, Deepak Chopra argues that quantum physics enables persons to seize control of all aspects of their lives through the right thinking process. Another quasi-religious version is touted by Esther Hicks, who highlights the Law of Attraction. This holds that humans can bring into their lives whatever they focus on, be it good or bad. Yet all NFL players concentrate on winning the Super Bowl, yet only one team does so. And lovelorn persons obsessively think about the object of their affection without that object ever coming around.

While there are various New Thought schools, most emphasize that something ubiquitous is in control of our lives and is ready to benefit us, if only our thoughts can access this mighty force. It may be described as a god, spirit, energy, or life force, but in any case, health, wealth, and other desirable outcomes are inevitable if we think about them the right way. Adherents believe they can determine their situation by willing a deity or mystical energy to do it for them. This can be attractive because it is free, painless, easy, and gives the practitioner a feeling of being in charge.

But while the power of positive thinking can help with attitude and performance, scientific tests of the power of belief to cure serious illnesses have been uniformly negative. Carol Tavris of Skeptic Magazine wrote that a research team catalogued 179 patients with lung cancer over eight years and found that optimism, pessimism, and neutrality all had no bearing on cures or long-term survival rates. Thinking that the techniques work results from post hoc reasoning, selective memory, and the Forer Effect. And since less-serious illnesses usually fluctuate, their eventual end is credited to finally getting the thought process right.

As far as thoughts helping one succeed in life, we hear stories about Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, or Mark Cuban, and the massive dreams they stayed with until fame and fortune resulted. In these tales, the figure’s positive outlook is referenced. But highlighting only these stories is to commit survivor bias. We never hear about the much more voluminous instances of dreamers who never wavered but also never achieved. The only benefit to their positive outlook was to feel more positive; it did not lead to the desired results.

Indeed, one of the philosophy’s problems is that it equates feeling empowered with being empowered. Another issue is that New Thought holds uncompromisingly negative views of doubt, fear, and worry, even though these are sometime necessary and, in the long-term, often beneficial. A seasoned employee, put on a 90-day probationary period, can use the consequent fear to work harder and become more efficient. A person with a potentially fatal diagnosis can use this fear to get their affairs in order, reconcile with those they’ve hurt or been hurt by, and reevaluate what matters in life. By contrast, a person convinced they can whip leukemia with good vibes and happy thoughts will do none of those things while also succumbing to the disease.

Other detriments of being overly optimistic can include unreasonable amounts of gambling and being unable to realistically analyze one’s financial picture, romantic relationships, or job prospects.

Most distressing is New Thought’s rejection of Germ Theory and our knowledge of how diseases and cures work. Members of Idaho’s Followers of Christ church consider pharmaceuticals to be satanic, while others think mental states are what cause disease. Believing that health and illness are determined by the amount of one’s faith and the fervency of one’s thoughts will lead that person to feel it’s their fault if the conditions stagnate.

And in the end, the strongest evidence against persons being able to control their health and lives by wishing for it is that adherents of such notions keep dying.

“The Brady Hunch” (TB12 Method)

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Whatever reasons Tom Brady might give for his key fumble in the closing minutes of Super Bowl LII, he won’t include his breakfast among them. The New England quarterback touts his TB12 Method through his book of the same name and he outlines his dozen guidelines for optimal performance. These include, supplements, stretches, and massage techniques, but the primary focus is on diet.

Brady emphasize foods that he calls “alkalizing,” “anti-inflammatory,” and which improve “muscle pliability.” He writes that certain meal selections lower his pH level, which in turn help with a range of ailments, from low energy to supple bones. However, a person cannot impact their pH balance through diet or anything else, nor would one want to. The lungs and kidneys maintain pH levels and the body deviates very little toward more acidic or more alkaline, instead permanently residing in a balanced, ideal range. In this sense, pH levels are somewhat akin to body temperature. There is little one can do to impact it, one should not be attempting to do so, and if it changes five percent in either direction, medical help should be sought.

Brady avoids alcohol, gluten, GMOs, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, sugar, artificial sweeteners,  fruit juice, grain-based foods, jams, jellies, most cooking oils, frozen dinners, salty or sugary snacks, white potatoes, prepackaged condiments, flour, caffeine, and nightshade vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. With a list that extensive, it doesn’t seem like there would be many grub options left, but he does profess his love for coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt, both New Age, alt-med darlings.

Clearly, some of this abstinence is good. Avoiding alcohol, trans fats, and excess sugar are to be applauded. But some items on his list are there because of unwarranted fears, specifically of GMOs and gluten. Moreover, some foods he eschews are good for health, such as the vegetables. The biggest point, though, is that whatever Brady is refraining from or indulging in, there’s no evidence that the diet does what he claims. It neither alkalizes the body nor improves muscle recovery.

One possibly-true-but-with-a-caveat claim is Brady’s insistence that his anti-inflammatory diet helps him stay injury free and recover quickly from a bruising corner blitz or a game played on three days’ rest. It is true that our cuisine choices can impact inflammation, but Brady’s diet is unnecessarily restrictive.

Before going further, let’s emphasize that there are two primary types of body inflammation. One is beneficial and assists the body’s immune system against viral and bacterial interlopers. As an example, the skin may redden as the body turns up the heat in order to fend off bacteria residing in an elbow scrape. Then there’s harmful inflammation, which occurs when the body’s inflammatory responses are overactive and which reduces a person’s ability to fight off invaders and disease.

Unlike our pH levels, there are ways to deal with harmful inflammation. These include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, medicine, and, yes, diet. But anti-inflammatory regimens aren’t nearly as exclusionary as the one Brady is promoting. Per an article cited in PubMed, an effective anti-inflammatory diet would focus on omega-3 fatty acids and colorful, non-starchy vegetables, while eliminating Ding Dongs and the like. On another point, there’s no evidence that these diets boost athletic performance. The only post-exercise food options likely to speed recovery are getting adequate carbohydrates and protein.

Another tip Brady offers is drinking at least half one’s body weight in ounces per day. For instance, I weigh, well never mind, let’s just go with someone who weighs 180 pounds. That person, per Brady, should be drinking at least 90 ounces of water daily. He claims consuming less could lead to decreased oxygen in the bloodstream, more susceptibility to sunburn, toxin buildup in cells, and an undefined unpleasantness he calls an “unhealthy inner environment.” None of this has any scientific backing, nor does Brady attempt to cite any.

To state the obvious, humans need water, but let thirst be your guide on whether you should drink some. Our bodies maintain sufficient reserves of electrolytes and 538 journalist Christie Aschwanden quoted exercise scientist Tamara Hew-Butler, who said even an endurance athlete will have salts and minerals replaced with their next meal. There is no need for supplements or excess water consumption. She further said, “Even athletes taking part in ultramarathons should not drink beyond thirst, and supplemental sodium has been demonstrated to not be necessary during prolonged exercise even under hot conditions for up to 30 hours.” Besides, drinking extreme amounts of excess water can lead to hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition.

As to the muscles claims, Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times took these on. Brady’s idea is that muscles should be pliable for good health and prolonged athletic performance. He suggests less weight training in lieu of “targeted, deep-force muscle work,” which entails “focused massage and contracting of muscles, while also stretching and pummeling them, preferably with high-tech, vibrating foam rollers or vibrating spheres.”

There is no empirical evidence supporting this and Brady is not a subject matter expert with double blind studies and published papers to his name. There’s no more reason to believe his take on this than there would be to turn quarterbacking duties in the Super Bowl over to a kinesiology professor. Stuart Phillips holds just such a position at McMaster University and he said that soft muscles are sick ones, so Brady is not accomplishing what he thinks he is, nor would he want to.

Brady calls muscle pliability the name he and his body coach “give to the training regimen he and I do every day.” In other words, they made the term up and there is no science supporting the purported benefits they attribute to it. Indeed, Reynolds performed a PubMed search with the keywords muscle and pliability, and the only result was a study on the efficiency of various embalming techniques on corpses. Brady’s nutritional notions should likewise be considered dead on arrival.

  

 

“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better” (Margarine fears)

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These days, it seems that even the most trivial item can become the object of an unwarranted freakout. This includes how we make our English muffins tastier, for a diatribe against margarine has made its way around the Internet. In addressing the faux yellow condiment, the message gets a few items right, but it mostly contains whoppers and misinformation.

It starts with the assertion that margarine was invented as a means to fatten turkeys, but that the concocted food caused the birds to die en masse. Hoping to recoup some of the money lost from the stricken livestock, the farmers added food coloring to the white substance and passed it off as butter to the unsuspecting masses.

In truth, margarine has nothing to do with turkey, or Turkey for that matter, but with France. Napoleon III offered a prize to anyone who could produce a viable, affordable butter substitute that could be consumed by peasants and soldiers. The winner was a mix of beef fat, saltwater, milk, and margaric acid, which gave the nascent substance its name. Today’s margarine is normally composed of refined vegetable oil, water, and sometimes milk.

I have written before that there is enough amazing about science that there’s no reason to make up cool stuff. For instance, humans having landed a probe on a comet is more captivating to me than is pursing proof that some unknown critters constructed a face on Mars. In the same way, there is enough genuine ghastly gastroenterological unpleasantness that there is no need to fabricate any.

For example, trans fat is legitimately a food boogeyman that increases the chance of Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, liver disorders, and much more. It was prevalent in margarine for years and were that still the norm rather than the exception, the railing against margarine would be justified.

But the key issue is how much trans fat margarine (or any other food) contains. Avoiding all margarine because of the trans fat issue would be like going naked because one dislikes hats. Many brands, including I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, no longer contain trans fat, and that’s usually the case for margarine that comes in tubs or in liquid form.

Another assertion from the screed is that butter has been around for centuries, whereas margarine has been around for less than 100 years. The math is off on that, as margarine dates to the 1860s. But the more relevant point is that how long something has been around is unrelated to its other attributes. Trying to score this as a point for butter over margarine is to commit the Appeal to Tradition fallacy.

The bulk of the rant is a series of unsubstantiated claims that are unsupported by any documentation, evidence, or studies. The claims include: Margarine triples the risk of coronary disease, quintuples the risk of cancer, increases bad cholesterol while lowering good cholesterol, lowers the quality of breast milk, decreases immune and insulin response, increases the risk of heart disease in women by more than 50 percent, and that eating butter increases the absorption of nutrients from other foods.

The claims against margarine would only be true if the specific brand is high in trans fat, and again, that would be true of any food. The boast about butter melts like, well, butter, when examined. Harriet Hall at Science Based Medicine wrote, “Where did this claim come from? I found no evidence to support it. Perhaps they were thinking about the fact that some vitamins are fat-soluble, but that would apply to margarine as well as to butter.”

Another baseless assertion is that margarine will not attract flies because it has no nutritional value. Any food, by nature, has nutritional value, and while I doubt there is any data on whether winged pests cotton to vegetable oil spreads, I see no evidence for the assertion that they don’t. Feel free to conduct your own experiment and let me know the results.

Like other good fearmongering pieces, this one contains a dose of chemophobia, this time in the form of a caps-friendly alarm: “Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT.”

First, as Hall noted, this is false. She wrote, “Plastics are polymers and completely unrelated to anything in margarine. Paint doesn’t contain any of the ingredients in margarine.”

But even if true, this would be pointless anyway. Any change, not matter how small, in the chemical makeup of a substance can alter its safety, impact, and use. One oxygen atom is all that separates water from hydrogen peroxide, but this would not be a sound reason to drink the latter while using the former to disinfect a scraped finger.

“Empty premises” (Hollow Earth)

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While Flat Earthers have welcomed the explosion in articles and videos espousing their cause in recent years, it undercuts their claim that a dangerous truth is being repressed. Logically, a repressed idea is one that is not being heard, which brings us to the idea of a hollow Earth.

There are websites and essays that tout this notion, but these receive a tiny fraction of the notice that those produced by Flat Earthers receive. The proposal has been around in various forms for millennium. Early hollow Earth enthusiasts idealized inhabitants as deeply evolved, supremely healthy beings who were peaceful, prosperous, and rippling with muscles. A few religious movements sprouted from this idea. These days, Earth’s insides are mostly thought to house some combination of superior 12-foot humanoids, wayward Greenlandic Vikings, immortal peace-lovers, the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel, and Third Reich leadership. Those peace-lovers have their work cut out for them if those last two groups are both present.

Those favoring a more rational approach engaged in genuine scientific pursuit to find out if Earth was hollow and at least two excursions were made in the spirit of exploration to try and find the entry point. Edmond Halley wondered if auroras were caused by a combination of ferrous matter and a supple magnetic pole. He pondered that an aurora could be caused by luminous gases spewing from a polar door. To explain anomalous compass readings, Halley also suspected Earth might have a hollow shell about 500 miles thick, followed by two inner concentric shells, then an innermost core.  

Such speculation was admirable, as was his method of using observation and testing using proper protocols. By employing these channels, he and later scientists learned such notions were incorrect, yet some hollow Earthers continue to cite Halley as a supposed proponent. This is what Steven Novella meant when he said that such groups use science like a drunk uses a lamppost: For support, not illumination. About a half century later, mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler talked what would happen if one drilled a hole all the way through Earth and dropped a stone into the opening. He never said Earth was hollow; in fact, drilling all the way through would be unnecessary if it was. Yet he too is sometimes touted by hollow Earth proponents as a believer.

The idea of subterranean realms made appearances in various mythological and religious texts, with it sometimes being the destination of departed souls. Greeks, Celts, Hindus, Nordics, Tibetans, Jews, Mesopotamians, Native Americans, and Christians have all embraced this notion in some form. While the port of entry is usually near one or both poles, prospective entrances have been surmised in locales as diverse as the Amazon, the Himalayas, and downtown Paris. Through an unexplained mechanism, these portals open to enable travel between the inner and outer portions of our planet.

The most common hollow Earth hypothesis in the 19th Century was that we were the ones on the inside. Championed by Cyrus Teed, this idea held that all observed celestial bodies were inside Earth with us. He founded a religious movement based around the idea and sprinkled it with pseudoscientific guesses about light, gravity, and other natural phenomena.

Later, Nazis got in on the act, with Luftwaffe pilot Peter Bender devising another mystical movement whose tenets included a vacuous planet. There exist tiny pockets of both fascists and non-fascists who think Third Reich leaders escaped to these locales, usually aboard flying saucers.

The idea of us being on the outside is more attractive because getting to the other side would be much easier that way. So the concave planet has few adherents anymore and John Symmes was an early promoter of the reverse notion. He wanted to make a North Pole expedition to get inside but was unable to obtain funding. Jeremiah Reynolds did go on such a jaunt in the opposite direction, but if he found an Antarctic opening, he kept the location to himself.

While previous motivations were religion or idealism, those have largely been replaced with a 21st Century conspiratorial flavor. Now, an anonymous, malevolent “they” hides the hollow Earth truth from the populace, with a few brave rebels tirelessly trying to convince the sheeple.

There are a few exceptions. Dianne Robbins, whom I’ve previously profiled, sees inner Earth as a paradise populated by immortal, absolutely peaceful beings with whom she communicates telepathically. And on ourhollowearth.com, the site maintainer likewise considers our planet’s innards to be a terrestrial wonderland, in this case the place where the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel hang out. Tribe members are responsible for flying saucer sightings, as they leave their subterranean sanctuary to ward off dangers to Outer Earthlings.  

Among those who think these truths are being hidden rather than just not widely known, Raymond Bernard claims many early polar explorers were engaged in a secret mission to find these openings and reach the inhabitants. Fellow author Jan Lamprecht writes that evidence for a hollow Earth includes animal migration and early maps having been changed, which he thinks suggests subterfuge.

However, reasons to reject these hollow Earth hypotheses are found in evidence from seismic activity, gravity, and density. 

With regard to the first of those, the time it takes seismic waves to travel through and around Earth is inconsistent with an empty sphere. Such evidence shows Earth is filled first with solid rock, then liquid nickel-iron alloy, and finally solid nickel-iron.

As to the proof provided by gravity, massive objects tend to clump together and create solid objects like stars, satellites, and planets. Such a configuration is a way to reduce the gravitational potential energy of the object being formed. Additionally, ordinary matter is too weak to support a hollow planet against gravity’s ample force.

Finally, we consider density and that’s not a reference to hollow Earthers’ mental acumen. Based on the size of Earth and the force of gravity on its surface, the average density of the planet is 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter. However, densities of surface rocks are only half that. This is crucial because if any sizable chunk of Earth were hollow, its average density would be much less than what the density of its surface rocks is.

While doing background work and compiling my information for this post, I could find no proponents or websites extolling the concept of a flat, hollow Earth. Sounds like repression to me.