• Science always ruins the party

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  • Here’s what’s going to happen on Dec. 22.
    The sun will rise over Eastern Jackson County 7:33 a.m. and will set at 4:59 p.m.
    Throw in half an hour of twilight on each end and you get about 10 and a half hours of daylight, a sharp contrast to the 14 hours we get in glorious late June.
    But Dec. 22 is also one day after Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year, so Dec. 22 – the Saturday before Christmas and a day I would recommend staying off the streets and away from the frantic malls – will bring us just maybe a minute more of sunlight than the day before.
    Human civilizations for millennia have noted the winter solstice, a predictable and hopeful event late every December. It’s more or less why Christmas is affixed where it is in the calendar. Winter can be cold and bleak, but the slowly lengthening days give us cheer.
    We have of course evolved past Stonehenge and the pagans who feared much and who worshipped the sun, the moon and large trees, anything that seemed to have the potential to alter their cosmic reality.
    No, we haven’t.
    Here’s what else is going to happen on Dec. 21 and 22. The world will not end, greatly disappointing many. The winter solstice has been the focus of end-of-it-all theories for ages. Throw in our modern obsession with conspiracy theories (“the world will end but the government is hiding it”), plus the particular form of human arrogance that allows each generation to place itself at the center of all history, and now you really have something.
    I caught a scientist – an honest-to-goodness, facts-really-do-matter NASA scientist – on the radio the other day. It’s become his role in life, apparently while not on the government clock, to answer the many incoming emails about the Mayan death calendar and other folderol. My favorite is Nibiru. You know Niburu. It’s that hidden planet – planet, friends, those are big – sneaking up on Earth to crash into us on Dec. 22. By the way, it’s the same planet that didn’t crash into us as predicted in 2003.
    This fellow’s real gift is remaining calm in the face of fervent insanity. Someone says Niburu is true because it just has to be true, and he calmly says, OK, here’s the deal: We’re less than a month away from Death Day and by now any such planet would be the biggest, brightest, scariest thing in the sky. Go outside and look.
    Of course, every logical and factual answer is met with a “yeah, but.” In an age when the right answer can only be the answer I want, this back-and-forth never ends.
    Still, the scientist says, some of the earnest emails are from people wanting to know when to put down their beloved pet, to spare Fluffy so much suffering. Some even suggest they might end it all. This is where the willfully paranoid mindset does real damage.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dec. 21 will not be Niburu Day. Life will go on. The days will begin to lengthen. Carolers will sing, shoppers will shop, and we’ll enjoy Christmas. Another new year will come. We will have hope, at least until baseball season.
    And the Nibiruians and other mean pagans will plot their next catastrophe and see how many people they can get worked up.
    Jeff Fox promises his Twitter followers that he’s entertaining and informative. He’s @Jeff_Fox. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or jeff.fox@examiner.net.

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