I have tried to avoid the Balloon Boy, his dad, and all who sail in this online/offline/out-of-line clattermaran.
However, thanks to CBS News, I have learned that Richard Heene once appeared on a fine YouTube extravaganza called The Psyience Detectives and offered 15 reasons why our haggard old world will end on December 21, 2012.
I have no idea if the world will end in 2012, though I suspect Richard Heene doesn't know either. And yet there is something quite eerie that he should assault our eyes and ears in the same week that a movie called "2012" has forced NASA to address all the 2012 doomsdayers.
You see, the folks behind the movie decided it might be quite fun to launch a Web site, InstituteforHumanContinuity.org. The site suggests that "a mysterious celestial body will enter Earth's orbit in 2012 with disastrous consequences." It also offers you the chance to enter a survival lottery that gives you just a chance of ringing in 2013. Applications are, naturally, limited and it seems as if there has already been a huge influx of wise and frightened people from each continent--interestingly, it seems Australians have so far led the pack of those entering the lottery.
Now, you might be wise, and even Australian, and therefore be able to see through this Beverley Hills bunkum. However, NASA is taking this site--or at least the fears it might perpetuate--so seriously that it has launched one of its astronomers, David Morrison, to attack this piffle-peddling.
According to the Independent, Morrison, who works in NASA's Astrobiology Institute, has already received more than 1,000 missives from the concerned. These are not those who merely fear they might not be able to view reality TV in 2013.
"I've even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don't want to see the world end. I think when you lie on the Internet and scare children in order to make a buck, that is ethically wrong," Morrison told the Independent.
The movie's site appears to be nourished by the same notions that incited Balloon Boy's dad: Old Sumerian starmen talked of "ancient astronauts" and supposedly predicted a bit of an earthly disaster in 2012, a thought that was picked up, according to Morrison, by fiction in relatively recent times.
Before we knew it, there were whispers about the planet Nibiru (here's just one on YouTube), which on the "2012" site has become Planet X, a planet that is allegedly being tracked by some of the world's finest scientists.
On the NASA site, Morrison goes into heartening detail about the Nibiru nonsense.
But perhaps the most joyous part of his answers to 2012 questions is when he confesses he had to go to the world's greatest online encyclopedia to learn of Sony Pictures' insidious marketing techniques: "I learned from Wikipedia that creating this sort of fake Web site is a new advertising technique called 'viral marketing,' by analogy with computer viruses."
The search for celestial riches from celestial fears will never go away. However, Balloon Boy's parents have run into a spot of bothersome police scrutiny, and I have heard one or two whispers that production of the "2012" movie is, well, towering inferno of cash that might end up in ashes.
Meanwhile, the mythbusters at NASA stand strong and united against these deleterious influences in our culture.