At the beginning of 2015, we were promised that a rare planetary alignment would causehere on Earth by some people that clearly don't understand this fundamental element of our universe very well. Now the bizarre viral rumor-mongers are at it again, telling us that a different cosmic lineup will trigger a massive earthquake to end the working week a bit early on Thursday evening, May 28.
I want to be clear about my response to this allegation right at the top here -- No. No way. Wrong. Impossible. Silly. You're grounded. Go to your room and no Internet for a year.
The epicenter of the myth seems to be this 24-minute video on YouTube, approaching 750,000 views, that goes into great detail without making a whole lot of sense. The narrator, "Frank," begins by claiming that the recentwas a result of being able to draw a line between the alignment of Mars, Mercury and the midpoint between the Earth and the Moon.
Without explaining this apparent causal relationship, he goes on to talk about a message he received from a "spirit" about a "very, very large earthquake or some kind of major event" comparable to a 9.8-magnitude temblor. Using some sort of information he's collected over the years from unnamed sources and "number theory" he's now determined that this will go down along the Pacific rim on May 28, possibly sending California and Japan into the sea.
The video then walks us through a bunch of alignments of the planets that make for an interesting geometry lesson, but have absolutely nothing to do with plate tectonics or earthquakes on Earth. As astronomer and author Phil Plait put it over on Slate:
"There is simply no way an alignment of planets can cause an earthquake on Earth. It's literally impossible... Alignments of the planets have no effect on us at all."
Plait explains that proximity has a lot to do with gravitational pull in the solar system. As such, the moon has 50 times more sway over us than the other planets in the system combined, and the moon has only an extremely weak influence, if any, on earthquakes here.
What's interesting is that Frank seems to be rather thoughtful and sincere about his concerns, and it makes a kind of logical sense if you transport yourself to a universe where planets' internal geology can be predicted by playing a game of tic-tac-toe with their orbits.
It would be nice if it were that simple, but it definitely isn't. Need proof? Just think back to how you didn't float away anytime in January. So, go ahead, plan to enjoy the rest of your week without having to worry about some of the largest cities on Earth sliding into the sea. Rest assured, we'll still be around to watch The Rock deal with that later this year.