People dressed in tinfoil suits point to a mountain in France that was rumored to provide a refuge from the Maya apocalypse at 11:11 a.m. Dec. 21, 2012. The 2012 apocalypse served as a classic slice of new-age hokum.Patrick Aventurier / Getty Images
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So how does Plait's B.S. detector work? Here are some pointers from the pro:
Find out who's making the claim: Certain people have a history of promulgating B.S., and if you come across the latest claim from such people, your skeptical antennae should perk up. "That doesn't mean they're wrong, but it's not a bad place to start," Plait said.
Find out what other folks are saying: Check to see what your trusted sources have to say about a controversial claim. Of course Plait hopes that Bad Astronomy is one of those trusted sources — but he adds a caveat: "Don't trust me. I make mistakes, too. Pay attention to what other people are saying, weigh the facts, and try not to be biased."
Here are a few of Plait's trusted sources on contentious topics:
Doomsday predictions:"That'd be me," Plait said. But don't get him started about the doomsday talk surrounding Comet ISON. "I'm really tired of the 'comet of the day' stupidity," he complained. "Every time a comet comes by, I've got to do something about it."
In addition to Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait's projects include the Boulder Science Festival, which takes place on Oct. 12 and 13 at the Millennium Hotel in Boulder, Colo.; and Science Getaways, which offers science-themed travel opportunities. On Wednesday, Plait announced that Space Ranch 2014 is scheduled for Feb. 27-March 3 at the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Ariz.