Well, 2012 was an exciting year here at Worldwide Wacko Watch, which of course was exactly what we expected given all the hoopla surrounding the catastrophic End of the World that didn't occur right on schedule at its end. So I thought, as a way of ringing out the old and ringing in the new, it might be fun to look back at the top story for each month from the World of Woo-Woo. A way of celebrating, if you will, what irrational, counterfactual nonsense we had to endure to get to the end of the year. Each one comes with a link to the story, so that (if you'd like) you can go back and read the top stories of the past year at Skeptophilia.
In January, we had the announcement by the leaders of Iran that they had downed a US drone aircraft doing unauthorized surveillance of Iranian territory. Never content to let stories remain within the realm of what is, technically, real, Iranian engineer Mehran Tavakoli Keshe crowed proudly that the Iranian actions had been accomplished using spaceships powered by "field forces [sic]... generated by dark matter, regular matter, and antimatter."
In February, we were informed by Google Earth that they had not, in fact, found Atlantis off the coast of Africa. They offered explanations of why the Google Earth topographic seafloor maps seemed to show huge gridlines that looked like the remains of streets, city squares, and so on. This denial convinced everyone except the conspiracy theorists who made the claim in the first place.
March produced a story that generated the third-highest number of hits for Skeptophilia to date; the claim that NASA had discovered an alien-constructed monolith on Phobos, confirming the claims made in the famous historical documentary 2001: A Space Odyssey. Regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised to discover that the person who came up with this idea was our favorite frequent flyer of all: Richard C. Hoagland.
Another popular story cropped up in April, centering around the contention that "an oceanographer named Dr. Verlag Meyer" had found giant glass pyramids on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The story began to unravel when it was discovered that "Verlag" is not a name, but is the German word for "publishing house," and that the original story had come from none other than the Weekly World News.
In May, we had a claim by Seattle lawyer Andrew Basiago that the US government had developed, and was hiding evidence of, time travel. Basiago said he had been one of the test subjects, and was ready to blow the story wide open. Of course, Basiago is the same guy who said last year that he had once run into President Obama on Mars, so his credibility might not be all that great to start with.
June saw the release of a new biology textbook by a group called Accelerated Christian Education, and its adoption by government-funded charter schools in Louisiana. It was no surprise, given its origins, that the biology textbook claimed that evolution is a big fat lie made up by Satan-influenced evolutionary biologists like myself to doom your children to eternal hellfire. What was a bit of a surprise is that the textbook cites the existence of the Loch Ness Monster as evidence that evolution is false.
In July, the scientific world was rocked by the announcement from physicists at CERN that the long-sought Higgs boson -- the particle that confers the property of mass on ordinary matter -- was a reality. It didn't take long for the woo-woos to get on board, with such luminaries of the scientific world as Diane Tessman proclaiming that the Higgs proved the existence of truth, god, collective consciousness, and the "time of celestial ascension."
For much of August, I was on hiatus in the beautiful country of Malaysia for birdwatching, curry, and some much-needed R & R, but even so, there were several stories that we followed closely, here at Worldwide Wacko Watch. It is always to be hoped for that our reports will encourage people to behave in a more rational fashion, and the top story from August had a pretty important moral: don't dance on the side of a highway in a ghillie suit attempting to convince people they're seeing Bigfoot.
In September, NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity began to send back photographs from the Red Planet, exciting science buffs the world over. And it didn't take long for woo-woos with magnifying glasses and overactive imaginations to find all sorts of anomalous objects in those photographs, including a grinning alien woodchuck, a flip-flop, various UFOs, and a fossilized human finger.
October was a busy month, and it ended on a tragic note, with the late season "superstorm" Sandy striking the eastern coast of the United States, creating devastating damage from wind and flooding. And despite what you may have learned in your high school Earth Science class, this time it was not such phenomena as low-pressure systems, frontal boundaries, and steering currents that led to the formation of the storm; this one was caused by the most powerful meteorological force known to man -- gays.
In November, we had noted shrieking wingnut Paul Begley claiming that Obamacare should be repealed. The reason, Begley said, was not that it was too expensive, nor that it would harm the quality of American medical care; no, the reason was that there was a provision in the bill to microchip everyone in the US, and whichever one of us got the microchip with the number "666" would become the Antichrist.
No story during the year got more press coverage than the End of the World, scheduled to occur on December 21, 2012, and which was variously thought to be caused by the Mayans, zombies, the arrival of the Borg, the arrival of friendly aliens, a collision with the planet Nibiru, and an attack by Giant Space Bunnies from the Andromeda Galaxy. Okay, I made the last one up, but it hardly matters, because December 22 arrived with all of us still here, not that this will discourage the next End Times prediction from happening.
So, that's the year in stories. I hope you had a wonderful 2012, despite all of them, and from all of us here at Worldwide Wacko Watch, I wish you the happiest of New Years. Let's renew our dedication to science, skepticism, and critical thinking in the coming year, in the hopes that progress toward a rational world -- however incremental it may seem at times -- continues to happen.