By Janhavi Vedpathak

Edited by Shambhavi Singh

Though it didn’t ‘break the internet’ like Kim Kardashian’s pictures, news of NASA claiming our planet to be in total darkness for 6 straight days in December 2014 did circulate fast. A video on ’emergency preparedness’ by a NASA Chief even went viral on social media, ensuring its credibility. Apparently, a solar storm heading our way will be maximizing dust and space debris, in turn blocking around 90% of sunlight. With so much dust, it just might feel like being in Nigeria during the peak of the Harmattan season, just multiplied by about a 1000. Going to sleep at night and waking up to the dark again, we shall finally get to experience life in the North and South Poles. Before people started worrying about electricity bills and stocking up on candles and torches, this news was termed ‘entirely fake.’ Solar storms are not fictional, but they certainly do not blow up dirt like normal storms and the video was originally created to spread earthquake awareness. Talk about media manipulation!

Quite believably, this was not the first time NASA was roped into such a false claim. NASA often finds itself tangled up in such preposterous rumors. Amongst the several events that occurred across the globe in 1998 like the European nations agreeing on a single currency or Bill Clinton’s involvement in the Lewinsky scandal. Humans were contacted by an alien civilization from a different galaxy back in 1998, but have only recently been able to decode the distress call. It took the message 80,000 years to reach our planet as it originates from ‘beyond the Andromeda galaxy.’ Evidence provided was that of an official NASA press release, which in reality is nothing more than fantasy. People starting this rumor were probably inspired by the highest-grossing film of the 1980s, E.T. (remade in Hindi as Koi Mil Gaya)

The story of the Missing Day has been around for nearly 30 years which apparently strengthens beliefs on the Bible. Calculations performed by NASA computers revealed an error. An error being a day missing on the calendar. Scientists were said to have given a Biblical explanation for this issue. The Bible states that God once made the sun remain still for Joshua, which when used, only explained 23 hours and 20 minutes of the blank day. The other shortage of 40 minutes was further explained by a Biblical story of the Sun moving backwards 10 degrees. The first version of this story was told in 1936, way before the NASA was even formed. Furthermore, NASA surfaced through an article and nullified this claim.

From 2008 till date, a certain message has been circulating which claims that cosmic rays, emitted by Mars will be penetrating the Earth between 12:30am to 3:30am. Thus, mobile phones should be switched off and kept far away to avoid any sort of danger. Though linked to NASA, this news is said to have been reported by BBC. The gullible ones out there obviously did as instructed but others went on to challenge it. Research proves that the Earth’s magnetosphere is strong enough to protect us from the Sun’s most harsh rays, let alone Mars. Secondly, Mars cannot even emit such radiation as it is not a star. Before blindly believing any forwarded texts, one should always verify, till a day when even Google cannot explain!

Social media is an amazing weapon used to create unnecessary panic or form false beliefs. Next time any absurd news crops up, be sure to check any attached links to reputed websites. Websites that question the credibility of the headlines are also in existence, such as Truth or fiction and Hoax-slayer.

Posted by The Indian Economist | For the Curious Mind