I hadn’t realized the scientist who had been answering questions sent to NASA’s “Ask an Astrobiologist” decided to retire. He specifically cited misinformation around December 2012 and its attendant fear as reasons for quitting. I can see where he’d be exhausted:

Children have been especially vulnerable. I received nearly a hundred messages from children saying they were considering suicide and from parents considering killing their children before the end of the world. These pleas for help were streaming in until midnight on Dec 21.

I am proud that NASA recognized this problem and actively worked to defuse this fear. Since Dec 21 I have received many notes thanking me, including those saying that I “saved their life”. I appreciate these messages. But hardly any of the people who promoted the doomsday hoax and severely criticized NASA have apologized. I suppose this was to be expected. Overall dealing with this doomsday hoax has been an exhausting experience, and I am pleased to retire from this effort.

As librarians, we can play a role in fighting doomsday information. Let’s do what we can in hopes of lightening the load for others.

Ask an Astrobiologist – Departing Letter from David Morrison

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