A couple of years ago, the Littles and I did an in-depth course in astronomy. I am constantly amazed by the things I still have to learn, and that course changed the way I look at stars on clear nights forever. One of the coolest things we found during the class was www.earthsky.org. The site has a wealth of information on it, as well as amazing pics and videos to educate about both the Earth and the heavens above us. We signed up to receive their email updates and I still read them religiously every time I get one.
Today’s lead story was about rumors floating around (apparently pretty thickly) that this December is going to bring 3-6 days of total darkness on earth due to a solar storm that was going to kick up some pretty thick dust and debris of its own. The rumor racing around the internet claims that NASA had officially predicted the storm.
Obviously, something that big would be reported more than just in your junk email or facebook page, let alone on some of the hokey websites floating around out there, just waiting to snag you in their black holes of lies and near-truths. Why some people always assume that a thing is true just because it’s in the media is beyond me.
But there are some good learning opportunities here. For one thing, this rumor and earthsky’s article debunking it present a chance to talk to your kids about the importance of internet safety, which websites they can visit and trust, and how to debunk such rumors themselves (a little research is usually a quick fix. I can’t tell you how much I prayed that actor Paul Walker’s death was an internet rumor).
This also provides a chance for us to teach our kids the truth about the media they are barraged with constantly in this age. How often the media focuses on bad things to stir up excitement and get ratings or readers. How sometimes the media focuses on one story to keep our minds off something else. How media is run by conglomerates that sometimes have their own self-interests at heart. How some venues are leftist or rightist and some are just extreme. How anyone can start an internet page and we should pay attention to the source of our information. And how as responsible citizens of a free country, we should do their best to find out every side of a story before forming an opinion.
I’ll talk to the Littles about both of these things after we share a good laugh over the latest apocalypse. Of course, they would be more interested if zombies were involved.
If you can think of another lesson to be learned from these hoaxes and internet rumors, please let me know what you come up with. I’d love to hear your thoughts.