Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
Does anybody here ever watch those online TED Talks? They’re short lectures given at an annual convention by intellectuals of just about every field or job description. They cover all kinds of interesting things from new insights into neuroscience to the latest business strategies to celebrating comic books. I discovered TED Talks about a year ago and I actually have learned a lot from them. I’ve even started to feel like I’m amassing a fine little store of knowledge on a lot of obscure topics.
Like most of my new internet discoveries though, I tend to spend my nights and days binging on them for a couple of weeks and then get sick of them for months afterward before the cycle repeats itself.
After the last one I saw, though, I’m not sure I’ll watch another TED Talk. I just don’t think that the TED organization is very trustworthy anymore.
The last TED Talk I watched was recorded at the TED gathering in 2012 in Long Beach, California. The Talk was given by Dr. Alfred Carney, astronomer. Dr. Carney is relatively obscure nowadays. I had certainly never heard of him until I watched the TED Talk. It turns out, that he caused a bit of a stir in the late 90s when he taught at Tokyo University.
Dr. Carney submitted a, quite frankly bizarre, journal article to the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan. He claimed that the then recently discovered mysterious etchings on Bronze Age tombs in southern Honshu were not only a complex system of stellar coordinates but that they correlated exactly to some ancient Babylonian star charts which he had in his possession.
Furthermore, Carney claimed that both of these sources indicated the existence of a dim celestial body less than a light year from the edge of our solar system. Dr. Carney claimed that this body, which he nicknamed the Dark Oni, was massive enough to cause gravitational disturbances in our Solar System’s outer comet belt. If left unchecked, these disturbances would eventually lead to impacts on earth worse than that which wiped out the dinosaurs.
The article’s argument had numerous problems, not least of all the fact that actual archaeologists considered the Japanese markings to be far too vague to be anything like coordinates. Carney, having gained a reputation for paranoia, also refused to turn over his alleged “ancient Babylonian star charts” for independent study. The peer reviewers concluded that he didn’t even have any star charts to begin with.
Dr. Carney angrily resigned from the faculty at Tokyo rather than face further inquiry into his integrity. He was kicked out of the Astronomical Society of Japan and I’m surprised he didn’t also lose his Doctorate. As far as I can tell from Googling, that’s the last anybody heard from him until 2012.
Why would TED even give the time of day to what by all accounts is a disgraced crackpot, though? Maybe the Sapling Foundation has an affinity for bad astronomy and pseudoarcheology? Maybe Carney had some dirt on a member of the selection board. I don’t know. But regardless, on October 10, 2012, the footage of Alfred Carney’s TED Talk was posted to youtube and the TED website under the title, “Alfred Carney: Why comets matter.” It was online for about five minutes before it was taken down and all mention of Carney wiped from the conference records.
The video begins as they all do. The TED logo is followed by a shot of Dr. Carney, standing in the middle of a packed auditorium in California business casual.
“Now, I’m sure some of you here are a little bit skeptical of my work due to certain mishaps in the past. I certainly don’t blame you if you are. I handled the situation rather poorly,” he says. “But what I’ve brought with me today is some fresh evidence that I think will change your mind. And if my conclusions are right, we could be looking at the most dire threat that life on earth has ever faced. Even the Mayans could only foresee the tip of it.”
I can tell that he’s doing his best to pour on the charm and credibility, but still he seems to be a sweating. I doubt it’s just from the stage lights.
“Now, if you’ll direct your eyes to the screen, this is a picture of markings found on a tomb in Japan dated to about 900 years before Christ…” He begins to go into the same spiel that he gave the Astronomical Society. Only this time, he actually shows some blurry shots of his “ancient Babylonian star charts.” He apologizes to the audience that he wasn’t able to get higher resolution images, “at such short notice.”
“As you can see here from the fifth character of the third line and the five, six, seven, eighth character of the second that the only star this could be referring to visible from Babylon is Arcturus,” said Carney. “Now, with that in mind, let’s go back to the Japanese etchings…”
He ultimately didn’t have much new to bring to the table. I’m no mathematician but even I could see that a lot of the coordinates he was marking all over that poor PowerPoint were completely bogus even if one accepted his leap of faith that the Japanese etchings were star coordinates.
The video goes on like that for the next 12 minutes. You can detect yawns and scoffs coming from the audience, but Carney doesn’t seem to hear. At the 12:34 mark, things get interesting again. Carney has just finished showing us a CGI rendition of the Dark Oni.
He says, “So, call it what you wish; whether Nibiru, Nemesis, Planet X, whatever. But the universal attestations of folklore are clear and the math doesn’t lie, people. There is an unprecedented object out there and it is a threat. We still have time, though. The errant comets this thing is going to send out are still years, maybe even decades, away from us. But we need that time to mount an offensive. The darkest imaginings of science fiction will become our grim reality if we don’t launch a program to stop this thing.”
Carney then clicks to an image of Japanese Dogū figurines. “The aliens that the ancient inhabitants of Japan and of Babylon were in contact with gave us a second chance because they saw our boundless potential as a…
At this point, some poor beleaguered producer with a clipboard jumps on stage and goes into damage control mode. “We’re so sorry, ladies and gentlemen! There seems to be some mistake. Dr. Carney had misrepresented to us the content of his presentation. We will be moving along shortly…”
Carney’s mic is cut, but you can still hear him yell, “Fascist,” and other epithets at the producer. He’s now red as a stop sign and gets literally dragged kicking and screaming from the stage by three security guards.
Like I said, the video vanished form the web after five minutes and all references to Carney even being at the 2012 TED Conference seem to have also been scrubbed. I was able to rip a copy of the video once my Spider Sense told me it would get censored but I’m sitting on it until I see someone else post a rip without their website disappearing in the night.
Dr. Carney hasn’t shown up anywhere on the web since that day either. A friend of mine that I discuss this with speculates that “they” sent the IRS to audit the poor sap off the face of the earth, but he’s a little bit of a conspiracy nut.
No other astronomer has come forth to confirm or deny the existence of Carney’s Dark Oni. My rational side tells me that the whole thing is pseudoscience hooey. Still, in the middle of the night as I look up at the stars the Agent Mulder in me can’t help but wonder. What if the crackpot was on to something?
Credit To – Cosmo Fish