Illustration by Dana Berry for National Geographic

I was doing my morning Facebooking, like a dutiful Millennial, when an article caught my eye. “January 4th 2014 – Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity – Float For 5 minutes! #ZeroGDay“, read the headline. (Headlines seem to have lost their brevity as of late.)

The article claims that British astronomer Patrick Moore has “revealed” that on January 4th, 2014, at exactly 9:47am, Jupiter, Earth, and Pluto will align in a syzygy, and that due to this, “the combined gravitational force of the two planets would exert a stronger tidal pull, temporarily counteracting the Earth’s own gravity and making people weigh less.” Apparently, according to the article, if you leap into the air at exactly 9:47am on this day, it’ll take you three whole seconds to float back down to the ground.

I skimmed it, quickly determined it was bullshit, and went along my way, but something was nagging at me. I knew it was nothing but crap, but I also knew that, come January 4th, the #ZeroGDay hashtag on Twitter would be exploding with the confirmation bias of the gullible. People were going to fall for this, hook, line, and sinker, while I could dismiss it with nothing more than a cursory glance.

So instead of just letting it fade into the æther like I ought to, checking the hashtag on the 4th for giggles, I decided to explain how I know this is crap. Hopefully, it’ll help others hone their bullshit detectors.

Because this is a long, long post, I’ve broken it into pages. Click on the links below to navigate the pages.