NASA predicts that six days of total darkness in December will be caused by a solar storm.
This idiotic story was started by a satirical website called Huzlers. Credulous people have spread it by Facebook and Twitter, with even sillier variations.
You may know the fine old book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which Charles Mackay published in 1841. Now he would include the Madness of Social Media.
A video showed NASA’s chief, Charles Bolden, warning the public to be prepared and stay calm. He was referring to disasters that can actually happen, such as tornadoes and earthquakes. Bolden became NASA Administrator in 2009, and may have found testifying before the public and before Congress a tougher ordeal than the four space shuttle missions he took part in. For instance in 2011 (to compress the dialogue a little):
Bolden: “It [the heavy-lift rocket called the Space Launch System or SLS] can’t be done.” Congressman: “It’s not an option, Mr. Bolden, it’s the Law.” Bolden: “Well, it can’t be done if you don’t give us the money.” Congressman: “This amounts to an insult.”
When I first read of Charles Bolden’s appointment, I remembered about another Charles Bolden, better known as Buddy Bolden. He was the ancestor of jazz, blew for about seven years a loud clear cornet that was never recorded, went mad with schizophrenia, and took 24 years to die in a madhouse (in 1931). Later jazzmen such as Jelly Roll Morton looked back to him with amused respect:
I thought I heard Buddy Bolden say
“You’re nasty, you’re dirty, take it away…”
What he wanted blown away by opening a window was the bad air in crowded dance halls, but we might apply it to stupid rumors.