If you’re new to this channel, I have an annual tradition: psychic predictions for the coming year. It shouldn’t surprise you that I cannot stand psychics – in fact, investigating and debunking psychics was my introduction to organized skepticism (RIP), as I was working as a magician through college and was a big fan of Penn & Teller, who were big fans of James “The Amazing” Randi, who was a big fan of Harry Houdini. All of them turned their knowledge of how to fool people into a tool to stop folks from getting scammed by psychics, who claimed they could talk to the dead or see the future when in fact they were simply using tried and true techniques from the world of magic.
So I started doing annual prediction videos where I would use those same tactics to demonstrate how easy it is to do: make some predictions that seem rare but are nearly inevitable, like “an earthquake will occur at the same time that a volcano erupts” (a past “hit” of mine). Then make some predictions that really would be impressive in the hope that one of them “hits” and everyone remembers that and forgets all the ones that miss, like the year I predicted Zsa Zsa Gabor would die. That was correct, but I was wrong about a similar prediction for Chris Brown, Lindsay Lohan, and all the Real Housewives.
Anyway, my annual tradition got a little dark last year, what with the raging worldwide pandemic that was predicted by immunologists but not by any psychics, to the best of my knowledge.
So last year I mixed it up and just did some hopes for 2021. You know, to be a bit positive. And guys…holy crap. Let’s go through them.
I said “We’ll kick more fascists out of world governments,” which was sadly just not true. The nonprofit Freedom House issued a report this year that found “The global decline in democracy has accelerated” as authoritarians grow bolder and take over more countries.
I said we’d get evidence of alien life, which, well, we did not.
I said the A’s would win a pennant. They did not.
I said more Americans would have access to affordable healthcare. The number of uninsured Americans stayed the same from 2020 to 2021.
Here’s the worst one: I said we’d “see fewer deaths from vaccine-preventable illnesses,” calling that prediction “a shoe-in — even if measles cases continue to rise, and even if people refuse the COVID vaccine, we will vaccinate enough people to put a stop to the torrent of deaths we’ve seen in 2020.”
Yeah. Global deaths from COVID in 2021 exceeded those in 2020 by June. Even here in the US where we have enough vaccines to give three to everyone, we beat our 2020 deaths by the beginning of December.
Like, I tried! I tried to be upbeat and find the positive that I was SURE WOULD HAPPEN, like an earthquake at the same time as a volcano, and it didn’t happen.
With that in mind, I give up. I officially give up trying to predict what’s going to happen in 2022. It’s not fun anymore.
However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a fun alternative for you, today. First I decided that maybe I would make predictions only about non-pandemic-related science stuff. But then I realized I haven’t been paying much attention to non-pandemic-related science stuff, so I don’t even know what to predict that might be rare, or common, or an inevitability, or whatever. So I turned to a few friends who are a bit more up-to-date on what’s going on out there.
First, I asked for a 2022 prediction from my pal Karen James, a molecular ecologist who you can find on Twitter @kejames. She said, “In 2021, a million-year-old mammoth’s DNA was sequenced. In 2022 a paper will be published that pushes the oldest DNA to be sequenced back even further. It will not necessarily be a mammoth but some biological sample older than a million years will be successfully sequenced.”
See, now THAT is a great prediction! I honestly completely forgot about the mammoth DNA sequencing, because, well, you know. Time is meaningless. So that’s an awesome reminder of something really cool that happened, and now I’m looking forward to Karen’s psychic powers manifesting an even older specimen.
Next I turned to Phil Plait, commonly known as “the Bad Astronomer,” even though I’m starting to think he’s actually quite good at his job. Phil was hesitant at first because scientists who predict things are nearly always wrong and are then roundly mocked, but I assured him that this is officially not that big a deal. Though I do reserve the right to mock him in the future.
Phil’s first prediction, which he sent me before the James Webb Space Telescope was launched on Christmas eve, was “JWST will launch and deploy perfectly, but when the first images are sent to Earth astronomers will realize they forgot to take the lens cap off.”
Okay, so he’s already right that it launched and deployed perfectly. We obviously have to wait bit for the first images to come in, but I have to say that he DID predict this joke that immediately went viral on social media. So, he’s kind of already won.
Phil’s second prediction is “Elon Musk will tweet something ridiculous, a woman will reply, “Hey, that’s not nice” and 23,000 Muskbros will attack her viciously. They’ll then try to get her to buy their NFTs.” Excellent use of the “predict something inevitable” technique, Phil!
Prediction three: “Two small asteroid impacts will occur: One will utterly destroy the Lauren Boebert re-election headquarters and the other one will mildy singe an LGBTQ+ flag. QAnoners will claim the latter is an act of God but the former was from antifa.” This one is a longshot but honestly I can see it happening.
Prediction four: “Planet Nine will be found in sky survey data, and astrologers all over the world will say, “Hey, I guess we were wrong” and then turn to selling NFTs.”
Okay, that one I can’t see happening but big if true.
Finally, Phil predicted, “Someone will read the article linked in my tweet and decide not to reply asking me a question clearly answered in the article. HAHAHAHAHA! No, that will never happen.”
Guys, I think Phil is having a rough time on Twitter. Please send pictures of your pets to @badastronomer.
Last but not least, I asked my good friend and former Skepchick writer Gwen “Bug Girl” Person, an incredible entomologist who you can follow @bug_gwen. Gwen had some…interesting ideas. Oh and by the way I’m sorry, I know it’s her name but I can’t call her “Gwen.” She is always “Bug” to me. I’m sorry if that makes things confusing. Here we go.
First, she predicted “Murder hornets will file a defamation lawsuit to be renamed “involuntary manslaughter hornet.” Also, one new giant hornet’s nest will be found in Washington, and the WA Dept. of Ag will continue to do an excellent job of tracking and immediately eradicating it. Srsly, they are On It.”
I…I think there may have been some sarcasm there but I’m not sure. Moving on, Bug says “Biden will eat a coney dog made from black soldier flies in order to promote the diversification of our food supply chain.”
Okay, I’m not sure about that one but Bug is the first person who I ever heard talk about how easily we can fit insects into our diet in the form of things like flour made from ground up crickets. It was thanks to her that a few years ago I tried Chinese 5-spice dried crickets at an A’s game. They were extremely not good. Also the legs got stuck in my teeth. But hey, veggie burgers weren’t good at first and now look where we are. So who knows what the future holds? Well, Bug does and apparently it involves a hot dog made of flies.
Third, Bug predicts “Fire Ants will invade Melania Trump’s server and disrupt supply of her “NFT amulets.” I’m noticing a trend, and that trend is scientists being very critical of NFTs. I wonder why that is? Hm.
Fourth, she says “Jeff Bezos will discover a hornet’s nest in his fuselage and thus be prevented from getting his space penis up. Uh into space, that is.” For this one I will accept any private space launch that fails due to insects of some sort.
Okay, this next one is a bit more possible. Bug predicts “Field test of CRISPR edited male sterile mosquitoes will be successful at reducing Zika transmission, but outcry over “frankenbugs” will stop the program.” Sterilizing mosquitoes by editing their genes is absolutely an effort that scientists are currently working on, and it could be huge for reducing or stopping the spread of diseases like Zika. Unfortunately, people worrying about genetically modified organisms continues to be a thing. It’s one thing for people to avoid “GMOs” when shopping for their produce, but could that lead to life-saving measures being thrown in the trashcan? I hope not but it’s definitely possible.
Finally, Bug predicts that “two species of bee and one firefly species will go extinct due to habitat destruction,” pointing out that there are currently emergency actions being taken to save at least one species of firefly in Delaware, near where I grew up (in the woods that were filled with fireflies every summer). I really hope she’s wrong about this one! If you would like to make SURE Bug’s prediction is wrong, please check out this video I made a few months ago about what’s going on with wild bees right now and how you can help sustain their populations by encouraging the growth of native plants.
That’s it for “my” psychic predictions for 2022! Huge thanks to Karen James, Phil Plait, and Gwen Pearson for allowing me to offload my work onto them and giving me a bunch of interesting science news to keep an eye out for this year. Please have a safe and healthy new year, friends, and remember to look out for one another because that’s the only way we are ever going to get back to something resembling “normal.”