Yes, Julian Assange has a solar-eclipse conspiracy theory for you

Assange bravely ignores science, choses eclipse trutherism

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published August 22, 2017 10:37AM (EDT)

Julian Assange   (Getty/Carl Court)
Julian Assange (Getty/Carl Court)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is finding himself in an unique predicament. In the past when he has been criticized, it has mainly been for his alleged alliance with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Now Assange is facing criticism for something altogether different — denying basic medical science.

On Monday evening, Assange tweeted that there is "no danger staring directly at the moon during a total eclipse." Instead, as he explained to a Twitter user who responded to him, "you look away when you see it ending. Eyes also move to protect themselves. The hysteria seems to be sustained by glasses company profits."

Assange later tried to defend himself by posting a NASA description of solar eclipses that did nothing to reinforce his claim that one can safely stare directly at the moon during an eclipse.

To understand how Assange got his science wrong, note this observation by Gizmodo's Tom McKay:

In fairness to Assange, he’s not wrong that a total solar eclipse is, in theory, safe to look at during the very short period of time that the main body of the sun is covered entirely by the moon. In that extremely limited circumstance, only parts of the the sun’s corona which do not emit enough energy to damage the eye are visible.

But the vast majority of people viewing an eclipse never see a totality. They’ll see a partial eclipse, which is when only a significant percentage of the sun is covered (as in New York today, where only 72 percent of the sun was obscured). Because so much of the sun is covered during a partial eclipse, one’s eyes may not “move to protect themselves.” Instead, the sun will dim enough that one could get fooled into staring at it, even as it’s frying the interior of their retinas.

NASA itself encouraged people to wear special glasses to watch the eclipse, arguing that "the only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as 'eclipse glasses' or hand-held solar viewers." This, warning, of course, convinced neither Assange nor the sitting president of the United States.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Julian Assange Russian Spying Science Solar Eclipse Tech Technology Wikileaks