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Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012

NOAA newsflash: Mermaids do not exist. (CDC: prepare for zombies)

By Amina Khan

In one of its more head-turning posts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced -- wait for it -- that there is no evidence that mermaids are real.

I hope you were sitting down, if you have the legs to do so. If you have a fishtail, you'd better go ahead and pop right out of existence.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this post is why NOAA, a U.S. scientific agency, would want to weigh in on these mythical creatures any more than they'd want to expound on the potential atmospheric perturbations caused by Santa Claus' countless Christmas Eve flights around the globe.

And yet expound they do. To wit:

"The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species," the post explains. "Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. Half-human creatures, called chimeras, also abound in mythology.... But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found."

The inspiration for this posting, says Discovery News, likely comes from the Discovery branch "Animal Planet," which used a documentary-style format for its science-fiction TV show titled "Mermaids: The Body Found."

The show, in the words of its own news release, "paints a wildly convincing picture of the existence of mermaids, what they may look like and why they’ve stayed hidden ... until now."

To echo the NOAA posting, there's no evidence mermaids exist, and most people above the age of 6 probably realize this. It's science fiction, points out a New York Times story, similar to "The Blair Witch Project," a 1999 movie that was filmed in a way to make it seem like real-life, amateur footage.

Then again, there was a smattering of folks who initially thought "Blair Witch" was real.

On the flip side, there were also a few people who thought Titanic was just a movie.

And lest we forget, there are the people who refuse to be convinced of the fact that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong's Moon landing was real, in spite of all the evidence. It seems there's only so much a well-meaning explanation can do to dispel ideas that are based on misinformation.

Another government agency has taken a different tack on unreal beings, rolling with the myth rather than taking it seriously -- and in the process, using it for productive ends. Last year I wrote about the CDC discussing how to prepare for a "zombie apocalypse" -- advice that looks remarkably like that for earthquakes, pandemics or other natural disasters.\

Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton