Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 3, 2014

No New Podcasts This Month

Filed under: Miscellaneous,podcast — Stuart Robbins @ 6:49 pm

I announced this on Twitter and on Facebook, but I forgot here: There will be no new podcast episodes this month. I am simply way too busy. I have two conferences that span two weeks total, back-to-back, several grant proposals to work on, and about five different projects for work. Unfortunately, the podcast takes several dedicated days to do each month, and in August, I do not have that time I can devote to it to give it some semblance of quality.

I hope to return to the regular schedule in September.

January 10, 2013

Another Completely Arbitrary Milestone Reached: 500,000 Blog Views

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Stuart Robbins @ 3:00 pm
Tags: , ,

On September 3, 2008, roughly 4 years 4 months 7 days ago, I launched this blog. It took me 17.5 months to get to 100,000 views. It took another 18 months to get to 250,000 views. It took 16 months after that to double it and get to 500,000 views. One can almost fit a straight line there :).

As with the last two times, I think it’s apropos to take a brief look at some of the stats over the last very roughly 1589.8097 days.

  • My busiest day was still on June 16, 2010, thanks to Phil Plait when he blogged about my run-in with and subsequent threats by the astrologer Terry Nazon. Over 12,000 people visited my blog thanks to Phil, but in that day, it topped at 7,985.
  • Over the last year, the busiest day was December 20 (due to all my posts regarding December 21, 2012), with 2,798 page views. December 21 added another 2,303, for over 5,000 views due to 2012 stuff on those two days.
  • I have made 313 posts (this is 314), and there have been 3,507 comments. Obviously the comments are not evenly distributed among the posts. Meanwhile, over 75,700 spam comments have been caught.
  • The top link people have clicked on, with 9,011 clicks, is to my image of what the sky looks like on December 21, 2012 … again (this was the top last time). The next-top is to the NASA site with images of Apollo from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with 707 clicks, though that’s only about 60 above what it was at 250,000 posts. If you narrow it to the last year, then the next-top click was to my context image of the claimed lunar ziggurat.
  • With the top-clicked file in mind, it is perhaps fitting that the top five posts people have read are about Planet X & 2012. The most popular with 27,428 views is on What the Sky Looks Like on December 21, 2012, which pushed down the previous top two to second and third place (magnetic pole shift and proof Earth is not currently undergoing a geographic pole shift). For the year of 2012, though, the third-most-popular post with 4,839 views was, “Richard Hoagland’s Ziggurat on the Moon: Hoax or Fraud, but Not Real.” The video I created for that has been downloaded nearly 9,000 times (how’s that, Expat?).
  • In how people are getting here, the top non-search-engine referrer is Facebook (in 2012) and Phil Plait’s blog for all time.
  • Also on the topic of referrers, the top two search terms that get people here are “Terry Nazon” with 1,789 clicks, “Planet X” with 1,195 clicks, “pseudoastronomy” for 1,183 clicks, and “Define:Theory in Science” with 1,146. The first and third are new for this time, and in 2012, the top was “exposing pseudoastronomy.” I think that’s both a good and bad thing. Good in that it means I’m generating a “brand” much in the same way that “Bad Astronomy” = Phil Plait and it has name recognition. It’s bad in the sense that I would like if more people got here by searching for the topics that I write about.
  • Something new that WordPress added in early 2012 was country stats. The vast majority of people who read this come from the USA with 106,500 views. Next comes the UK at nearly 17,000 views, and Canada is third at 12,775 (I’m assuming that Karl Mamer doesn’t account for all of those). The first non-English-speaking country is in 5th place overall, India, at 3,000 views.

With all that in mind, I’ll wrap up this short, self-congratulatory post and work towards the next arbitrary milestone of … one million views! Assuming I stay on WordPress, I predict I’ll be able to write that post before the end of 2015 … a reasonably safe bet after accounting for extra traffic due to 2012 stuff.

July 19, 2012

Free Science for All! (in England, Anyway)


Introduction

I’ll introduce this post by saying that, the more I age, the more my political/social/financial ideas turn somewhat libertarian. Not that I support Ron Paul, not that I support a teensy tiny impotent government, but I think that some models of business are antiquated and that many redundant bureaucracies need to be eliminated.

Why am I discussing politics? It’s because of how scientific journals work. A new proposal in Britain indicates we might be in for a change, and I think for the better.

How Journals Work

For at least the past several decades, if not century or two, most main-stream scientific journals would work as follows: Author writes paper, editor evaluates paper, editor rejects or sends out for independent review, reviews go back-and-forth for a bit, then paper is ultimately accepted or rejected.

At this point, or even upon initial submission, the author is required to sign over all copyright claims to the paper that they wrote. The journal then owns the copyright. The journal will publish the paper, maintain it in their archives, and has all rights of distribution and reproduction.

The author also has to pay the journal to publish their paper in what we call “page fees.” This can cost upwards of several thousand dollars (my last two papers were $2400 and $2600, respectively). In the past, authors were given personal “preprints” that usually numbered 50ish gratis after which they had to pay for more; they could then give these to colleagues. Otherwise, the authors had to pay for a copy of their paper. Nowadays, this is handled by author personal copy PDFs, and we are still legally forbidden from keeping copies of papers on our personal websites (though most violate this).

To recap: Author does work, then has to pay journal to publish their paper, journal owns all copyrights and author cannot distribute nor can colleagues get a copy unless they or their institution subscribes to the journal. The public getting free access? –forget about it.

Given my first paragraph in the intro, you can guess how I feel about this model. (I think it’s antiquated and outdated and we need something new, if you couldn’t tell). I understand that it was a model that probably worked well for awhile and I can understand the purpose in, say, the 1930s – and maybe even the 1990s – but not today.

It should also be noted that most of us are now funded through government agencies/institutes and that our grants pay both for our work. As in, public money paying for us to do research, then paying for us to publish them, but the publications being closed to people unless they pay for it yet again.

Open Access Journals

There are several journals that do not have paywalls, and I applaud them. Unfortunately, they are usually lower-tier journals that authors do not want to publish in because they have a low Impact Factor (IF) – a measure of how often articles from them are cited. (The journal Science has an IF of around 49, Nature has 52, while the highest IF planetary journal that’s NOT affiliated with either of those is around 3.5-4.0.)

There are some exceptions. The Astrophysical Journal is one of them, as is Astronomy and Astrophysics. These are two major astrophysics journals and their articles are generally free. But, no big planetary journal follows this model, and I do not know about other fields. Science and Nature, the two highest IF journals in the world, do not have open access.

The United Kingdom Takes Notice

Apparently, someone in the UK has taken notice of this and decided they agree with me. Well, not me specifically, but their thinking is similar to mine. To quote:

“Currently, scientists and members of the public have to pay the leading scientific journals to see research that has already been paid for from the public purse. Under new proposals the government will pay publishers a fee each time a paper is published. In return the research will be available to those who wish to see it. The total cost of the subsidy is estimated to be £50m a year which will be taken from funds that would otherwise have been spent on research.”

That last line makes sense to me. I’ve submitted two grants to NASA this year, and in the budget section, I had to guesstimate how many papers would come from the research, in what journal(s) I would publish them, and how much it would cost. Then this cost per year was added as a line-item to the budget. If I didn’t have to do that, it would make budgeting a tad easier and it would throw out several middlemen.

Final Thoughts

There are of course critics of this. And publishers will likely be ticked. I doubt the current model can survive too much longer, but I also doubt that the proposal in the UK will survive in exactly its current form, and I’m sure it will be even longer before it catches on in other countries.

I hope that it does, though, at least in some form that preserves the intent. I recently had a press release about some of my research, and several journalists asked me for a copy of the paper. I could not provide it to them legally because I had not been given my personal author copy yet, and I think that’s bad.

March 31, 2012

Upcoming Posts This Week

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Stuart Robbins @ 2:39 am
Tags: , ,

As my busy travel schedule winds down until July, you can hopefully expect some more blog posts beyond the podcast announcements. And Coast to Coast AM is going to offer up some “good” ones. Tomorrow night (March 31) they’re interviewing John Lear. April Fools Day is Hugh Ross, one of the main young-Earth creationists who knows something about astronomy. April 2 will be Richard Hoagland to “share the latest space news.” Three shows right in a row that should provide some material for blog posts. And then we have some stuff on Jason Lisle, another young-Earth creationist who knows about astronomy.

December 31, 2011

My Prediction for 2012


2013 will come without a problem with the human race pretty much as it is now, with nothing happening on the Dec 21, 2012 date that 2012ers claim.

To quote my favorite psychic prediction from Coast to Coast AM last year, “There will be no really big changes, it’ll be ‘pretty much the same-old-same-old.’ There’ll be some crises, medical advances, etc., but that’s what happens every year.”

Enjoy whatever celebrations you may do on today, this arbitrary date of a major calendar ending … and starting again.

September 12, 2011

Completely Arbitrary Milestone Reached: 250,000 Blog Views

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Stuart Robbins @ 2:08 pm
Tags: , ,

I launched this blog back on September 3, 2008, for all intents and purposes 3 full years ago (and 9 days for you OCD’ers). It seems fitting, then, that my arbitrary milestone of 250,000 blog views has occurred today.

Just like my 100,000 blog-view milestone back in March, 2010, I missed the tipping point. This time it was because I was baking for a conference as opposed to being at a conference.

It took 18 months to get to 100,000, and it took another 18 months to get to 250,000. You can almost fit a line between those.

I think it’s apropos to take a brief look at some of the stats for the last three years.

  • My busiest day was on June 16, 2010, thanks to Phil Plait when he blogged about my run-in and subsequent threats by the astrologer Terry Nazon. Over 12,000 people visited my blog thanks to Phil, but in that day, it topped at 7,985.
  • I have made 175 posts (this is 176), and there have been 1,798 comments. Obviously the comments are not evenly distributed among the posts.
  • The top link people have clicked on, with 4,452 clicks, is to my image of what the sky looks like on December 21, 2012. The next-top is to the NASA site with images of Apollo from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with 648 clicks.
  • With the top-clicked file in mind, it is perhaps fitting that the top five posts people have read are about Planet X & 2012. The most popular with 15,972 views is on the magnetic pole shift, while the very close second is on proof Earth is not currently undergoing a geographic pole shift.
  • In how people are getting here, obviously the top referrer is from Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” blog, with the second-highest from 2012 Predictions.net.
  • Also on the topic of referrers, the top two search terms that get people here are “Planet X” with 1,195 clicks, and “Define:Theory in Science” with 1,146.

With all that in mind, I’ll wrap up this short, self-congratulatory post and work towards the next arbitrary milestone of 500,000! Let’s see if we can get there before the world ends, shall we?

August 22, 2011

New Comments Policy

Filed under: introduction,Miscellaneous — Stuart Robbins @ 4:20 pm

This is a short announcement: Recent events have caused me to decide I need a formal comments policy. It can be found here.

June 12, 2011

I Welcome My Argument from Authority and Location in My Ivory Tower


Hello all. I know I haven’t posted in awhile – I think twice in the last five months or so. As stated back in January, I was working on graduating. As the title for this very short post suggests, I did. I’m now in that ~5% of people in the world that has a Ph.D. Actually, a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. And we all know what those stand for (since this is a PG-rated blog, I won’t go into that, but you can look it up).

And so, I am now able to use the argument from authority, “I have a Ph.D. I’m right, you’re wrong.” And I can be content living in my Ivory Tower of academia, isolated in my own field without any consideration for others, thinking deep thoughts and adding to the elitist knowledge that the Illuminati and Bilderberg Group use to run the world behind the scenes.

Or — wait. Maybe not. I have two half-time postdocs, one continuing my previous work, one being project and science lead of the citizen science project Moon Zoo, and yet other than a small salary increase, nothing has changed. I still work most of the time from my apartment and I still drive the same budget car. I’m still studying craters, though I’ve expanded from Mars and am obviously also now looking at the Moon. I still have to tie my findings into the bigger picture since nothing in science exists in isolation, and I’m still just as fallible as I was before. Or maybe that’s just what I want you to think.

Anyway, now that I’m done with my degree and starting to figure out how to get my motivation back in gear, you can start to expect more regular blog posts. I’m still working on my 2012 Astronomy eBook/PDF doc, and — shhh! don’t tell anyone! — I’m tossing around the idea of a podcast based upon this blog (if the Dumbass can do it, so can I). As far as I can tell, other than Phil Plait’s defunct but still-available-on-iTunes podcast, no one actually has a “bad astronomy” podcast out there (if I’m wrong – which I can’t be because I have a Ph.D. now – please post a link to it in the comments). The format would be short and sweet, I’m thinking of bi-monthly and a 15-20 minute format.

January 5, 2011

The Year Ahead for This Blog

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Stuart Robbins @ 3:48 pm

The purpose of this post is more logistical than anything. Last year, I had about 50 posts, which somehow averages to just under 1 per week, despite going for great stretches of time without writing. This year, at least for the next three full months, you can expect very little in terms of new posts. I am in the final stretch for my doctoral dissertation, with a deadline for the graduate school for a spring graduation of April 8 for my defense.

So with my defense scheduled at 11:30 PM on April 8 (just kidding), I have a fairly aggressive workload ahead of me. And if I’m going to be writing, it should be my dissertation (or papers that will comprise my dissertation). If for some odd reason you’re interested in what I do, feel free to visit my personal site.

I will still make the occasional post if I hear something particularly outlandish on Coast to Coast or read it in AiG, ICR, or CMI. Or if someone contacts me with specific requests that I want to honor (such as last autumn with the Power|Force bracelets). As I posted a few months ago, I recommend just leaving my RSS feed in your reader and that’ll pick up the odd posts here and there.

After April, I do hope to get back to a more regular schedule of posting, or at least a higher frequency of posts. To those who think I’ve forgotten, I haven’t: I still plan to do a post on why black holes exist, the difference between magnetic excursions and pole flips, looking into the claims that God is a voltage and energy and so the Devil is matter, and dissecting Jason Lisle’s “Taking Back Astronomy” book — all posts that I’ve promised now, some for over a year. I also have some other topics I plan to get into that I think will be interesting, such as do the Giza pyramids (three main ones) really align with the Orion belt stars, and whether or not there’s such a thing as lunar-induced lunacy.

And, based on the poll I posted on November 20, I will likely be writing a book of some sort related to 2012 astronomy claims. 90% of votes suggested I should do it, though the majority of responses seemed to indicate making it freely accessible if written would be best. I haven’t completely decided yet what’ll happen there – perhaps making a freely downloadable draft available with a for-pay formatted copy – but that decision assumes that it’s been written.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

June 2, 2010

Ah, the Joys of Stepping on Someone’s Toes: Terry Nazon Redux


Introduction

A few months ago, I wrote a 2-part post about the claims of astrologer Terry Nazon and her claims about 2012. I asked a fellow blogger (Johan), one who knows much more about archaeology than I, to do a third part for the series about her archaeology claims of the Mayans. He kindly obliged and you can read all three parts here: Part 1, part 2, and part 3.

I made a point that her many claims made on her website about the astronomy of 2012 were either (a) wrong, (b) meaningless, or (c) insignificant. Johan’s point in the third part was that her information about the Maya was (a) wrong and (b) reflected a fairly ethnocentric view on her part.

My point was to conclude that she (a) doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about from an astronomy nor archaeological point of view, and (b) if what she said could be shown to be so demonstrably wrong, why should someone pay her several hundred dollars for a phone call ($330 for an hour, or $75 for an e-mail reading)?

Edited to Add: On September 18, 2012, I got an e-mail from my thesis advisor and boss that Terry was planning on suing me for various things. I have updated this post accordingly, leaving the original language but making edits with strikes to indicate deletions and underlines to indicate additions. I also note that while I filed this under “scams,” this is my opinion based on her writings, it is not a statement of legal fact.

What’s Going On

Apparently rather than defending her claims, over the past 24 hours Johan and I have been receiving much spam and angry threats to both our blogs as well as through e-mail. The e-mails were almost certainly from Ms. Nazon, sent from the Comcast IP address 75.149.179.194 in Florida, the same as her area code on her website, and from her eponymous and Comcast-based e-mail address. The comments, attempted to be posted under various names, have also come from the same IP address.

It appears also as though she is now trying to pass herself off as me, posting under the name “astrostu206265″ (the ID I happened to choose when I started this blog due to a sort of “inside number” to astronomers of 206265), e-mail address “astrostu206265@yahoo.com” (which to my knowledge does not exist), and of course that IP address (75.149.179.194). She (apparently) has tried to do this on my blog and she has done this on others. I got an e-mail from The Godless Monster blog writer asking if I made the post to their blog under that IP address with the message:

“You are all a bunch of anonymous cowards who hide behind anonymous names and @anywhere emails…no one will listen to anywhos @anywhere.com s
fakes. cowards and phonies who must not believe what they write because they are ashamed to put there name and face to it…stand up cowards and be counted.”

That’s the same message she that person with that IP and that e-mail tried to post to my blog, twice. And she that person with that IP and that e-mail posted it to the comments section of “New Discoveries and Comments About Creationism” where I happened to post a comment or two.

The purpose of this post is to let fellow bloggers know – if they happen to do a search for “astrostu206265″ – what’s going on, and to block that IP address and similar messages if she that person with that IP and that e-mail moves computers.

Final Thoughts

I hadn’t really planned on making this whole thing public since I didn’t want to feed it, but I did want to make a quick public statement in an attempt to separate what she’s doing from my own actions. I’m in Colorado, my IP address starts with 67.161.x. Oh, and if anyone happens to know a way to have WordPress actually spoof my handle (astrostu206265) and make it appear as my actual name, let me know, ’cause I’ve been looking for that for awhile I’ve changed my handle here so WP displays it as my name.

I also noticed that, throughout this, she still has the wrong information (and type-os) on her website. And in case she does end up fixing it, I saved a copy of the page like all the sites I talk about as evidence that I wasn’t trying to make straw man arguments. She’s also still claiming that she is, “Terry Nazon, World Famous Celebrity Astrologer.” Interesting way for one of that status to act, assuming it was her.

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