Exposing PseudoAstronomy

May 2, 2014

Podcast Episode 108: Practical Application of Uncertainty – Getting Around the Solar System

Filed under: astronomy,general science,podcast — Stuart Robbins @ 9:03 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Getting around means
You have to know where stuff is.
Do we? And how well?

In this episode, I revisit the idea of “uncertainty” in our inability to know stuff to an arbitrary precision, but hopefully in a more interesting way. I talk about Superman flying to Mars, satellite orbits, why asteroids are given probabilities of impacting Earth and what goes into those, and I talk about how we plan observations by spacecraft when we don’t know exactly where the stuff is that we actually want to observe.

I’ve been busy working on another project (thanks Expat, Steve) that will hopefully come out at the end of the month, so this is a bit shorter of an episode at a little over 20 minutes. And a day late because of the massive Hoagland post from yesterday.


  1. Doing great!!! Its me again with another book release… exposing the BS of Leonard – I republished his PD book, “Somebody Else Is on the Moon.” amazon. As to the Hoagland Hogwash, it come out on Volume-2, soon. Hope you all like them and give me great reviews. ROSS MARSHALL

    Comment by weirdvideos2008 — May 2, 2014 @ 10:18 pm | Reply

  2. Excellent episode. I really liked the explanation of how iterative error correction hides how fuzzy our understanding of the world is.

    Anybody who has tried to make a small robot cross a room to find a doorway have a crude understanding of the problem, but might still not fully appreciate the amazing amount of hidden error correction the human brain does.

    I suspect that as we approximate ourselves through life, or brains don’t bother remembering how it was somewhat lost all the way until we figured out where the exact position of the handle to the fridge door was. To see how badly we acttually do, try drawing a rough sketch showing the path between where you are now to the fridge, and exactly how high from the floor the fridge handle is.

    Few of us will be able to use this to get the door open as we will forget some something on the way, like closed doors, furniture, etc.. Yet we have done thiss task so many times we view itas trivial.

    One day, given Moores Law, we will send the next deep space probe out on a 10 year journey and just tell it to take a nice spectra of that moon there, and the probe will be smart enough to do the iterative error correction on the fly using local processing capacity, while mission planners can focus on the important stuff.

    (It still puts me ine awe how the Apollo mission planners did this with slide rules and a few crude computers. Shows you how important the ‘astronaut in the loop’ was in those days.)


    PS The podcast feed for this episode appears to be missing the link to the full show notes. The short description is there, but no link. (At least my pod receiver software doesn’t see it. I haven’t looked at the actual feed to see what’s up.)

    Comment by johanges — May 3, 2014 @ 11:16 am | Reply

    • Thanks. Not sure what’s wrong with the feed, it works fine on my computer in iTunes, and I don’t see anything different in this episode’s markup than previous ones. FWIW, I never had a link to shownotes in any of the feed episodes, so not sure how you got that before.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — May 3, 2014 @ 11:54 am | Reply

      • Might just be a brain fart on my side then. I.e., since most podcast have them, I made an assumption without checking first. Sorry for wasting your time.

        Comment by johanges — May 3, 2014 @ 11:57 am

      • I’m RSS-handicappd. I just have the description, date, file size, keywords, title, and link to the MP3 file.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — May 3, 2014 @ 11:58 am

  3. Good luck with the e-book (If that is the secret project…)

    I had a real world experience with uncertainty over the weekend. I was trying to find an address which was ‘near’ to a location I had already visited, but I had forgotten to bring the exact address with me. While I was able to find the general location and think I may have gotten to within meters of where I intended to go, I was unable to find the place.

    Comment by Graham — May 5, 2014 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

    • Information from this project will be going into the eBook. 🙂

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — May 5, 2014 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

  4. Just wanted to leave this here as a recommendation for a podcast topic: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2014/05/09/4001590.htm

    Comment by flip — May 9, 2014 @ 12:22 am | Reply

    • I may be able to work that in as “New News” related to a solar binary companion.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — May 10, 2014 @ 10:02 am | Reply

      • Thanks!

        Comment by flip — May 12, 2014 @ 4:58 am

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