Exposing PseudoAstronomy

November 18, 2014

Episode 120: James McCanney’s Views on Comets, Part 1

Comets: Are they weird,
Electrical phenom’na,
Or just dirty snow?

My first personal foray into electric universe claims (don’t forget part 1 and 2 intros via an interview with Tom Bridgman). I’ve wanted to talk about James McCanney’s ideas ever since I heard him on Coast to Coast AM, and doing so isn’t hard — he’s been on the show dozens of times over the last two decades. I’ve heard him talk about a lot of things, but I mostly remembered him sounding like a broken record talking about how comets “discharge the solar capacitor.”

I’ve been putting him off for awhile because I really really don’t like Electricity & Magnetism, so doing this was going to be a bit out of my comfort zone. It ended up not being that far out, thanks in part to generous help by Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy website and the 2012 Hoax website.

However, listening to Coast to Coast for clips took a very long time. Two straight days, listening at 1.7–2.5x speed. I took pages of notes, including numerous direct quotes. I mined these and wrote an incredibly lengthy episode that used 18 clips totaling nearly 15 minutes.

Then I decided to split it into two parts. This first part covers just his ideas about comets. This episode also has a Q&A (first time in many episodes) and Feedback.



  1. You sure put in your share of work on that one Stuart. I learned a lot, thanks. Your peanut analogy was unfortunate, I think. Since the peanut is (usually) a double nut, my mind immediately went off into imagining one nut as the proton and the other as the electron. Re-reading it, I could see that’s not what you meant — but a hazelnut would perhaps have been better. Just sayin’

    Comment by Expat — November 18, 2014 @ 9:34 am | Reply

    • Good point. I’ll bring it up in the next episode.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — November 18, 2014 @ 9:51 am | Reply

  2. Nearly unlistenable to me on the first go. This is NOT because of Stuart’s presentation, but rather because of the complete bat-shit craziness of McCanney’s ideas. Admittedly, I do think that my mindset just wasn’t in the right place when I first listened at work. I will try again later in my free time & when I can first fortify myself with a couple/few stiff drinks, in order to “lubricate” my mind into a more receptive place.

    Comment by Eric the baker — November 22, 2014 @ 12:24 am | Reply

    • Get in your happy place for Part 2 … there will be a lot more of McCanney. Why? (1) Because I think it’s important for people to get a flavor of what and how these individuals make their arguments, (2) I don’t want people to accuse me of misrepresenting their arguments, and (3) Sometimes it’s nice when I don’t have to talk.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — November 22, 2014 @ 11:44 am | Reply

  3. Stuart, good episode. I am bemused that people still take McCanney seriously, I mean the ‘flying gravel bank’ model of comets should have died a long time ago.

    Something to watch out for from Moon Hoax peddlers in the future, are claims that the Orion EFT-1 flight is proof that NASA never went to the Moon in the 1960’s on the grounds that if they had flown to the Moon in the 60’s they would have all the data being collected on the EFT-1 flight on record and so would not need to test for it again.

    Somewhere amongst backed up emails is one I sent with the blurb from a Nexus magazine article making this arguement.

    Comment by Graham — November 22, 2014 @ 7:01 am | Reply

  4. OT post

    I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this but just in case you haven’t

    Comment by andrew — November 23, 2014 @ 11:28 am | Reply

    • I actually don’t read Pharyngula, so thanks for posting. I did have a back-and-forth e-mail exchange with Brandenburg, but it led no where when he refused to address my specific, pointed questions about the ages of the events and the more mainstream explanations for the elemental abundances he was using as evidence.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — November 23, 2014 @ 11:48 am | Reply

  5. I think it important for people to express their opinions and expertise on this blog. It supports the idea that science progresses through social discourse and proof and that scientists think scientifically. The truth is that Bohr thumped Schrodinger when he argued his case for quantum physics with Bohr. Scientists are not scientific, they just hold opinions like everyone else, with of course a bit of second hand proof that they don’t themselves fully understand. I have never personally met god but I know an expert who has.

    Comment by Steve — November 24, 2014 @ 10:07 am | Reply

  6. An article today on Space dot com talks about “the Magnetsopheric Multiscale mission, or MMS,” which plans to study magnetic reconnection. The accompanying video has some wording that Electric Universe believers could take to mean they are right, at least partly. I can hardly wait to hear how far they’re willing to take this mission out of context.

    www dot space dot com/28792-nasa-satellite-quartet-magnetic-mystery dot html?cmpid=559177

    Comment by Rick K. — March 12, 2015 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

    • I’m sure they will be taking quite a bit of it out of context. 😦

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — March 12, 2015 @ 3:49 pm | Reply

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