Exposing PseudoAstronomy

October 18, 2017

Podcast Episode 166: Stellar Evolution, Age of the Universe, and Young-Earth Creationism

Star evolution,
Age of the universe, and

Young-Earth Creationism strikes again and this time misuses error bars to argue that GodDidIt. The episode covers a science paper that discussed the age of a very old star which was derived to be a bit older than the universe. But, add in the appropriate error bars, and potentially a correction to its color, and there’s absolutely no issue whatsoever. But, try telling that to a creationist with an agenda. There’s only a very brief singular additional segment in this episode.

M15 from HST

The dazzling stars in Messier 15 look fresh and new in this image from the NASA/Hubble Space Telescope, but they are actually all roughly 13 billion years old, making them some of the most ancient objects in the Universe. Unlike another recent Hubble Picture of the Week, which featured the unusually sparse cluster Palomar 1, Messier 15 is rich and bright despite its age. Messier 15 is a globular cluster — a spherical conglomeration of old stars that formed together from the same cloud of gas, found in the outer reaches of the Milky Way in a region known as the halo and orbiting the Galactic Centre. This globular lies about 35 000 light-years from the Earth, in the constellation of Pegasus (The Flying Horse). Messier 15 is one of the densest globulars known, with the vast majority of the cluster’s mass concentrated in the core. Astronomers think that particularly dense globulars, like this one, underwent a process called core collapse, in which gravitational interactions between stars led to many members of the cluster migrating towards the centre. Messier 15 is also the first globular cluster known to harbour a planetary nebula, and it is still one of only four globulars known to do so. The planetary nebula, called Pease 1, can be seen in this image as a small blue blob to the lower left of the globular’s core. This picture was put together from images taken with the Wide Field Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Images through yellow/orange (F606W, coloured blue) and near-infrared (F814W, coloured red) filters were combined. The total exposure times were 535 s and 615 s respectively and the field of view is 3.4 arcminutes across.


October 1, 2017

Podcast Episode 165: Little Things in Space

True or near vacuum pressures,
Temperature in space.

A long-planned episode that gets back to the roots of ferreting out misconceptions (though three tied together): Little Things in Space!!! This episode, if you couldn’t get it from the haiku, covers the concept of microgravity, vacuum, and temperature (what does temperature mean if there’s nothing there to experience it?). There are no additional segments.



September 24, 2017

Podcast Episode 164: The World Didn’t End on September 23, 2017

Doomsday yet again!
The story of this one, though,
Has a surprise end.

A much shorter episode this time, announcing what you already know: We survived doomsday, again (yay!). But, the story of this particular doomsday claim may surprise you — it did me. But I could be wrong, so please let me know if you have additional information beyond what I found (listen to the episode for more of what I’m talking about).

Meanwhile, this is either a bonus episode or the episode for the second half of September. I haven’t decided yet because I’m not sure if I can get out another episode before the beginning of October. My 10-day vacation in Utah was great, but it requires a lot of catch-up at work.

There are no additional segments.

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

September 1, 2017

Podcast Episode 163: Modern Eclipse Lunacy, Part 1

Solar Eclipses:
Even in the modern day,
Lunacy exists.

Back and pumping out a 42-minute episode on some of the crazy surrounding the recent lunar eclipse, crazy that you’re not going to hear from other sources. This past eclipse on August 21, 2017, was perhaps one of the most-hyped and most-viewed solar eclipses in human history. As with any such mass-sighted event, pseudoscience is bound to rear its ugly head. In this episode, I address doom and gloom, earthquake predictions, astrologic predictions, Planet X predictions, and other topics related to the eclipse.

There’s one additional segment, and that’s about where I’ve been (literally).

Solar Eclipse from August 21, 2017 (©Stuart Robbins)

Solar Eclipse from August 21, 2017 (©Stuart Robbins)

May 29, 2017

Follow-Up on NASA Providing Open Access to All Its Funded Research

Open Access Banner

Open Access Banner

Last August (2016), I wrote a post about the recent announcement that NASA would be making available all research that it funded, for free. In the post, I wrote many reasons why I was in support of the concept of such an endeavor, but I had serious questions and potential issues with the implementation of it. Namely, we had zero information about the implementation.

Last week, I got an e-mail that seeks to clarify:

Dear Stuart Robbins,

As a NASA grant awardee, you have the option to submit your accepted manuscript(s) to NASA’s PubSpace repository. PubSpace is available from a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NASA to allow wider access to the results of federally-funded research. For the grant listed below, you may deposit any peer-reviewed manuscripts describing work supported by NASA awards that were published or accepted for publication through the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system. At this time, this is not a Term and Condition of the grant listed below; however, you may voluntarily submit any manuscripts that were a result of the funded research from this grant.

Grant Award Information:
Grant Number: █████
Proposal: █████
Technical Officer: █████
Technical Officer Email: █████

In order to complete this process, you will need to have an ORCID ID number. Your ORCID ID number is required to align your award information to you and to allow you to log into the NIHMS system. Please follow this link to create an ORCID ID or to log in with your current ORCID ID number.

You will need to allow NASA to have access to your ORCID record as a trusted third-party. To do this, confirm that the box is checked next to “Allow this permission until I revoke it.” When creating a new ORCID ID, once you have all the required fields filled out completely, click the “Authorize” button at the bottom of the screen. For those who already have an ORICD ID, once you log in your ORCID profile will be associated with NASA. This will take you to a landing page that will provide further information and details on the NIHMS system.

Please allow three business days from when you register your ORCID to login to the NIHMS system. We are asking for you to complete this process so that when you do have a manuscript you wish to deposit, you will be able to access all systems and have a more streamlined experience.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact the NASA Open Access Help Desk at nasa-researchaccess@mail.nasa.gov or call (757) 864-6736. You can also navigate to https://www.nasa.gov/open/researchaccess/frequently-asked-questions for additional information.


Michelle L. Chrzanowski
NASA Open Access Help Desk
(757) 864-6736 (OPEN)

So, we now have a system, apparently. I haven’t tried it, but I’ll be submitting my first paper based on the above redacted grant later this summer, so we’ll see how it works out as that progresses.

May 6, 2017

Podcast Episode 162: Geocentrism, Take 2

Is so wrong, even young-Earth
Creationists know!

Slightly longer segment this time, a bit of a mishmash between episodes 78 and 152, young-Earth creationists refuting geocentrism. I go through about five different arguments against geocentrism and also look at the language that young-Earth creationists use to argue against geocentrists.

I added feedback to this episode again, almost catching me up, covering several varied topics including potential future episodes. There’s also an announcement about the episode schedule.

Geocentrism Cartoon

Geocentrism Cartoon

April 22, 2017

Podcast Episode 161: Water on Earth— Coriolis and Tides

Water on the Earth:
Do tides affect you? Does the
Coriolis, too?

Another short main segment, two common misconceptions about water: Coriolis and Tides. The episode was motivated when I recently heard George Noory make the statement, yet again, about, “Since we’re mostly water, and the moon causes tides in water, doesn’t the moon affect us, too?” Or something like that. Add to it some misconceptions I’ve had before about Coriolis, and we have an episode.

I added feedback to this episode, and there’s more feedback that’ll be in the next episode. This is also the episode for the first half of April. One of these days, I’ll get back on schedule.

Moon Over Water, Artistic Rendering

Moon Over Water, Artistic Rendering

April 3, 2017

Podcast Episode 160: Apollo Hoax: The US Flag Waving, and the Moon of No Return

Apollo Moon Hoax:
Why does the US flag wave?
And, why no return?

A return to a tried-and-true subject of skepticism: the Apollo Moon Hoax. In this shorter episode, I discuss two of the most common claims that you may hear: Why does the US flag appear to be waving in photographs, and if we went to the moon, why haven’t we been back?

There are no additional segments in this episode, and it is significantly shorter than my recent standard. This is also the episode for the second half of March.

Moon Hoax Poster

Moon Hoax Poster

March 19, 2017

Podcast Episode 159: A Proposal for the Geologic Definition of “Planet,” Interview with Kirby Runyon

Definition of
Planet: Useful in science?
Or, just pedantry?

Sorry for the delay again, but I have an interview that’s just under an hour this time on a new proposal for a geophysical definition of the word “planet.”

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union sparked an uproar and furious debate among scientists and non-scientists alike when they voted for a definition of the word, planet. Numerous proposals since that time have been made for the definition of that term. Eleven years later, a new proposal has gotten a lot of media attention and in this episode, we discuss that new proposed definition. This is closer to a friendly debate style because the guest and I have different points of view on this issue.

There are no additional segments in this episode, but the interview runs 51 minutes. This is also the episode for the first half of March.

Poor Pluto

Poor Pluto

March 5, 2017

Podcast Episode 158: Getting Beyond the Photograph: Image Tricks with Dr. Tod Lauer

To peer beneath the
Photograph and uncover
What may be hidden!

Sorry for the delay, but I have an interview that’s over an hour this time on image processing. In past episodes, I have talked about how you can’t get any more information out of an image than what is in a single pixel. Dr. Tod Lauer is an astronomer who has worked on all kinds of telscopes and instrument data and has developed numerous image processing techniques over his career. In this episode, we discuss some of those and how to correctly – versus incorrectly – apply them to image data to get to the best representation of the original object, or what the image was trying to capture.

There are no additional segments in this episode, but the interview runs nearly 1hr 15min. This is also the episode for the second half of February. I’m very much hoping/trying to get the first half of March’s episode out before I leave on a trip on March 19. It will either be an interview on what’s a planet, or a normal episode on Apollo Hoax miscellaneous claims I never did an episode about.

R136 Star Cluster by the Hubble Space Telescope

R136 Star Cluster by the Hubble Space Telescope

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