I was just going to post this on Facebook but decided to do a two-line blog post instead.
March 9, 2016
July 21, 2014
Sun models from the
Electric Universe. Do
The predictions work?
Practically on time comes part 2 of the two-part overview of the Electric Universe. This one is also a bit heavy with the math, so I recommend heading over to Tom’s site for more information and many, many more details.
So, um, with the deadline for a major grant program coming up in a few days, that’s it folks!
June 2, 2014
In what promises to be as epic – or even more-so – than when the Flintsones met the Jetsons or if the Love Boat ever went to Fantasy Island, Exposing PseudoAstronomy will be meeting up with Crank Astronomy / Dealing with Creationism in Astronomy for a future episode or possibly two, or possibly more down the road.
I will be interviewing Tom Bridgman in a few weeks for at least one episode to be released in July. His area of expertise is the bane of my existence – electricity and magnetism – and he has talked a lot about the electric universe (or “EU”) idea on his blog before. I’ve gotten a lot of requests from listeners and readers to talk about this, but there’s no way I can do it justice.
I think Tom can.
We’re going to talk briefly about the history of EU and then probably about the “electric sun” phenomenon, but he and I want to open this up to any questions that you, the readers/listeners, may have for me to ask or topics for him to talk about. IF there are a lot, perhaps we’ll go longer and split into multiple episodes.
Please use the Comments here to put down topics/questions for discussion.
April 1, 2013
I was all set to do a few other episodes, and I was re-kajiggering the schedule of episodes for the next several months. I realized that – gasp! – I had almost nothing planned picking on young-Earth creationists! And it had been about 20 episodes since I had last done it.
Clearly, I had been neglectful, so this episode deals with one of the more technical but one of my more favorite topics in young-Earth creationism: The Solar Neutrino “Problem.” Listen to the episode, especially towards the end of the main segment, and I think you’ll see why I like it so much.
Otherwise, in this episode we have the solutions to the past two puzzlers, a new puzzler for this one, and three announcements of upcoming talks: Colorado School of Mines on April 12 (Apollo moon hoax), Denver Skepticamp on April 27 (image anomalies), and TAM in mid-July.
December 16, 2012
SOHO and the SDO saw white and then nothing. Militaries scrambled as every satellite went dark. Then the people on the ground saw enormous arcs of light — the aurora seen across the planet, so bright they were even visible during the day. Mesmerized by the display, awe quickly turned to panic as every electronic device sparked and died. The lights went out across the planet. The Sun had spoken.
Or at least, that’s what some people think is going to happen in about 5 days. It ain’t great literature, but I’m throwing a party that starts in 2.5 hrs and need to get this posted. And get dressed …
This episode, the last of the 2012 series, is all about the one topic I haven’t really discussed yet: Something from the sun doing something bad on December 21, 2012. You know … in 5 days. This episode is all about how that’s not going to happen.
Otherwise, this episode has the Q&A, puzzler solution for 56, feedback (with minor correction on episode 56), and announcements:
I’m starting to look for back-peddling by doomsday proponents for a follow-up episode very early next year. If anyone listening to this podcast happens to come across something by anyone who claimed stuff like Planet X would cause a pole flip, a big solar storm would wipe us out, or even on the positive side that we’ll all be able to levitate and do instant healing, and you see these people start to make up excuses for why it’s not happening, please send it in to me.
May 25, 2012
First, this post is a bit of a show-off for my recent photography. That said, it is also a musing on one of the more bizarre claims out there that the sun and/or moon are no longer rising/setting where they’re “supposed” to.
So let’s get the first part over with first …
My Photos and Video from the May 20, 2012, Annular Eclipse
With two friends, I drove 480 miles south to just outside of Albuquerque, NM (Richard C. Hoagland territory!). We were in the path of full annularity, and we set up in a beautiful spot with no people around us and clear sight to the western horizon.
I took a long sequence of photos and created a few montages and even a movie. I’m only posting three of the montages (I don’t like the third one, but I’m posting it anyway). These are only 6% full size, and you can only get to it by clicking on the image to have it open in a new browser. The full-res versions are suitable for printing at 72″ wide at 300ppi … that’s a lot of pixels and brings my computer to a crawl when I open it.
And here’s the movie:
I’m not going to go into image processing details here. If you’re interested, I posted a lengthy thread about it here that goes through all the gritty details.
Relevance to the Crazy Conspiracy
I’ve not addressed this conspiracy before on this blog, but I have in my podcast, Episode #24, “Help! The Sun (or Moon) Is Moving!” The premise is, as I said before, that the sun and/or moon is no longer rising or setting or in the sky where it previously was, or where it’s “supposed” to be.
The answer to this is that it always shifts position though the cycle repeats annually. It shifts because Earth’s axis is constantly pointing towards the North Celestial Pole, so as Earth orbits around the sun over the course of a year, the angle the sun makes with the horizon changes. It rises and sets closer to your hemisphere’s pole during your hemisphere’s summer, and vice versa.
The implication by most conpsiracists that I’ve heard – if they have an implication other than generally “something’s happening that NASA’s covering up!” – is that we are in the midst of a geographic pole shift that THEY don’t want you to know about. Again, I’ve addressed pole shifts before (such as here or here).
“How is this relevant to eclipses?” you may ask.
Folks at NASA, as well as innumerable other people, have provided paths of past and future eclipses out to over 1000 years into the future. Both solar and lunar (1000 for lunar, 100 for solar from NASA).
And, at least since I’ve been using the site for the last decade, they’ve all been 100% accurate! The point is that this would not be possible at all if we were undergoing a pole shift. Even a tiny pole shift, where I’m defining “tiny” by, say, 1° which would not be noticeable to these people claiming the sun/moon is in the wrong place, would shift the path of solar eclipses by a non-trivial amount.
And yet, these eclipses continue to demonstrably and perhaps stubbornly be where they were predicted to be decades ago.
This is something that I like about science and get a great sense of “ah ha!” when I come across it: Conspiracists, pseudoscientists, and others who claim to be re-writing science do so in isolation. They do not realize – or they choose to ignore – what the implications would be for their claims outside of their one phenomenon.
In this case, if Earth were undergoing any sort of geographic pole shift, the annular solar eclipse that we witnessed last weekend would not have taken place where it had been predicted. A shift of 1° of the poles would have shifted the eclipse’s path by around 70 miles (110 km). If we were in a pole shift of more than around 0.5°, I would not have seen the moon completely within the sun’s disk from where I was in Albuquerque.
And it’s really as simple as that. Claims in science do not exist in isolation. You must carry them through and apply them to all other things that rely upon that data.
February 24, 2012
This episode is what I set out to be a fun, short episode, but spiraled into a lengthy discussion of geometry. I hope that it’s somewhat understandable. It is a discussion of the perhaps infrequent but still “out there” claim that the sun or moon is rising or setting in a different location than it/they used to.
June 28, 2011
IntroductionTake a tetrahedron (4-sided solid made of four equilateral triangles) and put it in a sphere such that each point of the pyramid touches the inside surface of the sphere. Draw a straight line through the center of the sphere such that one end of the line intersects a point of the pyramid; think of this line as the polar axis, and now orient it in your mind so that the line that goes through the pyramid point is down. Now draw a line around the circle’s equator. Now, if you take the angle between the equator, the center of the sphere, and one of the three non-pole points of the pyramid, you get 19.5°.
That’s the magic of Richard C. Hoagland’s hyperbolic geometry and all the claims of importance for the 19.5° latitude that I’m going to explore in this post.
Richard C. Hoagland’s Magical Thinking
Richard C. Hoagland says a lot of stuff. Almost everything he says sounds crazy. Over the decades, he has built up a vast conspiracy-laden mythology about the universe, how it supposedly works, and why things are the way they are.
To go into every single one of his claims, as I’ve said before in other posts about Hoagland (like here, here, or here), would be next to impossible. As in previous posts, the point in this is to go over a very specific claim.
The “19.5° is an important number” stems from his whole “hyperdimensional physics” mythos. Again, something I’m not going to go into. Partly because it’s incomprehensible, nonsensical, and made up. Suffice to say, “A tenet of these views holds that vast amounts of energy originating from dimensions we cannot perceive are available at latitudes 19.5° both south and north on the Sun and every planet in the solar system” (quote source).
In other words, Hoagland and fellow believers claim that it is at 19.5° latitude on every body in the solar system that we have the biggest/bestest/scarriest/craziest/powerfulest/whateverest feature. Let’s take a look, shall we?
What’s at 19.5° Latitude?
Taken from Hoagland’s own website, we have a short list proving that everything of importance in the solar system is at 19.5° latitude. Note that everything in this table is directly copied from his website except for the comments, which I have simplified/shortened/clarified.
|Venus||Alta Regio||19.5° N||A Volcanic Region|
|Beta Regio||25.0° S||A Volcanic Region|
|Earth||Hawaiian Caldera||19.6° N||Largest Shield Volcano (on Earth)|
|Moon||Tsiolkovskii||19.6° S||Unique Farside “mare-like” Lava|
|Mars||Olympus Mons||19.3° N||Largest Shield Volcano (on Mars)|
|Jupiter||Great Red Spot||22.0° S||Vast Atmospheric “Vorticular Upwelling”|
|Saturn||North/South Equatorial Belts||±20.0° N/S||Region of “Storms” Observed from Earth|
|Uranus||Northern/Southern IR 1-2 K “Dip”||±20.0° N/S||“Upwelling” Created by High-Altitude Clouds|
|Neptune||Great Dark Spot||20.0° S||Presumably Same as Jovian Counterpart*|
*Hoagland calls this “Neptune Great Red Spot” but it has, since it was observed by Voyager 2 in 1989, disappeared.
Since Hoagland posted this (his page is ©1989), many other people have found other things on other planets that they claim enhances this idea. One such site, for example, indicates that the Pyramid of the Sun is at 19.6° N (on Earth). Other people claim, such as Will Hart, that all solar storms and susnspots originate from 19.5° latitude on the sun; another twist from this site about the sun is “sunspot activity and the region of peak temperatures is limited to 19.5 degreees north and south.” Others remark simply, “It is interesting how most planets in our solar system display phenomena at this latitude.” The list of claims goes on.
Dissecting the List, and Are These Features Important?
One of the first things you should notice from Hoagland’s list is that only one of the 9 things I pulled (the ones I didn’t are on Jupiter’s moon Io) is at 19.5°. Two more are within 0.1° of it. For a precise geometric phenomenon where huge amounts of energy are released, this isn’t very precise.
On Earth, Mauna Loa, Hawai’i, with a summit at 19.48° is a correct claim of the largest shield volcano presently on the planet. However, it’s really not that spectacular a volcano in terms of energetic potential. The Yellowstone caldera is about 34×45 miles (55×72 km) across. That’s just the caldera. It is at a latitude 44.4° N. The most recent known supervolcano eruption on Earth was in Lake Taupo, about 26,500 years ago, and its latitude is 38.82° S.
Additionally, the largest earthquakes – more releases of energy – since 1900 haven’t been anywhere near 19.5°. None of them.
As for structures on the Earth to harness this energy, one might consider the Pyramid of the Sun and say, “wow, that’s pretty neat that it’s at 19.5°.” But what about Egypt’s pyramids? Or South America’s? What about other architecture, say, Stonehenge? None of these are near 19.5°. This is what we call “cherry picking” to an extreme.
If we want to expand the notion of cherry picking, let’s go to the moon. Hoagland has found some random feature at 19.5° … err, 19.6° … latitude on the far side that has something to do with a volcanic feature. Except that the moon is covered in volcanic features. When you look at the moon, all those dark splotches on the near side are vast volcanic areas where ancient impacts allowed magma from deep below the crust to breach the surface and fill them. And these seas of volcanic material — maria (plural) — are not in any way centered around 19.5°. Nor are the smaller volcanic features that we observe today still strewn throughout them.
Or there’s Mars. Hoagland and his ilk claim that the vast Olympus Mons volcano – the tallest volcano in the solar system – is centered at 19.3° on Mars and is perfect evidence for this hyperbolic geometry. Except that it’s not. The caldera complex of Olympus Mons (there are at least 6 distinct calderas at the summit) range between latitudes 17.8° and 18.8° North. In addition to that, Olympus Mons is so vast with a diameter of around 650 km that the northern scarps start at around 23.5° N while the southern margin is around 13.5° N latitude. So with it spanning over 10°, it’s not that hard to hit it. Besides, Mars has 23 other major volcanoes, and Alba Patera, which is actually the most voluminous volcano in the solar system (as Mauna Loa is the most voluminous volcano on Earth), has a caldera centered at 40.3° N.
The claim of the sun having sunspots centered at 19.5° is also wrong, as can be seen on any given day.
We can also look at other features of interest. I’ll name only one for brevity since I think I’ve made my point by now. Saturn’s moon Enceladus was, in the last few years, shown to have active geysers spewing material from the interior of the moon. What’s their latitude? About 90° S — that’s right, the south pole. Not anywhere near 19.5° North nor South latitude.
This particular magical belief is only supported by very very careful cherry-picking. As clearly shown above, even in the features that these people claim shows 19.5° is special, more than half the time they’re just wrong, off the mark, or are being very generous with reporting their numbers. And still the features that are “correct” are not especially unique.
I don’t really think much else needs to be said on this topic. It’s just made up and features are found to fit it while ignoring everything else.
July 14, 2010
It’s the stuff of science fiction – companion planets to our Earth, or a companion star to our sun. Wouldn’t it be cool (or maybe hot) to see two suns in the sky? Maybe even of different colors? Could our sun actually have one and we just don’t know it?
No, I’m not talking about the one bad even-numbered Star Trek movie. Three decades ago, a group of scientists examined the geologic record and found that, seemingly like clockwork, there was a major extinction event on Earth roughly every 27 million years. Our planet doesn’t go through a cycle like that, though, by itself (that we know of), and cycles of that length of time are usually an indication of an astronomical source. After all, we are talking about astronomical timescales here (I love words with double meanings).
The paper was published in 1984, by two paleontologists: Raup, D.M., and Sepkoski, J.J. (1984). “Periodicity of Extinctions in the Geologic Past.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 81, pp. 801-805. Kindly, the paper is available online for free (Click Me!). I skimmed through the paper and did a text search, and I mention this because no where do the authors actually state that there may be a companion star. Rather, they are more vague and simply state:
“[We may be] seeing the effects of a purely biological phenomenon or whether periodic extinction results from recurrent events or cycles in the physical environment. If the forcing agent is in the physical environment, does this reflect an earthbound process or something in space? If the latter, are the extraterrestrial influences solar, solar system, or galactic? … [W]e favor extraterrestrial causes …”
Two papers followed that one in 1984, this time by astronomers, suggesting that the unnamed extraterrestrial forcing agent was a possible companion star to the sun that orbited very far away, but would sometimes come close in and disturb the Oort Cloud (a vast region of cometary nuclei that extends far from the sun). This disturbance would send some comets to the inner solar system, periodically at that fixed orbital interval, and an impact event on Earth could then cause a mass extinction.
That’s the basic idea behind Nemesis.
A Binary Companion?
This is not so odd as it may seem. It is estimated that fully 60% or more of stars in our galaxy are in a binary system, where two stars are gravitationally linked together and orbit each other around a common center of mass. Most that we have identified have orbital periods that are reasonably short, like less than a few thousand years.
It’s possible for a binary system to have an orbital period significantly longer. The problem is that we can’t really tell. By far, the easiest way to detect a binary system should be to see the two stars orbiting each other. The problem is that stars don’t do this very quickly, and for two stars that are far enough apart to actually see as separate objects from Earth, they won’t orbit each other in a human lifetime.
Obviously, since we know of many binary star systems, there are other ways to detect them. That’s not the focus of this blog post, though. I just wanted to talk about it for background information.
But, it sets the stage for the sun’s potential companion: Another star, a small, faint one (a brown dwarf or red dwarf), that takes roughly 26 million years to complete one orbit. This means that its average distance from the sun is roughly 90,000 times the Earth-sun distance. That’s really far away in terms of trying to see something that’s really small and faint.
Why This Post?
This is a fairly random topic to talk about, and one may be wondering why I’m doing it. It’s because there was a recent Wired Science article about it, with the typical poor media headline that makes something much more sensational than it actually is: “Death Star Off the Hook for Mass Extinctions.”
That’s not the science, it is the conclusions of a new study that extends the original database of extinctions from 250 million years to 500 million years. The authors of this latest study say that the extinctions occur at almost “exactly” 27 million years. Because the proposed Nemesis star is relatively far away from the sun, it would be perturbed in its orbit by passing stars, and this would cause some fluctuation in the 27 million-year cycle. The new authors claim that the observed pattern is too predictable for a star that can be perturbed.
The rebuttal by many is that the geologic record is not precise enough to say that it’s “exactly” 27 million years, and that the margin of error in the dates more than allows there to be a changing frequency that a companion star can be responsible for.
Personally, I agree.
Absence of Evidence Is Not Evidence of Absence
The obvious problem for the Nemesis hypothesis is that we haven’t found the star. Many have looked for it, but a rather convenient happenstance of timing is that right now it would be about as far as it gets from the sun, so it is the most difficult to detect from Earth. Nemesis has not been found.
However, it would be a fallacy to claim that this absence of evidence is evidence of absence, at least for the time being. There are now several telescopes that have the sensitivity and are looking over the entire sky that are fully capable of finding a Nemesis-type star. We’ll see what happens. If these surveys come up empty-handed, then it becomes much less likely that the star is out there, and a different mechanism will need to be proposed.
I’ve always thought the Nemesis hypothesis is an interesting one. I like the idea that something as basic as a companion star to the sun is still out there, undiscovered. I also like to think astronomy is important, and an extraterrestrial cause for mass extinction events would definitely be a notch on the “YES, Astronomy is Important” side of the scoreboard.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that some people have fallaciously tied Nemesis into 2012 doomsday scenarios, saying that it’s Nemesis that is Planet X that will cause everything to go boom in 2012, or saying that it’s the Christian biblical “Wormwood” from the book of Revelation that it itself will destroy Earth in an apocalypse. Hopefully needless to day, those ideas for Nemesis are baseless.
April 11, 2010
This is a claim that has persisted for a long time, and though people who believe in the 2012 stuff have propagated it, it is not specifically a Planet X / 2012 claim: If all the planets (plus our moon) lined up opposite the sun, they would pull us out of orbit. As the “lolcatz” say, “Oh noez!”
The force felt by an object due to gravity is a very simple mathematical function, codified by Newton’s Universal Law of Gravity:
In this equation, F is the force felt, G is the Gravitational Constant, M m are masses of the two objects in question, and r is the distance that separates them.
To figure out how much more or less two different objects will pull on the same object, we can simply remove one of the two masses, so the equation simplifies to F = G * m / r2.
To determine the relative forces, one simply needs to know the mass of the planets and sun, and the distances between Earth and those objects. This can be found in any basic astronomy textbook or online source. One then can simply plug in the numbers and figure out the forces.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the sun is on one side of this tug-of-war, and the moon, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and even Pluto are all on the other (Venus and the sun don’t count ’cause they would have to be on the sun’s side). Let’s calculate the force first due to the sun:
Mass (1024 kg)
Distance from Sun (106 km)
Distance from Earth (106 km)
Alright, now let’s do all the rest, remembering that for the planets, we’ll need to subtract out the distance between Earth and the sun from what are commonly quoted as the planets’ distances:
Mass (1024 kg)
Distance from Sun (106 km)
Distance from Earth (106 km)
This is a really short post because it doesn’t need to be long. To be perfectly honest, I was actually surprised at how small the force of Jupiter actually is on Earth relative to the sun. If we add up the force from all of the other objects, we only get a force that is 0.566% as strong as the sun’s. And then if we take the moon out of the equation because that would be the first to move out of the alignment, then we have a force of only 0.000592% as strong as the sun’s.
If we look at Venus if it were also lined up, helping the sun, its force is 1.90·10-7, or about half as much as all the other planets (again, leaving out the moon), so it would cancel 54% of the effect of all those other objects (again leaving out the moon). The force from Mercury is only about 1/3 that of Mars.
So really, if anyone who makes this claim were to bother to spend about 10 minutes looking up the numbers and plugging them into an Excel equation (what I did), they would quickly see that this claim is simply and utterly nonsense. And this is besides the fact that the planets aren’t lining up any time soon on the other side of Earth to try to pull us out of orbit.