Exposing PseudoAstronomy

June 4, 2013

My Additional Project: C2C Watch Blog … Reprinted Post on James McCanney


Introduction

A few weeks ago, while on my 40-minute morning walk to burn 260 calories – the number in an average-sized doughnut (yes, I count calories in units of doughnuts), I was absolutely disgusted by Coast to Coast fill-in host John B. Wells and his guest, Steve Pieczenik, talking about stupid things such as the government will charge you for having a baby because of gene patents, but then just disgusting things like “no child was killed at Sandy Hook.” I mean, stuff that you might expect to hear out of a psychopath (and I’m using the definition here – someone who is characterized by antisocial behavior, a diminished capacity for remorse, and poor behavioral controls).

It was really disgusting.

That’s when I reached out to a few people and decided to start a community blog, Coast to Coast AM Watch. The idea is that those of us who sometimes listen to the program and hear something particularly outrageous can blog about it and post real information. (And if you think this is you and you can contribute, let me know and I’ll set you up with an account.)

To cross-pollenate a bit, I am going to sometimes cross-post. So, here is a post I wrote a few days ago on James McCanney. I haven’t written about him before on this blog before because he’s a bit like Hoagland: He’s built up such a mythology that it’s very difficult in just a single post to get into it all. I do plan to put out a podcast episode later this year about some of his main stuff.

Note that I plan to be a bit more snarky on that blog, and this post reflects it.

The Cross-Post

James McCanney is a not infrequent guest on C2C, usually for a quick news blurb in the first hour, or for an hour here-and-there. May 23 saw him in the third hour with questions from the audience in the second half of that.

Trying to explain McCanney’s misconceptions is a bit like saying you’re going to spend an hour debunking Answers in Genesis: It can’t be done. Nearly every sentence he says is just plain wrong. Until I do my own podcast summarizing some of the major issues, I’ll direct you to Phil Plait’s take-down of about half a dozen of them.

In the spirit of this blog, where just a few things that catch our ears each show are things we want to address, I’m going to take on a claim he made in the early part of the hour. To summarize, he stated that we had weird weather in the US throughout Spring and early Summer. Since McCanny believes that all weather on Earth has to do with electrical interactions with stuff in the solar system, he searched and searched for something to explain it. And lo!– he found Saturn. That’s right … somehow, an electrical connection with the ringed planet made it snow here in America in the spring. The occasional teacher in me says: Please show your work.

That’s a problem with people like McCanney: They claim to make all these predictions (some of which are bound to come true) and therefore claim to overthrow all of science and yet they haven’t shown how the math works out.

In this case, let’s assume we believe Maxwell’s equations and that electricity follows an inverse-square law for intensity (it’s called a “law” for a reason, mind you — it’s a fact that the intensity of electricity falls off with the square of the distance, so if you’re 5x farther away from something, the intensity is 1/25 (1/52)).

Let’s also assume that we have a spacecraft that, gee, operates on electricity that’s in orbit of Saturn. Which we do. It’s called Cassini and has been in orbit since 2004. Cassini does not orbit in a nice, circular orbit, but it’s widely variable. From what a quick search got me, we can put a very rough number of 1 million km from Saturn. For a very round number, Saturn’s a bit over 1 billion km from Earth.

Now let’s apply the inverse-square law: ( (1 billion) / (1 million) )2 = (1 thousand)2 = 1 million.

So an electrical connection with Saturn, at Earth, would necessarily have had to have been 1 million times stronger at Cassini. Even if we’re talking some sort of directed energy weapon like a Star Trek phaser, the electrical discharge from Saturn would have had to have done something to Saturn’s magnetosphere that would have affected Cassini. You can’t get out of this. A 1 million-fold increase of electrical output magically happening from Saturn would have fried Cassini, and yet it’s still operating just as well as before.

That’s about as kindly as I can put this, that it’s just WRONG. And you can now see why a debunking of McCanney would take a very very long time: Just from those two or three sentences, I spent 500+ words.

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