Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another problem for the "Ritual Alignment Model"

        As anybody who thinks about it for a few seconds already knows, spacecraft launch windows are tightly constrained by inescapable facts like day/night cycles, the need to get where they're going without using more than the minimum of RCS fuel, rendezvous with spacecraft already in their orbits, and so on.

        Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara are probably the only people in the entire world who take a different view. They say that NASA launches only when any of five stars are at any of five elevationsnote 1 as seen from either the Cape or Houston. They say this is an "obsessive, relentless"note 2 NASA preoccupation.

        I'd love to check that out, examining the 135 launches of the Space Shuttle to see how many of them conform to that totally batshit-insane idea. But considering that 50 possibilities would need checking for each of 135 launches, I'm not going to do that. Besides, they've never stated what tolerance they allow for the elevation. Plus or minus half a degree? Quarter of a degree? We really don't know.

        What I have done, in the past, is look at the missions they claim as "hits" -- and I've discovered that the entire exercise is steeped in mendacity and hand-wavingnote 3. I recently reviewed the Shuttle's on-time performance, and it's another problem for H & B. Launches were habitually delayed for a variety of reasons -- not just technical glitches but low temperature, approaching hurricanes, boats drifting into the danger zone, crew illness and what-have-you. STS-70 launched a month late because woodpeckers partly destroyed its Big Tank. In 1999, STS-103 claimed the dubious record by being scrubbed nine times. None of these delays could conceivably have been pre-planned by people with astrology in mind.

        In all, only 55, or 41%, got off on time. What a nightmare for the evil NASA conspirators, desperately checking their ephemerides and star charts, hoping to make it before the next magical Egyptian astrological conjunction was all over.

        The only time Hoagland ever addressed this problem, he said that it's the planned launch time -- he called it "the birthing time" -- that counts. Pity that, in his web-published Table of Coincidencenote 4, he ignores his own advice and settles for the launch times that actually happened.

        Of all the cockamamie stupid ideas Hoagland and Bara have had, I vote for this as the most moronic.

[1] The stars are Sirius, Regulus, and the belt stars of Orion. The elevations are -33°, -19.5°, 0°, +19.5°, and +33°.
[2] Caption to Fig. 5-10, Dark Mission 


Chris Lopes said...

Given the stiff competition for the title "most moronic", you may be putting yourself out on a limb with this one expat. Granted, it's a pretty silly idea with no evidence behind it beyond Hoagie/Bara's warped imagination. But more moronic than space Nazis with death rays? More moronic than comets as spaceships or inch high apartment complexes on Mars? Maybe you just aren't looking hard enough.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the Mary Weaver articles. She did one initial somewhat supportive paper on the calculations and released later an erratum basically withdrawing any conclusions of the first release while now claiming she is "not a statistics expert", mentioned at the top of that archived page. I hope someone will make sure it remains in some archive.

TEM never mentioned her again after that I think and if they did Hoagland forgot these self-published corrections on her own work.

Then there the 'economist' which demonstrated unwillingly more than any other example the gaping holes in logic with this type of calculations.

Note that Weaver is still listed here as contributing paper in the introduction.


expat said...

Anon: Thanks a bunch. I nearly included the hapless Mary Anne Weaver in this post, but decided to keep it shortish. It's very valuable to have both your links, though. I really adore Hoagland's (Bara's, perhaps?) preamble "[the critics] have run like bandits rather than address the overwhelming odds [of the Cydonia geometry model]".

I didn't see Ralph Greenberg running like a bandit or even like the professor of math he actually is.

Anonymous said...

I just ran ten million trials of random dates and times, between 6 AM to 6 PM, for each of the 5 stars, as seen from the two locations, to see how often they are within 0.5° of the 5 magic elevations. The answer is 34%.

In other words, pick a random date and time and there will be a 34% chance one of the stars will be within 0.5° of one of the elevations as seen from one of the locations.

For the elevation to be within 0.1° the chances drop down to 5.2%.

expat said...

Brilliant. That's exactly the information we need.

Chris Lopes said...

You know what Hoagie would say don't you? "The fact that those alignments are so frequent proves that they are cosmically significant." In Hoagland's world, there is no such thing as a falsifiable hypothesis.

Anonymous said...

I started wondering why the percentages weren't different by a factor of 5 for the .1° and .5° tolerances so I checked my code. Whoops. I didn't randomize the time of day.

With that fixed, the percentage for the .1° tolerance is really 6.8%.

No need to approve this comment but if you could modify my previous comment with the correct percentage I would appreciate it.

expat said...

I don't get to edit comments. Only accept/reject. Thanks for your work.

Hoag Rider said...

Launch windows be damned when you're using a nuclear powered Spacecraft such as the X-37B.

"The high specific impulse (Isp) levels of an NTR rocket offer opportunities for missions with shorter trip times and greater payloads that those that can be accomplished using only chemical propulsion."

In support of the Space Exploration Vision, Project Prometheus has been formed to study the application and flight of a nuclear reactor in space. As a result, Nuclear Thermal Rockets might be the propulsion we use to fulfill these human exploration dreams.

NTR A Nuclear Thermal Rocket (NTR) creates thrust by heating and expanding a working fluid, such as hydrogen, a fusion fuel, in a nuclear reactor. An NTR engine has twice the efficiency of the best chemical engines due to the high energy level produced by the nuclear reactions when compared to the combustion in chemical thrusters. Consequently, NTR engines have an advantage over chemical engines when we compare the amount of energy available per unit mass of fuel. Thus, NTR engines produce NTR a higher specific impulse (ISP) than current technology chemical rockets. The specific impulse of a rocket is improved by using a lower molecular weight exhaust. The exhaust of chemical rockets are constrained by the chemical reaction, but in an NTR, the heat source is not based on the propellant, so an NTR can use a low molecular weight propellant, such as hydrogen, to improve performance. The high specific impulse (Isp) levels of an NTR rocket offer opportunities for missions with shorter trip times and greater payloads that those that can be accomplished using only chemical propulsion. Keep in mind that this is at the cost of an increased system weight to accommodate an NTR power plant. An NTR is attractive for many high-energy missions because of NTR its high thrust to weight ratios of the power plant and engines. NTR propulsion systems are referred to as high thrust when compared other advanced propulsion systems such as electrical propulsion.

Responsible NASA Official:
Maria Babula
Web Curator:
Central Web Services Team
Last updated on Wednesday, 09-Jul-2008

expat said...

The best Isp in the history of the world won't absolve you from realities like day/night cycles, rendezvous schedules....

Strahlungs Amt said...

Nuclear rocketry has been around for at least 50 odd years now. It's quite a workable idea and one which could probably see us put a man on Pluto before long.

What's holding it up is safety. As in launching that load of nuclear fuel up there without it blowing up or crashing somewhere on Earth and causing a radioactive apocalypse. Chernobyl would look like a picnic in comparison.

At least now I know what the X-37-B was about.

Hoag Rider said...

Richard C Hoagland thinks that nuclear powered Spaceships are just fine and dandy.

NASA spokesmen were busy calling into question details revealed in a January 17 story in the Los Angeles Times. The story stated that the Bush Administration has given an agency go-ahead to build a nuclear-powered rocket. Not only would the project make human travel to Mars feasible, the story suggests, work on the nuclear space rocket would be a boon to California aerospace firms.

Anonymous said...

The X-37B is not nuclear powered, this is a fantasy championed by folks who have no clue what they are talking about.