Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A village idiot writes....

        On his blog today, and also on the Book of Farces, Mike Bara once again quite mistakenly seizes on an astronomical discovery to promote his wretchedly error-packed book The Choice. The discovery is another exoplanet, a long way (43.5 AU) from its parent star. Bara simulates triumph, as if this clinched his beloved solar fission theory despite the planet NOT being one of a pair. He writes:

"Of course, the usual village idiots have attacked the solar fission theory on the basis that it requires the planets to be spun off in roughly twin pairs, with one planet slightly larger than the other. So far, in the 2 cases here, only one planet has been observed. But that’s easily explainable."

        I think he means me, since I did indeed send (perfectly polite) e-mail reminding him that Van Flandern made "two-at-a-time" a central part of the solar fission idea, as this blog noted last time Bara went into his fake triumph routine, just two months ago.

        He "easily explains" the problem by stating that the missing twin just hasn't been observed yet—it's probably too close to the star. That's a bit like saying the Moon you see in the night sky is evidence that there are two Moons, but you can only see one because the other one "probably" hasn't risen yet.

        Bara writes of "NASA’s shopworn accretion model" and declares "this new observation fits the solar fission theory perfectly." Well, the accretion model is not NASA's, it's the consensus of the entire planetary astronomy community (that's all the people who know a great deal more than Mike Bara,) strongly supported by quite recent direct observation. As for fitting solar fission perfectly...

A village idiot writes, yes indeed. But I don't think it's me.


Tara Jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

While I don't want to question the perfectly fitting "village idiot" theory in your blog, Expat, there's this remark in the NASA article:

"Its discovery implies that we need to seriously consider alternative formation theories, or perhaps to reassess some of the basic assumptions in the core-accretion theory."

That remark contradicts somewhat your remark that the accretion model is "the consensus of the entire planetary astronomy community". It's a consensus that's being challenged, that is the interesting point of this discovery, not?

There's of course a difference between considering alternatives or (more likely) reassessing some assumption and jumping straight to a preferred alternative model with all its own problems. This false dichotomy as logical error is quite prevalent in Bara's and Hoagland's articles: if A is being questioned, it suddenly HAS to be the more outlandish or questionable option Z. With such a great confidence this is then being touted!


expat said...

Oh yes, absolutely this observation is a problem for the consensus theory, no question. But it's just as much of a problem for solar fission--more, in fact.

I lack qualifications to make any confident statement, but tentatively I would have thought capture might be a better explanation in this case. Stuart Robbins, if you read this, what do you think?

astroguy said...

Solar fission is about as ridiculous an idea as you can get. Basically, think of a giant gas ball with a tiny (relative) amount of heavier stuff closer to the core. That gas ball somehow spins fast enough that it can spit out a pair of smaller gas balls that has a planet's worth of mass in it in JUST the heavier stuff?

Anyway, nebular accretion is THE theory. But what you're talking about are these two paragraphs:

The exoplanet's features challenge the core-accretion model of planet formation, they study's researchers say. Under this widely accepted theory, asteroid and comet collisions produce a core for Jupiter-like planets and when they gets massive enough, their gravitational pull draws in gas from the gas-rich disk of debris that circles their young star. But this model doesn't explain the formation of planets like GJ 504b that are far away from their parent star.

"This is among the hardest planets to explain in a traditional planet-formation framework," study researcher Markus Janson, a Hubble postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University in New Jersey, said in a statement. "Its discovery implies that we need to seriously consider alternative formation theories, or perhaps to reassess some of the basic assumptions in the core-accretion theory."

Having done a press release before, some tend to exaggerate. I'll say planet formation is not my research topic. But, my understanding is that the "alternative" people are pursuing are basic modifications to accretion. As in, factoring in additional physical processes that we may not have thought of before such as gas drag on planetesimals leading to planetary migration). For background on WHY this is an issue, it's that the timescale for formation of a Jupiter (or 4x Jupiter) -sized planet at 44 AU is very, very, very long (billions of years if I remember correctly). We really don't know how to do it in situ. Mike is proposing solar fission. I think what they're not proposing in this article but pursuing is migration or additional processes that let you get something faster than the rule-of-thumb for how fast objects can form depending on their location from their star.

Unknown said...

Wow, I thought Dick Hoagland didn't merit much attention, but dedicating ones life to critiquing Mike Bareass well is really dorky.

expat said...

A blog is not a life.

FlightSuit said...

Hoag Rider said:

"Wow, I thought Dick Hoagland didn't merit much attention, but dedicating ones life to critiquing Mike Bareass well is really dorky."

I beg to differ. Bara makes money. Bara has followers. The beliefs that Bara and his devotees propagate have ripple effects, and spread among the community of conspiracy believers in general.

So you have a not insignificant portion of the populace holding these crazy beliefs and allowing those beliefs to influence how and where they spend their money, and even worse, which candidates and laws they vote for.

It is important to debunk Bara and people of his ilk because there is tangible harm to society that can result from everything they do to undermine critical thought and real science.

Anonymous said...

Expat, after reading your blog post and Bara's entry again, I've to say I'm not so sure anymore if your comments were actually fair, especially on the two Moons example.

I mean, Bara, does argue that his speculative twin planet would be likely at a lesser distance (eg 22AU) assuming there's something to Bode's law. That's a reasonable argument on why it would be harder to detect by current methods. I mean, GJ 504b at 44AU was already a needle in a haystack. The visibility doesn't get better with lower orbits! Unless they can include gravitational disturbances in this.

So as far as Barian reasoning goes, it does try to make some sense here. The only problem I have is his eager jump for a "perfect fit" for the solar fission theory. That would be perhaps when the twin would actually be spotted between 22 and 44AU for example. Now it reads more like wishful thinking.


expat said...

I'm not so sure that Bode's Law even applies in the case of a fissioned pair. If I have time I'll hunt around the Van Flandern archive (such as it is).

expat said...

Seems it does apply, or at least Van Flandern asserts it:

"Evolution of the planets would typically proceed via tides and drag toward the maximum-stability Titius-Bode-Law configuration, wherein each planet has a circular, co-planar orbit with double the orbital period of the next planet in. Once that was achieved, further orbital evolution would cease."

--Reprinted from Meta Research Bulletin, Vol. 6 p. 17 -- 97/06/15

But even so, 44 AU is such a long, long way from a parent star that even a "sub-Bode" companion would still be very far out. Bara cannot claim a fit with solar fission just yet. And don't forget astroguy has already posted a major objection.