Monday, June 1, 2020

James McCanney tells it like it isn't

        James McCanney is the electric comet guy, the Planet X guy and one of the foremost of the Apollo deniers. Phil Plait has done a good job explaining how wrong McCanney is on most topics in astronomy. So has Stuart Robbins, here.  One that "Bad Astronomy" didn't catch (Stuart Robbins did, here)  is his statement that Venus is tidally locked to Earth. It isn't true (The synodic period of Venus is 583.92 days, and its rotational period is 224.701 Earth days retrograde) but the Earth-Venus system does have the unusual property that Venus shows almost exactly the same face to us at successive closest approaches.note 1. So probably McCanney once heard the above true statement and misinterpreted it to mean the UNtrue statement that Venus always shows us the same face.

        McCanney is a recurrent guest on Coast to Coast AM, although his appearance a week ago (26th May) ended a 7-year drought. C2C likes to promote him as a Professor of Mathematics and Physics from Cornell, although he hasn't taught at Cornell since the 80s.

        For many years McCanney was warning "Planet X is coming!!" He cited the observations of Tom Van Flandern and Robert Harrington, who declared in 1989 that they had spotted an incoming planet four times the mass of Earth, visible only from the Southern hemisphere. Now, explaining why Planet X still hasn't arrived, McCanney says it turned into the Hale-Bopp comet, discovered in 1995. Moreover, he said, there was good evidence of intelligent signalling from Planet X. Well, that's awfully wrong. Planets do not turn into comets,note 2 and if there had been good evidence of signalling, it would have been front-page news.note 3

        Conscious, perhaps, that McCanney's statements were at gross variance with conventional astronomy, George Noory asked "Why is NASA afraid to admit these things?" This was McCanney's answer:
"I can't answer your question but I can tell you it's a top-down thing, and the people at NASA are under strict gag orders. People from NASA can't just walk up to the microphone and say something. It goes through an official release, OKed by people like [?] Tony Phillipsnote 4, people like that."
        I've interacted quite a bit with NASA scientists in my career, and I've never come across one who was gagged or even felt as though they were.note 5

Power and water from the air
        McCanney has a pending patent on a wind generator that not only generates local electric power but also extracts water from the atmosphere.

        The generator is now being installed in units from 2 to 250 kW, and McCanney (rather optimistically, I think) asserts that one day it will entirely replace nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources.

        On Coast to Coast AM he proudly said that the WING generator had won the 2018 Water Abundance X Prize, $1,500,000 . That's not actually true—the winners were The Skysource/Skywater Alliance, but McCanney's generator was awarded a $150,000 second-place consolation prize.

====================/ \===================
[1]  The interval between successive close approaches of Venus to Earth is equal to 5.001444 Venusian solar days. So at each  closest approach we see just half a degree more on Venus's West edge, and half a degree less on the East, than at the last closest approach (at the equator that works out to about 53 km). An astronomer would have to live for 2,219 years to see a full rotation of Venus at closest approach.

ref:  Atmospheric tides and the resonant rotation of VenusIcarus, Nov. 1969, Thomas Gold and Steven Soter.

[2] ...or vice versa. Another of McCanney's errors is the fantasy that Venus was once a comet.

[3] Again, Phil Plait has nailed the Planet X fallacy expertly.

[4] It sounded like "Tony Phillips" but I don't know who he means. No such person is in the list of official NASA spokespersons.

[5] One who I spent a lot of time with during the Viking missions was Chief Scientist Gerry Soffen. What is Gerry most remembered for by writers? He was the first to show the image of  "The Face on Mars". Gagged? I don't think so.


Two Percent said...

Yay, something we can really get our tooth into...

With the US turning to custard, why not give us the chance to debate something a little more risky, and interesting?

With the POTUSOA claiming the counter-factual high ground with all his [social media accounts], COVID-19 still rampaging across America, and the inflamed under-classes trashing public and private property wherever they please, the likes of James McCanney and his mistruths pale into insignificance.

Why not let us debate how soon China will rule the world, or whether democracy in the US is a total failure - which further aids China in rising to world dominance?

purpleivan said...

or you know... something on topic.

Trekker said...

"Mocking pseudoscience since 2008" is not related to current affairs, no matter how interesting or urgent they are. There are other blogs and sites dealing with the decline of America. This blog deals with pseudoscience only.

expat said...

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for that. I get enough reality every day. I need to take a brake when I get home. That's why I come here.

jim oberg said...

note 1 -- " close approaches of Venus to Earth "

The astronomical term is inferior conjunction, not exactly [but close] a feature of Earth-Venus distance.

expat said...


James O'Donghue has made an animation which is useful, but he missed the point that the resonance is only approximate. His animation shows it as exact.

Two Percent said...

purpleivan said...

or you know... something on topic.

I was being a little sarcastic, but I know, that's the lowest form of wit. I just think the James McCanney story is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Not worth mentioning, let alone mocking. Meanwhile, we seem to have missed a much bigger, better pseudoscience story.

But my suggestions are just suggestions, it's expat's blog...

Trekker said...

"Mocking pseudoscience since 2008" ... This blog deals with pseudoscience only.

Are you sure that's what you meant? I take that to mean it doesn't actually deal with science. It just mocks what it regards as pseudoscience - too often, wrongly.

That's why I joined in the first place. Because so much of what passes here for science in reality is not. Rather, it's often merely [arrogant] popular belief.

A few centuries ago, the popular belief was that the Earth was flat, and the sun somehow, magically, went around the Earth. Most of us now accept that those beliefs are incorrect, and that science now offers different answers with convincing explanations, but not all that science claims, is true.

Sometimes, simple, fundamental errors, mistakes, misunderstandings and untruths lead science to wildly incorrect answers, but people still believe them like they did a few hundred years ago. Whatever.

expat said...

« Are you sure that's what you meant? I take that to mean it doesn't actually deal with science. It just mocks what it regards as pseudoscience - too often, wrongly. »

Ooooh, a challenge! This blog is not a source of science, certainly, but in mocking pseudoscience I sometimes replace it with science. Exhibit A is this post from 2008, in which I show the correct way to apply the Tsiolkovsky equation to the flight of Explorer 1. Thus discrediting Hoagland's childish errors.

Examples of my wrongness, please...

expat said...

Exhibit B is this post from thre years ago, in which I prove mathematically that there can be no synchronous orbit arounbd a body that is in tidal lock with a larger body.

Two Percent said...

And who will be the arbiter of right and wrong? You?

For example, how is pseudoscience so identified? By Popular Belief?

expat said...

« And who will be the arbiter of right and wrong? You? »

In the first instance, yes. If I'm in doubt I have James Oberg and Stuart Robbins to call on.

« For example, how is pseudoscience so identified? By Popular Belief? »

I know it when I see it, but admittedly there's a gray area.