Kerr Watch

Elapsed time since Richard Kerr failed to inform his Science readers of the confirmation of nanodiamonds at the YDB: 6 years, 2 months, and 1 day

Available: Davias and Harris at the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting in San Fran

Citizen Science and the Unsolved Austral-Asian Tektite Mystery

davias bays b&w

Carolina Bays in a 12 x 12 mile area of coastal North Carolina presented with LiDAR elevation data.

davias harris 2015 agu

  • Howdy all –

    Announcement today of a possible Neptunian sized object in orbit in the outer solar system. Suggestion came out of dynamic analysis of Sedna and newly discovered objects with Sedna-similar objects. Distance has implications for KBOs and Oort Cloud objects and their feed into the Centaur staging orbits for insertion into the inner solar system.

    Some (many?) of the simulations suggest the migration of Jupiter and Saturn inward and outward shortly after their formation which triggered the Late Heavy Bombardment also have their gravitational interaction ejecting a Neptune size object from the system. If accurate, this means the newly proposed body has been where it is for a while, thus defining the structure of orbits in the outer system.

    What does it mean? Who knows? But once you insert a long-lived massive body in the outer system, you start defining what the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud look like and how they dynamically behave over time. Anyway, food for thought. Cheers –

  • Steve Garcia

    Hmmm – Apologies to Michael and Tim for continuing this O/T:

    agimarc – A gas giant out there? Color me skeptical. Or write off all the planetary formation models.

    Hahaha – where have we heard THAT one before?

    * * *
    “The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet’s existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly.

    NOOOOOOOOOO. . . . MODELS ARE NOT EVIDENCE. Models are mathematical creations which do what they are programmed to do. Finding something IN the model means that someone PUT the something in there.

    Repeat after me: Models are not evidence. Models are not evidence. Models are not evidence. . .

    Also: “Skepticism is the default position of science.”

    Skepticism is the opposite of gullibility. At its extreme skepticism is closed-mindedness. At its extreme gullibility is total gullibility. In between there are an infinite number of levels of discernment. Without discernment, there is no connection to reality. It is up to each to choose his level – and each is free to have different levels for different topics.

    …Computer simulations are cartoons. Literally. You can make the do anything – have people float in the “air”, people swim underwater unassisted for days, die and come back to life, etc. It’s called video games.

    “Brown notes that the putative ninth planet—at 5,000 times the mass of Pluto — is sufficiently large that there should be no debate about whether it is a true planet.”

    WTF??!! “NO DEBATE!”???

    They are claiming that this is “settled science”???? Two nobodies do simulations and claim it is real, and then in the same breath they tell everyone, “If you don’t sign on to this, you are unscientific.” Where have we heard THAT one before?

  • Steve Garcia

    ALL of what they observe makes sense with an exploded planet. No extra gas giant required.

  • Jonny

    Steve the no debate part is to do with whether or not an object 5000 tomes bigger should be defined as a planet. It is not a comment about whether the hypothesis of the said object is correct or not. I.e. the hypothesis is open for debate not whether or not something of that size is a true planet within the current OAU definition of a planet.

    With respect to the modelling. Effectively what they have done is run a series of simulations with variable parameters to see what fits the observed data namely the clustering of orbits of certain kuiper belt objects as well as sedna and another sedna like object. What made them think that this hypothesis is correct is that it unexpectedly explained the orbits of another set of high inclination (nearly perpendicular) objects. Further obsessional data of other objects will either strengthen or weaken the hypothesis. Also bear in mind that the two astronomers began by trying disprove the 2014 conjecture other adtronomwrs of a large outer planet.

  • Jonny

    Also, I wouldn’t call Michael Brown a nobody. He is quite the big name in his field

  • Steve Garcia

    Jonny – You’re right about Paul Brown. I didn’t catch the actual name as I scanned down…

    But as Feynman says in his Scientific Method class video, “It doesn’t matter how SMART they are; it doesn’t matter what their NAME is.. . if it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s WRONG.”

    My first comparison to what I know is that, like Muller’s Nemesis, this one is incorrect.

    Jonny, you, of course, know a lot more than I do, so I bow to that – but with skepticism…

  • Steve Garcia

    …and, Jonny, I don’t ever read models as experiments. They are 100% dependent on the code, and the code is the projection of what the researchers assume. Even if Brown says he started out as doubtful, what’s in the code?

    Astronomy is a tough science to work in. Hard to make lab experiments. I acknowledge that. But this particular kind of research – math saying “something is out there” – goes back way past Tombaugh and Pluto.

    I am not sure WHY I don’t accept a gas giant out there. I just don’t.

  • Steve Garcia

    From the article:

    “Batygin and Brown continue to refine their simulations and learn more about the planet’s orbit and its influence on the distant solar system. Meanwhile, Brown and other colleagues have begun searching the skies for Planet Nine. Only the planet’s rough orbit is known, not the precise location of the planet on that elliptical path. If the planet happens to be close to its perihelion, Brown says, astronomers should be able to spot it in images captured by previous surveys. If it is in the most distant part of its orbit, the world’s largest telescopes—such as the twin 10-meter telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Subaru Telescope, all on Mauna Kea in Hawaii—will be needed to see it. If, however, Planet Nine is now located anywhere in between, many telescopes have a shot at finding it.”

    Pardon me, but WTF?

    This absolutely sounds like they do not know where along its orbit it is. They are saying it could be out near its max, and then they turn around and say it might be near its min. That makes no sense. I do NOT see how the math could have told them it is out there without saying AT LEAST that it is out near aphelion or in toward perihelion. How could the model have come up with a body “out there” mathematically, interacting with those KBOs without, without saying WHERE it is. I don’t see how that makes sense. The math HAD to tell them. It HAD to give them an orbit. It’s interactions with the KBOs couldn’t give them ANYTHING if there isn’t some derived orbit that they are working with.

    The more I read, the more I scratch my head.

  • Steve – the WTF explanation is that they believe they have two families of intersecting out of plane KBO orbits that can be explained by the existence of a Neptune-sized body in the suggested orbit. These explanations fell out of orbital simulations and orbital elements of observed bodies.

    Orbital elements are long term indicators rather than point in time indicators. They define gravitational interactions over an extended period of time. These bodies move very slowly, so are not able to immediately tell anyone where a point gravitational source is currently located. They can only tell us where it has been in the past. Don’t forget that this investigation started a mere 2 years ago, a minuscule part of a 10,000 year long orbit.

    The obvious problem with this sort of investigation is that what we are now seeing is a real time disruption of outer system orbits, ie) something large plowing thru the system right now today. As we haven’t seen anything doing that yet, that possibility is discounted.

    This is why we look for things. If they find something it will be way cool. If not, it will be even cooler, for they will have to come up with another explanation of the interlocked out of plane KBO orbit families.

    Your skepticism is overwrought. This is not the final answer. Rather it is the opening chords of a Grand Investigation. Cheers –

  • Steve Garcia

    agimarc –

    I have a few minor quibbles with your comment, but I accept your points in general.

    The very fact that 2 years of observations isn’t enough to FIND the object also tells me that 2 years isn’t enough to so more than mildly suggest that “something” is out there. The 2 out of 10,000 argument works both ways. I chose one and you chose the other. To me, that makes this a super premature conjecture and they should have worked on it till they HAD something more than what I consider maybes.

    I also think that the song-and-dance about Brown being a skeptic and then being convinced was – in a word, unconvincing. If that sounds cynical, I fall back on “Skepticism is the default position of science.”

    Born in Missouri, where the state motto is “The Show Me State”, I seem to be imbued with that in excess lately… But from my POV it is that premature speculations seem to be quite common lately. I am eager and perhaps too impatient to have someone present some hypothesis about SOMETHING, anything, that is completely thought out and has all its ducks in a row.

    I think we’ve seen with the YDB impact that when it is NOT developed fully it just invites others to be skeptical.

    At the same time, I will bring up David Meltzer one more time, that I found a THIRD new hypothesis that he comes out as a skeptic about. Total skepticism, all the time, is not science. It’s junk journalism.

    Literally, I would never have been here at CosmicTusk if I were skeptical of EVERYTHING. I thought the YDIH is sound and good science, developed well at the present time. it was maybe presented prematurely, but they went in exactly the right direction to flesh out the hypothesis at the necessary fundamental level – impact materials. They put the mammoths and consequences to flora and fauna on a back shelf while they tackled the science that could solidify things one way or the other.

    The YDIH is obviously a neo-catastrophist hypothesis, and as such it needed to build a foundation of empirical and quantifiable data. They did. They still are.

    To me, that is all solid thinking and solid follow-through. The weak skepticism has ended up only encouraging MORE solidity, MORE data, WIDER development of the basic foundation.

    If scientists in other areas of inquiry applied themselves to more lab results and less qualitative – and especially less conclusion jumping – I’d have a whole lot less to quibble about.

  • Paul Repstock

    Yes Steve; ‘One does need to be careful about overplaying skepticism’.
    These guys admit to “theory” and lack of physical evidence. I think you should give them marks for having the balls to expose themseles prematurely, thereby giving a lot of other people the opportunity to investigate. The more people looking, the sooner he evidence will be found or the theory discredited. I don’t see anything wrong with “Open source science”.
    If even a few criterion are met, it is worthy of investigation.

  • Trent Telenko

    >>These guys admit to “theory” and lack of physical evidence.

    This is more a well scientific hypothesis than a “Theory.”

    “Theory” fits available evidence, predicts a future outcome, and is repeatable — either by experiment or by observation — by others.

    We lack enough physical evidence observed by others to make this announcement a vetted scientific theory.