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Episode 71: The Fake Story of Planet X, Part 6 - Andy Lloyd's "Dark Star"

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Recap: Andy Lloyd has a chemistry background and has had an interest in astronomy his whole life. He also likes Zecharia Sitchin's idea of Nibiru and the Annunaki. In his book, "The Dark Star," Andy tries to reconcile what he knows about astronomy with Sitchin's model to create a "neo-Sitchin" proposal that just might be plausible, so long as his changes don't introduce their own new problems.

Puzzler for Episode 71: Why do objects become tidally locked?

Answer to Puzzler from Episode 70: If a cloud of particles finds itself orbiting a planet, with basically random orbits, there will be many collisions between particles. Depending on the makeup of the particles, these collisions will be quite inelastic. That is, they mostly won't just bounce off each other like billiard balls, but deform and break up like snowballs or clumps of sand, or possibly stick together. Either way, if two particles in different orbits (different orbital planes and/or ellipticities) experience an inelastic collision, their orbital parameters afterwards will be closer to the average of the two particles than they were before the collision. This process is repeated countless times.

As long as the orbits of the different particles cross each other, collisions will keep happening, and the result will be to make the orbits of the component particles closer and closer to the average orbit. Eventually, all the particles will be in circular orbits in the same plane, forming very thin rings. Any collisions that do happen between particles in the rings will have very low impact energies, so they won't alter the orbits of the particles much.

Any initial configuration of dust and debris will eventually form this configuration through inelastic collisions. And any perturbation of the rings will start orbital collisions happening again, until the stable configuration is restored.

Q&A: There was no Q&A for this episode.

New News Related to Episode 27:

  • Can One Buy the Right to Name a Planet?
  • There's a New News item this week, sent in by a few different people, relating to Episode 27. The International Astronomical Union this past weekend had a press release reiterating its stance that all the companies out there that offer naming of planets, stars, etc. are scams in its view. In other words, they have no bearing on the official naming process.
  • It was not explicitly stated in the IAU press release, but it was figured out by most news sources that reported it, that this was likely aimed at the project Uwingu, which started up last year. Uwingu, at least in my reading of their materials, is somewhat different from the other places. In the case of Uwingu, as with most others, they do state that these names are not recognized by NASA nor other agencies. But, the board of Uwingu is made of actual astronomers, and the hope of Uwingu is that these names eventually WILL be used by professional astronomers simply because there are so many objects out there. Uwingu also states that the money raised goes to grants for astronomy research, that they've already donated to Astronomers Without Borders and the Allen Telescope Array for SETI. I haven't seen any other of these companies do anything like that.

Additional Materials:


Claim: The basic claim for this episode is that, through some modifications to the basic idea, Andy can get the planet X of Zecharia Sitchin to be a real possibility.

Zecharia Sitchin, Redux

Andy Lloyd is a devotee of Zecharia Sitchin. Sitchin is not the originator of the idea of Planet X, but he is a founder of a branch of Planet X pseudoscience. And, much like Velikovsky's ideas have been taken by a huge number of people and adjusted for their own means, Sitchin's ideas have had the same done to them. Andy Lloyd is one of them.

So, even though Sitchin's stuff was the subject of my first episode on The Fake Story of Planet X, episode 23 from over a year ago, it bears some review for those who may be new to the podcast.

Zecharia Sitchin - the late Zecharia Sitchin - was a man who claimed to read ancient Sumerian tablets. In his translations of those tablets, he claimed that the Sumerians showed a "twelfth planet" -- where you had 11 including Pluto, the Sun, and Earth's Moon -- and this 12th planet was his Planet X. He called it - or translated it as - Nibiru. Somehow, he determined that this planet had a 3600-year-long highly elliptical orbit that took it from well out beyond Pluto to at least very close to Earth's orbit. He claimed that an intelligent race of aliens, called the Anunnaki, with spaceships who lived 10s of thousands of years lived on the planet (and still live on it today) and on one trip to the inner solar system, they hopped onto Mars, used it as a base, and then traveled to Earth. Or vice-versa. On Earth, they mined gold, grew tired of it, genetically engineered early humans to be their slave race, and sent the gold back to their planet to put it in their atmosphere to prevent global warming.

That's really the basic story in about a minute. I addressed the numerous reasons why this cannot be true in Episode 23, so I recommend listening to it if you haven't and are interested in hearing more.

Andy Lloyd does not believe everything Sitchin said. I listened to roughly 4 hours of his material in preparation for this episode, and it was very refreshing to hear him say that many of the ideas that Sitchin claimed are impossible, at least in his 2008 interview. George Noory, the host of Coast to Coast AM where I heard his interviews, tried to find at least some common ground with Sitchin's ideas, and got him to accept ideas of panspermia and that an actual planet exists, but honestly it was really nice to hear someone say that he liked Sitchin's ideas, and used them as a basis for his own, but in doing so he tried to reconcile Sitchin's ideas with actual astronomy as he understands it.

Bit of Background

With that in mind, I'm going to focus first on what Andy Lloyd talked about in his 2008 interview and then get into some changes he made for 2009.

As an aside, the reason I focus on these interviews instead of reading these peoples' books is three-fold. First, it's much easier for me to listen to an interview while I'm doing something else than have to devote all my attention to reading a book. Second, I don't want to give these people money. Third, what people say in interviews often gives you a better insight into what they really think than what you can get in just their printed word. They "let their hair down," as the saying goes, and you can get a feel for what's really going on inside their head when they talk about this stuff. Which is why in this episode I'm going to discuss the two interviews I have of him separately.

His book, "The Dark Star," was published October 1, 2005, and it currently has a 4.5-star rating out of 9 reviews on the US store. Only one review is 1-star. From his bio, he has an undergraduate degree in chemistry and is currently a registered general nurse. He's not a professional astronomer, physicist, nor geologist, but unlike Sitchin and Velikovsky, or even Gregg Braden, Andy has at least some background in science.

The Dark Star

As I started off with, Andy is a devotee of Sitchin, and what I mean by that is he is fascinated by Sitchin's ideas from his books and wanted to figure out if they could really be true. And what he found was that many of Sitchin's ideas simply are physically impossible.

Which was impressive. I don't often say this about the people I discuss on the podcast, but Andy Lloyd, a published author in UFO Magazine and a fan of Sitchin's, was willing to stand up and say that Sitchin was wrong on several different things.

One is the 3600-year-orbiting planet. Andy somewhat correctly stated that if there were such a planet that has been on its orbit for the lifetime of the solar system, that it's unlikely Earth would have survived due to gravitational perturbations.

He also doesn't really think a 3600-year-orbiting planet works with how far away it needs to be now to not have been detected. He advocates something more like 5,000-10,000 years in orbit, and that it may have only recently been launched on such a trajectory. "Recently" as in, maybe 100,000 years ago.

Another major difference between his scenario and Sitchin's - and one that gives the book its title - is that the actual world on which the Anunnaki live is what he terms a "moon" of a brown dwarf star. Let me state right away that it would not be a moon of a star, just as Earth is not a moon of the Sun. It would be a planet. That ticked me off every time I heard him call it a "moon." But, moving on ...

... he claims that, basically, the Sun is part of a binary star system with its companion star being a brown dwarf around which the planet with the Anunnaki live. This solves one of the other major issues with Sitchin's idea in that there's no heat source, and that when Nibiru would be closest to the sun it would be somewhat Earth-like, but when it's way beyond Pluto, it would be frozen. The planet orbiting a brown dwarf star - on a very close orbit - would stay warm. There are a few problems with this, but I'll get into those in a bit.

Those are really the MAJOR changes to Sitchin's idea -- different orbit and it orbits around a binary companion to the sun. It seems like these were really an honest attempt to figure out how to make Stitchen's stuff work but within a plausible physical context. Hence this quote: [Coast to Coast AM, August 18, 2008, Hour 3, starting 04:03]

"For Sitchin to be right, it's got to work! It's got to make sense ... When the planet x object is discovered, it's a plausible scenario with some sort of concrete physical underpinnings."

With that in mind, I was really rooting for the guy, but we can look at whether these two changes solve problems and/or if they introduce major new ones.

Problem 1: Historic Observations

The first problem that it does not solve is a lack of historic observations. I'm going to get it out of the way first because it's not really astronomy, even though it was the last thing I discussed in Sitchin's episode. The idea is that all these ancient civilizations were excellent stargazers and recorders of the sky. And yet, we are asked to believe that the only record of a friggin' planet swinging by is only recorded in improperly translated tablets from one ancient civilization? That strains credulity.

Problem 2: Co-Evolution?

The second of two non-astronomy issues is co-evolution or convergent evolution. Lloyd's scenario is that both Earth and Nibiru were seeded by very very primitive life -- basically the panspermia idea (see AstronomyCast episode 52.5). It's only in maybe the last few hundred thousand years that Nibiru and Earth have had any close contact. And yet, Lloyd says that the Anunnaki look like us except are maybe a bit taller. That means they would have to have evolved along the same path that humans did ... pretty much impossible, and one of the major issues that Steve Novella had with the movie "Prometheus" from last year. But, it's a very popular misconception. Though, if you're a fan of something like Intelligent Design and/or GodDidIt, this isn't an issue for you.

Problem 3: Brown Dwarf in the Inner Solar System

There are a couple different astronomy / physics issues with his scenario, too, but I'm just going to hit the two main ones that struck me while listening to him while I was cleaning my office. The first has to do with the idea of the planet orbiting a star, and that's what comes by Earth. Let's step back a bit:

Andy proposed this as a method to keep the inhabitants of Nibiru warm when the planet was in the far reaches of the solar system. He also used it for plausibility -- much of Andy's interviews were spent explaining that the outer solar system is still a mystery, and that what he was saying, in principle, were not so crazy and were accepted by and supported by many real astronomers these days. That being that there could be a giant planet out there and a planet could be habitable if it orbited a brown dwarf star and that the Sun may be part of a binary star system. I'm going to get into that last part in a future episode.

But that is sorta true. Or at least, each part of that statement could be individually valid because we DON'T understand the outer solar system very well, and there are some anomalies that COULD be explained by another planet out there. Or at least a planet in the classical sense, maybe not under the IAU's definition. And a brown dwarf star COULD keep a planet warm enough to support life. A brown dwarf star being an object between about 13x size of Jupiter and about 80 times Jupiter's size that creates heat by perhaps fusing dueterium but mostly compressing itself.

The problem is then attaching the Greater Sitchin idea that this object has ever swung into the inner solar system.

Andy tried to save this by saying that maybe it only recently started coming in, but I'm sorry, that just doesn't work. You're talking about not just a planet like Earth coming into the inner solar system in recorded historical times that wasn't recorded, but you're adding to that a failed star many 10s of times the mass of Jupiter. The asteroid belt would be a wreck even from a single passage through it or nearby it, and yet the asteroid belt shows very good dynamical stability, meaning it's been left alone with large masses where they currently are for many 100s of millions of years.

Problem 4: Orbiting a Brown Dwarf

Then we get into the second problem, which is how an Earth-like planet could host life in orbit around a brown dwarf. For this, I actually cracked open some books and did some math, something I haven't done in awhile for this podcast because I'm lazy. Brown dwarfs, because they're basically a filler between a cool red dwarf "real" star and a Jupiter-sized planet, don't have a set temperature just like stars have a range of temperatures. They can be anywhere from around 500 K, which is around as hot as Mercury gets though I've seen some estimates that they could be down to 300 K, and they can get up to maybe 3000 K. The average numbers I saw are around 2000 K, about 1/3 as hot as the sun. And here we're talking how hot the "surface" is.

So let's use 2000 K as the temperature. The diameter of these is estimated to be roughly 1.5 to a few times the size of Jupiter. That may seem weird first off: How can something 50x Jupiter's mass be only 3x its diameter? First, remember that mass goes with the diameter-cubed, so 3x the diameter if the same density is 27x the mass. Second, gas compresses, and so stars are denser than planets. As a rough estimate, let's say that the diameter is about 2x Jupiter's.

Using the equation for planetary equilibrium temperature, which gives us around 255 K for Earth which is COOLER than Earth is by around 20-30 K due to greenhouse gases, we can figure out how far from the brown dwarf Nibiru is supposed to be. Doing the math, you get about 3.5 million km, or about 2.2 million miles. The distance between the Sun and Mercury is about 58 million km, or about 36 million miles ... 16-17x farther away. In this situation, the brown dwarf would look about 9x larger than the sun in our sky.

Okay, so it looks big. That in itself would be neat, but what does that closeness have to do with the habitability? In the interviews, Andy Lloyd makes specific analogy to Io and Europa, the two closest large moons of Jupiter. These are warmed by tidal effects with Jupiter, meaning that one side of the moon is far enough away from the far side of the moon that the difference in gravity flexes the moon enough to warm it up. As a result, Io is the most volcanic body in the solar system, and Europa probably has a sub-icean ocean.

This also emphasizes what Andy DOESN'T know about astronomy, as someone who hasn't studied it, and it is a perfect example of how, in solving one perhaps obvious problem with Sitchin's work, he's introduced a subtler one that a lay person wouldn't know as much about.

In fact, you can calculate through fairly straight-forward arithmetic the amount of tidal force the planet would experience around the hypothetical brown dwarf star at this distance of just 3.5 million kilometers. When I do the math, I get something like 3*10^26 N. Sounds big. In comparison, Io experiences about 4*10^25 N. Our moon experiences around 7*10^21 N around Earth.

In other words, the Planet X that Andy is advocating for would experience nearly 10x the tidal heating that Io does around Jupiter. Not only would the planet quickly be tidally locked, meaning that the same side would always face the star, but it would be a volcanic wasteland like Io.

Okay, so let's say instead that we want an equilibrium temperature of 150 K, and assume that another 150 K is produce through tides and an atmosphere. That puts the planet 10.2 million km from the brown dwarf, and it would experience around 1/4 the tidal force that Io does, but it's still over 2x the tidal effect that Europa does, and it would still be tidally locked to the star where one side would get much hotter than the other.

My science point here is that, again, he can solve the problem of a heat source by sticking this around a brown dwarf, but he introduces the lesser known problem of the effects of gravitational tides. He makes the layperson mistake of the hand-wavey explanation that tides would help because it warms up the planet more, but he doesn't do the math to see that in helping, he pushes too far, the tidal force is too much, and regardless of how you play with the numbers, you get a situation that probably can't work because you'd still end up tidally locked with one hemisphere too warm and the other too cold. You then require a lot of special pleading to make it all work out.

This also gets into one of my pet peeves with the "amateur scientist" type who claims to re-write physics: They often say that mainstream scientists would never come up with their solution because mainstream science is all so specialized, that different fields effectively don't talk with each other. But the amateur scientist does.

In fact, this is a perfect example of how this is often the OPPOSITE of what's true: By ignoring these other effects, by ignoring the full implications of what he's proposing, Andy comes up with a solution to a fake problem that no professional would suggest because of these implications from other fields.

But, that's my own little side-bar rant for this episode.

Where Is It? and 2008 to 2009 Changes

The final aspect I want to talk about is where this object that Andy proposes currently is. Humorously, when asked by the radio host, "Where can you find the Dark Star?" Andy replied, "Sagittarius." The host, perhaps not the quickest in the pack, paused for several seconds, and then replied, "No, I mean the book."

That bad joke aside, though mentioned for the benefit of the folks at the CoastGab forum, Andy says that the object right now, in our sky, is in the spot where it's hardest to find. In other words, the needle isn't laying out on the table, it's in that haystack. While that's convenient, it's honestly, in my opinion, a somewhat reasonable answer. After all, if it were out there and we haven't found it yet, it must be difficult to find, and Sagittarius is towards the center of the galaxy so there are a lot of other objects for it to hide among.

Here's also where I want to get into the difference between his 2008 and 2009 interview. When I listened to his 2008 interview, it sounded like a guy who liked science and liked Sitchin and wanted to fix Sitchin's idea to make it work and published this book and was doing the radio circuit a few years later. In other words, he seemed reasonable. He talked about how infrared sky surveys were somewhat incomplete, and he talked about the 1983 IRAS non-discovery. He did mischaracterize it by simply saying that there were some controversies among different parts of the IRAS science team and that some objects weren't followed up. Okay, he was wrong, as I discussed in Episode 54, The Fake Story of Planet X, Part 5, but perhaps another honest mistake by a guy who was simply reading stuff at a non-expert level.

Then, eight months later, in March 2009, he was on the radio again. He spent his entire first hour talking about how it's all a conspiracy, that NASA found it in the IRAS survey, it's hiding it, he mis-quotes the Washington Post article, and it was all a big cover-up. He even says that President Reagan went before the UN and proposed the question of what would happen if we were under a common threat by aliens and just a year later the USSR collapsed, "due to economic problems, but economic issues were never a problem for the Soviets in the past!" It seriously sounded like a different person. I unfortunately can't read minds, but I wondered if maybe the conspiracy stuff was just an act in order to appeal to the more UFO and fringe audiences.

The problem with this is again that he doesn't do the simple math. The absolute magnitude of a brown dwarf star is around +22. The magnitude scale is a measurement of brightness, where bright objects have low numbers, like the sun is -26, and faint objects are big numbers, like Pluto's around +14. Absolute magnitude is how bright the object is if it's 10 parsecs away, or about 33 light-years. You can use a very simple formula to figure out how bright a brown dwarf star with an absolute magnitude of about +22 would be in our sky IF it were on an orbit with a period of about 5000 years.

The problem with this is again that he doesn't do the simple math. The absolute magnitude of a brown dwarf star is around +22. The magnitude scale is a measurement of brightness, where bright objects have low numbers, like the sun is -26, and faint objects are big numbers, like Pluto's around +14. Absolute magnitude is how bright the object is if it's 10 parsecs away, or about 33 light-years. You can use a very simple formula to figure out how bright a brown dwarf star with an absolute magnitude of about +22 would be in our sky IF it were on an orbit with a period of about 5000 years.

When I do the math, I get somewhere around an apparent magnitude of +3. The faintest objects visible to the unaided eye are around +6, and in an urban area, +3 is about the limit. It's brighter than the planet Uranus and brighter than Neptune and brighter than the faintest that Mercury gets. And yet, somehow, we haven't seen it. Andy claimed this was because most of its light is emitted in the infrared, but I'm not talking about infrared magnitude, I'm talking about visible light -- the average brown dwarf star has a VISIBLE LIGHT absolute magnitude of +22.

There are a few other things I could pick at that he said. Only one is barely worth mentioning, and that's in his line of how NASA covered up the IRAS apparent discovery. He claimed that NASA first said it found a Jupiter-sized object in orbit around the Sun, but then they watered down the claim to say it was Neptune-sized, and then they watered it down more to say it was a far-off galaxy. Then he said: [Coast to Coast AM, March 04, 2009, Hour 2, starting 26:12]

"I mean, how do you pick up a galaxy in infrared? You know, they were just throwing ideas out to try and water the story down."

This shows at this point general ignorance of the field of astronomy for which he's professing competence. The answer is pretty easy: As stuff is farther away from us, it is moving faster due to the expansion of the universe. Light waves get spread out, just like sound waves do when you move away from the source of the light. Longer light wavelengths are redder. You eventually push past visible to peak in the infrared. Not that hard. Something you learn in an introductory astronomy course. And yet something that he apparently does not know and so becomes part of the conspiracy and shows his lack of comprehension of the subject.

And this all gets back to my original point that Andy obviously knows more astronomy than Sitchin did or than some of these other folks. But, he's still limited and by not having a rounded idea of the implications of his Dark Star, he proposes something that's perhaps more plausible than Sitchin's model, but it's still fundamentally flawed in many ways, putting it into the realm of yet another Fake Story of Planet X.

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