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Episode 107: Clip Show #2

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Recap: It's that time again when several small bits of pseudoscience have accumulated to the overflowing point, and I've put them together into another clip show. This one discusses whether gravity is a force (or if we've been lied to about it), whether the moon is a hologram (put up there by Illuminati aliens?), and something weird about rainbows and chemtrails and evil.

My Recent Interviews!!

Puzzler for Episode 107: There was no Puzzler in this episode.

Q&A: This isn't exactly a Q&A question, but Cathy asked on Facebook if I could discuss the announcement of a formation of a new moon around Saturn. Since it's not feedback, and not really New News, I've stuck it into Q&A as a, "What's up with this, anyway?" kinda question.

The paper that was published that was the source of this press release is by Carl Murray and others, published in one of the four main planetary science journals, Icarus, and entitled, "The discovery and dynamical evolution of an object at the outer edge of Saturn's A ring." The paper is just over three pages long, and the abstract is only two sentences long: "We report on the serendipitous discovery of an unresolved, evolving, sub-km-radius object with a semimajor axis <10 km inside that of the edge of Saturn’s main rings. The object has been detectable in Cassini images since at least May 2012 and its changing orbit shows evidence of a possible disruption in early 2013."

Relevant to an image that's been making the rounds lately from the Curiosity rover on Mars, I like this sentence in the paper: "The discovery image was one of a pair taken 33 s apart with exposure durations of 680 ms and 150 ms; the feature was apparent in both images thereby ruling out the possibility of it being a cosmic ray artefact."

Without getting too technical, Saturn's rings are a very dynamic place with lots of complicated interactions between ring particles, the numerous known moons and possibly unknown moons, and the gravity field of Saturn itself.

Classically speaking, the Roche Limit is the distance from a planet where an object will break up due to tidal forces, and/or that cohesive objects can't accrete together because as soon as they form, they'll be ripped apart by tidal forces. Tidal forces being that the force of gravity from the parent object - Saturn in this case - is so much stronger on the side closest to it, and the force of gravity is so much weaker on the side facing away, that it's just ripped apart.

But, that's a simplified model. We know that the Roche Limit isn't perfect because Mars' moon Phobos is within the Roche Limit but it's still intact. The main rings of Saturn are within the Roche Limit, but they DO show structure, and there ARE a few moons within the rings, though most are outside of it.

Part of the reason that you can get objects remaining intact is that they have material strength, like steel versus balsa wood. That's not factored into the classic Roche Limit equation. Part of the reason that you can get objects aggregating is that they can stick together, like if you press two snowballs together. You also have the moons just stirring things up, creating resonances where things are pulled or pushed together more than they normally would in just an unperturbed disk.

With all of these factors combined, many have hoped or expected that we would see aggregates like this. We've seen features called "propellers" for years which are 100s of meters across but have dynamic effects in the rings 100s km away. This latest object appears to be similar but not. It's near the outer edge of the A ring, so it's in the main rings but as far as you can get from Saturn and still be in the main rings, and that means that it's also perturbed a lot by the moons that gravitationally shepherd the rings.

That's all a very long and complicated way of saying that this is a neat observation, we may be seeing a new moon forming, or we may just be seeing an aggregate that got bigger than other aggregates just by chance, and it will be broken up soon, ripped apart by tidal forces. What's neat is that it's something that, if we were to go back to Saturn within our lifetimes, we may actually see the answer because the timescale for this isn't thousands of years.

Additional Materials:


Gravity Is Not an Accelerative Force

First up is a claim about gravity, set up by Gerald Clark, who researched "the forgotten history of humanity's Anunnaki legacy." For some reason, he was also delving into gravity [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, October 26, 2013, Hour 4, starting 12:14 - Gerald Clark interviewed by John B. Wells]:

"In the model for gravity, we're told that it's an accelerative force, 9.8 m/s^2 or 32 ft/s^2, [...] and if it were truly an accelerative force, you drop something at altitude, it would accelerate and keep accelerating until it hit the ground. It doesn't. It reaches a terminal velocity. So, our model for gravity is wrong, at least as an accelerative force. M-'k."

When I first heard this, I thought that it was an odd claim to make -- of course gravity is an accelerative force! That's what a force is! But, then I thought, "No, Stuart, that's just your physics classes talking. To people who haven't wasted their lives for the past 15 years studying this stuff, it may not be so clear." And that's why it's in this episode.

In physics, the definition of a force is through what it does - it is something that causes a change in the motion of an object. Forces can be fundamental, or they can be what I'll just term "secondary" contact forces for this episode's purposes.

Mathematically, Newton's Second Law states that force acting on an object is equal to its mass times its acceleration. That means that if an object is traveling in a vacuum at a constant velocity, it has zero acceleration, so the net force - the sum of all forces acting on it - is zero. If it were accelerating, then the force would be non-zero. Another way to look at this is that if you exert the same force on two objects with different masses - like if I push a bowling ball versus a styrofoam ball with the same force - then because of the bowling ball weighs more than the styrofoam ball, the bowling ball will show a smaller acceleration than the styrofoam ball. That's because when you multiply the mass by the resultant acceleration, the force must still be the same.

In introductory physics - and engineering - one of the staples of the class is to draw force diagrams. This is where you have to show an object and draw arrows on it in every direction that a force is acting, and the size of those arrows should be proportional to the forces.

Let's say I'm sitting here with my fat butt in my chair, not moving up, down, or any other direction. What forces are acting on me?

First off, gravity from Earth is pulling me down. That is a force. But, because I'm not moving, there must be an equal and opposite force - or sum of forces - pushing me back up. In this case, that's the chair, straining to hold me up, but providing that equal and opposite force. In this situation, gravity would be a fundamental force acting on me, while the secondary contact force is the chair pushing back.

If you want to get really complicated, it's the electromagnetic force of the molecules in my body being repulsed by the electromagnetic force of the molecules in the chair, so that's how you can reduce this down to fundamental forces, but that's unimportant for this discussion.

Another force diagram we can draw would be a pool ball on a pool table just as it's being hit by a cue. There are five forces acting on it in this case. First is gravity, pulling it towards the center of Earth. Second is the pool table, providing an equal and opposite force pushing it back up. Third is the pool cue, providing a very large force - we'll say "across" or "to the side" - and that is not balanced by anything. The fourth force is the tiny force of air resistance, in the opposite direction that the ball is moving. It's negligible in this case, but it becomes important later on. The fifth force is friction, also acting in the direction opposite the ball's motion.

So, five forces, two balanced, and two in the same direction opposing the third. What happens to the ball that's been struck? You imparted a huge force (relatively speaking), but it was a one-shot deal. You very rapidly accelerated the ball, and it will move across the table. In the absence of any other opposing force, it would continue in that direction at that velocity forever. But it doesn't. Both air resistance and friction provide constant opposing forces, still acting on the ball long after it has left contact with the cue stick. Because those forces are now acting on the ball, and because there is now nothing opposing them, they will decelerate the ball - provide an acceleration in the direction opposite motion - until it stops and there are only two forces again acting on it: The pool table pushing up and gravity pulling down. Barring of course it hitting another ball, side, or pocket.

Now, let's return to the original statement by Mr. Clark. He said that the model of gravity as an accelerative force is wrong because if you drop an object, it will accelerate, until it reaches a terminal velocity and then not accelerate anymore. Perhaps by this point you may be able to predict what I'm going to say about why he is incorrect.

If an object is dropped from space in the vicinity of a planetary body, it will fall towards that object due to gravity. Right away, by definition, gravity is an accelerative force. If it could not cause an object to accelerate, then the velocity would be unchanged, and the object would not fall at all.

But, just like in our pool ball example, there are opposing forces at work. An obvious one is when the object hits the ground. But if you have an atmosphere, then all those molecules and atoms in the atmosphere - air - will exert an opposite force, trying to decelerate the object. Since the decelerating force of air drag is proportional to the velocity, as the falling object moves faster, being accelerated under the constant accelerating force of gravity, the decelerating force of air drag actually increases. And, it reaches a point where the object is moving so fast that the decelerating force of air drag or air resistance is equal to that of gravity.

At that point, the object will still fall. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted on by an unbalanced force - another one of Newton's Laws. The falling object stays at the same, constant velocity because the forces on it are now balanced, so there is zero net acceleration.

So, unlike what Mr. Clark claimed, gravity is, indeed, an accelerative force, our models are correct, he just does not understand that air resistance is another force that will oppose motion.

And for the record, there are complications to this simple physics description, as there almost always are. But they're not worth getting into ... much. For example, since the density of air increases as you get closer to the surface of the planet, the drag force also increases so your object would slow down very slightly as terminal velocity decreases. And there are relativistic effects that come in if you're moving any appreciable fraction of the speed of light. But, the basic idea remains the same.

Lunar Holograms

A listener, local skeptic, and originator of Skepticamp sent me to a "Before It's News" story with a video entitled, "The 4 Lunar Hologram Waves Filmed So Far...". In it, the narrator claims that the moon is actually a hologram. He makes a caveat at the beginning, though:

"When we look at the moon, we get the sense of whether we're looking at a 2D projection or the actual 3D moon. This is a very difficult thing to prove, as much of it is gut feeling, and gut feeling is hard to prove."

That comes in at just before the first minute of the 11-minute video, so right away a keen skeptic or average observer should notice something: The only evidence that is likely to be presented is visual, where you are going to need to make a judgement call and where his personal opinion of how it looks is what this will be based on.

Moving on, he has an interesting idea about the burden of evidence:

"There are times when we put the camera on the moon that it just does not look 3D. And, what you're going to hear from the mainstream and science is, 'When the moon's fully lit, it'll look that way.' Well, I got news for you guys: I'm putting you all on notice, you have the burden of proof just like I do, you have to prove the things you have told us about the moon are true, you have to prove your science, you have to prove your moon shots, you have to prove everything, just like I do. I have to prove what I have witnessed now and what I know about the moon, and I will do that, but the mainstream line that we have been told about the moon is a lie.

While he was saying that, a quote attributed to Adolf Hitler flashed on the screen: "If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed." He went on to say that all the science, photos from Apollo, etc. are all lies. He also prefaced his evidence by saying that he had been contacted by people, covertly, who "should be in the know," that he's on the right track.

But, he raises an interesting question about the burden of evidence. Who has it in this case? Does the Hitler quote apply, philosophically?

Despite not being a philosopher or even playing one on TV, I would say "no." And I would invoke at least one logical fallacy as part of my reason for saying "no." That would be the argument from antiquity. The moon has been a fairly constant feature in our night sky since any sort of recorded history - oral or written - began. If the moon were a hologram, wouldn't it need to be a hologram since that time? So wouldn't it need to be aliens or something? It couldn't be the Illuminati or whomever, assuming it were done by people. I also don't think in this case this antiquity argument is a fallacy because it actually does offer positive evidence by way of necessitating a technology that we didn't have at that time to pull this off.

Another reason why I don't think we have the burden of evidence is that pretty much EVERYTHING says he's wrong. Every observation, every probe. Even if you don't believe any space probe or the Apollo missions - and there are people who don't - what about tides? There has to be something there that causes a large gravitational acceleration that behaves just as we would expect if the moon were a real, physical object, with that much mass. A mass that's consistent with an object of that volume given what we know about the gravitational constant that has been independently measured for over 100 years. You don't have to trust any observations of the moon itself - just look at its gravitational effects on Earth.

It's a clever way of twisting the burden of evidence, and it's one that we see often in pseudoscience, where the claimant says that mainstream science has just as much burden of evidence as they do. What they fundamentally ignore in that claim is that, usually, the reason that something actually IS mainstream science is because it has so much evidence for it, from different kinds of observations that are completely independent.

When looking at his claimed evidence - and I suggest you do and it's linked in the shownotes of course, in the interest of fairness and since video doesn't translate well into audio - he shows what he calls a "wave event." Which to me looks exactly like poorly synced scans on a video recording device.

He also shows what he calls UFOs that he "would have called birds in the old days" but doesn't anymore. To me, they look like out-of-focus bugs quickly moving across the camera's field of view.

But more to the point, in support of his claim, he shows these wave things, where the second one is different from the others and is preceded by what he calls a "wash." The second one just so happens to also be a half-full moon whereas the others are nearly full, and it just looks like he had bad weather: the atmosphere was very turbulent and so the moon looks wavy. We see this all the time.

But as I was saying, more to the point, he claims that these waves are evidence, and that it looks 2D to him but blows off the explanation that it's because of the phase of the moon when the sun is directly overhead so it looks flat. He says that he knows of that mainstream explanation, but that "there's a difference you can distinguish through an eyepiece." Sorry, but it's up to him to provide that explanation and criteria.

But let's talk about how he could show that at least the objective things he points to - UFOs and "the wave" - are real. I can think of a simple way: Get a second camera. Have two cameras, completely different makes and models, both looking at the moon at the same time. If the UFO appears in one and not the other, you know it's an issue with that camera as opposed to a real feature on the moon. And, for the wave part, you need some sort of other system that records the moon. I don't know the details of his system, but as I said, to me it looks like scan lines being out of sync. Perhaps a video feed from a camera into a computer, or the webcam-type camera that reads out line by line instead of a full image at a time; either of those seem likely from what looks like a recording artifact to me. So, get a different system entirely that uses a different technology, such as an SLR camera that will read out frame-by-frame as opposed to something like a GoPro or iPhone camera that reads out line-by-line. Oh, and did you see it with your eye at all, as opposed to through the video feed? If the wave shows up in everything, then you've gotten a step closer to showing that this a real phenomenon rather than an artifact of your recording method.

And, I think that's one of the things that separates the more skeptical and scientific type from the pseudoscientific and/or conspiratorial: They see a phenomenon and jump to conspiracy or something weird. We see a phenomenon and think of ways that it might not be real and to check for that first. And we don't post weird videos to YouTube about it.

In his wrap-up around the 9:30 mark, he says that there's no way he's the only one who's recorded this, but that no mainstream source has come out, therefore we're being lied to. That he is 90% sure there's a hologram covering the Moon.

Adding to the Rainbow

For listeners of Coast to Coast AM, all I have to say about this final clip is, "Steve Quayle."

For people not familiar with the man, without resorting to ad hominems, Steve Quayle is an individual who displays what one might call the signs of paranoid delusions with religious overtones. His bio on the Coast to Coast AM website states, "For over thirty years, he has been investigating ancient civilizations, giants, UFOs and biological warfare as they relate to the future of mankind. Stephen discusses the coming worst-case scenarios approaching this world and how they interrelate to each other. Earthquakes, volcanoes, nuclear and biological terrorism, coupled with the planned financial meltdown of the U.S. dollar will thrust us into unimagined tribulations. Stephen Quayle is on record as stating that we have moved from the realm of natural threats into the arena of supernaturally guided events of the unseen hand of evil orchestrating world events of unfathomable proportions."

On April first of this year - and no, it was not an April Fools Day show - Steve "contended that secret powerful forces have been aligned against humanity since ancient times, and currently manifest chaos and threats of war all over the world. He addressed how these forces hope to use genetic manipulation to create a super race of humans and hybrids. They believe they can enhance humanity and ultimately do away with the human genome, and substitute it with something sinister brewed in laboratories, he said. The word "xenogenesis" means to add a third set of chromosomes into the human genome, suggesting a connection to aliens or the fallen angels, he continued. "Transhumanism" with its life extension goals, and view of the human body as a work-in-progress is repellent to Quayle who sees it as a hubristic effort to outdo God's creation. Further, he argues that chemtrails and GMO foods are designed to destroy the atmosphere and cause negative changes in humanity. The current outbreak of Ebola and what looks like some strains of unknown hemorrhagic fevers are likely the result of someone testing a new bio-weapon, he added. As for the missing Malaysian plane, Quayle suspects it was hijacked by remote control, and according to his sources, actually landed in Pakistan. The Fukushima disaster may have been part of the Illuminati's goal to reduce the planetary population, he remarked. Birth defects are already showing up on the West Coast, and kids should be taking potassium blocking iodine, he advised. He also touched on the recent mysterious deaths of a number of bankers, whom he believes were silenced because they knew too much."

Within that smörgåsbord of topics, Steve addressed rainbows. In the two-minute clip I'm about to play, if you are a drinking person, I suggest taking a shot every time a new topic is brought up [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, April 1, 2014, Hour 4, starting 5:51 - Steve Quayle interviewed by George Noory]:

"By the way, I want to address the rainbow. The rainbow is an interesting thing. According to the CIA gentleman - and this is only in my book, and it's only because somebody felt they had to get this information out because this was a dying man's last wishes, and if he would have got it out while he was alive he would have been murdered. But the rainbow, if you look at the colors of the spectrum, those are frequencies of light, and those frequencies of light act as a barrier - if you will - to evil and malevolent spirits. By the way, it's not a religious statement: People all over the world since the beginning of time have under-- said, real basic, 'Good spirits, evil spirits.' That's why people with no 'exposure to Western theology,' Christianity, or civilization, like the tribes just found in the Amazon -- they know the difference. Well, the rainbow, as it's [...]; again, it blows my mind at just how the chemtrails - now here is where it's important - the chemtrails and all of the electromagnetic and the other forms of scalar energy that are transforming our weather into a, uh -- and I believe in global warming, I just don't think mankind is the cause of it, outside of fallen technology. But what's interesting, George, is that rainbow that was a promise - again, in the Bible - of God's covenant with mankind is being destroyed! That's why people send me photographs - I'm sure they send Coast [to Coast AM] photographs all the time! - of rainbows that have different colors. And those all have frequencies. All matter, all matter is energy vibrating at a specific frequency, under gravity, and gravity is pressure, it's not a wave, I know that people argue with that. But the point being, this is one of the most mind-blowing things, and this is why the chemtrails-- and somebody said, 'You know, isn't it just like they wanna bring about a primordial atmosphere on the Earth?' And somebody said, 'Well-- well, what does that mean?' I said, 'What it means is we're in for a very difficult time' ... ."

I counted at least eight different topics there, so I have at this point finished my Diet Coke with all its aspartame goodness.

But, there are a few things in there to tease out that make this actually worth talking about instead of raising the specter of, well, what would you think about someone if you heard them say that to you? Anyway, the claim about the rainbow is that (1) it is made of colors, (2) those colors represent frequencies of light, (6) and by the way matter is energy that vibrates at a frequency and (7) gravity is a wave, but by the way (3) those frequencies of light in the rainbow act as a barrier against evil, (4) the rainbow is being destroyed by chemtrails and other things, (5) as evidenced by photographs he's been sent, (8) therefore bad things are going to happen as the rainbow barrier that is a visible manifestation of light frequencies changes to presumably let evil in.

In order ... (1) Yes, a rainbow is made of colors.

(2) Colors are frequencies of light, which is also true. Rainbows occur because different wavelengths of light - or frequencies (they're interchangeable and you can convert from one to the other using the speed of light) - have different speeds in different kinds of material. Take a glass or plastic prism, for example. What's happening is that when the light passes from one medium - air - to another - glass or water or something else - its speed changes. If the light comes in and goes out perfectly straight, like if you have a window with no angled edges, then it's okay, you're not going to see any effect. But, not only does the speed change in the medium, but the amount it can be bent will also change IF it hits at an angle. That's why prisms are triangular and not rectangular, they require those non-parallel sides to get the effect. So, light either enters or leaves at an angle, and the faster frequencies, or shorter wavelengths, get bent more than the slower frequencies or longer wavelengths. (That would be purple versus red.) The same thing happens when you get small, spherical water drops, and you are looking in a direction opposite to a bright source like the sun or moon. The many water drops act like a prism as the light enters them and exits them at non-parallel angles, the red light getting bent a little and the purple being bent a lot. Technically speaking, if we could see infrared and ultraviolet light, and enough of it made it through the atmosphere, we would see the rainbow through those colors, as well, and not just through what is now the visible spectrum.

On to (6) that matter is energy that vibrates at certain frequencies. If String "Theory" is correct, then this is sorta also maybe kinda correct. I have a very tenuous grasp of string theory, but this is correct enough - if it is correct - to move on.

Point (7) was that gravity is a wave. Well, in the first clip, we covered that gravity is a force. What actually conveys that force is unknown, or at least undetected and unproven at this point. Pretty much all forces are thought to be conveyed from one "thing" to another by fundamental force carriers, such as photons or gluons. In the case of gravity, it's the hypothetical graviton, a particle that has never been detected individually. A paper published in 2006 suggested that it is impossible with current technology to do so because the likelihood of interaction - known as its cross-section - is so low, even lower than neutrinos which can pass through Earth without even blinking their anthropomorphized eyes. The paper suggested that if you put a particle detector with the mass of Jupiter around a neutron star, and it operated at 100% efficiency, it would detect 1 graviton every 10 years. But that the shield needed to prevent against a false detection due to neutrinos would collapse into a black hole. That said, gravitational waves, which are effectively coherent states of gravitons traversing the universe, could be detected and there are experiments out there that are trying. So while he says that gravity "is a wave," at this point it's somewhat semantics, though the Standard Model of Particle Physics holds it as being a particle.

On to point (3) that frequencies of light act as a barrier against evil. That's beyond the scope of this podcast.

Point (4) is that the rainbow is being destroyed by chemtrails and other things, and (5) is that he has photos as evidence. I'd like to see said evidence. I searched the web and couldn't find anything, though perhaps I was using the wrong search terms. But, other than camera anomalies - which would be that the camera detector is for red, green, and blue photons and uses combinations of those to represent color, and since rainbows are monochromatic it can really through camera sensors off if they're not that good - I have no idea what he's talking about. A rainbow is just a refraction of white light spread out into - visibly - the optical spectrum of red through purple. Saying that colors are missing just doesn't make any sense whatsoever. I've seen some rainbows that are incomplete because there was no rain there, so it appeared in parts that a color was fainter than another, but otherwise this is kinda crazy talk.

Which leads into the final point (8) that bad things are going to happen. Let's just say that I've listened to Steve Quayle say this for over a decade, that these bad things are just around the corner. As with all people who talk about doomsday, they've yet to be shown to be true. But, by looking into even something as stream-of-consciousness kinda crazy-sounding as this, there's still something that can be learned.

Provide Your Comments:

Comments to date: 2. Page 1 of 1. Average Rating:

Stuart R.   Lyons, CO, USA

8:32am on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

In general, yes, it is dependent on gravity because it's proportional to the normal force (force vector towards the main gravitational body). So if you're really far away from any appreciable mass, your friction force would be much less. In general, though, this is just wrapped into other parts of the equation.

Tuatara   New Zealand

1:22am on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 

Hi Stuart,

Excellent episode (as always). I was wondering about something when you mentioned friction as one of the forces acting on the billiard ball. Would friction increase in a higher gravity environment? My gut says "yes" but part of me thinks that I might be missing something. If it does though, are the changes enough to warrant extra calculations as you come closer to, or further away from, a centre of gravity?

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