2015-08-20 – The Internet is predicting an asteroid strike near Puerto Rico sometime between September 15 and September 28—a 13 day window. NBC News went to NASA to find out if there is any truth to the story.
Why would they do that? Isn’t the story obviously false?
There are multiple problems with the story, of course, but the most astounding one is the 13-day risk hanging over Puerto Rico. How could this be? The Earth turns—once a day. If you don’t know when an asteroid will strike any more precisely than sometime between September 15 and September 28, you couldn’t know that it would strike Puerto Rico.
Let’s assume you do know that the asteroid would hit 18.45 degrees north latitude, which is the latitude of Puerto Rico. I don’t even know if that is possible, but I don’t have to know if such a prediction is possible. I just know that, if the impact on Puerto Rico occurred now, in an hour it might be Jamaica, in the next few hours it might be Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. For the next half day or so, the impact would be in the Pacific Ocean. Then we’re talking the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Yemen, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania—with stretches of ocean in the gaps. Finally, another long stretch of the Atlantic Ocean before returning to Puerto Rico.
It all depends on the exact time of impact. Between September 15 and September 28, Puerto Rico passes in and out of the “impact zone” 13 times. If you are telling me that Puerto Rico is at risk the entire time, you are full of thermonuclear hot air!
Why do people believe this obviously false crap?
The answer is that they know nothing about how celestial objects move through the sky.
Yes, our rickety science education establishment does tell us that the Earth is round, that it turns on its axis once a day, that it revolves around the sun once a year along with a number of other planets, and that the moon revolves around the Earth in a little under a month. They show us models and schematic diagrams that supposedly prove these things to be true.
The proof is in the sky. You can actually see many of these things happen without the aid of a telescope if you pay attention to the sky over a period of time. How do you think scientists made the models and diagrams in the first place? They observed nature first then built the model based on what they observed.
We are not the first generation to be ignorant of the sky.
We all learned that Christopher Columbus’ great scientific breakthrough that enabled him to “discover” American was that he was the first to figure out that the Earth is round and not flat.
This is a lie.
The roundness of the Earth was common knowledge, at least in scientific circles, for at least a couple thousand years before old Chris set sail. If this knowledge was lacking in the Spanish population in 1492, we should not be surprised. The Spanish people were more interested in burning heretics during that year than they were in science.
Even the Bible gets a little tripped up on astronomical knowledge. Its very first mention of the sun and the moon go like this:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. (Gen. 1:14-18)
So what’s the problem here? The sun and moon do mark off days and seasons and years. But did you ever take a look at the moon? Yeah, the greater light (the sun) rules the day. But if you watch the lesser light (the moon) with any care, you would know that the moon does not in any way “rule the night”—certainly not in the same sense that the sun rules the day (indeed the sun defines the day).
For several days before and after the new moon (when the moon appears as a mere sliver at dusk in the western sky), the moon is almost entirely missing from the night sky altogether. During the waning and waxing phases, the moon is just as visible during the day as at night. It is only when the moon is near full that it could be said, in any sense, to be the ruler of the night sky.
What kind of ruler is present only a few days a month?
How do you explain this misstatement of facts that are obvious if you pay even the slightest attention? Clearly the author of the Bible didn’t pay attention to nature. If you don’t pay attention, you make a lot of mistakes.
Could the author of the Bible have made any other mistakes about science?
Sure, but like the folks who think Puerto Rico is going to be destroyed by an asteroid next month, like Chris Columbus’ compatriots who thought the world was flat, they didn’t care about science. If they got it wrong, so what?
The truth is, my life does not hang on whether I can recognize false Internet memes. Who cares if I can roughly guess the date in the Hebrew (lunar) calendar simply by looking in the sky? (This is quite possible, you know.) Does it help me put food on the table if I was watching Jupiter and Venus in the sky for weeks before they approached their conjunction in the sky earlier this summer? None of that makes dollars and cents for me. (As long as there are real scientists out there, I’m cool. It doesn’t depend on me.)
I just like to watch. I like to watch the sky. I like to pay attention to those slow movements—those that I can see in the light-polluted sky here in Chicago. I like noticing the phases of the moon. I like noticing the ebb and flow of dawn and dusk. I like watching the planets as they track the ecliptic.
And I like being irritated when the Internet gets it wrong.
#astronomy @AsteroidWatch #science