Class Warfare Blog

August 25, 2017

Aliens … and Dinosaurs!

Having covered all of the ground possible … and a lot more, the Ancient Aliens TV show has hit a new high, or low, depending on your point of view. They kept many of the same people on staff, introduced some new folks, and they kept their normal whirlwind pace, one that doesn’t allow much time for consideration of the fabulous things they propose, such as aliens being the cause of the demise of the dinosaurs.

The main thrust of this episode is indeed that it might just be possible, maybe coulda been, that aliens eliminated the dinosaurs so we could thrive. I won’t comment on the “evidence” they present but there was one point at which the idiocy achieved new heights. They were developing a line of argument challenging the facts that humans are 2-3 million years old at best but “all” of the dinosaurs perished 65 million years ago, in what was considered an extinction level even involving a rather large meteor, landing in Mexico, but clearly dinosaurs and humans lived alongside one another … well, and aliens, too, of course.

They trotted out the éminence grise of this generation of unbridled thinkers, Erich von Daniken, to ask the question: If this was an event large enough to kill “all” of the dinosaurs, why did it kill off just the dinosaurs? (Apparently enquiring minds want to know.) Well, the event in question is called the Cretaceous-Paleocene mass extinction event and it resulted in about 75% of all species on the planet being wiped out, not “just” the dinos. And, it didn’t even kill off all of the dinosaurs! Many of the smaller theropods (what most of us think of when we think of dinosaurs), that is those under 25 kg/55 lb in mass, survived. Of course, the big beasties died.

The show then went on it’s merry way establishing that dinosaurs and human beings could possibly have lived together (mighta coulda). They didn’t mention Alley Oop in their arguments but they did throw in the Loch Ness monster and coelacanths. Right in the middle of this a talking head I didn’t bother to identify started bad mouthing radiocarbon dating, saying things like it was based on the production of carbon-14 in the atmosphere by cosmic rays (true) and that the rate of production may have been different millions of years ago (also true) and that these things could affect the dates on early human and dinosaurs remains (uh, not so much). If you want to know why I was puzzled, Dear Reader, read on.

Carbon-14 Dating: A Primer
All radioactivity-based dating methods are based upon a factoid of radioactive isotopes (kinds of elements): they all decay in a pattern involving a half-life. A half-life is an amount of time in which a radioactive sample loses half of its radioactivity. Interestingly, the next halving of that sample’s radioactivity takes the same amount of time, as does the next even though there is less and less to lose. This creates a situation that is summarized in a rule of thumb: a radioactive isotope can be used to date object as much as 10 half-lives back in time. The amount of radioactivity in a living animal cannot be very high in the first place. Comic books aside, radioactivity in high doses is typically lethal. So, all living plants and animals start out with only tiny amounts of radioactive elements in their bodies. Then after one half life, half of it is gone (unless it is replaced which in the case of carbon-14 happens because we eat carbon atoms in all of our food and plants absorb carbon dioxide—this, of course, stops when the plant or animal dies). After two half lives, only a quarter remains because half is lost in the first period and half of what is left was gone after the second. After the third half-life one eighth is left, after the fourth, one sixteenth is left, etc. After ten half-lives 1/210 is left. As a percent that is a little less than 0.1%. Since very little was started with, at this point close to zero is left, so there is basically nothing to measure.

So, what is the half-life of carbon-14 you ask? (You’d better!) It is 5730 years. Ten times this number is 57,300 years. This is the time span that radiocarbon dating can be used. That won’t get you back before Homo sapiens begins (200,000-300,000 years) let alone back to the large theropods getting killed off 66 million years ago. This is a classic smokescreen tactic, used often in this show. Throw anything you got against the wall and see if it sticks.

The Problem With All of This
As you are probably aware, Americans are not the most scientifically-literate people on the planet. As more and more of this bushwah is passed off as some sort of legitimate argumentation (It is not!), people are going to more easily believe the bullshit our governments peddle us. Global warming? That’s a hoax perpetrated by greedy scientists looking for grants. Dumping mine wastes laced with toxic heavy metals, not a problem. The Earth cleans itself. Lead in drinking water? A little bit is okay; go ahead and drink it.

The Exxon Corporation has released documents showing that 80% of the studies they undertook or analyzed showed that global warming/climate change was real and had real negative consequences. At the same time, 80% of its marketing budgets on the topic went to casting shade on the topic (for decades). Their problem is that one of the greatest sources of the climate change problem is the burning of petroleum products, which is what Exxon is in business for.

 

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July 30, 2016

An Intellectual Train Wreck

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:02 am
Tags: , , , ,

I was watching an episode of Ancient Aliens last night (I know, I know … but I can’t stop watching, there is the alluring fascination of watching a scientific train wreck). This episode (Space Station Moon, Season 11, Episode 11) addressed the question of whether the moon might actually be hollow and be a space station inhabited by … wait for it … aliens, who are stationed there to keep a tab on us. I guess theists aren’t the only ones who think we are special (one of the universe’s most watched species!).

In any case, they began with some basic facts about the moon, delivered by Rick Stroud (great name, could have been a private investigator) who wrote a book called “The Book of the Moon.” So far so good. The first words about the moon uttered by Mr. Stroud were that the moon “glows” because of reflected sunlight, it not being hot enough to create its own light. This is good, solid, basic information. But then … then Mr. Stroud says this:

The reason that the moon has phases is because the Earth blocks the light of the Sun. As the Moon moves around the earth, it gets incrementally a little bit more, a little bit more of the Sun’s light.”

WTF? Bullshit Alert! Bullshit Alert! (That’s bullshite for you Brits.)

Apparently the good author got a little mixed up and thought he was describing a lunar eclipse. If his description were valid, we would have a lunar eclipse every month and anyone who has ever seen a lunar eclipse has noted that it begins and ends in just a few hours. So, by this description, all of the phases of the moon would be seen occurring in just a couple of hours and the moon would be full for the entire rest of the month!

The reason this description is patent bullshit, is for it to be true, then the Moon’s orbit would have to be in the same plane as that of the Earth’s around the Sun. It is not, it is tilted by about five degrees (5°), which is why we do not have a lunar eclipse every month.

But even if the orbits were co-planar, we would still see the phases of the moon (full moon, waning moons, waxing moons, new moon, etc.) because of the real reason for the phases of the moon which is:

The moon travels around the Earth and the side of the moon facing the sun receives its illumination and is “lit up.” When the moon is between the sun and Earth, the lit up side faces away from us and the moon is dark from our vantage point ( a new moon). Then the moon moves on and about two weeks later it is on the far side of the Earth (away from the sun) and because its orbit is tilted a bit, the side facing the sun is still being lit (it is not in Earth’s shadow) and we can see it fully lit from the side of Earth not being lit, that is during our night time (a fully lit moon, or full moon). Half way between these two positions (one week to either side) the side of the moon facing the sun is at a right angle to us and we see the Moon as being half lit. (As a side note, because the Moon rotates on its axis in the same period of time it revolves around the Earth, the same side of the moon is always lit and the dark side of the moon is never seen.)

So, the producers of this episode of Ancient Aliens thought that Mr. Stroud was the perfect source for this basic information as he has “written” the book “The Book of the Moon,” but if they had just done a little research they would have found out that Mr. Rick Stroud is not an astronomer, but is a television director. (Hey, somebody had to cash in on the book following the documentary, why not the director?)

Or if one of the producers were to have done a little fact-checking by looking up “phases of the moon” on Wikipedia, or … oh, what the Hell … the aliens did it, the aliens did it. Now, I feel better now that I know what really happened.

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