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Occam Ignores Tunguska

A popular news story doing the rounds this week is this item about how recent space shuttle launches may have solved the mystery of what hit Tunguska in 1908: a comet. Key to the new theory are ‘noctilucent clouds‘, which were seen over Europe in the days following the explosion, and the fact that these clouds are also created by the Space Shuttle on take-off:

About 97 percent of the exhaust from a shuttle launch turns into water, a by-product of the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel. A single shuttle flight pumps 300 metric tons of water vapor into the Earth’s thermosphere, and the water particles have been found to travel to the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Noctilucent clouds were tied to the launch of Endeavour (STS-118) on Aug. 8, 2007. And high-altitude clouds were detected over Antarctica shortly after the fateful launch of Columbia, which along with its crew was lost during re-entry. Columbia’s plume was 650 miles long and 2 miles wide and reached Antarctica in three days.

Cornell University engineering professor Michael Kelley figured the bright night skies after the Tunguska event must have been the result of noctilucent clouds. And since they require water vapor, Kelley assumed a comet was the culprit.

It’s worth noting though that for the theory to work, a completely “new model of upper-atmospheric physics is needed” to explain how the water vapour traveled so far. Given that rather large leap, I found it quite ironic that the article begins by ridiculing the ‘UFO theory’ for Tunguska, then proceeds to explain how a spaceship leaving the Earth shows that the event was caused by a comet. Funny stuff.

For those looking to read the original paper, it can be found in Geophysical Research Letter, and is titled “Two-dimensional turbulence, space shuttle plume transport in the thermosphere, and a possible relation to the Great Siberian Impact Event.”

  1. wrote: Cornell
    []Cornell University engineering professor Michael Kelley figured the bright night skies after the Tunguska event must have been the result of noctilucent clouds. And since they require water vapor, Kelley assumed a comet was the culprit.[/quote]

    So an assumption based on an assumption is science now at

      1. Assumptions
        Assumptions are quickly turned into facts if done from a ‘scientific’ point of view. Otherwise, the idea gets stranded, you can’t get anywhere.

        Why do you think that scientists are so upset at ideas that question issues that to them are fundamental? If you remove a single brick of the edifice, the whole structure is jeopardized and you risk having to start from scratch again.

        An assumption can coincide with some observations but may not represent the whole picture, or it may, but then it is only an ‘educated’ guess.

    1. reading the next sentence
      Reading the next sentence in the article suggests otherwise:

      But physics suggests otherwise.

      and a little further down

      “Our observations show that current understanding of the mesosphere-lower thermosphere region is quite poor,” said Charlie Seyler, Cornell professor of electrical engineering and a co-author of the research paper.

      It is not how fast you go
      it is when you get there.

      1. Virgin areas of science
        These areas give way to more open mindedness because there is not as much to protect yet. So, someone is ready to consider general assumptions of the past to be wrong to allow new ideas, especially if the new idea dismisses another idea that would attack the very heart of science.

        Personally, I am quite doubtful of a spaceship explosion.

        The idea of a small cometary body could also make much sense considering how long the tail can become, which could explain the impression of fast travel of water vapour in a given direction.

        What I found most remarkable in this case is how quickly they were ready to consider an idea that did not seem to fit with the supposed physics.

        There is something else too.

        I tend to feel that as we get more and more data that conflicts with accepted ideas, which happens increasingly more often, especially in the field of astrophysics, that more and more of the younger scientists will start questioning a dogma that only stands because of a sort of scientific pride and will be willing to consider alternatives.

        People are not stupid, they are simply stubborned and don’t have access to all the information that would be necessary in the framework of an empirical system.

        The more info they have access to, the more untenable certain positions may become. Once the sense of loss is gone, then the inquisitive scientific may take over again.

        On the short term, science is too much driven by greedy interests, those who finance science, and by territorial attitudes, those who sit on top of the scientific pyramid.

        But again, people’s problem is not a lack of intelligence, it is a lack of information.

        There are great scientific minds out there, but they have invested too much of their lives to support ideas to allow themselves to question the foundation that support those ideas.

        And then again, no one wants to be excluded from the club.

  2. What, again with the craterless claim?
    [quote]Based on the lack of a crater [emphasis mine], scientists say the object did not smack into the ground, but rather exploded above the surface, the damage being done by the resulting shock wave.[/quote]

    Uh… lack of crater? Pardon me but, wasn’t there a recent news 2 years ago that some scientists had finally found the missing crater of Tunguska? Oh, here it is (thx Google).

    It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
    It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

    Red Pill Junkie

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