Posted by Michael Hiteshew on August 29th, 2004 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Update: It appears this story was meant as humor.
(My thanks to Patrick)
Bruce Callander, writing for the Cheboygan Daily Tribune:
…the weather has continued to deteriorate and the forecast is that it will be worse next year.There are two possible explanations, both of them connected with the space program although not in the way the old wives’ tales suggest.
The first theory is that although landing on the moon had no effect on terrestrial weather, the more recent unmanned probes of Mars well may have disrupted our climate in ways just now becoming apparent. It stands to reason.
Ummm, no it doesn’t. But please, do go on….
The delicate balance of the solar system can be disrupted by any number of things. Look at the chaos cause by sun spots, for example.
I love it when people mix apple and oranges. Sunspots are cooler areas on the sun’s surface and are associated with cyclical changes changes in the sun’s electromagnetic field lines. See here. In addition, they are also associated with changes in the power output of the sun, the solar flux. In fact, long period changes in solar power output and long period changes in the shape of earths orbit are considered likely explanations for the cyclical advent and retreat of the ice ages. However, I need to ask: What’s that got to do with rockets and spaceships and how they could effect earths climate? Well, that’s never explained.
It is quite possible that landing foreign objects on other planets or even just flying in their vicinity could have catastrophic effects.
Follow the logic? Me neither. We know ‘A’ is probably true, so therefore ‘B’ – which is totally unrelated to ‘A’ – is quite possibly true. Excuse me, Bruce, can we go over that step again? I’m really not following you.
And how, pray tell, does this mysterious effect work? One little shred of evidence for this assertion would be nice. But I interrupt. Please continue your exposition. It’s fascinating.
Some eminent authorities on subjects such as hydraulics and beekeeping have suggested it might be wise to cut back on NASA’s budget until we know more about its effects on climate change.
Beekeepers? I assume you mean beekeepers who’re versed in celestial mechanics. And climatology.
The second theory is that it is the space launches themselves, not their destinations, that cause the trouble. To understand this, you have to remember Newton’s third law of motion – that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
He invokes Newtons Third Law, so he must know what he’s talking about, right?
From watching space launches on television, you have seen how much force it takes to get even an unmanned space vehicle off the ground. It takes even more if there are five or six heavy people aboard in those space suits and bulky shoes. They have been using women more often lately, but even so, it takes a lot of power to overcome the earth’s gravity.
This is a joke, right? You’re putting us on. This is satire or something. (Checks date. No, wasn’t posted on April 1st. Checks links. Hmmmm. Seems to be a real ‘newspaper’.)
If it takes that much power to raise a rocket, then according to Newton, the same amount of force is being exerted on the earth. Considering the earth’s bulk, one lift-off may not have much effect, but think how many launches there are from Cape Kennedy every year and assume that each launch pushes the planet a few feet out of its normal orbit. In the course of a decade, that could amount to a major displacement, enough to have a major effect on the earth’s climate.
That’s sort of true. Sort of. When a rocket lifts off, it’s not because it’s ‘pushing against the earth’ or the air or anything else (otherwise, they would not work in space, which is basically a vacuum). It’s because the hot, expanding gas inside combustion chamber is pushing on the rocket. It pushes in all directions. In the horizontal directions, it is equalized. However much force pushes to the left is balanced by the force pushing to the right. The upward force, however, is not being negated because the bottom of the combustion chamber is open! The gas simply escapes away in that direction. The escaping gas does impact the earths surface, but only while the rocket is sitting on the ground. After that, the exhaust is simply pushing a lot of air around. So the only force exerted directly on the earth is that fraction that is moving downward. To put into perspective how small, in relative terms, that force is, remember that same force was contained by the steel wall of the rocket motor combustion chamber. And that force is going to move the earth a few feet?
But why stop there? Which direction is down? Toward the center of the earth. Which direction is that in relation to our orbit? Depends on the time of day and where on the earths surface you are. At midnight it would be directly toward the sun. At noon, directly away. At sunrise, it would push momentarily ‘against’ our direction around the sun (slowing it’s forward velocity), at sunset pushing with that direction (adding to it’s velocity). I hope I don’t have those last two backwards. Still, I’d bet the sum is a random distribution of directions.
This doesn’t even touch on the fact that in comparison to the miniscule force exerted by the rocket on the earth, the sun, the moon, all the the planets and their moons, asteroids, and even the occasional comet are all pulling the earth in various directions all the time and always have. Our orbit is the determined by the sum of all those forces.
To test the theory about landing on other planets, the only thing to do is to stop sending out those probes until we see if the weather returns to normal.
That’s the only thing to do to ‘test’ your (deeply informed and thoroughly researched) theory? Shut down the space program? Not do some calculations. Not put forth a coherent theory based on scientic research and document a cause/effect relationship. Stopping the space program is the ‘only’ thing to do.
Here’s a suggestion. How about scientifically illiterate writers stop putting psuedoscientific claptrap in front of the public and see if the level of misinformation in the mind of the general public goes down? I’ll bet that’s an easily provable cause & effect relationship.