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Astrophysicistís Comments, Gary North
In November, 1992, I published
a position paper, Geocentricity-Geostationism: The Flat-Earth Temptation.
It was a critique of the geostationary hypothesis. I argued that this position
is not taught in the Bible. I cited James Jordanís 1981 essay to this effect,
ĎThe Geocentricity Question," which ICE had published in The Biblical Educator.
I made a number of laymanís
observations on the logic of geostationism, but the one I regard as clearest to
those not initiated into the arcane realm of astrophysics is one that was raised
in a question-and-answer session by an attendee of one of Dr. James Hansenís
seminars on geocentriaty. Dr. Hansen did not give what I regard as a straight
answer. The question is this:
If the earth is stationary, why
donít the communications satellites fall down?
This is a very simple, very
obvious question. It deserves an equally simple and obvious answer. These
satellites are said by modern astrophysics to be in geosynchronous orbit with
the rotation of the earth.
The gravity of the earth does
not pull them back to the earth because the centrifugal force of their orbits
exactly counteract the force of gravity. They hang above the earth - not
motionless, but seemingly motionless. They whirl around the axis of the earth,
but synchronized with the whirling of the earth around its axis.
If the earth is stationery,
then there are no orbital centrifugal forces counteracting the force of gravity.
Yet the satellites do not fall to the earth. Something is holding them up there.
I asked a very simple question:
Needless to say, I received
letters from Hansenís disciples giving me the usual geostationist apologetic:
"The mathematics of geostationism is the same as the mathematics of
heliocentrism." They buried me in equations. This is an apologetic methodology
with them. They refuse to say how the satellites stay up there. Apparently, the
satellites are held up there by the force of equations.
U.S. satellites and U.S. space
shuttles are launched from Cape Kennedy in Florida. Florida hangs down lower
than the other U.S. states, closer to the equator.
The rotation of the earth
serves as a "slingshot" into outer space. They are not launched by any nation
from northern or southern latitudes. They are launched from latitudes close to
the equator. If the earth does not rotate, why canít they be launched equally
inexpensively from anywhere on earth? The satellites are all in a close-packed
orbit area that is now filling up with debris. There will eventually be an
economically cataclysmic chain reaction from pieces of shattered satellites
smashing into other satellites, creating more shattered satellites, etc. So, why
isnít the U.S. launching satellites from, say, North Dakota? (In summer, of
I was challenged by one
geocentrist to find an astronomer who would defend the heliocentric world-view
from the criticisms of the geocentrists. I have found such a man. While most
astrophysics are uninterested in engaging in such an odd activity, this one is
an old classmate from college M. M. Nieto. I paid him to write an essay on the
topi~ the laborer is worthy of his hire.
I agreed not to tamper with
what he wrote. He is not writing horn a biblical standpoint. The challenge
offered to me was that I find any astronomer - not just a theonomic one - to
write a response. I have accepted this challenge. So has Dr. Nieto. I leave it
to him to present the evidence horn the realm of science. He will now get to
respond to any critics from the world of geocentrism. His address is M. M.
Nieto, c/o Los Alamos National Laboratories, Box 1663, Mail Stop B285, Los
Alamos, NM 87545.
I had hoped that he would keep
it simple, but the tendency of scientists is to write like scientists for other
scientists. I had hoped that he would put his equations in an appendix. He
didnít. But he did do his best to be clear. He lays down a challenge to the
geocentrists: show how their theory would have led to recent observations. Maybe
this could have been done, but it wasnít done. Einsteinís model did predict
Until geocentnst scintists can
offer a comprehensive alternative to the modern view, and make better
predictions than the modern view, they will not gain many converts. But if
geostationism is true, there are fortunes to be made from satellites launched
horn North Dakota.
Testing Ideas on Geostationary
Satellites Michael Martin Nieto
This newsletter has asked me to
review the ideas of papers - which propose a geocentric solar system with
non-moving geostationary satellites. These ideas are in contradiction to
standard scientific opinion, which has a Copernican solar system with satellites
orbiting around the Earth, geostationary satellites having orbital periods of 24
I The Nature of Scientific
For there to be any meaningful
discussion of the disagreement between the scientific and interpretist camps,
there has to be a set of ground rules. For example, from Hansonís point of view
, any disagreement between his literal interpretation of the Bible and
scientific prediction must, as a question of faith, be decided a priori in favor
of his literal interpretation. If that is true, then there is no discussion. All
that people can do is to state their views, try to make their views understood
if not believed, and to peacefully agree to disagree. L
However, if one chooses to
venture into the other camp to try to convert, then one must agree to play by
the other campís rules 01 else. once again. there is no meaningful discussion.
For example, if a member of the scientific community wishes to argue with the
geocentrists on the basis of Biblical interpretation, it does no good for him to
argue on the basis of the philosophical musings of a 19th century agnostic. As I
would put it, that would be like the Pope and the Ayatollah arguing about the
nature of the Godhead on the basis of the Bible vs. the Koran.
Here we have the opposite
situation. We have literal interpreters making "scientific arguments" for a
geocentric system. They can believe geocentricity as they will, but if they
choose to make the arguments scientifically then they must stand up to the
values of scientific discussion. (Similarly, in the alternative arena, the
arguments of the agnostic would have to stand up to Biblical writings.) What,
then, would I state is the nature of scientific understanding from both theory
and experiment? (Please note that here I mean "theory," not in the sense of an
untested speculation but, in the sense of an explicit, testable, mathematical
formulation which is predictive, Stick with me!)
The first thing a. correct
theory must have is agreement with experiment; not just so-so approximate
agreement, but agreement to the best of experiment. Also, the reader must
understand 1 The authorís main occupation is as a theoretical physicist at. the
Los .Alamos National Laboratory. In this paper he is working as an independent
consultant for our newsletter.
1 what is meant by physicists
when they "overthrow" an established theory. To physicists it is like, "The
Theory is dead, long live the Theory!"
An accepted theory will have
been found to make correct predictions in a wide area of physics.
Even so, we keep testing it in
newer and newer areas. Finally, we find a place where the theory fails. Then we
construct a new theory which predicts not only all the correct results of the
old theory, but also predicts correctly where the old theory fails. From our
point of view it is not that Newton was wrong, but that Einstein is "righter."
Einstein stands on the shoulders of Newton.
Now we (including myself )
are looking for places where Einsteinís theory fails so that we can find a new
theory which is "righter" than Einsteinís.
II The Historical Basis of
Modern Science and Newton
I claim the first great
scientist, vs. medieval natural philosopher, who understood the above was
Kepler. He was trying to explain the shapes of the orbits of the planets. He
started from a preconceived harmony of the spheres, where the orbits were based
on spheres within which were inscribed regular polygons. But the observations
did not agree with his theoretical predictions.
However, contrary to most
natural philosophers who would have been tempted to force the data to agree with
their theories, Kepler abandoned his theory. This allowed him to find that
ellipses, whose special cases are circles, are the orbits of the planets.
Kepler and Galileo were the two
giants upon whose shoulders Newton stood. In the end, with what are very simple
equations. Newton could explain the orbits of the planets, gravity on Earth, and
the tides. This was truly amazing. With simple equations, not wheels within
wheels and a new wheel for every new observation, there was agreement with
III Newton and the New Planets
But furthermore, there was
contained within Newtonís equations predictions of things which had not been
seen. In the 1830ís there was a tremendous problem. The orbit of Uranus was
behaving incorrectly. Either a) Newtonian gravitation was breaking down, or else
b) there was another planet out there which was causing perturbations of the
orbit of Uranus. Two gentlemen, John Couch Adams and Urbain Jean Joseph
Leverrier independently and correctly calculated the existence and location of
the new planet. On the very first night of looking for it, Neptune was
discovered . That is theory. No new wheels within wheels.
This emphasizes again that a
scientific theory must be predictive. The theory must be able to predict new
things without having to add a new wheel every time a difierent phenomenon
IV Newtonian Gravity ĎBreaks
It is also instructive to look
at the breakdown of Newtonian gravity. 45 years later, another funny orbit was
confirmed. that of Mercury. It took 35 more years to find the solution. There
was no new planet close to the Sun, the mythical Vulcan. Rather, there was a new
theory, general relativity, which predicted  the funny new effect in the
orbit of Mercury, the anomalous shift b of its perihelion. In particular, the
™N = 6BGM per revolution = (1 Ė
where G is Newtonís constant, c
is the velocity of light, M is the mass of the Sun, and e and a are the
eccentricity and semimajor axis of Mercuryís orbit. The prediction is 43 arc
seconds per century, which is what is measured. This observation is very
difficult. But general relativity can also be used to calculate the shifts in
the perihelion of asteroids and, even better, satellites which can be given
highly eccentric orbits. These comparisons between theory and experiment are
even more precise . Contrariwise, even if there were a widely known
geocentrist prediction, how would the anomalous shifts of the perihelion of
asteroids and solar satellites work out?
v Verified Predictions of
I now want to discuss other
effects that were predicted from general relativity and then measured.
A Time delay
General relativity predicts
that if you reflect a radar beam back and forth from a planet just on the other
side of the Sun, the radar beam will be time-delayed. That is, it will take
longer for the radar beam to reach us than the straight-line velocity of light
would say. For Mercury, for example, the prediction is
)t = 4MG/c3 [1 + ln(dmde/R2] =
where M and R are the mass and
radii of the Sun and the dís are the distances from the Sun to Mercury and to
the Earth, respectively. This value is verified experimentally. Indeed, a more
precise experiment, to 0.1 %, was done by sending a transponded beam from the
Voyager lander on Mars. Geocentrism does not predict this effect.
B The Apollo corner reflectors
In fact, this brings us to the
next effect. Do you remember how the Apollo astronauts left corner reflectors on
the Moon? (Corner reflectors are mirrors shaped like the corner of two walls and
the ceiling which reflect light back from whence it came. ) Well, with the aid
of these reflectors, we now know the position of the Earth with respect to the
Moon to within about 2 centimeters.
The precise, relative locations
of the Earth, Moon, and the Sun are not those predicted by even Newtonian
theory, but by general relativity. In particular, the positions are those which
include the effect of the Moon falling about the Earth while the Earth falls
about the Sun . Of course, geocentrism has never predicted this.
C This yearís Nobel Prize
Perhaps most appropriately,
this yearís Nobel Prize is about an effect which would have destroyed the
universe long ago if geocentrism were correct. First I must digress to explain
what the effect is.
Consider a race car going
around an oval. You all know how it is much easier to maintain speed on the
straight-always. When you go around a corner, even if it is banked, you lose
power and energy from friction. The same type of thing is true of particles in
an accelerator. Remember how big the SSC was going to be? That is because, as
particles go around in a circle, they lose energy in the form of light, X-rays,
etc. In fact, the name, "Bremsstrahlung", is German for "braking rays." The
tighter the circle the more braking energy is lost... Therefore, to reduce that
energy loss, the SSC was going to be very very big.
Now we can come back to
gravity. There is a binary pulsar system called PSR 1913+16. The two stars,
rotating about each other, are very dense and very close and orbit very quickly
about each other. There is also a braking energy in gravity. It is called
"gravitational radiation." Usually it is so small you cannot hope to see it. But
for a system like this double star, you can see its effect. The prediction,
which comes from a precise mathematical formula, is that the two stars rotate
faster and faster, and get closer and closer in towards each other with a
The rate of change of the
period of the orbit is predicted to be
dP/dT = 192B/5c5 . 2BG 5/3/P .
(m1m2)/(m1 + m2) 1/3 ((1 + 73e2/24 + 37e4/96) / (1 - e2)7/2) (3)
where the mi are the masses of
the two stars. e is the eccentricity of the orbit, and P is the period. The
prediction is Ė2.4022 + 0.0002 x 10-lZ, and the observation is Ė2.422 + 0.026 x
That was why Taylor and Hulse
got this yearís Nobel Prize.
If geocentrism were to predict
this effect, which it does not, then it would have to predict something else. It
would have to say that all the stars in the sky, which geocentrism says are
rotating about us, should be gravitationally radiating themselves down to us,
leading to our eventual destruction (depending on how large one says is the age
of the universe). But that last point aside, if geocentrism were correct, we
should be seeing the universe decaying towards us ó.. right now. We donĎt.
(This- leaving aside the problem that even the neariby stars would have to be
traveling faster than the speed of light.)
D Other effects
There are many other
predictions that come from the same sets of equations: the gravitational bending
of light, the gravitational red-shift of light, the Doppler shift of light from
moving objects, gravitational lensing, and on and on. There is no need here for
me to repeat the entire literature. Please consult reviews on the topic . All
the examples work, with amazing precision.
A scientist is impressed the
way a basketball fan is impressed with the skills of Michael Jordan. Geocentrism
cannot predict these things from a set of given equations . . . .or to be exact,
has not predicted these things.
.411 the above again reminds us
of how scientists find new and better theories. They test the predictions of the
old theory in as many places as possible, searching for the theory to break
down. When that happens, it is a breakthrough. As stated above, the way to look
at it is not - that the old theory was wrong, but that the old theory has limits
and the new theory describes more things. The new theory must get everything
right that the old theory did and then get other things right that the old
theory did not. Thus, general relativity improves upon Newtonian gravitation in
the large, and quantum mechanics improves upon classical physics in the small.
VI Geocentric Ideas
Now we return to the geocentric
ideas on geosynchronous satellites. Upon careful reading of Refs. -, one
sees that there is no explicit mathematical theory as to why the satellite would
stay up there if the universe were geocentric. The authors postulate that maybe
there is a sphere of mat ter (no good, they realize, there is no force inside a
sphere of matter), or then maybe there is a ring and maybe this could account
for it. They speculate. But they do not show. They do not calculate any matter
distribution that would cause the satellite to stay up there. It is ad hoc.
What they are saying is, "I
believe there is another answer because I believe there is another answer." That
is fine, but until one finds an answer that predicts this and all the other
effects we have discussed or alluded to, geocentrism remains outside the
framework of scientific discussion. One has to have a mathematical formalism
that explains this oddball phenomenon precisely, with numerical values [1 O].
Contrariwise, the standard Newtonian physics predicts very precisely how the
satellite will behave. (Amusingly enough, the LJSA needed to include the effects
of general relativity to locate its satellites to cm-scale precision .) As a
last point, which is perhaps most transparent to the general audience, I want to
discuss = parallax of near-by stars, which would not occur in geocentrism. Look
at Figure 1. It shows the Earth in its orbit on one elate (position a) and on a
date 6 months later (position b). There is a bright distant star. .4. (The
distauces are foreshortened in the figure.) There is also a close-by star, l?,
situated us show-n. (Even vim der Kamp concedes the distance to nearby stars can
be measured . ) On the first elate, the angle subtended by -4 and 13 is the
positive angle a. But six months later it is the negative angle ~. This change
of angle is observed and is totally understandable in the Copernican system. In
the geocentric system the star must move back and forth a different amount for
every close star, even though the stars are supposed to remain fixed on an
The geocentrist can believe
what he will. That is his right. But the members of the Flat Earth Society also
have the right to believe in a flat Earth-and they do!
Therefore, although one
certainly has the right to believe in geocentrism if one will, it is not a
scientific belief. Science does not operate with theories which cannot 1)
predict experimental observations that are seen now , or 2) cannot predict
things which are found later.
Figure 1. Richard G. Elmendorf,
."Geosynchronous Satellites, Pt. I," Bulletin of the Tychonian Society, No. 50.
Richard G. Elmendorf, "Geosynchronous Satellites, Pt. I I," Bulletin of the
Tychonian Society, No. 54. John Byl, "On the Relativity of Rotation," The
Biblical Astronomer 1, No. 57, 5 (1991). Richard G. Elmendorf, "More on
Geostationary Satellites," The Biblical Astronomer 3, No. 63,3 (1993). James N.
Hanson, "History and Geocentricity," The Biblical Astronomer 3, No. 63,9 (1993).
M. M. Nieto and T. Goldman, "The Arguments against Ď.antigravityí and the
Gravitational Acceleration of Antimatter," Phys. Rep. 205,221 (1991); 216, 343
(1993). M. Grosser, The Discovery of Neptune, (Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, Mass. 1962). C. M. Will, "The Confrontation between General
Relativity and Experiment: Pm Update," Phys. Rep. 113, 346 (1984): "ibid.. a
1992 Update," Int. J. of Mod. Phys. D 1, 13 (1992), contain more detailed
information ON these points. J. H. Taylor and .J. M. Weisberg. "Further
Experimental Tests of Relativistic Gravity Using - the Binary Pulsar PSR
1913+16," .4strophys. J. 345, 434 (1989).
I must also point out that the
discussions in the papers under consideration of things like errors in
understanding of 1977 satellite positions have long since become moot. You may
have heard of the Global Positioning Satellite Systems (both civilian and
military). With lasers reflecting off of orbiting satellites, one can now tell
oneís position with respect to the satellites and to the center of the Earth
from any place on Earth to within a few centimeters.
N. Ashby and B. Bertotti,
ĎRelativisitic Effects in Local Inertial Frames," Phys. Rev. D 34, 2246 (1986) .
Walter van der Kamp, "Einstein - Right or Wrong?", Chalcedon Report, 23 (May,
1994). There is a gravimagneto effect related to the Earthís rotation, which
amusingly draws upon the work by Thirring cited by Byl . Attenlpts will be
made to measure this effect with a gyroscope orbiting about a rotating earth
(Schiff gyroscope experiment) and by two satellites (LAGEOS I and III) orbiting
about a rotating Earth in complementary orbits. This is a prediction, whose test
will hopefully come about this decade.