Ring of untruth

Ring of untruth

Ring of untruth

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 11 2007 8:30 PM

Ring of untruth

One thing I like to do is check incoming links. When someone links to my site, I can see the URL for that page. That helps me figure out who links to me, and why. You find all sorts of funny things that way...

... like that some really super-dumb conspiracy theories never die, no matter how many nails you drive into their coffins.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


Remember, back in 2003, when Jupiter suddenly turned into a star?

No? Oh, right: that's because it didn't. The idea was that NASA's Galileo probe, carrying a load of plutonium, would explode and cause a runaway chain reaction turning Jupiter into a star, and that NASA was doing this on purpose. Shockingly, every single thing about the conspiracy theory was completely wrong.


I debunked that silliness quite thoroughly on my site and on the radio, but wouldn't you know: even though there was no reason to think it would happen, no way for it to work, and no evidence that it did happen, someone decided to extrapolate beyond Galileo and say the same thing will be done to Saturn using the Cassini probe?


Welcome to The Lucifer Project (subtitle: "Where Nonsense Never Dies"). This is yet another in a long line of conspiracy theory pages espousing reams of nonsense, speculation with no basis in fact, and ideas that are in fact totally contradicted by reality.

But why let that stop anyone? Right at the top of the page it says:

I could not be so confident in my assertions if it were not for the additional key research of Jacco van der Worp, a Netherlands physicist, and former NASA Consultant, Richard C. Hoagland. I am sure I will be accused of being an alarmist, but I believe the information presented here will convince any open mind that there is at least some suspicious activity regarding NASA's Galileo and Cassini missions.

I'm not accusing this person of being an alarmist. I am accusing them of being utterly wrong, and willing to spin wildly inaccurate tales without a shred of actual truth or fact-checking.


And how surprised are you at Hoagland's name being brought up in this nonsense?

Yeah, me neither. Incidentally, a Google search on "Jacco van der Worp" returns all manners of crank sites, too. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, the author of the Lucifer Project says that plutonium on board Cassini will turn Saturn into a star, yadda yadda, making all the same wrong claims made about Galileo and Jupiter. I've debunked those before, and nothing has changed.

This new page does discuss the aftermath of the Galileo probe burning up in Jupiter's atmosphere. He talks about the Mysterious Black Spot (cue spooky music) that cropped up after the probe went in. Slight problem with that claim: the black spot was nowhere near where Galileo went in -- it was thousands of miles away. And it was at a different latitude, and spots don't move north/south in Jupiter's atmosphere. And we see black spots like that one all the time, caused by rising and falling of parcels of gas at Jupiter's cloud tops.


OK, so that's lots of problems. And they ain't slight, they're show stoppers. Worse, Hoagland was supporting the black spot idea. That should send up all kinds of alarm bells.

Conclusion: the spot had nothing to do with Galileo. So before, during, and after the mission, there's still no reason to think Galileo was going to do anything other than plunge into the giant planet and burn up harmlessly.

So this Lucifer Project goofiness is just more of the same garbage Hoagland and his ilk spewed about Galileo, but this time it's Cassini. Different name, same smell.

I suppose I should be more upset, since these guys are denigrating some of the most successful missions NASA and the ESA have ever launched, and which have delivered such devastating imagery. But what the heck: it's like having an incredible picnic on a glorious summer day, and seeing one ant on the blanket. It's a minor nuisance, quickly disposed of, and just as quickly forgotten.

Hat tip to My Paranormal Life which had the good sense to note that I was right about Jupiter. ;-)