NASA’s Space Science “Hide the Decline” Scandal

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t Dr. Willie Soon – an outside researcher has uncovered what he alleges is an attempt by NASA JPL asteroid researchers to pass off other research results as the product of their model, possibly in an effort to conceal the shortcomings of the NASA model.

Two years of stonewalling: What happened when a scientist filed a public records request for NASA code

Retraction Watch readers may know Nathan Myhrvold, who holds a PhD in physics, as the former chief technology officer at Microsoft, or as the author of Modernist Cuisine. They may also recall that he questioned a pair of papers in Nature about dinosaurs. In that vein, he has also been raising concerns about papers describing the sizes of asteroids. (Not everyone shares those concerns; the authors of the original papers don’t, and astronomer Phil Plait said Myrhvold was wrong in 2016.) Last month, Myhrvold published a peer-reviewed paper as part of his critique. The final version of that paper went live today, as did a story about the science in The New York Times and a detailed explanation by Myrhvold in Medium. As the discussion over the results continues, here he shares his experience trying to obtain details about the methodology the authors used.

Two years ago, I uploaded a preprint to describing what I considered serious problems, including apparently irreproducible results, that I had uncovered when analyzing a set of research articles published by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) NEOWISE project. NEOWISE is the largest scientific analysis of asteroids ever conducted; the researchers on the project have so far published estimated sizes of more than 164,000 objects in the solar system, estimates they have claimed were all derived by applying a standard approach to raw observations from the WISE space telescope.

My findings generated quite a stir in the media, including stories in The New York Times, Science, and Scientific American, among other outlets. My hope and expectation was that shining light on these troubling issues would spur the JPL researchers to retract or correct their papers. At the very least, I thought, they would release the various unpublished techniques that they had used in a series of highly cited papers, stretching from 2011 to 2015, thus lifting the veil of secrecy that had prevented me and other astronomers from replicating their results.

As it turns out, my math was not wrong, and my findings were up to the challenge of intensive peer-review. Part one appeared in the prestigious planetary science journal Icarus in December, and the larger part twowas published last week. Key sections also appeared, after peer review, at planetary science conferences in 2016  and 2017.

NASA’s response got me wondering why the NEOWISE researchers were being so studiously recalcitrant. Typically, when you point out to scientists that they have goofed, they do one of three things: they say “oops!,” they ask you for proof of their error, or they bend over backwards to justify why they did things in an unconventional way. Instead, NASA issued a vague press release berating me with claims I had made a calculation error. (It was actually just a typo – and a red herring. Even if my math had been completely off, that wouldn’t explain or excuse evidence that some of the NEOWISE papers had passed off asteroid diameter measurements made by other researchers as asteroid model results that they had calculated themselves.)

Read more (well worth reading):

What happens to turn students who idealistically study space science into paid researchers who allegedly cheat, lie and bully? When did protecting scientific reputations by any means become more important than telling the truth?

I personally find this sordid tale deeply shocking. The motives of scientists who cheat at climate science or medical research at least make an ugly kind of sense – a lot of money hinges on whether we face a climate emergency, or upon the acceptance or rejection of new pharmaceuticals.

But cheating at measuring the sizes of Asteroids; if this is true to me the actions of the JPL researchers defy comprehension. What possible motivation could scientists have to cheat on the measurement of Asteroids? Nobody cares if a result has to be corrected. Nobody loses money if they have to revise their method. If space science models produce defective results, surely all they need to do is apply for more grant money to help them improve their models.

Why would anyone do this? Someone inside NASA must have helped these scientists perpetrate their alleged coverup. Just how deep does the rot go?

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K. Kilty
June 14, 2018 9:12 pm

Researchers who lie, cheat, and bully got their start as students who lied, cheated, and bullied. Hey, it often works.

Reply to  K. Kilty
June 14, 2018 10:04 pm

This is why other science fields dd not jump all over climatology when the Climategate exposed the gross misconduct, bias and gate-keeping going on.

They were too scared that if they spoke out, someone would shine a light on their field of study and it would be shown that it was pretty much the same.

Hopefully our quaint image of scientists as financially independent 19th c. gentleman doing it for the love of knowledge and discovery has been well and truly smashed now.

Kudos to Nathan Myhrvold for blowing this one wide open.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Greg
June 14, 2018 10:19 pm

Myhrvold has what in the world of high finance people call “F U money.”

He can easily afford to do what his conscience tells him is right without skipping a beat on his monthly financial statement from his funds manager.

It would be great if 10 young, smart, embedded Climate Scientists could all sequentially win the PowerBall lottery, and have “F U money” to do what is right and blow the whistle on the hustle.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 14, 2018 11:31 pm

Yes, it’s good he had no problem engaging a lawyer to get around the obstructionism. Sad it has to be that way. Too much of the “wrong stuff” at NASA these days.

Reply to  Greg
June 14, 2018 11:49 pm

FOIA obstruction, hiding behind PI arguments, failure to disclose data and code. This is very similar to UEA shenanigans

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Greg
June 15, 2018 11:56 am

Somehow this must be connected to Gavin Schmidt. Gavin is a mathematician who is the worlds’ greatest climate alarmist alongside Michael Mann of Penn State. Gavin as a mathematician realizes that he cant control the mathematics departments but he can infect the space science faculties. By introducing faulty info with the rest of NASA that can help him with GISS which he already controls. Also since his new baby is Earth System Sensitivity read the following.

The coming fight now is Earth System Sensitivity. It has its roots almost as long as AGW. Back in the 80’s was when it really got started. Almost 40 years later Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann and their followers have decided that the IPCC is doomed and that they don’t need it anymore anyway. They are losing control over its alarmist message and it is becoming more conservative as we skeptics are forcing it to tone down. Witness the IPCC RCP8.5 which doesnt really look scary as far as temperature is concerned.
The ESS Education Alliance was formed in 2000 and has ~50 institutions signed up with over 3000 teachers. Their plan is to take over the geology and paleontology departments of every university in the world just like have they done to the Atmospheric science faculties. In their minds they have to because then they can control the past. Eric Blair aka George Orwell has unwittingly written their manifesto. He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. Orwell should have reversed those 2 sentences. The recipe is simple. The thesis is that long term changes of the earth caused by short term changes caused by CO2 will dwarf the measly temperature changes of CO2. To do that they need to control the past with different climate models because only with the past can they control ( model) the slow processes needed so that they will project far into the future 500 years if necessary. To do that they have to take over the 2 faculties that are standing in their way.

paul courtney
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 15, 2018 10:36 am

joel: Climate Scientists playing the lottery? Don’t they kno’t know the poor odds, statistics-wise? Oh, wait…nevermind.

Reply to  paul courtney
June 16, 2018 6:38 am

That’s why they can’t cheat the lottery using their models..

Reply to  Greg
June 15, 2018 3:30 pm

As someone who has both worked at multiple NASA sites and worked with Nathan when we were both young cosmologists at Cambridge, this looks to me more like just yet another case of “JPL does not play well with other children”. Any planetary scientist from a non-JPL NASA site has similar stories, especially on such topics as instrument selection for planetary probes.

Joel O'Bryan
June 14, 2018 9:27 pm

So they passed off others data as their own in an attempt to provide a systematic validation for their flaky asteroid measurements. Clearly unethical, and warrants formal investigation… if this were at an academic institution.

But this NASA — Home of CYA and the prototypical Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones. Where impossibly lethal projects that are money-sucking black-holes, like a Manned Mars Mission, cannot be canceled because they are “Yobs” programs for so many Congressional districts.

But still, compared to the multi-Trillion dollar climate hustle and all the $billions of research money poured down the drain every year to study an anthropogenic CO2 non-problem, this asteroid fraud is peanuts — operating far below the noise level of even annual NASA/JPL funding.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 15, 2018 1:39 am

NASA was in a large part responsible for creating modern environmentalism and the global warming scam. When early space observation became available, few could see much use for photos that contained nothing much but trees and vegetation. So, NASA set out to create a lobby to demand information about the environment. Much in the way, NASA created the space movie as a way of pushing pro space propaganda to the masses.

NASA is there to promote the interests of NASA – nothing more, nothing less. And they’ll use environmentalists as easily as congressmen, filmstars or presidents to create the publicity that pushes more money toward NASA.

Gerard Flood
June 14, 2018 9:28 pm

“What possible motivation could scientists have to cheat on the measurement of Asteroids?” In matters of the soul, I am mostly ignorant. But this much is obvious, that the moral sickness of wrongdoing never stands still. It is either repented of, or it grows.

Margaret Smith
June 14, 2018 9:29 pm

Nowadays it seems to be the norm among many scientists to lie and cover-up…..or was it always like this?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Margaret Smith
June 14, 2018 9:59 pm

My initial thoughts are it is done when people think they won’t get caught.

In NASA’s historical past, its missions were narrowly focused on putting probes into space to other planets or manned vehicles into space and safely back. The consequences of failure were extreme, the outcomes obvious, and the likelihood that investigations would uncover unethical corner-cutters very high. This is still the case with the really big programs.

But, NASA has had so much mission creep over the past few decades, that their science programs, and most notably Earth climate-related programs, have become the comparable equal to the Military/Defense Industrial Complex machine that Eisenhower warned about in 1961.

Congresspeople get excited about every little program in their district or state, and NASA Director and Deputies have to appease them all to keep money flowing.

NASA has so many moving parts, so much money. it is their internal competition to “produce,” to publish to keep program funding flowing to smaller projects with just a few investigators. Investigators cutting corners to keep the funding “on.”

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 15, 2018 7:13 am

This factor was strongly evident when Pres. Bush the elder made a new mission statement for NASA of going to Mars. The budget estimate came back at $400B + and contained the wish lists for every imaginable department and special interest at NASA. A fantastically inflated mission profile.
That was the end of that little dream.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 15, 2018 11:31 am

Thanks joel, very good exposé.

Reply to  Margaret Smith
June 14, 2018 11:48 pm

It has gotten worse. The result is that most published research findings are false. It’s a result of desperation and perverse incentives.

Replication is not attempted for the vast majority of papers. There is, however, one field where replication and reproduction do happen routinely. Drug companies scan the journals looking for results that might be turned into viable drugs.

The book “Rigor Mortis” is the result of findings of the drug companies Bayer and Amgen.

Of the fifty-three original exciting studies that Begley put to the test, he could reproduce just six. Six. That’s barely one out of ten. link

There is no good reason to think the problem is limited to biochemical research. There’s evidence that the replication crisis pervades all areas of research including, sadly, engineering. link

Given that the replication crisis is well known, it should be mandatory that every published paper include enough detail that its results can be reproduced. In government agencies, failure to do should be a firing offense. The government also sponsors a lot of research. link For scientists receiving government grants, failure to provide data and methods should result in black listing.

Reply to  commieBob
June 16, 2018 11:45 pm

Medical “truth” is inherently decided by the medical organization, the board, and the courts, as a MD is liable iff he didn’t follow “best practice” established by “consensus” of these bodies. Thus, there can be no freedom of medicine.

There is no textual recognized right to medicine as there is officially a recognized right to carry guns. (Of course the right to carry guns could as well not have been written in the Constitution, it would make very little difference as guns are in most case as regulated as cars, and often much more regulated with even less factual basis.)

The implicit, unlisted right to choose healthcare provider, his policies, his sources, his criteria of admissible epidemiological “evidence” is not recognized officially in any country AFAIK. Healthcare is 100% state controlled in all countries where there is a state.

Reply to  Margaret Smith
June 15, 2018 1:33 am

If you look to the beginnings of modern “science” in the British Royal Academy, you will find that it was largely a political organisation created after the restoration of the monarchy, by the monarch, to gather around friends to control “technology” – which was at that time in the hands of the common people aka northern industrialists (who had just chopped off his dad’s head).

The king, then create a system to “own” technology through royal patents. The patent system was previously a system to allow someone e.g. to set up a salt production works. So a “patent” was the king “allowing” people to use technology. In other words, the implication was that technology could not be used without the King’s consent.

In effect the Royal Society was set up like the inquisition of the church to control other people. And it did so, by stealing the knowledge and ideas of industrialists (who did the work) and then passing it off as their own “discoveries”.

The idea of a golden age of science is entirely fictional. The scientific bodies were always a ruthless & highly political body intended to keep the industrious plebs from revolting.

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 15, 2018 5:55 am

Is that why the motto is Nullis in verba?

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 15, 2018 7:45 am

Good one. I’ll add that the monopoly was granted so that above market prices could be charged. With a large chunk of taxes going to the Crown.
Bob Hoye

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
June 15, 2018 8:19 am

Here in Central Asia the ‘patent’ still means ‘business license’ and is akin to an operating permit, rather than a French ‘Brevette’ (patent). ‘Letters Patent’ is the meaning above: the King’s permission, withheld from others.

The downdraft coal stove that was so clean burning that it could burn coal soaked in cat piss – the stinkiest fuel know to man – was patented in about 1687 by application to the King of England. The letter asks for recognition for having created the invention, which if granted, gave the inventor exclusivity to license it to others.

The king did not appropriate it in any way, though provision for this exists in all countries. If you invent a better bomb the government may seize control of the patent in the public interest.

Patents are funny things. Perhaps the day will come when service to humanity will override any pecuniary interest, and royalties will be purely voluntary as a recognition of the exalted role of the teacher in society.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar
June 15, 2018 9:46 am

That will never happen so long as man remains man.
Perhaps if we become angels that kind of communism would work.

Reply to  MarkW
June 17, 2018 6:21 am

Sorry MARK !
The Communists created at least 100 million “angels”
and Communism STILL doesn’t work !!
and INTELLIGENCE and HONESTY still do…………..even
with all our human foibles !……………….in a CAPITALIST

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar
June 16, 2018 11:58 pm

“French ‘Brevette’ ”

“un brevet”
breu (as in “bre-bis”, “bre-douille”)
vé (as in “désapprou-vé”, “désencla-vé”)

NOT brevette like “cre-vette”!!!

June 14, 2018 9:58 pm

The answer is always the same, follow the money. Paychecks, grants, promotions, better positions, etc. What is difficult to understand is that even folks who have more than enough assets to live comfortably still want more and more. It is a symptom of a lack of belief in anything beyond themselves. Call it morals, religion, belief in God or whatever but it seems that it’s getting worse as time goes by.

Reply to  JimG1
June 14, 2018 10:01 pm
Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Felix
June 14, 2018 10:07 pm

An El Nino during solar minimum is a welcome arrival. The SW US needs the rain, the fall Atlantic hurricane season will be short and quiet, the northern US and Canada needs a mild winter after the last one. Energy costs will be lowered, insurance losses will be lowered, winter plantings crops will be abundant next year.
… and Canada too, despite your unfortunate Justin and Climate Barbie curse.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 15, 2018 4:24 am

I am told by the leftist Canadian press that “all Canadians are united against Trump and for Trudeau” because of some recent spat – some trivial war of words.

Allow me to disprove that hypothesis – I am an accomplished Canadian and I don’t give a damn about Trudeau’s delicate feelings. Trudeau is utterly wrong on energy and when you are wrong on energy, you are effectively wrong about everything – that is how important energy is, especially for Canada, a cold, vast, sparsely-populated country – the second-largest on Earth. Energy is a key component of every part of our lives – food, clothing, housing, transportation, …everything!

When climate fanatics like Trudeau drive up the cost of energy, they drive up the cost of everything, and we become poorer.

Cheap, abundant, reliable energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple. [Justin, repeat that sentence 1000 times. Maybe it will sink in.]

Trudeau is uneducated, he is ill-advised on climate and energy and he is causing enormous harm to our country. He is driving up the cost of energy with his imbecilic support of global warming alarmism, carbon taxes and green energy nonsense, and in so doing he is increasing Excess Winter Deaths, driving up food and all other costs, driving away investment, destroying our competitiveness and killing jobs. You cannot get more stupid or destructive than that.

So Justin is insulted by Trump’s rudeness, and Canadians are supposed to be upset on his behalf? No, not at all! Hypothetically, if Trump dropped a small nuke on Trudeau, Canadians would be much better off – that is how destructive Trudeau’s idiotic climate and energy policies truly are.

[ Note: In this politically-correct world, I must state that I am NOT advocating violence against anyone – I am merely using hyperbole to make a point. Peace! 🙂 ]

Tom Abbott
June 15, 2018 5:14 am

Justin would be better off getting along with Trump. Attacking Trump is counterproductive.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Tom Abbott
June 15, 2018 5:36 am

Especially when it is done after the fact when Trump had already left town.

Rick in Calgary
June 15, 2018 7:07 am

Allan as a fellow canuck I must correct u when you say Trudeau is uneducated. He has a BA from McGill and started an engineering BSc at Polytechnique that he quit and then he went back to McGill and started a Masters degree in Geography but that too he never finished as he went into politics for the current job. Reading between the lines I think he flunked out of engineering (tough program) but was doing okay at the Geography degree but choose the path he is currently on. I too didn’t vote for him.
Info from pages 158 – 159 in his book Common Ground.

Reply to  Rick in Calgary
June 16, 2018 1:04 am

Hi Rick – A BA from McGill does not make you educated, especially in the sciences. I stand by my above statement. Justin is uneducated; furthermore, the man is an imbecile, but he is not alone.

Like Justin, most politicians are too uneducated to even opine on energy, let alone set energy policy.

Witness the energy idiocy of recent politicians in Western Europe, Britain, Canada, the USA, and Australia. These idiots have squandered tens of trillions of dollars of scarce global resources on costly, intermittent green energy schemes that are not green and produce little useful (dispatchable) energy, all to save us from imaginary catastrophic global warming – all in a (probably) cooling world.

Fully 85% of global primary energy is still generated from fossil fuels – oil, natural gas and coal. The remainder is largely generated from nuclear and hydro. Hardly any useful energy is generated from green sources, despite tens of trillions in wasted subsidies – enough money to buy too many corrupt politicians, civil servants and academics.

Anti fossil fuels, anti pipelines, anti fracking, anti oilsands, pro green energy, etc. etc. – these scams are all promoted by the same people, all deliberately harming our economies while wrapping themselves in the cloak of phony environmentalism.

These people are not pro-environment – many of their programs such as clear-cutting of tropical rainforests to grow biofuels, draining the Ogallala aquifer to grow corn for fuel ethanol, clear-cutting eastern US forests to provide wood pellets for British power plants, erecting huge wind power towers to slice up birds and bats, etc are ALL anti-environmental.

[end of sermon]

June 17, 2018 6:50 am

Bless you my son ! The SERMON CONTINUETH !
Instead of bemoaning the extraction of oil from the tar sands as
an ecological disaster…IT SHOULD BE HERALDED AS THE
Surely , you Canadians can UNSEAT that pompous twit !
There has got to be SOMEONE decent amongst the
opposition ranks !!??
Try asking Jordan Peterson ! He MUST have a few useful
ideas you could employ !

Reply to  Rick in Calgary
June 16, 2018 1:38 am

Rick, I also live in Calgary. You may find this of interest: We “dodged a bullet” recently, a very big one that could have taken out much of the heavily-populated SE quadrant. new server



I received an award this past week from the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

As an uninvolved citizen and a Professional Engineer, I was advised in May 2016 of an extremely dangerous situation. Following the Professional Engineers’ Code of Ethics, I investigated, established the facts and reported to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). This situation was then made safe by the AER.

This action by the AER is the most severe reprimand against any company in the history of the Alberta energy industry.

The potential death tool in a worst-case scenario could have totaled many tens of thousands – a Hiroshima-scale disaster.

The SPE gave me a nice plaque. Next week I get the spandex outfit, complete with a cape. 🙂

– Allan MacRae. P.Eng.

Public Documents:
[are included in the full post]

John Harmsworth
June 15, 2018 7:20 am


I hope you realize that this will hurt Justin’s feelings. He might not read the material on here but, in line with the millennial procedure ( even though I’m 61), I’m telling!

John Harmsworth
Reply to  John Harmsworth
June 15, 2018 7:23 am

Actually, |Justin is just a hypocrite. He’s pro-pipeline when he’s in the West and anti-CO2 when he’s in France and smiling for the cameras wherever they may be.
He makes me sick but he’s is the perfect politician for a world that doesn’t recognize or want honesty.

Reply to  John Harmsworth
June 16, 2018 2:05 am

Hi John H

I see you are 61 – I’m getting up there too. As older gentlemen, I suggest that we should be concerned about the plight of the elderly and the poor, who are being killed before their time by imbecilic green energy policies.

Radical greens are the great killers of our age.

Regards, Allan new server


“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

“Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder’s welcome.”

Charles Mackay (1841)

I bought Charles Mackay’s excellent book recently for my daughter’s Science Fair project, and after more than 175 years it is still a good read. She used it to help debunk the 1972 ban on DDT, which DOUBLED the number of deaths from malaria, more than half of which are children 4 and under whose deaths peaked at almost 1 million per year – just babies for Christ’s sake – and half of these deaths were easily preventable.

With the exception of major wars and murderous leftist politics (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.) the banning of DDT in the fight against malaria was probably the most deadly error in hundreds of years – and this incredibly stupid error was made by educated people based on faulty science and a poor grasp of reality.

An even greater error, in terms of human mortality, is the global warming scam and the “phony war” against increasing atmospheric CO2. The overwhelming evidence is that increasing atmospheric CO2 will lead to improved plant and crop growth, and any resulting warming will be mild and beneficial.

Earth is significantly colder-than-optimum for humanity and the environment. Meteorologist Joe d’Aleo and I wrote this conclusion in our 2015 paper, referenced below. Twenty times more people die from cold than die from heat – about 2 million Excess Winter Deaths every year worldwide – an average of about one hundred thousand in the USA, equivalent to two 9-11’s per week for 17 weeks every year!

Even more startling is the preliminary estimate of Excess Winter Deaths in the UK – about 48,000 this winter! The UK suffered about HALF the average annual Excess Winter Deaths of the USA, but the UK has only ONE-FIFTH the USA’s population. High energy prices, or “Heat or Eat” as it is termed in the UK, is becoming a significant cause of premature deaths of the elderly and the poor. Anti-fracking groups in the UK, many of whom are phony-green Marxist fronts, have cost that country dearly in billions of lost pounds and hundreds of thousands of needlessly-shortened lives.

This is very frustrating, because some of us knew that the global warming scam was false nonsense as early as ~1985, based on the evidence available then. Since that time, the evidence against the global warming scam has grown more and more credible, and yet this multi-trillion dollar-per-year scam continues.

I (we) published in 2002 that the global warming crisis did not exist in reality, and that green energy schemes would not be adequate to replace fossil fuels. Both these statements are now proven to be correct, for anyone who objectively examines the evidence.

I suggest that anyone who continues to support global warming alarmism and schemes to abate fossil fuels is seriously deluded at best, and more correctly is guilty of crimes against humanity.

Regards, Allan

By Joseph D’Aleo and Allan MacRae, September 4, 2015

June 17, 2018 6:39 am

ALLAN MACRAE……..I had assumed you were a Scot !
Never mind……being a Canadian is pretty fortunate too !
YES. I agree with your opinion of Trudeau….I think I gained the
full extent and depth from watching Prof.Jordan Peterson’s
youtube videos regarding the law C 16 in Canada which
institutes COMPELLED SPEECH and a
Human Rights Commission which has
so that anyone appearing before it is
Trudeau could meet an early demise and the World would be
better off for it …… long as the next incumbent
RESCINDED C 16 and they disbanded their “star chamber”
Human Rights Commission !
Otherwise mate ! You are stuck with an incredibly
bad Government and an incredibly bad law !

Otto Maddox
June 14, 2018 10:05 pm

It’s still all about money. Larger asteroids = more serious problems for Earth = more government research money spent on tracking asteroids. Or is this too simple?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Otto Maddox
June 14, 2018 10:28 pm

The scientific question is how much mass is out there in the Asteroid Belt. The far away vast majority of these objects are not a problem for Earth via orbital crossing. So many of the smaller object < 1Km diameter have such many chaotic, multi-body gravitational interactions that no supercomputer with even the highest refined masses and ephermis data could predict where they will be in a 50 years or more.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 15, 2018 4:45 am

“…that no supercomputer with even the highest refined masses and ephermis data could predict where they will be in a 50 years or more”

Don’t be silly Joel. They can already predict Earth’s highly chaotic climate to a 10th of a degree, 100 years from now. Calculating millions of multi-body gravitational interactions over trillions of miles are mere child’s play.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
June 15, 2018 5:40 am

Well they originally had the asteroid Apophis hitting Earth in 2029 then revised it to 2036 and now say no hit at all. Perhaps they are hiding the truth to keep society from collapsing, but it appears that ship has already sailed.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 15, 2018 7:32 am

Asteroid “Approximate”!

Randy Bork
June 14, 2018 10:27 pm

Why would they do this? Maybe as Nathan Myhrvold himself put it in the NYT article from 2026; “He has also zeroed in on a proposed space-based telescope with a price tag of more than half a billion dollars, the Near-Earth Object Camera, or Neocam, a project headed by some of the same scientists whose work he is second-guessing.”

June 14, 2018 11:04 pm

Myhrvold luckily is not employed by the JCU.

Given suspicion of misconduct, whose task at the NASA is to investigate it? Will the papers be retracted first?

Mike Bryant
June 14, 2018 11:24 pm

“How deep does the rot go?”
This publication only touches the surface of the rot,
Drain the swamp.

June 15, 2018 12:26 am

The strange evolution of exactly what climate change and its impacts are:

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Chaamjamal
June 17, 2018 8:16 am

off topic

Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 12:46 am

Myhrvold: “At the very least, I thought, they would release the various unpublished techniques that they had used in a series of highly cited papers, stretching from 2011 to 2015, thus lifting the veil of secrecy that had prevented me and other astronomers from replicating their results.”

The “unpublished techniques” are educated guesses and there’s no “veil of secrecy.” Amy Mainzer admitted it already in 2016. Below is from Scientific American article:

“Mainzer sees the situation differently. She readily admits that the NEOWISE and NEOCam thermal models, which are essentially identical, do not incorporate Kirchhoff’s law and indeed treat all asteroids as idealized, half-illuminated spheres with spins perfectly perpendicular to the solar system’s ecliptic plane. These models, which were last updated in 1998, crudely cram finer details like a shape, surface texture and heat capacity into a single parameter that comes nowhere close to capturing an asteroid’s true complexity. And yet they seem to work surprisingly well. Peer-reviewed studies, Mainzer says, have validated that the models’ estimated sizes closely match independent measurements of asteroids drawn from ground-based surveys as well as two older infrared space telescopes, IRAS and AKARI. “In an ideal world, we’d have a model that incorporated all of the factors that affect Kirchhoff’s law,” she says. “But we simply don’t have that information about most asteroids.”

As for the communication breakdown, in Mainzer’s version of the story she and her colleagues became less responsive only after a lengthy period of fielding Myhrvold’s extensive questions and providing feedback on early drafts of his paper. “After awhile it became clear that he wasn’t incorporating any of our corrections,” she says. “At some point we had to leave it to him to write his paper and send it through peer review.”

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 1:43 pm

So Mainzer said they provided him corrections, and Myhrvold says they stonewalled him. I don’t say Mainzer lies (that would be uncollegial, would it not?), but the picture emerges that Mainzer was not completely fair with her description of events.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 16, 2018 1:27 am

Amy said they gave corrections to Nathan. After he ignored their corrections, they stopped talking to him. That’s a fair description of events.

Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 1:10 am

Myhrvold: “Typically, when you point out to scientists that they have goofed, they do one of three things:”

Myhrvold is being presumptuous. It’s clear that he’s the one who made elementary mistakes. From Scientific American:

Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator for NEOWISE at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says Myhrvold’s paper is riddled with mathematical mistakes—including one as basic as confusing an asteroid’s diameter with its radius, which results in dramatic miscalculations of some asteroids’ sizes. As an example, Mainzer points to an asteroid called 295 Theresia, which Myhrvold’s paper lists as having a diameter of roughly 660 kilometers—making it bigger than Vesta, the second-largest object in the Asteroid Belt. By contrast, data from WISE and another earlier space mission, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), pegs 295 Theresia’s diameter at about 30 kilometers. “His math is just wrong,” Mainzer says. “You can’t get away with confusing diameter and radius—that’s how you end up thinking a 30-kilometer asteroid is bigger than Vesta.”

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 7:29 am

Scientific American hasn’t been either for decades.

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 7:35 am

Had a quick look and I don’t really trust either. In one corner we have a model with very arbitrary physics use and on the other hand less than a model and some hand waving. Let them slug it out as it’s not like there is anything large riding on it.

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 9:30 am

“You can’t get away with confusing diameter and radius—that’s how you end up thinking a 30-kilometer asteroid is bigger than Vesta.”

I certainly hope there were more serious problems then THAT. Because confusing diameter and radius only gets you from 30 to 60 kilometers. That’s an order of magnitude less then 660 kilometers.


Gary Pearse
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 10:07 am

So why withhold the code Mainzer. Correct him and send him the code. Skewer Nathan with this wonderful programme!.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 15, 2018 12:19 pm

Absolutely. Mainzer thought she could silence an amateur with no prior publishing history in astronomy. Not a bad guess, but wrong in this case.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 16, 2018 12:28 am

I agree that the code should be release but they have stated the model isn’t really built on physics (they don’t have enough detail for that) it’s built on observed visual premise. In the same way you could go looking for whales in the ocean, if it’s large and black and below the water level you probably have a whale (submarines not withstanding). From the pixels you can estimate the size and you can probably get a speed and direction. What does it tell you about the whale well next to nothing.

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 12:17 pm

Myhrvold said the mistake was real, but just a typo that didn’t affect anything. Now, the Myhrvold paper (2018) is peer-reviewed. No more silly typos there…

It appears the suspicion on some serious misconduct holds. Mainzer has not been doing good work there in keeping appearances. There is a good chance Mainzer is going to have some hard time with people who read and understand Myhrvold’s arguments.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Hugs
June 16, 2018 1:42 am

Myhrvold says NEOWISE model is no good. Mainzer says it’s not up to Myhrvold’s standards but the model works. If he has a better model, he should convince the JPL team to use his model. Apparently he has none.

Myhrvold is a billionaire. He could put up his own observatory and hire the whole JPL team. Trying to compete with JPL and being ignored by his competitor is pathetic.

Ed Zuiderwijk
June 15, 2018 1:15 am

The problem boils down to the methodology followed to analyse the data. You have one really big data set. What should you do to avoid bias of whatever kind when analysing it? Take a look at ESA’s Hipparcos project. Terabytes of data. There were two consortia for the data processing, completely independent to the point that there was to be no communication about what approach to take, the development of software and algorithms. Each consortium built its own analysis software from scratch. A duplicated effort? Not at all. At the end of the several years long exercise ESA had two result sets which were each other’s arbitrator. The final catalogue of some 120 thousand stars (extended to over a million in the Tycho follow up project) stands as a landmark in observation and astronomical techniques. You can draw your own conclusions about JPL’s asteroid project. Mine is simple: bad experimental design.

June 15, 2018 1:22 am

The author still doesn’t understand that NASA like so many organisations is only there to get money for NASA. As such it’s whole ethos is to pass itself off as some prestige organisation worthy of more money.

I think it is highly likely NASA have been up to these tricks to undermine opposition through ideas like “moon landing conspiracy” and “anti-science” almost as long as NASA have been in existence.

And they are constantly pushing crazy ideas like sending a man to Mars, which scientifically make no sense, so only make sense for the PR it creates – only make sense because politicians, including Trump, love to be associated with such big & in the end stupid ideas.

In short, you’ve really got to ask “what is the point of NASA” – and the only meaningful answer is to persuade government and public through PR, lies or constant “spacing” of the movies – to pump more money to NASA.

Dr. Strangelove
June 15, 2018 1:28 am

Amy plays Star Trek girl. She’s also the asteroid hunter at NASA JPL

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Martin Howard Keith Brumby
June 15, 2018 1:59 am

It seems that lately, almost any lifted stone in the scientific field reveals something repulsive underneath.
Whatever happened to ethics?
I guess science students today, becoming the scientist of tomorrow, are taught that ethics and proper scientific behaviour (if considered at all), are a matter of political correctness, ‘identity’ issues, ‘diversity’ and virtue signalling.
As Mark Steyn puts it:-
A few years ago, when a brilliant man, Sir Tim Hunt, had a distinguished career vaporized by a mediocre and deceitful professional grievance-monger, I wrote:
So we lose a superb Nobel scientist but keep a third-rate lying mediocrity. My problem with all this is that, increasingly, key levers of society are being ceded to the irredeemably stupid and mendacious, who seem to be the only ones capable of navigating the rocks and rapids of political correctness. One has the uneasy feeling that similar scenarios are playing out every day around the western world. How long before the planes start dropping out of the sky?
Absolutely spot on, Mark! As usual.

Mark - Helsinki
June 15, 2018 2:13 am

its not just this, scientists constantly steal work and rejig it and pass it off as their own.

NASA’s so called “magnetic ropes” connecting earth and the sun were discussed a hundred years ago and NASA passed it off as their own. They are not magnetic ropes, they are Birkeland currents.

william Johnston
Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
June 15, 2018 6:19 am

Perhaps they used the term “magnetic ropes” to describe something that is invisible so the masses could understand the concept.

Mark - Helsinki
June 15, 2018 2:16 am

WMAP is a farce, CBR is nonsense, they obtained a signal from noise 2000 times stronger, the galactic foreground noise.

The Planck satellite was built faulty too, they wont admit that either and the COBE sat gets microwaves refracted over its shield from earth’s water.

but billions were spend on this and when that happens, the scientists can NEVER admit they were wrong.

I won’t hold my breath for NASA admitting their distance calculations are bollocks two, re star distances, because the age of, even earth, is based on this bollocks.

So much junk science

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
June 15, 2018 5:46 am

With all that knowledge why aren’t you in charge of the World?

Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 15, 2018 1:33 pm

Didn’t you get the memo? He’s Napoleon, with a pen name here.;)

Peta of Newark
June 15, 2018 2:46 am

The very very very deepest deepest root of it all….
Goes like this:
1. Folks who drink a lot of alcohol are not, shall we say, the most trustworthy members of society.
For them, The Drug Does The Talking.

2. There are some numbers of former heavy drinkers who don’t drink anymore.
Self included. I bought the T shirt.
Every single one of them has, in the vernacular, A Sweet Tooth. They are addicted to refined sugar.

3. In a recent experiment, some 6,7 and 8 year olds were let loose to do a Supermarket Sweep.
No adult guidance apart from locking away the candy and soda-pop. Just them to get whatever they wanted from an entire supermarket.
They brought in trolley loads of breakfast cereals. Nothing else. Sugar Puffs, Frosties, Coco Pops – i.e the most highly processed carbs liberally coated with sugar they could find. The ‘heavy’ drug equivalent of crystal meth – which is THE most potent Dopamine release agent by a very long shot.

4. From the part of the world identified as supposedly ‘Super Healthy’ – those who follow the Mediterranean Diet as an example to us all, 40% of children under age=5 are obese.

4.1 The addiction starts early, and sugar in all its forms (glucose, sucrose, dextrose & fructose especially) destroys brains, minds and personalities with the same facility that it destroys the physical frame.

5. All the way through, The Drug (the Dopamine release agent) is doing the talking. The only thing actually ‘on their minds’ at almost every waking minute is: When do I get some more sugar into myself?
Fortunately, doctors step up to the podium and nowadays will tell you ‘Eat something very 2 hours’

6. The Human Animal is not actually predisposed to becoming addicted to anything. We are very resilient. When the thing breaks down and goes wrong, 2 main elements can be identified as the cause.

Stress or Loneliness
Check out recent thoughts about Facebook and what MSN (UK) are currently campaigning about.
(Must be bad – its odd that they campaign about anything except about delivering junk advertising and spam?!)

Awkward question time:
What are YOU doing here?

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 15, 2018 7:55 am

I resent the money wasted on phony climate science which could be devoted to greater production and subsidies for sugary snacks.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 16, 2018 10:50 pm

You seem like you’re addicted to posting off topic comments.

Larry Geiger
June 15, 2018 4:54 am

Computers, programmers, esoteric code and models are like magic. You can manipulate them to say what you want them to say and then produce results and “data” to publish. It’s like magic. “Scientists” are not above this syndrome. Someone makes a model and they all stand around and peer at the graphs, charts, and simulations and somehow, even in the absence of any real data, they suddenly see “science”. They are enchanted. They are in love.

I work on the business side, not the “science” side of things. I see managers, VP, CEOs, CIO, etc. falling in love with a piece of code. They think that it’s magic. Especially when it’s a model and things move. What a mess.

June 15, 2018 5:16 am

Instead of comparing calculation results to other measurements they co-opted the other measurements. Why do these people still have jobs? There is a real difference between being wrong and and lying about your results and covering it up.

June 15, 2018 5:39 am

~25 years ago, a friend who oversaw the making and executing of research grants
for a department of the US government told me that they had acquired a program
which searched for plagiarism. Sometime later, I asked how the program had
worked. He said that soo much plagiarism had been discovered that they
stopped using the program.

June 15, 2018 5:57 am

Well wouldn’t such a case reduce the public’s trust in any Nasa-research. If the Jpl manipulates results, why wouldn’t other Nasa teams do the same? Maybe these guys are actually right but Nasa does not want to set the precedent to hand out to much information to easily because other Nasa research centers are expected to need the protection offered by secrecy in the not so distant future. There can be many reasons for stonewalling.

June 15, 2018 5:57 am

There is only one reason to keep tabs on asteroids – Strategic Defence of the Earth, a Strategic Defense Initiative spinoff. Russia has offered to join in such a program, after refusing Reagans 1983 offer for mutual survival instead of mutual assured destruction. Never forget the “N” in NASA is National, immediately obvious to anyone as internationally political. Only nutty von Hayekian medieval horse-traders would try to “privatise”. NASA’s obviously “not going there” when SDI is on the table – they think the schrieks in Congress will cut funding at the mere mention. Those rabid shriekers could get us all wiped out if we cannot deal with a rock.

Reply to  bonbon
June 15, 2018 6:13 am

Pres. Trump will soon meet Pres. Putin. Trump has already said no arms-race. Putins hypersonic nuclear powered missiles took NASA, D.C completely by surprise. There is a mad rush to catch up, but it sure looks like a good time to put Reagan’s proposal back on the table. At that time Kissinger had conniptions – Reagan did not follow London’s script. Trump trumps even that!

June 15, 2018 6:36 am

Federal government technocrats hate having their work questioned. Refusing to be forthcoming about their methods, data, models and results is not just new in the climate world or measuring asteroids. We dealt with an issue involving a “new” model. The model and its outputs made little sense. We had supplied over 80% of the data they were using. They sold their model as somehow a gift from the gods. They kept refusing to explain their model, how it worked. It was sort of we are the government trust us. Luckily the management group we were working for had a lot of political pull and demanded a meeting requiring them to explain their model in detail. I brought along a expert very skilled statistician. He had reviewed the model and unbeknownst to the feds had reviewed their model within their computer system. So after their technocrats had presented the “details” of their model our statistician presented his comments. They literally jumped up and literally scream, “G– Damn It !! they brought in a ringer!” That comment didn’t go over well with the politically appointed managers at the table. Yet it got worse from there. Turned out that two of their scientists had signed the cover letter to their report as PhDs. Neither were. They didn’t get disciplined because they had been ordered to sign that way. Nothing happened to their bosses. Instead you and I as taxpayers picked up the tab for them to obtain their PhDs. During the meeting I asked which would they believe their model or the data if they so dramatically disagreed. Their answer ‘the model certainly, yes the model.’

Tom Halla
June 15, 2018 6:39 am

I think we should consider how Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy affects NASA. Without outside pressure, people will forget the actual purpose of the organization, and play the internal politics of the organization.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 15, 2018 9:09 am

Rule #1 of organizational behavior, the primary goal of all organizations BECOMES self preservation.

Jeff Alberts
June 15, 2018 6:55 am

In space, no one can hear you cheat.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 15, 2018 7:07 am

Is Musk’s Tesla really on the way to Mars, or will NASA mis-identify it as an asteroid?

John Harmsworth
June 15, 2018 7:07 am

Personally, I feel that there comes a point where the standard collegial courtesies and politeness are damaging to TRUTH. Myhrvold has done a fantastic job of challenging the science directly without having to be too aggressive. This doesn’t work in climate “science” as it is almost entirely political. The other side can’t be polite as they are concealing a systemic fr@ud and exposing it would end careers.
Perhaps Mr. Myhrvold can turn his attention to something much more extensive and damaging to the world than asteroid size appropriation.

June 15, 2018 7:17 am

“When did protecting scientific reputations by any means become more important than telling the truth?”

When science became a career instead of a passion.

Reply to  MarkW
June 15, 2018 7:59 am

As I said above, follow the money. It’s always been this way, it’s just getting worse. Personally, as an officially old guy, what is most difficult for me to understand, is old people with plenty of money wanting more and more. There is no trailer hitch on the back of a hearse. That’s why I relate it to the loss of belief in anything beyond self. Young folks, on the other hand, are expected to be stupid, but at least previously, not necessarily without any sense of right and wrong.

Gary Pearse
June 15, 2018 9:46 am

Mining engineer Steve McIntyre, econometrician Ross McKittrick and physicist Nathan Myhrvold are all eclectic researchers of ANY science that uses math and statistics to arrive at its conclusions, provide an enormous service to all of us on both sides of debates in the sciences.

Even the slipshod are obliged to upgrade their work and are made better scientists. I conclude that the sciences as taught these days are clearly deficient in the discipline of statistics and that this must be rectified. McIntyre has shown that a lot of the use of statistics is a shopping exercise for significance, that methods are tried and rejected if they give results not useful to prejudged outcomes. In the extreme, “novel” stat analyses are heralded when the workhorse stats dont give the “right” result. Much of this is actual proof of m●alfeasance

Jan E Christoffersen
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 15, 2018 2:58 pm


Steve McIntyre is a mathematician/statistician. His forays into the mining business are focused on the financial side.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 16, 2018 3:45 am

“His forays into the mining business are focused on the financial side.”

Actually probabilistic/statistic analysis of deposits and reserves. The mining industry is strong on that sort of thing, for example “kriging” is named for a mining engineer.

June 17, 2018 10:26 am

Old but apposite.

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