Schoolboy Howlers and Dumbing Down from Stephen Hawking

I just watched the first installation of ‘Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking’, and it contained a schoolboy howler that made me laugh out loud.

At the end of the programme, Mr Hawking suggests that travelling at near the speed of light is ‘Time Travel’, which of course it is not, it is time dilation, not quite the same thing as exiting the present and arriving instantly in the future at a point in time of your own choosing. The phrase time dilation is not mentioned in the segment. Discovery dumbing down much?

In any case, here is a transcript of this lol inducing howler:

If we want to travel into the future, we simply need to go fast. REALLY fast.

And I think the only way we are ever likely to do that is by going into space.

The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10. It reached twenty five thousand miles per hour.

But to travel in time, well have to go more than two thousand times faster. And to do that, we’d need a much bigger ship. a truly enormous machine.

The ship would have to be big to carry a huge amount of fuel, enough to accelerate to nearly the speed of light.

Getting to just beneath the cosmic speed limit would require just six years at full power.

The initial acceleration would be gentle because the ship would be so big and heavy, but gradually it would pick up speed and soon would be covering massive distances.

In just one week, it would have reached the outer planets, gas giants like Neptune.

After two years, it would reach half light speed and would be far outside our solar system.

Two years later, it would be travelling at 90% of the speed of light speed, and passing our closest neighbour Alpha Centauri.

Around thirty trillion miles away from earth, and four years since launch the ship begins to travel in time.

[…]

Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking: Time Travel

My emphasis.

Now compare this with the words of a Scientist who has some understanding about this subject:

There have been a number of studies published showing that staged fission and fusion deep space propulsion systems are capable of round trips to near-by stars in a shorter time then an average life span. Chemical rockets would be used to launch starships into orbit or to the moon for re-launching from there because of the greatly reduced energy requirements on the moon. Clever design would be employed such as was used by the Lunar landing program. Full advantage would be taken of very “free loading” possibility just as the Apollo vehicle takes advantage of the earth’s rotation to the east near the equator and of the gravitational field of the moon and of staged rockets which fire in programmed succession on the way and on counting on earth’s atmosphere to slow it down rather then carrying and firing retro-rockets to slow it down on the way back.

The final weight and cost depend almost entirely on the design assumptions rather than (as academic calculations so often assume) being independent of those design features. An early study of the required launch weight of a chemical rocket capable of sending a man to the moon and back concluded that the launch weight would have to be a million, million tons. The launching was accomplished less then thirty years later with a chemical rocket weighing three hundred million times less.

Stanton Friedman

Oh dear me. Even with this example on the record and many others to hand, Mr Hawking makes this ridiculous howler of a statement that we would need a ‘really big ship to carry all that fuel’.

Here is Stanton Friedman again, making it even more clear how absurd Hawking’s idea is:

We can go to the scientific record (where) there have been loads of papers published… what a track record it is for the astronomy community!

Back in 1903 a great american astronomer Simon Newcombe (October 1903) published a paper in which he showed that the only way man would ever fly would be with the help of a lighter and air vehicle (a balloon); that was two months before the Wright Brothers first flight.

When he heard about the flight his comment was, “well, maybe a pilot but never carrying passengers”. We know how right he was.

Another great astronomer in the twenties said that (proved mathematically) that it would be impossible ever to give anything sufficient energy to get it into orbit around the earth. You do not have to look far to know how wrong that was.

My favourite though is a Canadian astronomer, Dr. Cambell, 1941; he was sick and tired of all this science fiction stuff about going to the Moon, so he did a scientific paper in which he tried to calculate the required initial launch weight of a rocket, just a chemical rocket, able to get a man to the Moon and back. Thats a legitimate question; how big would it have to be?

Pages of equations, bottom line; the required initial launch weight of a chemical rocket able to get a man to the Moon and back would be a million million tonnes. Now even for me, thats too big. But isn’t it interesting that less than thirty years later we got three guys to the moon and back, still with a chemical rocket, whose initial weight (one of the members of the Saturn family) initial launch weight wasn’t a million million tonnes, it was three thousand tonnes; he was off by a factor of three hundred million!

How could he be so far off? He made all the wrong assumptions.

How could such a respected academic professor be so far off in his calculations?

He wasn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last.

His problem was that he made all the wrong assumptions, because he didn’t know anything about space travel. Thats what aeronautical engineers are for. For example, he assumed a single stage rocket; none of our manned launches have been done with single stage rockets. Two three stages, more like, saves alot on weight. He assumed a limit of one g acceleration for the rocket. How certainly we can all withstand one g but the astronauts who get on these babies are sometimes subjected to 5,6,7 Gs the escape tower on the old apollo spacecraft and the mercury and so forth, if the astronauts have to come off the rocket real quick because there was a problem down below, they would have to take 13 Gs. Without damage either, it was expected. That makes an enormous difference. He assumed we launch straight up; well anybody knows that you bend over pretty quick to launch to the east, you do alot of ‘cosmic freeloading’.

Another example of freeloading, something we do on all our deep space shots incidentally, is he assumed quirt correctly that when you came back to earth from the moon you would of corse have to slow down; you are going 25,000 miles per hour that not a good landing speed. But he assumed the only way you could do that would be to turn the rocket around and fire the retro rocket to slow you down, but of course every pound of propellant we use at the end has to be launched form the earth at the beginning, slowed down when we get to the moon launched from the moon, most of it slowed down back here. It takes at least ten pounds of propellant per pound of payload to move it from each of these steps.

What do we do?

We get smart instead of powerful.

We say the atmosphere is already here; lets use it. We convert the problem from brute force into hitting the atmosphere at just the proper angle; it doesn’t take any propellant at the end of the trip. So, he was far off, no question about that, but can you get here from there or not?

From Stanton Friedman’s Flying Saucers are Real

And so there you have it. Stephen Hawking could not be more wrong about this, just as Simon Newcombe and Dr Cambpell were so very wrong. Travelling to other star systems in a timely manner does not mean pushing a space craft like an oarsman rows a boat on the Cam. How do we know this? Because we pay attention.

Another howler was the idea that worm holes are impossible because of ‘feedback’. The first feedback example he gave involved an amplifier. Then this was transposed onto a wormhole in a scientist’s lab. What he failed to explain was where the amplifier was (is) that prevents worm holes from being possible. In fact, we know that entropy causes everything to lose energy; that should prevent worm holes from getting into a screeching feedback loop. Also, if the worm hole was far away from the point of origin, there would be no feed back at all if we use his speaker, amplifier, microphone analogy; it is only when the speaker and the microphone are in close proximity, with an amplifier, that you get feedback. Move either the speaker or the microphone away a sufficient distance and the feedback stops immediately. Presumably you could move the exit away in either space or time to stop this problem.

What these conventional thinkers hate when they address this particular subject are predestination paradoxes and other ‘problems’ that are not really problems at all, but states arising from bad assumptions.

It is the same with the UFO problem; they just cannot bear the idea of extraterrestrials coming here and usurping their positions in this backward society. To stop this from happening, they create all manner of false barriers to aliens getting here to make themselves feel good. It was the same motivation that caused the deniers of the heliocentric system to reject the truth that the Earth orbited the Sun.

That is not scientific thinking!

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