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Comment Secret Agent? (Score 5, Informative) 87

An electronics exporter who violates ITAR and sells electronics abroad is not a secret agent, even if he misrepresented the purchases when he acquired those electronics.

And, how did he get this stuff? By "falsely claiming to be a traffic light manufacturer." Now, think about that for a second. The traffic lights in your neighborhood have "microprocessors which are frequently used in military systems, missile-guidance systems and detonation triggers" ? Well, they may (microprocessors can be put to many uses), but that doesn't mean that the traffic lights in your neighborhood contain secret military hardware. In fact, they certainly do not.

In other words, this guy was convicted of selling export-controlled hardware, which you can buy on the open market, not militarily secret hardware, which you cannot. There is a big difference (not least in that there near no exhaustive list of what is subject to ITAR control, and at times no easy way to determine if something is or is not export restricted), but you wouldn't know it from reading this article.

Comment Re:Does anyone know why this even matters? (Score 1) 207

Well, suppose you find an asteroid that is on a collision for the Earth. Is it 10 meters (probably not a problem) or 100 meters (a city buster) or 1 km (uh oh, we're in deep trouble) in diameter? You need a statistical means of determining its size to determine how much of a threat it could be, and a lot could be riding on the accuracy of that determination.

Comment Re:Ouch! (Score 4, Informative) 207

And your opinion is based on what? The moral and intellectual superiority of NASA?

Well, let's see. I work in asteroids, I know the WISE team, I have read their papers, and I think their response is quite reasonable. The WISE work has been compared to other data by a whole bunch of people (both professionals and amateurs - the amateur community makes a strong contribution to asteroid research). This is not a static thing - there are radar and stellar occultation observations of "new" asteroids on almost a weekly basis. These are routinely compared to the WISE results, and to other NEATM results. This is a very active field, and no one group dominates it.

I have criticized certain areas of asteroid research, but if some outsider comes in saying "you're doing it all wrong," does not appear to be up on the literature, and makes a variety of basic mistakes in their paper, I would not bet on the outsider.

Comment Re:Ouch! (Score 2) 207

He has never worked in this field, and (much more importantly) this paper is not standing up to scrutiny.

There is also the little detail he used his wealth and PR machinery to get this basically published in the New York Times, instead of sending it to a journal or at least a few researchers in the field for comments first.

In fact, from reading it, I doubt anyone reviewed it for him before he posted it who has the guts to tell him "no." That happens a lot with billionaires, which is exactly why they should be kept away from political power.

Comment Asteroid Community Eviscerates Paper (Score 3, Informative) 207

To put it mildly, this paper has not received a very good response on the Minor Planet Mailing List (MPML, a discussion group for asteroid researchers). Here is one example, from Dave Herald in Australia:

Turning now to a specific critique of Myhrvold's paper (which I find extremely tedious reading...) Fig 23 (on page 72!) is (from my perusal) the first (only?) point at which he presents diameters derived by his approach. It lists just three asteroids, and interestingly we have a single reasonably-well-determined occultation diameter for each of them. Importantly, for these three asteroids we have a measured diameter two compare against the two 'inferred' diameters, with the obvious ability to assess which inferred diameter is best in each case, and whether there is any consistency across different asteroids. To summarize the various results:

Asteroid # 208 306 757

NEOWISE 45.0km 51.6km 36.7km

Fig 23 146.5km 83.8km 6.6km

Occultations 48 x 42km 61 x 44 km 39 x 34km

Clearly the occultation results align extremely well with NOWISE. In contrast there is major disagreement with the results of the author's "bootstrap" solution - with strong implication that his bootstrap methodology is seriously flawed. IMHO the consequence of this on the paper as a whole doesn't need to be stated...

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