Nathan Miller

Former Research Library IT Manager, Present Engineer who gets to play with some nifty systems.

Propellantless thruster claimant presents paper at a conference. Hype ensues.

News headlines are buzzing with headlines such as “Scientists Confirm ‘Impossible’ EM Drive Propulsion” (Hacked) and “‘Impossible’ propellantless engine appears to work” (Sydney Morning Herald). Doubtful News readers may have followed this story from August 2014, as well as renewed claims of results earlier this May. At a July Propulsion and Energy Forum held by…

Fake Cancer Doctor Arrested in California

In Northern California, an investigation by the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and the Ventura County Interagency Pharmaceutical Crimes Unit resulted in the arrest of a man who reportedly targeted cancer patients with bogus treatments. “Doctor Dirt Bag”? Cancer patient says fake doc charged $2,000 for dirt (CBS News): The woman, who has late-stage cancer, reportedly…

Pluto “Truthers” and Spacefaring Denialists Present Teachable Moment

NASA conspiracy theories are generally nothing new, especially as we celebrate the anniversary of our first steps on Earth’s moon (20 July 1969). But with NASA’s New Horizons Pluto flyby imagery released last week, some tired Moon Hoax conspiracy myths and misconceptions were recycled in the headlines. Inside the Pluto ‘Truther’ Movement, Which Claims Flyby Was…

Sky Shows Galaxy-lensed “Reruns” of Exploding Supernova, Demonstrating Gravity of the Situation

Gravitational Lensing Illustration

Sometimes† space is just awesome. More specifically, stuff (or mass) in space has some properties that manifest in empirically awesome ways. Earlier this week, Science put out a report on a supernova (Wikipedia) observed behind a galaxy in the MACS J1149.6+2223 cluster. This particular supernova is visible due to gravitational lensing (Wikipedia) around the cluster, greatly magnifying…

Big Bang Gravitational Wave Study – Update: Interstellar dust clouds data

As previously covered on Doubtful News, in March 2014 the BICEP research team announced results from a series of cosmic microwave background (CMB) experiments, which appeared to detect the first evidence of gravitational waves. As previously mentioned further review would be required, and some problems with the data have emerged. Criticism of Study Detecting Ripples From…

NASA Propellant-less Propulsion Story Gains More Momentum than it Should

Several news stories have made the rounds this week regarding an apparent microwave space propulsion system with no on-board propellant. NASA validates “impossible” space drive (Wired): Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that “impossible” microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is…

Backfire Effect? Herbalife shares up despite webcast to investors decrying practices.

Scientific skepticism is viewed by many as an intersection between science education and consumer advocacy. To that end, Doubtful News has had its eyes on news items concerning Herbalife, a multilevel marketing company who has recently had to ask its distributors to tone down medical claims about its products, and has come under fire by critics for its…

Discovered four-winged dinosaur was largest flier of its type at more than quadruple usual weight

This is rather exciting news for feathered dinosaur fans (who could probably use a win lately). A new species of feathered dinosaur has been discovered, and it is the largest four-winged flier yet known. Changyuraptor, Large Species of Flying Dinosaur, Is Discovered (New York Times): The new species, Changyuraptor, found in northeastern China, was four feet…

Michigan: Another Pacu Panic?

Another specimen of the South American piranha relative has been caught, this time in Michigan. Doubtful News has previously covered pacu stories from Denmark, Paris and New Jersey, as well as the panic associated with unsourced “testical eating” claims about the species. Fortunately, some of the coverage has been less credulous this time around, though…

Gamma-ray Burst False Alarm: Self-Correcting Science and Public Scientific Enthusiasm

It’s been a tumultuous week in astronomy-related false alarms. See also Citizen journalism asteroid hoax should be a lesson to CNN (Doubtful News). This week, social media buzzed rather excitedly about a “possible gamma ray burst detected in Andromeda.” But despite the excitement and speculation as to whether the detected emission was a gamma-ray burst (GRB)…

Physicists plan to make photons matter (and no, it’s not a Star Trek replicator)…

Professor Stephen Rose and his research team at Imperial College London have designed an experimental test of a 1934 model by Breit and Wheeler, which would provide empirical verification of the process’s ability to create matter from photons. UK discovery ‘starts race’ to turn light into matter (BBC News): Breit and Wheeler’s theoretical prediction […] that…

Periodic Updates

What happens when a new element is discovered? Another new element, Element 117, is one step closer to being named. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) will review findings and rule on whether the element will be granted an official name and be allowed to strike terror into the hearts of high…

Explorers find Shipshape Volcano

While underwater resemblances aren’t anything new, a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expedition discovered multiple shipwreck sites in the Gulf of Mexico, and another anomaly led a combined team from NOAA and Texas A&M University to the site of what appeared to be another wrecked ship’s hull. The Asphalt Ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico…

Even Presidents get curious about UFOs

And why wouldn’t they? The idea of extraterrestrial life isn’t far-fetched as we continue to find more planets, as Former President Bill Clinton stated in an appearance with Jimmy Kimmel. Bill Clinton “Wouldn’t Be Surprised” If Aliens Existed (TIME): “If we were visited someday, I wouldn’t be surprised, I just hope it’s not like Independence…

Pick Your Poison – 49% in U.S. subscribe to at least 1 of 6 medical conspiracy theories

Health misinformation abounds in the results of a recent survey of American adults on medical conspiracy theories. Half Of Americans Believe In Medical Conspiracy Theories (NPR.org) Misinformation about health remains widespread and popular. Half of Americans subscribe to medical conspiracy theories, with more than one-third of people thinking that the Food and Drug Administration is…

Gravitational Wave Detection Rumors: We’ll just have to wait (UPDATE: Announced)

Have gravitational waves, an Einsteinian prediction based on general relativity, been detected? The physics rumor mill is propagating speculation about a weighty discovery, but what’s the big deal? (See update below) The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics will be hosting a press conference Monday, March 17, 2014, to announce a “major discovery.” What is the announcement? It…

Can you buy naming rights to space? International Astronomical Union says “No” …again

Doubtful News has previously covered services which claim to provide the ability to name or claim objects in space. This week, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has spoken out against another commercial venture offering naming rights, but the IAU is getting some backlash on this one. Mars Crater-Naming Campaign Sparks an International Blowup (NBC News):…