What's the Probability That the Moon Landing Was All a Hoax? One Man Has Done the Math.

What's the probability the moon landing was all one big hoax? David Robert Grimes has done the math, applying it to some of the most controversial conspiracy theories.

What's the Probability That the Moon Landing Was All a Hoax? One Man Has Done the Math.


There are people out there who (still) believe climate change is a big hoax. Others think vaccines are dangerous and some even believe the moon-landing was staged. But what's the probability that these conspiracies would go on without someone stepping forward, revealing the truth? David Robert Grimes has done the math.

Grimes has published this mathematical model in PLOS ONE, applying it to some of the most controversial conspiracy theories.

It's a basic formula. Grimes looks at the amount of people involved and how long this “conspiracy” has gone on for.

“Even if there was a concerted effort, the sheer number of people required for the sheer scale of hypothetical scientific deceptions would inextricably undermine these nascent conspiracies,” Grimes writes.

When the amount of people involved in a conspiracy increases, the rate at which the conspiracy will be revealed increases (whether by some sort of whistleblower or by an accidental slip of the tongue). “For a conspiracy of even only a few thousand actors, intrinsic failure would arise within decades,” he writes. “For hundreds of thousands, such failure would be assured within less than half a decade.”

The following charts show how quickly a NASA moon-landing, climate change, vaccination, or cancer cure hoax would be revealed:

It's a matter of odds, one that Edward Snowden proved when he confirmed to many citizens that their own government was spying on them. Big secrets don't stay secret for long.

Grimes puts forth a compelling argument for why climate deniers, anti-vaxxers, moon-landing skeptics, and cancer cure believers should reconsider their stance. But he's read the science, and understands his study will sway few minds to the side of reason.

“The grim reality is that there appears to be a cohort so ideologically invested in a belief that for whom no reasoning will shift, their convictions impervious to the intrusions of reality. In these cases, it is highly unlikely that a simple mathematical demonstration of the untenability of their belief will change their viewpoint. However, for the less invested, such an intervention might indeed prove useful.”

There's a lot of emotion involved in conspiracy theories. The parents involved in the anti-vaccine movement come to mind. These myths hold meaning to people and reveal a deeper truth in how we perceive the world. In the age of the internet, the facts are always available to us. But as anyone knowns, if someone searches long and deep enough, they'll eventually find their version of the truth and a forum of people willing to support it. Even those who spread the belief that the Earth is flat.

***

Photo Credit:

Main: NASA (Great Images in NASA Description) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Charts: David Robert Grimes

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Study helps explain why motivation to learn declines with age

Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

As people age, they often lose their motivation to learn new things or engage in everyday activities. In a study of mice, MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining this kind of motivation.

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New brain scan analysis tool can detect early signs of dementia

Researchers develop the first objective tool for assessing the onset of cognitive decline through the measurement of white spots in the brain.

Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock
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  • Experts have had no objective means of counting and measuring these lesions.
  • A new tool counts white spots and also cleverly measures their volumes.
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End gerrymandering? Here’s a radical solution

Why not just divide the United States in slices of equal population?

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