Vortex Garbage

Jan 22 2013 Published by under Bad Physics

A reader who saw my earlier post on the Vortex math talk at a TEDx conference sent me a link to an absolutely dreadful video that features some more crackpottery about the magic of vortices.

It says:

The old heliocentric model of our solar system,
planets rotating around the sun, is not only boring,
but also incorrect.

Our solar system moves through space at 70,000km/hr.
Now picture this instead:

(Image of the sun with a rocket/comet trail propelling
it through space, with the planets swirling around it.)

The sun is like a comet, dragging the planets in its wake.
Can you say "vortex"?

The science of this is terrible. The sun is not a rocket. It does not propel itself through space. It does not have a tail. It does not leave a significant "wake". (There is interstellar material, and the sun moving through it does perturb it, but it's not a wake: the interstellar material is orbiting the galactic center just like the sun. Gravitational effects do cause pertubations, but it's not like a boat moving through still water, producing a wake.) Even if you stretch the definition of "wake", the sun certainly does not leave a wake large enough to "drag" the planets. In fact, if you actually look at the solar system, the plane the ecliptic - the plane where the planets orbit the sun - is at a roughly 60 degree angle to the galactic ecliptic. If planetary orbits were a drag effect, then you would expect the orbits to be perpendicular to the galactic ecliptic. But they aren't.

If you look at it mathematically, it's even worse. The video claims to be making a distinction between the "old heliocentric" model of the solar system, and their new "vortex" model. But in fact, mathematically, they're exactly the same thing. Look at it from a heliocentric point of view, and you've got the heliocentric model. Look at the exact same system from point that's not moving relative to galactic center, and you get the vortex. They're the same thing. The only difference is how you look at it.

And that's just the start of the rubbish. Once they get past their description of their "vortex" model, they go right into the woo. Vortex is life! Vortex is sprirituality! Oy.

If you follow their link to their website, it gets even sillier, and you can start to see just how utterly clueless the author of this actually is:

(In reference to a NASA image showing the interstellar "wind" and the heliopause)

Think about this for a minute. In this diagram it seems the Solar System travel to the left. When the Earth is also traveling to the left (for half a year) it must go faster than the Sun. Then in the second half of the year, it travels in a “relative opposite direction” so it must go slower than the Sun. Then, after completing one orbit, it must increase speed to overtake the Sun in half a year. And this would go for all the planets. Just like any point you draw on a frisbee will not have a constant speed, neither will any planet.

See, it's a problem that the planets aren't moving at a constant speed. They speed up and slow down! Oh, the horror! The explanation is that they're caught by the sun's wake! So they speed up when they get dragged, until they pass the sun (how does being dragged by the sun ever make them faster than the sun? Who knows!), and then they're not being dragged anymore, so they slow down.

This is ignorance of physics and of the entire concept of frame of reference and symmetry that is absolutely epic.

There's quite a bit more nonsense, but that's all I can stomach this evening. Feel free to point out more in the comments!

11 responses so far

  • Sizik says:

    It's a pretty cool looking way to visualize the solar system (especially with the trails being left by the sun/planets), but that's about where it stops being useful. Also, helices != spirals.

  • Dave M says:

    "how does being dragged by the sun ever make them faster than the sun? Who knows!"

    Well, you remember "downwind faster than the wind", right? (*cough*)

    • MarkCC says:

      Downwind faster than the wind is a very different phenomenon that this supposed wake-drag.

      DWFTW is basically the same thing that allows boats to move upwind by tacking. You've got two different adjacent domains moving at different speeds. You can use that difference to extract energy. It's actually straightforward thermodynamically: you're just moving energy from one place to another, in a straightforward, and straightforwardly lossy way.

      In this story, there's no energy differential to exploit. The only source of force/energy is the sun. They're claiming that the planets are orbiting because of a wake in the interstellar medium - but there aren't two different mediums with different energies.

  • Jared G says:

    I sure hope no one clues him in on the magic of planetary rotation. A vortex within a vortex! A double vortex... which is like double helix. Hey, wait a minute.......

  • Zen says:

    What really makes me sad is the number of people in the comments on youtube that exclaim "Brilliant!" and "Amazing". Apparently all it takes is some chill music, and some fancy cgi, combined with non-sense words to get people to believe its real science.

  • sibling says:

    Kepler's second law states that planets move faster when they are closer to the sun. This is true for planets with an elliptical orbit, like Earth.

  • jahanurie says:

    although those detail (about the speeding up and down) maybe false, ins't the basic idea right that the sun is also moving around the center of the galaxy and then, planets in our solar system is also moving in a spiral motion? It seems that you are finding fault with the details, but I wonder as a person not specialized in cosmology, if this model makes more sense than the usual model we know where the sun is always still and other plants are just moving around.

  • IF the Big Bang theory is correct the the sun WOULD be dragging the planets thru space because of its gravity field. All the planets in our solar system revolve around the sun due to the complexities of density from the sun acting on space itself. Space is where inertia does not exist, that is why we can launch satellites in space and over time they can reach speeds that would surpass the speeds of any man made fueled rocket. Therefore in conclusion the sun, if anything, is speeding up over time and distance because of the Big Bang, correct?? or do you really want us to believe that we have hit a pocket in space where we no longer move and stay in one coordinate? That would seem illogical. Remember at one time we believed the earth was flat, how wrong were we? Common sense goes further than we know.

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