Journal for the History
of Astronomy
:
A Sampling of its Most …. Unusual Discoveries


Cataloging the Scholarly & Refereeing Reliability of
the Premier Astronomy-History Journal


(and challenging said premiership to compile a catalog of DIO-Generated Mis-Scholarship Even 1/10 as Extensive]



The Catalog:

  • 1981:    JHA review (by N.Swerdlow) misunderstands purpose — even the unambiguous TITLE — of the book being reviewed.
    DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡5 §A2 [p.30]. (This amused critique and that following below were authored for DIO by the Supervisor of the Space Sciences Division of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.)

  • 1981:    Swerdlow misunderstands significance of statistical results achieved when data do not permit desired precision but do establish a lack of demonstrated inconsistency with theory.
    DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡5 §D5 [p.33].

  • 1981:    Debut of MacArthur-genius-to-be N.Swerdlow's ineducability (DIO 20 [2012] ‡2 §B [pp.7-9]) regarding the potential accuracy of ancient solstices, as he supposes equinoxes to be more accurate. (A misunderstanding persisting in the JHA over 2 decades later.) All outdoor ancient astronomers' year-lengths (and usually calendars) were rightly based upon solstices: Meton, Kallippos, Hipparchos, BM55555.
    S.Solstice accuracy within ordmag 1h was achieved by Kallippos & Hipparchos: Bulletin Amer Astr Soc 17:583.
    DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡5 n.20 [p.45].
    [Hipparchos' calendar alone was perhaps equinox-based (though see DIO 20 [2012] ‡2 n.10 [p.17]), taking advantage of an accidental proximity (in his era) of the Autumn Equinox to the ancient Egyptian-calendar's Thoth 1. Starting at a regnal-year Day-One (Phil 197 Thoth 1 = −127/9/24 noon) just 2d before his −127/9/26 noon Autumn Equinox observation: DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡6 eq.28 [p.58]. But Hipparchos' year-length was empirically based on comparison of his own accurate −134 S.Solstice to a day-epoch-truncation of Aristarchos' −279 S.Solstice, and was apparently theoretically encouraged by its neat fit to a vast, remarkable geometric scheme which seems to be due to Aristarchos and can explain A's attraction to his Great Year of 4868 (not 2434, as some have proposed) Kallippic years.]

  • 1982:    Erroneous underlying math in analysis of real lunar motion vs Almajest  motion. DR's correction agreed to by author who on that basis fundamentally recomputed original article at JHA 15:134-135; 1984 June, with result happily much more accordant, as the author gratefully noted.
    But Hoskin has never forgiven DR for the Longstreetian crime of being right. (DIO 4.2 [1994] ‡9 n.5 [p.78].)

  • 1984:    Toppe academic-pol David Hughes — sometime Royal Astronomical Society Vice-Prez — shortly before (in his own journal) mangling a study of Halley-Comet apparitions by confusedly-mixing epoch 1950.0 and epoch-of-date orbits (DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡8 §§B-E [pp.78-84]), graced the JHA with his discovery of the glad news that (contrary to hitherto-accepted history) England had spotted the 1758 Halley return ahead of France. But of course this collapsed when DR revealed that the claim was based upon Hughes' confusedly-mixing Gregorian & Julian calendars.
    DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡8 §G [pp.85-87].

  • 1987:    James Evans climb-assisted his way to his current Editorship of the JHA by publishing a massive two-part 64pp alibi-fest (both sections run as Pb papers) attempting to obscure the success of Ptolemy skeptics R.Newton & DR. Among other demonstrations, the paper showed how to acquire admiration for one's writing style, by publishing without quotation-marks a couple of passages from J.Dreyer's 1890 book.

  • 1987: Putative referees for the paper let pass the JHA's pioneering abbreviation “Sag” for the constellation Sagittarius, which actual astronomers abbreviate “Sgr”.

  • 1987:    The Evans paper tries to alibi Ptolemy's lack of low stars by pointing to Tycho missing some dim low summer stars, unaware of the fact that in summer it doesn't get completely dark in Denmark.
    DIO 2.1 [1992] ‡4 §F2 [pp.43-44].

  • 1987:    An even more imaginative alibi suggests that there might have been a 6°-high pile of rocks south of the alleged observatory of Ptolemy (who astronomers have known for centuries wasn't an observer). The Magnitude-Split test shows that the rocks were entirely in the JHA's head.
    DIO 8 [1998] p.2.

  • 1987:    Same Evans paper tries showing how dumb Ptolemy-skeptics are, since they allegedly over-estimate ancient observational accuracy. To make his point, Evans adduces his own 1981 observations of the eclipsed Moon vs the star λSgr and Hipparchos' two discordant 2nd-century-BC observations of Spica, all of which displayed errors of ordmag 1°. But DR showed that the Hipparchan incompatibility was not from errors of observation but of wrong-signed parallax-correction: when this muff is corrected, both Spica cases' errors drop from ordmag 1° to ordmag 1' — as does that of Evans' own 1981 bungled math, when his identically wrong-signed parallax-correction is set straight.
    DIO 1.3 [1991] n.288 [p.173]; DIO 16 [2009] (Journal for Hysterical Astronomy) ‡1 [pp.2-10].

  • 1987:    While trying to evade DR's unevadable absent-error-waves proof that Ptolemy stole the Ancient Star Catalog, the JHA sloughed over a huge 63° phase-difference that gutted its argument, just saying that the phase is “not exactly right”.
    DIO 2.3 [1992] ‡8 §C13 [p.107].

  • 1987:    Same paper's unplumbed opacity-formula turns out to demand that Tycho observed 8th magnitude stars.
    This farce occurred because the author neglected to compute post-extinction magnitudes by his own formula.
    DIO 2.1 [1992] ‡4 §H7 [pp.47-49].

  • 1987:    Weirder yet, the paper claims that star ζCMa would be visible from Bergen, though at 10th magnitude by the paper's own formula.
    DIO 2.1 [1992] ‡4 n.65 [p.48]; DIO 2.3 [1992] ‡8 n.25 [p.104].

  • 1987:    The same paper's preferred atm opacity produces 11 magnitudes of brightness-loss at the horizon. Ptolemy says he observed 1st magnitude stars there.
    [Planetary Hypotheses 1.2.6. See sardonic discussion at DIO 3 [1993] §L8 and n.93.]
    Thus, the JHA must be credited with a spectacular discovery: Ptolemy saw 12th magnitude stars.

  • 1989:    Fabricated positions of Venus are called (by Noel Swerdlow) “required” positions. No one is required to fake data.
    DIO 11.3 [2002] ‡6 n.20 [p.74].

  • 1989:    Eyepopping allegation in Swerdlow's Ptolemy-alibifest MacArthur-Award paper that since (near maximum) Venus' elongation changes only 1°/12 in 6d, “in no way could Ptolemy estimate the time” of greatest elongation, an astoundingly irrelevant (and laughably misunderstood) point upon which JHA Board-member Swerdlow persists in ignorance. Here, his delusion is used to try alibiing the hilarity that Ptolemy self-contradictorily gives (at Almajest 10.1&2) two vastly different dates — 37 DAYS APART — and two different values for THE VERY SAME CELESTIAL EVENT: the 136AD greatest evening elongation of Venus. DIO 11.3 [2002] ‡6 n.20 [p.74].
    [How seriously the history-of-astronomy clique should be taken could not possibly be more ironically gauged than by the spectacle that its awe of brain-kissing expertise would lead it to recommend its grandest MacArthur for a completely straight-faced (and incompetent [not a word DIO uses lightly or at all frequently]) alibi-defense of by-far THE most ineptly, blatantly, amusingly bungled fake in the entire vast history of astronomy.
    Swerdlow's face must still hurt from the strain of not guffawing out loud at Ptolemy, the JHA, and the MacArthur committee.]

  • 1989:    The misunderstanding essential to this MacArthur Award-winning paper's claim that minuscule motion in 6d proves Ptolemy couldn't determine the time of Venus' elongation is depressingly parallel to the author's prior ironically-arrogant ignorance of the method of equal altitudes: DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡5 n.20 [p.45] & DIO 20 [2012] ‡2 §B [pp.7-9]. In both cases, one simply measures two equal values of elongation at sufficient distance from maximum for accuracy (but not so great as to cause trouble from non-quadraticity) and take the two times' mean as the time of maximum.
    (They teach this stuff in high school.
    But not, apparently, at the institutions that voted a MacArthur to this artfully careerist paper.)

  • 1989:    The foregoing incomprehensions lead to Swerdlow's claim: “the selection of a particular date for true greatest elongation would be arbitrary in any case.” I.e., the JHA, which makes up behind-the-back fantastic smears at will, naturally isn't bothered if a scientist just makes up data the same way.
    DIO 11.3 [2002] ‡6 n.20 [p.74].

  • 1991:    JHA discovers the Winter Equinox.
    Paralleling an equally eminent Muffioso's discovery of the Autumnal Solstice.
    Both discoveries compared in magnificence to Winnie-the-Pooh's discovery of the East Pole of the Earth: DIO 1.3 [1991] ‡10 (“Black Affidavit”) [p.177].

  • 1991:    New-arithmetic 128° − 65° = 65°.
    (This is not a mere typo, as contingent math shows.)
    DIO 1.2 [1991] §§G7&G9 [pp.121-122].

  • 1991:    Equating 67d2/3 with 67°2/3 (which is consistent with Velikovsky's 360d year: Worlds in Collision p.330).
    DIO 1.2 [1991] §G9 [p.122].

  • 1991:    JHA declares data unfittable by orbits, though these data obviously can be described by the usual elements.
    At Curtis Wilson's behest, the JHA printed a sorta retraction. DIO 6 [1996] ‡3 §H2 [p.42].

  • 1992:    JHA alleged “further research” into another scholar's curve fitted to the Ptolemy solar theory's errors — without noticing that it is undone (primarily) by an innocent sign-error (that created 180° phase discrepancy) — this, while refusing to cite
    [a] the correct fit elsewhere in the very DR 1982 paper that was extensively attacked in the JHA in 1987 by this same reviewer,
    or
    [b] the correct fit in the Wlodarczyk paper immediately following in the same 1987 JHA issue,
    or
    [c] the correct fit in Britton 1992 (Princeton; orig. Yale 1967).
    DIO 1.2 [1991] nn.144&145 [p.129].

  • 1992:    Current JHA board-member Swerdlow urged that consideration of a famous historical controversy be henceforth expunged from the Journal for the HISTORY of Astronomy for being too HISTORical. Definitely a non-pareil all-time First — and proposed by the history of astronomy establishment's idea of a MacArthur genius.
    DIO 2.3 [1992] ‡8 §C29-30 [pp.112-113].

  • 1992:    Same Swerdlow paper unaware that cosβ weights are needed for measuring the great-circle size of celestial longitude differentials.
    DIO 2.3 [1992] ‡8 n.31 [p.106].

  • 1992:    Same JHA paper also claims that 0°.2 great-circle waves in the Ancient Star Catalog would be undetectable.
    DIO 2.3 [1992] ‡8 n.31 [p.106].

  • 1992:    Same paper eyeballs fit to Peters longitude-error curve (instead of using least-squares), with seriously false result.
    DIO 2.3 [1992] ‡8 n.31 [p.106].

  • 1992:    In so doing, the author forgets to remove the large 11'-amplitude error-wave due to Ptolemy's known false obliquity, which muddles the phase and amplitude of the error-wave that actually needs explaining.
    DIO 2.3 [1992] ‡8 §C14 [p.107-108].

  • 1992:    Hoskin's rendition of Hegel's notorious 1801 planet-distance scheme fails to translate 4/3 power, thus omitting the heart of the theory.
    DIO 1.2 [1991] n.60 [p.110].

  • 1995:    Confusion of Hipparchos' 600y span of eclipse calculations (from his era back to 747BC) with a non-existent 600y cycle.
    DIO 6 [1996] ‡1 §K [pp.26-27].

  • 2001:    In a last-ditch attempt to salvage Ptolemy's claim of observership of the Ancient Star Catalog, JHA again extensively attacked DR's 1982 paper (published in a refereed science journal) proving Hipparchos observed the Catalog through a statistical argument dependent upon assuming a clear atmosphere. The JHA effort was pre-doomed by several simple arguments (all entirely independent of atmosphere-analysis):
    [a] R.Newton's fractional-endings argument (Crime of Claudius Ptolemy 1977 Johns Hopkins University).
    [b] DR's 1976 absent-error-waves analysis in the 1st part of the same 1982 paper whose 2nd part was under JHA attack.
    [c] G.Graßhoff's devastating 1986&1990 statistical study.
    Highly expert analyses by K.Pickering and D.Duke ended this chauvinist nonsense quickly.
    DIO 12 [2002].

  • 2001:    The same JHA paper had applied modern skies' daylight-sky opacity to ancient night-time best-clarity skies. The JHA went so far as to call DR's opacity-constant “ludicrous” and “absurd”. (Pickering's independent analyses countered this with ease.)
    DIO 12 [2002] ‡1.
    (In 2005, the 2001 author rather switched over to Hipparchos' side. In 2013, he sorta switched to the middle, still unable to admit having prominently and slanderously taken the wrong side in this ex-debate.)

  • 2001:    The most obvious factor overlooked by the JHA attack (and everyone else) was that if ancient sky-opacity (not long-suspected plagiarism) had accounted for the unique 6° gap between Ptolemy's horizon and his lowest stars, then we would find a similar gap in Hipparchos' Commentary (which the JHA author had neglected to consult!) — and the two catalogs' invisible antarctic circles would differ by 5° since Hipparchos' Rhodes is 5° north of Ptolemy's Alexandria. Neither of these gaps exist. The antarctic circle of invisible stars in Hipparchos' sole surviving star-opus (the Commentary: hundreds of star data) is identical to that of the “Ptolemy” catalog at Almajest 7.5-8.1.
    DIO 10 [2000] n.177; DIO 12 [2002] ‡1 p.4.

  • 2001:    As part of his argument for dense sky-opacity, the paper's author argued (along with the whole history of astronomy establishment) that Ptolemy's arcus visionis data were not on the horizon, despite Ptolemy's statement and diagram claiming they were. DIO challenged this in correspondence, pointing out that Ptolemy's opposite data, acronychal risings, cannot even be defined other than on the horizon. These unambiguous data proved the existence of a clear ancient atmosphere (which thereby requires [from atm-opacity consistency] that Ptolemy's arcus visionis data were on the horizon, too) — a result with important modern climate implications.
    DIO 12 [2002] §F11 (Pickering), Fig.4, & Table 3 [p.19] (Duke).

  • 2002: Journal for the History of Astronomy 33.1:15-19 purports to correct and provide a superior solution to the precious 13 Hipparchan klimata preserved by Strabo, though Aubrey Diller had already in 1934 effectively solved the problem at Klio 27:258. And DR later brought in standard ancient rounding which made the fit virtually perfect: DIO 4.2 [1994] Table  p.58.
    For the 2002 paper, the usual zombie JHA referees never noticed a symptom revealing just how convinced the author really was of the theory he was using to cast doubt on the work of JHA's Dis, namely: the article includes NO TABLE. Of course, ALL previous klimata studies did so (in order to illustrate how well their theories fit the Strabo data: Diller 1934, Neugebauer HAMA 1975 p.305, DR op cit. Obviously, the 2002 author didn't want to display how badly his theories fit the data. Understandable. But transparent.

  • 2002:    Nonrealization (echoing Swerdlow) that ancients found latitude (Almajest Book 1) from solstices, not equinoxes.
    DIO 16 [2009] ‡3 §F3 [p.28].

  • 2002:    Consistent mis-computing of Syracuse latitude by 200 stades.
    DIO 16 [2009] ‡3 n.3 [p.18].

  • Mistaking outdoor observations for indoor calculations. DIO 16 [2009] ‡3 §F2&G [pp.27&30-31].

  • 2002:    And vice-versa. DIO 16 [2009] ‡3 §§F3-F4 [pp.28-29].

  • 2002:    Indiscriminately&simultaneously proposing 2 contradictory obliquities for klima-calculation.
    DIO 16 [2009] ‡3 §E7 [p.27].

  • 2005:    JHA 36.2:167-196 (2005 May) mis-spells the constellation “Ophiuchus” 5 times out of 5.

  • 2005:    In drawing data from Hipparchos' Commentary, same article confuses his Athens and Rhodos latitudes.

  • 2005:    Further: placing of stars leads to amusing explosive failure.

  • 2005:    Sign-error for star αAri corrupts date arrived at, and contradicts article's own photo. (Since this is the 1st star of a list, it shows that none of the list's stars were checked by any of the paper's six referees.)

  • 2005:    Confusion of atmospheric extinction's effect on size of arctic and antarctic circles.

  • 2005:    North confused with south.

  • 2005:    Obs-Calc confused with reverse.

  • 2005:    Left confused with right.

  • 2005:    Improper merging of two statistically incompatible samples.

  • 2007:    Proposed explanation of Khufu pyramid-shaft grades, without realizing its lack of statistical significance, or even that the claim was statistical at all.
    DIO 16 [2009] ‡3 n.24 [p.26].

  • 2007:    And it turns out that this paper's scheme fits its data better if its trig-argument is inverted.

  • 2008:    At Journal for the History of Astronomy 39:290, Greek stellar declinations are held to have mean error about 10'. (Cited to DIO 13.3 though no such statement appears there.) Comments: [a] DIO 4.1 [1994] ‡3 Table 3 [p.45] shows that extant Greek star declinations from 260BC to 160AD were measured two times more accurately than 10': median error about 5'.
    [The shockingly unexpected empirical consistency of the several parallax-sign-error arguments of DIO 16 [2009] ‡1 suggest that Hipparchos' eclipse-based star longitudes (presumably repeated several times at each event) were also accurate to ordmag an arcmin.]

  • 2008:    At Journal for the History of Astronomy 39:287-290, Greek solstice-measurement is said to be based upon solar declination-observations of slackness 15'!! — a figure defended by comparison to stellar errors. Comments:
    [1] Solar & stellar observations' accuracies oughtn't to be confused, given the enormous brightness differential.
    [2] There is plenty of indication that the best Greek observers' raw solar data had random-error σ = c.1'. — an order of magnitude better than 15'. See, e.g.: Isis 73:259-261 (1982); DIO 16 [2009] ‡2; DIO 20 [2012] ‡1 & ‡2.
    [3] One arcmin is, after all, ordinarily considered the approximate accuracy of the human eye.

  • 2008:    JHA 39:289 proposes that ancient solstice-determiners could have gotten around the foregoing (imaginary) 15' σ difficulty by melding a long series of mixed-quality equal-altitudes pairs. (Each pair required finding t1&t2 when the Sun's altitude was the same, d days before&after solstice, then figuring solstice-time tSS = [t1 + t2]/2.) The proposed d values: 20d, 25d, 30d, … 50d, 55d (8 pair).
    Well, if the mean error were really 15':
    [a] For the solar perigee & eccentricity of classical antiquity, using d = 55d would've produced systematic error −8 hours, random error 11h; and
    [b] a solstice based on d = 20d would have had systematic error of merely −1h, but a random error of well over a day!
    Conclusion: The proposed series does not seem to be exactly the ideal way to find the hour of a solstice. Hitherto-unnoted surprise-refutation of JHA-proposed Greek chaotic inaccuracy: the newly available papyrus P.Fouad 267A bears a previously-unknown −157 Greek solstice — which is indisputably accurate to ordmag 1h.

  • 2008:    The header to the author's Table 1 (p.286) claims its solar data's hours are given at Almajest 3.1; i.e., the hour of the −134 solstice is listed by Ptolemy. False. It has long been pointed out (e.g., by W.Hartner: 1980/8/15 letter to DR; DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡6 §B3 [p.52]) that Ptolemy does not give the hour of either of the two solstices (Aristarchos −279 & Hipparchos −134) which Almajest 3.1 correctly reports were used by Hipparchos to estimate the length of the tropical year.

  • 2008:    Thus, in approving an obviously indefensible attempt to deny credit to DR for his totally novel and important discovery (DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡6 §A [pp.49-50]) that the −134 Hipparchos solstice's hour was dawn, JHA's putative referees defy a mass of experts:
    [1] H.Thurston (History of Science Society's Isis 2002).
    [2] The Encyclopedia of Astronomy & Astrophysics (Hipparchos entry).
    [3] B.van der Waerden (author of Dictionary of Scientific Biography's Babylonian math entry) who renounced one of his own papers due to this discovery, calling its revelation and its development “marvelous”.
    [4] The British Museum, Room 52.

    But the JHA continues in-denial. THAT's determination.
  • 2008:    The JHA's understandably-unrefereed author is a last-ditch-holdout rejector (JHA 39:293) of ALL of DR's discoveries of the Hipparchos solar orbits not relayed in the Almajest. Hipparchos' final “UH” solar orbit was validly reconstructed at DIO 1.1 [1991] ‡6 (eqs.13, 17, 18, 28 [pp.55-58]), as agreed to by the Encyclopedia of Astronomy & Astrophysics (2000), H.Thurston in Isis 2002, & A.Jones in Springer's Wrong for all the Right Reasons 2005 (pp.23-24). This orbit's establishment by Hipparchos depended upon his accurate Summer Solstice of −134/6/26 6AM; so, one can see why a disbeliever in accurate Greek solstice-observations would have to reject it.

  • 2008:    But even the JHA author's solar-declination 1/4-degree-σ fantasy is insufficient to explain JHA rejection of DR's derivation (DIO 1.3 [1991] ‡ §K4f [pp.142f]) of Hipparchos' early (−157) “EH” solar orbit, since its founding S.Solstice was NOT observed — but rather was indoor-computed from Kallippos' calendar (DIO 1.3 [1991] §K8 [p.143]).

  • 2008: At JHA 39:293-4) D.Duke earns his place on the ever-so-elite JHA Board by damning as utterly worthless all three of DR's reconstructed Hipparchos orbits, including the EH orbit & the “Frankenstein” (both induced at DIO 1.3 [1991] §§K&M from the two eclipse trios of Almajest 4.11). deeming them “neither conclusive nor satisfying” since “parameters deduced from trio analyses are very sensitive to small changes in the input data”. (Shouldn't that read “small errors?) I.e., nothing reliable can be elicited from the data DR depended upon. Just throw all that DIO junk out. But, then — something funny happened on the way to the dumpster. You see, what DR had elicited from Trio B of Almajest 4.11 was that Hipparchos had adopted an EH orbit based on [1] a Summer Solstice of −157, and using [2] Kallippic mean solar motion — and Trio A had confirmed the same solar motion. Neither datum had ever previously been connected to Hipparchos. Lo, 1/4 century later a rare new papyrus (P.Fouad 267A) was miraculously produced (see Anne Tihon Archimedes 23:2-10; 2010), revealing that Hipparchos' 1st known ephemeris was based on a −157 solstice and its table of mean solar longitudes was computed from Kallippic motion. Ahhhhh, tell us again, JHA, how nothing reliable could possibly be induced by DR from those eclipse trios?

  • 2013:    JHA 44 claims that reducing stellar brightness by 1/3 adds 1/3 of a magnitude. Actually it's about 1/4 of a magnitude — an error of 10%.

  • 2013:    The same article provides (p.73) a formula for atmospheric refraction as a function of true zenith distance which is actually a function of apparent zenith distance. At the horizon this formula (and the author's odd atmospheric opacity) will predict a star to be 40 times too dim. Error = 4000%.