“Overthrowing” Science?

The clockwork universe -- "overthrown" by relativity? (From Einstein and Eddington, BBC)

The clockwork universe — “overthrown” by relativity? (From Einstein and Eddington, BBC)

I enjoyed watching a couple of movies during the holidays. Covering important historical events, they detailed the back stories behind major scientific developments.

Einstein and Eddington, a BBC production from a few years ago (available on YouTube), is a dramatization of one of the most famous scientific experiments of the last century. The 1919 British expedition to Africa led by Sir Arthur Eddington, to observe and record a total solar eclipse, was undertaken to test Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

The Imitation Game tells the story of Professor Alan Turing’s involvement in cracking Enigma – the German coding device used to encrypt the military communications and operations of the Third Reich. This successful, British top-secret effort by a group of scientists and cryptologists, is credited with saving many lives and for shortening the duration of World War II considerably.

While these two films are interesting and reasonably well told, what caught my attention were certain ideas implied by the narratives. Viewers need to be cognizant of history – and artistic license – when a filmmaker uses the descriptor “based on a true story.” In both cases, the story lines got some things wrong. In Einstein and Eddington, it was implied that the General Theory of Relativity (tested and validated by Eddington’s observations) “overthrew” Newtonian mechanics (the physics that we all learn in high school). At the end of The Imitation Game, we are told that “Turing’s Machine” (the collection of relays and rotating drums that was used to decode the Enigma messages) is “known today as the computer.” This statement implies that Turing invented the modern computer. I think that both of these “conclusions” (as they seem to imply) are wrong and do a disservice because they reflect a misunderstanding of how science works and the meaning of scientific knowledge.

Science is the process by which we explain nature. It involves not merely expensive laboratory equipment, white lab smocks and wild hair on absent-minded academics, but in reality, it is a way of thinking about problems. We observe the world and devise explanations for phenomena. Usually, most of these “guesses” are wrong. The most common misunderstanding about science is that it is a collection of immutable knowledge. Actually, it is a collection of the best explanations that we have at any given time. Any scientific explanation is subject to change, given enough compelling evidence. Researchers must keep an open mind about scientific explanations (called hypotheses), even those that have been long accepted by most workers (the scientific “consensus”).

When a hypothesis has been around for some time and continually passes whatever tests we can devise for it, it becomes elevated to the status of a scientific theory. Note well that this meaning of the word theory is very different from its common meaning in everyday speech. In common parlance, we typically use the word theory to mean what a scientist means by the word hypothesis, which is usually no more than an opinion (informed or not). But there is a very important difference.

In science, any hypothesis must be testable. To maintain its status as a viable concept, hypotheses undergo repeated testing. A million “passings” of an experimental test mean nothing against a single failure. If a hypothesis cannot stand experimental or observational scrutiny, it must be discarded. At best, it is incomplete; at worst, it is simply wrong. If a hypothesis continually stands up over time to many different tests, it gradually becomes accepted as a theory. Good hypotheses and theories not only stand up to rigorous testing, but they make predictions about what possible future tests will indicate.

The system laid out in Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia (1687) described a mechanistic world that was predictable and comprehensible. Its famous Law of Gravitation made testable predictions, one of the first being a precise description of the timing and location of the next apparition of the 1682 comet (now known as Halley’s comet), which promptly appeared again in 1758. The Newtonian system was so thorough and comprehensive that it was thought to be the definitive explanation for the way our universe worked.

Toward the end of the 19th Century, problems with Newtonian mechanics appeared. These involved diverse phenomena ranging between the extremely small and the extremely large. Problems appeared with the classical understanding of light as a wave. The orbit of Mercury did not conform to strict Newtonian predictions. Einstein, working to explain some of these discrepancies, concluded that classical Newtonian mechanics were not wrong – merely incomplete. It was only at the extreme ranges of possible measurement (such as very massive objects like stars, and very high velocities such as the speed of light) that these discrepancies were evident. Einstein went on to develop a new system to better describe the behavior of the universe in these extremes.

The contention of the film Einstein and Eddington that Einstein “overthrew” Newtonian physics is simply wrong. General Relativity (Einstein’s name for his model) doesn’t overthrow anything – it extends mechanics into realms with which Newton had no experience. Under normal conditions (i.e., human-scale interactions with nature), Newton’s equations work just fine. Only at the very limits of observational science do we find that we need relativistic mechanics. A good example of this is the use of GPS systems to navigate cars, ships and airplanes. Because GPS satellites move at very high speeds (orbital velocity) and use extremely precise (atomic) clocks, corrections must be made for the fact that relativity predicts that time moves more slowly the faster you travel. This relativistic time correction is needed to give the meter-scale precision that GPS can deliver.

One of the most interesting things about General Relativity is that it does not replace Newtonian physics – it encompasses it. When velocities and distances are more within the realm of normal human experience, the Einstein gravitational equation reduces to the Newtonian one. Thus, General Relativity did not “overthrow” Newtonian theory – it extended it into new realms. Scientific revolutions rarely overthrow systems of thought, more typically they extend and refine our knowledge. (One exception is the overthrow of the Ptolemaic Earth-centered Solar System by the Copernican Sun-centered one.)

Likewise, Turing’s Enigma de-coding machine at Bletchley Park was not the world’s first computer. Computing machines have been built for centuries, each new one being more advanced, more powerful and more capable than the last. If any one person should be granted the “honor” of being the father of the computer, it is probably John von Neumann, whose basic computer architecture is used in every computer today. Turing certainly deserves great credit for his ideas about algorithms and computable numbers, but a “Turing Machine” is a theoretical concept, not a practical computer. The work of von Neumann built upon and extended Alan Turing’s work (whose value von Neumann fully acknowledged). Newton notably expressed the cumulative process of learning in science when he said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Science advances incrementally (small steps that contribute to knowledge) and cumulatively (each piece adds to the larger whole). It is also supposed to be self-correcting. Scientists must accept and acknowledge the concept that scientific knowledge is constantly changing and changeable. Thus, ideas like “the opinion of the majority of scientists” or “consensus” reflect not science but our current incomplete (and likely mistaken) state of knowledge. The worst science of all twists new observations, facts and discoveries inside out to preserve the viability of some existing model. A wide variety of current popular scientific ideas (such as the origin of the Moon and global climate change) belong in this category. The attractiveness or appeal of an idea is not relevant to its validity. Scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable. If they are not, we’re just chasing our tails.

I strongly recommend both films for enjoyable entertainment and insight into how science works – just watch out for the producers’ misunderstandings of it.

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19 Responses to “Overthrowing” Science?

  1. billgamesh says:

    The exception to the rule you mentioned, the Ptolemaic worldview, is in my view similar to the current controversy over climate change. Nobody was happy with the idea that Earth was not the center of the solar system because, for one thing, it made those people who ran the world look dumb. Only a few “smart people” in modern times have cast doubt upon the validity of climate change. When someone like Freeman Dyson says he has his doubts I listen. But when someone like Rush Limbaugh starts blathering I stop listening. And the conservative and liberal influence on this issue is the whole problem; whether it is caused by human activity or not affects the disposition of literally trillions of dollars and the future course of civilization.

    I am not a scientist, or engineer, or world leader or captain of industry, I am just a lowly technician. A troubleshooter of feedback loops (autopilots) for most of my life. As such, I tend to see situations and events in a far less complicated relationship to each other. Outside of those misbehaving devices that conspire to make me work late I assign a simple rule to almost everything else: follow the money. The money says that fossil fuels are what make the world go around and those god-like entities who own everything want very much not to upset that status quo. Follow the paychecks of almost all of the climate denial proponents back to their source and you will find that status quo on the job. Follow the paychecks of those scientists (and there are far more of them) who believe climate change is caused by human activity; unless you are a conspiracy theorist who believes in a global socialist conspiracy you will not find the Koch brothers or BP. Money is the god of this world. However, people like Freeman Dyson do confuse my own simplified look at this issue.

    It should be remembered that a world famous scientist said quite matter-of-factly that splitting atoms would never amount to anything. Even Einstein fudged some numbers because what he had did not seem right- and later said it was his greatest mistake. In my view the Moon and climate change are simply tools to help humankind troubleshoot the faults of our existence- to insure the future of the human race is more utopia than nightmare. Utopian dreams are not the enemy- they may be impossible but it is in that direction I believe we need to face. The other direction- where “Greed is Good” and those few that have everything deserve it and everyone else deserves nothing- I am quite familiar with. It does not really matter what science eventually determines concerning climate change; the next election is what I am looking at. The only way to remedy any effect greenhouse gases have on the ecosystem is to acquire the energy to run civilization outside of that system. That means beaming it down from space. And that means building those Solar Power Satellites on the Moon. The only place the money to begin this enterprise is going to come from is the defense budget. My flow chart does not have very many branches.

    And that makes me a “believer” in global climate change.

    • Paul Spudis says:

      And that makes me a “believer” in global climate change.

      “Belief” is not science. And that’s my point.

    • Joe says:

      “Follow the paychecks of those scientists (and there are far more of them) who believe climate change is caused by human activity; unless you are a conspiracy theorist who believes in a global socialist conspiracy you will not find the Koch brothers or BP.”

      But you will find a cadre of institutions and politicians who have all developed a financial interest in pushing for the replacement of fossil fuels with (fill in your favorite “sustainable” energy source here). Those entities have the capability to direct substantial resources (in the form of research grants) and social recognition (in the form of awards and – also lucrative – speaking engagements) to “those scientists”.

      Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

  2. billgamesh says:

    I am pretty much a World War II nut and have read a good deal on Turing’s work breaking the U-boat codes. The amazing fact is, that if any one person contributed more to winning the war, that could in a sense have been said to have won World War II, it was Alan Turing. That he was a homosexual and eventually arrested for it- and committed suicide after undergoing court-ordered hormone treatments- is in the history books. I have not seen the movie so I cannot comment on how this interesting story was portrayed. I am waiting for a biopic about Mr. Brown that does not spare the details of his involvement- as a Nazi SS officer- in the deaths of thousands of slave laborers in the Dora rocket factory. I consider his wet workshop concept to be a critical requirement for any human spaceflight program and his contribution to our nation cannot be overstated. But that does not remove what he was before the U.S. wiped his slate clean and rehabilitated him.

    Winston Churchill said the U-boat threat was the only thing that really scared him during the war and the campaign against Britain’s merchant fleet came extremely close to causing them to ask for terms. It has been variously estimated they were within two weeks of shipping, or of two squadrons of anti-submarine aircraft, of various other measures indicating how close the U-boats came to winning the war for Germany. Most of this happened before Pearl Harbor or in the 6 months afterward when the U.S. was not in a position to do much about it. It was very close. And incidentally, where the Spruce Goose came from- an extremely risky venture to find a way to supply England from the air. The Goose was a failure because it just did not (and could not with the current engine technology) have the horsepower to perform as advertised and Howard Hughes tried desperately to cover up the fiasco. Reminds me of the situation Musk is in.

    As for Einstein and World War II, there is a little known story about our own submarine war in the pacific that concerns Albert. Our torpedoes were….junk. Because of a reluctance to spend any money on actually making sure they worked as advertised before the war began we went up against the Japanese with weapons that did not work…most of the time. It took a long time to figure out why because Navy ordnance spent months covering up and trying to deny the problem was any of their doing or their responsibility- they blamed it all on the enlisted submarine sailors performing poor maintenance. Someone took the blueprints to Einstein during all this and after studying them he suggested putting a short false nose on the head of the torpedo. He intuited the problem had something to do with the way the torpedo was being detonated and controlling that event with a physical moderator might fix it. He was thanked but it did not seem like any kind of a solution. But it turned out he was right- it would have fixed our torpedoes. The guy was so smart he could fix a problem without even knowing exactly what was causing it.

    • billgamesh says:

      I would add that if you watch the old World at War documentary series (as I did every Sunday afternoon in my early teens), there is an interview with a British naval officer where he talks very badly about the decision-makers in the early years of the war concerning convoys and anti-submarine warfare. The anguish in his voice and the look on his face as he keeps himself from cursing is stark. The Brits were in some ways their own worst enemies. The Germans were even more guilty of poor decision-making and vast resources were squandered in their research and development programs on then-bizarre programs for cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. These weapons did not really become effective until 15 years later after far more resources were expended. Besides the code breakers at Bletchley the other factor responsible for beating the German submarines was radar. If they had allowed a more logical R&D organization like the British had it might be a very different world. We like to think the people in high places are smart but they blunder and are as blind to opportunity as ever.

      Even today, the practical application of science to change the world for the better is largely ignored. Solar Power Satellites are in my view one of the most amazing concepts ever imagined and the ice on the Moon means such a revolutionary industry is now practical. One of the key figures in the Manhattan project, Stan Ulam, considered his concept of nuclear pulse propulsion for spaceships to be his greatest work. There is still no other practical system to propel an interplanetary spaceship….and no plans at all of doing so.

    • Joe says:

      “I am waiting for a biopic about Mr. Brown that does not spare the details of his involvement- as a Nazi SS officer- in the deaths of thousands of slave laborers in the Dora rocket factory. I consider his wet workshop concept to be a critical requirement for any human spaceflight program and his contribution to our nation cannot be overstated.”

      I assume by “Mr. Brown” you mean Werner Von Braun. I am going to leave the issue of assessing blame for Nazi atrocities to others, but Von Braun did not originate the concept of using expended fuel tanks as habitable volume. That honor goes to another Peenemunde alumnus Krafft Ehricke (yes I know I have mentioned him quite a bit, but he generated a number of concepts – many of them useful – for which he doesn’t get credit).

      Check out the link below:

      http://www.krafftaehricke.com/ehricke_outpost_1.php

      • billgamesh says:

        I will be more than happy to attribute it to Ehricke if you can cite something that actually says so.

        Since Skylab did fly and……. “As far back as the Peenemunde days, von Braun and his colleagues had speculated on converting an empty stage into a shelter for a small crew. In 1959 the idea was put forth in the report of a study called Project Horizon,-”

        http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4208/ch2.htm

        • Joe says:

          OK. I will take your 1959 and raise you 1958:

          http://www.friends-partners.org/mwade/craft/outpost.htm

          If you look into the details of Project Orion, you will also find that Ehricke had inputs.

          • Joe says:

            That was obviously meant to say Project Horizon.

          • billgamesh says:

            What is obvious is that we can’t ask either one of them who first came up with the idea at Peenemunde. And since calling it “Ehricke’s Wet Workshop Concept” is not what is in the history books and will confuse others, I am sorry but I am going to have to keep associating it with who everyone else does (unless you can change the wiki entry). I will give credit to Ehricke for promoting hydrogen while von Braun favored more conservative propellents.

            I notice there is now an entry on the wiki page concerning a proposed Lagrange “Skylab II” using SLS components. There is no mention of what happens when the first X-class flare hits it. I can see such a station in lunar orbit where it has better access to lunar water radiation shielding- brought up by robots- but why a Langrange location? Because the Moon is verboten?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wet_workshop

      • Joe says:

        You can, of course refer to it anyway you want (still a free country), but Ehricke’s 1958 proposal to use expended Atlas tanks is well documented and is curiously not even mentioned in the history article you linked.

        As far as wiki goes, I believe anyone can edit their articles. You could change it to read that Bugs Bunny originated the concept. Would not prove that he did.

  3. Dear Dr. Spudis,

    Quite timely that you have mentioned relativity.

    Like most of the people who follow your blog, I consider myself rather technically astute; yet I must admit that despite a lifetime of exposure to the theory of relativity, I have never been able to establish a satisfactory mental picture of even the most elementary of its phenomenon, and, in particular, the length contraction of Special Relativity:

    Why would a 1,000-foot long space ship rushing directly over my head at 80% of the speed of light appear to me to have a length of only 600 feet?

    Now, at age 66, I’ve made resolving this situation one of my “to do” items; and so if any of my fellow readers know of a truly ironclad visualization of length contraction, I would be glad to learn of it.

    I therefore provide my email address — gsmith@space-machines.com — with the certainty that we would not wish to muddy the pages of this tightly-focused blog with an extended consideration of relativity. (Just ask the editors of Speculations in Science and Technology — the professional scientific journal, by the way, which has published at least one of Marcel Williams’ scientific papers: they once advertised for a special edition on relativity, and found themselves overwhelmed with submissions.)

    So — with the promise that I will report back if anything interesting pops up — I will be happy to pursue this off-site.

    One final point, however: to say that I have not been able to form a mental picture of length contraction is not to say that I bear a casual relationship to the subject; indeed — and here I get to brag a bit, since I have also been willing to admit my failings! — I am the author of a once-popular data communications protocol ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BLAST_(protocol) ) whose chief selling point was its resistance to propagation delay — so I’m not exactly a babe in the woods when it comes to the reality of electromagnetic phenomenon; I’ve also studied key source documents, and especially Einstein’s original 1905 paper ( here in English translation: http://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/einstein/specrel/specrel.pdf ); and with the critical intervention of close friend Paul Gregory, I’ve recently succeeded in re-deriving the entire set of intermediate algebraic steps in the application of the Lorentz-Fitzgerald factor to the Michelson-Morley experiment.

    Naturally, therefore, I am also familiar with most of the standard visualizations of length contraction — and find all of them fatally inadequate! With Newton’s inverse-square law of gravity, for example, we can draw evenly-spaced lines radiating out from a common center, and see with our own eyes that the number of lines intersecting a given object varies in proportion to the square of the distance. With length contraction, on the other hand, the expositor will typically trot out a diagram — and then do quite a bit of verbal hand waving before declaring “QED” to a still much-befuddled readership.

    Note carefully that I am not denying the truth of relativity, but only asserting that it is difficult to visualize; in fact, it is my current hypothesis that relativity is impossible to visualize, and thus represents the first instance of a modern physics in which reality seems to conform to the laws of an arbitrary mathematical model as opposed to the intuitions of countless millennia of human hunter/gatherers.

    I apologize, Dr. Spudis, for carrying on so — I hope all of this an example of your main point, that the real scientist will always have his antennae deployed!

    Regards,
    G. W. (Glenn) Smith
    New Orleans, LA

    • Paul Spudis says:

      Note carefully that I am not denying the truth of relativity, but only asserting that it is difficult to visualize; in fact, it is my current hypothesis that relativity is impossible to visualize, and thus represents the first instance of a modern physics in which reality seems to conform to the laws of an arbitrary mathematical model as opposed to the intuitions of countless millennia of human hunter/gatherers.

      Much of science is “counter-intuitive” and in fact, we are often required to discard our “instinctive” impressions and beliefs in the face of the results of observation and experiment. Much of ALL science is difficult to imagine, but that does not make it any less real. How is Einstein’s conception of curved space any more difficult to envision than Newton’s instantaneous force acting at a distance as an explanation for gravity? Both are quasi-mystical and beyond the realm of human experience.

      It is for this reason that we establish the careful protocols of observation, hypothesis, testing and experimentation, and theory construction in science. Without the formal rigor of methodological discipline, we are helpless before an incomprehensible universe.

      • billgamesh says:

        Computers are not strictly a 20th century invention. One of my first jobs in the military was performing turret maintenance on tanks and inside the M-48A5 (only a few left in 1980) was a mechanical ballistic computer and that technology goes way back. It did have an electric motor to turn the gears though.

        “By the time the government killed the project in 1842, they had given Babbage over £17,000, without receiving a working engine. What Babbage did not, or was unwilling to, recognize was that the government was interested in economically produced tables, not the engine itself.[5]”

        Filthy lucre. Where would we be now if science had Babbage machines from the mid-19th century on?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine

  4. LocalFluff says:

    Great text! Once again, I only wish you took the time to write more of them.

    Science evolves gradually. The great astronomers were actually all astrologers. Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei made their living by foretelling the destinies of their clients. They created astrophysics only in order to make more precise horoscopes. If today an astronomer became an astrologer, it would be quite awkward. But back then, astrology was the obvious thing to start out with. Astronomy was just a tool for improving the prediction of the mysterious destiny of men on Earth. Even Newton only spent a year and a half on creating the Physics. He wrote tens of thousands of unpublished pages about his nut-job religious biblical ideas. That’s were his passion was. The physics was only a detail in his mind about God’s grand plan.

    You mention Copernicus as an exception to the rule. Even that exception is unnecessary, though the very word “revolution” was minted because of him. The heliocentric idea was already thousands of years older, it was a generally considered hypothesis. But the geocentric Ptolemaic model was actually simpler and more reliable. Ptolemai basically invented the method of Fourier transformation to make a model fit to the data. Well done! And it lasted for almost two millennia. Even Copernicus proposed, not the Sun, but a point in space near the Sun, the “equant”, as the center of the Solar system. Not very convincing. And no more practical than the Ptolemaic model. It was Johannes Kepler who saw that Ptolemy, Copernicus and Brahe all had the same idea. The same thing just formulated in different ways, in different frameworks. They were mathematically equivalent. That’s how he starts out his opus Astronomia Nova. If he disproves one of them, he disproves all of them.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equant

    “Tell me,” Wittgenstein’s asked a friend, “why do people always say, it was natural for man to assume that the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth was rotating?” His friend replied, “Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going round the Earth.” Wittgenstein replied, “Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?”

    • Paul Spudis says:

      We shouldn’t judge Newton and his contemporaries by modern standards. Astrology, alchemy and reading the mind of God were all considered valid intellectual pursuits. Newton’s religious beliefs were unorthodox, but not totally out of line with the spectrum of religious philosophy of his day.

      As far as the Copernican system goes, his biggest error (and the reason that the epicycles of Ptolemy had more predictive power) was his assumption that the planets orbited the Sun in circular orbits. Kepler demonstrated that planetary orbits are ellipses, which made the heliocentric model viable.

  5. Mark says:

    Does the development of science progress along a linear path? I was quite taken by the Antikythera mechanism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism) though I’m not sure if one would call it a computer.

    • billgamesh says:

      If we get hit by an asteroid or comet or suffer a global pandemic then depending on the result we may be back in the dark ages herding goats…..or worse. Or extinct. Since Dr. Spudis is commenting on movies I will put my recommendation in for “The Road.” No sunlight for a couple years and there is no food and very quickly the only people left are cannibals. The movie was so incredibly depressing they kept it from being released and messed with it trying to make it more “entertaining” but did not have much luck. Too real.

      People think it cannot happen but they are so wrong. I have personally seen what a category V super hurricane can do up close (Hugo 1989). Civilization is far more fragile than we think. Humankind seems to think they are in complete control of their destiny. It’s not true. According to the genetic record our species almost went extinct once already 72,000 years ago; in the big scheme of things we are here by a flip of the coin that was tossed quite recently. The most recent Godzilla film was criticized for inferring that no matter what happens “nature” will take care of us and everything will turn out alright. I guess momma nature did not like the dinosaurs because there are no Godzilla’s protecting us except in the film industry.

      We need to get some survival colonies established off-world and the Moon is the first place to go.

  6. billgamesh says:

    It may not be overthrowing science but it seems that tomorrow the media will be trying to overthrow physics. Or at least that part of physics the rocket equation is part of. Landing an empty rocket stage on a barge is being shouted from the mountain tops as the beginning of a new age. One comment I recently read compared it to being as significant as the Wright brothers first flight. Wow. The claim that a whole new era of reusable rockets is beginning is exposed as a flim flam when the required unobtanium and wishalloy is found absent from the story.

    A little research shows the Space Shuttle not only had completely reusable first stage boosters but also returned it’s upper stage engines- engines far more powerful and efficient than the hobby rocket. Claiming such a breakthrough is just as bizarre as calling a suborbital tourist conveyance a “space ship.” In fact, even calling the destination of this mediocre lift vehicle a “space station” is not really valid in my view because Low Earth Orbit is not really space- not since humankind moved on to higher domains. Spacecraft and space platforms should be defined as differing from Spaceships and Space Stations in the same way fiberglass canoes and tents differ from ocean going ships and hi-rise buildings.

    LEO has about as much in common with space as a catfish pond does with the North Atlantic. The idea of shuttling small loads into LEO and assembling larger items to travel onward and upward was very popular for several decades but the reality was found to be not so wonderful. The closest useful site for human beings to go in space is Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) and is an order of magnitude higher above the surface of our planet. GEO has no protective layer like LEO to keep solar events from dosing astronauts with radiation. So the only human constructs to be found hovering 22,236 miles above us are communications relay stations. Satellites. They don’t last forever and cannot be repaired so this ring around the Earth is slowly turning into a junkyard of space debris.

    An event as significant as the Wright brothers first flight would actually be to go somewhere beyond LEO in a true Spaceship or the positioning of a true Space Station somewhere above LEO. Without unobtanium or wishalloy to overthrow the laws of physics this means those ships and stations, for several reasons, are going to come from the Moon.

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