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NASA Defends Accuracy Of Asteroids Data

First Posted: May 26, 2016 05:30 AM EDT
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NASA is not letting Nathan Myhrvold ruin their credibility. On Monday, NASA was blasted by Myhrvold, who claimed the agency's data on asteroids are all wrong. 

The New York Times recently published a piece on Myhrvold, the former chief technology of Microsoft, as he claims NASA's research on asteroids is a mess.  In particular, Myhrvold claimed that the results of NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey's Explorer spacecraft (WISE) cannot be trusted. His critic mainly focused on the statistical methods NAA scientists utilized to measure estimate asteroid size in the NEOWISE mission.

If NASA opted to stay silent, readers of that article will surely think NASA is an incompetent agency, unfit for space exploration and analysis.

However, NASA refuses to be lambasted just like that. The agency released a statement that claims Myhrvold is the one who cannot calculate accurately. NASA asserted that the critic made significant calculation errors that he is the one who have released notably incorrect size estimates for asteroids, which have already been verified using other methods. 

Ned Wrtight, the main researcher for WISE at the University of California, the mistakes are so many that he can be wealthy if each mistake is equivalent to some monetary value. "For every mistake I found in his paper, if I got a bounty, I would be rich," he told Science Magazine.

Amy Mainzer, the main researcher for NEOWISE on the other hand, revealed to the Washington Post that Japan also has an infrared telescope called Akari that carries out the same functions as WISE and is measuring the same anterooms. She said there seem to be no problems. There's a very nice paper that does a very nice job of comparing these size estimates," Mainzer told The Post. "Everyone is doing their own computing and the diameters match."

Myhrvold however is not going to back down from his criticisms easily too. He told the Washington Post that NASA is just acting with false bravado ."If they really digest it all and say it's not strong, I'm all ears for how I can make it stronger, but my guess is that's just dismissive," Myhrvold told The Post.  He added that there are other experts on asteroids who told him that they do not want to upset the status quo so they are just staying mum about the issue. "The fact that I'm independent and outside the establishment makes it easier for me to challenge these things," he said.

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