Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mystery Missile The Science The Pathos

Bah. So a good friend sent us a link to a science-y blog with some big equations that apparently prove the Mystery Missile off California's coast this week is in fact...wait for it...a plane.

Since we're usually dumbfounded by fancy equations and by science folks in general we'll call this one done.

Too bad, a North Korea nuke boat with an errant missile off California's coast would have been a lot more fun.

Back to sharks after this:

This diagram is not to scale, but the math is the same regardless. The solid curved line is the surface of the earth. The dot at the top is San Clemente. The little triangle is Catalina. “d” is the distance to Catalina (d=35 miles). “c” the amount of Catalina that is visible above the horizon (c=0.05 miles, really a bit more, but let’s be conservative). “a” is the altitude of the plane, (a = 6 miles). “r” is the radius of the earth (r=3963 miles).

The green wavy line is the contrail. Notice it’s at a fixed height above the surface of the earth, and is going directly towards the OC.

The point labeled (0,0) is the center of the earth. (0,0) means X=0, Y=0, where X is horizontal and Y is vertical. What we want to know is how far away the plane is, the value x. We do this with cartesian geometry, noting that the lowest visible point of the trail is at the intersection of the dotted line, which is a circle of radius (r+a), hence the equation x^2 + y^2 = (r+a)^2 and the line labeled “sight line”, which is has the equation y=x*c/d. Combining these equations to solve for x yields a quadratic equation, which we can solve with Wolfram Alpha:

intersection of (y=r+x*c/d) and (x^2+y^2 = (r+a)^2)

and with the real numbers:

intersection of (y=r+x*c/d) and (x^2+y^2 = (r+a)^2) where a=6 and d=35 and c=0.05 and r=3963

Thanks to Ethan Stock for the hat tip!

Mystery Missile California Conspiracy?

Less than 24 hours after what looks to be a very large missile being launched off the California coast a plethora of wired sites have thrown their collective weight behind "it's just a jet theory".

Wired Online


New Scientist

Are we certain this video is in fact a jet and if so would there not be an airline track of a plane over the ocean at the precise launch site and time yesterday?

See live airplane track site LAX.

For the money we think it's one of two of the following options:

A. The MythBusters Adam and Jamie foolin' around with season #1020 "Even Bigger"

B. The Balloon Boy Redux

As we said earlier today, the mystery will be solved. Only if we can get past the geeks on the tech sites calling this one done.

Hey Gizmondo, did you even watch the damn CBS video?

Mystery Missile Launches off Catalina...MythBusters?

The news today that a "sizable" missile was launched at sea off the coast off Catalina yesterday has Pentagon and Navy officials denying involvement.

"It's spectacular it takes people's breath away," said former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Robert Ellsworth, calling the projectile, "a big missile".

So, who launched it?

For the money we're wondering where Adam and Jamie - The MythBusters - were last night.

Both gents like things that go boom, and as far as we're concerned they're about the only guys in California with the expertise to pull off a "sizable missile launch".

Time will tell as this very strange story come to light.

Update: There's a rumor floating around Catalina Island right now of a fisherman who saw the launch at sea last night.

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