BELLEVUE, Wash. – Millionaire techie Nathan Myhrvold is used to stirring up controversy over issues ranging from patent licensing to dinosaur growth rates, but now he’s weighing in on an even bigger debate: the search for potentially hazardous asteroids.
In a 110-page research paper posted to the ArXiv pre-print server and submitted to the journal Icarus for peer-reviewed publication, Myhrvold says the most comprehensive survey of near-Earth asteroids ever done, known as NEOWISE, suffers from serious statistical flaws.
“They made a set of numbers that look right, They have what Stephen Colbert calls ‘truthiness.’ But that doesn’t mean they are right,” he told GeekWire today during an interview at the Bellevue headquarters of Intellectual Ventures, the company he founded.
On the other side of the debate, NEOWISE’s principal investigator, Amy Mainzer of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says it’s Myhrvold’s numbers that don’t look right.
“The paper contains multiple mistakes, including the confusion between diameter and radius (which is by itself enough to render the results wrong),” she wrote in an email to GeekWire. “Nonsensical asteroid diameters are presented throughout by the author.”
Mainzer noted that Myhrvold’s paper has not yet gone through formal peer review.