DWise1: Kent Hovind's Solar Mass Loss Claim Notes Archive


Often when I write, I go into a kind of stream-of-consciousness mode resulting in long sections which I then need to pare down. That is what happened when I originally wrote my page on Kent Hovind's solar-mass-loss claim, DWise1: Kent Hovind's Solar Mass Loss Claim and included a necessary section on the uni

On the original page I've pared down those sections, but I am saving them here to keep the original content available.

A Note about Units and an Errata Notification

Yes, I am sure that you will find this to be a boring digression. However, it is important that we know what we are talking about.

For example, Hovind uses the term "tons" without ever specifying which of the three types of weight/mass measurement unit he was talking about (it is also used to measure volume in shipping, but we ignore that here). Therefore, we need to establish which "ton" we're using on this page.

Similarly, most Americans are unaware that there are two different systems of large-number names which use the same names for different values. Therefore we need to establish just exactly how big a billion is.

Please bear with me or else skip ahead. And please don't let my footnote digression put you off, kind of a little diatribe about how much I like the metric system and cannot understand many Americans' negative attitudes about it.

Number Names:

Basically, there are two different systems for naming large numbers, so my use of "billion" on this page could be confusing, since it has two different values depending on which system you use. Those two systems are often referred to as the "U.S. System" and the "British System" (or also "European System"), though Wikipedia calls them the long ("European") and short ("U.S.") scales. Still referring to the long scale as "British" is now problematic, since the UK switched from the long scale to the short in 1974, which is apparently what prompted the French to come up with the terms "long scale" and "short scale" in 1975 (read the Wikipedia article linked to above).

Basically, past one million (106) the short scale (US) increments number names by multiplying successively by a factor of one thousand (103). On the other hand, past one million (106) the long scale (European) increments number names by multiplying successively by a factor of one million (106), which is effectively using powers of a million.

The values of some large numbers in both scales would be:

Number Name Short Scale Value
Long Scale Value
one billion 109 1012
one trillion 1012 1018
one quadrillion 1015 1024
one quintillion 1018 1030

I use the US System (short scale). Hence, on all my pages, including this one, "billion" means 109, a thousand millions. In the long scale, 109 would be a "milliard" while a billion would be 1012, a million millions.

If you are interested in Names of large numbers, then follow that link to the Wikipedia article of the same name. Share and enjoy!


There was a point of confusion for me from the start of researching this claim. All the sources I found, including the astronomical ones, gave the Sun's mass in "tons", but without ever specifying which tons. There are several definitions for "ton" which measure different things, including three definitions for measuring mass/weight ... well, two for weight, which is a force, and one for mass even though that is often confused as measuring weight. See what I mean? It gets confusing. But the main confusion was in figuring out which ton a source was referring to.

Here's part of a table I borrowed from Wikipedia's Ton article:

Full name(s) Common name Quantity
long ton, weight ton, gross ton "ton" (UK) 2,240 lb (1,016.047 kg)
short ton, net ton "ton" (US) 2,000 lb (907.1847 kg)
tonne "tonne"; "metric ton"
(mainly UK)
1,000 kg (2,204.623 lb)

Despite my confusion, I noticed that all three tons are fairly close to being the same amount -- note that the long ton is only 16 kg greater than the metric ton while the short ton is about 93 kg less. So I took the lazy route and decided that for our purposes they were "close enough" to being the same so we would almost consider them to be interchangeable, especially at the scales that we are working with. I originally ended up settling on the short ton, since it was Kent Hovind's claim I was examining and I just assumed that he would be using the US measurement, the short ton, and may even believe that metric measurements are the work of the Devil or at least "un-American" (I have no direct evidence of that, but I suspect it's very likely [1]).

But then when I went back over my notes, I decided that I had chosen unwisely. I now feel that I should use the metric ton, also called a "tonne". For one thing, it measures mass, not weight, which is what we are talking about. Another reason is that by keeping everything in metric, I can be exactly sure of all of my units and of my unit conversions. For that matter, I suspect that within the context of astronomy, "tons" is supposed to mean "tonnes".


In light of my decision about which tons to use, I have gone through this page and redone all measurements of mass and calculations involving mass to be in metric tons. Therefore, I plan to use the term, "tonne", in order to keep that clear for you. When I do write "tons", that will normally be meant to mean "metric tons", unless the context indicates otherwise. Such context would include any text that I quote and references to that quote. But when I present a meaningful number, it will be in tonnes and I will endeavor to keep my terminology straight.

Thank you for your understanding and for your patience.

Footnote [1]:

Kent Hovind has written very little, but rather almost all of his material is verbal, some of which is preserved in the videos of his seminars (which had the perennial nasty habit of disappearing and getting replaced by newer versions, not to mention that there would be no indication of when or where they had been recorded). Even his claims that I examine on this page only exist verbally outside of my having transcribed it. Of course, that makes it extremely tedious (and nauseating, kind of like watching the 2016 Republican National Convention) to search through his claims. Fortunately, some of those seminars have been transcribed and can be found on-line, such as this pertinent transcript, Seminar 4a: Lies in the Textbooks:
They even had the kids do activities on this one. “Boys and girls get a large piece of black paper one meter square.” (By the way, I like to kick this dog every time I walk by. Did you know all of the new textbooks that I'm aware of are metric? Now, I understand the metric system very thoroughly. I taught physics. I'll take a metric quiz against anyone you know. But I'm not sure I want a kid coming to help build my house that doesn't know what a two by four is. So if you are a patriot, make your paper a 39.37 inches square instead.)

"So if you are a patriot, ... ." Yeah, I think it's safe to assume that he is against the metric system and would have chosen to use the short ton instead of the metric tonne, assuming that that would have even occurred to him.

And FWIW, two-by-fours no longer measure two inches by four inches. Haven't for well over half a century. I know that because I have encountered some of the old two-by-fours when we remodeled some older houses; when closing off a doorway in an old house we used new two-by-fours (only about 3.5 inches across) and had to fir them out (add a strip of wood the desired thickness) to make that new part of the wall as thick as the rest of the wall.

Sorry, couldn't resist sharing a joke. There was an American-Swedish sit-com, Welcome to Sweden, about an American trying to adjust to living in Sweden with his Swedish fiancée. In one scene she's giving him directions over the phone:
Her: Then go 200 meters and turn right.
Him: What's a meter?
Her: It's like a yard only much more logical.
Very much more logical. And I'm speaking as one who was raised entirely on the American system, but the moment I started learning metric it just made so much more sense and was so much easier to use and especially to work with.

In elementary school, I could never remember the American system's multitude of odd conversion factors so I always had to look them up in the conversion tables in the back of the math textbook. But then one year (¿5th grade?) the math book didn't list the conversion factors and I was really lost. But the moment I learned the prefixes in metric, converting from one measurement to another in metric was trivially simple.

For another example, after working construction for 5 years in the USA (weekends and summer) and having to always struggle to figure out how many 32-nds or 64-ths of an inch each mark on the tape was, the very first time in Germany that I was handed a Meterstock and told to take a measurement I could do it immediately and with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever. Immediately upon my return to the USA, I bought myself a dual-scale steel tape with a metric scale for my own use and a US scale for working with another carpenter.

The main problem (and the only one for most people) in switching to metric lies in learning to visualize what a given measurement would be (eg, estimating someone's height, realizing how heavy something would feel), but that comes with experience. A secondary problem would be for some professions which have standard sizes and measurements (eg, a 2×4, door sizes, 8½×11-inch paper), in which case they would either have to convert them all to metric or else retain those specialized measurements as a secondary measuring system. The latter is something already done by the US system with separate weight and volume systems for medications (apothocary) and for precious metals (troy).

Of course, there can be a danger when mixing the two systems, such as could happen when transitioning to metric. Such was the case of the Gimli Glider, an Air Canada airliner that on 1983 July 23, because the ground crew miscalculated the amount of fuel to load, ran out of fuel in mid-flight and had to glide to an emergency landing in an abandoned military airfield. Successfully.

Footnote [7]:

Yes, that is correct. You can treat units as algebraic variables and solve for the units of your result. That was one of the cooler things I learned in physics. In fact, one of the more important functions of constants in physics (eg, G, the Constant of Gravitation: 6.674×10-11 m3×kg-1×s-2 ) is to make the units come out right.

A very practical use for this fact is in deriving conversion factors. At my first job as a software engineer, I was the go-to guy for conversion factors even though I kept trying to teach them how to do it themselves. Now mind you, these were exotic units (eg, binary angular measurement (BAM)) that you could not find in most reference books (nor could you find them on-line since in 1983 there was no such thing as "on-line"). The procedure is simple: you just set up an equation for the same value using different units and then solve for the unit you want to convert from; eg:

Derive the conversion factor for radians to degrees, given that a full 360° circle is 2π radians:
2π radians = 360°
1 radian = (360 / 2π)°
1 radian = (180 / π)°
Conversion factor for converting from radians to degrees: multiply by 180/π
A more involved example would be to convert a value without actually deriving a conversion factor; eg:
Convert 7 days to seconds:
Strategy: repeatedly multiply the value being converted by 1, which does not change its value. Of course, 1 comes in a great many different forms.

7 days × 24 hours / day = 7 × 24 hours × day / day = 168 hours
168 hours × 60 minutes / hour = 168 × 60 minutes × hour/hour = 10,080 minutes
10,080 minutes × 60 seconds / minute = 10,080 × 60 seconds × minute/minute = 604,800 seconds
Ergo: 7 days = 604,800 seconds

Or, if you will be doing this more than once, you could have created a conversion factor for converting from days to seconds:
1 day = 1 day × 24 hours / day × 60 minutes / hour × 60 seconds / minute
         = 1 × 24 × 60 × 60 × day/day × hour/hour × minute/minute × seconds
1 day = 86,400 seconds
Conversion factor for converting from days to seconds: multiply by 86,400
Another example, this time involving exponents:
Convert the density of the sun's core from g/cm3 to kg/m3
1 kg = 1000 g
1 m = 100 cm
Density of Sun's core = 162.2 g/cm3
         = 162.2 × (g × 1 kg/1000 g) × (1/cm3 × (100 cm)3 / 1 m3)
         = 162.2 × (1 kg/1000 × g/g) × (1/cm3 × 1003 cm3 / 1 m3)
         = 162.2 × [ (1 kg / 1000) × (1,000,000 / 1 m3 × cm3/cm3 )]
         = 162.2 × [ (1,000,000 / 1000) kg/m3]
         = 162.2 × (1000 kg/m3)
         = 162,200 kg/m3
Conversion factor for converting from g/cm3 to kg/m3: multiply by 1000
And now you have acquired a useful skill.

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First uploaded on 2018 October 29.