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Nelson's Theory of Propagation David Dalton (K9WQ) on July 29, 2004 View comments about this article!

John H. Nelson's theory of propagation:
Is there anything to it?

By David Dalton, K9WQ


In March 1951, John H. Nelson, an engineer for the RCA Communications Co. in New York, published an article in RCA Review describing a theory for predicting shortwave radio propagation over the North Atlantic. Nelson developed the theory by comparing planetary positions relative to the sun with logs of propagation conditions maintained at RCA's receiving station at Riverhead, Long Island.

The article said that certain configurations of the six inner planets correlated with degraded propagation conditions. Nelson was not dogmatic about his theory. Rather, in the article and in a followup article published in May 1952, he encouraged further study. Nelson believed that his theory was about 85 percent accurate in its predictions.

As far as I can determine from searching the Web, few or no studies have been done to test Nelson's theory. The theory appears to have been either neglected, or discounted based on studies that I am not aware of. Don C. Maier, a retired electrical engineer who met Nelson almost 50 years ago, had a copy of Nelson's 1951 article which was given to him by Nelson, and the article was republished, with Maier's comments, in the March/April 2000 issue of Infinite Energy magazine. Maier also encouraged further study and recognized that Nelson's theory might be of particular interest to hams.

The republished article in Infinite Energy was the first I had heard of Nelson, and I was intrigued by the article. Though I have no particular training in astronomy, I do have experience with computer programming and the processing of data sets. I realized that it would not be too difficult to calculate many years of planetary ephemera and run the data through a program to check for the planetary configurations that Nelson correlated with degraded propagation.

A synopsis of Nelson's theory: Nelson believed that degraded radio propagation correlated with times (within a day or two) when the heliocentric relationship of two or more planets was 0, 90, 180, or 270 degrees. He also believed that configurations of 60 degrees and 120 degrees, especially between Jupiter and Saturn, correlated with the least disturbed propagation conditions. His data for 1950 and 1951, he said, averaged about 85 percent accurate in its predictions. This is only a summary of Nelson's theory; for full details one would need to consult his original articles. ...

The Long Arms Of Venus And Jupiter
Many times in the two or three "scientific" centuries now behind us, investigators have discovered, almost against their wills, that the moon and planets affect the earth. The moon's influence is understandable, but the planets are too far away for their gravitational fields to influence one terrestrial dust mote. Well, here is one more study showing that the planets (Venus and Jupiter, in this case) do affect the peak electron density in the earth's ionosphere. The effect is most noticeable when these planets are close to earth and dwindles as they swing around to the other side of the sun. The authors are at a loss to explain this effect in terms of gravitation, suggesting that perhaps Venus or Jupiter may instead affect solar activity, which in turn modifies the terrestrial ionosphere.

(Harnischmacher, E., and Rawer, K.; "Lunar and Planetary Influences upon the Peak Electron Density of the Ionosphere," Journal of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Electricity, 43:643, 1981.)