Recently. I had the extreme displeasure of reading Stel Pavlou’s "Decipher".  Pavlou manages to make Dan Brown look like an intelligent, educated adult who did his research.
The book does not start off well. One of the first scenes involves the main character, Richard Scott, a professor of religious studies, shock an audience of academics by announcing that he doesn’t believe that Jesus was a historical figure. Maybe in Pavlou’s world that's a shocking statement but not in modern academia. But it is worse than that. The current President, is a religious Christian who has publicly “questioned” Scott’s work. This is apparently evidence that there’s a lack of religious freedom in the
And Pavlou isn’t just ignorant about major areas of academia. In another scene early in the book he describes how GPS works. Only the GPS in his universe has little to do with how GPS actually works. “GPS kept track of every vehicle linked into its network of satellites. Those vehicles could access all kinds of navigational data, including pinpointing all the other vehicles plugged into it, anywhere on earth, at any given time…Red Osprey had the distinct advantage … in that, thanks to some bright young computer programmer, it didn’t actually register on any GPS system. At a distance, Red Osprey was to all intents and purposes invisible.” The description of GPS seems to be a combination of radar, GPS and the voices in Pavlou’s head.
Let’s have quick refresher on how GPS actually works and what it actually does. The main component of GPS is a system of satellites (Pavlou managed to get this single detail correct) orbiting about 20,000 km up. So the satellites are not geostationary but are not so far down as to be in low earth orbit. The GPS satellites have very precise clocks and they continually send out a signal containing their current time. Now, on the ground there are receivers. Receivers do not send any information to the satellites. They receive. Hence the name “receivers”, ok, Stel? A receiver can do one thing: find my position. Here’s how it works: The receiver compares the signals it gets from the different satellites. Since some satellites are farther away, their signals take longer to reach the receiver (since the speed of light is finite). Thus, they give slightly out different current times. The receiver can use these discrepancies to estimate how far away it is from each satellite. Then, using simple geometry, the receiver can figure out its actual position. That’s it.
GPS doesn’t tell you where anyone else is; the technology that does that is radar. Radar bounces radio signals off of objects and times the signals return time to estimate distance of objects. Stealth objects (generally ships and boats) do exist. They don’t work by “bright young computer programmers.” Instead they use special materials that absorb radio waves and special shapes which make sure that the reflected radio waves don’t go in the direction they came from. There's no technology that allows you to connect to a network of any sort to see where everyone is.
The book only gets worse when one learns about the general plot: Atlantis exists and was designed as part of a sophisticated system by an advanced civilization to protect against a large solar flare that occurs every 12,000 years. The civilization was trying to build the system before the flare destroyed it but failed. Their survivors completed the system and then left clues buried in the world’s different religions about how to activate the system at the desired time. The system includes Stonehenge, the pyramids at
I’m not going to discuss in detail how if anything like this were remotely true we’d see genetic bottlenecks for pretty much every species dating back to 12,000 years ago and how we’d see signs of recent extreme heat exposure on Mars and elsewhere. I don’t need to do that because there’s an even more basic problem with the ending. Pavlou tells us that “for the first time in 12,000 years the dark side of the moon was completely illuminated.” I'm sorry Stel. There is no dark side of the moon as you would know if you knew basic astronomy. There’s a far side but it is lit half the time just the like close side.
There are many other problems with this book but I'm not going to bother listing them all. Of all the errors in the book the description of GPS is the most damning. One can argue that not knowing basic astronomy isn't going to hurt you. Now, this is a bad argument because if you are going to write something you no longer have an excuse for your ignorance. But I'm genuinely puzzled by how Stel could have such deep misunderstandings of how GPS works. This waste of paper was published in 2001 by which time GPS was already a common technology. So in 2001, Stel was spouting nonsense about a technology already in common use.
This is in some ways more disturbing than Modern Geocentrism . There we are dealing with isolated fanatics. This waste of paper was published by a major publishing company and sold in major bookstores. Enough of this drivel. Stel, please try to get a real job. Flip burgers. Or pump gas. Whatever you do, please stop killing our brain cells.