Friday, November 20, 2015

This is the real danger of pseudoscience

        When people like me complain (here, here and here, for example) about that travesty of a TV series, Ancient Aliens (BullshitHistory Channel,) there's a strong tendency for the show's supporters to say "Oh, lighten up. It's just entertainment."

        Well, no longer. The Thingummyjig Channel has now extended its slimy tentacles into full-bore propaganda aimed at children in the 8-10 age range. The Young Investigator’s Guide to Ancient Aliens — a very smartly-produced large-format (22 x 28 cm) book — was published last 21 July (an interesting date for those of us who study the history of spaceflight) by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan. As I write, the hardback edition of this wretched thing is ranked #744 in Books > Children's books > Education & reference > History > Exploration & discovery by Amazon, and has as yet no reader reviews.

Update: James Oberg contributed a stinger later on the 20th.Don Davis added another a few days later.

       So it doesn't appear to be doing very well, but Jason Colavito, whose research I trust absolutely, writes today that:
"According to the Toronto Public Library’s website, they purchased an astonishing 31 copies of the book to ensure that 23 branches of the library had one or more copies on hand. WorldCat reports that 97 libraries currently stock the book in their children’s sections."
        To nobody's surprise, the book does not hold back for the sake of the kiddies, but recycles all the worst of the TV show's stunning lapses of logic and borderline racist interpretations of history, holding up dilettantes like Giorgio Tsoukalos and David Hatcher Childress as bona fide historians with a credible story to tell. It even feeds the young minds who read it with the fantasy that they might aspire to be "ancient alien theorists" when they grow up. Lawks-a-mercy.

        Well, speaking of 21 July, what made my blood boil was that this nauseating volume alleges that NASA is engaged in a conspiracy to hide the truth about aliens and that Neil Armstrong and other Apollo astronauts helped to cover up evidence of aliens on the moon. And you know which "ancient alien theorist" we have to thank for that barefaced lie, don't you. Step forward Mike Bara, world-renowned bullshit artist. I'm generally a law-abiding sort and a respecter of other people's property, but it might be an idea if we all go down to our local children's libraries and deface this piece of shit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Another setback for solar fission

        Today Mike Bara will no doubt be studiously ignoring the report in New Scientist that Stephanie Sallum et al. of the University of Arizona have actually observed planetary accretion around a distant star.

        The star is LkCa 15, and the observation was done using the Magellan Adaptive Optics System in Atacama, Chile, and the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona.

credit: Stephanie Sallum

        Sallum et al. first observed a proto-planetary disc around this very young star in 2009. New observations have now confirmed the accretion of Jupiter-sized planets. The New Scientist report (by Jacob Aron) explained:
"The team looked at the signatures these planets give off in two infrared wavelengths and one particular visible wavelength called H-alpha, which is emitted by glowing hydrogen gas. The innermost planet, LkCa 15 b, showed up in all wavelengths, and the H-alpha signal suggests that hot gas, at around 10,000 °C, is falling on to the planet as it grows. Planet c was only seen in infrared, suggesting it is sucking up less gas, while d only showed up faintly at one infrared wavelength, making it hard to draw any firm conclusions.

        The reason Mike Bara won't be commenting on this is that it falsifies — yet again! — his favorite rubbish-theory of solar fission. According to that theory (originated by Tom Van Flandern, Mike's hero) planets don't form at all until their parent star is fully developed. Only then are planets flung off the fully-formed star, in pairs.

        Mike, being no kind of a scientist, doesn't understand the theory well enough to know when there is or is not evidence for it. In the past, as this blog has commented, he has quite wrongly hailed the discovery of a single small exoplanet, plus the discovery of a contact binary, as evidence in favor. As I remarked to Mike's former manager Adrienne Loska, "It's like watching the Moon rise and remarking that this phenomenon supports the theory that there are really two moons. Sure, Adrienne, a second Moon could be along later, but until it appears, two-moon theorists are best advised to keep their cake-holes shut."


Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature15761

Ken Johnston -- The Life & Times (2)

James Oberg contributes today's posting, continuing his Ken Johnston fact-check.

Available Evidence Indicates Ken Johnston Was Never a "Jet Jock" or "Test Pilot" for Apollo or "Almost Selected" as a pilot astronaut

        As a credibility basis for his stories of UFO cover-ups within the NASA Apollo program, Ken Johnston frequently relies on his status as a "jet jock," or an Apollo "test pilot" for the Grumman Lunar Module in the late 1960s, and — save for last-minute political interference that altered the requirements — a finalist and shoo-in selectee for the space shuttle pilot-astronaut class of 1978.

        These tales reflect a scenario in which he went to US Navy pilot training in Pensacola, Florida, then to "jet school" (his words — that would normally include gunnery, formation flying, and carrier qualifications,) and then was designated a "consultant astronaut" as one of the top four Grumman pilots perfecting the Apollo Lunar Module. He also tells of flying back seat in F-4s at Mach 2 from the El Toro Naval Air Station in California.

        Johnston's military service in the US Marine corps is well documented, as is his employment by Grumman at the NASA space center in Houston. He performed honorable service there, contributing to the national security and scientific leadership of the United States. Subsequent elaborations should not diminish that baseline truth.

        None of that late 1960's-era military service involved flying of any kind, although he does claim to have joined the El Toro flying club and earned a pilot's license there (there seems to be no record of it.) He was never designated a "Naval Aviator," although authors (Michael Bara, e.g.) have quoted him as having claimed to have been a jet combat pilot (I have not seen the original quotations, and Bara excised that claim from a subsequent edition of his book, Dark Mission.) A decade LATER, Johnston says he completed training for multi-engine passenger aircraft "on the GI Bill" and got properly obtained pilot ratings (his FAA records show no jet-type ratings as required to actually fly them.)

         Yet he still wears patches for the F-4 crew positions he claims. This may fall short of the practice called "stolen valor" (wearing unearned medals) but it's uncomfortably close.

Military record
        Johnston's military record, which can be obtained by a simple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (see letter below,) clearly shows his pilot training was 'INCOMPLETE'. His record of service shows that he reported to Pensacola in the MARCAD (Marine Cadet) program on 28 Sep 1964, and the status did not change until 12 Jun 1965, when he was 'awaiting assignment'. He was sent back to his previous job at El Toro on 4 Aug. His military training record shows 36 weeks of MARCAD activity, terminated under the INCOMPLETE column with no flight ratings awarded. [see below]

        Public records do confirm that Johnston DID attend flight training at Pensacola, where, in his own words, "he learned to fly" - an accurate description. But he never graduated.

        Johnston "learned to fly" but dropped out and never was designated a "Naval Aviator." 

        There are several different explanations for his dropping out, that have been found.

        First is Johnston's often repeated description of how he completed flight school and then was sent to jet school, then to NASA.   Source: March 1, 2014, Winterthur, Switzerland

        There are three other explanations that acknowledge he failed to complete flight school, with three very different explanations.

        A story traceable to his own family is that he returned to California to marry a pregnant girlfriend, an honorable step that supposedly he would not have been allowed to do had he continued pilot training followed by combat missions. But many other pilots married.

        A story traceable to his flying buddies in recent years is that he quit once he was told he would NOT be assigned to jets, since all pilot cadets were being transferred to helicopter school because of severe losses in Vietnam. Since he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a fighter pilot in WW2, he on principle refused to take any lesser assignment.

        A story traceable to fellow cadets who have been tracked down fifty years later is that he filed a DOR - Drop on Request - following a confidential cadet honor court's consideration of an adverse behavior report. Dean Smith, one of the three cadets on that tribunal and the secondary source of this information, was later killed flying an F-8 in the South China Sea off Vietnam (panel 16E, line 87 on the Vietnam War Memorial in DC.)

        There seems to be little chance after all these years and in the face of all these versions (which may not be exclusively inconsistent) to determine what Johnston was motivated by, but the surviving records are clear that on his own request, he was released from the MARCAD program and never graduated. Navy flying veterans tell me that, like claiming to be a Navy Seal, claiming to be a Naval Aviator is a clear case of "stolen valor".

        Apparently, Johnston has described back-seat rides in F-4's after he returned to El Toro in August 1965, for familiarization to enhance his flight-line electronics technician duties. None of the routinely required pre-flight training, nor any flight time records, appear in his military file [below]. F-4 pilots of that era have also advised me that hitting Mach 2 on a routine hop out of El Toro would have been very difficult - it was so rare that most F-4 pilots of that era only did it once in their careers, during flight training. If some pilot HAD sneaked him into the back seat for a hop, however, they find it not implausible that he could have briefly gone supersonic (Mach One.)

        Johnston has described how he joined the El Toro flying club in late 1965 and there earned a private pilot's license on off-duty time sometime before his separation from the USMC the following August. He has offered no documentation for this, but it is possible.

 The Lunar Module
        Within a month of separation from the military (August 1966,) Johnston — still with only a HS diploma, military service as an avionics technician, some flying experience but NO documented ratings — was hired by Grumman to assist in cockpit development and testing of the Apollo Lunar Module at the NASA center in Houston, Texas.

        "I became one of the first four civilian astronaut consultant pilots," his story goes. "That was before they even had the civilian astronauts. [JO: Five had actually been picked in mid-1965] That's what we were called. Our job was to test the lunar module in the vacuum chambers."  See this video at 03:55.

        Grumman did assign four of its test pilots to this task in Houston, including Gerald P. Gibbons and Glennon Kingsley. Kingsley, then a 37-year-old veteran jet pilot, was officially designated a "consulting pilot" but according to Northrup-Grumman spokesman Lon Rains, none of them were ever called "astronaut consulting pilots" and Johnston's name did not appear on the list. Kingsley died in 2011.

The LM log
        Johnston presents as evidence a copy of the front page of his "LM LOG" training logbook. It appears basically authentic, with one interesting feature, illustrated below.

         Compared to a known authentic log book auctioned by the family of Apollo-12 commander Pete Conrad, the job titles are not only different (to be expected) but in partially different font, with a section of the Johnston cover page apparently surrounded by a line suggestive of a paste-on label. Whereas the first line is the same --  "PRESENTED TO ASTRONAUT" - the words "CONSULTANT PILOT" on Johnston's book are in a different font.  And that title appears NOWHERE in his job description in his termination recommendation letter he has posted on Facebook.

        Johnston has explained to me the presence of the label as "that's just the way Grumman gave it to me". But there are other strange features of the document, which includes a large number of astronaut signatures, including many who never took LM training, and several who didn't become astronauts for many years. Johnston could have kept using the book to collect autographs, so that is not in itself suspicious.

        However, it is odd that the signature of Gus Grissom, who was killed in the Apollo-1 fire in January 1967 (only a few months after Johnston went to work at Grumman,) and who was not taking any LM training classes, should be in Johnston's LM LOG on the August 1967 page, more than seven months after his death. 

        Odder still is the apparent masking of the logbook page's lineations in close proximity to the Grissom signature. In the first 'G', for example, one would have expected the background line to bisect the cursive capital letter, but it is somehow masked out.

        The appearance is strikingly like that of a cut-out signature later pasted over the page of the logbook. It's only speculation without examining the original document, of course.

        CollectSpace website expert Robert Pearlman inspected the page images to assess their authenticity. He told me the Grissom signature is the standard 'auto-pen' scribble, created by an automated machine in the astronaut mail room. The other signatures on later pages are of the same automatic origin, except for the second signatures right under the auto-pen versions, usually dated 1978, which appear to be authentic, according to Pearlman.

        Johnston's role in the LM development, as described in his reference letter, was a substantial one, and I don't question the certificate with 3000 hours "manning the cockpit" in Houston (although the full 'LM LOG" posted on Facebook only shows 2600 hours, still impressive.) But it's important to clarify that these hours (over an employment period of 18 months minus classroom training) are essentially "full time" activities of the sort other similar workers called "switch monkey" tasks. And these were not simulator or trainer hours (which for commercial pilots count as simulated cockpit time,) these were hardware verification hours, turning switches on and off, waiting for hardware reconfiguration, logging anomalies — critically important, but not "test pilot" work.

        Nor were they 'training the Apollo astronauts' to any significant degree, since astronauts had their own simulators — and specialized trainers — in an entirely different building. Flicking switches back and forth would not have provided a whole lot of valuable training for flight crews, without a live data simulator hooked into the cockpit.

        Several vacuum chamber runs were being made in this time period, but both NASA and Grumman records have the names of the astronauts and technicians involved, and I have seen no evidence Johnston took part in any of them (recall his claim: "Our job was to test the lunar module in the vacuum chambers." [Julia Blum, Research Library Chief, Cradle of Aviation Museum, Bethpage, Long Island; Grumman veteran employees association; Northrup-Grumman Public Affairs Office] He apparently did perform suited mobility testing. These tests, and the men who actually performed in the cockpits, are described in detail (with no mention of Johnston) in this pdf document

Johnston at the Air & Space Museum
        Johnston has discussed his role with the LTA-8 on a two-video lecture he gave at the National Air and Space Museum in front of the mock-up there (not the LTA-8.) See this video  and this video.

        He made numerous claims about the vehicle which betrayed significant lack of understanding (or a lot of forgetting) of its hardware and function:

    "This is my spacecraft, LTA-8, … [3:37] I'm quite excited to see this old spacecraft after so many years…" he says (it's not LTA-08, which is on display in Houston, Texas.)
    "This vehicle was space rated it could have been used to go to the moon…"
No, the LTA-8, as clearly shown in NASA historical overviews, was never flight-qualified, had sub-flight-standard wiring, was heavy,  so it was for ground testing only.
    "The more yellowish area here is where we stored the lithium hydroxide canisters which we used in the environmental control system inside, to scrub CO2 out of the air and return pure oxygen back into the spacecraft..…"    No, lithium hydroxide does NOT return oxygen to the cabin, that requires an entirely different supply tank - its sole purpose is to soak up the toxic carbon dioxide.
    "Under each footpad there were probes, four probes that set off a light…"   No, there was NO probe under the leg with the ladder, to avoid it breaking off on contact and pointing spear-like upwards into the descent path of the astronauts.
    "The Mylar made an excellent insulation for all the heat and solar radiation we might pick up on the lunar surface…"   No, the mylar was an excellent thermal barrier but it had no attenuation effect on the dangerous solar radiation.
    "While we were still in earth orbit we had to separate from the Saturn V, take this spacecraft and turn it around, and come back and dock to the lunar module and then extract the lunar module out of a shroud where it was protected during ascent." [7:02]
No, the LM wasn't extracted until AFTER leaving earth orbit, on the way to the moon.

        Johnston describes how the crewmen's descent down the ladder was actually recorded by a 16-mm camera inside the co-pilot's window, NOT by any TV camera mounted on the LM. "That's wrong," he states, about such a view. No, the live image WAS from such a TV camera, the 16-mm could not be viewed until after the film had been physically returned to Earth.

    "The first one we landed with was the 'Eagle' and [points to Command Module] 'Snoopy'…" Johnston reveals.  No, 'Snoopy' was the Apollo-10 lunar module, the Apollo-11 Command Module was 'Columbia'.

        Further discounting Johnston's claim that he was a top "LM Test Pilot" in the run-up to the Apollo-11 mission (July 1969) can be found in Johnston's own recent Facebook description of how he watched that epochal mission. Unlike the real Grumman trainers and test pilots, who were on duty at their posts for rapid response to crew inquiries or procedural checkouts for contingencies, Johnston watched the landing on television from his wife's family's home in New Jersey. He was on terminal leave, having already been laid off by Grumman at the end of the development project. The honorable technical work he DID perform did not rise to the level of importance of keeping him around during the actual Apollo-11 mission 'just in case'.

A new job
        In mid-1969 Johnston found another job with a contractor processing lunar samples. See this pdf document. When that ended in 1972, he seems to have been away from NASA for several years.

        Then came the astronaut selection for the Space Shuttle program, in 1977. Here follows the standard narrative from Johnston on how close he came to pilot astronaut selection. See this video at 05:20

 "Once we landed on the moon and the Apollo was winding down, I applied for the regular NASA astronaut program. I have letters from Neil Armstrong signed by him, Jack Schweickart, Jim Irwin, a couple of the others, and I submitted that.…"NASA put out the call for new astronauts, and the guys [said] 'You'll make it, no problem.'

"Well, the week before they were supposed to make the announcement of who the next twenty six astronauts, I was called into astronaut Vance Brant's office…he was in charge of the selection program committee,, He says, "Come in, sit down, Ken,." I'm excited because I'm thinking, next week they're gonna announce I'm gonna be one of the astronauts.

"Well, he says, we know you can do the job, you've been doing it with us, but he says, the government has gotten involved, and I jokingly says, 'You know what happens when the government gets involved in stuff, hmm! They didn't want to have jet jocks, they wanted to have PhD scientists, and he says, so your name's been cut from the list.

"Well, wow… There I was, thought I had everything that they needed, but then I didn't have a doctorate degree, and so I was cut from the program and didn't get to become a regular astronaut.  Ten years later, when I got my first doctorate,  I applied for the SHUTTLE astronaut program and, would you believe it, they said you're too old."

        There are a number of MAJOR historical conflicts in this narrative.

        First, the 1978 selection had ALWAYS been advertised as dual category - there would be 'Pilots' AND 'Mission Specialists' with technical or scientific or medical skills. There was NO last-minute change in requirements.

        As described at this link, in 1977 the NASA call for applications listed these minimal requirements:  "Pilot Astronauts must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. An advanced degree is desirable. At least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command flight time is required for Pilot Astronauts. Flight test experience is desirable."

         In 1977, Johnston (then 35) met NONE of the MINIMUM requirements for consideration by the selection board. His bachelor degree was only then being completed. He had at most a handful of real 'off-the-ground' flight hours, practically NONE as pilot-in-command.. But it would be nice, someday, to see a copy of the application Johnston says he submitted, to see what flight hours and educational level he told NASA he had..

        Second, the final selection consisted of 15 pilots and 20 Mission Specialists (MS,) half of them military 'flight engineers' and the other half scientists and doctors. Of the MS group, only eleven had Ph.Ds or M.Ds. Two-thirds of the selectees had no graduate degrees.

        Third, over the previous six months, NASA had brought approximately two hundred finalists to Houston for a week of tests and interviews. Their names were announced in a series of press releases, twenty at a time. Johnston's name had never been among them.

        Fourth, he did NOT have multiple letters of recommendation from Apollo astronauts, as he has claimed, he had ONE [see below]. As shown in his own internet documentation, he had mailed out self-addressed stamped postcards to an undisclosed number of former astronauts (probably at least two dozen of them) with a cover letter describing his supposed qualifications (that letter and his claimed experience has never been shown.) The postcards had a box to be checked to signify recommendation for consideration.

[Note that Johnston has released his postcard from the 1977 astronaut application process, signed by selection team official Duane Ross. He has never released any letter inviting him to NASA for semi-finalist interviews and medical screening, so there's no evidence he got that far, and the absence of any such letter is evidence he did NOT — so he never could reasonably expect anyone to slip him advance word he's been picked]

        On the 'recommendations, of some note is the comment by Neil Armstrong (whose first name Johnston had misspelled twice on the postcard as "Neal",) explaining, "My limited knowledge will make it difficult to say anything helpful, I'm afraid."

        There was one letter, from Apollo-15 LMP James Irwin, with whom Johnston had worked during the LM testing in 1967-8, and it was personal, cordial, and supportive.

 [Letter from astronaut James Irwin, 'High Flight Foundation', February 1977]

        Fifth, this is a nit but a telling one in light of his misspelling of Armstrong's name, he can't seem to get the names of the other alleged "astronaut friends" right. Listen to the video description of how he confuses Rusty Schweickart [SH'WY-kert] with Jack Swigert [S'WY-gert]. "Schweickart" isn't a typo - in the Jan 30, 1983 article in the San Angelo newspaper (on Facebook) he also spelled the name out for the reporter as 'Schweickart'. (which he also described as happening on Apollo-9 in 1969.)  Then he quoted from an alleged personal conversation he had with the real Jack Swigert, who he said served one term as congressman before dying of cancer (he actually died prior to being ever sworn in.) Also note how he says "Bran-T" for astronaut Vance Brand ("Bran-D") — he carefully spoke the name, and got it wrong.

Doctor Johnston
        Where does all of this leave the story of Johnston's near-miss at astronaut selection due only to a last-minute politically motivated reversal of announced selection criteria? All documentation and memories (including Duane Ross, whom I interviewed,) are consistent that no such change ever occurred, that no such Ph.D requirement was last-minute added. So I cannot believe that any as-described Vance Brand meeting happened.

        Johnston then explains that he went and obtained Ph.D degrees to meet the changed requirements, even though all through the 1980s there were always selections of pilot-only astronauts and military/civilian flight engineers as well as PhD scientists.

        Since the "doctorate" Johnston claims he got ten years later was a mail order certificate from a bogus "seminary", and would have been laughed out of any pre-selection review board, I find it impossible to believe NASA ever made the excuse to him that he was disqualified due to age (proof that 'Ph D' is bogus is here.) And NASA standards expressly PRECLUDED such a disqualification: "As per federal regulation, NASA is not allowed to specify an age range for astronaut candidates (see this document.)

        Johnston made one other attempt to become an astronaut, in 2002, when he tracked me down while I was working for Mark Burnett Productions on developing a "Survivor Space" televised competition to fill a seat on an actual Russian 'Soyuz' orbital mission. Johnston called me and we had a delightful hour-long chat (he had introduced himself as an acquaintance from NASA days and I distinctly remember thinking, 'Who the hell IS this guy?") that explored ways to get him into the candidate pool. He was full of fervor, excitement and good ideas for his role in the program But the project later was dropped.

        In summary, these 'test pilot' and 'astronaut finalist' stories are in such utter conflict with existing documentation, other participants' recollections, and NASA's own records, that I can find no way to accept them as credible. Generalizing this calibration, some of the even stranger stories from Johnston about Apollo-era NASA UFO secrets are, in my view, unworthy of belief as well without independent confirmation — so far, totally absent. . But I await additional documentation to refute this.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

More balderdash from Robert Morningstar

James Concannon writes...

        Robert Morningstar, the frisbee wiz and reliable source of wrong opinions, was even more wrong than usual as he guested on Coast to Coast AM this week. He was invited to announce the discovery of yet another "UFO" in Apollo photography.

        This one was in a 16mm film sequence from Apollo 17, depicting the undocking of the Lunar Module as seen from inside the Command Module. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt are unseen in the LM, and Ronald Evans is  seen briefly in the foreground, as Command Module Pilot. They were all experiencing zero-g.

        About 20 seconds after separation, a piece of debris floats through the frame and the error-prone Mr. Morningstar convinces himself that it's some sort of intelligently-guided craft observing the LM-CM sep. He provides this still frame.

His accompanying text is, in part:
"The UFO is to [sic] seen spinning and changing aspect in a controlled fashion as it passes, clearly observing and monitoring the Apollo spacecraft maneuvers.

"The reaction of the astronaut, Ronald Evans, is one of stunned surprise (and dare I say "shock" and "disbelief") at the moment that he spots the UFO emerging into view from behind the LEM."
        I'm not sure whether balderdash or poppycock is the appropriate adjective to apply to this latest fantasy -- perhaps both. The extent of AM*'s delusion is best appreciated by viewing the actual film sequence. Here it is -- undocking occurs at 11:42, and the "UFO" is seen from 12:01-12:10, drifting from top center to lower right. Anybody who believes "controlled fashion" and "clearly observing" should please report to the nearest loony bin.

        Now take a look at this -- the famous lift-off as the last of the six Apollo landers left the Moon. See all that debris spewing out at the moment of ignition of the ascent engine? Most of that is insulation fragments -- exactly what was seen on many other occasions in Apollo videos, and almost certainly what the deluded Morningstar saw.

        I was not the only one to ridicule AM* on the Book of Farces. A somewhat acrimonious exchange developed between him and Don Davis, a renowned space artist who has a great deal more knowledge than AM* about the history of spaceflight.
DD: "You are typing nonsense. The presence of the spacecraft affects the local environment, and the separation of spacecraft components often caused bits of debris to drift away. This can be seen in multiple examples. The presence of something that doesn't belong near the moon next to something else foreign to the environment is best explained by association.

RM: "Nice try, Don, but ANY insulation breaking off should be BETWEEN the LEM and the Command module NOT a mile BEHIND IT immediately after separation. The shocked reaction of the astronaut belies your explanation(s). -> M*

DD: "What is your basis for the distance guess? And for your guess about the mindset of the astronaut doing the filming? You are reaching for something that cannot be supported by the evidence.

RM: "As I said/wrote before, you are blind as a bat and devoid of insight, and I would add now "common sense." Your [sic] are a prisoner in a false matrix of your own construction. -> M* 
        I chimed in wondering why AM* had announced that it would take until Christmas for him to present the actual film (the answer was that he intends to "enhance" it) and asking what basis he had for describing Ron Evans' reaction as "shocked." Don Davis and James Oberg took the (edited) dialog on:
DD: "He just panders to ignorance. And the people who put him on radio are contributing to the degeneration of American science education."

JO (who knows more about this than any of us): "Don, it's more despicable than mere pandering, he manufactures not just ignorance, but misinformation. It's worse than not knowing stuff, it's falsely 'knowing' wrong stuff, that's culturally toxic and corrosive. And all for fun."
        There was much more to the conversation, and lest you should think Don, James and I were piling on unfairly, there were Morningstar-worshippers around as well, telling him how brilliant he is. Perhaps he should stick to frisbee, I believe he's actually brilliant at that. At interpreting spaceflight videos, he's a total dunce.

Zany pranksters!

        This blog got a mention during Richard Hoagland's disastrous "open lines" digital radio show in the early hours of Wednesday 11 November. I say disastrous because his callers were by no means Hoagland sycophants, and several of them gave him a hard time. Some of the pranking was pretty juvenile, but in the end he was forced to apologize for having said, the previous night, that many of his listeners were "useless eaters" because they fell asleep leaving their devices connected. This, to Hoagland, is stealing his precious bandwidth -- bandwidth he now has to pay for to the tune of a grand a month. Personally I highly doubt that a largely sleeping audience makes a ha'p'orth of difference to his bandwidth bills, but it's a lovely thought.

        Anyway, this blog was mentioned by one of the early callers, and Hoagland jumped in immediately with this:
"That is not my book. That is a spoof run by a couple of really zany pranksters, one from Europe and one from the United States, who are pretending it's my book."
        Now look. I shouldn't have to write this, and I'm sure I don't for 99% of my readers, but I make no pretense that this is a book. It's a blog taking pseudoscientists like Hoagland to task for their manifest dishonesty. The title is a satirical reference to the fact that the likes of Hoagland & Bara have made some pretty nice coin, in their time, from telling lies about the planet Mars. I imagine all that money is long gone now, however. Hoagland is reduced to worrying about whether he can pay for bandwidth, with his audience nodding off all around.

Hoagland, we know you're a dog
        I'm not going to write a full review of the show, but a couple of items really stood out for me. One was a wonderful example of Hoagland's habit of taking credit for other people's creative work. He said this:
"Back when Art and I were doing shows, a long time ago, I actually said on the air, coined the phrase, On the internet nobody knows you're a dog."
        Well, he didn't. Cartoonist Peter Steiner did, in a famous New Yorker cartoon published on 5 July 1993.

source: wikimedia (fair use)

Some other examples of Hoagland's mental disorder:

* "The hammer and feather stunt on Apollo 15 was my idea." He said that on 2 July 2013, on C2C-AM. The stunt was, in fact, dreamed up by Dave Scott, Jim Irwin, and Joe Allen.

* "I was the co-creator of the Pioneer 10 message to extraterrestrial life." This claim is part of the welcome message on his terrifyingly bad web site (scroll all the way to the end.) On 13 July 1990 he said "Carl [Sagan] for many years has been taking public credit for the Pioneer plaque which, of course, Eric Burgess and I conceived." In fact he had no part in the design of the plaque, which was done by Sagan, his then wife Linda, and Frank Drake. Hoagland was merely present when Eric Burgess made the original suggestion to Sagan.

public domain

Pluto and mendacity
        The other Hoaglandism that was salient for me in Wednesday morning's show was his breathtaking statement about the results of the recent New Horizons survey of Pluto. "I'm the only guy who got it right," he said as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. So what did he get right? His vision was and still is of a previously-inhabited planet with moons that are not really moons but abandoned space stations. He got it WRONG, in other words. Stuart "astroguy" Robbins, who is actually on the New Horizons science team, commented "There are not words to describe the disgust when he says this."

Hoagland, you're a DOG.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Mike Bara: The ignorance continues

        Mike Bara, the world-famous aeronautical engineer, is dead set against the environmental protection movement. I have a theory that, to him, nurturing the environment is too "feminine" an idea for the all-American boy to accept. It perhaps goes along with his evident fear of homosexuality.

Case in point: Back in January 2011, Mike wrote this:
"7 astronauts were killed on the Columbia space shuttle because NASA switched to "green" insulating foam on the external fuel tank. The original foam never broke off. It only started after they went to "green" insulating foam and 7 people lost their lives."
        As this blog reported at the time, the statement is false in two important ways. First, there were at least nine documented cases of foam shedding prior to the first use of the Freon-free foam insulation on 19 November 1997. Second, the foam component that caused the death of Columbia was the left bipod ramp — and the bipod ramps were exempt from the environmentally-friendly change. In other words, the killer ramp was made of the original BX250 formula. Wrong, Mike. Totally wrong.

Food contamination
        Case in point: Reacting to the e. coli contamination problem that caused the recent closure of 43 Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon, Mike tweeted this on 1 November:
"So Chipotle goes all organic and poisons its customers with E.Coli. See, this is why farmers use pesticides & fertilizers."
        Anybody want to hazard a guess as to what the fuck the connection is between pesticides and e. coli contamination? My guess is NONE WHATEVER.

       This blog wonders what Mike will now have to say about the news, just a day later, that no less than 167,000 lb of ground beef has been recalled because of—you guessed it—e.coli. Too feminine an approach to cattle butchery, perhaps?

Update, 4 November
"This doesn't "defy the Laws of physics." Relativity and Einstein are simply wrong."
        Thus Mike Bara today, tweeting about the EM drive. What Mike doesn't grasp is that it's Newtonian physics that the device violates, not relativity. The ignorance not only continues but gets worse.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dave Bara proves that ignorance is a family trait

        Mike Bara, the world-renowned jetliner designer and predictor of all things alien on the Moon and Mars, has a twin brother, Dave. Dave is a small-world-renowned author of military SciFi, with two books published and a third in the works. One Amazon reviewer wrote of the latest:
"The eyerolling gave me a migraine and I had to put it down. With a shotgun."
        Oh, I'm being unkind -- the reverse of cherry-picking. Let's call it turd-picking -- the  reviews are actually 34% five-star, 27% one- and two-star.

        Anyway, the point is that brother Dave shares with brother Mike a very, very primitive knowledge of basic physics, and a near-zero understanding of orbital mechanics. Brother Mike, remember, once told us that in Earth orbit, gravity is negligible. In his latest book brother Dave has a synchronous satellite 300 miles above an Earth-like planet. Think about what that translates to in terms of the planet's rotational periodnote 1 -- oh, there I go turd-picking again.

Today Mike re-posted this to his book of faces:

A (not turd-picked) selection of comments:
Louisa Davenport: Forgetting and covering up is what NASA does best
Kimberly Reck: negligent amnesiac sneaky assholes
        See how well-trained at NASA-hatred Mike's fans are?
        See how pig-ignorant the whole bunch of them are, including the Bara dunces? They can't even tell the difference between ice and flowing water. Stop, stop, I beg you, Bara boys -- the eye-rolling is giving me migraine.

[thanks to Carol Behan for alerting me to this]

[1] It works out to be 98 minutes. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bellgabbers turn on Hoagland

        For the last couple of months, my morning internetainment has included a swift review of one of the forums in BellGab. BellGab was set up years ago for fans of the original Art Bell Coast to Coast AM overnight radio show. As history moved on, more fora were spawned to comment on George Noory (mostly "George Noory sucks"), the "bullpen" hosts, and the regular guests.

        As many readers will know, Hoagland was kicked off C2C-AM on 13 July after clashing with Noory and his producer Tom Danheiser. Since 21 July he's been hosting his own internet radio show, The Other Side of Midnight, on Art Bell's Dark Matter Digital Network. A BellGab forum sprang into life, for live chat and comment during the show. As I blogged a few days later, I don't listen and don't subscribe to the archive, but the Live Chat Thread has been lots of fun to read.

        At first there was plenty of hilarity over the inevitable teething troubles of a show hosted from a home office in Deming, NM by an inexperienced amateur personality -- the ringing phone, the barking dog, and most particularly the squeaking office chair. But then a wave of grudging admiration hit the forum. In the first place, the commenters seemed to love the guests that Hoagland's producer, "Saucy Rossy", booked. Rossy himself (a veteran of BellGab) posted to the thread regularly and showed himself to be a knowledgeable, easygoing guy with a very good sense of humor. And then, they saw an unexpected side of Hoagland, which they came to call his "Dick Cavett" alternate personality. This was an urbane, well-informed, engaging interviewer who could, in fact, create great late-night radio. It was transforming from a mock-in to a love-in, until this happened:

        Many suspected some variation of "the irresistible force of Rossy meets the immovable object of Richard Hoagland's monsta ego." There was consternation, but nothing compared to what was shortly to come:

        Howls of protest were recorded. Rossy himself was an absolute gentleman, insisting that it was his own decision, he was ok with it, and please just move on, guys. But when Monday night/Tuesday morning rolled around, and the new producer (Scott McKay) was introduced, the mocking resumed. Hoagland apparently chatted with his new producer as if he was a guest, and the pair of them traded name-drops for at least 45 minutes. A few sample comments:
"I need a shot of Geritol."

"Oh my god dump this guy."

"oh gawd....are they really talking about 'kids these days'?"

"It's like sitting next to granddad-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner."

"It's just a private phone conversation that we are forced to listen too. Awful awful awful."
        Today the forum is hate-filled. Many members say they've canceled their subs to the archive. They've come around to what this blog has been pointing out for seven years -- Hoagland is an arrogant popinjay who thinks his audience is so stupid that they'll believe anything he says as long as he keeps reminding them that he was once Walter Cronkite's science adviser (and actually, that wasn't quite his position at CBS News). A comment from "Paper*Boy" at 05:30 EDT:
"Richard C Hoagland is everything each of his detractors on this board say he is.  I hope someone mentioned condescending, and contemptible."
        Since last night he roped in Robin Falkov as a supposed "expert guest" (the topic was Report from the Iron Mountain) another of the BellGab regulars summed it up thus-wise:
"Down to the wife for defense. Richard, you fucked this badly."
        Very few archive shows have been made available to sample, but here's one. It's the 11 September show on Ceres/Pluto, featuring Will Farrar, Andrew Currie, Robert Harrison, and crazy old Keith Laney.

Update 14 October 6:00pm EDT
        I have no idea who "ayala" is. He or she may be flying a kite for all I know. But "Coaster," a regular contributor who I believe has inside info, posted this:
"Ayala was accurate.  I won't say how I know, but it's true."

Rossy made it credible with this:
"... it wasn't that long ago that I defended him vehemently. But it took multiple wake up calls and a few final big ones for me to realize how wrong I was.

I don't want this to continue because I don't want my name to ever be spoken on that show ever again. I'm proud of the work I did, but dissapointed in myself for my misjudgment. I'm too often willing to trust, and give people the benefit of the doubt and that's because I want to be an optimist, however I've learned something very valuable from all of this and that is to trust your instincts. People don't show who they really are they are right away, usually it takes six months, I'm happy it only took two in this case.

So yeah, I'm going to move forward and leave this shit in the rearview, and make something positive out of it."