Thursday, April 24, 2008

Viking biology

Hoagland & Bara appear to be confused about Viking biology. For those interested, here is a digest of the actual facts:

Both the Viking spacecraft landers had identical biology experiments. Each spacecraft carried three separate experiments designed to test for biology in Martian topsoil. The experiments were developed independently by three different Principal Investigators (PIs). The experiments were:

Gas Exchange (GEX) PI Vance Oyama, NASA Ames
Labeled Release (LR) PI Gilbert Levín, Biospherics, Inc.
Pyrolytic Release (PR) PI Norman Horowitz, CalTech

In addition, a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (PI Klaus Biemann, MIT) supported the main biology package by testing for organic molecules.

Results: At both landing sites the results were essentially identical. GEX and PR were unequivocally negative. LR initially showed strongly positive results, with the control (a sterilized sample) showing negative as expected. Subsequent nutrient injections, however, showed no response. The GCMS detected no organic molecules.

Interpretation: Responsibility for interpreting this enigma fell on the Head of Viking Biology, Harold Klein, with support from Viking Chief Scientist Gerry Soffen. Both were NASA employees. Their call was thumbs down for Martian biology. From a scientific point of view, looking at the overall picture, an absolutely correct call -- but the LR results begged for an explanation. The hypothesis that was developed involved a chemical, not biological, reaction involving superoxides in the soil.

Dr Levín has been protesting this interpretation for more than 40 years. His main point is that the LR experiment detected life as pre-defined by agreed criteria during mission design. He has developed quite persuasive explanations for why the two other experiments and the GCMS gave negative results. Read more about his efforts in this article from

Hoagland & Bara seem aware that this is a controversy but they get it wrong. They maintain that there was a deliberate campaign within NASA to conceal Levín's data. That allegation is categorically untrue. Consider these points:

* The enigmatic results were extensively discussed with the media at the time by Klein and Soffen. A memoir of some of those discussions is here.
* No attempt whatsoever has ever been made to suppress publication by Dr Levín of his own interpretation. Mike Bara himself posted on the darkmission blog links to six of Levín's publications on the question.
* The complete LR data set, including the PI's notebook, is available to anyone on a NASA-sponsored web site.

Other comments by Hoagland & Bara suggest that they also think the consensus view is wrong — in other words, that they think Levín's experiment alone proves the existence of life on Mars. It's a contentious and highly technical issue, and considering that neither of them has any training in biology whatsoever, their views will certainly be ignored by anybody who matters.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bara bragger

On April 19th 2008, Mike Bara posted:

"I live on Redondo Beach, California, I drive a 2007 BMW 5 Series, I’m a New York Times bestselling author, and I hang out with strippers and porn starlets half my age. I really don’t need to “edit” this blog to make myself look cool."

Perhaps understandably, he did not allow this reply to be seen:

That has to count as among the top ten most nauseating things I've ever read in Blogistan.

I might have added that Mike Bara is, in fact, NOT a New York Times bestselling author. "Dark Mission" came within one ranking point of making the list but never took that extra step. I don't dispute the strippers and porn starlets, however.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ad hominem

Shortly after using the epithets "moron"..."blithering idiot" as his idea of responding to a logical argument, Mike Bara refused to allow this post to appear on the blog:

"On Oct 15, 2007 8:23 AM PDT, you wrote:

[W]hy is it those who are so frightened and threatened by the data we present never want to argue the data itself, but always try to attack us personally? Could it be because arguing the data is a losing proposition for you?

Pretty funny, Mike...."

No errors in "Dark Mission"?

On April 18th, "jjrakman" posted this:

"take expat for's almost like it is his lifelong ambition to divert the attention away from any presented data..and then start arguing in a manner like "...well, oke so you think you have found an apple...but since there's no appletree in the can't be an apple"."

Mike Bara suppressed this response:

"No, what I'm saying is much simpler than that. I'm saying that verifiable errors in a published work should be corrected in subsequent editions, that's all. Here are some examples from "Dark Mission":

* NASA is a direct adjunct of DoD
* NASA concealed the results of the Viking biology LR experiment
* Neil Armstrong likened himself to a parrot
* The Brookings Report recommended concealment of evidence of alien civilizations
* Cernan and/or Schmitt could have retrieved a skull-sized rock from Shorty crater
* Farouk El-Baz was the most powerful figure in the entire Apollo Program
* Failure of the 1993 Mars Observer mission was the result of sabotage

All of the above statements are false. They are errors, mistakes. They are non-factual. Thanks to the magnificent resources of the world-wide web, any of us can verify that for ourselves in about 5 minutes per factoid.

In addition, there are a number of statements in the book that are not so easily falsified but are nonetheless highly problematic. One such is the statement in the Intro that Apollo crews brought back from the moon "not just rocks, but actual _samples_ of the ancient technologies they found -- for highly classified efforts at "back engineering".

Very hard to prove a negative, but since in that particular case Mike Bara has conceded that he and Hoagland know of no evidence to support the statement, common sense says that the passage should be deleted.


On April 16th, 2008, Mike Bara posted six URLs which were supposed to support his contention that NASA carefully concealed the results of the Viking biology Labeled Release experiment. In fact, his URL list did exactly the opposite -- supporting the actual truth of the matter which is that NASA made no such attempt.

Bara refused to allow this reply to be seen:

"I thank you for your six citations, which add further weight to the fact that no attempt has been made, by NASA or any other agency, to conceal this data.

Dr Levín is at odds with the "official" interpretation of the results, and indeed he has made some excellent points in the course of debating the question. That is a totally different issue from the issue of concealment. I'm sure you can understand that. Please correct your book in future editions."

Narrowly-focused attacks

On March 17th, "rogerv" wrote:

They never really dare to get themselves bogged down on debates of substance as they don't want to see the full context of evidence brought out. So their lines of attack are always very narrowly focused...
The following reply was suppressed

Would you call James Oberg's thorough debunk of the book's assertions about Mars Observer, Mars Polar Lander, and Mars Climate Orbiter overly narrow? It doesn't strike me that way. The only way it could possibly have been broader would have been for him to flat-out declare that NASA never under any circumstances causes deliberate failure of its expensive missions. To those of us who actually understand spaceflight, that goes without saying, and you can't prove a negative. Hoagland and Bara rely greatly on that principle in almost everything they write. A parody would be "NASA is infiltrated by free-masons and fascists and nothing it ever releases to the public is true. NOW PROVE OTHERWISE".

Another gem from that Australian tape (which, btw, must surely have been from 1993, not 1992) was Hoagland's confident-sounding assertion that the Mars Observer mission was sabotaged by the US Federal Goverment without NASA's approval or knowledge. Just think about that. It means that some other federal agency has the means of tracking and communicating with a spacecraft, and expertise on its vulnerability, without the knowledge of, or any co-operation from, JPL mission controllers or the manufacturer (Martin Marietta). Really hilarious.

As James Oberg has also pointed out, Richard Hoagland must be really scratching his head trying to figure out how on Earth Global Surveyor, Pathfinder, Odyssey, Mars Express, and Reconnaissance Orbiter were permitted to succeed. Most of them had far better imaging technology than the spacecraft that were deliberately destroyed. The ruthless cabal of demonic mission-spoilers, dedicated to suppressing knowledge of an ancient Martian civilization, must have fallen asleep at their consoles, presumably. My ribs are aching with laughter.


On March 17th, 2008 "orion28" wrote on the darkmission blog:
">Speculation on the symmetry/non symmetry of the face on mars ... would be considered an inaccurate prediction, not a lie."

This reply was suppressed by Mike Bara:

Look. In 1992 Hoagland said, WHILE THE SO-CALLED FACE WAS ON THE SCREEN, " has symmetry both in the center ridge line and left-and-right..."

In 2001 Bara wrote "we never expected [that it was symmetrical]". How is that an inaccurate prediction? If you don't like the word "lie", how about Churchill's famous expression -- a terminological inexactitude?

On the same day, "rogerv" wrote:

"These cranks are immediately recognizable for the tools they are, as they always fixate on various angles of character attacks and/or fixation on derivative minutia."

The following reply was suppressed:

I think the character attacks are coming in the other direction, aren't they? ..."moron"..."blithering idiot"... Hmm?????

Look, when the very first sentence of a book turns out to be based on a complete misreading by its authors, and when merely flipping through it reveals several more howlers, and when its overall thesis is highly improbable anyway, it needs to be outed in any way possible.

Profit from Fantasy

For nearly 20 years, a former TV researcher called Richard Hoagland has been making some ready cash by promoting ludicrous ideas about alien civilizations on Mars and The Moon. He says, for example, that there are vast artificial structures on the moon. When asked why they're invisible, he replies "because they're made of glass, of course". When asked why 12 Apollo astronauts who were actually, unlike Hoagland, on the Moon, deny the existence of any such structures, Hoagland replies that they've had their memories "selectively edited". He doesn't produce any evidence for that or most of his other fantasies.

The latest profit generator from this land of make-believe is "Dark Mission", a book co-authored with Mike Bara. "Dark Mission" is accompanied by a blog which purports to be available for anyone to discuss the book. However, it is not. The moderator, none other than Mike Bara himself, denies access to the blog to any posts that criticize the book too strongly or in a way that he cannot dismiss with insults. (Bara's favorite debating technique is to insult his adversaries).

This blog, dorkmission, is a repository of posts that Mike Bara has refused to allow on the "official" blog. We hope the publisher, Adam Parfrey of Feral House, will give some thought to correcting the book in future editions. Now read on...