Sunday, May 15, 2016

Defense against Windows 10

        There's no doubt about it -- Micro$oft wants all its Windows users to upgrade to 10. Anyone running anterior versions of Windoze cannot fail to have noticed the nagging that's been going on for at least six months now.

        Now it's got to the point where they're beginning to implement forced upgrades. Today when I declined the nag dialog for the umpteenth time, I got this message:


        So, obviously, they plan to go behind my back and install the wretched OS while I'm sleeping. In a fury, I screamed about this to an IRC channel inhabited by jokers and techies, and one of them came to my rescue. A company called Gibson Research Corporation is offering a free registry editor called Never10, which bars 10 from installing itself. Note that I call it a registry editor rather than an app, because that's what it is. If you use it, nothing is installed on your system.

        As a bonus, Never10 scans your system and detects Win10 files that have been "pre-loaded" onto your system already. When I ran it, it found six point five gigabytes of these bloody things, which I promptly deleted.

        Here's the link -- it worked for me and you may wish to try it if you don't want your screen to resemble something more appropriate for nursery school, and your net activity easily monitored by faceless droids in Redmond WA. With grateful thanks to my knowledgeable IRC buddy.

Update 19 May 
It wasn't enough. I was hit by Win10 overnight. I'm furious.

Friday, May 13, 2016

The dreams of George Noory

        Two nights ago, Coast to Coast AM gave two hours over to the hysterical government hater Alex Jones, thus running the grave risk that George Noory wouldn't get a word in edgeways. However, Jones was gracious enough to allow the radio host to say a few words on the topic of the Illuminati -- that quite possibly ficticious secret society that is alleged to control everything worth controlling in this world. This spoof by "Gawker" gives a briefing if you need one.

25:09 Jones: "What is George Noory's definition of the Illuminati?"

Noory: "I want to go back to the movie Eyes Wide Shut, by the late Stanley Kubrick. And... for people who have never seen that movie, you have to rent it, and you have to look at it two or three times before it makes sense to you. But if you understand the Illuminati it makes sense to you even quicker. Now, there were people in the movie who had bizarre habits, and they dressed up in costumes, and they went to billionaire parties at mansions. And during the day they were successful business-people. They made a lot of money. They were multi-millionaires, billionaires in many cases. And they conducted business, they controlled things, they ran major corporations, but at night they became different creatures. Controlling, manipulative, power brokers, over-sexed, hiding under the shroud of costumes and masks. That's what I think the Illuminati is. It includes some of the most powerful people we know on the planet during the daytime, but at night they become crazy."

Jones: "Wow!! Wow, I've gotta say that is the best definition I've ever heard."

        Now, it happens that I know Eyes Wide Shut pretty well. I know all of Kubrick's work pretty well, he's a genius in my book. To me George's interpretation is pure fantasy. Here's the scene that George describes as a "billionaire party." I've nothing at all against naked women, but it isn't my favorite scene in that enigmatic film. It's shot in palatial surroundings, to be sure (actually the Long Island mansion "Somerton") so whoever the host is, he's not short of a dollar or three, and note that there was apparently no door fee.

        The ritual is clearly religious -- the costume and the censer attest to that. We see impassive onlookers -- in fact, at 04:20 in the Youtube clip there's someone who's a dead ringer for Richard Hoagland -- but we know nothing at all about them or what they get up to during the day.

        In Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), from which the script was partly adapted, the orgiastic gathering takes place during Carnival, during which masking, costuming and random fucking are the norm in many, dare I say most, countries that value the traditions. You don't have to be a tycoon of industry to participate. I was once in Cayenne during Carnival, and believe me I know whereof I write.

        So I say George Noory's account of the scene comes from his imagination, and Alex Jones' enthusiastic endorsement of it likewise from his. Do they really think this is what George Soros and Ben Bernanke get up to in the evenings?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Checklist of Robert Morningstar's errors

James Concannon writes...

        Since I won't be reporting from AM*'s faceboo page any more, I leave him with a (possibly not comprehensive) list of his errors, both aerospatial and political.

1. AS15-P-9625 shows a crashed spacecraft on the far side of the Moon. Reference
2. The above frame is from Apollo 12 Magazine P (It's from the Apollo 15 pan cam)
3. AS17-M-2444 shows hangers [sic] in Mare Imbrium. Reference
4. The above frame is from Lunar Orbiter (It's from the Apollo 17 mapping cam)
5. Mis-labeling of seven craters in Mare Imbriumnote 1
6. There's more than one space station in Earth orbit (the other one is part of the Secret Space Program)
7. The Mars opposition of April 2014 will cause major earthquakes
8. "Planetary gravitational entanglement"  will cause more giant quakes in June 2015
9. Total misunderstanding of the Mono Lake extremophile GFAJ-1
10. NASA doesn't show images of Ukert crater
11. The Apollo astronauts were not aware of the DSE voice recordings
12. There's a 1967 edition of The Brookings Report (he claims to have a copy of this but he's completely unable to come up with any quotes from it)
13. AS10-28-3988 shows a 166-mile wide space station in lunar orbit (It's a 2ft piece of mylar insulation)
14. AS16-109-17761 shows a UFO ("Treasure of the Abyss") in lunar orbit (It's a scanning fault, only on some versions of this frame)
15. APOD 5 April 2004 shows a "Martian artifact" (it's the mark made by the Opportunity rover Rock Abrasion Tool)
16. AS17-M-2366 shows "Big Ben on the Moon" (It's scanner fluff. In 2367 it's migrated way off to the right)
17. Material was edited out of the Apollo 10 DSE tapes to obfuscate the "Music on the Moon" report
18. The Chinese Chang'e lunar orbiter photographed a lunar base
19. Frames from Apollo 16 film show a "Moon racer" following the Command Module (almost certainly an internal reflection)
20. Part of an Apollo 17 film shows a UFO observing undocking of the LM from the CM
21. After Apollo 11, NASA was "frightened off the Moon" (and yet landed five more missions?)
22. Frames from the Zapruder film were deliberately altered to obfuscate the real assassin
23. Kim Philby was homosexual (He was married four times, had five children and plenty of het sex on the side)
24. Andreas Lubitz, co-pilot of Germanwings 9525, was a convert to Islam
25. Hillary Clinton murdered JFK Jnr. by tampering with the avionics of his plane
26. Jupiter and Saturn used to be stars
27. "Cairo" means Mars (No,  it means The Conqueror. A word for Egypt is Mas'r, which has nothing to do with the Red Planet)
28. Thermonuclear war on Mars (he believes John Brandenburg)

Bye-bye Robert.

Update 13 May:
"Trekker" makes a good point in comments about error #1. Using the line tool in the ACT-REACT map, she shows that this is a depression rather than a dune or a spaceship. So I was fooled by the lighting, just not as badly as was AM*.

[1] "Aristarchus" should be Pytheas
"Krueger" should be Pytheas A
"Euler" should be Caventou
"Pytheas" should be Euler H (?)
"Copernicus" should be Euler (Copernicus is the HUGE rayed crater on the horizon)
"Lambert" should be Draper
"Helicon" should be Draper C

Sunday, May 8, 2016

How far away is the horizon?

James Concannon writes...

        The figure depicts an observer at height h on a planet of radius R. The observer's sight line to the horizon is the tangent to the planet, and therefore the distance to the horizon is given by d.


Say h is the eye level of a very tall man, to make it simple, call it 2 m
For planet Earth, R = 6,365,000 m


By Pythagoras's theorem, d2 = (R + h)2 - R2

(R + h)2 = R2 + h2 + 2Rh
so  d2 = R2 + h2 + 2Rh - R2
d2 = h2 + 2Rh
d = sqrt( h2 + 2Rh )
h2 + 2Rh = 4 + 25,460,000 and √25,460,004 = 5,046 m

So a very tall man on planet Earth sees the horizon at about 5.1 km. Of course that's assuming the planet is a perfect sphere, with no irregularities.

BY THE WAY: Phil Plait blogged this in January 2009, and ended with a table relating d to h for much larger values.

What about Mars?
The radius of Mars is 53% that of Earth, 3389 km or 3,389,000 m

So for Mars h2 + 2Rh = 4 + 13,556,000 and √13,556,004 = 3,682 m
The Martian horizon for the same basketball player is  3.682 km away

So the distance of the horizon is not directly proportional to the relative sizes of the planets, but to the square root. In the case of Mars - Earth, √0.53 = 0.728

Why all this fuss?
        I was moved to contemplate this calculation by an egregious example of the modern phenomenon of "Facebook ignorance." I took part in a convo on Robert Morningstar's page, prompted by this excellent panning shot across Gale crater, which ends on a clear view of Sharp Mountain (sadly, Blogspot doesn't allow embedded video but here's the URL.)

        Mr. Morningstar is quite ignorant of astronomy and mathematics, and it seems that his disciples are even more so.  I see no reason to shame the ignoramus so I'll just call him or her "Person A."
Person A: "Excuse me. This is so funny, I have to giggle. Did you know, Mars is a very small planet. and it HAS NO FLAT PANORAMAS at all, having such tight curvature, there is only one flat place at the North Pole for a sprawling building with a parking lot. So all these flat-stereoscopic images are phony as hell."

James Concannon: "The diameter of Mars is 53% that of Earth. Strictly speaking, there are no flat places on either planet. It's just a matter of how far away the horizon is."
Person A: "No it isn't. It's less than that of our Moon, yes. However, every single distance and dimension that NASA publishes is a hoaxed, false figure that has no relationship whatever to reality . . . like everything else they do."
        So this is my answer to those who say "Leave Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara alone FGS. Their NASA hatred is harmless." It isn't harmless if it leads to opinions like that.

        However, "Person A" then went on to make me doubt whether he or she was serious. I think perhaps my leg was being pulled.
Person A: "Let me relate to you, what I have been able to find out. No, they didn't go to the Moon in Apollo 11 the way they said; they hitched a ride with an Annunaki cruiser. No, Challenger isn't blow up in 1986; that was hoaxed, and 6 of the 7 crew members are still alive. Now, NASA nuked Jupiter with a spent nuclear engine; they bombed our moon and penetrated its southern water reservoir in 2009. They sent out Rovers to both Mars and Venus without getting an Okay from the people who live there; and so on Mars one Rover crashed a cliffwall and killed a score of people in summer 2007; then we invaded and lost a rescue party, who were held for ransom and died in 2008. The latest Curiosity Rover was met with gunfire and had to be replaced immediately. No, NASA's doctrine that there's nobody out there, and the photoshopping they do of all asteroid, moon and planetary photos doesn't hide the fact of Life. You can laugh at me all you want and wish; but someday you will find out I have been correct about what NASA is up to : the same sort of military aggression that the USSA is up to on Earth : conquest and coercion"

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Yet another hour of drivel from Mike Bara

        "I go with my gut feelings... If it feels right, it's probably the truth." That was the delusional Mike Bara, deep into an hour or so of amateurish internet radio yesterday. The show was Freedom of Perception hosted by Monique Lessan. Monique, a private investigator specializing in abductions (but not the alien kind) looks and sounds charming -- she has a pretty face, a tinkling giggle and a foreign accent that can sometimes be hard to decipher. Since she's listed as speaking fluent Farsi it seems likely that she was born in Iran. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld memorably said about something quite different.

        Mike's declaration about his guts (other than his promise, later, to go on a diet) chimes with his philosophy as enunciated in his book Ancient Aliens on Mars II. On page 11 he wrote "This book ... is about truth ... the kind of truth that you can only know in your heart and in your mind." Could there be a plainer warning that what he has to say and write is primarily bullshit?

        Indeed the excrementum tauri piled high as Monique led him down the well-trodden paths of his fantasies about the Moon. Artifacts of a former civilization? Oh yes. "To me it's pretty simple and pretty straightforward," he said. "Rocks have very specific shapes." So anything out of the ordinary has to be an artifact, right? Sure.

 The White Desert of Egypt. Credit: Touropia

        Asked about the Apollo program, Mike repeated the lie that Apollo's mission was to collect artifacts for the purpose of reverse engineering. He has said and written that so many times, but not once has he produced one shred of evidence. Specifically on Apollo 11, the first landing, he thinks Buzz Aldrin's private masonic ceremonynote 1 was "the main purpose" of the mission. "[M]asons had a tremendous influence on the Apollo program," he said. Well, Mike, not half as much as the actual.. you know, engineers.

Rang like a bell
        Monique had obviously heard the sound bite from geologist Clive Neal, "The Moon rang like a bell," and she asked Mike about it. Mike kindly and patiently explained that when the Apollo 16 LM ascent stage was deliberately crashed into the Moon, seismometers left by previous missions went on reacting for 30 hours. He said that "obviously there are vast caverns.. I think they contain ruins, machinery... that is one of the things that conventional science can't explain." There are a few things adrift there:

- It wasn't Apollo 16, it was 13.
- It wasn't the LM Ascent Stage, it was the SIVB upper rocket stage.
- It was 10 minutes, not 30 hours.
- It did not, and does not, mean that there are caverns. It means the Moon is very dry.
- Conventional science explains it quite well, thank you.

Mars and Sex
        Asked about Mars, Mike came up with a number of fantasies including "If you have liquid water then you have the ingredients for life," and "NASA worked very hard to suppress [Viking biology results]." The first statement is just plain wrong, and this blog has refuted the second at least once.

         Perhaps my favorite quote, though, came at the very beginning. Monique started right out by saying "I'm going to ask you the question I most want to know the answer to." Mike replied "The answer is -- I'm single." Oh, tacky. Monique giggled.

[1] Bara interprets it as a masonic ceremony. Actually it was a form of catholic mass, including consumption of tiny amounts of bread and wine. On this occasion, as on many others, Bara asserted that the mass "has its roots in Egyptian Osiris-worship,"  thus tying Aldrin's ritual and the whole mission to a fantasy of a NASA obsession with ancient Egypt. The mass, of course, is a re-enactment of the biblical Last Supper, and has nothing to do with Osiris. The ritual was not in the Flight Plan, and NASA as a whole probably didn't even know Aldrin was planning it, so it can hardly be linked to any NASA "obsession." Bara tells these lies with such confidence that his interlocutors generally believe him.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Yes, folks, it's the xenon isotope show!

        This is an experimental blogpost. It is not required reading -- feel free to skip it. I have chosen to write about xenon isotopes because it's an interesting challenge for a technical writer. Actually, it's two challenges. The first is to understand the bloody subject, and the second is to write about the bloody subject with enough clarity and wit to make other people understand it. Those of you who decide to read on will be rewarded with speculation about nuclear warfare on Mars. Thrills! So here we go...

An isotopic topic
        The 118 elements in the periodic table are uniquely defined by their atomic numbers, and this invariantly refers to the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom of that element. Hydrogen 1, Helium 2, Lithium 3...bla bla... Platinum 78, Gold 79, Mercury 80 ... bla bla .... Ununoctium 118, and there may well be a 119th and 120th coming along shortly, although only the first 94 elements are ever found naturally. The high-faluting ones are synthesized at vast expense and typically last for milliseconds. Only three atoms of Ununoctium have ever been synthesized. If you ask "Why would they do that?" their answer would be "Because now we know." By the way, Ununoctium officially became an element only four months ago. How time doesn't fly.

        Counting protons does not tell us all about the nuclear structure of an element, because in almost every case the nucleus is made of neutrons as well as protons. Take carbon (please...) Its atomic number is 6, so its nucleus always has 6 protons by definition. But 98.9% of the carbon on Earth also has 6 neutrons in its nucleus. 6 + 6 = 12, so 12 is what is now called the mass number of normal, bog standard carbon. Chemists know it by its nickname, 12C6. But about 1% of carbon atoms you might find lying around have one extra neutron, and a very small proportion have two extra neutrons. They are, of course, 13C6 and 14C6 respectively, and the three different carbons  are the isotopes of carbon.

credit: emaze

       Now we get to the radioactive part. Put a teaspoonful of carbon-12 or carbon-13 on your kitchen table, and they'll stay right there for ever. They are stable isotopes. Even if you walk away and come back in a million years, there will still be exactly the same number of atoms on the table (unless you've had a fall of soot.) Carbon-14, however, is not like that. It is unstable, and spontaneously decays. Radioactive decay takes several forms but in this case each decay event causes a neutron to turn into a proton. The mass number thus remains 14, but the atomic number goes up one, and therefore that atom is no longer carbon. It becomes the next element in the table, which happens to be nitrogen. This decay process has a half-life of 5,730 years, so after that length of time half your carbon-14 has turned into nitrogen-14 and literally vanished into thin air. Nitrogen itself has one other stable isotope, nitrogen-15, plus a raft of unstable ones. Some of these decay back to carbon, some go on up to the next element, which happens to be oxygen.

        So there's yer basic tute on what isotopes are and what mischief they get up to. Enter xenon.

Noble xenon
        Helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon are the six so-called "noble" gases, although -- isn't this interesting? -- the brand new element Ununoctium may well turn out to be an ultra-heavy noble gas. The big feature of the nobles is that they don't form bonds with other elements, unlike carbon which will make molecules with anything that asks, the slut. So there's no such thing as argon hydroxide or xenon hydrochloride, for example. Xenon has the distinction of having more stable isotopes than any other element except tin. Here's a reference to 13 xenon isotopes, eight of which are stable. "NA" means "Natural Abundance."

124Xe - NA 0.095%, decays to 124Te, half-life 5 x 1016 y (essentially stable)

125Xe - NA zero, decays to 125I, half-life 16.9h

126Xe - NA 0.089%, stable

127Xe - NA zero, decays to 127I, half-life 36.345d

128Xe - NA 1.91%, stable

129Xe - NA 26.4%, stable. Produced by beta decay of 129I, half-life 16 million y

130Xe - NA 4.07%, stable

131Xe - NA 21.2%, stable. Fission product of Thorium, Uranium, and Plutonium. Can be a decay product of 131I or 131Cs

132Xe - NA 26.9%, stable. The most common natural isotope. Can be a decay product of 132I or 132Ba

133Xe - NA zero, decays to 133Cs, half-life 5.25d

134Xe - NA 10.4%, decays to 134Ba, half-life 1.1 x 1016 y (essentially stable). Fission product of Thorium, Uranium, and Plutonium

135Xe - NA zero, decays to 135Cs, half-life 9.14h. Fission product of Thorium, Uranium, and Plutonium

136Xe - NA 8.86%, decays to 136Ba, half-life 2.2 x 1021 y (essentially stable). Fission product of Thorium, Uranium, and Plutonium

        The four isotopes that are fission products can be expected to be unusually plentiful in the aftermath of a nuclear fission weapon detonation, and indeed these isotopes have been used to detect weapon tests. Xenon-129 is not a fission product in the conventional sense, but it is generated by a special nuclear reaction called fast fission. Fast fission is used in advanced reactor designs and in some fusion weapons (H-bombs, to put it crudely.)

Interplanetary warfare?
       As shown in the above reference, in planet Earth's atmosphere, xenon 129 is only slightly less abundant than the dominant isotope 132 -- 26.4% cf. 26.9%. Thanks to some brilliant space science, we now know a good deal about the atmosphere of planet Mars, and in that atmosphere 129 is more than 2.5 times as abundant as 132 (although both, of course, are far less abundant in absolute terms than the terrestrials.) This has led a maverick physicist called John Brandenburg to speculate that at least one fast fission event -- such as the detonation of a thermo-nuclear weapon -- has occurred at some time in Mars' history. Brandenburg has attracted quite a bit of attention by publishing this conjecture -- he's become a favorite on the pseudoscience circuit that includes late-night radio chat shows, internet radio, and TV productions with a very lenient view of what constitutes a historical fact (Yes, Ancient Aliens, I'm talking about you.)

Figure from John Brandenburg's 2015 LPSC poster. NOTE that these data are relative, not absolute

        So is Brandenburg right? Was Mars nearly obliterated by nuclear warfare? I hesitate to go up against a well-qualified physicist but my answer is probably not. Very probably not. The thing is, you don't need such a radical hypothesis as fast fission to explain the 129/132 isotope ratio on Mars. Look at that reference table again. Xenon-129 is remarkable among the isotopes in that it can be, and is, created by decay of Iodine-129 with a half life of 16 million years. Is Iodine-129 itself a fission product? No it is not. It is, however, a solid, not a gas, at normal temperatures (boiling point 184.3 °C.) So if, let's say, Mars' primordial atmosphere was almost entirely lost due to some catastrophe early in its history, iodine would not  be affected and it would not be strange that xenon-129 would be preferentially replenished.

        Well, that's exactly what Marsologists say happened, some time within the first 100 million years after the planet was formed. The planet has been around for some 4.5 billion years, so there has been plenty of time for iodine-129 to quietly turn itself into xenon-129, even given that 16m year half-life. Iodine-132 also decays to xenon-132, but that isotope is extremely rare and the decay half-life is measured in hours, so it's irrelevant.

        NASA gets way too much scorn these days from people who are too ignorant to know better than to believe the chief NASA-haters, Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara. The agency is accused of fudging and masking important data, and avoiding key questions about extraterrestrial life. The truth, from what I know and have observed, is that NASA might delay release of some planetary data in order to give priority to the science teams to peer-review and publish them, but there is absolutely no concerted policy to hide evidence of living things or dodgy guesswork like nuclear explosions on Mars.

        There is too much scorn, and not nearly enough gratitude for the brilliance of the JPL designers whose experiments make it possible to have these arguments.

With grateful thanks to my excellent research assistant, Google Search.

Update 8 May 2016
Element 118 has now been provisionally named Oganesson (Og), honoring Yuri Oganessian who led the team that synthesised element-117.


Evidence for large, anomalous, nuclear explosions on Mars in the past. --Brandenburg, J.E. 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2105) poster session

Rational wikipedia article on Dr John Brandenburg

Was Mars murdered? Podcast shownotes by Dr Stuart Robbins,

Wikipedia article on xenon and its isotopes

Wikipedia article on Martian atmosphere

Fission product tables for typical heavy isotopes. IAEA document

USGS Isotope resource - Xenon