Friday, October 7, 2016

John Brandenburg, lost in space

        People often ask, about pseudoscientists, whether they really believe the nonsense they peddle or whether, perhaps, they just pretend to believe as a way of selling books and raking in the conference fees. I've asked that question myself, particularly in respect of Richard Hoagland. Can a man who may not be highly educated but who has accumulated a certain amount of knowledge about spaceflight really think that NASA's launch times are governed by astrology? I don't know the answer but I think the default assumption must be "Yes, he really is that stupid."

        Perhaps the extreme case of this dilemma is John Brandenburg, who was given yet another two hours on Coast to Coast AM last Wednesday night to promote his 2015 book Death on Mars. Brandenburg is a bona fide physicist with real expertise in nuclear fission and fusion, and a real grasp of the realities of interpreting scientific data from unmanned space missions. So why is he still telling us that the so-called "Face" on Mars has eyes, nostrils and a headdress, when we all know that has been falsified (see my blogpost 40 Years of the Face on Mars.) Why is he telling us that NASA/JPL never released the THEMIS imagery of Cydonia returned by Mars Odyssey, when it's so easy to find those images on the net?

        Most puzzling of all, why is this man now devoting his career to the proposition that there is evidence of thermonuclear warfare on Mars? On Wednesday, he took full advantage of the opportunity handed to him by George Noory to trot that pony round the ring once again. I've already pointed out the weakness of his evidence about xenon isotope ratios, and so has Stuart Robbins, so there's no need to torture our brains on that topic today. But another piece of what he claims as evidence is the discovery of glass on Mars. On C2C he said "thousands of square miles were turned to glass, and made radioactive." He did not cite evidence for that, but on another occasion he has said this:
"Vitrified soil, etched with acid, has been found at the sites of both hypothetical explosions, but nowhere else on Mars. This mineral resembles "trinitite", the melt glass found at the site of nuclear explosions. So I consider my hypothesis is being supported by new data." [emph. added]
        When he wrote that (in December 2014) he cited a paper in Geology by Briony Horgan and James F. Bell: "Widespread weathered glass on the surface of Mars." See that word "widespread"? Horgan and Bell offer absolutely no support to his contention that the glass is concentrated at his two nuclear explosion sites. They report volcanic glass over virtually the whole Northern hemisphere, and nowhere state that it is radioactive. Brandenburg has committed the cardinal sin of citing someone else's work as supporting a hypothesis when it in fact does no such thing.

OMG Klingons!
       In the second hour, Brandenburg launched himself even further from science and logic. On the topic of "disclosure," he said this:
05:50 "Let's assume for the sake of argument that the US Government knows we're not alone in the universe.... If there's that much smoke there must be fire... So let's say the government knows this, and it realizes its goal is that some day we're like Startrek. If we're up to speed with the rest of the universe, yeah the Klingons are out there, so are the Romulans, so are the rest of the Federation ... There's a whole zoo out there, but we can get along with them, especially if we keep our powder dry and our eyes peeled. So we can deal with this, but we must become spacefaring, we must become an advanced race. So if that's the government's goal, then they have to eventually break it to the public that we're not alone. And the best way, as it turns out, is to find a primitive, long dead, civilization on Mars. It's the best possible way, because unlike a radio signal... the government I'm sure has a list of radio beacons that they know aboutnote 1. And ... but if you allow those to come to light, then this causes a big fuss.  And a bunch of nitwits will argue "Oh we should send a message back saying that we're friendly."...note 2 So instead of having all that debate [about whether we should reply] ...  and deciphering the message.. Instead of having people trying to decipher the message to try and respond, there's none of that debate. No-- these people are dead. They've been dead for a long time, they were primitive. So that not only makes us feel advanced, it also makes us feel lucky. So there's a positive message there. We're alive, they're dead, and by the way the people depicted on the faces look very humanoid."
        See the inherent fallacy there? He's talking as if the powers that be are vigorously promoting his ideas and those of Hoagland, Bara, Carlotto etc. as a way of gently breaking the news. But that's not at all what's happening. On the contrary, Brandenburg, Hoagland et al. are getting absolutely no encouragement from The White House, Congress, or The Pentagon, still less from NASA or from Malin Space Science Systems.

        So I say Brandenburg is delusional. What's more, not only does he pronounce "nuclear" incorrectly ("nucular") but he pronounces "Mare" (as in Mare Acidalium, for example) like a female horse, instead of the latin "Mah-ray." Credibility gap, anyone?

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[1] This is so unlikely that it can be discounted. The government (well, NASA) started a serious SETI program in 1992 but Congress canceled it (ref). What's a serious physicist doing putting out these silly rumors without evidence?
[2] I elided Noory's interjection "Stephen Hawking says 'Don't answer back'". Hawking's warning has had a lot of attention in the media, but it's not new at all. "If the cosmic phone rings, don't answer" was the title chosen by Nick Pope for his report on the 2010 Royal Society 2-day conference, whose full title was “The detection of extraterrestrial life and the consequences for science and society”. I am certain that the first person who said that was an anthropologist, speaking in the 1970s. Unfortunately I can't remember who it was, and Google doesn't recognize life before about 1990.


Binaryspellbook said...

Stu wrote a piece about Brandenburg.
Very interesting.

purrlgurrl said...

I heard him on The Paracast. For someone with his education, background, and experience, he was amazingly inarticulate. As the interview went on, he stopped answering questions, but instead rambled on in other directions as if he never heard or was ignoring them.

I began to doubt his credentials and wonder if he was really somebody more like a maintenance engineer at some forgotten NASA storage facility in the middle of nowhere special (but not Hanger 13, smile) trying to pass himself off as an expert.

On the other hand, he could well be legit and has suffered some neurological event that has left him with a diminished capacity and/or delusional.

Binaryspellbook said...


Hahaha. His credentials are legitimate.
I have no clue what's going on his his mind.
Unfortunately he is exactly the kind of person Hoagland, Bara, Wilcock et al
cite as a mainstream guy with a legit Ph.D. gone rogue. On they other hand they dismiss credentials from real scientists are irrelevant. They want their cake and to eat it too.

Example: Brian O'Leary Ph.D. - These clownsuits Hoagland/Bara and other pseudoscientists/pseudoengineers wet their panties because O'Leary has a PH.D.
The same is true of Dr Van Flandern, and Dr Brandenberg. They cite these guys relentlessly. Trying to ride on the coat-tails of legitimate bona fides. Yet in the next breath they are perfectly capable of dismissing other PhD's as worthless. Even to the extent of mocking them.

Case in point. Keith Laney dismissed Dr Stuart (Astroguy) Robbins as a "crater counter." Hoagland and his cacophony of sycophants erupted in laughter and poured scorn on Dr Robbins. This was when Hoagland was finding "arcologies" in low res jpg images sent by New Horizons.

They are beneath contempt.

expat said...

Not to mention Mike Bara's pronouncement: "Most physicists are nincompoops."

expat said...

Sorry -- "blithering idiots."

Unknown said...

You're nuts