It isn't easy to talk for 3 h 20 m, but Richard Hoagland managed the feat at the

Project Camelot Awake & Aware conference on Sept. 24th. He definitely has a talent for public speaking—too bad that what he speaketh is such unmitigated balderdash.

The entire first hour was an amended version of the presentation at Leeds, using

ex post facto reasoning to derive a completely spurious figure for the "odds against Comet Elenin being a natural object." This blog

has already commented on the fallacy in that whole exposition. This version did away with the mistaken perihelion data and substituted something even more mistaken—another 19.5° angle.

The new one was the angle between the direct line from Earth to Elenin at closest approach and the tangent to Earth's orbit. He asserts that the angle is 19.5° without saying how he measured it. He got his Grade F in math by then saying that the odds of that happening were 1 in 360/19.5 = 18.5. That calculation is, very simply, wrong. An error. A boo-boo. By that reasoning, the smaller the angle, the greater the odds against its occurrence. It is axiomatic that all possible angles should be equally likely.

Speaking of "all possible angles," what if the angle were zero? Then Hoagland would find himself in a divide-by-zero error and his math would collapse like a house of cards. There's another problem, as if those weren't enough. That angle can in no circumstances be greater than 90°, so what is the figure 360 doing in the calculation in the first place?

He made precisely the same error in relation to Elenin's orbital inclination—another component of his utterly ridiculous "1 in 264 billion" pseudo-calcuation.

A random comet
He went on to completely misrepresent an objection posted to his Facebookery by Neville Parchemin. By Hoagland's report at A&A, Neville had protested that "you could do the same calculation with

any number, there's nothing special about 19.5." That, however,

is not what Neville wrote. Instead, he wrote that you could do the same calculation with any

comet. Here he is, verbatim, from Facebook 10th September:

"RCH: Your exposition on the improbability of comet Elenin's parameters (C2C-AM, 08/29, hour 4) shows the exact converse of what you say it does. It demonstrates -- in so far as it has any validity at all -- that Elenin is no different from any other visiting comet.

Consider this:

ALL COMETS have first-observed magnitudes.

ALL COMETS reach perihelion on some specific date.

ALL COMETS arrive on some anniversary of some human event.

ALL COMETS reach closest approach to Earth at some specific time.

ALL COMETS have some orbital inclination.

It matters not what the actual figures are -- you could subject the parameters of any comet to the same pseudo-statistical analysis and come up with the same result. Odds in the tens of billions against that particular set of parameters occurring.

You have scored what in the game of soccer they call an "own goal."

Hoagland responded by going off into a total irrelevancy involving the fine structure constant, and threatening to ban Parchemin if he didn't toe the party line. Parchemin posted the next morning, as follows:

"RCH: Good morning. Yesterday you asked me to present a pseudo-statistical analysis of a different comet, following your methods as presented in Leeds and on C2C-AM for Elenin. The idea was to support my contention that any comet would have very adverse cumulative probability when several factors were combined. You also called me "dumb," which I took as a pretty good sign that you were running out of rational responses.

I now introduce you to Comet Lulin, "The Green Comet"

Discovered: Jul 11 2007

First-observed magnitude: 18.9

Probability of that magnitude (per your scale): 1 in 452

Perihelion: Jan 10 2009 (182 million km)

Probability of that date: 1 in 365

Anniversary: 89th of the Treaty of Versailles, ending WW1

Closest approach to Earth: Feb 24 2009 03:43 UTC (0.41 AU)

Probability of that time: 1 in 1440

Orbital inclination: 178.37°

Probability of that inclination: Following your method 360/178.37 = 2, although that is a totally invalid calculation.

CUMULATIVE PROBABILITY following your method: 452 x 365 x 89 x 1440 x 2 = 1 in 42 billion

Q.E.D."

Guess what? Hoagland's response was to ban Neville Parchemin from the page.

"NASA is terrified"
He actually said that, about 01:25 into his marathon speech. I was waiting for some shred of justification for the remark, or some explanation of how he knew this, but none came.

What came instead was Hoagland out-Hoaglanding himself in sheer absurdity.

He Powerpointed to the image of Elenin captured by the solar observatory STEREO-B on 2nd August. Very cute, with Orion in the background. Elenin is the bluish blob just left of Alnitak.

But "cute" isn't what Hoagland thought when he saw this. Instead he wandered off into his well-known fantasy that NASA worships Orion. This, he declared,

proves that the entire STEREO mission was designed to set up this alignment, making the photograph possible. Yes, the spacecraft, launched on 26th October 2006, secretly had this as its prime mission. Stereoscopic imagery of the Sun was merely a cover. Never mind that Elenin wasn't actually discovered until December last year.

You're going to say I made this up, I know. Nobody could possibly be that mis-informed. Well, no, sorry. I ran the passage twice to be sure. He really said that. There were no cutaways of the audience, so I can't report how many people left at that point, shaking their heads muttering "well, he's bonkers."

Familiar territory
The remaining hour and a half was devoted to a random selection of Powerpointery resurrected from previous conferences. The fantasy that the A in the Apollo mission patch stands for the Egyptian God Asar. The fallacy that Ken Johnston was Head of the Apollo photo archive and provided Hoagland & Bara with original photography from the Moon. The Accutron "experiments," which this blog

has covered. President Obama's second swearing-in ceremony—another one of my

favorites. Poppycock, balderdash, codswallop.

Finally, lest readers be appalled that I spent $10 on this rubbish in order to review it, let me hasten to say that a back-door version exists, or did exist at the time. Quite possibly the A&A people have closed that door by now. Kudos to Chris Lopes for finding the way in.

Update: Looks like the back door has closed.