Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Glass, steel, water, and the art of the misquote

        You'd think that a world-renowned designer of jet aircraft like Mike Bara would understand what tensile strength1 means. You'd think that co-authors of a book published by Feral House would have an agreement preventing either of them from copying paragraphs of their joint work and presenting the text as the work of a sole author, as published by Adventures Unlimited. Research proves that neither proposition is true.
 "Glass on Earth is well known to have little tensile strength, meaning it doesn't stretch easily (because it is brittle) and will not withstand even a very weak impact from a hard object (shear). ... The reason for these properties on Earth is that it is pretty much impossible to extract the water from glass as it is forming.... Water is all around us, even in the most arid deserts. ... But the Moon is a completely different story. It is airless, with no humidity to interfere with the molecular bonding of the silicates that make-up the glass that is omnipresent. The hard-cold vacuum enhances the strength of lunar glass to the point that it is approximately twice as strong as steel under the same stress conditions. In fact, several papers from scientists at Harvard and other universities have suggested that lunar glass is the ideal substance from which to construct a domed lunar base. All we are proposing is that somebody else came up with the idea long before we did."
-- Dark Mission (2nd edn), by Richard Hoagland & Mike Bara, p.244. Written in 2007.

"Glass on Earth is well known to have little tensile strength, meaning it doesn't stretch easily because it is brittle and will not withstand even a very weak impact from a hard object. ... The reason for these properties on Earth is that it is pretty much impossible to extract the water from glass as it is forming. Water is all around us, even in the most arid deserts. ... But the Moon is a completely different story. It is airless, with no humidity to interfere with the molecular bonding of the silicates that make-up the glass that is omnipresent. The hard-cold vacuum enhances the strength of lunar glass to the point that it is approximately twice as strong as steel under the same stress conditions. In fact, several papers from scientists at Harvard and other universities have suggested that lunar glass is the ideal substance from which to construct a domed lunar base. All I'm proposing is that somebody else came up with the idea long before we did. "Somebody," as in Ancient Aliens."
-- Ancient Aliens on the Moon, by Mike Bara, pp 51-52. "Written" in Summer 2012.

       So it's the water in glass as we know it that makes it brittle. Lunar glass, having no water, is what you make 2-mile high skyscrapers (that look just like photo scanning errors) from. You'd think that two authors could keep that simple, albeit wrong, idea in their heads as they continue to inflict their drivel on an increasingly indifferent readership. That turns out to be untrue too.

"The Moon contains as much water as the Earth."

-- Mike Bara, blog 6 Sept 2011. MORE HERE. (Interestingly, Mike transferred all the posts from to when he abandoned the former domain name. Except that one. May we hope that he realized he was writing poppycock?)

"the moon has as much water inside it as the Earth has in its oceans."
-- Richard Hoagland, on Coast to Coast AM, 25/26 May 2011. MORE HERE.


        Both the above book extracts cite the same source: In Situ Rock Melting Applied to Lunar Base Construction (...etc) by J.C.Rowley and J.W. Neudecker.2 However, Hoagland & Bara flagrantly misquote Rowley & Neudecker. This is what the paper actually says:
"It is anticipated that vacuum conditions  and essentially zero moisture content of the lunar soils and rocks should have significantly reduced thermal diffusivity relative to terrestrial counterparts. Therefore, reduced heat losses could be expected for lunar applications. The absence of moisture and oxygen should reduce the corrosion rate of the refractory metal penetrators. ... This property for lunar soils and basalts, as reported in the literature (MacKenzie and Claridge, 1980), appears to be within the same range as terrestrial materials of roughly the same composition."
        The paper discusses lining and stabilizing tunnels and caverns by melting of the inside surfaces, not construction of skyscrapers or glass domes over craters. Really, Hoagland & Bara should be more careful with their citations.


1. Low tensile strength does not translate into vernacular as "doesn't stretch easily." "Does stretch easily" would be somewhat more accurate, but the real point about tensile strength is not whether a material stretches but whether it breaks when someone attempts to stretch it. The measure of resistance to stretch is the Young's modulus, which for typical glass is around 70,000 Mega-Pascals, cf. steel upwards of 200,000 MPa. A really low tensile-strength material like polyethylene would have Young's modulus around 230 MPa. You won't want to build lunar skyscrapers out of that, for sure.

Tensile strength also does not correlate with brittleness. A brittle material might still have a high Young's modulus. The measure of brittleness is the Shear modulus, which for typical glass is ~30 MPa, cf. steel 80,000 MPa. Yes, glass is very brittle. Who knew?

So "as strong as" doesn't mean much unless we know whether we're pushing, pulling, bending, or throwing stones. Earth-bound glass is already twice as strong as steel, in one sense. Glass actually has higher compressive strength than typical steel — 1000 MPa cf. steel 350 MPa.This makes it an architecturally useful material, since a primary source of stress on a building is compression due to gravity. Seen any glass-clad office blocks lately?

2. Link to the Rowley & Neudecker paper

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Question time -- a comedy in 2 scenes

        Anonymous's suggestion that someone knowledgeable might infiltrate Mike Bara's upcoming Powerpointery had me fantasizing about how that might go.

MUS. CUE:  Harp arpeggios


Mike Bara
 OK, well, that's about it. I think we have time for a few questions.  OK, yes, on the right here.

1st Knowing Questioner
 Mike, could we have a look at the image of Asada again, please?

Yes, that's the one. You say it's a satellite dish. That's a detail from an Apollo 16 lunar orbital shot, right? AS16-121-19438, as I recall. What's the resolution of that shot, Mike?

Mike Bara
I don't know off the top of my head. What's your point?

Well, Asada's 12 km across. I measured before coming out here and it's 78 pixels in the image. So that's 154 metres per pixel, give or take. Are you aware that Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has shot Asada at 0.8 metres per pixel, nearly 200 times better than the Apollo 16 shot?

Mike Bara
Yes, of course I'm aware, douchebag. How was life in that Turkish prison? Get along well with your cell-mate, did you?

My point is -- why would you use a poorly resolved, 40-year old image when a far better image is easily available from the LROC library?

Mike Bara
Look, you abject moron, I'm fed up with explaining simple things to haters like you. The sun angle is just too high in those Reconnaissance Orbiter shots. Security!



 Mike Bara
Sorry about that, folks. I think that asshole must have just come from Barney Frank's boudoir or something. Time for one more... Yes, at the back...

2nd Knowing Questioner (female)
I'd like to take another look at the image of the glass skyscrapers, from chapter 4 of your book. Yes -- No, the close-up. Yes, that's the one.

It's from Apollo 10, which stayed in lunar orbit and didn't land, right? Your skyscrapers aren't in the online version of that shot.

Mike Bara
No, of course they aren't. NASA airbrushed the negative. Oh Christ! Not another douchebag. You're as ugly as Tara Jordan or Sarah Bilgri. Please don't reproduce.

So your version came from Ken Johnston's personal collection, right? Those were all 10x8 photo-prints, right? Well, who scanned that print?

Mike Bara
I dunno, Richard Hoagland I assume. Yes, it was Richard.

So the NASA version was scanned in clean conditions using professional equipment, and your version was done off the cuff with a consumer-grade scanner? I ask because what you call skyscrapers look to me exactly like what you'd get from a dirty, smeared scanner glass with the brightness turned way up. Isn't that a hair, up top right?

Mike Bara


Monday, January 21, 2013

Spot the deliberate mistake

        Promotional copy is not known for scrupulous accuracy, to be sure. Perhaps lies are to be expected, and we should pretend not to notice.

        But since Mike Bara often says that all his critics (including me) are liars, I hold him to a stricter standard than your run-of-the-mill conference lecturer. So I'm not inclined to give a free pass to this puff-piece promoting his Powerpoint show at Conscious Life Expo (that's the 'spo Richard Hoagland was dropped from because he failed to provide required materials in time).

        Please note: Dark Mission was #21 on the NYT list for paperback non-fiction for one week in 2007. Technically not a best-seller, since the best-seller list is by definition the top 20. The book led the "Also Selling" list that week.

        The Choice never came remotely close to best-seller status. IT'S A LIE.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sorry folks, no refunds. --R.C. Hoagland

        Another hilarious evening on Coast to Coast AM, featuring RCH and JBW (see prior bloggery). It was a tale of woe, really.

        Hoagland's proposal to use his Accutron toy on the Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza, just a day before the apocalypse-that-never-was, was a bust. Fifty people had paid to accompany the pseudoscientist on this jaunt, but apparently nobody had thought to check whether a permit would be required. As a result, the chagrined pseudoscientist was briskly escorted away from the pyramid and kicked out. I guess he didn't realize that in Mexico, "permits" bear a remarkable resemblance to 500-peso banknotes.

        The fifty paying customers aren't going to see their money refunded, any more than the FooBoo "friends" who contributed to the Egypt-expedition-that-never-was will.

        There was more. In typical failure-to-deliver mode, the pseudoscientist missed a deadline with the February Conscious Life Expo and got cancelled. On the radio last night, he called this a "cockamamie" way of banning him, mocked the show's organizer  Robert Quicksilver, and begged the fans to e-mail asking for re-instatement.

        Personally, I e-mailed Quicksilver supporting his decision. Hoagland's last appearance at that joke of a New Age conference/fuckfest was enough already. The address is

Friday, January 18, 2013

Four years later, Mike shows us how to fake "Data's Head"

        Back in 2008, in one of the very first posts to this blog, I explained how I had questioned the image that Hoagland & Bara have called "Data's Head". It's a rock in the lunar crater known as Shorty -- Station 4 of EVA-2, Apollo 17. Essentially I had asked Mike Bara, on the original Dark Mission blog, how to get from  this.... this.

        At the time (22nd May 2008) the reply I got was "you don't know anything about how images are processed."

        I guess Mike's been thinking about the problem all this time (along with writing two more books full of appalling factual errors), because today he finally responded, in the form of a step-by-step Youtube demo. Thanks, Mike. Better late than never.

        The pictorial part of the demo starts with an array of the 12 Hasselblad images shot by Gene Cernan of the inside of Shorty. The top left image has had color artificially added, and the narration soon explains why:

[01:31] One of them I've already worked on. I've done some enhancement. The head does not appear in that image, but you can see by comparison with the picture next to it that the actual real colors of the Moon are significantly brighter, significantly more contrasty, significantly more interesting than NASA would have you believe.

        Hilarious. He takes a perfectly good image, in focus and correctly exposed, showing lunar terrain which has, by nature, very little in the way of color. He then proceeds to add color, and declares that the result is more authentic than the original. This is his "more interesting" image, which he also used in Chapter 4 of Ancient Aliens on the Moon:

        The caption in the book is "Color corrected image of the lunar surface from Apollo 17 pan of Shorty crater. Note pink, purple and green hues of the entire area". His use of the term "color corrected" is totally dishonest, of course. The fakery is immediately apparent from inspecting the Lunar Rover's wheel-guards, which here appear bright scarlet. They are in fact bronze color, as you might easily see in any number of NASA shots from Apollo 16 or 17, or even from chapter 7 of AAotM. So much for "the actual, real colors of the Moon."

Image faking for dummies (like Mike Bara)

        Back to Mike's Youtube demo. He takes us through the steps, using this image--one of several that show the DH rock.

step 1: Crop to isolate the rock
step 2: Zoom in. He says that this isn't interpolation or re-sampling, but in  fact it is.

[03:10] You can already see that there is in fact ... indications of the red stripe on the upper lip, upper jaw, area of Data's Head.

No we can't, Mike. It's in your imagination.

step 3: Use Microsoft Office Picture Manager's "auto-correct"

[03:30]'s the built-in tool that makes some corrections ... it simply enhances the image a little bit -- brightens it up, does a few things to it.

It's not clear why it's legitimate to use auto-correct on a high-definition image that's already well focused and exposed. Actually, it's a way of losing data that you can never get back. Donch'a just adore the precision of that "does a few things to it"?

step 4: Color enhancement

This is where Bara steps well beyond any legitimate digital photo retouching process.  Take a look at the controls in Picture Manager:

       In the upper part of the control panel, there's an option labeled 'Enhance Color'. The instruction is "To perform the correction, click on an area in the picture that should be white". Mike does this in his demo, thus performing a second invalid corruption of the image since there is no white in the original (the brightest pixel is RGB 180,185,188.) But then, using the slider in the lower half of the panel, he ALSO slams the color saturation all the way to 100, the max (as shown in my image).

[04:22] This is nothing more than increasing, for instance, the volume of the color just the way you'd increase the volume of the audio on your TV set.

        No it is NOT,  Mike. A modern domestic audio system can reproduce considerable volume without distortion. What you're doing here is a distortion of the image and there's no conceivable justification for it.

        I invite you to load some pictures from your family album and see what effect this has. Here's what it does to the face of the master image-enhancer himself:

IS THERE ANY CONCEIVABLE WAY that image could be considered a true representation?

step 5: Using brightness/contrast controls, reduce mid-tone brightness (in the context of a professional image editor this would be known as reducing gamma)

[05:00] As you can see, it all begins to jump right out at you. [05:42] There it is, plain as day.

        Well, not really, Mike. Mike, dear, back in May 2008 you wrote "it looks like a head, it's the right size for a head, it looks like C3-PO's head. Period." Well, despite your utterly illegitimate manipulation of the NASA image, it looks nothing like C3PO.

        To me, Mike's Youtube demo is another case of what soccer players call an "own goal." In attempting to show us how legitimate the Data's Head image is, he's done the exact opposite.

        Following along with Mike's instrucs, after cropping and zooming in I arrived at a  142 x 147 image containing 1433 colors. After following Mike's color "enhancement," the same basic image contained 6084 colors. WHERE DOES HE THINK THOSE 4651 ADDITIONAL COLORS CAME FROM? Certainly not from the original. Of course not -- they were artificially added by Picture Manager. THE RED STRIPE IS IMAGINARY.

Update 2:
        I just tried it with the ultra-high-def .tiff version. Recall from my original 2008 blogpost that I special-ordered an enormous 46.1 MB, 5190 x 6175 px. tiff that was scanned direct from the archived interneg at JSC. In case any reader doesn't understand digital image formats, let's just say this image contains two orders of magnitude more information than the online jpg. Following Mike's instrucs again, here's the (significantly different) result:

        Here's an over-zoomed detail showing that the vague rusty color on the "lip" is no different from all the other rust-colored patches generated by Mike's corruptions.

Update, the wisdom of Youtube commenters again:
kalliste23 commented:
I dont' understand your "logic" - you maintain that using a different photo-manipulation proves you didn't manipulate the photo... what? Are you crazy or are you relying on your audience having a below room-temperature IQ?

Mike replied:
No, I rely on my critics having below baboon IQ's, which you obviously do. I'm surpised they even let you have access to a computer in a Turkish prison.

Ah, aspersions of homosexuality once again. What a brilliant rebuttal (NOT).

Monday, January 14, 2013

The wisdom of Youtube commenters (2013)

        As Chris Lopes correctly pointed out recently, Richard Hoagland has given up on selling DVDs of his Powerpointathons ("he can't sell them as coasters" was Chris's comment, I believe.) So he no longer protests when they turn up on Youtube. It amuses me no end that his credibility in that scatological school-playground environment is now as non-existent as it has been at JPL since the mid-70s.

        Here's a selection of comments on Curiosity's Stealth Mission, the interminable "Nike sneaker" talk from last October's Conscious Life Expo in Los Angeles.

(from Tara Jordan, who sometimes comments here too) "Somehow you have to give credit to 2 bit crook Richard Hoagland tenacity & audacity, & the gullibility of the mental midgets who swallow his intestinal dejection's. Hoagland doesnt give up.he always comes with new insanities."

"is this retard really going on about mini coops? wtf. i knew this video was gonna be BS, but i figured i would gain some perspective at least, but it hard to pay attention when this retart keeps talking about what hotel he stayed at and fucking mini coops."

"a 65 million year old childs shoe and glider..... Hoagland, please spend 10 minutes on a how to video, the economy is rough, people are hurting, they need insight into your special alchemy of turning pure unadulterated bullshit into cash. And for an extra fiver you could teach them how one piles it so high but manages to get out of the way before it all falls, only to start up the next pile, remember Elenin?"

"A building has eroded to fuck but there is a child's shoe lying about still. Continue to eat your own shit sir."

"This man is such an idiot,or he's smart,and making money off of dumb,naive,gullible people who want so much for all this to be true.I will bet his credentials DO NOT add up to what he claims they are.I will go as far as to say that most people in the field of science have no clue who this fraud is."


"This guy is a plagiarist, a bullshit artist and a snake oil salesman. he should have been a woman so he could prostitute himself. He's a total bullshit artist and keeps coming out with these bullshit theories and tries to cash in on it by charging gullible people heaps of cash to sit though this shit. ass hole...."

"This guy is pathetic. What's more pathetic is that idiots actually believe this."

"i think there is a reason he is no longer working for nasa.why in the world would anybody listen to this nutter?"

"Richard Hoagland drinking game; whenever he name drops one of his friends, drink. Whenever he says, "rectalinear geometry," chug."
"Richard Hoagland is th reason people laugh at UFO believers.
He's the reason we'll never get full disclosure.
He's part of the fucking problem, cashing in on the UFO controversy by telling lies in order to make money.
What a piece of shit he is."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mike Bara, world-renowned aerospace engineer, gets it wrong on the Columbia disaster

        Mike Bara has made it abundantly clear, recently, that he's strongly in favor of US citizens being armed with whatever firearms they can afford, including rapid-fire automatic assault rifles with 100-round magazines if that's what they think appropriate for shooting rabbits. He thinks Alex Jones was dead right and Piers Morgan is a moron douchebag. I'm not going to comment about that -- not my subject.

        Mike has also made it very clear that he despises homosexuals — or should that be "fears homosexuals"? I'm not going to comment on that, either.

        Today, however, Mike strayed into territory that I do feel competent to comment on. Namely, the problem of foam insulation shedding from the Space Shuttle external tank during launch, which led to the loss of Columbia and her crew nearly nine years ago now. Mike Facebooked:

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.

It's simply not true

        So apparently, scorn for environmental conservation goes along with militarism and homophobia. I can't really explain that — but anyway, there's no doubt that foam-shedding was the cause of the Columbia tragedy. A large piece of the left bipod ramp broke off and smashed a huge hole in the leading edge of the left wing. The bipod ramp is made entirely of foam — this is not a case of simple foam cladding on the outer wall of the tank.

image credit: wikipedia commons

        There was indeed a change in the composition of the foam during the history of the Shuttle. The original formula, BX250, included Freon, a gas which has been implicated in ozone depletion. The new formula was Freon-free, and that's presumably what the world-renowned aerospace engineer means by "green". But he evidently hasn't reviewed the history of foam-shedding events to verify that the change was responsible for the disaster. And, in fact, it clearly was not.

STS-7 (Challenger), 18 June 1983 - tank 06, left bipod ramp detached
STS-26 (Discovery), 29 September 1988 - Severe damage from cork  insulation on SRB
STS-27 (Atlantis), 2 December 1988 - Severe damage (707 dings)
STS-32R (Columbia), 9 January 1990 - tank 25, left bipod ramp detached
STS-45 (Atlantis), 24 March 1992 - tile damage
STS-50 (Columbia), 25 June 1992 -  tank 45, left bipod ramp detached
STS-52 (Columbia), 22 October 1992 -  tank 55, left bipod ramp detached
STS-62 (Columbia), 4 March 1994 - tank 62, left bipod ramp detached
STS-71 (Atlantis), 27 June 1995 - tile damage
STS-87 (Columbia), 19 November 1997 - First to use the new foam formula (100 tiles damaged)
STS-107 (Columbia), 1 February 2003 - The disaster

        The Columbia Accident Investigating Board reported in 2003 (ch.6)1:
Photographic evidence of foam shedding exists for 65 of the 79 missions for which imagery is available. Of the 34 missions for which there are no imagery, 8 missions where foam loss is not seen in the imagery, and 6 missions where imagery is inconclusive, foam loss can be inferred from the number of divots on the Orbiterʼs lower surfaces.

 Different formula

        It flies in the face of all logic to conclude that a change made in 1997 was responsible for at least eight foam-shedding events, five of which were from the bipod ramp, during the years 1983-1995. And as if that were not enough of a rebuttal, consider this: The bipod ramps were exempt from the environmental regulations, and were made of the original BX250 foam.

        Contemplating this and other similar embarrassing errors, I'm driven to the idea that Mr. Mike Bara really doesn't treat information the way most of us do. If he gets an idea—such as that "green" foam caused the death of the STS-107 crew—he'll publish it without really checking whether it's true or not. If it's material for a book, maybe he thinks "Oh, an editor will check that out, I don't need to bother." Surely by now he ought to know that the kind of Mickey-Mouse publishing houses he works with don't care about accuracy and don't have editors in the sense that professionals attach to that word.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Open letter to Adrienne Loska

Dear Adrienne,
Happy New Year.

As your client Mike Bara moves into the intensive writing phase of his book Ancient Aliens on Mars, you might usefully advise him as follows:


* The so-called Face on Mars is not a mile-wide sculpture. We know that because the HiRISE telescope on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has shown the feature at sufficiently high resolution (< 1m/px) that the facial features previously claimed on the basis of poorer images can be seen to be imaginary. Enough people know this that, if you write that it's the deliberate work of a Martian civilization, you will once more be a laughing stock.

* Planet Earth does an orbit of the Sun in 365 days. Mars does its orbit in 687 days. It follows inevitably that there is a very great difference between the closest and farthest approaches of the two planets. The very slight eccentricity of the orbit of Mars makes an almost negligible contribution to that difference. If you write, as you did in November 2010, "If both orbits were circular, ... [t]hey would maintain basically the same distance relative to each other" you will again become a laughing stock.

* Please do not repeat your opinion that Gerry Soffen lied about the second Viking image of the so-called Face. The reason is that your opinion is incorrect. Here's why.

* You probably ought not to repeat the pseudo-fact that Olympus Mons is at 19.5° latitude. The reason is  that it is not. It's at 18.65°N.

* Please be particularly circumspect when writing anything about gravitation. In writing on this topic in the past, you've made so many disastrous errors that I seriously worry whether you have any understanding of it at all. My neighbor has a 12-year-old daughter who's really keen on physics -- if you like I can pass any of your copy by her for checking.

* Good luck. Remember, fact-checking is so, so easy in this age of google and wikipedia. I fully realize that Adventures Unlimited Press doesn't give a rat's ass about facts, but when your text includes horrible errors I, your faithful manager, look bad too. People think I can't control you.