Friday, November 22, 2013

Another entertaining e-mail exchange with an author

Entertaining and character-revealing....

21 nov 12:43pm
From: expat
To: Mike Bara (
cc: Richard Hoagland (
Subj: That Second Viking Orbiter Image

I note that in your recent book AA on Mars (p.92) you hand-wavingly estimate the "walk" of the Viking Orbiter on successive orbits as "between 15 and more than 20.4 miles." Could you not have been more precise? Here -- allow me to do your math for you:

Orbit of Viking 1: Polar, 24.66 hours
Rotation period of Mars: 24.622 hours
Equatorial radius of Mars: 2110 miles
Latitude of Cydonia: ~40°N

During one Viking orbit, Mars rotates 360 x 24.66 / 24.622 degrees.
That's slightly more than a full rotation -- 360.55°.
So when Viking came around to 40°N latitude again, the "face" was 0.55° cross-track

Rotational circumference at 40° is 2.π.2210.cos40 = 2 x 3.1416 x 2210 x 0.766 = 10,636 miles
Walk for 0.55° = 10636 x 0.55 / 360 = 16.25 miles.

Given that the width of the frame on the ground is 34 miles, quite clearly you are in error when you write that there could have been no second image of Owen Mesa. Please see that the book is corrected for any second edition.


21 nov 2:36pm
From: Mike Bara
To: expat

It was after dark at Cydonia, you fucking shitheap of an idiot

21 nov 2:50pm
From: expat
To: Mike Bara

Not so, the planet had completed a full revolution plus a bit, so the sun angle would have been only slightly different.

Your insults, as ever, are of no interest.

Please see that the book is corrected at 2nd edn, if there is one. Thank you.

22 nov 10:49am
From: Mike Bara
To: expat

Eat shit and die

Sent from my iPad

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Now Mike Bara is a "professional UFO investigator"

So much the better -- the more he pontificates about UFOs the less time he'll have to fuck up astronomy and the history of spaceflight. I wonder what kind of exams you have to pass to get credentialed as a real pro?

        What am I talking about? Mike's new TV show, Uncovering Aliens. Derrel Sims, Maureen Elsberry, Steve Jones and MB will be doing their level best to breathe some new life into this very tired topic as they trudge around hotspots like Sedona and Rendlesham Forest. I can practically write the script in  my head. Every sequence will end with a question like "COULD THIS HAVE BEEN the work of ALIENS?" Conjecture will substitute for fact, and nothing resembling science will ever raise its head.

        The show is scheduled on Animal Planet in December, at air times well past peak hours, and it'll probably repeat as endlessly as Ancient Aliens. Good luck in your new profession, Mike!! You were a total nincompoop at writing about astronomy — UFOlogy is a field in which incompetence doesn't even get noticed. I think you may have found your niche.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Alien Moon bases: Mike Bara hopelessly wrong as usual

Mike blogged today "No Virgina, It's Not an Alien Base on the Moon." I commented, but I might as well repeat it here (links added) because there's not a chance Mike will allow it to be seen over there --->

>>There are gobs of alien bases on the Moon, many of which I document in my recent book...<<

"The Castle" -- Photo fault. You say it's held up by a sagging support cable. What are the top ends attached to?
"The paperclip" -- Scanning error, curled fiber
Satellite dishes in Asada and Proclus A -- LRO NAC strips prove they don't exist
Glass skyscrapers -- Contamination on Hoagland's office scanner
Strut on East Massif -- Scanning error, confirmed by Davide de Martin, the Italian enthusiast who did the scan
Ziggurat -- LRO NAC strip and Selene image prove it's in your imagination.

Mike, it is self-evident that a lunar "alien base" would have had to erect solar energy arrays large enough to be clearly visible to Earth-based telescopes, let alone the 0.8m/px images of LRO NAC. Until you can find at least one such array, your fantasies do not stand a chance of being taken seriously by anyone who understands the lunar environment.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Point-by-point critique of 'Ancient Aliens on Mars' PART TWO

        As before, comprehension will be enhanced by loading the Picasa image gallery. Unfortunately the frame numbers aren't visible when the full gallery is displayed -- you have to select a specific image in order to see its frame number.

        I didn't plan it this way, but I'm picking up Part 2 at the exact mid point of the book -- p.107 of 214, chapter 4 of 8. A simply enormous majority of the second half is a straight lift from Hoagland. I wouldn't know what arrangements (if any) those rascals Hoagland & Bara have for profit-sharing but, at a rough guess, I'd say 40% would be a fair share for Hoagland. Not that there will be truckloads of money anyway. When first listed the Amazon ranking was 1,040,783. The day after Mike Bara's appearance on Coast to Coast AM it improved to 6,055 (and #1 in Books > Professional & Technical > Profesional Science > Astronomy & Space Science > Mars). When it actually went on sale it improved further to 4,666. Today it has slumped to 9,228 (still no competition in > Mars) and it's discounted from $19.95 to $16.50.

8. pp. 107-120 You might think that Ralph Greenberg, professor of mathematics at Univ. Washington, had killed off the sheer insanity of Richard Hoagland's pseudo-mathematical analysis of Cydonia with his 2002 epic debunk. Apparently not, for here it is resurrected in its entirety by Hoagland's acolyte Mike Bara, and Bara even attempts to refute Greenberg. He's outclassed. Picasa frames #106-132 tell the story, and if they don't leave you utterly confused I don't really know what would. What's going on here is that Hoagland starts off with a presupposition that the marsography of Cydonia contains a hidden mathematical message, and then "proves" it by cherry-picking features and angles, and in some cases outright cheating.

What would Hoagland know about math anyway? This is the man who abjectly failed to apply the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation correctly and consequently produced a huge web page that was totally useless and invalid. He refuses to correct it, so you can still see it. Read it and weep.

There are mathematical absurdities here, like declaring that 2.720699, which is π × (√3)/2, is close enough to e, the base of natural logarithms, that it can be used as a substitute. The value of e is actually 2.71828.

What strikes me as I see all this nonsense again is not just that kind of comedy performance, but the overall sloppiness of the diagramming. Compare Picasa frames #107 and #113. In #107, a vertex of the D&M pyramid is shown to be pointing fairly accurately at the "face." Fair enough. But then the pointer to the center of the "tholus" does not follow a vertex and appears to be random. In #113 the whole pyramid has been rotated and suddenly one of the vertices is pointing directly at the "tholus." In #130 the same vertex again points at the "tholus" but suddenly the important point is not the center of the tholus but a spot on the north-west crater rim.

Better men than me have rejected this entire exercise because an orbital photograph has too much unknowable distortion to treat it as though it were a product of an accurate survey. Hoagland & Bara maintain that it's all OK because their images have been meticulously orthorectified. Actually, on p.107 Bara writes "orthographically rectified." That made me giggle -- it can only mean that the images were spell-checked. Mike Bara's spelling of the word "foreword" needs some orthographic rectification. Huuuurrrr...

9. pp.121, 125 (Picasa #123-127) Oh, here we go again. Another straight "lift" from Hoaglandiana. They want us to believe that there's something magic about the 19.5° latitude, and in support they cite all the wonderful instances of "energy upwelling" at that latitude throughout the solar system. On p.121 Bara specifically makes the claim that Jupiter's red spot, the giant Martian volcano Olympus Mons, and Mauna Kea are all at that latitude. Usually Hoagland writes "at or near," but here Bara says "at."

Such a pity that their data is dead wrong::
Jupiter's red spot is at 22°S
Olympus Mons is at 18°N
Mauna Kea is at 19° 49' N (if he'd written Mauna Loa he'd have been almost spot on)

On p.125 he makes the same claim about the Great Dark Spot of Neptune, adding for good measure that Hoagland specifically predicted it would be found at that latitude. Well, guess what? It's not true. Neptune's dark spot was first observed at about 25°S and it then wandered northwards before disappearing altogether. I believe there's a new one now, in the northern hemisphere.

What neither Hoagland nor Bara have ever addressed is the sad (for them) fact that NONE of history's top 100 volcanic eruptions or top 100 earthquakes has been at 19.5°.

10. pp.130-2 Here we go again, again. The claim that NASA suppressed the positive results of the Labeled Release biology experiment on both Viking landers. Untrue. The judgement of the experts (Gerry Soffen, again, and Harold "Chuck" Klein) was that, on balance, the enigmatic LR data could not prevail in the face of decidedly negative results from three other tests for life. That's not the same thing as suppressing the data -- in fact, the entire data set has been available on a NASA web site for 30 years. To be sure, Dr Gil Levín, the PI of the labeled release experiment, has protested pretty loudly over the years. Good luck to him, he's made some good points. His view has not found acceptance, particularly since the Phoenix lander found so much perchlorate hanging around Mars in 2008.

11. pp.132-5. More recycled anti-NASA propaganda. This is the one about how Mars really has a blue sky and sandy soil, but NASA artificially reddens it all. In particular, Bara tells the old, old story about the day JPL changed its mind and re-issued a bunch of Viking surface images making them redder.

I dunno, are these old fables really worth trotting out again today? Look -- here's what happened. The first few Viking images didn't capture the color wheel so the camera team just had to make a wild guess (Jim Bell has written about this.) When they were eventually able to get a look at the color wheel they realized the images they'd distributed were way off. So they reissued them with the correct color balance. It's as simple -- and as scientifically justified -- as that.

The space artist Don Davis has a very nice online resource dealing with the difficulties inherent in representing color on Mars. He knows what he's talking about. Mike Bara doesn't.

12. pp.147-67, Chapter 6, Picasa #151-182. Mars Pathfinder. Up pops the magic number 19.5 again, and also the almost equally magic 33. It's magic, you see, because of the masonic significance of the 33rd degree, and also because the sine of 19.5 is 0.333. Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.

Up pops another example of the blatant dishonesty of Hoagland & Bara. We see on p.148 that the designated landing site of Pathfinder was 19.5°N, 33.3°W. Actually according to the Press Kit it was 19.4°N, 33.1°W. OK, it's pretty close, but Bara's text is still a lie. And there's not the slightest reason in the world to think that there were any masonic or tetrahedral reasons for the choice. All planetary landing sites are a compromise between safety and scientific value. The actual landing site was 19.13°N, 33.22°W (and Bara reports that correctly.)

Take a look through the Picasa frames. Most of them are features Bara wants to persuade us are Martian technology. I want to persuade you that that's bullshit. #166-171 and #174-5 depict what Mike Bara calls the Sphinx. He writes (p.160) "this Martian sphinx has all the classic earmarks of its Egyptian counterpart." No it doesn't. He also writes that it faces due East, like the one at Giza. No it doesn't, it faces North.

("earmarks"???? Maybe he meant "hallmarks." Is anybody editing this rubbish?)

13. pp.169-179, Picasa #187-191. The famous catbox. I'm not going to write much about this because, frankly, it gets me annoyed. Mars Global Surveyor arrived overhead the so-called "face" at the worst possible moment for imaging. The mesa was basically fogged in. Picasa #187 is what came back from Mars. What gets me annoyed is when people like Hoagland & Bara fail to appreciate the effort Malin's boys exerted to process the image to #188. Instead they scream that it was a deliberate cover-up.

Ask yourself these simple questions: If Malin couldn't bear to let us see what was really down there at Cydonia, how come he was happy to go back when the fog had cleared and shoot a clear picture (#198)? The maximum resolution of the camera was 1.5 m/px. If NASA/JPL/Malin are so desperate to keep the "face" a secret, how come they later presented us with the magnificent image from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at 0.5 m/px?

Well, I will just make one other comment because it's amusing. On p. 177 Bara protests that only 42 of a possible 256 levels in the gray-scale were present. My mind went back to that night on the Art Bell radio show (it was Art who christened the image "catbox") when Richard Hoagland was practically screaming "Somebody stole 200 gray levels!!!!"

Dear Richard Hoagland and Michael Bara, I have some information for you. Not every gray level has to have a value for an image to be faithful. It's perfectly possible for many gray levels to have a value of zero, in fact it's expected for an ultra-low contrast scene such as MGS saw that day.

Here's an actual concrete example of gray levels in a space image:

Levels 0-11 and 170-256 are zero. Only 157 of a possible 256 levels have information in them. Yet the image is perfectly readable, if low contrast.

Know what that histogram comes from? Thank you Stuart Robbins, it's the histogram of the original "ziggurat" image that Mike Bara got from Call of Duty Zombies.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Point-by-point critique of 'Ancient Aliens on Mars' PART ONE

        I don't propose to write much about the nauseating Foreword to this book -- an exercise in adolescent petulance whose main target is Dr Stuart Robbins. Robbins is a well qualified working astronomer who knows infinitely more about planetary astronomy than Mike Bara. The foreword (which Bara inexplicably calls a "Forward") is available on Mike's blog. This is not quite the same as the book version -- it includes a ridiculous juvenile cartoon depicting me driving a bus over Stuart Robbins, plus other cringe-worthy excesses.

I'll just write two things:

ONE: Mr Michael Bara, you wretched, ignorant, belligerent man, if you're going to accuse me of sending sexually harassing messages to your female FB friends, LET'S SEE THE EVIDENCE. James Concannon has provided a specific and clear example of sexual harassment in the other direction. Unless you can show a similarly specific example of what you mean, SHUT THE FUCK UP.

TWO: You never did get around to explaining why the ziggurat does not appear in images that are far, far more up-to-date and with far, far better resolution than the Apollo frame. Now's your chance. WHERE IS THAT ZIGGY, BARA?

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Wide Angle Camera
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Narrow Angle Camera
Japanese Selene lunar orbiter


So, now to the book. There's a Picasa gallery containing all the figures from the book (plus some that got trimmed out,) and you might like to have that handy as you read on.

1.  p.40 "In Egyptian mythology, the Sphinx God Horus was also frequently associated with the planet Mars, and in fact the Sphinx was at one time painted red in honor of this connection. They also shared a name in the ancient Egyptian tongue, Hor-Dshr, literally 'Horus the Red.' "

This is pure Graham Hancock, and therefore unreliable. As is now well known, Hancock was a major fan of recreational pharmaceuticals, and they are what largely inspired his work Fingerprints of the Gods ( see Hancock's page on the Rational Wiki.)  As far as I know, the ancient name of the Great Sphinx of Giza was Hor-em-Akhet (trans: Horus of the horizon) but then I make no claim to any expertise in Egyptology. I was able to find some corroboration for the claim that the Sphinx was once stained red. Interesting. -ish. Nothing to do with Mars, though (just like the foreword.)

2. p.41. We know we're in trouble with this book when we read this as early on as p.42:

"Because of its highly "eccentric" ... orbit ... Mars' distance relative to Earth varies a great deal. In fact, Mars' orbit is so elliptical that its distance to the Earth can be as much as 249 million miles at its farthest to as little as about 34 million miles at its theoretical closest approach."

This, of course, is almost word for word the same catastrophic error that Mike Bara made in his earlier book The Choice. I got on his case about it, so did an Amazon reviewer, and so did Stuart Robbins. In case you're wondering why it's such a dreadful howler, Robbins explains.

3. pp. 42-43. It immediately gets worse, much worse. Mike Bara reveals such incredible ignorance about simple astronomical terminology that I really had to force myself to keep reading. On p. 42 we see an illustration of Earth and Mars at conjunction, which Bara labels as aphelion. On p. 43 an illustration of opposition is labeled as perihelion. You can see these images as #7 and #8 in the Picasa gallery, along with snarky comments mocking Stuart Robbins. Can you possibly imagine anything more embarrassing for an author than ridiculing his critics and getting it wrong??

It doesn't stop. He writes "[Mars and Earth] are at their closest to each other when they are on the same side of the Sun and both at their perihelion points." (p.43)

Not true. They're closest when Mars is at perihelion and Earth is at aphelion. What an unmitigated disaster these two pages are.

4. pp.53-56 At the end of an exposition of a device called the Jenkins Radio Camera, Bara shows us one of its prints. This apparatus was a far-fetched idea used during the 1924 opposition. In some way that Bara doesn't make quite clear, this thing detected radio signals from Mars and made them into crude and very fuzzy images. You can see the three images Bara shows as #60, #61 and #63 in the Picasa gallery, plus a better pic of Voldemort (#62.) Mike is saying "Oh look, doesn't this radio transmission from Mars look like a J.K. Rowling character?"

...which is a very strange fantasy for someone who has repeatedly insisted that there's no such thing as pareidolia (and he says it yet again, on p.99)!

5. pp. 60-63  Mike Bara really loves the astronomer Tom Van Flandern, for some reason -- possibly because Van Flandern is the only professional astronomer Mike ever met.  Van Flandern, who died in 2009, was a very bright spark who had some ideas that are considered eccentric by the mainstream. One of them was that the accepted theory about how the solar system was formed is wrong.

The accepted theory is that planets are left behind in orbit as a circumstellar accretion disk shrinks and coalesces. Van Flandern said "No, the star forms first, then spins off planets in pairs in a process called solar fission." Fission is depicted in Picasa gallery #38.

In vigorously supporting this now discredited theory, Mike once again shows ignorance. On p.61 he writes "The accretion model ... requires the planets to have highly eccentric (elliptical) orbits during their proto-planet phase." On p. 63 he writes "Only the fission theory can explain why all the planets are in the so-called 'plane of the ecliptic,' the equatorial plane of the Sun. If the accretion model was correct, planets would form all over the place and have orbits at all different angles to the Sun."

As far as I know, both those statements are what is technically known as poppycock. The second one, in particular, simply contradicts common sense. If planets form from a spinning disc, it's pretty obvious that all their orbits will stay in the same plane as the disc that gave them birth. Duhhhh. (Pluto is a different story).

6. pp. 69-78 Another Van Flandern idea that both Bara and Hoagland love is that Mars was once the moon of a larger planet that exploded. Hoagland has also proposed that Mars was tidally locked to this planet that he calls Planet V or Maldek. I previously blogged about how these two ideas, not by any means silly in themselves, don't sit well together. I'll just quote myself (ref. Picasa gallery #28-34):

        There are the two claimed tidal bulges, Arabia at the 60° longitude and Tharsis at 240°. They define Mars's orientation in relation to the claimed parent planet. And it's tidally locked, too, so Tharsis is always on the planet side. But then, what happens when the parent planet explodes? Van Flandern observes, correctly, that one hemisphere of Mars is much more heavily cratered than the other. So logically that would be on the Tharsis side, the equatorial west.

        Except it isn't. It's the entire Southern hemisphere that got preferentially splatted. The hemisphere that was not pointing at the planet when the biggie went down. Oops...

I'm obliged to my commenter Dee for pointing out that Hoagland himself cited this problem in his web article. (Load this page into MSIE, the only browser that will render it readably.) He writes:

"the authors acknowledge that this presents some serious problems for this entire model."

He has a wriggle-out which begins...

"We propose that as it was approaching Planet V toward its ultimate collision, Planet K passed close by Mars in its orbit around Planet V (Figure 19).  This close encounter gravitationally interfered with the tidal lock between Mars with Planet V.  In fact, it began a radical, gravitationally induced reorientation of the entire Mars’ spin axis relative to Planet V."

It's all very hypothetical and, to me at least, not at all convincing.

7. pp.90-105 This is really bad writing -- or perhaps more accurately, bad book planning. Fifteen pages (of a total 216) about the early discovery of the so-called Face on Mars. It reads now, in 2013, like a piece of discarded history that some old codger wants to reminisce about (Mike is 53 and not yet a codger.)  We have so much better imagery available for inspection now that, really, who cares what DiPietro, Molenaar and Carlotto did to enhance the image?

However, I can't resist once again coming to the defense of someone I admired greatly -- Gerry Soffen, Chief Scientist of the Viking missions to Mars in 1976. It was the Viking 1 Orbiter, of course, that took the picture that Richard Hoagland built a career out of -- Frame 035A72 (#99 in the Picasa gallery.) Gerry Soffen presented the image to the press on 26th July, and added "When we took another picture a few hours later, it all went away; it was just a trick,  just the way light fell on it." Mike Bara has been saying for years, and repeats here on p. 92, that Soffen was lying. This blog previously discussed this in September 2012. Picasa gallery #101 is the actual announcement, showing left to right Jim Martin, Viking Project Manager, Tobias Owen (who first spotted the "face") and Gerry Soffen.

The basis of Bara's accusation is that there was no second picture, and could not have been because by the time the orbiter hit that latitude again the "face" was rotated out of range. How far? Bara, very math-challenged as we know, cannot be more precise than "between 15 and more than 20.4 miles." (p.92)

Well, let's see. I prefer to work in kilometers but for the purpose of explicit comparison with Bara, let's do it in miles. The difference in longitude on successive passes of a satellite is known as the "walk."

Orbit of Viking 1: Polar, 24.66 hours
Rotation period of Mars: 24.622 hours
Equatorial radius of Mars: 2110 miles
Latitude of Cydonia: ~40°N

During one Viking orbit, Mars rotates 360 x 24.66 / 24.622 degrees.
That's slightly more than a full rotation -- 360.55°.
So when Viking came around to 40°N latitude again, the "face" was 0.55° cross-track

Rotational circumference at 40° is 2.π.2210.cos40 = 2 x 3.1416 x 2210 x 0.766 = 10,636 miles
Walk for 0.55° = 10636 x 0.55 / 360 = 16.25 miles.

So in fact that does fall within Bara's "between 15 and more than 20.4 miles" (which is a very strange way of expressing a range, actually.) But why couldn't he have done the math himself?

Well now let's see what that means for the camera, and a possible second shot. Here's the dataset for 035A72 (the designation means the 72nd image taken on the 35th orbit by Orbiter A.) Data from this source.


VO75 1B PICNO= 035A72 
FSC 26588045 OET-GMT 76 207 15 25 14 TPER +00 12 05 
RNG= 5239 KM HFOV= 55 KM VFOV= 50 KM SCL= 46 M/PXL 
NOR AZ 154 DG SUN AZ 88 DG S/C AZ 323 DG INA 79 DG EMA 10 DG 
PHA 86 DG SUNS LS= 99.2 DG EDR= CN1244 01 MAX-D= 
LAT C= +40.90 UL= +41.14 UR= +40.28 LL= +41.52 LR= +40.65 
LONG C= 9.52 UL= 8.76 UR= 9.28 LL= 9.77 LR= 10.28 

HFOV means Horizontal Field of View -- the width of the image on the ground. It's 55 km, or 34 miles. It follows that, since the "Face" was only 16.25 miles cross-track, it was in range. Now, I'm not saying I know that second image exists, only that it could have been taken. Mike Bara is mistaken, and I call on him to withdraw the accusation.

There's much more detail on the Malin Education page. Pseudoscientists like Hoagland & Bara hate Michael Malin because they think he keeps too tight a control over the imagery his technology creates, but he certainly releases plenty of info. And yet the ignorant Mike Bara has the nerve to write (p.170) of "Malin's well-documented hostility toward the Cydonia issue."