Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mike Bara wrong on pareidolia

From Mike Bara's blog, 17th October 2013:

"According to the debunker crowd, pareidolia is a supposed human tendency to recognize facial patterns where none actually exist. This mythical, made-up tendency has no basis in fact, has never been written up or published in any scientific or medical journal, and has failed to meet even the most basic standards of a true medical or psychological disorder."

"It is nothing but  a phony, pseudo-scientific term invented in 1994 by a UFO debunker named Steven Goldstein in the June 22nd, 1994 edition of Skeptical Inquirer magazine."

Result of a search of the literature by the Google Ngram Viewer:

More detail here. I wonder why Mike Bara is looking for citations that treat pareidolia as a disorder. On the contrary, it's a normal and adaptive skill. Not a bug but a feature, Mike. Get it?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fourth anniversary of Hoagland's barefaced lie

        It's been four years since the devastating mag 7 Port-au-Prince earthquake. It caused 150,000 deaths and destroyed 250,000 houses. The coordinates of the epicenter were 18°30'N, 72°38'W.

        A further, much more minor, casualty was the truth. Four years ago tonight, Richard Hoagland went on Coast to Coast AM and said the epicenter was at 19.5°N, thus dishonestly giving support to his crackpot idea that the 19.5° latitude is a major source of energy from "higher dimensions," whatever that means.

       Here's a link to my bloggery from four years ago, explaining the difference between geodetic and geocentric latitudes -- and also explaining that the latitude of Port-au-Prince is not 19.5° in either convention.  I have written to Hoagland suggesting that this might be a good moment to issue a retraction, if he has the guts to do so.

        His e-mail address is enterprisemission2001@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First lunar panorama from Chang'e-3

        The Chang'e-3 lunar lander touched down in Mare Imbrium (at 19.5°W  longitude, remember?) on 14th December.

        This week CNSA released enough imagery for photostitch enthusiasts to create a panorama.

image credit: CNSA/Chinanews/Universe Today

        A rather lovely interactive 360° rendering by Andrew Bodrov is here.

        Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara must have spat coffee all over their computer screens when they saw this, the poor dears. Not only are there no glass towers, condos, or satellite dishes in sight, but -- DAMMIT!!! -- the wily Chinese have toed the NASA party line and depicted the lunar surface as dull brownish gray.

        When Mike Bara put up that disastrous video on Youtube showing how the red stripe on 'Data's Head' was made, he said this:

"...the actual real colors of the Moon are significantly brighter, significantly more contrasty, significantly more interesting than NASA would have you believe."

He showed us what he meant:

image credit: NASA, corrupted by Mike Bara

        That was also included as artwork in his horrible book Ancient Aliens on the Moon. The giveaways are the wheelguards on the Lunar Rover. They're nothing like that bright scarlet in reality.

        So what are Hoagland & Bara going to say now? Anything other than "Sorry, we were wrong," judging on past performance. It'll either be "CNSA is in cahoots with NASA to lie about lunar colors" or "Just because that one particular place is colorless, doesn't mean the whole Moon is."

What fools.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Open letter to Adrienne Loska, 2014

Happy New Year, Adrienne!!

        Let's see -- are you still Mike Bara's manager? He hasn't mentioned you for a while, so it's possible he fired you for not getting him on George Noory's misinformation radio show often enough. It's even more likely that you, being a woman of some intelligence, decided you couldn't continue representing a man who is wrong about practically every scientific fact he writes, and uses the C word to denigrate female critics. But I'll assume you're still "on board" -- or if not, that you can pass these brief comments to your hapless successor.

Another work of unintended fiction?
        As your client sets fingertips to keyboard, creating Ancient Aliens on Mars #2, I think it's your duty to remind him of a few facts.

1. The planetary positions aphelion/perihelion are completely independent of conjunction/opposition. The former describe the farthest/nearest approaches to the Sun, and the latter describe the position relative to the Sun as seen from Earth. Mars could, for example, be at aphelion and conjunction, but it could equally well be at aphelion and opposition. They have nothing to do with each other, Adrienne. Your client's elementary errors, seen on pp. 42/43 of AAoM #1, make it plain that he doesn't understand this.

2. It is true that there is a very great difference between the closest and furthest approaches of Mars and Earth. However, this is not a measure of the eccentricity of the orbit of Mars. The eccentricity is a rather modest 0.09 -- even if it were zero, there would still be a great difference between the closest and furthest approaches. Again, your client shows a lack of understanding of very simple orbital geometry.

3. Your client esteems the late Tom Van Flandern, almost to the point of hero-worship. Van Flandern was a highly imaginitive astronomer and there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that. But your client surely owes Van Flandern the courtesy of actually reading what he wrotenote 1 about the theory of solar fission. He wrote that proto-planets are flung off the Sun in pairs. That's an essential part of the idea. Therefore, for your client to writenote 2 that the discovery of a single exoplanet (of the star GJ 504) "fits the solar fission theory perfectly" is incorrect. It's like watching the Moon rise and remarking that this phenomenon supports the theory that there are really two moons. Sure, Adrienne, a second Moon could be along later, but until it appears, two-moon theorists are best advised to keep their cake-holes shut.

4. Speaking of the solar fission hypothesis, your client strays into the realm of fiction when he attempts to falsify the alternative hypothesis, accretion from a circumstellar disk. By the way, Adrienne, perhaps you know that accretion is accepted by 100% of the planetary astronomy community, and has actually been observed in the Orion nebula. Anyway, your client wrote on p.61 of AAoM#1, "The accretion model ... requires the planets to have highly eccentric (elliptical) orbits during their proto-planet phase." That's simply not true.

5. Please tell your client to stop saying and writing that "NASA suppressed the positive results of the Viking biology experiment." Again, simply not true. The results he says were suppressed have been available on a NASA-sponsored web site all this time.

6. Please give your client a refresher course in digital photography. Spend extra time on the part where gray levels are discussed. Make sure he understands that not all the 256 gray levels in a monochrome image need have values greater than zero for the image to be a faithful representation of the scene. Hopefully that will stop him from making an utter ass of himself as he did on p.177 of AAoM#1 by complaining that the 1998 MGS image of Owen Mesa "contained only about 50% of the data it should have" because 214 gray levels had a value of zero. It was an ultra-low contrast scene, that's all.

Keeping aliens covered, apparently
        That'll do for now, Adrienne. What did you think of the pilot of Uncovering Aliens? I thought your client did a fairly good job of following the SCRIPT that was faked to simulate a documentary show, and didn't obviously giggle when confronted with a TOTALLY FAKED "town meeting." I do kind-of wish that a show called Uncovering Aliens had uncovered an alien or two. Perhaps next time.

Regards, expat

P.S. Adrienne, I'd copy this to you personally, as a courtesy, but I know you have me on auto-reply with this message:

"Unfortunately, Mike has informed me that you are too stupid to converse with, and in fact that the entire Universe is dumber for having you in it. Please take a moment to thin the heard and improve the quality of the gene pool by removing yourself from it."

er... it's "herd," not "heard" Adrienne dear.

[1] http://metaresearch.org/solar%20system/origins/original-solar-system.asp
[2] http://mikebara.blogspot.com/2013/08/new-image-of-extrasolar-planet-confirms.html

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ken Johnston short-listed for the suicide mission to Mars

        Well, Ken Johnstonnote 1 got his letter, improving his chances for a kami-kaze mission to Mars from 1 in 200,000 to 1 in 1058. Next cut will be to 100ish, then to 40. Finally, 10 crews of 4 will be launched at 2-year intervals, starting 2024. Each crew will be, as they would say in the porn business, MMFF. That's the plan, anyway.

View Ken's video-application. Ralph is his real given name.

        Naturally, this was a good enough story to devote an hour of Coast-to-Coast AM time to, last night. George Noory wondered what Ken's wife thought about it. "She signed me up for it," quipped Ken. Then came the obvious question -- aren't you a bit old for this? (Ken is now 71).

        "Oh no," said Ken. "I'll still be in my seventies, and John Glenn went into orbit at 77." Unfortunately, he was working with the wrong launch year. Actually, even if he's chosen as one of the first crew he'd be 81. More likely, he'd be well into the eighties.

Hoagland confuses the issue
        Enter Richard Hoagland, Ken Johnston's biggest booster, to make encouraging noises and trot out falsehoods, as usual. The first thing he got crashingly wrong was to say "No way will this be a one-way mission." He explained that, once the occupation of Mars begins, "the political log-jam will be broken" and many nations will immediately start work on round-trip man-rated rocketry to bring those guys back. Oh, and also -- since Hoagland will be Hoagland -- bring back the technology of the ancient Martian civilization. You know -- the one that left a Nike sneaker and a model plane lying around in Gale crater.

        This is to massively underestimate the difficulty of a round-trip Mars mission. The key problem is getting a four-person crew (and the payload of abandoned sneakers) out of Martian gravity and on the way home. To get the Apollo crews off the Moon, one pissy little hypergolic rocket engine was all it took. But launching from Mars, with a full third of Earth-style gravity trying to hold you back, would require a powerful multi-stage rocket and all the associated launch facilities -- a mini Cape Canaveral.

        Wernher Von Braun did the math back in 1956, and figured it could be done with 400 launches, assembling two super-giant rockets in orbit. General Dynamics did a study in 1962, assuming eight Saturn V (or equivalent) launches. Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct project hypothetically reduces the requirements to two Ares launches, based on a massively enhanced Space Shuttle stack and a very long turnaround time while fuel is manufactured from Mars water. Even if the Mars Direct plan is really workable -- by no means a sure thing -- does Richard Hoagland seriously believe that it could be put into effect in time to rescue Ken Johnston? Would the math still work if the mass of four additional bodies (plus all the sneakers) was added for the return launch?

Gravity Gradient
        The second thing Hoagland got wrong was the assumed need for artificial gravity during the transit, lasting at least 200 days. Ken said the Mars-1 people were working on a tether system. Conceptually, this would assume two tethered spacecraft rotating about their common center of gravity at an angular rate calculated to create a decent fraction of 1g radially. Hoagland dismissed that as a problem, stating "They already did that on Gemini in the 1960s."

        Well, they did and they didn't. The Gemini 11 "passive stabilization" experiment was, indeed, a trial of that exact idea -- but it didn't really work. The tether didn't stay taut and the most that was achieved was a measly 0.00015 g.

 image credit: NASA

        This blog officially wishes Ken Johnston bon voyage. But it also wishes Richard Hoagland would STFU. He just can't get anything right.

[1] This is who Ken Johnston is.