Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Aaaaannnddd just like that, Mike Bara's daft ideas go out the window

"I’m completely confident that I can prove there’s no such thing as the laws of physics."
        Thus Mike Bara in September 2010, in a promo interview for his appalling book The Choice. Mike never got around to proving that or anything like it. Instead, he reminded us all about such frippery as Kirlian photography, Plant emotions, and the Princeton EGGs, as though they were brand new challenges to mainstream physics. Which they ARE NOT. Neither brand new nor challenges, other than as a sort of parlor game "Spot the logical flaw."

        Ever since, Mike has apparently been on the lookout for fresh challenges to physics—without, of course, having the slightest understanding of the subject. Today he latches on to the EM Drive, the "miracle" rocket propulsion system that the Daily Telegraph assures usnote 1 could get to the Moon in four hours.

        Unfortunately, The Daily Torygraph is not only counting chicks before they hatch but before the eggs have been laid, and possibly before the mother hen herself has cracked out. If this works, then pretty soon sitting in your car and pushing on the dashboard will work, too. As Bob Zimmerman correctly pointed out last night on Coast to Coast AM, the Abstract of the new paper by Tajmar & Fiedler (AIAA/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference)note 2 includes these golden words:
"Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EMDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurement methods used so far."
        The EM Drive "works" by bouncing microwaves around inside a closed chamber. A thrust of around 20 micro-newtons has been observed.note 3 Your computer mouse probably exerts a thrust of around 1 Newton on the desk—it sure ain't going to take you to the Moon any time soon.

Mike Bara's tweetery on the subject was "Aaaaannnddd just like that the "laws" of physics go out the window.." LOL, as they say.

[1] 'Impossible' rocket drive works and could get to Moon in four hours --D.Tel. yesterday, by Sarah Knapton, Science Editor

[2]  Direct Thrust Measurements of an EMDrive and Evaluation of Possible Side-Effects
M. Tajmar & G. Fiedler

[3] As Exposing Pseudoastronomy points out today, the largest measured thrust was from the control experiment.
No, scientists haven’t invented a space engine that breaks the laws of physics RawStory

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Richard Hoagland: Rockets, lies, and e-mail

        I don't subscribe to Richard Hoagland's new chat-show on digital radio. I don't mind listening to arrogant pseudoscientists in the wee hours of the morning, but that's on the pocket radio tucked up in bed, and for free. I draw the line at getting out of bed and paying for it, no matter how little. So I won't be reviewing The Other Side of Midnight unless somebody pirates it to Youchoob.

        Binaryspellbook, being in a very different time zone, evidently does listen, and on his blog yesterday he wrote this:

"Then Hoagland mentioned Explorer I and his explanation of it on his website. He then quickly admitted that there were some errors in the calculation, but there was still an over-performance of the rocket. He then went on to state that if anyone had emailed him regarding this error he would email them back with corrections."
        Here's the complete collection of my e-mails to the pseudoscientist on this topic. He never replied to any of them.

1 July 2013
Subj: Your mathematical errors in 'Von Braun's Secret'

I believe it has been nearly two years since you admitted, on Facebook, that you had made serious mathematical errors in your web page, Von Braun's Secret part 1.

At about the same time, also on Facebook, you wrote of your "decades-long, demonstrated scientific competence." I am writing to express my surprise that a man who seems proud of his scientific rigor would allow these catastrophic errors to go uncorrected for so long.

Just in case you need reminding of the nature of the errors, you misapplied the Tsiolkovsky equation by using it on all three solid upper stages of the Juno rocket at once. You also failed to evaluate a natural logarithm which forms a well-known part of the equation. When the equation is applied and evaluated correctly it does not support the ideas that you wish to communicate. That is because those ideas are wrong.

May I know why you have allowed this travesty to survive so long (and any answer along the lines of "I've been busy" or "I haven't had time" will be greeted with derision)?

13 August 2013
Subj: Von Braun's Secret FALSIFIED

Well, I see the mendacious web page is still uncorrected. Still delta-V = 3520 ft/sec.

You can't correct it, can you Richard, because if you did work the math correctly you'd arrive at delta-V  = 14,189 ft/sec. The 600 ft/sec excess velocity at orbit injection would be an error of, not 17%, but just over 4% -- easily within the tolerance of the military polysulphide aluminum/ammonium perchlorate fuel.

Are you not JUST A LITTLE BIT ASHAMED to have a theory which has been mathematically falsified published under your name?

28 September 2013
Subj: Another reason to withdraw Von Braun's Secret

Not only is your math unforgivably wrong, but your map of the tracking stations is totally at variance with the actual truth.

The Microlock network consisted of:
Antigua (doppler)
RED - Earthquake Valley
GOLD - AFMTC Florida
BLACK - Ibadan, Nigeria
SILVER - Singapore

The Spheredrop network had stations at:
China Lake, CA
Temple City, CA
White Sands, NM
Cedar Rapids, IA
Huntsville, AL


30 September 2013
Subj: Another reason to withdraw Von Braun's Secret

By the time the second stage fired off the vehicle was traveling horizontally, therefore any so-called anti-gravity boost would be irrelevant.

Do you understand that?

Source: Technical report on Juno.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Heiser 8, Bara 0

         Michael Heiser is a biblical scholar and a potent force in the skeptisphere. I know him from his splendid website Sitchin is Wrong. That's Zecharia Sitchin, the dreamer who sold a ton of books claiming that human DNA was edited by beings called The Anunnaki. Sitchin claims authentic sources in Sumerian literature, and Heiser — who actually knows about Sumerian — says the sources not only aren't authentic but aren't there.

        Mike Bara thinks Sitchin was right. From the Himalayan heights of his ignorance, he wrote a 47-page chapter in his latest book which was not much more than a steal from Sitchin's ridiculous work The Lost Book of Enki. Those emolunauts who read my review of Bara will have had a taste of the mind-bending imbecility of this material.

        Well, Bara spent a page and a half attacking Michael Heiser, and now Heiser has rebutted, in fine style. In a post titled Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Mike Bara: An Explanatory Illustration in his Paleobabble blog, he did a far better job than I could possibly have done. Here it is in toto.


One of my favorite blogs is The Emoluments of Mars. It’s the brainchild of “Expat,” who has committed himself to the mind-numbing task of critiquing the conspiratorial pseudo-science behind ideas like the “face” on Mars, glass domes on the moon, and esoteric meanings to NASA space missions (think Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara). Expat’s URL is something of an homage to Hoagland’s book, Dark Mission, detailing the alleged esoteric conspiracies behind what NASA does: Since I’m neither a scientist nor photo analyst, I depend on the work of people like Expat. Stuart Robbins’ Exposing PseudoAstronomy blog is another such resource that I’ve mentioned before.

A couple months ago Expat emailed me with the wonderful news that I’d made it into Mike Bara’s most recent literary assault on clear thinking, Ancient Aliens and Secret Societies. The email sort of got lost in the shuffle, but I thankfully found it again. Bara’s book hasn’t exactly garnered an overwhelming response (four reviews to date in five months, several of which are hilariously brutal (“zero stars if Amazon allowed it”; “Google scholarship”; “Friends don’t let friends read Mike Bara”). That last one was good enough to steal for my post title. It says it all.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d take a look at what Expat sent. After all, this year I was privileged to be colored as a government informant by Jim Marrs. When I blogged about that honor I pointed out that Marrs’ ludicruous assertion was falsifiable by a simple phone call (he had me working on a “government funded” program dealing with Sumerian lexicography). All he needed to do was call the office for that program to learn that I hadn’t worked on that project. But hey, implying I “work for the government” in my opposition to Sitchin’s nonsensical handling of Sumerian texts (and most everything else) is more fun.

Here are excerpts from what Bara wrote on pp. 88-89 of his book. (Bara is in green in this version)

“Other critics have attacked Sitchin more directly, arguing that his interpretations of the Sumerian texts are simply wrong …

 MSH: Yes, I have said that. But Bara’s missing something (and it won’t be the last time in this short post). I’ve actually argued that Sitchin’s interpretations aren’t even to be found in the Sumerian tablets. That’s right. They aren’t even in there. You can’t call what doesn’t exist “wrong” or a screwed up translation. Ideas like the Anunnaki being from Nibiru and Nibiru being a planet beyond Pluto literally don’t exist in the Sumerian material. Now how easy would it be to show me wrong with a claim like that? Pretty easy. And so I directed people on how to test my assertion. Instead of insisting that people take my word for it, I created a screen-capture video of yours truly going to the publicly accessible Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature website to check my claims. (I wonder how many times Bara lets people follow his trail — I know Sitchin didn’t do that). Anyway, the video isn’t exciting, but it does show me showing YOU how to search for all the occurrences of “Anunnaki” gods (including the shorter name, Anunna) and return them with links for English translations. Guess what? No ancient astronaut material. Funny how that happens when you direct people to primary texts. Continuing …

… Foremost among these is Michael Heiser, a committed Christian who has made debunking Sitchin something of his life’s work …

MSH: True; I am a “committed Christian.” I’m also a Christian that makes other Christians nervous for various reasons. I’m guessing Bara never read any of my blogs and their comments. Is debunking Sitchin my life’s work? Hardly. How could I make a living doing that? It would be like trying to convince people to read Bara’s books for a living. Mike seemingly doesn’t know that I’m the guy who posted my income tax returns online back in the day to shut up William Henry when he accused me of making money off Sitchin’s name. I asked William to do the same. (Cue crickets here). And guess what? They’re still up there, Mike! Have a look.
Those were the days when I first appeared on Coast to Coast. Readers may remember that Art Bell asked if I’d debate Sitchin on his show … the lowly graduate student against the poobah of paleobabble. I said yes. Sitchin refused. Funny how that happens when you appeal to primary texts.

… Heiser and other critics are fond of pointing out that Sitchin’s interpretations of certain words and phrases are “incorrect” according to the most commonly accepted academic understandings of them …
MSH: No, they’re incorrect because they aren’t there. They have no basis in reality. (See above). Prove me wrong, Mike — run the search and find the alien Anunnaki on Nibiru. Let’s have one line of one tablet that says that.

… Sitchin taught himself Sumerian at a time when only a few people in the world knew how to read cuneiform texts …

MSH: A couple of corrections here. Sitchin didn’t know Sumerian. Nothing he produces in his books about Sumerian provide any evidence of that. His “translations” would never survive peer review. Want to test that, Mike? Tell you what. You gather Sitchin’s translations *with tablet line and citation so real Sumerian scholars can go look.* Then follow these steps:

(1) Show us [this is called fact-checking, Mike] that Sitchin’s translations are not those of someone else — that is, they did NOT come from a published anthology of English translations. If they survive that test, then …
(2) Send them to a real Sumerian scholar. Pick someone from the membership list of The International Association for Assyriology, or one of the staff at these ongoing projects in Sumerian studies: CDLI or Stephen Tinney of the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project (PSD; the volume covering Anunnaki is published). I’m sure you and I can agree on who to send Sitchin’s translations to. I’ll publish the results of your efforts on my blog.

… Today people like Heiser have become more numerous and they have learned the language from academic sources such as 2006′s Sumerian Lexicon, all of which postdate Sitchin’s publication of The Twelfth Planet … … The Sumerian Lexicon is no more authoritative a source than Sitchin himself. In fact, one reviewer declared it to be ‘a book compiled by a dilettante who understands the basics of neither lexicography nor Sumerology.” …

MSH: There’s so much erroneous misdirection here. I’ll give Mike the benefit of the doubt that he’s just ignorant and not being deliberately deceptive. (That’s how nice I am). Here we go:
(1) Yes, people now learn Sumerian from “academic sources” — so did Sitchin learn with non-academic sources? No sources? The 12th Planet was published in the late seventies. There were plenty of (perish the thought) academic sources for learning Sumerian. (And I repeat: I don’t think Sitchin knew Sumerian at all). Bara’s argument here pits academic sources against … what? It puts Sitchin in the position of using inferior sources or no sources. Nice argument, Mike.
(2) You don’t learn a language by using a dictionary. You learn vocabulary that way. But languages have grammar (remember high school, Mike?) Dictionaries are not presentations of a language’s grammar: grammatical forms (morphology) and relationships (syntax). I can scarcely believe I have to point out that dictionaries don’t “do” grammar. In reality, there were plenty of academic grammars prior to the publication of the 12th Planet (late seventies). For example:
  • Stephen Langdon, A Sumerian grammar and chrestomathy (1911) – for years one of the standard learning grammars for Sumerian.
  • Kurt Schildmann, Compendium of the historical grammar of Sumerian (Grundriss der historischen Grammatik des Sumerischen) 1964-1970
But again, what is Bara’s point? That Sitchin didn’t have resources to learn Sumerian? If so, how could we trust his knowledge? If he did have sources, then … what?
(3) The “Sumerian Lexicon” Bara is referring to is Halloran’s Sumerian Lexicon (which originated as an online compilation of Sumerian terms). I know that because the reviewer’s comments are drawn from this review of Halloran. This is not the lexicon I directed readers to on my website for years. What I directed readers to is the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary (= PSD). Here’s the image from a page that used to be on my website:

You’ll notice that the editor isn’t Halloran. So Bara is criticizing the wrong source.Here’s page 133 from the PSD that lived for many years on my site. It’s the entry for Anunnaki (and its variant forms). Notice that “those who from heaven came” or “fallen ones” (or whatever nuttiness Sitchin assigns to the term) isn’t a meaning scholars recognize:

Since it’s not the lexicon that Bara’s source is bashing, the criticism levied by that source don’t apply to the PSD (which, per the scan above, does not agree with Sitchin). The PSD is a leading lexical project for the entire field of Sumerian. The raw materials for the PSD have lived online for many years (the project was begun in 1974 – before Sitchin published the 12th Planet, by the way). The print publication of this dictionary is an ongoing project. Three volumes have been published to date (the above page comes from vol. 1). But who cares? In fact, the lexical resources that form the basis for current projects like the PSD have been around since the early 1900s. A “Sumerian expert” like Sitchin would have known that. Lexical sources like the multi-volume Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon, begun by Benno Landsberger in the 1930s, served Sumerian students well for many years.

… Heiser’s own biography states that “He has also studied Sumerian . . . independently” …

MSH: Yes, it does. Do you know why, Mike? Because I’m honest. Bara concludes that since Sitchin and I are both self-taught in Sumerian, Sitchin is just as trustworthy. This is flawed logic. I have a publicly accessible resume that proves I have studied nearly a dozen ancient languages in a formal academic setting. Know why that’s important? One word: accountability. I had to perform in the languages for experts. Sitchin has nothing like that. Where is Sitchin’s resume? Hmmm. I’m betting he had ZERO language work at any institution. In other words, no proof he studied anything. In other words, my resume offers people some basis for concluding that I did indeed study Sumerian, even on my own. The logic goes like this: “Heiser studied nearly a dozen ancient languages. It seems plausible he could have studied one more on his own time.” On what basis can we conclude Sitchin’s claim of self-study is plausible? I see none. The guy couldn’t even wrap his head around simple concepts like subject-verb agreement when it comes to Hebrew elohim (a lot easier than Sumerian). But in Bara-land (see the Emoluments blog), logic and coherence is simply not a pre-requisite.

… A number of Sicthin’s (sic – the misspelling is Bara’s) assertions have been successfully tested (or at least supported), and Heiser’s have not …

MSH: Where have any of Sitchin’s claims about extraterrestrial Anunnaki or Nibiru been tested or validated, Mike? Let’s have those studies and that data. I’ll post them.  Oh, I forgot … First you have to prove those ideas exist in the tablets. But they don’t. Again, how easy would it be to prove me wrong here by simply producing the tablet that has these claims? I can’t make it any easier, Mike. I’m telling you (and everyone else who buys Sitchin’s Anunnaki nonsense) how to falsify my claims. The data simply do not exist. You can’t validate what doesn’t exist. But let’s widen the net … show me where Sitchin’s claims about alien intervention have been validated by any expert under peer review (as opposed to authors writing for Adventures Unlimited Press).

… Heiser comes off as nothing but a Christian fundamentalist with an axe to grind. His interpretation of the words and phrases carry no more scientific weight than Sitchin’s do.”

MSH: Right. Mine carry no more weight. Except that my interpretations are based on lines in tablets that exist while Sitchin’s don’t. So all I have going for me is a little thing I like to call reality. I’ll take that. And for the record, I’m not a Christian fundamentalist. I know Bara doesn’t really know what that term means in the spectrum of Christian sub-cultures, but it needs pointing out. I spent some time in fundamentalist circles until I was ejected. I lost a job over it. I believe several things that would make fundamentalists denounce me (and they have). Just read my blog, but get an education first about what the term means in Christian circles. After that, why I’m not in those circles will be pretty clear.

So what have we learned? A few things:
1) I’d rather be called a government informant than a fundamentalist. It’s just more fun.
2) That Sitchin supposedly taught himself Sumerian by using inferior sources or no sources at all. Maybe he channeled it.
3) That Bara likes to hide data from his readers — like the fact that Sitchin’s fundamental claims don’t exist in Sumerian tablets — and that I’ve given the world the breadcrumb trail to learning that is indeed true.
4) That Sitchin is still wrong. And so is his disciple, Mike Bara.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Bob Zimmerman, Coast to Coast's new Science Adviser

        It gives me pleasure to write a blogpost that will be entirely upbeat and positive, instead of my usual curmudgeonly scorn. Bob Zimmerman has given me permission to announce (I think for the first time publicly) that when he appears on Coast to Coast AM tonight, giving updates on New Horizons' final approach to Pluto, he will be officially introduced as the new Science Adviser. The reign of Richard Hoagland in that rĂ´le is over.

        I congratulate Bob and I congratulate Lisa Lyon, executive producer of C2C, for making that decision. I have personally sent e-mails to Lisa and George Noory many times saying how much I've appreciated Bob's accurate, entertaining and up-to-date spots on the show, and saying how much better his contributions have been than those of his predecessor. I suppose it's even possible I may have influenced this decision in a small way.

        Bob is self-taught in space technology and history (just like me.) Although he does have a master's degree it's in US colonial history, not physics or engineering. His first career was actually in B movies, first as a key grip then moving into production. His only Producer credit was for Underground Terror (1989). His full IMDB credit list is here.

        Bob was interested in spaceflight, he says, "from childhood." He thought about training to become an astronaut, but realized that he didn't have the math skills. Instead, he turned his zeal for exploration upside down and went caving. Cave exploration remains his major passion.

        Once he decided to start writing about spaceflight, he became amazingly prolific. In addition to his book Genesis, The Story of Apollo 8 (1998) (which I read with admiration, having my own memories of that mission and its crew), he wrote Leaving Earth (2003) and two other space history books, as well as at least 100 shorter pieces in multi-media.

        I think he'll continue to be excellent as a popularizer of space exploration, and his New York accent is cute, too. We won't mention his politics on this blog. NOT AT ALL (grin).

Zimmerman's bio

His biblio (newspapers and magazines)

PS. For those with a taste for skullduggery, Richard Hoagland gives his side of the story here, in an interview with Steve Warner on digital radio. It's on auto-run now but will drop into archive at some point.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Another astounding display of ignorance from Mike Bara

credit: ESO

        Mike Bara, the world-renowned designer of jet aircraft and seducer of strippers, posted this picture today with the comment "Another confirmation of the solar fission theory discussed in my book The Choice."

        It's a pretty picture but it has nothing whatsoever to do with solar fission. Mike Bara is so utterly ignorant of things solar and planetary that we've come to expect from him nothing much better than "It looks like, therefore it is."

        Solar fission is Tom Van Flandern's theory that the solar system was not born from the gradual contraction of an accretion disc, as the accepted theory teaches. Rather, the Sun formed first and then flung planets off in pairs by a process similar to good old centrifugal force. Van Flandern's diagrams do look a bit like the above picture, if you ignore the obvious fact that the smaller object is not one of a pair. Mike Bara wouldn't give a thought to a detail like that any more than he did two years ago when he cited the observation of a single exoplanet, GJ504b, as support for Van Flandern. As a theory, solar fission always had its problems and went into the recycle bin when planetary accretion was actually observed in progress, at HL Tauri.

        What we really see here is a "contact binary" -- a pair of stars that are so close that their exo-atmospheres are partly shared. It's part of a five-star system that is made of the contact binary, a detached binary, and one single star. It's called 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5 (cute name, huh?) and it's in Ursa Major. The complete announcement is here. By the way, as Chris rightly notes in comments here, this isn't really a picture of 1SWASP J093010.78+533859.5 at all. It's an artist's impression of  HR 5171. "Confirmation of the solar fission theory"?   No, Mike, No. Just NO.

        It's one thing for Bara to peddle his virulent climate change denial — at least there still is some real controversy there (although precious little, at this point). But when he tries to promote a long-dead theory with an irrelevant image, we can only laugh and go about our business.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Robert Morningstar, critic of Applied Physics Laboratory

        The psychologist Robert Morningstar had this to say about the computer overload that temporarily put New Horizons into safe mode two days ago, as it approached Pluto.

"Aren't we getting tired of this "Lame Excuse" ??? How many times have they arrived somewhere and report "Lost Contact with ....". Only to regain contact "miraculously" a few months later? "

        So here we have a psychologist — whose ignorance of space technology is so profound that he often says the Apollo astronauts were not aware their conversations behind the Moon were recordednote 1 — criticizing the management of a mission that is now five billion km from Earth.note 2

        Here we have a psychologist, and frisbee expert, expressing his opinion that deep space missions frequently go missing and re-appear suspiciously a few months later. I can't actually think of a single example of that. I believe AM* has invented this from his own imagination.

        I'm very much aware that Mr. Morningstar is one of the NASA haters. I don't think he has any actual rational reason for his hatred, I think he's just blindly copying Richard Hoagland (an exceptionally foolish thing to do.) I don't think he has a clue what it takes to manage a deep space mission. I also think he's so ignorant of space affairs in general that he doesn't even realize that New Horizons is managed by Johns Hopkins APL, not NASA.

        Meanwhile, over on that other collection of ignorant commenters on things space-related, The Hidden Mission Forum, we find Keith Laney posting this:
"looks to me like both Dawn and New Horizon teams have been given a warning. I'm so sick of these clods stifling what we get to see and know... they would rather cause the crafts to malfunction and fail than allow us to know what they're really seeing."
        So, according to Keith, some mysterious other-force has caused temporary glitches in the New Horizons and Dawn missions, but AT THE SAME TIME the mission management has caused these glitches deliberately. I like Dee's comment  "How deep can the bar still sink?"

[1] See this blogpost, Note 1.
[2] The transit time for messages to and from the spacecraft is now 4.5 hours