Thursday, August 6, 2015

Richard Hoagland contradicts himself, Mike Bara goes to Church

        It's been a fun week on internet radio, to be sure. First, Stuart Robbins (that's DOCTOR Stuart Robbins to you) got through on the call-in line to Richard Hoagland's new digital radio  show and scored some good points before being drowned by Hoagland's appallingly rude, overbearing, debating style. To nobody's surprise, Hoagland eventually cut him off with "You're just wrong."

        Robbins wrote the experience up at some length on his blog. Personally (although I wasn't listening live) I was delighted that he was able to bring up one of my favorite topics—the question of contamination on Hoagland's office scanner. I think that's exactly what Hoagland is looking at when he says he sees glass skyscrapers on the Moon.

        I mean, come on—which is more likely? Glass skyscrapers or shazz on the scanner? The exchange went like this:

SJR: "You have the Apollo images... I know that you completely disagree—some people have argued that what you're looking at is noise from your scanner. "

RCH: "They're idiots!"

SJR: "..."

RCH: "No no no. There are some things people—critics—say that are totally stupid. The idea..."

SJR: "..."

RCH: "Hang on, hang on. You asked the question. The idea that I would put negatives or prints on a scanner, and a) not clean the screen, and b) not make sure there was no dust on the negatives etc. etc.— is ludicrous. That is a straw man that people are putting out there—it's not true. These are real artifacts recorded by the Apollo astronauts, both in orbit and from the surface, and all we've done is take that data and subject it to modern technology, to bring it out and to present it in terms of web posts."

SJR: "But that's not what I'm asking. I'm saying 'Some people say that, that you're using these Apollo images, and that's one explanation that your critics make, and'...."

RCH: "But that doesn't mean it's right. They can claim anything... Look, you can hold these photographs up to the light and see it on the analog..."

SJR: "..."

RCH: "Hang on, hang on. You don't have to scan. I can't show you an analog print because you're not in the same room. So I have to scan it and put it on the web. But the originals show what we're showing. All you have to do in the dark room is basically bring out the low-level detail from the negative, and Bingo! There it is on an analog print."

        So he's saying the skyscrapers are there, not just on the digital scans but on Ken Johnston's 30-year-old 10x8 prints, as well. I wonder how he reconciles that with this passage from Dark Mission p. 226:
"In scanning Ken's priceless Apollo 14 C-prints, [I'd] discovered that the computer could "see" what the human eye could not—incredible geometric detail in the pitch black areas, like the lunar sky. The sensitivity of modern CCD imaging technology, in even commercially-available image scanners, coupled with the amazing enhancement capabilities of state-of-the-art commercial software—like Adobe's Photoshop—allowed the invisible detail [emph. added] buried in these supposedly black layers, of these thirty-year-old emulsions, to ultimately be revealed—a "democratization" of technology that no censor at NASA could have possibly foreseen over more than thirty years."
Go clean that scanner glass right now, Hoagland.

We're all Mundanes
        Mike Bara, meanwhile, was one of a gallimaufry of small-time guests on Jimmy Church's 300th Fade to Black internet radio show. They fell to discussing their sense of duty to all the true believers who feel isolated from society because they believe in rubbish like restaurants on Mars. Here's most of it:

Bara: "What we're doing is important ... it's really really important ..Without shows like Fade to Black they have no place to go, they have no sense of community, they have no sense of family. In many ways we have to replace the family members of the people that don't accept them and don't acknowledge them or recognize that they're different. And then the next thing, once we do that, is to turn it around and force all of the Mundanes out there to understand and to recognize that they're the ones that are weird, not us. They're the ones that live in fantasy land, because they simply do not see, or refuse to look at, all the amazing things that go on around us all the time. All the paranormal, supernatural, alien stuff that's happening."

[Church: "It's Us against Them"]

"And eventually Jimmy, what we have to do is create a forum where there is no "Them," there's only "Us" ... We're the normal ones, because we understand the way the universe really works. We appreciate it, we experience it. So that's what we're working toward, that's what I'm working toward anyway, and I think everyone else in their own way is doing the same."

Church: "Do you feel different about "Them"? ... Are they starting to take Mike Bara seriously?"

Bara: "No, and I don't think they ever will. I think the biggest thing we have to get away from is caring what they think of us, and caring whether we have their approval ... I guess I just do not care whether they recognize us or not. We've got to form our own thing, go our own way, and just let the truth be the truth."
        So just like Hoagland, Bara accuses us "mundanes" of refusing to look at the data. Excuse me while I shout something from the rooftops:



Chris Lopes said...

It should surprise no one that Hoagland doesn't seem to know what a strawman argument is. Basically it's just paraphrasing the other guy's argument in such a way that it is easily disposed of. For instance, saying your critics think you are too stupid to clean your own scanner, when all they are really saying is you didn't clean it enough. The former is a silly argument for anyone to make, while the latter is just stating the obvious. Again the irony is "rich".

Dee said...

The scanner darkly is a strong metaphor here and interesting how not once it's really being considered as possibility, even as just to humor his challengers, but instead being forcefully denied, using a rushed strawman. But tis is the first time I heard this new claim that these glass dome features would all, or somewhat, be visible with the naked eye on the material before the scanning and enhancement. If I go by memory, I do think certain anomalous features were reported that way but I don't think it was the glass domes. As I think I know exactly where and when he described what was visible on the prints at the time, I'll look it up as soon as I've time. Hoagland here plays the "foggy memory" game. The glass plate is fogged on top of being scratched....but at least some people have kept score, thanks Expat!

FlightSuit said...

Just out of curiosity, has Hoagie or Bara weighed in on the Martian Crab Monster?

Chris said...

Bara: "We've got to form our own thing, go our own way, and just let the truth be the truth."

Ah bara's truth, "the kind of truth that you can only know in your heart and in your mind". Not that other, highly inconvenient-to-psuedoscientists-because-it's-true kind of truth.

expat said...

Bara mentioned the Martian crab briefly earlier in the Jimmy Church chat.

expat said...

Dee: I'm fairly sure that the blue flares all over Apollo 14 Mag#66 are on the prints. I can't think of any other "artifacts" offhand.

Dee said...

Thanks expat.

I was thinking about this RCH & KJ interview with Art Bell from March 21, 1996.

Here's a small extract:

AB: Ken, you've looked at these photographs. Do you see the same anomalies? Do you see the same things that Richard Hoagland sees?

KJ: The more and more I've been exposed to looking at the data, and realizing - actually without the aid of any kind of instrumentation, you can actually see some of the anomalies on just the raw film and pictures itself.

And there's some rather striking pictures that show what appears to be constructed structures, ladders, portals; some very, very interesting things in the visor in a number of pictures.

So, the answer is yes, there are definitely things you can see with the naked eye. And then when you start getting some of the enhancement and techniques that Alex Cook had done - just a young man on his own, in a darkroom working by himself...

(...) But, when Richard and his team came over, and we took a serious look at it, and got out some loops - it was amazing the things that they had seen on some of those eighth to tenth generations that just stood out blatantly right on the pictures that I had.

Then some stuff about Marvin Czarnik and Alex Cook doing "independent" identification, so this is not about scanners. But is it about the domes?

The last reference here is to stuff like Castles in the Air

But then it continues:

RH: In fact, when you start looking at Ken's prints - which, now remember - are third generation from the originals, taken on the moon - there is a beautiful, very slight, bluish haze in the sky.

(...) Anyway, so, we put these photos under the optical scanner, and used the computer algorithms that we've been working with now for several years. And the most amazing geometric patterns come out of this haze. Because, what the computer is able to do - because it's sensing grey levels and light levels, below the human ability to detect.

Whereas, if you look at the print, you can barely see that there is something out of place.

So this seems to be the background to RCH's recent statement "You don't have to scan". He could see a blueish "haze" on the print but in is own words the patterns "came out of the haze" only after putting it under his scanner. And not before since even after close study: "looking at it with a bright light - just holding the print at the right angle - and I started to think: "Wait a minute. Why is this sky not black?" . That's all.


Dee said...

To continue my earlier post with some afterthoughts: there are other possibilities, apart from dirty scanner beds, as stained glass should have affected (before a next cleaning) all scans of all images having some dark background, assuming RCH enhanced more scans digitally in the same period (advised is one thorough cleaning per 50 scans).

If only a few images displayed these "glass structures" the anomalies might reside in the scanned material instead and not necessarily in the used scanner. Especially if other people would have repeated the scanning (not sure if RCH insists on that) From the interview mentioned in my earlier comment:

RCH: They sent transparency film; reversal film - slide film, really. Ektachrome-X , rated ASA 64, in 1969. And then from those transparencies, something called an inter-negative had to be made.

And from that inter-negative, you'd make your prints - so there was a two-stage process.

So, Ken's prints, actually, were not second generation; they were third generation - from the original data. And in that intermediate step, in that second generation process - is where we believe, that some interesting "hanky-panky" went on.

Now this is not my area of expertise (assuming I have any at all) but I did find some references to Ektachrome X's inclination to green and the later Ektachome 64 inclination to blue. And I have been reading about the many processes and chemicals involved ("E-4 or E3"?) when developing: rinsing, washing, hardening agents... what could ever be added invisible to the human eye to the individual prints that way? Is there any material that can serve as comparisons?

So far my hypothesis. What's needed are examples of Ektachrome development or retouch artifacts. Hard to find obviously since we're talking about obscurity incarnated. First some Kodak material: Retouching Transparencies on KODAK EKTACHROME Film which mentions also Winsor-Newton series 7 brush interesting as I do find the skyscrapers a bit, indeed scrape-like or more like brush strokes. Is it possible the transparencies were retouched before KJ's copies were made? But then RCH is not looking at "what is forgotten to touch up" but actually traces of the development process and eventual retouching, to improve the image, removing obvious processing or even aging artifacts. Someone actually working with old Ektachrome's, preferably at NASA at the time, might be able to tell!

Perhaps it was not that uncommon to retouch the transparencies? People who develop such old materials in modern times correct everything after development using Photoshop but at the time with NASA they had to work with chemicals I suppose? Not sure. It would explain the rumors of NASA "air brushing" at the time which might not have been what it looked like to some untrained eye and actually cleaned things up and restored otherwise lost or defunct materials?

The following document is also interesting: Coatings on Kodachrome and Ektachrome Films

It might be interesting to find someone who actually worked with similar materials at the time, preferable at the NASA photo labs during the Apollo missions. It's possible this might clear up Hoagland's mess once and for all (not to him but for all the remaining doubters).


expat said...

Thanks for the comments as always, Dee. Yes, Marvin Czarnik commented on "the castle" and "the shard" -- nothing to do with the Apollo prints. That was before Hoagland met Ken Johnston in 1995.

I find it impossible to believe that the photo curators allowed any kind of retouching attempts on the Ekta E-3 camera originals. They just wouldn't do that (although Mike Bara has alleged it). There's a much easier way. From the interneg you make a fine-grain print, retouch that then re-photograph it on a rostrum camera. That is, in fact, exactly what was done for special release to glossy magazines like Life. The retouch tools would have been just felt pens of various colors and thicknesses.

You are, of course, quite right in saying that the "skyscraper" pattern should be on a whole batch of scans, and we'll never know if it is or not. I've said all along that the test is for RCH to get that print back from Johnston and scan it again. Of course he won't do that.

Dee said...

Expat: "the retouch tools would have been just felt pens of various colors and thicknesses".

Okay. But that would not help if the aim was to manipulate overall color or hue of the picture, right? That would need to be done with some kind of transparency retouching dyes with careful application and brushing techniques. Or so I imagine after reading about it.

Actually, thinking about it, why introduce retouch as requirement all? The whole set of artifacts might already have been put there during the first production of internegatives, where I'm sure brush strokes were used at some point though I should try to find a video to make sure. And the other possibility as given in the document about the coatings:

Kodak produced two versions of Kodachrome Lacquer, both of which were applied in the film processing laboratories on Kodachrome 35 mm films after processing. This lacquer coating provided physical protection against dirt, minor scratches, abrasions, and fingerprints. The oils from fingerprints caused a phenomenon known as “fingerprint-fading” on unlacquered Kodachrome transparencies made using the “K-11” and earlier versions of the process. The yellow dye would be drawn to the surface of the emulsion in areas of fingerprints, and would crystallise. The crystallised dye could be easily removed from the surface, leaving a blue fingerprint stain. The lacquer prevented this from occurring. It also contained a fungicide for protection against mold growth on the emulsion.

Another process which might in my view leave in some cases its marks. To me it's still a better theory than the "dirty scanner". Or perhaps less insulting to the old man.

Most importantly though, and I have to go back to 1996 in my mind: the glass structures do not look like glass towers or domes to me at all. They never did to me, it took me years to see anything in those images at all that looked artificial. They look not like they belong in the sky, sure, but whatever it is, scanner or NASA processing artifacts: there are just too many simple possibilities to justify deriving any wild analysis from it (just as the Chinese proven digital camera noise). And exactly there one can separate belief from scientific inquiry. The first takes a turn left while the other turns right. And never do they meet up again...

Last parting shot: here's some interesting artist use of development artifacts. Spot the bleach marks and streaks! :-)


expat said...

« Okay. But that would not help if the aim was to manipulate overall color or hue of the picture, right? That would need to be done with some kind of transparency retouching dyes with careful application and brushing techniques. Or so I imagine after reading about it. »

No, that's not it at all. I know about this from my days producing TV documentaries. Overall color is controlled by a process known as grading UK-side, and timing in the US. It's just like a filter -- and of course endless arguments develop over who perceives what colour/color if there are no charts to go on. There was a color-correction stripe on the gnomon, so Apollo surface photography is probably highly faithful. Orbital pix less so.

expat said...

I had fun with the gnomon back in August 2009.

expat said...

Just to complicate things further, the original frame Hoagland produced skyscrapers in was not color, but monochrome.

This means that the camera originals were B&W negatives, with no possibility of faking them up at all. I'm not sure what the process was for generating release prints from them. I highly doubt that the 10x8 glossies were made direct from the camera originals, so an interpositive was probably involved, with an opportunity for retouching at that stage. There's little doubt that the sky was sometimes retouched, to eliminate any sparkle that might have been wrongly seen as stars.

Dee said...

Expat wrote: "There's little doubt that the sky was sometimes retouched, to eliminate any sparkle that might have been wrongly seen as stars".

Could that be a possible explanation for KJ's claim that he witnessed some process like that at NASA? Apart from making it up or dementia? That he saw something he didn't understand and decided to translate it into woo?

I know last year you described how unpractical this process would be after I raised similar options. You mentioned "pressure of time" as main reason.

Now I do wonder, if KJ's copies could have been made on a later date and if time pressure would really remain a valid argument. Or the pressure of some scientists to make it look right could just be added to the overall work load. It's not uncommon for techs to work around the clock during such releases of historical data because of all the various, sometimes whimsical looking requests. But that's just my own experience with a couple of personalities during similar programs. Pressure is normal but also putting the bar quite high, all of the time! It's a mind set that's in place although often enough many things still have to be skipped or being delayed in the end. That's also par of the course but there's always that initial try to push for it!


expat said...

« Could that be a possible explanation for KJ's claim that he witnessed some process like that at NASA? »

Yes, I think that's very probable.

expat said...

I just happened across an old thread from ATS that made a good point about "the artificial sky." Recognize this famous image? Well, the original wasn't very well framed. The top 1/16th of the famous version was added to make it look better.

Dee said...

Expat, still about this: "Overall color is controlled by a process known as grading UK-side, and timing in the US."

That's part of E-3 isn't it, with the re-exposure timings?

It suddenly occurred to me, slightly off-topic, that if or when the Chinese will have released their Chang'e-3 scientific data, the CCD pattern and banding noise will likely have been removed with some kind of dark-frame subtraction. But in Hoagland's version the Chinese will have succumbed to NASA pressure to hide the data, or something!

So the picture emerges that exploring early PR releases, TV screens or early generation copies will always introduce additional complexities because of noise and/or processing artifacts which often will be removed in later releases as a service to the researchers and to the public, assuming such false artifacts are being identified correctly and no actual artifacts would be removed.

In a way Hoagland and his following are making the mistake that "raw data" always would mean "better data" and would provide them with more information, all the while forgetting it also will provide many false leads and ambiguous elements which only a few people familiar with all the processing in place could properly identify. This is exactly the gray lake area many anomalists like to swim in, obviously because there will never be a definite resolution to the issue unless they'd take the decisions made by the people handling the data as better judgments than they could even made by themselves!


astroguy said...

Dee, I can tell you that's definitely the case with New Horizons. And it's yet another reason why there are no new images during the month of August. We took lots of flats and other calibration images, but practically none were downloaded to Earth before this month -- in fact, most instruments' calibration campaign will be over the next few months. This means that all those press release images were done without proper calibration, but rather by either not doing calibration or "faking" the calibration with manual adjustments. So not only were the data released lossy compressed, but also somewhat uncalibrated.

astroguy said...

Forgot to elaborate on the "no new images during the month of August" thing -- we're getting some of our calibration images now, among other things.

Bill Belcher said...

isn't it impossible to match the black of space as the black cannot be replicated on any medium because there's nothing there so what we see is the films own chemical colour? And this is exaggerated from the bright pictures of the moon, the moonscape with a blackness which is only as good as the films unexposed chemicals. Manhandling films,negatives over and over again will always pick up minute scuffs which interfere with the chemical layers. not sure how a modern day sensor picks up the blackness of space, how does it interpret it? By the way hoaglands picture Of shards on the moon look like cellotape residue that hasn't been cleaned properly off what ever has been used to place the picture on. ..I maybe talking rubbish though.

expat said...

You make two good points there Bill. Of course, the digital versions of Apollo photography can be made as black as you like. Indeed photoprints can only be as black as the paper allows. I've heard the cellotape (scotch tape) theory before, not sure what I think about it.