Monday, July 30, 2018

Richard Hoagland and numerology

        I'm getting a bit bored with pseudoscientists who begin their sentences with "What if..." What follows is invariably the grossest speculation without any supporting evidence, but somehow the whole sentence acquires some sense of authority—or at least, that is what is hoped. I guess my standard reply is "What if you're totally wrong about that?"

        We have a brilliant example before us, in Richard Hoagland's reaction to the recent announcement by Orosei et al, in "Science" 25 July 2018 of an extensive underground "lake" (probably more like a sludgy deposit, in reality) 1.6km under the Planum Australe region of Mars. On his Other Side of Midnight web page Hoagland writes:
What if, in fact, the Europeans actually have detected the radar signature of an ancient, buried, long-abandoned Martian city … the last surviving one … before “the Martians” were forced to come to Earth?
Richard, what if that's a load of bollocks?

        For extra hilarity, Hoagland has again totally distorted his own theory about the number 19.5. According to his writings, it has significance as a latitude (either N or S) on a spinning sphere.  But he's had no hesitation about drawing attention to the number when it's a longitude, a time, the apparent magnitude of a comet, the inclination of an orbit, the NASA budget in $billion, or the price of a shirt at Old Navy. He also apparently can't perceive any difference between 19.5, 195, 1950 and the times 19h30min and 19h50min.

        The sub-surface sludge on Mars is centered at 193°E, 81°S, and that's apparently close enough for Hoagland, since he also wrote that this was another 19.5 "hit."

Hoagland needs to be reminded that:
* 193 is not the same number as 195
* 195 is not the same number as 19.5
* A longitude is not the same as a latitude


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Mike Bara: Maximum hubris

        This morning Mike Bara tweeted "Thanks for the confirmation of my work guys..." He was referring to the announcementnote 1, yesterday, that Italian scientists analyzing data collected by the MARSIS radar of the ESA's Mars Express have confirmed the existence of a substantial sub-surface lake below the Planum Australe region of Mars.

        By "my work" he meant the so-called Mars Tidal Model, according to which the planet Mars was once tidally locked to a sister planet which then exploded, splattering one hemisphere of Mars with debris. This blog has critically reviewed the theory passim, noting that the hemisphere that is so obviously splattered is NOT the one that would have been pointing toward a hypothetical companion.

Not his work, not relevant anyway
        Well, for one thing, the Tidal Model is not Bara's work. He's credited as second author but the work, such as it is, was accomplished by the primary author, Richard Hoagland. For a second thing, the announcement of liquid water 1.6 km underground near the south pole has no connection whatsoever to the tidal model.

        This is far from the first time that Hoagland and/or Bara have blown their own false trumpets in reaction to astronomy news of the day. I think back to this claim from August 2008, and this one from October that year, in which Mike Bara stated that the hexagonal rings around the North pole of Saturn are "an inherent and specific prediction of the Hoagland\Torun Hyperdimensional physics model."note 2 In 2012 I coined the term Convenient Recall Adjustment Phenomenon (CRAP) for this kind of false recollection.

Planum Australe: WHAT geometric structures?

        Bara was even given most of the first hour of Coast to Coast AM last night to comment on the Italian announcement (although, typically, he did not credit the authors.) He said "geometric structures" in the same region make him suspect that this area was once inhabited by a now-dead civilization, and perhaps the underground lake was a water source for them. George Noory invited him to extend his comments to Mars, and the Moon, more generally ("What's goeeeen on, Mike?") To my mind, conferring the status of "expert" on someone who is so totally wrong about the nature of the Moon is an admission of failure.

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[1] Radar evidence of subglacial liquid water on Mars: Orosei et al, "Science" 25 July 2018

[2] This is what astronomers refer to as "bullshit." There is no documentary evidence that either Hoagland, Torun or Bara ever predicted the phenomenon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Morningstar predicts

James Concannon reports...

        Today, the self-styled "civilian intelligence analyst" and "specialist in photo interpretation, geometric analysis and computer imaging" (who can't tell the difference between a 166-mile wide space station and a 2ft sheet of mylar insulation) posted this prediction:
"Mars' passage close to Earth on July 31st, 2018 will created [sic] super storms like Katrina (again, as it did i 2003), along with volcanic activity and intense electrical storms around the globe. Be ready for something and anything."
We'll be watching.

Update 20th July:
Severe tornadoes ripped through Iowa, partly destroying Marshalltown. Nothing to do with Mars.

A different storm sank a boat in a Missouri lake, drowning 17. Nothing to do with Mars, either.

6.0 magnitude earthquake, Papua New Guinea. Nothing to do with Mars.

Update 21st July:
Scorching (110°F) weather in Texas, persistent drought in the UK. Nothing to do with Mars.

Update 22nd July:
5.9 magnitude earthquake, Kermanshah, Iran. Nothing to do with Mars.
Floods/landslides in Vietnam kill 21. Nothing to do with Mars.

Update 23rd July:
Record-breaking heatwave in Japan, dozens dead. Nothing to do with Mars.
5.9 magnitude earthquake, mid-atlantic ridge. Nothing to do with Mars.
Reports that Germany is running out of beer bottles because of a heatwave. Mars?

Update 24th July:
60 dead in Greek wildfires. Nothing to do with Mars.
Dam collapses in Laos. Hundreds missing. Nothing to do with Mars.

Update 25th July:
Exceptionally heavy rain on the East US coast brings flooding. Nothing to do with Mars.

Update 27th July:
Ambae island in Vanuatu evacuated as the Manaro Voui volcano began spewing ash. Nothing to do with Mars.

Update 28th July:
Severe storm (but not "super-storm") continues on US East coast. 500 buildings destroyed by fire in Redding, CA. Notable (although perhaps not "intense") electrical storm over the North Sea, extending into Germany. Nothing to do with Mars.

Update 29th July:
6.4 magnitude earthquake, Lombok, Inodnesia. 14 dead. Typhoon Jongdarinote 1 caused chaos in Japan. Mars is coming!!! (allegedly)

Robert Morningstar has now written that the effect of close approach will last for "at least three weeks." Clever — he hopes thereby to give himself a lot more time to claim that his predictions were accurate, and to guarantee that everyone will have forgotten his exact prediction by the time his window closes. I'm not buying it.

30th July ======== ZONE OF CLAIMED MARS INFLUENCE ==========
Typhoon Jongdari downgraded to "tropical storm."
California brush fires continued (having begun a week ago). The volcanic sequence in Hawaii continued (having begun 30 April). Some Indonesian volcanoes continued to belch (as they have been doing for a few thousand years).
A fairly impressive belt of lightning persisted over Europe, but electrical activity over the Americas was normal, and that over Oceania and Australasia abnormally quiet.

Lightning map, Oceania/Australasia 30 July 2018. Pretty peaceful.

That's about it for today.

31st July: 
Nothing to report today.

Morningstar reminds me that there's a tropical cyclone over Mexico, but, y'know, it's the season for that. There's nothing remotely unusual about this one.

1st August:
Nothing going on today. No major eruptions or earthquakes worldwide. Even the European lightning map shows much less activity. The Mexican tropical storm developed into a named event, "Hector," but it's a very junior hurricane with winds 35 knots gusting to 45.


Now please see Robert Morningstar: FAIL!!! for an assessment.

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[1] July and August are peak months for typhoons (a.k.a. Pacific tropical cyclones). Over the period 1959-2015, those months saw average numbers of 3.9 and 5.4 respectively. In other words, it would be highly surprising if there were not any typhoons during this period (ref: Wikipedia).

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Robert Morningstar's fake-everything page

James Concannon reports...

        Robert Morningstar has written "I manage my Facebook page like a newspaper." What a joke. The truth is that he's turned his page into an aggregator of totally fake news. His sources include such laughable peddlars of propaganda as Pamela Geller,, and He sometimes writes a little text himself, but more often just re-posts the lead from his source.

       The majority of the garbage he re-posts is straight Republican talking-points. It's no secret that Morningstar's politics are slightly to the right of Adolf Hitler, so readers of the page get reminded daily that Donald Trump is a saint, and that Obama and the Clintons are serial child-killing maniacs.

        Last month expat was lamenting the fact that, these days, Internet arguments so often deteriorate into accusations of pedophilia. I guess the general idea is "Since pedophilia is the worst thing we can imagine, let's accuse our enemies of it and see if it sticks." So, for example, just yesterday Morningstar posted this from zerohedge:

Ex-Clinton Foundation Official Tied To Chinese Kindergarten Embroiled In Bizarre Sexual Abuse Scandal

        The actual story is highly tenuous and the connection to the Clinton Foundation non-existent. It dates from 26th November 2017, and Morningstar seems unaware that CNN covered it three days later, reporting that the police investigation concluded that the parents were making up the stories of abuse for whatever reason. But this is what passes for "news" in the world of Robert Morningstar.

        Another major theme Mr. Morningstar has willingly sucked up from his sources is Islamophobia. These sources include the blogs and creepingsharia. As expat reported back in Januay 2016, AM* thinks nothing of deliberately misattributing news images, labeling them as evidence of the crimes of Islam when they are, in fact, no such thing. monitors those sources and, under the tag creepingsharia, documents another flagrant case of misattribution, this time involving video coverage of a religious procession in Bradford, Yorkshire. The procession was not, as alleged, a demonstration in favor of Sharia.

        Morningstar hates because it frequently contradicts his prejudices. But instead of countering its analysis with logical rebuttal, he simply writes the catchphrase "Snopes is for dopes" and leaves it at that. His followers don't seem to mind, and they probably agree.

It's all a conspiracy
        Those twin major themes have almost pushed science and medicine off this horrible page, but those themes do still have a foothold, especially when the news can be twisted to imply a cover-up by governments or large corporations. A few days ago we saw this headline:

Cancer Institute Finally Admits Marijuana Kills Cancer

The source was and the lead was as follows;
"In August 2015, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released a report on their website which stated, “Marijuana kills cancer”. Yes, you read that right – marijuana kills cancer."
        Except that the NCI report cited did not state that. Read the actual report, or the abstract anyway, and you'll find a 6-point bullet list ending with this very, very guarded statement:

* Cannabinoids may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects.

        Why does an educated man—a scholar, no less, he tells us—re-publish such trash without batting an eyelid? I've thought about that question, and here's the picture I have. Morningstar doesn't care about the truth. He has all these sources, and he gets up in the morning and reviews them. He truly sees himself as an editor/aggregator on behalf of a readership that's as bigoted and intolerant as he is, so he just picks whatever stories he thinks will appeal to that readership. The question of whether they are true or not doesn't cross his mind. Snopes is for dopes, for the simple reason that checking out unlikely news stories is a ridiculous and quite unnecessary activity.

        There's also, I think, some element of wishful thinking. He wishes he would be the one to discover a mysterious 10-mile high tower on the Moon, so he fastens on a piece of lint caught in a scanner and makes it so. He wishes he would discover a huge space station in lunar orbit, so an Apollo 10 image of a piece of floating mylar insulation becomes that space station and he calculates its size as 166 miles across. It doesn't occur to him that such an object would be extremely well known to every astronomer both amateur and professional in the world (and by the way, it could NOT be permanently hidden behind the Moon since a selenosynchronous orbit is an impossibility.)

Morningstar's 166-mile space station (public domain)

        If I'm right, it's a waste of time trying to convince him that he's wrong. I will continue to snap at his heels, however, whenever I have time. My hope is that some of his followers may one day see how bamboozled they have become.

Update: Morningstar now accuses me of sympathy with pedophiles

8th July: AM* re-posted a "story" from yournewswire with the headline:

British Man Gets Prison Sentence For Exposing Political Pedophile Ring

        The story concerns a con-man known only as "Nick." This person, now 50 years old, made allegations of sex abuse against a number of public figures, alleging multiple incidents of pedophilia and even murder, dating back 30 years. "Nick" filed a claim for £20,000 compensation.

        The police investigation of these claims, known as Operation Midland, found no evidence to support the allegations and was closed in 2016. Compensation was paid to those who had been harrassed by the investigation.

        Now "Nick" himself has been charged with twelve counts of perverting the cause of justice and one of fraud. He will appear in court in September.

        The yournewswire piece falsely reported that "Nick" has already been sentenced, adding "It’s not the first time the British legal system has conspired against those in society determined to bring pedophiles to justice."

When I posted to AM*'s fooboo page, correcting the yournewswire story, he replied:
"But we all know that what he exposed ("Nick") was true, and the British police are only protecting the guilty."
I replied
"No we don't "all know" that, Robert, that's just your fantasy. Nick's stories were pure fabrications."
AM* then came back with:
"Of course, "You all" don't know about the rampant pedophilia in Britain because you sympathize with pedophiles and so you blind yourself to their crimes."
I demanded that he produce evidence that I sympathize with pedophiles, or retract the accusation.

So far he has done neither.