Friday, September 16, 2016

The wisdom of Robert Morningstar

James Concannon writes...

        More laughs with Morningstar. Today he posted a 1:42 excerpt of one of his lectures at the Edgar Cayce NYC Center. The audio quality was utterly appalling but after several runs I came up with the following transcript, which I believe is accurate apart from a few minor elisions.
"Remote viewing  [and]  out-of-body experiences  are the natural processes of the human mind, and soul.   Science, over the last 150 years, has... er... suppressed them, and quashed them, and repressed it, and tried to convince us--the public--that if you believe in these faculties you are superstitious. Ahhh... you are... ahhmm..ignorant. And that there's no basis in fact...[?]      Because they believe in a totally materialistic, linear, one-directional time concept of reality. Which is the real falsehood. The idea that life unfolds like a stack of dominoes--just hit one domino and inevitably all the dominoes will fall.   Well, that's not true. Ahhh.. because you're not logical. The universe is not logical.  We now know..[?]...     the last 100 years as well.  The arrival of quantum physics...    relativity...    has shown us that we live simultaneously in a matter-antimatter universe. And the matter universe is the after-effects of the antimatter universe."
        Only seven audience members are visible in the Youtubery, but we must assume that many more had paid decent money to hear this. I have a couple of comments, since I know at least as much as AM* about quantum physics--which is to say, not very much.

1. Science has made no efforts that I know of to suppress or quash remote viewing. Indeed, I don't know how it would go about such a project even if it wanted to. Science has simply said "Show me the money." In other and better words, "Let's see some consistent results from RV that are repeatable and clearly better than guesswork." A 1995 evaluationnote 1 by a blue ribbon panel did find a statistically significant RV effect under some conditions, but it cautioned  "It is unclear whether the observed effects can unambiguously be attributed to the paranormal ability of the remote viewers as opposed to characteristics of the judges or of the target or some other characteristic of the methods used." As for the usefulness of RV in formal intelligence gathering, the panel nixed that completely, and as a result the DIA's $20 million Stargate project was shut down.

A follow-up report by Wiseman and Miltonnote 2 found four methodological problems with SAIC's "Experiment One,"  which the 1995 panel had found compelling, and reported that it could not be repeated. Repeatability is, of course, a requirement for scientific acceptance.

More on the anecdotal side, the celebrity remote viewers who have turned up on the radio show Coast to Coast AM over the years have shown how wildly adrift most of this work can be.  Ed Dames can't seem to get anything right (we're still waiting for his "killshot" to wipe out the human race.) Courtney Brown remote viewed an artificial object trailing Comet Hale-Bopp and was indirectly responsible for the suicide of 39 members of the cult group Heaven's Gate. His "artificial object" was never detected.

So I don't think it's at all unreasonable for the science community to reject the claims of RV-- and rejection is not the same thing as suppression. Ray Hyman, in an article in Skeptical Inquirer, put it succinctly:
"What seems clear is that the scientific community is not going to abandon its fundamental ideas about causality, time, and other principles on the basis of a handful of experiments whose findings have yet to be shown to be replicable and lawful."note 3

2. Quantum physics has not shown what Morningstar says it has shown. Its essential usefulness is in explaining three of the four fundamental forces that make everything happen. It also sheds much light on the wave-particle duality of light. It has little or nothing to say about anti-matter.

Parapsychologists have fallen in love with quantum theory because of the phenomenon of entanglement, per which sub-atomic particles that are very far apart can affect each others' states instantaneously. They speak of "consciousness entanglement" as a possible or probable explanation for RV, but there isn't even a whisper of evidence that such a phenomenon exists, let alone has any practical value.

Now what?
        Well, speaking of practical value-- what, I wonder, does Morningstar think his lecture audiences are going to do with the information he supplies? Storm the gates of the National Acadamies demanding that science get more lenient with parapsychological claims? Remote-view the lottery numbers? Only if they could actually perform the latter trick would they have got value for their money, I fear.

======================/ \====================
[1]  An Evaluation of Remote Viewing: Research and Applications. American Institutes for Research September 29, 1995

[2]  Experiment One of the SAIC Remote Viewing Program: A critical re-examination by Dr Richard Wiseman and Dr Julie Milton. J. Parapsychology 62 (4): 297–308

[3] The Evidence for psychic functioning: Claims vs. Reality. Skeptical Inquirer March-April 1996.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Robert Morningstar: First pseudo-Science, now pseudo-Shakespeare

James Concannon writes...

        As we all know, I no longer follow Robert AM* on the book of farces because I can't stand the political hate (which reached a crescendo over the weekend after Hillary Clinton's fall--the anti-Clinton crowd screaming "media cover-up!" despite the fact that it was the lead story in every newscast I saw last night.) However, I do check in on his page now and then, and I was rewarded yesterday not only by the aforementioned example of loony hysteria, but by this:

        As a follower called Vernon Cutrere correctly pointed out, there is no character named Horatio in Julius Caesar, neither is there an authentic quote expressing the same thought.

        So what--I might even say wtf-- was AM* thinking of? His error headed a link to his favorite and most trusted source of information--the London Daily Mail. In this case it was an article about poverty in the USA. So presumably what he had in his addled mind was "There but for the grace of God go you and I."

Maybe he garbled this quote from Julius Caesar:

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Or maybe he was thinking of the play that really does have a Horatio in it, Hamlet:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

        Mr. Morningstar, the  "civilian intelligence analyst," should stick to what he's good at--frisbee and chess. Come to think of it, every good chess player I've ever met has been a bit dim at everything else.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

David Wilcock gets another 2 hours to misinform and mislead

        On Coast-to-Coast AM Tuesday night, David Wilcock wasn't exhibiting very much of that adolescent rage I wrote about in connection with his stint on Other Side of Midnight a month ago. OK, he did at one point say "The cabal folks are using the power of our consciousness against us," but for most of his first hour he was about the sordid business of book marketing. It was pseudo-history rather than pseudo-science--Jason Colavito's territory par excellence. But he strayed into my territory later, when George Noory asked him about the Secret Space Program.

32:45: "We are surrounded by dozens and dozens and dozens of different extraterrestrial civilizations, that not only visit us, but this is their home. And that's a very important point. There is such a need for space--for living space--on the Moon that the back side of the Moon is just developed out as much as you can handle. There's no space left that hasn't been settled--and apparently, according to some insiders we have coming out of the Russian side of thingsnote 1, it's so busy on the night side of the Moon right now that it looks like Manhattan at night. It's just totally loaded with light, because there's so many different groups there."
        So yet again we have a fantasist with no actual knowledge of space science or astronomy telling us fairy stories about the Moon without making any reference to the ultra high definition imagery available online from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Just take a look around those images and you'll quickly see that what Wilcock was telling us is


        To make matters very much worse, Wilcock had the nerve to actually pretend he had done legitimate photo-research.
35:12: "As much as possible I'm bringing in the evidence, I'm bringing in photographic proof --such as what's called the Blair Cuspids, a group of obelisks that were photographed on the Moon. You can see the shadows coming off of 'em, they're clearly obelisks. And there's these rectangular pits in the ground around where they are. And those rectangles would represent rectangular ruins under the surface, that meteors hitting the Moon causing craters have smashed in the roofs, because they're so old that they're kind-of falling apart."
        Well, we've met the Blair Cuspids before, in the context of Ancient Aliens and my bloggery at that time. Here's the image both AA and Wilcock are relying on:

credit: Prometheus Entertainment

        So here's this buffoon, claiming to be a bona fide researcher ("a professional intuitive consultant," in his C2C profile, ha-ha) but relying on an image taken in 1966 with a resolution of a couple of meters. The original complete frame shows the scale of these shadows: they are not towering obelisks but smallish rock formations at a very low sun angle (look at top right of image h2.) "Trekker," a regular reader and commenter here, found the site at 5.0252°N, 15.583°E. Here they are, at double the resolution of the 1966 shot and a much higher sun angle:

What David Wilcock told his audience on Tuesday night is


        What a week for George Noory! Glynis McCants, David Icke, and this. I thought about blogging Icke but I don't think my blood pressure could stand another self-important nincompoop.

[1] What do the Russians have right now, capable of observing the back side of the Moon? Nothing that I'm aware of.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

George Noory swallows a turkey

        About half way through the first-hour interview last Monday on Coast to Coast AM, George Noory asked his guest "When you first heard this story from Bill Ryan, did you believe it?" The guest replied "I realized intuitively that it was a true story."

        LOL, as they say. Bill Ryan, the former squeeze of Kerry Cassidy, is about as unreliable a source as can be imagined, as this blog has written before. As for "intuitive realization," that and 25¢ will get you a short phone call. The guest was Len Kasten, and the "story" was none other than Project Serpo.

40 × C
        The story of Project Serpo, in a nutshell, is this: One extraterrestrial being survived the "flying saucer crash" at Roswell in 1947, and retrieved a communication  device allowing him to talk to his home planet Serpo, a planet of the ζ Reticuli binary system 39 light years from Earth. This led to an exploration of Serpo by 12 U.S. military astronauts, traveling at 40 times the speed of light. Both wikipedia and rational wikipedia have articles on this hilarious sci-fi fantasy, and both point out the obvious logical objections to the narrative. Perhaps chief among them is that distance. How do you have a conversation with somebody 39 LY away? How do you travel at 40 × C? Kasten, having no education in relativistic physics, confidently states that it's all done by a wormhole, but what exactly is he asking us to believe? Is there just one wormhole linking our solar system to ζ Reticuli, or is there a network of these things in the universe? Are they labeled? How would an expedition find the entrance to the appropriate one, given that a wormhole has never been actually observed and probably never could be? FYI: A wormhole is a purely theoretical solution to some advanced equations in relativity, and the primary benefit therefrom is an exciting way to teach a difficult subject. If wormholes exist at all, they are most likely transient and an excessively unreliable way of traversing the universe.

        Kasten was on hand last Monday not only to reaffirm his faith in this fantasy but to provide updates. The classic version of the story has it that all 12 astronauts died a long time ago, but Kasten now says that one, called "Mr. Euro", survived until 2014 and met with Pope Benedict. Not only that, but diplomatic relations between Earth and Serpo are flourishing, and nine other expeditions have taken place since the original one. The originator of the Serpo story, who was only known as Request Anonymous, was in fact a high-ranking DIA official, and editor of the Red Book of Presidential briefings. Numerous valuable technical secrets have been derived from Serpo, most notably the key to free energy. Kasten explained that we could all be benefiting from free energy right now, but the Illuminati, "who run this planet," won't allow it. So here we go again with that adolescent rage I wrote about in my last post.

Fact vs. fiction
        Well, of course this is all poppycock. Even the gullible Bill Ryan finally admitted he'd been hoodwinked and partly repudiated the story. George Noory himself may have had doubts about it, but he conducted the interview exactly as if he believed every word. He called it "this incredible story" and that's just what it is. There's a key to understanding this bullshit, and it's this. Len Kasten has a book to sell. "Request Anonymous" is not a high-ranking DIA official but Richard C. Doty, a former security guard with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Doty had a book to sell as well. Bingo.

       Why do I care? Why not let C2C-AM get on with its campfire yarns and stop snapping at their heels? There are two reasons. One is that yarns like this seriously devalue real science. The terrible danger is that impressionable people believe them, and since they are incompatible with real science, the real science gets rejected in their eyes. The other is that I feel a duty to remind the consumers of this rubbish that it's really all about selling books and conference fees. This is just how chat radio works--radio gets interviewees for free (and they lose a night's sleep, often) in return for flagrant  book marketing. Welcome to the real world.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Richard Hoagland has so much to learn

        We already know that Richard Hoagland is utterly incompetent at math, but now it seems he's about equally incompetent as a chat radio interviewer. I've "come across" an .mp3 file of the 30th July edition of The Other Side of Midnight, and it's pretty amusing. This is a two-hour show, five (theoretically!) nights a week, that he's been hosting for over a year now, and he still hasn't learned some basic interview skills such as NOT asking a question then cutting your guest off after he's spoken only ten words in reply. Here's a verbatim transcript:
 25:30 Intervieweee: "This election is a cartoon. It's unbelievable. Erm... You have this guy who's a ... a well-known blowhard, you know, celebrity narcissist character. And then you have this woman who, ah, basically if you understand certain insider testimony she already was president for eight years. She ran the country --  Bill was off signing greeting cards and, you know, messing around with staffers, and Hillary was in there actually making all the decisions. She was really the President."

Hoagland: "Hang on David, Hang on. How the hell do you know that?"

Intervieweee: "Multiple insiders have spoken to me, and have said that, ah..."

Hoagland: "Hang on, let me stop you..."
        The interviewee was in fact David Wilcock, a delusional author specializing in apocalyptic predictions. His bio claims, in part, that "Multiple insiders with access to highly classified information have shared what they know with David." He throws the expression "quantum physics" around almost as capriciously as Hoagland himself tosses out "hyperdimensional physics" and "torsion field." It's quite evident that neither of them has any actual understanding of physics. About half-way through this interview Wilcock informed us that if you look in a microscope anywhere in the universe, and you zoom down to the sub-atomic level, you'll arrive at the exact same point, the "seed." This is, er... not exactly correct.

It's paranoia time
         If one single word could encapsulate this extravaganza, it would be PARANOIA -- on the part of both Wilcock and Hoagland. Paranoia at an almost Kerry Cassidy level of intensity. Both of them seem totally convinced that  the Illuminati are enslaving all of us. Even the Alex Jones-inspired term "prison planet" came up without anybody's tongue in his cheek. Numerology also gets wrapped in to their thinking, as when Wilcock commented on the fact that Stanley Kubrick died of a heart attack on the exact same day (7 March 1999) that Richard Hoagland had his own infarctnote 1.
18:41 Wilcock: "When we hear about something like people trying to ice you and actually icing Kubrick 666 days before January 1st 2001, it's not only not a coincidence, and it's not only a deliberate thing that was done. It is actually a black magic attempt to create energy through these human sacrifices."
        Hoagland himself keeps insisting -- without evidence -- that his cardiac emergency was a deliberate attempt on his life, rather than a natural phenomenon of a mid-50s man in a stressful situation. Kubrick was 70 when he died, and most people would look no further than his age and his highly stressful occupation for a causus morti. Wilcock didn't think to let us know whether this "attempt to create energy" was successful or, if so, what exact form the energy took.

        The bullshit was laid down thick and fast. Hoagland spoke of "psychotronic energy," which he explained as the use of hyperdimensional physics (of course!) to control human beings. Wilcock alluded to some "intention experiment" conducted by Maharishi Mahesh in the 60s, whereat meditation by a large number of people succeeded in reducing strife in the world by 72%.
47:36 Wilcock: "Look, there's no war strategy, there's no B2 bomber, there's nothing that they've ever spent money on that could even begin to accomplish a 72% reduction in terrorism. This technology -- and it is a technology -- has overwhelming significance and if you think about how threatening that would be to the power elite... They need us to stay depressed -- they need us to stay locked up in a world of weaponized food and alcohol and drug addictions to prescription drugs or all kinds of different things they're pushing on us. They don't want us to be happy, they don't want us to be empowered, they don't want us to be healthy, and they need us to stay depressed because if too many people get happy it changes the physics and they will not be able to maintain power."
        "Weaponized food" -- what a perfect description of that chicken vindaloo I had last Friday night. To me, there's something adolescent about this "THEY are controlling us" mindset. It's so reminiscent of children getting enraged when they discover that their parents have all the power in the family. There too, food -- the provision or withholding of it -- is often a symbol of power, or perceived as such. And what is teenage angst but the denial of happiness by a cruel world? When Wilcock says "if too many people get happy it changes the physics..." I become convinced that not only does he not understand physics, but he doesn't even know what physics is.

        At one point, discussing the mighty changes sweeping through the whole solar systemnote 2, Hoagland came up with a wonderful ploy. Pluto, he said, was not only a planet but an artificial body, "an archive." He said "I predicted that -- months before they got there." So here's the Hoagland formula for self-defined success:

1. Make a nonsense prediction.
2. Claim that it came true.
3. Pat yourself on the back.


===================/ \=================
[1] Actually, according to his own notes, Hoagland's event was a day earlier.

[2] It's brightening, according to Hoagland and Wilcock. Strange that astronomers with access to actual instruments haven't noticed that.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Ancient Aliens" continues its mission to misinform the public

        The TV series Ancient Aliens continued the [Pseudo-]History Channel's self-appointed mission to get things wrong and point the camera at people who know nothing at all about the topic at hand, in S11E11: Space Station Moon aired just a few days ago. I mean, WTF qualifies George Noory or David Wilcock to talk to us about the Moon, per-lease? At least Mike Bara can claim that he's an expert because he's written a book about the Moon. You know and I know that the book was junk, but the audience and the producers of this travesty maybe don't. As usual, the production values were top class -- well shot and edited, fine audio mix etc.

        However, the first howler (and it was a DOOZY) came, not from a know-nothing like Noory or Wilcock, or even Hatcher Childress, but apparently from the lips of another Moon-book author, Rick Stroud of The Book of the Moon. It was this:

06:01note 1 "The reason the Moon has phases is that the Earth blocks the light of the Sun as the Moon moves around the Earth."

        I wrote "apparently" back there because they cut away to animation during this statement, so it's possible that some bozo of an editor made Stroud seem to say what he never actually said. The real reason the Moon has phases, of course, is that the angle formed by the Earth-Moon-Sun system varies from 0° to 360° over the month. The reason we don't see eclipses every month is that the plane of the Moon's orbit only occasionally aligns with the ecliptic. I think most 6th grade school students know that. Considering the number of times this show would have been reviewed -- first by the editor and director, then by editor, director and producer, then a full-dress affair crowded with execs and hangers-on -- it's totally gob-smacking that nobody said "Hang on a minute, chaps...."

        Around the 08:40 mark we got into the classic falsehood that Armstrong and Aldrin saw flying saucers and were "warned off." I wrote about this earlier in July. Heaven be praised, they didn't actually use that ridiculous pseudo-quote "Their ships were far superior to ours" -- but Michael Salla spoke of a mysterious two-minute gap in the air-to-ground dialog on Apollo 11, and the fantasist David Hatcher Childress said "the astronauts talked about seeing extraterrestrial objects on the Moon." No they didn't, David old son. It's in your imagination. Then it was over to Mike Bara again:

09:27 "Now the truth is that each of the astronauts had a separate medical channel. That channel was not public and it could have been very easily used to communicate information that you didn't want to be heard by the general public transmissions."

        That's not the truth, Mike -- it's the UNtruth. There was no such thing as a "separate medical channel." The astronauts could request private consultations but those were fed over the exact same S-band link as the rest of the air-to-ground. The difference is that they were not released to the Press. James Oberg has covered this very well, citingnote 2 his interview  with Terry White and Charles Redmond in 1980:

White: Occasionally we would configure for private medical or family conversations. There was no special frequency or code, we'd just have the rest of the consoles get disconnected at the communications center.
Redmond: The medical conversations were not recorded, and were not released -- although we would summarize them in press conferences. There's something in the Hippocratic Oath about a doctor having to maintain confidentiality with his patients.
Question: How often did this happen?
Redmond: During Apollo, quite infrequently. During Skylab, we'd have such a talk maybe every three days or so.
Question: So there was no special code or secret channel?
Redmond: No, we used our ordinary channels, but the crew would request the doctor only -- the "flight surgeon" -- and the rest of us would disconnect.
White: Or else the crew could talk privately to their families in a back room down the hall from the control room.
Question: Outside of these confidential talks with doctors, wives, and children, were there any other conversations not publicly available?
Redmond: No, I don't think so, I don't see how they could have managed it.

What if...?
       Shortly there follows a fairly classy two- or three-minute segment explaining how very different Earth would be without the Moon -- without the ocean tides it creates, and without its braking effect on the Earth's rotation. Perhaps, the script muses, life itself would never have arisen if it had not been for the Moon. For once they got something right.

        Then it's back to the familiar misinfo, as Bara says it's very mysterious that almost all craters on the Moon are the same depth (they aren't,) and Giorgio Tsoukalos says it "doesn't make sense" that the floors of craters are concave [See Update] (yes, Giorgio, of course it does.) This is all leading up to the hollow Moon theory, which this blog covered in January 2015. Hilariously inappropriate words like "an alien spaceship," "a thriving extraterrestrial community" trigger lavish and totally imaginary animations of the Moon inhabited by aliens. George Noory wraps up this segment by calling it a "Death Star." The whole segment is an exercise in simply "making things up."
 credit: Prometheus Entertainment

        I ask the question I always ask faced with these fantasies -- "Where are the solar arrays the aliens would undoubtedly need as an energy source to power their Death Star?"

1202 alarm
        Having flogged that horse to death, the script now turns to the question of observed artificial structures on the Moon. Richard Hoagland must have had a fit if he watched this, because they used none of his material about glass skyscrapers and fairy castles at all. Instead, they focused on some "spires" in the Sea of Tranquility that they say were captured by Lunar Orbiter 2 in 1966 (but see comments from OneBigMonkey below -- the image is not from Orbiter 2 and it's not in the Sea of Tranquility but 1400 km away near Tycho.)

credit: Prometheus Entertainment

        Naturally, nobody thought of examining the far better and more modern  images from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to check these things -- or perhaps they thought of it but didn't want to spoil a good yarn. It gave Mike Bara a chance to botch a famous story.

34:11 "On Apollo 11, when the astronauts were descending to the lunar surface, they got this very strange computer alarm ..[SOF].. the famous 1202 computer alarm that basically nobody knew what it was. What it came out to was that the computer itself was overwhelmed with information, because Buzz Aldrin, the Lunar Module Pilot, had turned on the radars on the lunar lander. They had two radars -- they had a side-looking radar and they had a docking radar. [So] you had one pointed down, and one pointed to the side. Now, if there's nothing on the surface of the Moon, if there are no artificial structures , if there are no spires sticking 10-20 storeys up in the sky, why would you turn on the side radar? There's no reason to but Aldrin did it, and I think it's because he knew, and NASA knew, that there was some danger of running into these things."note 3

       He gets the story partly right. The two radar systems were in fact the rendezvous radar and the landing radar. Space mythology often holds that Aldrin left the rendezvous radar on by mistake, but in fact it was more subtle than that. The rendezvous radar was on as planned, in case of a landing abort, but it should have been configured so that the computer didn't waste time interrogating it for data that obviously wasn't there. Peter Adler tells the tale here, and a highly technical explanation is here. Nothing to do with "spires" (which are actually large rocks in crater Tycho similar to the Blair cuspids -- thank you OneBigMonkey -- a long way from the Apollo 11 site.) As for "nobody knew what it was" -- the whole point is that they did know what it was and correctly recommended that the landing could go ahead.

        In the course of wrapping this up they come up with the childish fallacy "the dark side of the Moon" and the utter nonsense that Wernher Von Braun was the Head of NASA in the sixties (his highest position was actually Deputy Associate Administrator for Planning.) All in all, this was a classic comedy of errors, on a par with "Viking 1 Landed at Cydonia" (S6E16) and "The only launch pad at White Sands missile range is pad 33" (S4E5). But of course, we've long since ceased to expect anything better from this ill-informed parade of popinjays.

I misheard. Tsoukalos said it doesn't make sense that crater floors are conVEX, not conCAVE. It's true that a few craters have this property -- a prime example is Hesiodus A. But it does make sense -- it happens when a deep impact crater is invaded with upwelling lava.
=====================/ \======================
[1] All quoted times are for the 42-minute version, with commercials excised.
[2] From Oberg's book UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries: A Sympathetic Skeptic's Report (1982)
[3] Considering that the whole purpose of the Lunar Orbiter program  was to scout landing sites, and that the requirements for the first landing were "safety safety safety," it's preposterous to suggest that they picked a site where there was a known hazard. Add that to the fact that the cuspids were miles away, and weren't spires or obelisks anyway, and Mike Bara stands guilty of yet another colossal fabrication.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

40 Years of the Face on Mars

        We seem to be doing anniversaries right now. When a newspaper column or a TV show falls back on anniversaries, it's a sign that the editors and producers can't come up with anything better. That's very likely true of blogs, too. My favorite targets haven't been very blogworthy lately. Richard Hoagland is doing his 5-nights-a-week radio chat shownote 1 (although replays and glitches seem to be making it more like 3-nights-a-week) -- Mike Bara is prowling the bars of Santa Monica in search of wife #2 and tweeting hate against muslims (weirdly, apostrophizing the word) -- Robert Morningstar is totally wrapped up in politics and will probably stay that way until after the election. Kerry Cassidy is off in Europe spending her fans' money and not contributing much to pseudoscience except to write of the Bastille Day massacre in Nice "The signs are clear.  False Flag."note 2. (WHAT signs Kerry?)

        So fine, we'll do anniversaries. 40 years ago today the press on the NASA beat were shown the image that launched a thousand theories.

credit: NASA/JPL

        The image was actually acquired the previous day, 25 July 1976, from a range of 1873 kilometers (1162 miles).note 3 note 4 The Viking 1 orbiter was still in its site certification orbit, 1513 x 33,000 km. The image was designated 035A72, meaning the 72nd image taken on the 35th orbit.The resolution of the image was 48 m/px at the center. A second Viking image (070A13) was acquired on 30 July, 35 orbits later, with slighly improved resolution (44.7 m/px.)note 5. Viking Orbiters acquired sixteen more images of "Owen Mesa" but at much poorer resolutionsnote 6.

        It was not to be until 5 April 1998 that the next image was acquired, by Mars Global Surveyor, and it was a massive disappointment. Even contrast-enhanced, it looked like this:

credit: MSSS

        When Malin Space Science specialists used every enhancement trick they knew, they came up with this:

credit: MSSS

        The resolution of that image is 4.3 m/px -- almost exactly ten times better than the best Viking shot. The problem was that haze and dust covered the area.note 7. The above image was notoriously dubbed "a catbox" by Art Bell during discussion with Richard Hoagland on Coast to Coast AM. I heard that show and I'll never forget Hoagland making an utter fool of himself by yelling "Somebody stole six gray levels!"

        However, a better enhancement was carried out by Tim Parker of JPLnote 8, and that became the Astronomy Picture OTD on 7 April.

        MGS went off and did real science for three years, but on 8 April 2001 another opportunity to shoot Owen Mesa arose, this time in clear conditions and from directly overhead. Hooray! With a lower orbit, the resolution improved to 1.56 m/px.


A full resolution version (5.3 MB) can be viewed here.

        Next up was the ESA's Mars Express. Initially frustrated by the same appalling weather as had bedeviled MGS, on 22 July 2006, during orbit #3253, the High Resolution Stereo Camera acquired enough color images at a resolution of 13.7 m/px for a 3-D compilation to be made.note 9. An animation was even released.

credit: ESA

        Until men land on Mars and explore, we're unlikely to see a better image than this one, acquired on 5 April 2007 by the HiRISE telescope on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at a range of 300 km.note 10. Its resolution is 25 cm/px -- the size of a small dinner plate. Click to see the real thing.

credit: MSSS/JPL/Univ. Ariz.

        So, to sum up, we've gone from a resolution of 44.7 m/px to 0.25 m/px in these steps:

Viking 1976: 44.7
Mars Global Surveyor 1998: 4.3 but fogged
Mars Global Surveyor 2001: 1.56
Mars Express 2006: 13.7 color, stereo
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 2007: 0.25

        If this were a purposefully created artifact, it stands to reason that as resolution improved we would see and appreciate more and more detail of the workmanship. In fact, the reverse has happened -- we get more and more convinced that Owen Mesa is... well, just a mesa.

[1] Speaking of anniversaries, July 21 was the first anniversary of Hoagland's show. My personal prediction that it would sink without trace before Thanksgiving was way off.
[2] Kerry's blog, 15 July 
[3] Viking Press Release   P-17384
[4] Data page on 035A72 
[5] Data page on 070A13
[6] Malin Space Science Systems page, 1995. I call the feature "Owen Mesa" in honor of Tobias Owen who first noticed it
[7] MSSS data page 
[8] JPL release  6 April 1998
[9] ESA release
[10] HiRISE data page

Monday, July 18, 2016

Happy birthday John Glenn, 95 today

In honor of the occasion, here's a look back at a blogpost from 21 February 2012:

        Richard C. Hoagland made a right ass of himself on Coast to Coast AM last night. Nothing unusual there, you may say. True, but this was a doozy.

        The proximate reason for booking this self-publicizing pseudo-scientist was the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's heroic Mercury mission, orbiting an American astronaut for the first time. Toward the end of hour 1, Hoagland made reference to Glenn's famous appearance on the Frasier comedy sitcom. Hoagland, hilariously, called Glenn's appearance a "scathing indictment of NASA," and proceeded to read Glenn's script as reprinted in Dark Mission p. 542 (2nd edn.)

"Back in those glory days, I was very uncomfortable when they asked us to say things we didn't want to say and deny other things. Some people asked ... "Were you alone out there?" We never gave the real answer, and yet we see things out there -- strange things -- but we know what we saw out there. And we couldn't really say anything. The bosses were really afraid of this, they were afraid  of the 'War of the Worlds'-type stuff, and about panic in the streets. So we had to keep quiet."
        Hoagland & Bara apparently believe this was an example of a NASA astronaut spilling the beans, revealing his true thoughts. Well, first off, it's quite true. Col. Glenn did say that. It was Frasier Season 8, Ep 184, first aired March 6, 2001. Frasier is A COMEDY SHOW. In case Hoagland or Bara is reading this, please let me explain the joke, because you obviously don't get it.

        The plot involved the character of Roz planning a radio show about space exploration. In a reversal of their usual roles, Roz is in charge, with Frasier merely booked to narrate the show. Neither of them adapts well to the work situation, and they clash repeatedly. Eventually Roz announces that Frasier is off the show, to be replaced by none other than John Glenn. Frasier, outraged, persists in interfering, and the argument escalates. Glenn sits down in the recording studio and begins the "improvised" monologue that Hoagland & Bara quoted. Glenn's monologue is actually intercut with scenes of Roz and Frasier still fighting and paying no attention to what their celebrity guest is saying.

        THE JOKE, Mr Hoagland and Mr Bara, IS THAT THE CHARACTERS ARE SO SELF-ABSORBED THAT THEY TOTALLY MISS SENSATIONAL MATERIAL. In fact they even hand over the recorded tape without having heard it. Just to be quite sure we understand this is a spoof, the producers added a laugh track throughout Glenn's monologue.

        Geddit? Geddit? Oh dear me, what clowns Hoagland & Bara are to be sure.....