Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reflections on the Moon

        In a lecture at the Earth-Keeper 2014 Star-Gate Event in Arizona late last year, Richard Hoagland attempted to deal with a logical objection to his interpretation of this lunar image:

image credit: China National Space Administration, corrupted by RCH

        The image is from the Chinese Chang'e 3 lunar lander that touched down in Mare Imbrium on 14th December 2013. Hoagland loaded it into Photoshop™ and used the EQUALIZE tool. I commented on the technique a year ago when Hoagland first explained it, and astronomer Stuart Robbins did his typically rigorous job on it, on 1st May 2014. Hoagland tells his fans that the CCD detector noise in the sky is not noise but part of a vast glass dome over Mare Imbrium.

        The logical objection (other than the simple fact that the whole idea is crazy) is that the same noise pattern can be seen everywhere else in the left half of the image where there is black. Specifically, in the deep shadow under the spacecraft. In the Arizona lecture, Hoagland pre-empted this objection  (at 1:27:00 in the Youtube vid) by reminding us that the lunar regolith is rich in micro-particles of glass, and that therefore it's not surprising that we see that pattern down there. It's simply a reflection of the sky.

Proposition: Lunar regolith is reflective.

Corollary: From chest height, standing on the Moon, the all-black sky will be seen, reflected, in the lunar surface.

Experiment: Go to the Moon, take a good quality photograph from chest height.

 image credit: NASA/JSC
The proposition is falsified.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The pseudomind of Jason Martell

        I'm obliged to Mike Bara for Youtubifying the "Ancient Aliens" panel at the recent Conscious Life Expo. It gave us all a chance to contemplate the howling factual errors presented during those two gruelling hours.

        First up was conspiracy theorist Jim Marrs, who perhaps should have stuck to JFK assassination theories, a topic on which he still has a modicum of credibility. On this occasion he told his audience that NASA offers us no better resolution of images of the Moon and Mars than 100 yards, and at that, they all have "blurred out areas." One wonders where he's been for the last 20 years.

        Jason Martell was an unfamiliar name to me — although I guess I must have seen him on the all-bullshit cable TV show Ancient Aliens, and I probably read Jason Colavito's scholarly put-down in 2013. On the basis of an Arts degree from Mira Costa (a minor community college in S. California) Martell styles himself an expert in ancient technology. His youchoob demo of the Baghdad battery has given many a laugh to people who actually understand electro-plating. His ideas about astronomy are mind-bogglingly incorrect. Here he goes, on the subject of precession and binary star systems:
51:06 "Over 30 ancient cultures used astronomy, and basically used the 12 houses of the zodiac that we have today as like a grand celestial clock. And I've been starting to come in alignment with the idea that the ancients knew a lot more about the rise and fall of civilization, the repeating pattern that seems to happen here on Earth. You guys have heard of the Dark Ages, and the Golden Age -- well, these seem to be terms connected to a larger cycle of time, that the ancients were aware of. Precession today is based on what they call some wobble on the Earth caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon, and various things. And there's like 2,000 variables to it -- to describe the precession of the equinoxes. It's really kind-of out of control. There's a new model that's been catching a lot of publicity, based on some of the new science we have in space -- looking externally at other solar systems. Most solar systems are binary. We're starting to see that they have at least two suns -- sometimes even six, an intricate  dance. So it's very possible that we are a binary solar system -- that we actually have two suns. Our second sun would probably be a brown dwarf -- a dark star at this point, not giving off a lot of heat, not very easy to detect. But a lot of the evidence is pointing to the fact that if we are a binary solar system, the model to explain precession is getting disrupted. If we are a binary, that means that we have two suns in orbit around each other .... so that means that our Sun is literally orbiting around another sun. ?? concept, because that means that we too are moving along through space. If we're orbiting the Sun, we're going along on that journey as its orbit takes place. So there seems to be a correlation between the orbit of these two suns -- and when the suns are at their farthest point we're in the Dark Ages. When the suns are at their closest point we're in the Golden Age. [gesture indicating two objects coming together] Now, if you think about this for a second, this is a very large cycle of time -- a 24,000-year cycle -- and the ancients watched this by every 2,000 years we kind-of point to a new north star, a new direction.

[repeats the point]

If you think about that, all the energy we get from the sun -- you wake up in the morning, you feel the sunlight, gets us going... plants that lean towards the sun. Everything slows down when it's cold. What if we could introduce the electro-magnetism, or whatever these energies are, of two suns, and it exponentially wakens us, so gives us the ability to tap into a higher consciousness. And this is what seems to be taking place."
        Well, let's see... The mathematics of precession are very well understood. Lunisolar precession is caused by the gravitational forces of the Moon and Sun on Earth's equatorial bulge, causing Earth's axis to move with respect to inertial space. Planetary precession is due to the small angle between the gravitational force of the other planets on Earth and the ecliptic, causing the plane of the ecliptic to shift slightly relative to inertial spacenote 1. There is absolutely nothing "out of control" about it.

        Binary stars are reasonably common in the universe but it's by no means true that "most" solar systems are binary. It'snote 2 entirely false of Mr. Martell to suggest that our sun has a dark-star binary companion that we haven't detected. Infra-red telescopes would see such a companion star, and visible-light telescopes would see occultations  caused by such an object on a fairly regular basis. There are three possible planetary orbits around a binary systemnote 3, and in all three cases the presence of the binary would announce itself by very much more extreme annual temperature variation than we actually observe.

        But Martell's biggest screaming error was in describing the two suns as varying from a very distant approach to a very close approach over a cycle of 24,000 years, giving rise to a cycle between Dark Age and Golden Age. In fact, stars in binary formation rotate about their common barycenter, and the distance between them does not necessarily vary greatly or even at all. As for "tap into a higher consciousness," I don't know what that means and I bet the panelists don't really know either, although I don't doubt that they all use that phrase or something similar.

        The audience applauded at the end of this train-wreck of a lecture. If I'd been there I'd have thrown rotten fruit. Binary tomatoes, perhaps.

[1] OK, I confess. I copied those two sentences from wikipedia.

[2] Astroguy corrects me on this point -- see first comment.

[3] The three are orbit around just one of the stars (S-type orbit,) orbit around both (P-type,) and orbit alternately around star A and star B (the figure-eight orbit.)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review of Mike Bara on Coast-to-Coast AM, 1 February

        With Jimmy Church guest-hosting, Mike Bara was allowed out of the stable to frisk around the paddock for a couple of hours last night. An opportunity to pre-plug his next load of rubbishbook, Ancient Aliens and Secret Societies -- also to preen about what he thinks of as a successful prediction.

        It was quickly obvious that the new book will be another lame anti-NASA rant. Mike reiterated his false claim that Buzz Aldrin conducted a Masonic ritual on the Moon (it was a form of catholic mass, actually) and asserted that there was at least one freemason on each of the Apollo flights. I'd like to see his sources on that second claimnote 1, but even if the data is correct, I can't quite see what could be deduced from that. To Mike, it indicates that NASA had an astronaut selection bias toward people who could be trusted to keep secrets. Ergo, to him, this proves that there were secrets to be kept. Ergo, there are aliens on the Moon. Q.E.D. How very, very weak. How pathetic.

        Mike seems to have swallowed Zecharia Sitchen's Nibiru/Annunaki ideas hook, line and sinker — since he regurgitated them (without attribution) last night. I guess he thinks that's what the woo audience wants to hear. Any readers of this blog who don't know what I'm talking about could google Annunaki and settle in to read 861,000 pages of garbage. Alternatively, just pull up Mike Heiser's web site Sitchin Is Wrong.

Planet X, Planet Y
        The Planet X idea officially died last March, when the final results of the WISE infra-red survey were announced. There are no Saturn-sized objects out to 10,000 AU, and no Jupiter-sized objects out to 26,000 AU.note 2 A Scientific American podcast gave the news.

        But it seems the Planet X idea won't lie down. Just recently, astronomer Carlos de la Fuente Marcos of the Computense University of Madrid (with co-authors in Cambridge, UK) publishednote 3 findings on perturbations of the orbits of small extreme trans-Neptunian bodies which suggest the influence of one or two larger bodies out there.The survey is highly preliminary, and based on observations of only 13 small bodies, but that's good enough for Mike Bara the world-renowned planetary astronomer. The basis of his TOLDYA claim is that, in his book The Choice, he ripped off a Richard Hoagland notion that a relationship between angular momentum and luminosity could be seen as predicting trans-Neptunian planets. This blog dealt with that four years ago.

        So how come WISE missed these large bodies? "Oh," quoth the world-famous astronomer, "Maybe they detected them but decided to keep it quiet." As he said that, I felt the anger rising in me -- but then I thought it was better to just laugh it off. After all, when somebody has to posit something as ridiculous as that to make their story stand up, the weakness of the story becomes bloody obvious.

The Haters (that's us, I guess)
       Right at the end, we were treated to Mike's current thoughts about his many critics. Jimmy Church asked how he was coping with that — it went like this:

“You know, Mike, you’ve been rolling that rock uphill in a lot... for a long time, for, uh, you know, twenty years.  And, what do you do, because— what do you do to fight uh, the, the wave that is going against you?  And, not only the skeptics, but the ones that just want to combat you at every step of the way? Because, you know, you choose... and like I said at the intro,  you’re steadfast in... in your research and your belief, and you don’t waver.  How do you keep up the good fight?”


“Well, you know, for me it’s that I know that we are all right about all this stuff.  I mean, there.. there may be certain issues that we’re wrong about.  There may be, you know, maybe some of the 9/11 stuff really isn’t all that serious. Not to bring up a sore subject, but, you know, there are going to be parts of what we believe in as a... as a unit, as a... what do you call them? ‘Fadernauts’ or the Coast to Coast AM audience, or anybody who’s interested in these kinds of TV shows and programs. We... we are gonna... Maybe there’s parts of the story that we’ve got wrong, but the VAST majority of it — 80% of it — we’ve got it right.  And it’s the truth.  And knowing that it’s the truth keeps pushing me forward.

"And, again, I don’t care about convincing those other guys.  I’ve  gotten to the point now where I’ve completely blocked out the people that attack me.  I... you know, I responded for a long time, it takes a lot of energy.  I basically set up a page where I said, ‘If you believe what these people say, here’s my counter-argument,’ uh... a dozen of them or so, and that’s it!  That’s... I’m just gonna let that stand.note 4

"Ummmm, and now I only wanna talk to the people that are actually interested in listening, and knowing that there are people out there that wanna listen, knowing that there are people out there that are gonna make their own discoveries because they’ll be inspired by me, or you, or George Noory, or listening to these programs, or some of the other guests you have on, just... That’s what fuels me — that’s what gets me up every day saying, you know, ‘Hey! We... we need to move forward with this.’

"And the other thing that’s really important, I think, that fires me up, is we are not the weird ones.  They are.  The people that look at us like we’re black sheep — like we’re crazy because we believe this weird stuff, they’re the ones who aren’t awake.  They’re the ones that aren’t paying attention, they’re the ones that are living with their heads in the sand.  So, I really have... feel like I’m on a quest to make people feel comfortable with who they are and with their fascination with this whole realm of stuff that’s out there: All these different issues that we talk about on shows like this."

        So Praise the Lord, Mike admits he might be wrong some of the time. On the other hand, Curse the Lord, Mike has a new policy. It's known as LAAAA LAAAA LAAAA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.

[1] According to this list, only Apollos 7 (Eisele,) 10 (Stafford,) 11 (Aldrin,) 14 (Mitchell)  and 15 (Irwin) qualify. When the book came out, it did not contain that claim.

[2] For comparative  reference, the Kuiper Belt, of icy asteroids, extends to 50 AU. The Oort cloud, containing millions of comets, is at roughly 30,000 AU (80% of a light-year).

[3] C. de la Fuente Marcos, R. de la Fuente Marcos. "Extreme trans-Neptunian objects and the Kozai mechanism: signalling the presence of trans-Plutonian planets? Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters 443(1): L59-L63, 2014. Here's a summary.

[4] This is the page he means. Note the barefaced lie: "As you will see, I never said that orbital eccentricity was measured from the Earth, that centrifugal force makes you heavier..." (See Ancient Aliens on Mars, p.42, and The Choice, p.32.)