Exposing PseudoAstronomy

December 29, 2012

2012 Psychic Predictions Roundup: Laypeople and Professionals Both Continue to Fail


Download the Predictions Roundup Document (PDF)

Introduction

Continuing a tradition that I started in 2010 and continued in 2011, I am posting a “psychic roundup” to celebrate the end of one Julian calendar year and bring in the next. In previous years, I have focused on Coast to Coast AM audience and professional predictions, and my conclusion has been, in one word: Bad. Average around 6% correct.

This year, I have branched out to other sources for three primary reasons. First, Coast has changed their format such that the audience predictions are more annoying and outlandish and it’s no longer one per person. Second, Coast is no longer doing a night or two of professional predictions where they bring in several guests per night to discuss the year ahead. It’s just a few people scattered over January. Third, last year, I was criticized for relying on Coast with people on some forums complaining that it wasn’t a good sample because no “reputable” person would go on the show anymore. I was also criticized for lumping different “kinds” of methods together, like astrologers with mediums.

So, I sniffed out seventeen other people who claim to make foresight-ful predictions who were not on Coast. I recorded their predictions, and I’ve scored them. I scored 549 predictions made by various people this year. If you want to just get right to ‘em, then see the link above or below. If you want more of a summary and a “how,” keep reading.

Download the Predictions Roundup Document (PDF)

People

Beyond the laypeople in the Coast audience, this year, the pros featured: Joseph Jacobs, Glynis McCants, Mark Lerner, Maureen Hancock, Paul Gercio, and John Hogue. The other 17 pros I looked at were: Concetta Bertoldi, Da Juana Byrd, Linda & Terri Jamison, Joseph Tittel, LaMont Hamilton, Carmen Harra, Judy Hevenly, Roxanne Hulderman, Blair Robertson, Pattie Canova, Cal Orey, Sasha Graham, Elaine Clayton, Denise Guzzardo, and Terry Nazon.

Many of these people are highly respected in their fields and charge a lot of money for readings (if they do readings). Let’s see how they did …

Scoring

I continued my tradition from last year with being somewhat strict in either calling something a miss or saying it was too vague or obvious or not a prediction. In one case, I had to call the “psychic” ignorant based on my reading of their prediction (that Antarctica would be found to have land under it?).

With that in mind, I was also what some may consider generous, giving some high probability hits (like Newt Gingrich would win the South Carolina primaries).

All numerical scores are the number of hits divided by the number of hits plus the number of misses. That means that predictions that were too vague/etc. were NOT counted against them, nor for them. The uncertainty is the square-root of the number of hits divided by the sum of the number of hits plus misses.

How They Did

I separated the folks into three groups: Coast audience, Coast professionals, and other professionals. Here’s how they did:

  • C2C Audience: 6.6±2.1%
  • C2C Pros: 15.6±7.0%
  • Other Pros: 7.5±1.7%

How They Did, Removing U.S. Presidential Election Stuff

The USA had a presidential election this year. About 3.3% of the predictions had specifically to do with who would run and be elected. These were pretty high-probability for the actual results followed what analysts were predicting months in advance.

So, to try to un-bias the predictions relative to previous years, I removed ALL predictions having to do with the either who would be the nominee on the Republican side or who would win the presidency. The results, and compared with previous years, are:

  • C2C Audience
    • 2012: 6.7±2.2% (4.7% too vague to score)
    • 2011: 5.8±2.3% (8.8% too vague to score)
    • 2010: 5.7±2.3%
  • C2C Pros
    • 2012: 13.8±6.9% (17.1% too vague to score)
    • 2011: 2.6±2.6% (39.0% too vague to score)
    • 2010: 11.5±4.3%
  • Other Professionals
    • 2012: 5.5±1.5% (27.1% too vague to score)

Several Conclusions from the Data

Note that these are discussed in more detail in the massive PDF file that lists all the predictions. For the shorter version …

First, I repeat this every year – and I predict that I’ll repeat it, in effect, next year – these “professionals” are NOT capable of telling the future any better than you or I, and some of them are in fact far worse.

Second, another thing I repeat every year and has held true this year, is that the pros are much vaguer than laypeople. On average, they’re a factor of around 3-5x vaguer in the sense that, percentage-wise, 3-5x more of their predictions are too vague to actually score. This means that they’re very easy to retrodict, after the event occurs, to claim accuracy. But, that “accuracy” is useless because it was not something that could be actionable when the “prediction” was made because it was so vague

Third, if the small numbers can be believed, the pros are better at setting aside their personal aspirations for politics — of the 12 predictions dropped because they were about the presidency, 1 hit and 2 misses were from the laypeople, while 7 hits and 3 misses were from pros. This indicates they got more right than the laypeople, which, while someone could point to that and say it proves they’re more psychic/intuitive/whatever, an objective person would look at that and point out that they were simply more likely to state what the polls and analysts were saying at the time.

Fourth, again if small numbers can be believed, when separating the pros into psychic-mediums, psychics, intuitives, and astrologers, the prediction rates were identical — except for the astrologers, who got 0. The only difference was that the psychics were much less vague, averaging around 19% unscorable versus about 35% unscorable for the others. I’ll have to watch that and see if it pans out in future years.

Scoring, Revisited

Before I wrap this up, I want to revisit the scoring and point out a major difference between the prognosticator and what I would consider an objective person looking to see if a “psychic” prediction is accurate or if it’s so vague that it can be retrodicted after the event to claim accuracy.

My example is Linda and Terri Jamison, the “Psychic Twins” who claim to be “psychic mediums.” They stated they see “one or two major schools being victimized by a young terrorist in the U.S.”

I consider that a miss. A terrorist is someone who commits their terrorism to create fear and panic, usually in the pursuit of political aims. By all accounts — except for the very conspiracy-minded, who unfortunately have been on C2C talking about this — Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hooke Elementary School shooter, was anti-social and disturbed. NOT a terrorist, not doing this for political gain, no cause in mind, and no greater demands for a group. To me, this is NOT a correct prediction for the twins. Sandy Hooke Elementary is – no offense – also not exactly what I would consider a “major school” (someone from Connecticut please correct me if I’m wrong).

However, I fully expect the twins to go out and claim that they predicted the Sandy Hooke shooting based on their above statement, just as they’ve been saying for over a decade they predicted the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks via the following exchange:

– Twin A: “We’re seeing a lot of natural disasters in terms of earthquakes and hurricanes, uh, blizzards and earthquakes coming up, especially in the next 10-12 years. A lot of activity like that because of global warming. We are seeing, uh, various terrorist attacks on Federal government, uh, excuse me — Federal buildings, um –“
– Twin 1: “– yeah, particularly, uh, South Carolina or Georgia.”
– Art Bell: “Really.”
– Twin 1: “Uh, by July 2002, and also uh, the New York Trade Center, the World Trade Center in 2002.”
– Art Bell: “Really.”
– Twin 1: “Uh, with something with a terrorist attack and, um, yeah, so that’s pretty much it.”

That is their claim for predicting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. I consider it a miss. But that’s a future blog post.

Final Thoughts

That about wraps it up for this year. I’m not going to repeat my small tirade from last year against the amount of money people waste on these professionals. I’ll just ask that you look at the data: They don’t do any better than you.

I’ll also ask that if you found this at all useful or interesting, please help spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, message boards, your favorite podcast (unless it’s mine, in which case I already know), etc. A lot of work went into it, and as far as I know, this is one of the most comprehensive looks at predictions for 2012 (and thanks again to Matt T. for help on scoring several items).

Also, if I got anything wrong, please let me know by posting in the comments or sending me an e-mail.

December 26, 2012

2012 Year in Review for “Exposing PseudoAstronomy”


Introduction

I haven’t done one of these before, but I thought that since everybody’s doing it, of course I should, too. I’m not going to talk about overall stats or stuff like that except in specific cases. More, I’m going to talk about content on here and my podcast.

Podcast

I’ll start with this first to get it out of the way. This year saw me start by changing my podcast from two to four promised episodes per month, which I then had to drop down in September to two again. January should see me go back up to four.

Topic-wise, I covered a vast variety, with Planet X and image processing, age modeling / dating and pyramid-star correlations (claimed). I also produced my first video, and while promising a second, I still have yet to deliver it.

On with the blog topics …

Psychics (and related)

The year started out with my first actual blog post on scoring psychic predictions for 2011. I posted it January 5 and it failed to reach the page views I had hoped, despite Phil Plait tweeting about it mid-February. I’m working on getting 2012’s out much sooner (next few days … by Jan. 1).

Anyone who has suggestions about places I can post/link/send my 2012 psychic predictions run-down to (I’ll be grading over 300 predictions by about 15 “pros”), let me know.

2012 / Planet X

I really didn’t have too many posts on this until “the end” – the last few days leading up to December 21, 2012. Obviously this was the major topic for “pseudoastronomy”-related topics this year, at least in terms of public consciousness. As such, it was by far the most common search term that got people to the blog, and my page views rose steadily in the weeks up to 12/21/2012. They then doubled in the two days before and on that date, and now dropped down to about 10-15% that level.

I’ve been approached by the admin of the 2012hoax.org website to get involved with his next project — I’ve agreed as my time allows, so you may hear more on that later.

Lawsuits

I wrote a post about this but never actually posted it. I’m still not going to mention specifics because I don’t see a huge need to at the moment, but I can talk about it without using names nor subject matter. I may also screen comments that make specific allegations about it — just FYI on that — and I will not respond to requests for more specifics.

I was (peripherally) threatened with a lawsuit in September over a series of posts I had written relating to what is considered by the vast majority of scientifically literate people to be a pseudoscience. The person in question said I had lied about them, that I had made false allegations about them, and that I seemed fixated on them and it made them uncomfortable (despite having written one blog post referencing their material in the 2012 calendar year). And there were many others in this person’s field-of-choice whom I could pick on.

I say that I was “peripherally” threatened with a lawsuit because I was never contacted directly by this person nor an agent acting on their behalf with regards to this matter. Rather, I found out about this when my boss e-mailed me telling me that this person had written to him about me and talking about suing me. And then I found out that this person had written to my university saying that they may try to sue the university, as well, because of what I had written.

And then within about two days, it all disappeared. The posts on this person’s website about me were taken down, the person’s Twitter feed went private, and even the Cyber Security ad that this person or this person’s agent had posted went unfulfilled.

My guess – and this is not a statement of fact, it is my own musing based on the evidence that I have – is that this person actually did contact a lawyer as they had threatened. And the lawyer told this person that not only did this person have zero case against me (not only because the case was without merit but also because of the statute of limitations on libel in the US), but now I would have a fairly good case against this person for libel, harassment, and employer (attempted) intimidation.

I’ve maintained all my documentation about this, including what this person had posted, and perhaps at a later date I will post it (after the statute of limitations, perhaps?).

Lunar Ziggurat

Probably one of my more interesting topics – not for its actual subject matter, but more for what ensued as a result – was the whole shindig with Richard Hoagland’s claim of Mike Bara’s claim that there is a ziggurat on the far side of the Moon.

A lot of stuff went into this, and that link provides an itemized and in-order contents of all the blog posts I wrote about it as well as three podcasts (including one video).

It also resulted in Mike slamming me in his new book and going on at least a half-dozen radio programs and speaking out against my analysis. In the process, Mike continued to make numerous mistakes and conspiracy claims (such as he trusts no new images from NASA, or that he hasn’t trusted the Japanese (and so their lunar images) since Pearl Harbor).

I’ve written and submitted an article for Skeptical Inquirer summarizing “what went down” and if it’s accepted, I’ll let y’all know. I’d consider this perhaps one of the more interesting things I did related to skepticism in 2012.

Not So Much Creationism, More Richard Hoagland (and related)

In the past few years, some of my bread-and-butter was young-Earth creationist claims and going through them and showing why they’re wrong. This year, though I still have a dozen articles open that I plan to (eventually) write about, I definitely migrated to write more about other things. A larger theme this year was related to Richard C. Hoagland’s claims.

Some have been just so crazy that I’m not sure I could even write about them. The fall into a category that I recently learned: Not even wrong. As in, it’s just so “out there” that there’s no place to even start to debunk it. It’s so wrong that saying it’s wrong is under-stating the wrongness of it. It’s off the charts on the Wrongitude® meter. Such as his phone-in to Coast to Coast AM on December 21, 2012, stating that HAARP was finally fulfilling its purpose and had been active all day, preventing the world from tipping over. I mean, how do you even start to address that?

Some Philosophy

It was related to the lunar ziggurat stuff, but I don’t normally dip into many deep, personal feelings nor thoughts nor philosophy on this blog. I’m opinionated, definitely, but I don’t normally get into much detail.

Probably the post that best exemplified philosophy this year was my post, “Do Skeptics Hate the People They Debunk?” I wish it had gotten more reads ’cause I considered it a pretty good post. Oh, and then I did a, “What’s a Skeptic?” post a month later.

How Science Is Done

I also had a few posts this year on the basic scientific process. From grant reviews to how scientists are funded, to the fact that a presentation at a science conference doesn’t mean it’s not pseudoscience.

TAM Conference

This was also my first year at TAM. I wrote two blog posts about it, the first one on that page being quite lengthy and describing my experience, and the second one on that page being about errors in some of the talks. Looking back, 6 months later, I’d like to say that my views have mellowed somewhat, and that chances are >50% that I’ll go back in 2013. I’m also still attempting to convince D.J. Grothe to book me in some sort of speaking role (panel, workshop, maybe even talk?), but as you can likely imagine, doing so can be difficult.

Unfinished Posts

I also started to write a few blog posts this year that I never finished … but will, as soon as I get unbusy. I swear ;).

Well, some perhaps not. But the ones that I do plan on finishing are, “How To (and Not To) Give an Oral and/or Poster Presentation,” “How Is Science Vetted and Reviewed?” and ““John Carter” Movie Was Historical/Science Faction, According to Richard Hoagland.” That last one should be fun. :)

Year Ahead

Obviously, as I’ve shown with my 2010 and 2011 psychic predictions, no one can predict the future. But, we can make some educated guesses.

On the podcast front, I do plan on getting back to 4 per month. I may have to cut back again, but that’s the plan at least for the near future. I also want to get more into making some videos related to these topics.

I have so many topics to write about in the queue that I’m not hurting for them, but finding time to do it will be interesting, at least for the first half of the year. I just heard back this morning from a large grant I had submitted that I thought had a very good chance of getting funded, but it did not. So, come July, I may have a heck of a lot more free time forced upon me. Anyone know the cheapest place to buy ramen?

Conference-wise, I discussed TAM above. I will also be giving a reprise of my moon hoax talk at the Colorado School of Mines’ Yuri’s Night celebration in April, and I’ll be at the Denver Skeptics’ SkeptiCamp this May(?) giving some TBD talk — maybe about image processing gone wrong, maybe about UFOs.

I’m also still trying to get on Coast to Coast AM. George Noory (the host) did state twice in the episode that Mike ranted about me that he would have me on. My last e-mail to George, about two months ago, did get a response, but it was very non-commital. Recently, I was fortunate and a recurring guest on the show who has followed some of my work suggested to Lisa (the executive producer) that I be on. So, we’ll see. I’m hesitant to nag, but if I go a year without mentioning it, chances are it’ll never happen.

I will still post announcements for podcast episode releases to the blog. I realize for some people that may be annoying, but just stick the RSS feed in your reader and ignore those if you don’t want to read them. I’m not the best at marketing, but this is one outlet I can use.

Edited to Add (12/27/2012): I’m also thinking I may finally try to do an eBook of some sort. Perhaps on Planet X and various peoples’ ideas for it and why NONE of them work.

Final Thoughts

And with that all said, I think that about sums up 2012 for my Exposing PseudoAstronomy® franchise. To those who’ve made it this far, perhaps you’d like to Comment on what your favorite and/or least favorite topic(s) have been over the last year, and what you’d like to see different in the future.

December 21, 2012

Podcast Episode 58: Post-December 21, 2012 Solstice – We’re Still Here


This post/podcast is going out as we pass through the December 21, 2012, solstice at 11:12 AM GMT. We’re still here.

That’s all.

December 20, 2012

As the December 21, 2012, Solstice Approaches …

Filed under: doomsday,humor — Stuart Robbins @ 5:57 pm
Tags: , ,

My blog is getting a lot of hits! Yay! Steadily increasing over the last 12 hours, now over 3x the traffic as usual.

To see what people are coming here for, I created a word cloud. You can embiggen to make it bigger and see how people are finding the blog. It shouldn’t surprise most people who are regulars …

Word Cloud for Blog Search Terms, Week Up to December 21, 2012

Word Cloud for Blog Search Terms, Week Up to December 21, 2012

I’ll do another one Saturday and see what that one looks like. May be interesting to do word clouds for the 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, and see how they change.

Oh, P.S. … I forgot to scale the most common terms by the actual number of times they were searched. The word cloud above was created by taking the unique search terms and putting them into the cloud maker. As in, if 20 people put in “nostradamus quatrain 2012″ and 5 people put in “sky december 21″ and 3 people put in “nostradamus quatrains 2012″ then the cloud would have nostradamus 2x, 2012 2x, and the rest 1x. When I make a new cloud, should I take the repetition into account?

December 18, 2012

Planet X and 2012: The Myth of Completing a Precessional Cycle


Introduction

I can’t believe I forgot about this claim. Well, maybe I can — it’s fairly minor. But, to try to milk this 2012 stuff for a few more days before Friday, here we go — let’s talk about the (minor) claim that on December 21, 2012, we complete a Full 26,000-Year Precessional Cycle!! (cue spooky music)

Precession

Picture a spinning top. Or, if you have one handy, spin a top. If you give it a good, quick spin, it should do pretty well. It’ll spin with its spin axis straight up-and-down, and from one moment to the next, you wouldn’t be able to notice a difference in where that axis is pointed.

But, as time goes on, the top will become unstable and that spin axis will start to wobble. It will trace out a circle in the air. That wobbling is called “precession.”

Just like a top, Earth precesses. From day-to-day, month-to-month, and for practical purposes, from year-to-year, Earth’s North-South spin axis is pointed in the same direction in space, towards the North Star to the north and towards nothing really in the south.

But, if you were to live for several thousand years and track where that spin axis is pointed, you would see it very slowly move. In the time of the ancient Egyptians, the pole star was different. In the time of the last ice age, the pole star was different.

How long does it take to complete one precessional “cycle?” 25,772 years. Or, roughly, 26,000 years.

For the Wikipedia version of this, if I haven’t quite made sense, see this link.

Completing a Cycle

So now the question is, when do we complete one precessional cycle?

The answer is that we complete one cycle 25,772 years from when you started to count.

There is absolutely nothing special about any particular “start” point … it’s a cycle. And it’s a non-descript cycle at that. Meaning that unlike, say, the water cycle where you can choose a starting point (say, water flowing on the planet’s surface) and so then have that be the end point, “completing the cycle,” you cannot point to one “point” in the precessional cycle that makes any better start point.

Yesterday was an end point for the one started 25,772 years +1 day. Tomorrow will be another end point for the one started 25,772 years -1 day. Next year will be another end point for the one started 25,771 years ago. 5,000 years ago was another end point for someone who started to count 30,772 years ago.

But It Ends on December 21, 2012, Right?

Again, no. Unless you chose, as your “start point,” 25,772 years prior to December 21, 2012.

Otherwise, the very concept of a “starting point” or “ending point” is literally meaningless.

Final Thoughts

Now that I’ve written about it, perhaps I know why I haven’t covered it yet: It’s a nonsensical claim. As in, literally, to make it is making nonsense. There is no sense to it — it is meaningless. It’s like taking an empty plate and spinning it and saying that some arbitrary point on that plate was the start point so there’s something special about returning to it.

2.5 more days ’til we start to see back-peddling …

 

And I wanna get in early on the next Doomsday. I just checked up Alexia’s ranking for the 2012hoax.org site, and it’s ranked among the top 200,000 on the internet. My podcast, on the other hand, is closer to the top 2.5 million. And really, that’s just my domain which includes my coin and photography website that boosts the rankings. Sigh …

December 17, 2012

Quick Interview of Me on Warning Radio from December 10, 2012


I was interviewed on live internet radio on December 10, 2012, by the hosts of Warning Radio (.info), also primary members of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Society, Bryan & Baxter.

And, I finally got around to posting the audio. It’s about 20 minutes long and we discuss a few things, like plans for the end of the world, movies coming up, and whether Mars’ moons are hollow.

December 16, 2012

Podcast Episode 57: Doom from the Sun on December 21, 2012


SOHO and the SDO saw white and then nothing. Militaries scrambled as every satellite went dark. Then the people on the ground saw enormous arcs of light — the aurora seen across the planet, so bright they were even visible during the day. Mesmerized by the display, awe quickly turned to panic as every electronic device sparked and died. The lights went out across the planet. The Sun had spoken.

Or at least, that’s what some people think is going to happen in about 5 days. It ain’t great literature, but I’m throwing a party that starts in 2.5 hrs and need to get this posted. And get dressed …

This episode, the last of the 2012 series, is all about the one topic I haven’t really discussed yet: Something from the sun doing something bad on December 21, 2012. You know … in 5 days. This episode is all about how that’s not going to happen.

Solar Disk as of December 16, 2012

Solar Disk as of December 16, 2012

Otherwise, this episode has the Q&A, puzzler solution for 56, feedback (with minor correction on episode 56), and announcements:

I’m starting to look for back-peddling by doomsday proponents for a follow-up episode very early next year. If anyone listening to this podcast happens to come across something by anyone who claimed stuff like Planet X would cause a pole flip, a big solar storm would wipe us out, or even on the positive side that we’ll all be able to levitate and do instant healing, and you see these people start to make up excuses for why it’s not happening, please send it in to me.

December 15, 2012

Nostradamus and 2012: Some Internet Folks Get Punk’d


Introduction

Among the modern “scientific skeptics” movement – which is already small – I count myself (in the least arrogant way possible) among the even smaller subset who are actual career scientists. Being in that sub-set, a not uncommon question is: If you had no morals, what kind of scam would you perpetrate?

As in, if I wanted to go out and be on Oprah and Motel and Coast to Coast and sell hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions of dollars?) worth of pseudoscientific crap, what kind of crap would I shovel out to the masses?

To say that I haven’t thought about it would be lying. To say that I haven’t thought to try a social experiment would be lying. But this April, I unwittingly did just that.

April Fools

Some of you may remember my April Fools post for 2012: “New Nostradamus Quatrain for 2012 Discovered.” The idea was that people keep making up new things that Nostradamus “said,” after some event, and then claim it applied to that event. This happened with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. And, as also happened with that attack, people “reinterpret” quatrains that Nostradamus actually did write in order to fit them to the event.

In that spirit, I wrote my post about a “newly discovered” quatrain. And of course, tied it very obviously to the 2012 doomsday stuff. I even posted it on April 4, but I set the date back in WordPress so that it appears I posted it on April 1. People started posting in the comments pretty quickly and sniffed it out as an obvious prank.

And that was that.

December 2012

Fast-forward to the last week or two. WordPress is neat in that it tells you what people have searched for in search engines to get them to your blog. Usually, the top terms have something to do with Planet X or December 21, 2012. For a very brief few days about two weeks ago, the top term was “Glynis McCants fraud” — for which my blog is still among the top ten, and was briefly #2, in Google search results for that term.

But, for the last week, and indeed, now looking at the stats, for the past quarter (3 months), the top term outpacing all others by nearly a factor of 2 is “nostradamus quatrains 2012.” Ooops.

Search Terms for Blog Hits, 4th Quarter 2012

Search Terms for Blog Hits, 4th Quarter 2012

Disclaimer?

A few days ago, I added this disclaimer to my April Fools post:

Edited to Add (Dec. 09, 2012): Okay folks, one of the top search engine directs I’m getting to my blog is for stuff along the lines of “nostradamus quatrain 2012″ and folks are getting this post. Let me be clear: THIS WAS AN APRIL FOOLS POST. That is all. Now, on with the show …

Still on Forums

As of this writing, people on three different forums have picked upon this and are treating it as a genuine Nostradamus quatrain. One is a “Topix” forum, another is on a forum for people who own the Dodge Challenger (a car), and the third is Aantares.com forum. Intriguingly, none of them are cited, though the first two quote more of my post than just the quatrain I made up.

In fact, the last one made it up even more than I did. The poster took the first two lines that I wrote and then made up the last two lines.

Final Thoughts

Is this of large impact? No, of course not. Three people on random forums taking it and quoting me and thinking it was genuine does not a big issue make. And hopefully with this post, too, people coming to this blog will realize that there’s nothing to fear.

But, the fact that the most hits to my blog these days – and now every day for the past nearly two weeks – are for Nostradamus quatrains relating to 2012 … well, it does say something about the state of critical thinking in our society.

Exactly what does it say? Well, I know the answer, but if I told you, then you wouldn’t be thinking for yourself …

Housekeeping

WordPress has just informed me that this has been my 300th post. That’s an average of 5.3 days between posts for the last 4 years 4 months I’ve been blogging. Not horrible, though not great, I suppose.

December 12, 2012

Being Pedantic Over Laser Colors on Law & Order: SVU


Introduction

This is a quick post about me being a crotchety young man. But, one of the founding ideas of this blog was to point out not only bad astronomy/physics/geology that I see out there on crazy blogs and Coast to Coast, but also what I see in the media, on TV, and in movies.

I’ve been going through and watching old Law & Order: SVU episodes. I enjoy the series and watched it with my mom during part of high school and sometimes when home from college. Now in it’s 14th season, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Setup

I was watching season 5 episode 1 last night while doing some other work on the side (you can decide for yourself if that’s an intended or unintended dangling participle). About 31 minutes into the episode, a lab tech makes a big deal about restoring a receipt and the detectives are hoping it can lead them to a woman who had been kidnapped. Only problem is the receipt is saturated with blood and unreadable … under normal lights.

Good Premise

The lab tech makes a big deal about how it’s illegible “to the naked eye, that’s why God invented lasers. Different frequencies reveal different inks.”

This premise is true. In fact, over Thanksgiving, I was back in Ohio visiting with my parents and went to the Cincinnati Museum Center’s special exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls. They had a side room on their digital imaging process for documenting the scrolls and, “using technology developed by NASA” (people who don’t think the space program has any practical applications …), they showed how the fragments are all being imaged with 12 different colors of light: seven visible, five IR. Here’s the video that I had seen on it, and here’s a shorter version that just shows one scroll under the different wavelengths.

What the video pointed out is that several letters were not visible due to burns or dirt. But, under different wavelengths of light, the dirt becomes transparent while the ink remains opaque and you can read them.

This is exactly why astronomers use different wavelengths of light to study different things. Anyway …

Law & Order: SVU -- Laser Colors Mistake

Law & Order: SVU — Laser Colors Mistake


Bad Science

In what was obviously done for visual interest for television, the lab tech then goes through and supposedly illuminates the receipt under three different laser colors to try to bring out text. First, she says she’s using 400 nm, which shows up as bright blue, tinging on violet. Then 500 nm, which shows up as a ruddy orange. Finally, 600 nm, which is a brilliant green and they can read it and go and find the girl.

Anyone shaking their head right now?

If not, let me explain the first issue: Those colors are wrong for those wavelengths. I should know — I just purchased four lasers, one each at 405 nm, 460 nm, 532 nm, and 650 nm. The colors for those are deep purple, bluish-violet, green, and deep red.

As in, if those wavelengths she stated were the actual colors, 400 nm would have been a very deep purple, bordering on invisibility to the human eye (edge of human vision is somewhere around 380-400 nm). 500 nm should have been a turquoise blue-green. 600 nm would have been a yellow bordering on red (yellow sodium lights in parking lots are at 589 nm).

A second problem is that lasers are not made at those wavelengths. I guess it’s theoretically possible, and there might be some very rare laser of which I’m not aware, and while there are a large variety of lasers out there, 400, 500, and 600 nm are not among them.

My third of three problems with this is that lasers generally make a dot. You can have spreaders and put in gratings and whatever to make broader patterns, but generally speaking, they’re dots. This was basically like a broad light. What she showed, and what should have been used, and what she should have simply said, are that she was using a diode. Speaking as someone who’s been kept awake by the diode power lights on a computer case, diodes create a broad illumination, not a tiny point of light.

But I guess lasers sound cooler.

Final Thoughts

Yes, pedantic, nit-picking, etc. Does this have any bearing on broader society? Probably not.

But, then again, there are two issues here. One is that she was simply wrong. Portraying bad science or getting the science wrong is … wrong. It shouldn’t have happened.

The second issue is that someone might pick up on this and think that’s the way things work — that those are the colors that correspond with those wavelengths. And then it could take a long time for them to unlearn it. For example, I had an 8th grade science teacher who claimed a kilometer was longer than a mile (among other things). Three years later, I was in AP music theory class and, as usual, we were doing nothing, so I was complaining with a senior about incompetent teachers at our school. And I brought up the 8th grade teacher and units of length. And she exclaimed that because she had been taught that, too, by the guy the year before I had him, it screwed her up for two whole years. It took 10th grade chemistry and a sit-down with the chemistry teacher before she got everything straightened out such that she now knows a centimeter is shorter than an inch.

Perhaps an extreme example, perhaps an example that further illustrates the tiny effect that this doesn’t have, but it’s stuck in my mind.

And there are a lot less useful blog posts out there, and I’m tired about hearing about 12/12/12 and 12/21/12.

P.S. If I had to guess, I’d say that the “400 nm” was around 470, the “500 nm” around 600 or so, and the “600 nm” right on that classic green laser color of 532 nm.

December 10, 2012

2012 Mayan Doomsday: One Post to (Almost) Rule Them All


Introduction

This post is headed up exactly 11 days before the winter (in the northern hemisphere) solstice of 2012, assuming I got the time zones correct.

You know … THAT day. The one “everyone” is saying – or at least “everyone” is saying that the Mayans said – that the world is going to end. Or we’re all going to become higher vibrational spiritual beings. Or Planet X will swing by. Or some such other stuff.

In other words, only 11 more days people can suckle the milk from the teat of a meme that has frightened people, bilked them from money, made them see a pretty bad movie, and various other things.

If you’re just finding this blog through an internet search and don’t follow me regularly, perhaps you can tell that I clearly put zero stock in such things. In fact, the main purpose of this post is to create a “master” post for the majority of my 2012-related posts and podcasts. I’ve been known to suckle a bit myself, and there’s no harm in doing another post that’s just a bunch of links … it’s a public service, ¿ya know? to have ‘em all in one place.

After all, the majority of people coming to my blog these days are coming here due to searches for 2012-related doomsday stuff.

The Posts and Podcasts

The main blog posts:

I have also written a few posts that are tangentially related to the 2012 subject:

And my podcast episodes so far on 2012 and Planet X:

And podcasts on which I have been interviewed on 2012:

Other Sites

Why would you be going to other sites?

Well, if you must, I highly recommend 2012 Hoax.org.

Regrets

My one main regret is not doing my planned eBook on the subject. It was going to be free, but I just never got around to writing it. Even just as a compilation of blog posts. :(

I suppose my other main regret is that I have yet to do a post or podcast episode on the sun and 2012. The podcast episode will be coming out in 5-6 days, though … so, still have time, and it’ll come out.

Saving Face – Help Me Look?

All that said, there are lots of people who have made several explatives’-worth of money on 2012 stuff. I have to think that some of them are going to try to save face and back-pedal and make excuses.

If you find any, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! You can do this very easily by posting a comment in the Comments section below this post. I want to do a podcast episode on it early in 2012 (like February-ish).

End Stretch

So far, I really haven’t seen too much escalation of this stuff now that we’re less than two weeks away. Supposedly some people in Russia are worried, but I don’t know if that’s just the press making a big deal out of a few people.

Even Coast to Coast AM hasn’t really ramped stuff up — I almost expected that the producers would be having a 2012’er or Planet X’er on several times a week, but that hasn’t happened. Looking at their schedule for this week, Dec. 9-12 (what’s posted), we have Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the fiscal cliff, some mob-JFK show, and the “Watchers” and a cosmic battle with L.A. Marzulli. Only the last one is remotely 2012-ish. Perhaps “not with a bang but a whimper” is apropos.

Oh, and NASA’s come out with their “nothing’s going to happen” stuff, but the people who believe that “something” in 2012 is going to happen are rarely going to believe anything that NASA or any other part of any government says. It’s perhaps unfortunate, but that’s the case.

So that’s that for now. See ya on December 22.

Edited to Add (11/12/2012): Apparently now, even the Vatican is getting in on this, saying nottin’s happenin’. Which makes sense, considering that their holy book contains text that states no human (fairly sure it says “man,” but I’m generalizing here) will know the day nor the hour of the end stuff it talks about. Well, and the Maya, to them, are pagans so nothing they do should be taken seriously since the Vatican has a monopoly on spirituality, or some such thing.

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