Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 14, 2012

Mike, You Seem to Miss the Point


Introduction

A quick note for those of you following the whole ziggurat on the moon saga, Mike published an update on his blog tonight. He first repeats the old canard that this is a hate blog, I’m with the “psychopathic cyberstalking hater crowd,” blah blah blah … oh, and he’s putting “Dr.” in “quotes” in front of my name now. Not quite sure what that’s supposed to mean other than an insult.

But seriously Mike, if it makes you feel better to think of this as a hate blog … tough. If you are incapable of facing people who point out flaws in your work and the only way you can deal with it is to decide that hatred is what motivates them, I feel sorry for you. If you were a real scientist, want to play in the same arena, or were at all familiar with the way science works, you would know that critique of your ideas goes with the territory, and it is always the burden of the person making the new claim to back it up against all points raised.

The Obvious

Towards the beginning of his post, Mike states, “I skimmed [Stuart’s blog post], but most of it was so silly and just plain wrong … .”

Mike, this might work for your Facebook fans, but pretty much everyone else can see that you have not proven your point. They can also see that your claims that my rebuttals are “so silly” and “plain wrong” without actually demonstrating that is just punting on your part, especially when it is I who have illustrated and explaind that it is you who have made some fairly fundamental errors in your understanding of image processing.

The Missed Point

I think the important part of his post is that Mike seems to have completely missed the point. Mike stated:

Now setting aside for a moment the issue of whether I give a [expletive] what his opinion is, one of the points he wants me to explain was just too weird to pass up:

“Why other images of the same place taken by several different craft (including non-NASA ones), including images at almost 100x the original resolution of the Apollo photo, don’t show the feature.”

That of course is not so weird, but then he fails to show any of these mythical images he claims exist save one. This one:

M118715682M

Yes, I’m serious. This is an image he’s claiming has “100x” the resolution of the Zigguart photo. Based on this, he’s claiming that the Ziggurat is just “a crater.”

[image]

Really?

First, note that he took my image, linking directly. I could easily replace the image on WordPress with something childish, but I won’t. The “[image]” is a close-up of the LPI scan that we’re all familiar with by now.

Second, to start with, Mike is quoting the second of three reasons that I listed for concluding that the ziggurat is a hoax (and yet again, I did not say that it was Mike nor Richard Hoagland that faked it, I merely said they were the ones now promoting it). Those points are the ones anyone would need to answer before I (and most others) would consider it a non-obvoious forgery.

Third, and more to-the-point, Mike says the other images of the site are mythical except for the one I actually did show. Clearly, Mike has missed the numerous times I linked to the video I did about this where I show two other spacecraft images of the site, plus he completely missed the context for the blown-up image that I showed that he inserted into his own post without permission nor progeny noted.

If you actually read my post, this was the context and point of even showing that image:

Second, we can go to ANY other spacecraft image of this site and see that the ziggurat is not there, that it is a crater, as expected from the LPI version. I’ll refer you again to the video I made where I show the wide-angle camera shot of the site and the narrow-angle camera shot of the site. Okay, for fun, here’s the WAC:

M118715682M - 300% Crop of "Ziggurat Area"

M118715682M – 300% Crop of “Ziggurat Area”

Note that I blew this up to 300%. Notice all that pixelation and how it appears kinda soft? That’s because, gee, when you increase the size of an image, you can’t increase detail, it does NOT make it more clear, despite what Mike claimed. But suffice to say, that “X” between several craters is where the ziggurat is supposed to be. That larger shadow at the top is the shadow cast by Mike’s alleged ziggurat. It’s a crater.

The entire point of showing that image was to just show one example, albeit at slightly lower resolution (that WAC has a pixel scale of about 77 m/px whereas the Apollo image has a scale of ~65 m/px at that location — it varies significantly because the Apollo shot is oblique), and the other point was to illustrate something else earlier in that post that Mike got wrong — he claims that you can increase image detail by increasing an image’s size.

Fourth, to be very clear, I never claimed that image was 100x the original Apollo shot, I said that was the WAC, or wide-angle camera shot of the ziggurat. Mike, if you do not know these acronyms, just ask, I would be happy to clarify. And for the super-lazy, here’s a link to that WAC image. And, here’s a link to the NAC (narrow-angle camera) image M149377797R which has a pixel scale of just 0.78 meters per pixel. That’s the one that’s nearly 100x higher pixel scale than the Apollo image. And I show both in the video.

Mike, are you going to claim that all others are mythical until I post more? Do I need to do your work and search for any Kaguya images, Lunar Orbiter, or Clementine ones of that spot, too? Or are you going to take more of what I wrote out of context?

Edited to Add: For those who don’t know, when you go to those links, it’s a Flash interface where you can zoom in and out by using the tools on the left and bottom. Also, here’s a link to a map with the exact location of the alleged ziggurat centered. Again, the coordinates are 174.34°E, -8.97°N.

Final Thoughts

According to Mike’s blog post, his manager referred him to previous lengthy post explaining how his understanding of dynamic range, noise, and detail was flawed and why he had not shown to any extent of the imagination (except perhaps his) that the lunar ziggurat was a real feature. If that’s true, and if his manager (Adrienne?) does read this, I’ll repeat the salient points:

1. Mike is using as the claimed centerpiece of his upcoming book an image that he found online on the “Call of Duty Zombies” forum and believes to be the real, unadulterated version of Apollo photo AS11-38-5564.

2. This is despite not only all official versions, but also all other images of that location.

3. This is also despite many indications of the image itself that Mike is presenting has had the ziggurat added in (shown in both the video I produced and the original blog post).

4. Mike’s rebuttals have changed from first calling me incompetent (the nicest term he’s used) into simply a “paid NASA shill” (which is false as I explained in the intro here). So I guess that means none of my points are valid and that’s why he hasn’t tried to rebut them?

5. His blog post attempting to “prove” that the NASA image was fake was demonstrated by me to not prove his point and, in fact, demonstrated that Mike does not understand many fundamentals of image processing.

6. And now, this latest attempt to dismiss my analysis is an argument from ridicule — he has not actually addressed any of the points I raised, and he took an image completely out of context that I had posted. He also included the usual name-calling.

Mike’s Manager: Is this the kind of person that you want to represent?

Mike’s Facebook Fans: Step back for a moment and put aside your prejudices against anyone who’s “mainstream” and your prejudices for someone who claims to fight against “the powers that be.” You should evaluate a claim based on the evidence provided (Mike, in this case). Has he really presented convincing evidence that this feature is real and that EVERY OTHER PHOTO of the site is fake and that ALL the reasons that I pointed out for why the ziggurat appears to be hoaxed are wrong? Really? And, is Mike the kind of person that you want to follow and spend money on his books – a person who throws insults willy-nilly like a first-grade schoolyard bully, accuses all people who critically analyze his work of being “haters,” and does not actually address any challenges to his work but instead bans them and then ridicules them for posting under fake names?

Oh, and Mike — you should really stop complaining about “fake Facebook profiles of douche bags that don’t even have the balls to use their real names” who post on your Facebook page. The reason they post under fake names is that the moment anyone even begins to question your work, you ban them. How can they post on your page if they’re banned?

24 Comments »

  1. Can you replace images on WordPress? I haven’t figured out how to do that.

    Comment by eyeonicr — August 14, 2012 @ 12:21 am | Reply

    • I believe you can just copy the original image URL and than past that address into a new image after deleting the old one. The URL field in the files seems to be alterable but I’ve never actually tried it.

      Comment by holdenattradies — August 14, 2012 @ 12:45 am | Reply

  2. haha yeh i don’t think most people realize how tough scientists have to fight to gain acceptance , science is set up to limit popularity contests , shouting, name calling , authoritarian arguments , and so on .. of course scientists still resort to these tactics sometimes , but you have to provide evidence and bring a logical argument , you have to listen to different pints of view and explain questions asked by others , seems like you aren’t getting much of a fight on this one stuart good work

    Comment by Walter Walkie — August 14, 2012 @ 1:41 am | Reply

  3. A measured and civilized response. Maintaining both the scientific and moral highground.

    Comment by Jan Schipper — August 14, 2012 @ 2:34 am | Reply

    • Thanks, Jan. This time it was, admittedly, a tad hard to do.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 14, 2012 @ 8:18 am | Reply

  4. Mike’s blog-post was breathtakingly dishonest. Glad you took the trouble to demolish it.

    Comment by Expat — August 14, 2012 @ 7:40 am | Reply

  5. Bara’s absurd reactions to this are bizarre. And by bizarre, I mean completely predictable for someone who has written a book centered on something they’ve taken as a given which has then been shown to be not only false, but plainly and amateurishly false. I think we have a monnumental case of cognitive dissonance at play here.

    Comment by porlob — August 14, 2012 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  6. Yeah, all I’m seeing from you buddy is a bunch of fuzzy images. You could hide Disneyland and the Matterhorn in all that haze.

    Sincerely,

    Dave

    Comment by Dave Bara — August 16, 2012 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  7. Oh, and what obligation does Mike have to entertain you on his facebook page? Answer: NONE.

    Comment by Dave Bara — August 16, 2012 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

    • I never have stated that your twin has an obligation to entertain me on his Facebook page. I have no fake FB profile from which I post, I have better things to do. I’m merely pointing out that his complaints that people don’t post under their real name is incredibly dishonest when he knows very well that as soon as someone questions him, he bans them. So they can’t question him under their real name because as soon as they do, they’re banned. Please tell me you see the hypocrisy in his complaints about that.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 16, 2012 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

  8. Dave Bara you must be remarkably blind to see nothing but fuzzy images in the NAC strip:

    http://wms.lroc.asu.edu/lroc/view_lroc/LRO-L-LROC-2-EDR-V1.0/M149377797RE

    Your twin bruv writes on his blog today that he “doesn’t trust” this image. YET HE TRUSTS A FUZZY IMAGE HE FOUND ON A TEENAGE SCI-FI INTERNET FORUM???????? Where’s the sense in that, Dave?

    Comment by Expat — August 16, 2012 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  9. “I have no fake FB profile from which I post, I have better things to do..”
    Thank you Stuart Robbins,I should probably get a life,since I occasionally post critical comments on Mike Bara`s Facebook, & to his credit he neither censored nor banned me. As I already stated on Expat Blog,I think you & your friends have an hyper emotional approach to Mike Bara.The man & his followers are no threat to the fabric of society. This is essentially my concern with the Skeptical Inquirer professional debunkers type. You spend a considerable amount of time and energy debunking New Age concepts, fringe sciences & paranormal phenomena, but you avoid tackling the fundamental (socio political) issues that are affecting our societies.

    Comment by Tara Jordan — August 16, 2012 @ 10:13 pm | Reply

    • That might actually be true of some. I don’t see myself as that way, at least not yet. I really have no emotional attachment nor “feelings” in any way towards Mike, and as I’ve stated MANY times, this was originally really about something simple that Richard Hoagland claimed on-air. I was fine investigating it for a few hours and doing a simple blog post about it. Then I thought that I could experiment making a video for it that I could do for my podcast because I’d wanted to do movies before, I just didn’t have a good subject.

      So really, this was a learning experience for me in that sense.

      Then Mike came in.

      He’s made demonstrably and very clearly several false statements, and many people have those same misconceptions. Many of those basic misunderstandings and mistakes are applicable to the world in general and ideas in general, and in and of itself, increasing scientific literacy is (I think) a very important goal.

      I’ve also learned throughout this experience on what I may encounter when dealing with much bigger issues. I think it also stands as a model for me on how to address these kinds of claims.

      Is this an incredibly minor and stupid argument? Yes. I would be perfectly happy at this point if Mike just said, “I’m not going to believe any evidence to the contrary, it’s all a conspiracy, the image I got on Call of Duty Zombies forum is real and everything else is fake.” Or, he could admit that he was wrong. It’s going to end one of those ways, or he’s just going to stop going on about it and hope people forget.

      But, have I learned something from it that I think will be useful to me in the future? Very much so. I’m a scientist. I am forced to defend my ideas every time that I present them at a conference, to coworkers, to my boss, and in papers. You have to defend it with independent lines of evidence, you have to be able to explain things in different ways, and you have to be able to answer challenges to your ideas. While almost no scientist argues like Mike, the rules of logic, of pinning down all of your sources, of being VERY explicit about what you mean (since Mike has used some words I wrote that apparently were vague against me), and other things will all be useful to me in my career.

      And when I do address more important topics, such as the 2012 stuff where people really are selling their things and running to what they think are safer locations, or young-Earth creationist claims where people are motivated to attack some basic science and keep us in the dark ages (George W. Bush …), I will be better prepared.

      I agree Mike is not a threat. He’ll part many fools of their money, but that’s really about it. But, the process that I’ve gone through has taught me things that will be useful for more important things.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 16, 2012 @ 10:26 pm | Reply

      • Thank you very much for your efforts, Stuart. My observation is that one of the most fundamental socio-political problems affecting our society is that of magical thinking, and the New Age teaching that elevates intuition over rationality as some sort of higher understanding. It’s misled many people, be it from fools parted from their money, to cancer patients parted from effective treatments, to phantoms of Haarp and Chemtrails distracting people from global warming. Millions of New Age puppy dogs chasing their tails… Please, keep debunking these new Dark Age concepts, pseudoscience, and paranormal interpretations with objective facts and reason as you have been doing so.

        If you’ve never read it, you might enjoy Professor Michael Barkun’s book “A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America.” It outlines the evolution and amalgamation of beliefs of UFO believers, Christian millennialists, New Agers, and right-wing conspiracy theorists over more than a century. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Hoagland. here is a link to a PDF of his work:

        http://www.wnlibrary.com/Portabel%20Documents/A%20Culture%20Of%20Conspiracy%20-%20Michael%20Barkun.pdf

        Enjoy!

        Comment by Professor Pious — August 16, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

      • Thanks, PP. Yeah, my reply was already long but I agree with your main premise: Richard (and now Mike) was/is promoting (in this case) conspiratorial beliefs backed by an intense distrust of anything “official” and incorrect assumptions. Similarly, many problems with society are based on not necessarily conspiratorial beliefs, but magical beliefs.

        This entire process has been one giant critical thinking lesson. While its immediate scope is limited – I’ve shown folks how to find data and explained how images are really constructed – the basic idea of questioning something and looking for evidence to back it up applies to many, many other things.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 16, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

  10. Thank you for the feedback, Stuart.From my perspective it an issue about freedom of expression.People have the right to espouse & express crazy ideas.The debunkers community (in general) have a tendency to act as inquisitors with those they consider “crackpots & loons”,but they rarely display the same enthusiasm at denouncing the frauds,lies & fabrications that come out of “official channels”. People often label me as an equal opportunity offender,but I have an excuse,I am trying to be intellectually honest😉

    Comment by Tara Jordan — August 16, 2012 @ 11:24 pm | Reply

    • True intellectual honesty is a rare thing and something to be very much respected.

      I fully support Mike’s (and Richard’s) freedom of expression. What I don’t support is deliberate misleading. There’s also the saying that freedom of expression goes both ways — there’s a comic strip I saw awhile ago where a preacher was hitting a guy with a cross calling him a sinner and an unbeliever and that he was going to hell, but when in the next frame the guy grabbed the cross and broke it, the preacher yelled out that he was being oppressed.

      I’m sure in my mind when I started relating that it had some point relevant to this, but it seems to have escaped me for the moment …

      Anyway, I’d like to think myself an equal-opportunity skeptic. When James Randi came out and said that he didn’t believe in global warming, I considered that ridiculous and thought that he was rightly ridiculed for that statement. When I have, myself, made mistakes on this blog and my podcast, I have tried to correct them as soon as I could.

      Do I believe everything coming from “official channels”? No, but I know enough of how things work to assume gross incompetence rather than conspiracy. Do I believe most of what politicians in power say? Not really.

      Do I believe NASA has not faked the lunar images in this particular case? Yes, because other images show the same thing as the NASA ones, and there are clear indications that the ziggurat is fake (as I’ve outlined before). In addition, I know how images are actually handled, and the idea of a super-secret NASA “area 51” lab or some such thing where they look at all this stuff and airbrush out what they think would “give the game away” is a very, very far-fetched idea. The data are received at various international antenna arrays on Earth and sent to the NASA-contracted universities where it’s processed by automated algorithms that then post them to a data repository for anyone on the instrument team to access for 6 months and then it’s released to the public.

      At this point, Mike would need to suggest a vast, international conspiracy to prove his case with image tampering, but he still hasn’t satisfactorily addressed the reasons I gave for why it looks fake.

      I think one of the most important things to keep in mind for EVERYONE is, “What would it take to falsify my belief/claim?” If you can’t answer that, then there’s a problem. Every hypothesis must be testable, and once one has reached a threshold of evidence, then it has successfully passed that test.

      I’m likely rambling at this point, but I do hope in doing so that you have come to better understand my position, and especially that it’s not motivated by a personal hatred for Mike (which he keeps telling people is my motivation). It really does get down to basic life skills and basic critical thinking. Regardless of who is presenting the information.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 16, 2012 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

      • I do understand your position,Stuart,& we share common characteristic, because I often argue & challenge my hierarchy. Academics often suffer from “conservation syndrome” or “ghetto museum thinking”.I guess, Mike Bara`s reaction is the direct byproduct of the intensity of some attacks. Some are making it very personal, almost pathological.This is why I have suggested people to be less emotional about the whole issue. Thank you for allowing me to express my critics.You`re quite a Gentleman

        Comment by Tara Jordan — August 17, 2012 @ 12:10 am

      • Yup. There are very, very few comments that I block on this blog. Just search for any thread where I even mention Michael Horn or Billy Meier and you’ll see what I mean.

        What you say is also why I try to be very careful and only address the claims, not the person who’s making them. I will admit that in a few posts I may have sounded frustrated with Mike, but even in those cases, I have refrained from the name-calling and other things that Mike has done by default.

        I honestly don’t think much of anything can justify Mike’s outright attacks at his critics rather than their claims, and his banning of any dissent and then complaints of people posting counterclaims under fake names ergo they’re too “cowardly” to use their real names … when it’s because he’s banned them. I think that’s intellectually dishonest. But, it’s also a separate issue.

        We’ll see how this plays out, and I do appreciate your rationality and objectivity with this issue.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — August 17, 2012 @ 12:19 am

  11. @Professor Pious Issues such as “fake aluminum tubes, invisible “weapons of mass destruction”,”humanitarian military interventions” have devastating, direct effects & lethal impacts on the lives of millions of people throughout the world. UFO buffs -New Agers throughout their utopian mind frames are not responsible for the institutionalized hubris of foreign policies and geopolitical strategies

    Comment by Tara Jordan — August 16, 2012 @ 11:36 pm | Reply

    • When Bara responds to a critique of his work by calling the author a douchebag and homosexual. I have difficulty in taking him seriously. I’ve even had Dave. That’s Mike’s triple chinned twin brother ask where I live. So he can “kick my ass.” Whilst initially amusing visualising a man of such enormous weight sweatily ambling towards me. I got to thinking. What a pair of money grubbing sneaks and opportunists.

      Comment by Derek James Eunson — August 17, 2012 @ 1:31 am | Reply

      • This doesn’t mean we have to play by the same standards.Maybe the issue is not about what is being said but how it is expressed.I think Mike Bara is capable of dealing with criticisms,but when confronted with ridicule and contempt on his own Facebook page,he has a tendency to lose his cool (human reaction after all…) I have no intention on “converting” Mike Bara`s followers (they are mature enough to make up their own mind) but at least they are exposed to different opinions, & so far they have behaved properly with me. Psychology is the key, I guess.

        Comment by Tara Jordan — August 17, 2012 @ 2:44 am

  12. I’d say the issue is very much about what is being said. What Hoagland & Bara say is read and listened to by enough disciples that their many, many errors are a serious concern. They have managed to insert a meme into internet consciousness that NASA is a deceptive agency that worships occult gods and hides the truth. What they claim as evidence for this is sheer poppycock — but that fact escapes the many followers who now automatically think any delay in the release of space imagery is caused by sinister NASA high priests airbrushing out little green men. It’s pathetic and I intend to keep on criticizing it.

    Comment by Expat — August 17, 2012 @ 6:44 am | Reply

    • @Expat, I never asked you to stop doing what you do, even less of pretending to tell you what you should do.

      Comment by Tara Jordan — August 17, 2012 @ 11:33 am | Reply


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