Exposing PseudoAstronomy

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.

12 Comments »

  1. Thanks for all the hard work Stuart. It’s nice that someone’s out there debunking the deluded and the dishonest.

    Comment by Leper — December 26, 2012 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

  2. I agree with Mister Leper.
    Thank you Dr. Robbins und Happy Year 2013.

    Comment by Jennifer — December 27, 2012 @ 1:45 am | Reply

  3. You should submit your tallied psychic predictions to Doubtful News.

    Comment by Chew — December 27, 2012 @ 10:09 am | Reply

    • Thanks, they’re on my list … of two. I’m also going to try to let the SGU folks know, again (I did for 2011’s), about it.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 27, 2012 @ 12:59 pm | Reply

  4. Stuart,

    I’ve been threatened with lawyers, courtrooms and being sued. Most likely by the same people who contacted your employers. Hilarious.

    Keep it up mate. These tiny brained scamists must not be allowed to ride on the 2012 gravy train into 2013 and beyond. And they will try. Nothing except the filthy lucre attracts these cheats.

    Ask for that Porsche. It may just be yours. According to Mike Bara. That single statement kills the premise of his latest scrawl.

    He [Bara] even had a personal dig at me
    on one of his appearances on woowoo radio. I responded by inviting him and Hoagland to sue me. Citing my 25 years as an electronics engineer and not inconsiderable mathematical ability as ample defence.

    Unsurprisinly I heard bugger all consequently. Going 1v1 with someone who actually knows what they are talking about is not something either Bara or Hoagland could contemplate.

    They are too busy ripping off daft old ladies and simpletons. My words Stuart. Not yours and I stand by them and take full responsibility for what I write.

    Good work bro. Keep it up. We need you on our side.

    DJE

    Comment by Derek James Eunson — December 27, 2012 @ 10:35 am | Reply

    • Thanks. I can say that neither of those two were the ones threatening the suit. And while I’m confident I’d win against the one who did or against Mike or Richard if they were to try, a lawsuit isn’t something I’d really want to deal with.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 27, 2012 @ 10:54 am | Reply

  5. My fave of the year was the Great Ziggurat Controversy, of course. Mostly because of the admirable amount of effort you put into it. Thanks again.

    Comment by Expat — December 27, 2012 @ 11:05 am | Reply

    • Yeah, that was probably the most work I’ve put into a single investigation on here before.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 27, 2012 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

      • Indeed Stuart. Id like to echo the words of Expat. Many thanks for your effort on the ziggy probe.

        Comment by Derek James Eunson — January 3, 2013 @ 11:33 am

      • Thanks.

        Comment by Stuart Robbins — January 3, 2013 @ 11:34 am

  6. I found your entry on Billy Meier’s claims (#49) interesting, as much for the opportunity it afforded me to engage in discussion with some enthusiastic Meier fans as for your presentation of the ‘consistent with retrodiction’ conclusion.

    That many people believe that the contents of various Press Releases and articles by science journalists constitute primary sources of scientific knowledge (at least in the field of astronomy) comes as no surprise to me; that some people have apparently spent a very considerable part of their adult lives working from this assumption, attempting to demonstrate the scientific validity of Meier’s claims, did come as a surprise.

    It’s one thing to seek confirmation of one’s beliefs from astronomy; quite another to do so while showing not the slightest curiousity about what astronomy actually is.

    Comment by Nereid — December 28, 2012 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

    • Agreed. And Horn’s still trying to post links he’s already posted before as opposed to responding to the specific questions asked.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — December 28, 2012 @ 12:59 pm | Reply


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