Exposing PseudoAstronomy

March 5, 2016

Do as I Say, Not as I Do to Find “Real” Image Anomalies

I finally submitted my first paper for peer-review in practically two years — roughly 350 hours in the last roughly 2 months to analyze the data and write and edit a paper on the craters on Pluto, Charon, Nix and Hydra. So now, in preparation for the big Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in two weeks, I have a few months of other, lunar, work to do in the next 12 days.

So, I’ve started to catch up with Richard Hoagland’s “The Other Side of Midnight” program. The “barely lovable” (as Art Bell has said) folks over at BellGab pointed me to a particular evening of January 30, 2016, where Richard had some of his imaging guys (yes, all guys) on talking about how to expose fakes. As in, people who fake anomalies in space images.

You can probably imagine that my eyebrows did more than rise just a bit.

I’m less than 20 minutes into the episode and already I’ve spotted some of the most ridiculous duplicity in what they are saying. Richard Hoagland and Will Farrar are saying over and over again that you have to go to the original data before you can say anything is real or not.

And they’ve pointed out some good examples, like the anomalies in Hale crater on Mars are all caused by the 3D projection and image compression done by the Mars Express images and it’s not there in the originals.

I’ll say it again: Richard stated on this program that doing any analysis on anything BUT the original images is completely useless. In fact, here’s one example, at about 16 minutes 15 seconds into the recording:

Will Farrar: “They’re going to claim they didn’t go out to get the thing…”

Richard Hoagland: “They didn’t go out and get, what? The original data?”

WF: “The raw. Yeah, the raw data, that’s–”

RH: “Well then it’s pointless! You blow them away on that basis alone! You can’t do science on second, third, fourth, fifth sources, you gotta go to the original. That’s the first rule!”

Another example, about 29 minutes 50 seconds into my recording, jumping off of Keith Laney saying that the first thing to do is get the raw data, Richard stated, “Yeah, that’s the first thing we all do! When we see something interesting – those of who who know how to do this ’cause we’ve been at this awhile – the first thing you do is go and find the NASA original. … Find the original. Do not go by what’s on the web. Never ever just go by what’s on the web, unless it is connected to original data step by step by step.”

I’m not 100% sure what he means by that last “unless…” part, unless it’s his way of giving himself an out. It’s hopelessly vague, for anyone could say that any product they make where they find an anomaly is from the original data and they can tell you the step-by-step process to get there. This was also at least the fifth time he talked about this, but the first time he gave himself the “unless,” so let’s proceed without it.

(Almost) everything that Richard has promulgated over the last few years is based on non-original images. To just mention just three, for examples:

(1) Everything he and others have done with Pluto and Charon has been done with third-generation data, at best. That is, raw data (1st) compressed on the craft, either lossy or lossless (2nd), and the posted lossy (a second layer of lossy) on public websites (3rd). The first batch of truly raw data will be released in April 2016, and it will only be what was on Earth as of encounter. Therefore, by Richard’s own rules, every analysis that he and others have done finding anomalies on Pluto and Charon is “pointless.”

(2) Everything he and others have done with Ceres and claims of cities and crashed spacecraft … see example 1 above. I’m not on the Dawn team, so I don’t know when their first or second batch of raw data will be publicly released. Therefore, by Richard’s own rules, every analysis that he and others have done finding anomalies on Ceres is “pointless.”

(3) His analysis of Chang’e 3 images claiming that there are giant glass structures on the moon was done with JPG-compressed images published on Chinese military websites. Not raw data. He claimed that this was proof that his analysis of Apollo images (which were 5th generation, at best, it’s been estimated) showing giant glass towers on the moon was real. Therefore, by Richard’s own rules, every analysis that he and others have done claiming from Apollo and Chang-e 3 images that there are giant glass cities on the moon is “pointless.”

Well … that was fun.

P.S. Around 15 minutes into the second hour of the program, Richard stated that you can’t possibly do any analysis on anything that’s only 30 pixels across. Well then, Expat’s deconstruction notwithstanding, Richard’s own statement completely disqualifies “Data’s Head” that he thinks he found in an image from Apollo on the moon that he claims shows an android’s head. It’s perhaps 15 pixels across, max.



  1. I must admit, I’ve never felt I should tackle any of Hoagland’s silliness myself. Mainly because dealing with it is about as easy as fishing in a barrel with grenades. Well, easier, as you point out.

    My take on lunar glass cities? One day, maybe, there will be some – if we care to build them. But I expect we’ll still be arguing over funding them when the universe dies of heat death…

    Comment by Matthew Wright — March 5, 2016 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

  2. I was going to write a critique of his and Mike Bara’s Mars books since I worked on MRO, but after I found out their books were not carried by our great local book store and my library, I decided not to. They were really awful.

    By the way, isn’t reconstructed lossless compression the same as the original data?

    Comment by Kathy Moyd — March 5, 2016 @ 11:53 pm | Reply

    • Yes. However, it’s not what they were using originally. Early on, they were using: 1st (spacecraft, lossless) -> 2nd (spacecraft, lossy) -> 3rd (lossy again for web release). Now, they’re using 1st (spacecraft, lossless) -> 2nd (lossy for web release) at best. In several cases, it’s 1st (spacecraft, lossless) -> 2nd (processing by the imaging team) -> 3rd (lossy for web release).

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — March 6, 2016 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  3. Perhaps there’s more money or attention to gather with debunking and criticizing these days? That’s hard to believe but might explain the self-immolation Richard engages in lately. But I suppose as radio host with a steady stream of varying guests of different woo and science levels he might see the benefit of inching more to some kind of mainstream scrutiny and reasonability. Or at least “sounding as” like the great Art could sound at time. God knows Richard knows by now how to sound like a skeptic. And consistency has never been a theme within his work so why start now?

    Comment by Dee — March 6, 2016 @ 1:00 am | Reply

  4. Pretty funny. Especially as he’s said this Apollo 17 image shows a fallen spar that once supported the glass dome over the site:

    The image came from an Italian web site. At the time he promoted it, Hoagland had not the slightest idea of how the image was obtained or who scanned it. Of course, it’s now known to be a scanning contamination problem.

    Comment by expat — March 6, 2016 @ 4:10 pm | Reply

  5. So where does this leave the ‘mysterious’ lunar obelisk from the Call of Duty Zombies forum?
    That certainly sounds like a primary source to me.

    Comment by Trebor — March 7, 2016 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

    • Yeah, I decided not to comment on that one. And ziggurat, not obelisk.

      Comment by Stuart Robbins — March 7, 2016 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

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