Exposing PseudoAstronomy

November 10, 2011

Mike Bara’s New-Agey Anti-Science Beliefs, from Bad Geometry to Astrology to Exploding Planets


Introduction

In the latest episode of my podcast, I interviewed a man, “Expat,” about some of the claims of another man, Mike Bara. In setting up the interview with Expat, I agreed to limit the scope of the interview to just cover his call into the show and very closely related claims.

However, during Mike Bara’s interview on Coast to Coast AM on November 10, 2010, he made many many basic science claims, errors, and outright pseudoscience statements. On this “Baraversary” of his interview on Coast to Coast, I wanted to delve a little more in-depth into some of his other claims.

About the Man, Mike Bara

I rarely go into someone’s detailed past or give a short biography, but since this post is about him and his claims, I thought it would be informative to give a little bit of context. My background on him is that he hooked up with Richard Hoagland a few years ago and co-authored Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA. Already by this point, you know the man is a conspiracy hypothesist, believes pareidolia-based observations are the real deal, and employs some magical thinking and numerology as he agrees with Hoagland’s mythos (which I’ve written about before and will write about again).

After listening to him talking for three hours and taking copious notes about what he says, I can also tell you that he can be classified in general as “new agey” and a general “modern science denialist.” That latter classification is not one I make lightly, but I do for him.

That’s my impression. In complete and total fairness, I’ll also give you what he says in his own words, copied and pasted on November 10, 2011, from his about page:

“A self-described “Born Again conspiracy theorist,” Mike’s first book Dark Mission-The Secret History of NASA (co-authored with the venerable Richard C. Hoagland) was a New York Times bestseller in 2007 for Feral House books. His essay “The Occult History of NASA” appears in Secret and Suppressed II, also from Feral House. Mike has made numerous public appearances lecturing on the subjects of space science, NASA, physics and the link between science and spirit, and has been a featured guest on radio programs like Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. He began his writing career after spending more than 25 years as a “Card carrying member of the Military-Industrial complex” where he worked for a wide variety of aerospace companies as an engineering consultant and designer. In 2010, Mike returns with “The Choice” a new book for New Page Books which he describes as “The unified field theory of physics and metaphysics.” He promises that “The Choice” will peel back the layers of mystery around the Mayan calendar, 2012 and the future we can expect if we don’t heed nature’s warning signs.”

So you can see that I’m not being unfair in my painting of him as a new-ager nor a conspiracist.

He also looks kinda badass in his photo, like he’d be at home on a noisy motorcycle — much cooler than I do. This is a totally irrelevant point, but since I rarely talk specifically about a person, I thought I’d bring it up in the rare case when I do.

The next several sections are my attempt to organize the basic statements made by him during his Nov. 10, 2010, C2C interview.

Hyperdimensional Physics

Bara is an ardent believer in Richard Hoagland’s hyperdimensional physics. Starting in hour 2 at 12 minutes 29 seconds in, he claims that hyperdimensional physics means that everything is connected to something higher, a higher spatial dimension, which is where energy comes from. At 13:16 into hour 2, he states, “I can back up all this stuff that we’ve all believed in … with some actual physics and physical experiments that pretty much prove that the so-called ‘laws of physics’ that we’re taught in school, really aren’t real, they don’t really work, and they kinda fall apart when you get into them a bit, and there’s something much richer and much more beautiful … a more elegant solution, and that’s the theory of hyperdimensional physics.”

This is a very bold claim, to be able to turn over all of modern physics. It would be nice if he presented actual evidence of this that were well documented. Unfortunately for him, he does not. Throughout the episode when asked about this, what he does seem to harp on is that during eclipses, pendulums will move backwards or change their rate of swing. Bara presents this, for example, at 11:15 into the third hour: “Free-swinging pendulums [before eclipses will] be swinging with the rotation of the earth suddenly start going very rapidly backwards against the rotation of the Earth.”

I actually assumed this was total nonsense, but I was intrigued to find, after 5 seconds on Google, that it’s only total nonsense the way he explained it. There is an actual named effect, the Allais effect (named after frenchman Maurice Allais who later won a Nobel Prize in economics). You can read more about it on everyone’s favorite website, Wikipedia. The effect is that Allais observed that during a total solar eclipse, the rate of swing of a pendulum changed very slightly.

To summarize, experiments about a decade ago on normal pendulums found that the very very very slight differences in period could be easily accounted for by changes in temperature and air currents during an eclipse. The effects on a torsion pendulum (one that twists rather than swings) have been unreplicatable after they’ve been reported. This can really be summarized (as Wikipedia nicely does) by: “No unambiguous detections [of an Allais effect] within the past 30 years when consciousness of the importance of [experimental] controls was more widespread” (original source, subscription required).

So, the evidence for this seems to be a tiny effect that can be explained conventionally or an effect that does not exist.

But perhaps I’m closed-minded about hyperdimensional physics because I don’t believe in God. Bara states at 21:47 in hour two, “[Scientists] don’t want to admit that there’s a god, and that’s another reason why hyperdimensional physics is not accepted.” Um … sure. Not.

Bara 0, Science 1.

Astrology

And auras and crystals and consciousness. He believes in all that, clearly explicitly states it, but I want to focus in this section more on the astrology (though this will be short). I’ve written quite a bit about astrology before. If interested in the short version, I recommend this post first. If interested in reading more, I recommend this post second. Or, if you’d rather listen, I can now link you to my podcast episode on astrology (ep. 6 for those who already subscribe but want to re-listen).

Anyway, there are several short quips about astrology in the C2C interview, so it’s a bit hard to pull out a true gem. I’ve chosen the one at 37:55 in hour 2:

George Noory: “I mean, you’re even a believer in astrology now, aren’t you?”

Mike Bara: “Yeah well you know again, that goes back – that goes back to the hyperdimensional physics because the idea is that the planets are generating energy, which is traveling through these higher dimensions, and it is like this wave after wave of energy affecting us here on this planet. And, uh, there’s lots of, uh, interesting cases, there’s lots of experiments that show that-that this is really the case. That the planets and their positions relative to the Earth do have an effect, not just on physical instruments here, but actually on the way we think! And our consciousness.”

As an example – “the best example” – he tells a story of John Nelson in the 1950s who tried to find out why short-wave radio signals went wonky sometimes. Bara claims that he (Nelson) found a correlation with planetary positions and activity on the sun which Bara says is evidence for this: When the astrology for the planets said good things should happen, the sun was quiet, and then the opposite was the case. If you do a Google search for this (as I just did), you will find this study reported on astrology sites and … yeah, Richard Hoagland’s site in an article written by Bara. A bit more digging and you can actually find a PDF of the article Nelson wrote which was NOT in a peer-reviewed journal, but it was in a technical memo for RCA. The abstract clearly does state that Bara is not misrepresenting the basic findings from Nelson:

“An examination of shortwave radio propagation conditions over the North Atlantic for a five-year period, and the relative position of the planets in the solar system, discloses some very interesting correlations. As a result of such correlations, certain planetary relationships are deduced to have specific effect on radio propagation through their influence upon the sun. Further investigation is required to fully explore the effect of planet positions on radio propagation in order that the highly important field of radio weather forecasting may be properly developed.”

There are several important things to note here. First, this was not peer-reviewed meaning that there was no external unbiased rigorous check of his work. Second, correlation does not equal causation. Third, this was a single study, and even if 100% true and valid, it has not been replicated by anyone else that I have been able to find (I searched for about a half hour). Fourth, it has not been used to actually make predictions, which all testable hypotheses must.

Fifth, there is overwhelming science showing that astrology does not work, that it is nothing but magical thought and cold (and sometimes hot) reading. I don’t even think I need to refer to argument from authority vs. scientific consensus here (but I did anyway …). At 12:22 in the third hour, though, Bara stated, “If the planets can affect radio signals, then they can also affect our brainwaves.”

At the absolute very least, one can conclusively state that this does not prove astrology affects our “consciousness.” And if this is the best evidence, well, that’s sad.

Bara 0, Science 2.

2012 Galactic Alignment

It’s nice when one’s research involves going back into their own blog archives. In this case, for background in why the 2012 purported galactic alignment is not worth the electrons its printed on, I’ll refer you to this post of mine.

With that out of the way, Bara stated during the second hour at 27:48 into the hour: “We do get hit by a pulse of energy from the center of the galaxy right around this December 21[, 2012] period, in fact it goes for about a month before and a month after that where we’re really in this energetic pulse from the center of the galaxy at this time.” Then he went on to say that the energy is neutral and we can choose whatever we want to come out of it and it’ll happen. (Did I mention that the tagline for his book, The Choice, is, “You’ve heard of The Secret, now you can make The Choice”?) He also states around 10 minutes into the third hour, “We are aligned with the center of the galaxy [around the winter solstice].” Again, see my post linked in the paragraph above. And he brings in astrology. See the section before this one.

I’m not even going to go into detail on this. For this claim, it’s up to him to provide the evidence for this energy blast. What it is, what it’s made of (since “energy” is not a nebulous thing that just passes through stuff like new-agers think), why we need to go through an alignment that isn’t actually happening, etc. Otherwise …

Bara 0, Science 3.

Planets: Burped at Birth, Exploded at Death

In addition to this other stuff, Bara is a fan of the idea “planets were given birth to by the sun, the sun spewed the plants out, kinda from her belly” (16:31 into hour 2). Because of this, the planets are connected, and all our woes today are because there are missing planets, “quite obviously” the missing one between Mars and Jupiter (“Planet V”), of which Mars used to be a moon. When you lose planets in the system, you have less life energy and the “system gets out of harmony.” As evidence, “What happens is the Earth is tilted off its vertical axis by about 23°, and that makes us vulnerable to different waves of energy that are created when different planetary geometries – that is, the orbits of the planets around the Earth affect what’s going on here, they affect physical instruments, things like pendulums, they swing backwards during eclipses” (starting at 18:46 into hour 2).

So yeah, back to pendulums with a really really wonky idea of solar system / planetary formation, including the completely fallacious idea that the asteroid belt was once a planet and Mars was somehow its moon (“Mars itself which was absolutely devastated by … Planet V, the signatures are all over Mars” (18:20)). I actually do plan to go into the whole “exploding planet ‘hypothesis'” in some future blog post and likely in some future podcast episode, as well. For now, I hope that most people recognize that this is very hard to make happen by any known process, and the onus is on Mike Bara to really provide VERY convincing theory and evidence for why it’s the case. Yeah, I’m punting, but this is a LONG post.

I’ll forgo scoring this one for now. Someone remind me when I do that future post to add a link here.

Scientists Don’t Know Not’in’

This is very common in many new-ager claims or those of pseudoscientists or “amateur scientists:” Professional scientists are too entrenched in their thinking to really “get it.” Bara talks about this quite a bit starting around 22.5 minutes into hour two of the program. Among other gems are that evolution is wrong and Lloyd Pye is the guy to believe on this. (Lloyd Pye is the infamous “caretaker” of the “Starchild Skull” as well as the author of Everything You Know is Wrong (where “You” refers to him if you even get a page or two into the book), and he believes that ancient ETs were what created or at least modified us to be as we are today. Yes, that’s the person whom Bara would like us to believe about human origins and evolution.)

One particular gem was spoken starting at 24:03 in hour 2:

“There was only about 30% of the matter necessary to be holding the universe together. What does the physicist and the astronomer do? Do they say, ‘Oh, well gee, maybe our ideas are wrong.’ Um, no, they say, ‘Well the matter must actually be out there, it’s just invisible, we can’t see it, we can’t measure it, we’ll call it “dark matter” and we’ll start to look for it.’ [laughs] It’s just ridiculous ’cause what’s holding everything together is what’s literally the hand of god through a force that I talk about a lot in The Choice which is called ‘torsion.'”

Yeah, that’s right, instead of an extra term in Newtonian gravity or there being material out there that does not interact with light but does interact with other matter (that is the definition of dark matter), it’s God. It’s really difficult to know where to start here. So I won’t bother. I’ll refer you to wiki to get an overview of dark matter, and then for laughs I’ll refer you to my post on how Conservapedia calls dark matter a liberal pseudoscience.

As I noted with the galactic alignment, at the very least, Bara needs to provide evidence at least as convincing as the conventional explanation for his ideas to be even considered. Though I guess you can always claim “God can do anything” (by definition, right?), but that’s not science.

Bara 0, Science 4.

Ellipses in Planetary Orbits

It seems fitting that the section after I talk about Bara’s claim that is summarized as “scientists don’t know anything,” that I should come to this last one about ellipses that shows Bara knows less than the average middle school geometry student. I discussed this with Expat in the podcast, but it really bears repeating here, with diagrams.

On page 34 of The Choice, Bara states: “Many of the planet’s orbits, which … should be perfectly circular by now, are highly elliptical. In fact, Mars’s orbit is so eccentric that its distance from Earth goes from 34 million miles at its closest to 249 million miles at its greatest.”

It’s really simply incredibly stupid of Mike to claim that Mars’ orbit is highly eccentric because it comes as close as about 0.38 A.U. (“astronomical unit” is the distance between the sun and Earth) but goes as far as 2.67 A.U. (Actually, in fairness, the numbers that he gives equate to 0.37 A.U. and 2.68 A.U.; he and I rounded slightly differently.) Therefore it’s an eccentric orbit that’s evidence for his fission model of solar system formation.

The problem here, for those who didn’t listen to the podcast or don’t remember their middle school geometry is that you measure the long and short axis of an ellipse from the center of the ellipse. Not some crackpot arbitrary point inside or outside of it. In this case, the sun is one of the foci of the ellipse that is Mars’ orbit. The sun is one of the foci of ALL solar system objects that are in orbit. Earth is not. Measuring your axes from Earth is just stupid. It’s made up. It makes no sense. It has to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever talked about on this blog, and that’s saying a lot.

It’s as though Bara missed math classes after 5th grade, missed the Copernican Revolution that started over 500 years ago, heliocentrism in third grade, and then he simply lies about it that he didn’t claim he said what he did, and then he makes the original claim again.

Bara 0, Science 5. Though I’d like to count this last point more as ∞ because of its shear stupidity, so … we’ll just wrap it up with Bara 0, Science ∞.

Final Thoughts

This was a long post and took me over two hours to write. There’s a lot in here. I return, though to what I wrote in the background on the man. I think he is anti-science and is so clouded by his sense of new-ageyness that he clearly refuses to admit that he may be wrong about something or that the conventional explanation is real.

His many claims that are related to astronomy are, well, many. I’ve gone over six in this post in some detail. Every single one is wrong. But when challenged, as was clear in my interview with Expat, Bara goes on the attack and defense, lashing out at the accuser, calling them a stalker, crazy, obsessed, etc., that nothing he said is wrong, and then refuses to address it in any way. From a psychology standpoint, it’s quite interesting. From an intellectual standpoint, well, there simply is none. There is no sense of intellect there that can be addressed.

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September 30, 2011

Podcast Episode 6: Astrology Basics and a (Non-?)Changing Sky


Here’s a short post for a long podcast episode on astrology. I’ve discussed astrology several times in this blog before, though I’ve never really gone through to talk about the basics of astrology and some of its inconsistencies.

This episode is (I hope) a natural progression from the basics to talking about observational problems with precession and some inherent contradictions with that and different astrological ages, then getting into the whole “there is no mechanism!” that most astronomers use to “debunk” astrology. I wrap it up with the idea of predictions – that astrologers haven’t ever predicted the existence of astronomical objects, and a little about the anatomy of an astrological horoscope and two statistical studies into its predictive power.

I don’t ever explicitly talk about how the entire astrological system is a logical fallacy (correlation does not imply causation, or cum hoc ergo propter hoc for you Latin folks), but with the tone of the episode I didn’t really think it fit in very well. Maybe if someone sends in feedback I’ll address it during feedback of the next episode (hint: next one is based on … or in … Earth).

This episode is my longest so far coming in at about 32.5 minutes. I know in my first episode I said I’d be doing 10-20 minute episodes and my last few have gotten progressively longer. I’m not entirely sure where this is headed (gimme a break, I’m only on episode 6! (no, not 6-factorial for you math people)), so we’ll see if I’ll adjust my aims over the next few episodes.

I should also note that the episode addresses WESTERN astrology only (though a lot of the information will apply to all types). With that said, go listen!

April 1, 2011

April Fools: A Serious Post for the Day


Introduction

In the past, I’ve had a bit of obvious fun on April 1 with my posts, such as last year’s where I explained how I had seen the light and was giving up science. And apparently it wasn’t too obvious to all that I was joking, as Michael Horn apparently thought I was serious.

Anyway, this year I thought I would use the day to look over several ideas and concepts that I address on this blog or that, in general, the modern skeptical movement takes issue with. The purpose of this is that, often, people who believe in any of these topics will claim that skeptics can’t have their pet idea be true because it would upset their worldview, destroy everything they “believe” in, etc. On the contrary, I would absolutely love for many of these things to be true. Let’s take a look …

Near-Death Experiences, Spirit Contacts, Ghosts

Any and all of these things, if real (and by “real” for NDEs I mean they actually cannot be explained by biology), would mean that there is some form of existence after we die in this one. Seriously, I would be delighted if this were true. I don’t care what people say about how I can’t have this be true because it would mean there’s accountability, or that I can’t just do anything in this life ’cause I’d be reincarnated as a cockroach, or whatever.

Living for maybe 75 years and then ceasing to exist is a scary thought. Occasionally late at night, it crops up in my mind and I get freaked out. But that doesn’t mean that I believe that there is a form of existence after this one. I see no hard, reproducible evidence for it, and all the purported evidence that people have put forth is generally easily refuted (especially when we’re talking about ghosts and mediums).

But I would love it to be true. I asked a friend of mine once what he believed and he unabashedly said he was an atheist. As did his wife, who had grown up in some form of Christianity in a very conservative town. I asked her why, and if that meant she didn’t believe in life after death, either. She explained the usual reasons, but then it was this that got me: “No, I don’t think there’s life after death. But believe me, if someone were taking a vote and if I had any say in the matter, I would vote ‘yes.'”

I agree: If I have a vote in the matter of whether there will be a life after this one, I would vote “yes, I want there to be one.” But do I actually believe there is one? No.

Present-Day Visitation by UFOs and Aliens

In what you’ll quickly discover is a theme with this post, I think this would be cool, assuming of course some sort of benevolence as opposed to an Independence Day style of alien invasion. More Vulcans, less Borg. But do I think that tiny light in the sky that I happen to not be able to explain at the moment is an alien craft? No. Do I “believe” the Betty & Barney Hill story? No. Do I think Billy Meier’s laughable evidence is proof of visitation? No.

Ancient Aliens and Alien Artifacts in the Solar System

Following from the last section, this would again be pretty cool. Though I find it odd some people think Earth was the brothel of the galaxy eons ago and the idea that deviant aliens came here to make sweet sweet monkey love is wacked out. Again, actual real evidence of alien visitation in the past would be very neat. Evidence of an alien civilization on Mars or some other body in the solar system would likewise, I think, be cause of great interest and people would flock to it.

Does that mean I think the Nazca Lines are ancient alien landing strips? No. Or that aliens built the pyramids? No. Just because we may not have a mundane explanation for something now does not mean that “aliens did it.” Or, following perhaps a frequent refrain of creationists, it does not mean that “aliensdidit” (a la “goddidit”). Similarly, Richard C. Hoagland’s ideas of crystal tunnels and ancient sculptures on Mars, Andrew Baggiago’s ideas of fossils on Mars, and – closer to home – Hoagland’s “Data’s Head” find on the moon are obvious and clear examples of pareidolia and bad image processing, not the desired evidence of ancient advanced civilizations.

Young-Earth Creationism

To be perfectly fair, I really don’t “care” how old Earth is. As far as I’m concerned, I only “know” for sure that it’s just under 28 years old. Or really, it could have been created just a second ago but with the appearance of age and with all of our individual memories forged and everything made with the appearance of age. After all, that’s what you have to believe to be a young-Earth creationist, that every single piece of geologic, historical, astronomical, archaeologic, etc. evidence that points to a planet – much less solar system, galaxy, and universe – older than 6000 years was planted there by some sick, twisted omnipotent being to make us scratch our heads in the fashion of a chimp. Or you have to invent new science that doesn’t fit with anything else in order to make your models work out.

I think that in the coming decades, young-Earthers are going to be looked upon the same as flat-Earthers: People who ignore all evidence to the contrary, invent ways around what they can, and otherwise stick their fingers in their ears and shout, “La La La! I can’t hear you!”

Magic (Powers/Abilities like psychokinesis, Elves, Fairies, etc.)

I’ll be honest here (as elsewhere) and admit to a guilty pleasure: The TV show Charmed was one of my favorites. And I’m a Harry Potter fan, though that’s more socially acceptable for a guy. Anyway, I love the idea of magic existing, either out in the open or the concept of a hidden world “beyond the veil” that exists alongside our everyday lives but is hidden from us normal folks. In fact, for the past 4 years I’ve been working on and off on my own novel exploring that idea. But here you have the problem of not just a lack of even shaky evidence or suggestions that it’s true, but a solid lack of any suggestions that it’s true beyond the stray anecdote from the mentally questionable.

[Pick Your] Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy theories are interesting because many of them actually could be true when first broached. It’s when people ignore all evidence to the contrary of a conspiracy theory that it begins to get stupid. For example, the Apollo Moon landings. Every claim by conspiracy theorists have been appropriately answered by reasonable explanations that adequately fit the model that the astronauts landed on the moon. And now we have Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of the Apollo landing sites. This particular conspiracy theory may have made some sense WAY back in the day, but no anyone who clings to it is willfully ignorant or simply delusional. There really is no other, kinder way to say it.

2012 Doomsday

Do I want this one to be true? Of course not. I want to see the solar eclipse in 2017. I have plans set for 2013. I’d prefer not to die in some cataclysm at the end of next year. Does my desire for this not to happen cloud my judgement on whether it will? No. Again, much like with the conspiracy theories above, every idea put forward by 2012 doomsdayers has been shown to be simply wrong, not physically possible, or just an outright lie. If there were actual evidence or even a physical mechanism that could occur, then I would reevaluate my conclusion and start eating more ice cream and Doritos.

Vaccines Cause Autism

Actually, I think it would be great if there were any kind of simple cause of autism, be it the thimerosal that was used as a preservative in childhood vaccines, parents playing Beethoven to the pregnant mom’s stomach, or solar flares. Unfortunately, there isn’t. Thimerosal was removed from most vaccines in the US a decade ago, and autism rates didn’t go down at all. No one knows what actually causes autism, but it’s definitely not vaccines. Concerned parents should be concerned, but they shouldn’t blame something that protects a child’s health and has conclusively been shown by every study to not cause autism.

Final Thoughts

That about wraps it up. Now, yes, this was posted on April 1st. No, this is not a “fake” nor joke post. In the end, this really boils down to this message for a “true believer” who harps on the “skeptics:” Get over yourselves. We are not “scared” that your-supernatural-belief-of-choice may be true. We would welcome it. Instead of wasting everyone’s time with that straw man, how about actually addressing the legitimate criticisms of the methodology instead of the claims?

What I’ve written above are my honest thoughts on the issues. What are yours?

January 21, 2011

Planet X and 2012: Sun Returns to Greenland … Two Days Early!? And a Major Fail by Time Magazine


This is a very quick post so I’ll dispense with the normal subject headings. A few days ago, Canadian host Karl Mamer of The Conspiracy Skeptic podcast pointed me to a page describing the sun returning to Greenalnd – specifically Ilulissat – two days before normal (January 11 instead of January 13). The most plausible explanation is melting ice decreasing and changing the horizon. But that didn’t stop 2012 doomsday folks from saying it’s a pole shift and all that nonsense in the comments page.

I wasn’t going to post about this until I saw this story on Time‘s website. Zoe Fox’s article has to be one of the absolute worst ones I’ve read on their site in years.

The third paragraph states: “While scientists are yet to agree upon an explanation, ideas are circulating, such as the impending 2012 leap year and the changes in the constellations.”

Changing constellations!? What!? Constellations have nothing to do with what day of the year the sun rises, and they don’t affect Earth in any way, shape, nor form (unless you’re an astrologer, but then I’ve talked about that before). And of course, a coming leap year would also have absolutely nothing to do with the sun rising two days earlier from one year to the next. I’d like to know what “scientists” Zoe Fox interviewed to come to this wacked-out statement.

The next paragraph actually does state the likely cause: “Perhaps the most convincing explanation is Greenland’s melting polar ice caps. The average annual temperature in Greenland was three degrees Celcius higher in 2010 than average. As the ice caps melt, the horizon line sinks, potentially paving the way for an earlier sunrise.” Although Zoe is apparently too busy to use spell-check … it’s “Celsius,” Zoe, not “Celcius.”

Absolutely horrible article on a well-respected news site/magazine.

January 12, 2011

Picking Apart Astrology Methods: 2011 Astrology Predictions from Terry Nazon


Introduction

Ever since I started to write a series of posts (part 1 here) on 2012 claims of “Terry Nazon World Famous Celebrity Astrologer,” and then getting threatened by her (is that some rite of passage for a modern skeptic?), I’ve followed Ms. Nazon on and off.

With my recent post on looking over the 2010 “psychic” predictions made on a popular late-night radio program, I thought that for 2011 I would take a look at some sources other than just who happens to phone in to Coast to Coast.

Astrologic “Predictions”

It’s actually very difficult to look at astrologic predictions and to score them later on for accuracy. It’s really quite difficult to do that with the professional alleged psychics because they know to couch their claims in vague language (a great example being claimed “clairvoyant medium” Christian von Lahr who for 2010 predicted something really big with one of Obama’s daughters involving the letters “P,” “I,” “N,” and “K;” he noted that the letters may have spiritual meaning instead or be turned, like the “P” into a “b,” “d,” “6,” or “9,” or it could also look like a bed or a wheelbarrow … is that vague enough for you?). But I have found that astrologers are particularly bad – or good, depending on your point of view – at doing this.

So I’m not going to really use Ms. Nazon’s “forecast” for 2011 as something I’m going to score at the end of the year. Rather, I’m going to use it to point out (a) why Ms. Nazon still hasn’t a clue about astronomy nor grammar, and (b) how she uses such vague language and escape clauses so that almost anything would be considered a “hit” rather than a “miss.”

Everything discussed here is based on her “Year Ahead 2011 Forecast” as it appeared on January 11, 2011 (and Terry, if you change it, I have a saved copy).

First, the Astronomy

There is really very little astronomy in this forecast other than the common astrological nonsense about houses and having all the planets in the wrong place in the sky.

But in her next-to-last paragraph, Ms. Nazon claims, “Neptune takes about 172 years to complete its transit around the zodiac.”

In common terms, the “zodiac” is basically a line through the middle of the entire sky. In other words, she is stating that Neptune takes 172 years to orbit the sun. My question for her: Terry, how lazy are you? Seriously? The simplest of Google or Wikipedia search tells you that Neptune’s orbital period – its year – is 164.79 Earth years, or rounded to 165. Any astronomy textbook that wasn’t written before 1846 will tell you that, as well, unless it was written by someone who was illiterate. Where the heck do you get “172?!”

Vague Forecasts

Now that I got that out of my system, let’s look at the anatomy of her forecasts.

Part 1: Say something about planets that physically means nothing. “As 2011 begins Jupiter the expansive planet and Uranus the anything goes planet finish their transit through the last sign of the experiential zodiac wheel of life, Pisces.”

Part 2: Say that you (the astrologer) are an interpreter and are reading these signs. “This tells us that how we end things is as important as how we begin things.” Or, “It’s an astrologer’s job to translate what the cosmic consciousness is telling us through the planets.”

Part 3, version 1: Say something vague that will apply to 99% of your audience and that usually will require a precondition to be met that will lead 99% of that 1% that it didn’t apply to to that conclusion anyway. “When minds are focused on everything bad that is happening around us and to those we care about, we naturally fear the worst.” Or, “we are all ending some phase of our lives. No matter where you are in life, starting high school, starting college, beginning your careers, families, winding down your role as a parent or embarking on your retirement, it now is more significant than ever.”

Part 4, version 1: Don’t say what to do, give your client an “if” statement that almost always results in the desired conclusion. “How you end things is very important at this particular time. … So take some time and don’t leave things unfinished, clean your life and your house; don’t carry burdens, fights and garbage into 2011.”

Part 3, version 2: State what happened in the past when Part 1 happened. This makes it seem like you are actually giving a forecast. “Many of these transits, Uranus in Aries, Neptune in Pisces and Pluto in Capricorn have historically triggered major collapses of regimes, governments and economies when things have become too corrupt.” Or, “Could it be a massive volcanic eruption or a meteor hitting the earth ….”

Part 4, version 2: State that that may happen again, but it may not (the escape clause). “Not always though…as I have said before”this isn’t Granny’s depression and we aren’t like our granny’s at all”.” Or, continuing the second example from #3 v2, “… it could but historically it was just the uprising of people taking back their power.”

What it all boils down to is that there is nothing actually predicted here. If any single thing in your life vaguely relates to anything she said – and unless you live in a plastic bubble and don’t move for a year, it will – then it will end up validating something that she wrote because it’s just so vague. No where did she say, “On June 14, 2011, a bridge in San Diego will collapse.” Or, “2011 will have a record-breaking number of tornadoes across the US.”

Nor even did she give a vague “typical psychic” prediction that can be retrodicted to normal events, such as, “There will be a nuclear problem in 2011” (this could be retrodicted to fit a nuclear bomb, nuclear testing, nuclear-powered vehicles having some sort of problem, an alarm in a nuclear testing facility … you get the idea).

Instead, she says, “The 12th house rules karma. It’s the culmination of experiences and the final test. We’ve been here before, we all know what to do.”

I’ve gotten better predictions in a fortune cookie. And at least with fortune cookies you get to add “in bed” to the end.

And Then There’s the Grammar

I don’t know why it bugs me so much, but Ms. Nazon’s atrocious grammar makes her horrible forecasts and understanding of astronomy and archaeology even worse. Take this gem: “Not always though…as I have said before”this isn’t Granny’s depression and we aren’t like our granny’s at all”.”

First, she misses the space between “before” and the quote. Then she has an apostrophe (possessive) after the second “granny” even though it should not be possessive. Third, she puts the period punctuation outside of the quotation mark (declarative punctuation goes inside). Fourth, she misses the comma joining two sentences with a conjunction (there should be a comma after “depression” since “this isn’t Granny’s depression” and “we aren’t like our granny’s at all” are both complete sentences, and they are joined by the “and”).

Another example is she starts her second paragraph with, “As 2011 begins Jupiter the expansive planet and Uranus the anything goes planet finish their transit through the last sign of the experiential zodiac wheel of life, Pisces.” You may need to read that again. It took me three reads before I could figure out what she was trying to say.

Let me count the mistakes: 1. “As 2011 begins” is an appositive and a comma belongs after it. 2. “The expansive planet” is a description of the noun just used (Jupiter) and should be bound by commas. 3. Similarly, “the anything goes planet” should be bound by commas. Three in one sentence.

Final Thoughts

All this from “Terry Nazon World Famous Celebrity Astrologer” who charges now $99.00 for 15 minutes on the phone, $100.00 for an “E-Reading” via e-mail, and up to $365.20 for a full hour on the phone. Her prices have gone up since I last looked.

Oh, and I do apologize if this came off as a bit more ranty than usual. It’s late night here and my tongue is still partly numb after needing eight injections to go numb enough for a simple cavity filling yesterday.

December 28, 2010

2010 Psychic Predictions Roundup: Audience and Professionals on Coast to Coast AM Majorly Fail


Introduction

Every year, the late-night number-one-rated four-hour radio show Coast to Coast AM spends December 30 and 31 taking “psychic predictions” from the audience, and January 1 with invited “psychics” for predictions for 2010. I had a lot of free time while taking pictures at the telescopes in early January so I listened diligently to all 12 hours and recorded every prediction.

Let’s see how they did, shall we?

Edited to Add: It’s come to my attention (Oct. 2011) that Cal Orey (see the “Professionals” section below) has this post listed on her homepage as me indicating that she was the highest hit-rate “psychic” on Coast to Coast for 2010 predictions. I’ll repeat here what I do below: She was highest because she got 1 right out of 3 that I considered specific enough to actually judge; the other 6 were too vague or obvious to refute or deny. One correct prediction about an earthquake in California is not something that I, personally, would be bragging about. But I’m happy to have her link to my blog.

Audience

Art Bell ran the audience nights and he was very specific: One prediction per customer per year, and no predictions about assassinations, politically-motivated, nor abstract religious ideas would be taken. This year, there were a total of 110 predictions that were recorded. I actually recorded all the ones that made it to air, so in the document I link to below, you will see some items crossed out. Those are ones that Art did not record. My own comments are included in [square brackets] and are things that were not said on the show.

Click here for the PDF with all the audience predictions.

I have now gone through and – with a little help on some items I didn’t know about, scored them. First off, there were 5 predictions that I considered too vague or not actually for 2010, so that gets us down to 105 predictions. Based on my information, 6 came true. That’s a hit rate of 5.7±2.3%. (Uncertainty is calculated by taking the square-root of the number of counts and dividing by the total — this is standard Poisson statistics.)

Here are some of my favorites:

14. Obama goes live on NBC saying that aliens do exist and there will be an alien with him who speaks to the whole world.

16. A lot of people who are handicapped will get out of their wheelchairs and will walk again. (Qualifier: “If they truly believe.”)

26. Re-discovery, by September, of the entrance to the hollow Earth at the North Pole.

52. God is actually a being of light and he is moving back towards us at the speed of light. The result is that he’ll send a laser pulse in that direction and tell us what a bad job everyone’s doing.

81. A celebrity will be exposed as a cannibal.

And my all-time favorite … one of the only hits: 102. There will be no really big changes, it’ll be “pretty much the same-old-same-old.” There’ll be some crises, medical advances, etc., but that’s what happens every year.

Professionals

As a skeptic, I will admit that I derive great joy in seeing professional purveyors of woo resoundingly fail. And the “professionals” that C2C invited on did just that, none with a hit rate above 33%, and that high one was by virtue of only making 3 specific enough predictions to score.

Click here for the PDF with all the “professional” predictions.

In scoring these, I think I was fairly generous, as you may note if you look at the document linked above.

Edited to Add: The percentage correct that I list below are based on (# correct) / ((# predictions) – (# too vague)). I add this because I noticed some confusion on how I gave Orey 33% instead of 11% (1/(9-6) vs. 1/9).

To summarize, here are the scores for each person:

  • Christian von Lahr: 3 out of 15 with 1 too vague for 21%.
  • Paul Guercio: 0 out of 6 with 2 too vague for 0%.
  • Glynis McCants: 0 out of 9 with 8 too vague for 0%.
  • Tana Hoy: 1 out of 16 with 5 too vague for 9%.
  • Cal Orey: 1 out of 9 with 6 too vague for 33%.
  • Terry and Linda Jamison: 1 out of 17 with 5 too vague for 8%.
  • Mark Lerner: 0 out of 5 with 4 too vague for 0%.
  • Jeffrey Wands: 1 out of 16 with 1 too vague for 7%.

The combined generous hit rate was 11.5±4.3%. This is statistically identical to the audience’s hit rate. The one who got the most right was Christian von Lahr with 3, though due to small numbers because of incredible vagueness or obviousness, Cal Orey came out on top percentage-wise.

A trend you will note if you look at the document linked above is that the pros were all, in general, fairly vague in their predictions (fully 1/3 of them were unusable). Or, they were incredibly obvious to the point that they couldn’t be used to score any “psychic-ness.” For example, Cal Orey “predicted” that Italy will have “another quake.” Well, considering that there are tens of thousands of earthquakes of magnitudes >4.0 every year across the planet, this is like saying, “During 2010, the sun will appear in the sky,” or “a politician will tell a lie or half-truth.” Duh.

Some of my favorites were:

von Lahr: Something really big with one of Obama’s daughters involving the letters “P,” “I,” “N,” and “K.” Note that the letters may have spiritual meaning instead or be turned, like the “P” into a “b,” “d,” “6,” or “9.” It could also look like a bed or a wheelbarrow [so, basically you can retrodict anything to this]. The letters are also in the word, “kidnap.”

Orey: If San Francisco gets another quake in 2010, Arnold won’t be very happy.

Lerner: There won’t be a catastrophe.

The one that ticked me off the most was, by far, Tana Hoy, who, if you were/are able to listen, almost seemed scared that we all knew he was just making things up. He started off the interview by calling the host, Ian Punnett, “Ryan,” and then stated obvious things that had already been announced.

The pair that I thought were most full of themselves were the “psychic twins,” Terry and Linda Jamison. They started the interview by claiming that everything they predicted for 2009 had come true, and when they were on later in 2010, they claimed that everything they had predicted in January would still come true. I couldn’t find a C2C interview they did for 2009, but I found one for 2000.

On November 2, 1999, they claimed AIDS would be cured by 2002, “breast cancer drug break-through by 2003,” “a cancer cure, especially for breast cancer by 2007,” 60% of cancer cured by 2008, a cloning of body parts “in the not too distant future … in diagnostic chambers,” and people with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, MS, and spinal cord injuries will be walking “within the decade.” Yeah …. didn’t quite happen. And by my tally, they only had one hit for 2010, and it was incredibly vague but I gave it to them. They had some monstrous fails, such as shiitake mushrooms as a prevention for breast cancer and hurricanes devastating Florida. They even failed on some actual statistically likely hits, like a major storm hitting the gulf.

Final Thoughts

As we go into 2011, many, many people will look to alleged psychics, astrologers, mediums, etc. for forecasts about the year ahead. When I first started my blog in late 2008, I averaged about 10-25 hits/day. Then I did a parody of my own psychic and astrologic predictions for 2009, and my hit rate spiked by a factor of 5.

And yet, when we actually write down what these people say and we look at the misses along with the hits, we find that these people are basically full of you-know-what. They aren’t any more “psychic” than the average person making wishful forecasts.

The main difference between these professionals and the lay person is their vagueness. The C2C audience members were willing to make generally very specific predictions such as “Lake Tahoe is actually a volcano,” versus the professionals who know that being specific is to their detriment so will usually try to be more vague, such as “no major tsunami for quite awhile.”

Please let me know if you enjoyed this post – either by commenting and/or taking a moment to rank it with a star count just under the tags for the post. It took a lot of time to write these down and score them and I want to know if it’s worth doing for 2011.

Also, if I have made any mistakes in my scoring, please let me know and I will correct it ASAP.

June 20, 2010

Astrology vs. Astronomy: What Coordinate System to Use?


Introduction

As probably anyone who reads my blog knows, I have recently done a few blog posts related to astrology, specifically criticizing the astrologer Terry Nazon, both for her bad astronomy and for her threats and harassment towards me and a fellow blogger. My compatriot and much more famous and well known anti-astrologer (among other things) Phil Plait was even kind enough to mention me on his blog, though I’ll admit that I did point out my problems with Ms. Nazon.

This post is not about Ms. Nazon. This post is about astrology in general, and specifically whether my criticisms have been fair given that astrologers – some Western astrologers, anyway – use a different coordinate system and different definitions than the world’s astronomers.

What Is Precession?

Also, those who have been reading my blog know that I’m teaching an introductory astronomy class this month for college undergraduates. The second and third day of class were spent going over the motions of the the sky — the stars, sun, planets, moon, etc., over the course of one day, several days, a year, and then thousands of years.

One might think that going to thousands of years is a bit much — shouldn’t the sky look the same year after year? Actually, no. Earth spins on its rotational axis once every 24 hours. It goes around the sun once every 365.25 days (approximately). And during that time around the sun, the rotational axis is pointed at the same spot in the sky (hence why we have seasons).

That’s the year-after-year motion. However, this rotational axis direction does change. Just like a top spins on its axis, but then that axis wobbles in a circle, so does Earth’s axis. Over the course of approximately 26,000 years, Earth’s rotational axis makes one complete “wobble,” returning to the same spot it was before in the sky. This is the mechanism behind what you may have heard about the ancient Egyptians — they had a different North Star than we do today.

You also may have heard that many thousands of years ago, Vega was our North Pole Star, and that it will be again in many more thousands of years. This is all due to precession.

On a short timescale, say, a person’s lifetime, precession will not be noticeable in any meaningful way. But, astrology was not invented one person’s lifetime ago. Western astrology was codified nearly 2000 years ago by Ptolemy, but its origin really dates back more towards ancient Babylon, around 2500 years ago. 2500 is nearly 1/10th of 26,000, and that is a significant fraction.

Practical Effect of Precession

A practical effect, besides the north pole star (and south pole star) changing, is that the sun will appear to be in a different part of the sky on the same date from one year to the next.

For example, this year on the vernal (Spring) equinox, the sun will be in the constellation Pisces. But, 2500 years ago, when Western astrology was being developed, the sun on the vernal equinox was in the constellation Aries. And in roughly 700 years, the sun on the vernal equinox will be in the constellation Aquarius.

The bottom-line: The stars have moved!

To Precess or Not to Precess?

Pretty much all the criticisms of my posts about Ms. Nazon’s astrology focused on the basic fact that many western astrologers do NOT take into account precession. Astronomers, on the other hand, do. And so do many other western astrologers. So is it fair of me to criticize when we’re not, as the saying goes, comparing apples to apples?

In different terminology, astrologers use what is called the “tropical” zodiac instead of the “sidereal” zodiac. (At least, based upon my understanding these terms are interchangeable — tropical zodiac is non-precessed, sidereal is precessed.)

Definition of a Constellation

Another criticism I received is that astrologers do not use the same constellation system that astronomers do. As far as the Zodiac is concerned, astrologers have divided it into 12 equal parts, with each constellation exactly 30° (360° in a circle / 12 = 30°). Astronomers, on the other hand, follow the definition of the International Astronomical Union, as codified in 1930. The constellations do not have fixed 30° intervals, and they of course move with precession.

Here is an area will I will definitely admit that my criticism should at least have been tempered, somewhat. After all, constellations are arbitrary boundaries around pareidolia-ed points of light in the sky as seen from an arbitrary vantage point. Who’s to say that the astrologic system of dividing the Zodiac is any better or worse than the IAU’s?

However, I will unequivocally state that my criticism was not specifically about her boundaries, but more that she was off by about 10% of the sky (precession), rather than a degree or two due to different constellation boundaries.

What Does Astrology Claim to Be?

Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the discussion of precession and the criticism I received …

Believe it or not, I had difficult finding this — what the real root belief is about astrology — so I am going off of what I have read on many astrologers’ websites and my own understanding. So, please correct me if I’m wrong here:

The basic premise of astrology is that the apparent arrangement of stars, planets, moons, the sun, and other objects in the sky, as observed from Earth, all will have an effect on a person (or nation, or company, or whatever) based upon where they were relative to each other on the minute the person/nation/company/thing was born/created, and then where they are now (“they” meaning the astronomical objects).

Okay, even with my rather loose understanding of an exact mechanism (and no two astrologers actually agree on a precise mechanism — but that’s a different post), I think most would agree that that’s the basic idea of how astrology is supposed to work.

So, you need to know, say, where the planet Venus is in the sky. And what constellation it’s in, so you know what personality traits will be taken on. Among other things. Right?

Returning: To Precess or Not to Precess?

Told’ja I’d get back to this. So we need to know where in the sky certain objects will be. From Earth. After all, most of us were probably born on Earth (that’s another blog post, too …).

So shouldn’t you take into account precession? If I look up at the sky, right now, I see Mars in the western sky deep within the constellation Leo. As in, the planet Mars is, in Earth’s sky, physically surrounded by stars in Leo.

Contrast that with a non-precessed sky. This time of year, around 1 B.C., Virgo is squarely in the patch of sky that is currently occupied by Leo. So instead of Mars being surrounded by Leo, it’s surrounded by the stars of Virgo. Now, I don’t pretend to know what that would signify, but I would think that the God of War being surrounded by the Lion is different from being surrounded by the Virgin. Wouldn’t that change your readings?

Besides just this, and I apologize if this may seem to be a silly question, but doesn’t it actually matter what you can see outside versus what you imagine based on what the sky looked like over 2000 years ago? Virgo’s not where it was 2000 years ago … doesn’t this change things?

Final Thoughts

Alright, I realize that this post may seem condescending to some, ignorant to others, or stupid to a few more. But I actually am in all honesty, legitimately curious here. Especially because I know that western astrologers themselves are divided over whether to take into account precession.

Maybe it’s just the way I was trained in science — I think that if stuff moves, you move with it. It doesn’t make sense to me to use something as it was 2500 years ago when everything else has changed. To me, it seems the same as, say, starting to write on a piece of paper 15 minutes ago, and you still writing away in the same spot even though someone has moved the piece of paper far away from you. You’re just writing in air now.

And that’s why I feel justified in criticizing Ms. Nazon, and by proxy, all other astrologers who do not account for precession. She’s writing on air or her desk, not the paper that was there 15 minutes ago. The stars haven’t been where she says they are for thousands of years. Shouldn’t that matter?

June 9, 2010

Terry Nazon’s Astronomy: Just Plain Wrong


Introduction

I wanted to take a brief pause from writing lectures for the intro astronomy class I’m teaching (don’t worry guys, the one for tomorrow is already written!) and head down a different path for a few moments.

Some may consider me a glutton for punishment. Considering my recent run-in of being threatened by an astrologer, I’ve been following her a bit on Twitter to see what she’s up to in her astrological prognostications. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

Get Your Astronomy Right!

Alright, I’ll say it to start off with to let everyone know where I stand: I do not “believe” in astrology. I trust the studies that have shown it no better than random guessing and that have shown it has no predictive power better than cold reading and self-reporting positive results for positive predictions. I don’t see any mechanism by which it could work, and none that have been proposed by astrologers actually have any physical validity unless they want to re-write the laws of physics.

That said, if you’re going to be an astrologer, AT LEAST GET YOUR ASTRONOMY RIGHT!!!

I honestly don’t know if this is common to most astrologers, or if it just happens to be Terry Nazon who is, well, I’ll be polite and just say apparently ignorant of astronomy and where stuff is in the sky. It’s a little hard to believe considering that astrology’s entire foundation is based on where stuff is in the sky, but, well, facts are facts.

I showed in my series on Nazon before (part 1, part 2, and part 3) that she is apparently fairly ignorant of where objects are in the actual sky, and this is seriously not a case where you just have to take my word for it. Go download any free astronomy sky-display software, look at a star chart yourself, or download a commercial or shareware software. You will be able to demonstrably see that what I stated in my previous series is accurate. (I’m not going to provide star charts this time unless asked for in Comments because I think it’s fairly redundant at this point … and because I need to write a homework set to hand out for tomorrow.)

What’s Going on This Time?

14 hours ago from the time of this writing, so I guess around 6AM MDT (mountain daylight time for those not in the US), Nazon tweeted, “Mercury enters Gemini it’s home placement. Expects things to start moving quickly….”

This intrigued me. I don’t know anything about Mercury’s “home placement,” but based on my experience on my previous series about Terry Nazon (part 1, part 2, and part 3), I wanted to check this. I was not disappointed. At the moment, Mercury is on the Aries side of Taurus, actually having just entered Taurus on June 5 (5 days ago as of writing this). It won’t be until very late in the day on June 25 (that’s in 15 days) that Mercury will enter Gemini. Interesting.

On Monday, so about 2 days ago, Nazon tweeted (and put on her Facebook page): “Mars the planet of action enters Virgo where it last transitied [sic] July 2008. Mars transit around the zodiac is about 2 1/2 yrs. The last time Mars was in Virgo Saturn had just begun it’s transit of Virgo too. Now the two meet up again as Saturn ends its transit through Virgo.”

Also interesting. I love conjunctions, they’re actually really cool to photograph. I showed a conjunction to my class yesterday of the five planets that the ancient civilizations knew about in a photo taken a few years ago. But anyway, back to the claim. I took a look, and yet again, Mars is not anywhere near Virgo. It’s on the Cancer side of Leo right now, though Virgo is on the other side, and Saturn is currently reasonably close to the Leo side of Virgo.

However, Mars moves through the sky much more slowly than Mercury. As a consequence, while Terry Nazon was about 2 weeks off for her Mercury prediction, she’s a full 40 days of for her Mars prognostication. Mars will not enter Virgo until July 19 (actually July 20 for about 1/3 of the world).

(As a side note, about a month later on August 12 there is a VERY cool conjunction between Mars, Venus, Saturn, a thin crescent moon, AND Mercury that will be visible early in the morning evening.)

About the other part of that claim — when Mars last transited (moved through) Virgo, it did so between August 8, 2008, and October 15, 2008. It started doing this reasonably close to Saturn, though that’s almost due to definition: Saturn’s orbit around the sun takes about 30 Earth years. From 1 Earth year to the next, or even 2 Earth years to the next two, Saturn is not going to move very far in the sky. So if Mars right now is near Saturn, then the last time Mars was in this location, it was also near Saturn. But, regardless, Nazon is yet again wrong on her dates.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps I’m picking on low-hanging fruit. But this really does bug me a fair bit. In a different way than all the 2012 doomsday-sayers and young-Earth creationists. Astrologers claim that what they are doing is science. They base what they do on the motions of the planets, sun, moon, stars, and sometimes asteroids. The very least they could do is to get those motions and positions correct!

And yet again, I’ll use the refrain: If Nazon’s easy-to-see astronomy claims of where objects are when are so demonstrably wrong (and other astrologers who may be wrong like her), why should ANYONE pay the $75 an e-mail or up to $330 an hour for one of her “readings?” Heck, send me an e-mail and I’ll at least tell you where stuff is in the sky when. And I won’t charge you nearly that much.

June 2, 2010

Ah, the Joys of Stepping on Someone’s Toes: Terry Nazon Redux


Introduction

A few months ago, I wrote a 2-part post about the claims of astrologer Terry Nazon and her claims about 2012. I asked a fellow blogger (Johan), one who knows much more about archaeology than I, to do a third part for the series about her archaeology claims of the Mayans. He kindly obliged and you can read all three parts here: Part 1, part 2, and part 3.

I made a point that her many claims made on her website about the astronomy of 2012 were either (a) wrong, (b) meaningless, or (c) insignificant. Johan’s point in the third part was that her information about the Maya was (a) wrong and (b) reflected a fairly ethnocentric view on her part.

My point was to conclude that she (a) doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about from an astronomy nor archaeological point of view, and (b) if what she said could be shown to be so demonstrably wrong, why should someone pay her several hundred dollars for a phone call ($330 for an hour, or $75 for an e-mail reading)?

Edited to Add: On September 18, 2012, I got an e-mail from my thesis advisor and boss that Terry was planning on suing me for various things. I have updated this post accordingly, leaving the original language but making edits with strikes to indicate deletions and underlines to indicate additions. I also note that while I filed this under “scams,” this is my opinion based on her writings, it is not a statement of legal fact.

What’s Going On

Apparently rather than defending her claims, over the past 24 hours Johan and I have been receiving much spam and angry threats to both our blogs as well as through e-mail. The e-mails were almost certainly from Ms. Nazon, sent from the Comcast IP address 75.149.179.194 in Florida, the same as her area code on her website, and from her eponymous and Comcast-based e-mail address. The comments, attempted to be posted under various names, have also come from the same IP address.

It appears also as though she is now trying to pass herself off as me, posting under the name “astrostu206265” (the ID I happened to choose when I started this blog due to a sort of “inside number” to astronomers of 206265), e-mail address “astrostu206265@yahoo.com” (which to my knowledge does not exist), and of course that IP address (75.149.179.194). She (apparently) has tried to do this on my blog and she has done this on others. I got an e-mail from The Godless Monster blog writer asking if I made the post to their blog under that IP address with the message:

“You are all a bunch of anonymous cowards who hide behind anonymous names and @anywhere emails…no one will listen to anywhos @anywhere.com s
fakes. cowards and phonies who must not believe what they write because they are ashamed to put there name and face to it…stand up cowards and be counted.”

That’s the same message she that person with that IP and that e-mail tried to post to my blog, twice. And she that person with that IP and that e-mail posted it to the comments section of “New Discoveries and Comments About Creationism” where I happened to post a comment or two.

The purpose of this post is to let fellow bloggers know – if they happen to do a search for “astrostu206265” – what’s going on, and to block that IP address and similar messages if she that person with that IP and that e-mail moves computers.

Final Thoughts

I hadn’t really planned on making this whole thing public since I didn’t want to feed it, but I did want to make a quick public statement in an attempt to separate what she’s doing from my own actions. I’m in Colorado, my IP address starts with 67.161.x. Oh, and if anyone happens to know a way to have WordPress actually spoof my handle (astrostu206265) and make it appear as my actual name, let me know, ’cause I’ve been looking for that for awhile I’ve changed my handle here so WP displays it as my name.

I also noticed that, throughout this, she still has the wrong information (and type-os) on her website. And in case she does end up fixing it, I saved a copy of the page like all the sites I talk about as evidence that I wasn’t trying to make straw man arguments. She’s also still claiming that she is, “Terry Nazon, World Famous Celebrity Astrologer.” Interesting way for one of that status to act, assuming it was her.

April 19, 2010

Planet X and 2012 and Astrology: Exploring the Claims of Astrologer Terry Nazon on 2012, Part 3


Introduction

Way back when, oh, about two months ago, I wrote a two-part series on astrologer Terry Nazon (part 1, part 2).

When I wrote the posts, I asked fellow blogger Johan Normark who writes the Archaeological Haecceities blog – and who has frequently written about 2012 and the Mayans – to do a guest post here. Johan is an archaeologist and so is much better-suited to address Ms. Nazon’s claims about Mayans. He was on travel at the time and said it would be a few months, but a few minutes ago I received word that he has written the post.

The post appears on his blog entitled, “Prophet of nonsense #12: Terry Nazon and ethnocentric astrology.” Johan has some interesting insights that I completely missed but agree with, especially in that Nazon is an obvious ethnocentrist. He has given me permission to copy it below, so the rest of this post is directly from his site:

Dr. Normark’s Post

While I was travelling in Thailand I got an email from Stuart Robbins who runs the blog Exposing Pseudoastronomy. He asked me to write a guest post on his blog as part 3 of his exposure of the astrologer Terry Nazon’s claims about the Maya. Part one and two are found at his website. I accepted the offer and I have just read what she has to say about the so-called Mayan prophecy of 2012. As you might expect from an astrologer, it is full of disinformation. Here follows some of it.

Puuc iconography

Her first claim is that “the ancient Maya were obsessed with watching the stars and making astrological predictions.” Obsessed is perhaps not the right word here. True, some Maya (a minority) were skilled sky watchers but they were far from obsessed, that is a word that better describe the 2012ers. Neither did they “go on the roofs at midnight, and through 2 crossed sticks X make their calculations. This symbol “X ” is found on many ancient Mayan buildings still, denoting places where the astrologers would go to watch the stars at night or early morning. “ This is her interpretation. First, they did not go on to the roofs of their buildings (this shows a lack of knowledge on how Maya buildings were designed). Few staircases lead up to the “roof”, maybe up to the top of a pyramid, but that is not the “roof”. Although “pecked crosses” were used for astronomical observations the symbol X she refers to on buildings is probably the common crosshatching we find on particularly Puuc architecture. This is believed to represent pop or the woven mat people sat on. It is a symbol of royalty in the Maya area. The four corners of a cross (such as the Kan cross) is otherwise a common theme in Maya iconography but it refers to the Maya cosmological model of a quadripartite cosmos with four corners and a center.

Next Nazon claims that the Maya astrologers “predicted the end to civilization as we know it in 2012, and their calendar actually ends on Dec. 21, 2012. According to others it’s Dec. 8, 2012.!”. No, they did not predict the end of civilization whatsoever and their calendar does not end in 2012. There are at least three inscriptions (at Yaxchilan, Tikal and Palenque) that indicate time periods in the distant future. She claims that “we know it has happened before in their Calendar long count on Aug. 12, 3114 B.C.” What has happened before? The end of civilization or their calendar? Neither option is applicable to the 3114 BC date. It concerns the beginning of the current Long Count but says nothing about the end of an earlier civilization. I have never seen the December 8 date before but it would not surprise me if such a correlation exists.

She speculates, like all other 2012ers, what this “end” means to us. Of course she brings up global warming (as if the Maya 2000 years ago knew that this problem would occur). As an astrologer she obviously focuses on the supposed alignments of planets that she believes will happen on December 21, 2012. However, if she had some critical thinking skills she would quickly see that such an alignment could not possibly occur on the alternative date she presents (December 8). One of these dates must be right but since such an alignment is nothing but pure fantasy in the first place I guess it does not really matter. In any case this alignment will change the seasons and “the length of months may change, years may change, and certain planetary cycles like Venus may change. Something new will have to replace the old calefndar [sic]”. Is it the Maya Long Count or our own calendar she talks about? We never see a reference to the Maya date of 13 Baktun, just the Gregorian date. It would have been illuminating if she had actually mentioned some of the logics behind the Maya Long Count. The Maya never predicted that a completely new calendar would replace the Long Count. It would simply go on and on and on.

More nonsense follows when she says that “The Mayans also correctly predicted the end of their own civilization. It ended when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded Mexico and South America, then fought bloody wars, killed or enslaved all the indigenous people. A clash of cultures ensued, and as the story goes the Mayans just disappeared.” How come roughly 7 million people today speak Maya languages and still have beliefs similar to those who lived before this conquest? They never predicted the end of their civilization and Nazon’s understanding of anthropology, archaeology, etc. is even shallower than her knowledge of astronomy. She is just as ethnocentric as the rest of the 2012ers. She also claims that “the Mayans were initially a very spiritual people, whose cities were settled and infiltrated by more warlike peoples. Eventually they gained power and created a warlike state. Through their spiritual rituals they got the spiritual message “sacrifice your Heart and your life” and well, they took it literally. In their use of ritualistic human sacrifice, they became entrenched in self mutilation, worshiping the dead, and all forms of ritualistic sacrifice.“ Well, this is the old idea that occupied some Mayanists 50 years ago. The warlike and more barbaric “Toltecs” were believed to have corrupted the peaceful and spiritual time worshipping Maya. It is completely outdated and simply reflects ethnocentrism again. Human sacrifice is found in the earliest Maya settlements as well, long before any “Mexicanization”. The Maya did not worship the “dead”. Their “religion” was that of ancestor veneration. Venerating ancestors is not synonymous with worshipping the dead.

There is even a supposed to be a “battle that brought down Chitzen Itza”. This “was started because a spanish conquistor [sic] soldier, stopped Mayan priests from brutally ripping the heart from the chest of a child.” One should perhaps know that by the time of the Spanish conquest Chichen Itza was mainly a pilgrimage site and it lacked political importance of its own. Chichen Itza’s political importance ended around 1050, fully 500 years before Nazon’s “battle”. What she refers to is a minor event but she has misinterpreted it as a Spanish conquest of Terminal Classic Chichen Itza.

More ethnocentric statements follows: “Looking at the planets in 2012 there is a very special alignment that occurs only every 26,000 years, and the outer planets and Venus will be making transits that in the past have lead to civil unrest. Remember 2012 is a US election year !” Of course, the whole Maya calendar was designed to end in a US election year. Once again the common theme among 2012ers is that the whole calendar is in fact related to USA and its evangelical believes in apocalypse and all sorts of related nonsense. I leave Nazon’s astrological interpretations that follow this statement to Stuart (he has already discussed them). I can only say that the Maya knew nothing of Uranus, Neptune or Pluto (and has not Pluto been ditched from the planet category?) Why not include some other dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt? Further, Nazon says that “we traditionally associate the planet Venus with love, marriage, harmony, beauty and luxury.” We? If she is talking about the Maya should she not say that the Maya associated Venus with danger and maybe warfare?

She claims that the Books of Chilam Balam refers to 2012. But “only very small references to 2012, are actually written down as so much of their written books were destroyed in an effort to purge the Mayans of their religious practices.” Not quite, The Books of Chilam Balam were written down at a later period (18th and 19th centuries) and they were written in Latin alphabet. Nazon confuses the 40 codices Diego de Landa and others burnt in 1562 with these books. She says that “there remains only one book on astrology by the Mayans, and one inscription that says during this Galactic Alignment of 2012, A God of War or a God of Creativity descends to the Earth. What we do know is that during every one of these transits sweeping social changes and social unrest has occured.” I am not sure which book she refers to but she believes the Books of Chilam Balam actually is just one book (but there are actually nine surviving manuscripts). If she believes it is a codex (which she never mentions in the text) there are four known codices. The inscription related to 2012 is the one at Tortuguero but it says nothing about a galactic alignment as this is a myth created by John Major Jenkins. She does not specify what transits have created sweeping social changes and social unrest. It would be nice to see some example.

I end with an astrologer’s dirtiest trick: to let the reader believe the predictions are related to him or her. Nazon says “it’s time to start thinking ahead as 2012 is only 3-4 years away! You were born for this moment in time!” Astrologists and other hoaxers try to fool you that you are chosen, there is no coincidence that you live right now. It can all be seen in the stars. Btw, did she predict my and Staurt’s critique? If so, should it not be found on her website? If she predicted it she could have corrected the information before we published our critique. I guess she didn’t. That makes me wonder how capable she is of predicting…

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