Exposing PseudoAstronomy

October 4, 2016

Podcast Episode 149: Modern Flat-Earth Thought, Part 2 (U.N. Flag and Airplane Flights)

“Modern Flat Earth Thought”
On maps, flags, and airplane flights …
Does it make sense? No.

Back to the flat Earth, this time discussing map projections and the United Nations flag, and then how some flat Earth proponents use and abuse airplane flight paths to argue that the planet is flat and looks just like the United Nations flag. I want to thank Michael R. (@SkepticalBelg on Twitter) for for reviewing and making several corrections to my text on how the airline industry works.

This was a particularly long episode, nearly a full hour. I also recorded this in a hotel room, and it sounds like I was too close to the microphone and at an angle at times and the room echoed, so my apologies for the audio quality in this episode. It was still better than the audio in the last episode, which was recorded on a phone outside, but it’s not perfect.

There are three additional short segments in this episode, the first being logical fallacies (detailing the argument against antiquity), second being feedback (the correction(s) from Episode 147), and the announcement to thank Michael.

Flat Earth Graphic

Flat Earth Graphic

September 26, 2016

Podcast Episode 148: (BONUS) X-Rays from Pluto

Does discovering
X-rays from Pluto change all
We know and hold dear?

First interview episode since The Return, an interview about the discovery of x-rays coming from the vicinity of Pluto. I talk with one of the main authors of the paper announcing the observation of x-rays from Pluto, and we discussed why the find is not severely unexpected, and while it’s interesting it is not something that is completely unexplained. In fact, there’s a very good, natural explanation.

As what was intended to be a 5-10 minute interview ended up running about 50 minutes. Hopefully it was worth it. Note that this was recorded really ad hoc, outside on a university campus, using both an iPod Touch and Samsung Galaxy S5. Interestingly, the iPod performed better relative to noise, but it had a low-end filter; the Samsung had a high-end filter. Therefore, I lined up the audio precisely and combined both so you get better audio, and I tried to lower the relative intensity of each recording if one was picking up the wind more than the other.

There are no additional segments in this episode.

I hope that you enjoy this episode.


September 17, 2016

Podcast Episode 147: The Hollow Earth According to David Icke

The hollow Earth … Sigh.
David Icke hasn’t met a
Crazy he don’t like.

Continuing on the theme about the structure of the planet, I take a look at something not talked about for 139 episodes: The Hollow Earth. In this particular case, I take a look at the claims about the hollow planet made by conspiracy guru David Icke.

As mentioned in this post, I was recently on an episode of Cognitive Dissonance where I had read chapter 12 of David’s 1999 book, “The Biggest Secret.” We discussed a lot of the conspiracy in the chapter but only tapped the topic that made up about 25% of the chapter, David’s claims about Earth being hollow. Since I spent so much time reading his nonsense, and I took notes, and I even highlighted (in 4 different colors!!!!), I had plenty of material to get a podcast episode out of it, and … here it is!

There are three other segments beyond the main one: Logical Fallacy (focusing on the Gish Gallop), Feedback (going back to episode 145 to try to explain a few things in easier terms), and mentioning people who have left iTunes reviews since the last time I mentioned them (back in December 2015).

I hope that you enjoy this episode.

P.S. Already a correction that I’ll mention in the next episode: I incorrectly stated that if you’re inside Earth, you would not be pulled to the inner surface of the shell, you would be pulled to the center. This is incorrect. The Shell Theorem holds that any particle inside of a perfectly symmetric sphere would experience an even force of gravity, everywhere, such that if you placed yourself anywhere inside the sphere, you would stay there. David Icke is therefore still wrong, but my explanation of what would happen was not correct.

Hollow Earth Image with Hole at Pole

Hollow Earth Image with Hole at Pole

September 14, 2016

Podcast 146: BONUS: Tracking Failed Planet X Predictions of Marshall Masters

Marshall Masters’ doom
And gloom from Planet X, is
Wrong, false, fake, and dumb.

This is a “bonus” episode which was originally going to be short but ended up being nearly 20 minutes. I document every Coast to Coast AM interview that Marshall Masters has ever given (since late 2011, plus one from 2003) and pulled out clips where he specifically put a time table for when Planet X and doom and gloom would strike. Each time, it’s about a year away. Each time, he’s wrong. Why should his interview from 13 hours ago be any different? And at what point does the interviewer have a responsibility to hold him accountable?

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

September 11, 2016

Planet X Keeps Being 1 Year Away: Anyone Want to Call Into Coast to Coast AM on Tuesday?

Gallifrey Passes by Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Gallifrey Passes by Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

I know I just came back from hiatus with the podcast, but I’m already starting to plan special shorts, with the first one coming out this week. In particular, listener Dick from Florida wrote in to alert me that this week, the night of September 13, 2016, Marshall Masters is scheduled to be on the program for the latter half of the show to talk about Planet X: “Author, publisher, and producer Marshall Masters specializes in Planet X and ancient prophecy research. He’ll detail the evidence pointing to an object on the other side of the sun, which could be Planet X. He’ll cover the various ways we can cope with the coming tribulations via enlightenment and survival methods.”

I initially wasn’t going to do anything because I already covered his claims in Part 9 of the Planet X series of my podcast (episode 109). But, that was in May 2014.

And, the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I became. This guy is an unsinkable rubber ducky on C2CAM, coming back about once a year to claim that Planet X will cause planet-wide catastrophe within a year. And somehow he’s still at it.

So, I pulled every episode I have with him on – which is all of them except three from 2003 (I have one of the four from 2003) and I have listened to the roughly 14 hours of audio over the last two days (while working on other stuff and generally listening at 1.7x speed). The goal was to pull every specific prediction with a time statement and use that in a special podcast episode, matched with whatever he claims on September 13.

With the possibility of influencing the experiment, I’m posting the majority of the transcript for this planned podcast episode now, here, in advance, so you can look at it, make up your own mind, and potentially call into the program and challenge him, assuming that the host, George Noory, does not.

Planet X doom and gloom causes real harm. People get scared, they empty their savings accounts, break off social ties when no one listens to them, and literally run for the hills. Marshall Masters should be called on the unsubstantiated fear he promotes, over and over, when he’s demonstrably wrong and either a liar or his memory is so bad he should not be trusted to deliver such important prognostications.

First up was his claim in August 2003: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 05 September 2003, Hour 1, starting 09:46]

AB: “Something’s pointing to September 6 [2003], though, right?”

MM: “Right, now this was a formation that appeared back in 1995, the Titchform(??) formation. And it has, um, it has basically just a chart of our inner solar system, and when you align it, it comes up perfectly with Mars basically being the time measure on the outer ring, and, you know, we sat down, we checked it out ourselves, we vetted his work, and he’s on— you know, he’s on the money with his times. And what he’s showing on the sixth of September is that there’s going to be an object that will be between the orbits of Venus and Earth. It’ll be on the other side of the sun.”

In other words, he was predicting something would happen in just a month. This also sets the tone for at least the next decade in terms of using crop circles as his primary guide, and sets the tone at least through the present about claiming that his object is usually, somehow, just on the other side of the sun which is why you can never see it, while at the same time claiming that he has pictures of it.

Starting in 2011, Marshall started to get on the December 2012 bandwagon: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 10 April 2011, Hour 2, starting 20:39]

“Timing wise, uh, according to the Avebury 2008 formation, which I document in [my book] ‘Crossing the Cusp,’ uh, we’re going to see Planet X in December 2012. And this is also the period of the solar maximum when the sun is forecast to be its most violent.”

And, just in case that wasn’t clear, one minute later he re-iterated December 2012: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 10 April 2011, Hour 2, starting 21:51]

RS: “So when is the return date for Planet X, as you have calculated it.”

MM: “Well, according to the Avebury 2008 formation, it’s in early December that we will see it, of 2012.”

He was then on twice in 2012 and had completely jumped on the December 21, 2012 date. Here he is in April 2012: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 30 April 2012, Hour 2, starting 10:35]

“The Avebury 2008 formation is telling us that on December 21, 2012, we’ll see a comet-like object and from the northern hemisphere, if you’re standing in the fields of Avebury, down— just wait for sunset, look, you know, 45° right, 45° up – ¡Bing! – it’s gonna be there. That’s when we see it, that’s when we know the guacamole hits the fan.”

And again, four minutes later: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 10 April 2012, Hour 2, starting 14:50]

“Okay, what we’re— what I’m saying is there’s a [crop circle] formation’s appeared in— in England, in August, it was, uh, in two parts, about the size of, uh, nearly four soccer fields. It says that on December 21, 2012, we’re going to see what appears to be a— a second sun in the sky at about this time, there is going to be a horrific solar storm, similar— similar perhaps to the one that’s portrayed in the movie, “Knowing.” And uh, it’s going to be devastating for us.”

But, in his last interview of 2012 on Coast to Coast, he was already starting to hedge his bets, saying sort of that it would come when it would come, but he still did not back down from the December 21, 2012 date: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 06 October 2011, Hour 2, starting 37:56]

“What the formation shows us is that, uh in December and actually just prior to December 21, 2012, that we will see a comet-like object off to the right of the sun. Upper-right quadrant. About, you know, about 45 right, 45 up.”

Interestingly, in his first foray in 2013 AFTER his demonstrably wrong predictions for 2012, he said the he would never ever scare people. This is from March 18, 2013: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 2, starting 06:36]

MM “The thing about Planet X as a topic is that, it doesn’t matter if there’s uh, these false events, like I remember back in 2003. Uh, with, uh, Mark Hazelwood, had published a book, ‘Blind sighted.’ Really stirred up a lot of fear. […] So we published and we said, ‘Not now, it’s not that it’s not coming, it’s just not now.'”

GN: “It’s not now. And I think they were talking about May 2003. Weren’t they?”

MM: “Yeah! May of 2003, and uh, but what I remember about that – and it really stuck with us – were the letters that we got because people were writing us, because we were publishing on that— I had— I think I had my first article went up [unintelligible] 2002. And we were studying it, and they were coming to us essentially for a second opinion. And the letters were— You could see where someone was really biting their lip and trying to sound rational, and coherent, and calm— The fear and the panic was oozing out of the lines. These were people getting ready to cash out their savings and-and head for the hills!”

GN: “Which they always do when they think there’s a catastrophe impending, huh?”

MM: “Some do, some don’t! Uh, but a lot of people do, and this was so upsetting for these people that reading these e-mails and responding to them was one of the most depressing times of my life! And I just swore that I was never going to do anything like that. On the other hand, that doesn’t stop me from looking for Planet X.”

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth Causing Panic (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth Causing Panic (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Of course, he went directly on to repeat all his previous statements documented in episode 109 about how Planet X would cause giant outbursts from the sun, earthquakes, a magnetic pole shift, lots of people dying, volcanoes, meteor impacts, tsunamis, horrible weather, and that in the past it caused Noah’s Flood, the Plagues of the Book of Exodus (AKA Moses v Pharaoh), and the sinking of Atlantis. So much for being a kind, gentle, non-scaring people person. He also predicted that it would be visible in just a few months, in this clip 12 minutes after that one I just played. [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 2, starting 18:23]

“And right now, they’re saying, George, in June of this year, it’s visible, to everybody in the northern hemisphere.”

He re-iterated that an hour later, going even a bit earlier: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 3, starting 15:25]

“If we use the timing, that Zero-Zero Sky View (??) is using, and they’re actually making infrared observations of the mini-constellation and the dark star at the center of that constellation, and what they’re saying is this summer – mid-summer – it’s going to become visible. Which would mean the object that we’re looking at would become visible before that, perhaps in May. And, uh, that’ll happen!”

And then, two minutes later, he said this little gem: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 3, starting 17:54]

“I can’t debunk it! Nobody can debunk it!!”

And he doubled-down on Planet X coming in 2013 at the end of the third hour of the program: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 3, starting 35:19]

GN: “And-and again, what’s the time table?”

MM: “The time table?”

GN: “Yeah.”

MM: “I think, in terms of what I’m looking at, for me it’s always been, for all the years I’ve been on your show, I’ve always said the same thing: 2012 is the warm-up band, the headline act is 2013. Whatever’s gonna pop, is gonna pop this year. If nothing happens this year – which would just plum tickle me to death! – then, at that point, we can say, ‘Aright, maybe, you know, we were lucky, and it’s a benign flyby. We’ve only had a bit of disruption, and we’ll get through this, and things are gonna be calm.'”

GN: “At least this time.”

MM: “But, on the other hand, it could be, you know, by the time we finish this year, we’re going to see all kinds of havoc that’s going on!”

Forgive me for pointing this out, but so far, I have literally played for you every single clip from every appearance by Marshall Masters since 2011, plus one in 2003, where he stated any sort of time for his predictions. And, he never EVER mentioned 2013. So that’s just a flat-out, unadulterated lie.

And, after he was proven wrong, yet again, in August of 2013, he still was not challenged on his consistent failures and instead just predicted that something would happen later in the year, that we would start to notice solar storms and Earth changes in a few months: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 March 2013, Hour 2, starting 16:46]

“The timeline right now is [cough], I would say, uh, late 2013 to early 2014.”

For Planet X specifically, he said that we would start to see Planet X in 2015, setting the date almost 1.5 years ahead: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 August 2013, Hour 3, starting 24:51]

“What really concerns me is what’s going to start happening, I’d say from 2015, on. Uh, this is uh— In 2015, first off, the outer-most orbital, which right now, we’re tracking from a volcano at, right, 7000 feet, uh— That’s the whole problem that this stuff hasn’t come close enough that’s visible below the clouds for the rest of us mundane mortals, if you will. And, so, uh, but in 2015, that object is going to become— that outer-most orbital [unintelligible] the ‘Blue Bonnet’ that we’ve been tracking – that’s going to become visible below the clouds. We’re going to be seeing that.”

He also may have finally learned his lesson and expressed his distaste for setting dates: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 August 2013, Hour 3, starting 33:45]

“And I’m really loathe to do dates anymore.”

He also repeated his sad story from several months earlier about 2003 and people being afraid. George followed up with a question: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 August 2013, Hour 3, starting 37:24]

GN: “Well, uh, are we gonna start that again by talking about 2015?” [referring to the fear-mongering frenzy in 2003]

MM: “I, you know, I thing— I think it’s a different thing. 2003 was a tempest in a teapot. I think with 2015, I’m not interested in going down the Nancy Lieder path. Uh, my position right now is December 21, 2012— Alright, which was, uh, a media event principally driven by the cable channels.”

And, just a month later, he was still at it, back to naming dates: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 26 September 2013, Hour 3, starting 32:29]

GN: “What is your time table, Marshall?”

MM: “Time table is, I think by the end of this year, we’re— it’s— you know, we’re seeing it now, the question is, ‘Are people going to start looking?’ But we’re seeing it now. My concern, because particularly if, and-and your caller, who called about this fireball – I think he’s really got the right instinct because we could very well have some impact events that start happening.”

His interview in 2014 was in June, when he said: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 19 June 2014, Hour 4, starting 04:44]

“We’re fairly convinced that, sometime in 2016, Nibiru is going to be naked-eye visible all around the globe.”

Interestingly, in 2015, Marshall did not state, and was not asked, when we would definitely see Planet X. The only reference to a timeline was this:

GN: “How many times could some of those past people say, ‘Hey! It’s coming! It’s coming!’ And then nothing happens.”

MM: “Well, you know, I have never, in-in the past, and you can go through my work— We’ve talked about projections—”

GN: “Yeah, no, this is the most adamant you’ve ever been.”

MM: “This is now, because all of this, all of the trends, all of the empirical data that we have been following, it is happening, and we are in the 11th hour.”

Now, to be fair, in the clip I played he said he always presented his work in terms of projections. I suppose that’s true, but he always presented his projections as 100% true and valid and absolutely, 100% what was going to happen. In episode 109, I played for you that clip where he said he was absolutely certain that Planet X was going to swing by very soon (a few years ago), and separately that he was 100% certain it was going to cause catastrophe on Planet Earth. So, forgive me if I don’t put much stock in forgiving him for now claiming that his predictions before were just “projections” with the implication that he wasn’t sure about them.

And so, while that was the only reference to a specific, observable date or time period, he spent his entire two hours reiterating, yet again, for the Nth time, just restating, over and over, how he was seeing Planet X in all these images and it was going to create havoc and mayhem and catastrophe and only 1 out of every 15 people in the world would survive.

August 23, 2016

Yeah … So, About NASA Saying All Research Funded By It Will Be Online, Free …


This story has been making the round quite a bit over the last five days. You can find it on various news sites, but here’s the actual press release: NASA Unveils New Public Web Portal for Research Results

Seems great, right? All federally funded research results will be made available for free. As I think it should be. The problem is that this press release is not only short on details, it lacks any and all details for those of us who carry out that research. Before getting to what I mean here, I need to give you five pieces of background information.


1) I, personally, am an outlier in my field where I believe that not only the results, but the raw data that most people normally would not release should be made available to anyone who asks. I’ve posted about this before on this blog. I also have a very strong track record of doing so, so I don’t just “talk the talk” on this issue. So, as you read this, don’t think that I’m against the new policy.

2) As of 2013, the US Executive Branch’s OMB (Office of Management and Budget) directed all federal agencies to make the research they fund publicly accessible, for free. As in, the public has already paid for it once, they shouldn’t have to pay for it twice. So any policy like this is not just magnanimous of a particular federal agency, it’s been mandated by the Office of the President.

3) As of 2015, NASA started to comply with this in terms of data gathered, computer code written, and other things that researchers do to get the results that they publish. All of that stuff has to be released. And you have to detail how this will be done and how you comply with the mandate in what is called a “Data Management Plan” (DMP). In 2016, instead of this being a paragraph on the cover sheet of your proposal, it’s now a 2-page requirement except for some specific programs. I just applied to one and here’s my DMP so you can see what it’s like:

After the database is complete and validated, it will be released to the community in six formats on four distribution sites: (1) The PDS’s Imaging and Cartography Node in PDS4 format; (2) Lunaserv as a layer file which will make it available to any WMS-enabled software (e.g., JMARS, ArcGIS); (3) JMoon/JMARS in their own layer file format; (4) and on the PI’s own established website (http://craters.sjrdesign.net) as a searchable form and in PDS4, CSV ASCII, and GIS shapefile. Finally, there will be one peer-reviewed publication “announcing” the database, describing what it contains, and how it was built for referencing and to further publicize the database. Letters of support for the first three are included in this proposal.

These fit the PDART requirement for archiving independence, sustainability, open availability, searchability, citability, standards-compliant for the sub-field (preeminence), and standard format (standardization), for we are including the default PDS as our primary distribution. The additional venues and formats increase the availability to the community. Because the only code we will use are generic algorithms not developed under PDART, the code will not be archived (verified with PDART program officer, Sarah Noble, June 27, 2016), but it will be described in our publication.

4) NASA is already one of the most open federal agencies about their data. All spacecraft data is made available, for free, PDS. It might be a bit difficult to navigate, but there is literally terabytes of data there, all for free, for you to download and work with. I rely on it for most of my research.

5) Other fields and federal agencies already do what the latest NASA press release says, and it’s been in place for a long time. The issue in part is that journals we publish in have monopolies on the field, and they charge us to publish and then you to read. Win-win for them. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) have a policy that all research papers have to be made available, for free, to the public, through “PubMed,” but they let the journals have a one-year proprietary period.


With that all said and out of the way, what the heck does this latest press release mean?! The scientists (like me) have not had any clarification or any information about this. Does this mean NASA has worked out a deal (like the NIH has) with journals? Do I need to remember 1+ year after publication to submit to NASA’s website for this, or will it be done automatically? Does this only apply to new grants (since it’s not in my contract with NASA to do it for ones that I already have funded)? Will it apply retroactively? What about past research that’s been published for decades? Does this require the “Open Access” publication option for journals, which can cost upwards of $3000 that I need to include in my budgets?

And, why does NASA’s portal for this go through the NIH?!?! (the website they link to for this is https://www.nihms.nih.gov/db/sub.cgi)

And those are just the questions I thought of within a few minutes of reading the press release.

So, let me repeat, so that there is no ambiguity here: I’m all for this. I don’t like that the journals have a monopoly and it’s pay to publish and pay to read and legally I can’t even give you a PDF copy of the paper I wrote but published with them. I also think that all the data we generate should be made public, and the public should have access to the results.

But, this is like a … scratch that, it pretty much IS a mandate by press release with no information on to what it applies, to whom it applies, nor how it applies. Until then, that’s really all this is: A press release.

August 4, 2016

Face on Mars, Face on Hawaii – Pareidolia is Real, Get Over It

News this week that hasn’t been political has included information about Hawaii’s volcanoes finally spilling lava into the ocean again, for the first time in several years. And, a video of one of the calderas has been making the rounds, uploaded to Vimeo and shot by Mick Kalber.

Volcano in Hawaii, USA, Showing a Smiling Paredolia (Mick Kalber)

Volcano in Hawaii, USA, Showing a Smiling Paredolia (Mick Kalber)

One of the main ways this has become viral is pareidolia at work, with headlines such as “Hawaiian Volcano Smiles at Photographer” and such other whimsical things.

Obviously, the volcano, caldera, and lava are not smiling. It’s the human brain trying to make a familiar pattern out of randomness. Which it very happily does. Visually, it’s generic pareidolia. If it were audio noise and you thought you heard something (the ghost hunter’s infamous “EVP” or Electronic Voice Phenomenon), that would be audio pareidolia.

Everyone does it. And yet, there are still some noted pseudoscientists have consistently refused to believe that it’s real. After all, almost their entire repertoire of claims would be blasted away if they admitted that a bit of the right shade here and a bit of the right shade there and something random will appear to be something familiar.

The phenomenon of pareidolia is real. Get over it.

May 2, 2016

On the (In)Ability of Scientists to Give Good Public Talks

When I was an undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University, the now-more-famous physicist Lawrence Krauss was head of the Physics department. Somehow, he managed to arrange a panel of about six Nobel Prize Winners (probably in physics) to give a panel discussion. I don’t even remember the topic.

What I do remember was my expectation going in and my reality coming out.

My expectation going in was extreme excitement, getting to sit in an auditorium and listen to these men (sorry ladies, it was all men) who pretty much literally had done the research that was recognized as being ground-breaking and reached the top of their field.

I came out thinking that it sucked.

Not a-one of those guys could give a coherent discussion or answer to questions, or do it in a way that was engaging to us in the audience. It was horribly disappointing. (And if one or two of them could, unfortunately that memory has been erased by those who could not.)

Right now, I’m listening to a radio program from April 08 where Will Farrar and Richard Hoagland discussed – in particular to this post – a talk that Chris Russell gave a talk during Space Science Week in Washington, D.C., just a day or so earlier.

Dr. Chris Russell is the PI (the head science-and-everything-else guy) in charge of NASA’s Dawn mission to Vesta and Ceres.

In particular, Will remarked that he was unimpressed with Dr. Russell’s talk, that practically every-other-word was “um” or “uh,” and he was not alone in thinking this. Richard Hoagland posited that this was because he was choosing his words carefully — in effect, to make sure he wouldn’t be giving away any of the NASA secrets like city ruins on these bodies.

Or, Dr. Russell just isn’t a good public speaker. And I’ll say it: I have been to two lectures that Dr. Russell has given. I would not elect to go to a third. What Will noticed is par for the course, in my experience, for Dr. Russell’s talks.

I’m reminded of a saying that we like to use in skepticism: Don’t attribute to conspiracy what can easily be contributed to incompetence. (One of the examples most often used is the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US illustrating government incompetence rather than a ridiculously high level of competence to carry out such a coordinated, secret attack.)

I’m not saying that Dr. Russell is incompetent – far from it, for he is a wildly successful scientist – but a good, engaging public speaker, he is not. It has nothing to do with a vast conspiracy to hide The Truth, it’s just that public speaking is a completely different skill set from being able to do good science, and not every scientist is a good public speaker.

April 30, 2016

My Interview on “The Space Show” from Friday, April 29, 2016, Now Archived

Here’s the permanent link for the interview.

We discussed a very wide range of topics related to planetary astronomy and some other astronomy, and there was one caller. From the Higgs field, to Pluto and New Horizons, and craters on the moon to other space exploration.

Perhaps otherwise, it’s easiest just to copy the e-mail that the host, David Livingston, e-mailed me:

1. http://www.thespaceshow.com. You can find your program in the Recent Show section. Right now your show is currently the first one listed but it will move down a space with each show added.

2. The Space Show blog for listener and guest comments has been integrated with The Space Show archive for your show. Here, listeners can ask questions and post comments both during the live interview as well as on the archived program. As the guest, you can do the same. If there are interesting posts on the blog/comment section of the archives, I will be sure to call them to your attention. Your program will move down a line with each new program that is archived. Please note that one must have either a free Disqus account or access comments through one of their social media accounts as we do not permit anonymous posts.

3. The program is now podcasting.

4. Finally, the permanent URL on our website for your program for linking, quoting, etc. is: http://www.thespaceshow.com/show/29-apr-2016/broadcast-2692-dr.-stuart-robbins. Do not upload full audio or video shows to any website including YouTube & your own sites but you are certainly free to link the Space Show program on space relevant sites.

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.

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