Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 14, 2012

Mike, You Seem to Miss the Point


Introduction

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

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

The Obvious

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

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

The Missed Point

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

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

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

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

M118715682M

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

[image]

Really?

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

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

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

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

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

M118715682M - 300% Crop of "Ziggurat Area"

M118715682M – 300% Crop of “Ziggurat Area”

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 8, 2012

Podcast Episode 47: Image Processing and Anomalies, Part 1


This episode is finally out. Well, “finally” as in “on time.”

I’ll admit that when I initially thought up this episode a few months ago, I was going to talk about how you can’t do spectroscopy from a still photo of an alleged alien (as some have claimed to have done with Billy Meier’s stuff).

But, given all the “goings ons” with the lunar ziggurat in the last week or two, this episode has turned into a Part 1 where this part discusses the very complicated but very basics of astronomy images and all the processing and calibrating that we go through to try to make it the truest representation of what we would really see. The main sections of the 41-minute-long main segment are: Black & White Astronomical Ground Photography, Different Spacecraft Camera Types, Releasing to the Community and to the Public, Color Processing, Quick Recap, Crazy Claims, How to Spot a Potential Fake or Forced Anomaly.

Part 2 should (yes, should, not “will”) include things like dynamic range, curves and levels, interpolation, filters, sharpening, etc. More to-the-point about some recent “goings ons” on the blog. Hopefully a companion video will come out.

Also in this episode was a New News segment, Q&A, and Puzzler. Given that it’s a 52-minute episode, I forewent Feedback.

August 7, 2012

Mike Bara Defends the Lunar Ziggurat – My Response


Introduction

As promised, Mike Bara has posted a rebuttal to my analysis of the lunar ziggurat. To recap from earlier, I noted these three points of what Mike must explain before I would revise my conclusion:

  1. Why there is less noise in the NASA original but more noise in Mike’s, and why is there more contrast (more pure black and more saturated highlights) in Mike’s? Both of these pretty much always indicate that the one with more noise and more contrast is a later generation … you can’t just Photoshop in more detail like that.
  2. Why other images of the same place taken by several different craft (including non-NASA ones), including images at almost 100x the original resolution of the Apollo photo, don’t show the feature.
  3. Why the shadowed parts of his ziggurat are lit up when they’re in shadow, on top of a hill, and not facing anything that should reflect light at them?

I also want to, very briefly, up-front address Mike’s claim (again) that I “hate” him with the evidence being my analysis of these claims. I addressed this idea at length before, and I recommend you read this blog post on it. That said, Mike, I do not hate you. I think you make – and I can show you make – factual misstatements, and I point them out. When you say that I attack you (which I don’t – I address your claims), it (a) makes you sound like you have a persecution complex, (b) makes you sound a tad paranoid and are in a black and white “us versus them” world, and (c) makes it easier for you to attack me rather than to address my analysis of your claims.

If you make it to the end of this ~4800 ~5400-word post, kudos! If you don’t, I’ll give you the spoiler (highlight it to see it): Mike only addressed 1.5 of the above, and I believe I have refuted them all successfully, but I fully encourage you to look into everything I talk about, yourself, and understand the concepts discussed … then maybe you’ll understand them better than Mike, like image noise and dynamic range.

The post I’m responding to of Mike’s is located here.

Edited to Add (08/08/2012 @1:09 MDT): Mike, 19 minutes ago, posted to Twitter: “Dear Dr. Robbins; I apologize. I thought you were just another dumbass like expat. I had no idea you were actually a paid NASA shill. My bad” Well then, I guess that covers it. If you think because I’ve destroyed your arguments that I’m a paid NASA shill, I guess there’s no validity to them at all. Incidentally and for the record, could you tell me where on my tax returns I’m supposed to put that NASA hush money? And in all seriousness for non-conspiracy folks, I make a meager living like most scientists and, like most astronomers, a fair amount of my salary does come from NASA-awarded grants, but I literally have less connection with NASA than a custodian who sweeps the floors of JPL. And this is, yet again, evidence of what I wrote three paragraphs above with points a-c.)

Initial Statements

I was somewhat surprised, Mike actually has taken note of me. He addresses me in his first paragraph:

“Last week after Richard C. Hoagland posted the image of Daedalus Ziggurat that I had forwarded to him to the Coast to Coast AM website, a mini-controversy exploded on the web over it, with the usual suspects claiming that Hoagland had “hoaxed” the image or that it was a “fraud,” and if it wasn’t a fraud, then his inability to see it as a fraud was proof he was either a “liar” or “incompetent.” The chief purveyor of this nonsense was somebody named Stuart Robbins on his blog.”

I will re-iterate and state yet again: I did not say that Richard hoaxed the image, I said that someone did. I did then state that Richard was not competent in the analysis if he did not see it was a hoax/fraud (or lied about how long he spent analyzing it) based upon the analysis I gave in my initial post and then video.

So, let’s see what evidence Mike has laid out that my analysis was flawed. After all, that is how any scientific discourse should be conducted.

(And P.S., Mike, that’s “Dr. Robbins,” but I don’t take offense.)

Next Four Paragraphs

The next four paragraphs explain where Mike found the image (as we have by now established that it was Mike who sent it to Richard, though I have yet to see Richard acknowledge that, but that’s not important at the moment). Mike does state, “the image currently posted by NASA on the Lunar and Planetary Institute website had obviously been altered to reduce the chances of anybody spotting the artifact if they downloaded the source image.”

Charging a scientific organization of deliberate tampering of any sort of data is a serious charge. It will be interesting to see Mike’s evidence for it.

Sixth Paragraph

“Now in terms of Mr. Robbins “analysis” of the images, I will simply say that it leaves a lot to be desired. Let me also state that I am no Photoshop expert, like he claims to be, and lack the artistic talent to create anything like Daedalus Ziggurat. I found the image, posted by someone else, period. I enhanced it as best I could and passed it on to Richard for his opinion.”

I could not find where I claimed to be a Photoshop expert. If Mike or anyone else can find it, please let me know. I did say that I’ve been using it for 20 years or so, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert. It does mean I do generally know my way around image processing, and I am a semi-pro photographer (as in I don’t make a living on it, but I have sold several $thousand in photos to organizations like the BBC) — so again, I know my way generally around image processing.

I also never claimed that it was Hoagland nor Bara who created the initial image.

Seventh Paragraph – Original Image Sources

The seventh paragraph can be summarized as Mike conceding the point that he does not know the origins of the original image, nor the LPI (Lunar & Planetary Institute) scan. He states that both are JPGs and that “to do a proper analysis, anyone accusing Mr. Hoagland or myself of fraud would have to obtain a research quality original of AS11-38-5564 and do a high-resolution scan of it under controlled conditions.” Mike does not trust NASA (“based only on [Stuart’s] irrational bias towards NASA”) that the LPI is a representative scan.

I will actually concede this point, as well, if one wants to be truly 100% objective. I would state that most normal people would agree with me that the LPI scan represents the original image versus a small section showing a ziggurat that pops up on an internet forum. But, Mike’s thesis is that he can demonstrate the LPI scan is what has been altered, and that his represents the original more faithfully, so he needs to provide evidence for that as that is the extraordinary claim being made.

Similarly, again, I did not accuse Mike nor Richard of fraud. I stated that someone who made it and represented it as an original was making a fraudulent claim based upon the evidence I showed.

I will also state, for the record, that JPGs are “research-quality” very frequently in planetary science. Global mosaics we use of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, etc. are often distributed as JP2 (JPG-2000) file format, which admittedly is less lossy than a normal JPG. But that’s again a side-point.

At this stage, Mike has yet to answer my three main points.

Edited to Add (08/08/2012): As James Oberg mentioned in the comments, and I’ve heard Richard Hoagland claim many times, Mike and Richard supposedly have a set of near-original copies of all Apollo images. Why Mike then relied on an internet game forum post for the “original” or even on LPI is a mystery.

Eighth Paragraph – Noise

This was part of my three main points — the observation that Richard’s version had more noise in it than the LPI scan which is usually an indication of a later generation image, not one close to the original. It is also something that can be added in deliberately to try to make determination of image alteration more difficult. Again, I mention that as a possibility, I did not accuse anyone of that.

Anyway, Mike first makes the point that I “was working with Hoagland’s enhancement of my enhancement.” Very true. Mike, if you would like to send me the original, I’ll work from it. I now have the version from the 2008 “The Murky News” blog you linked to. It’s basically a lower-contrast version than the one Richard presented.

Then Mike has some mis-statements:

“The reason there is more noise in the original Ziggurat image “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg” is that it was probably scanned from an original and then cropped, enlarged, processed, and then prepared for publishing on the web. This is easy to see by the 72 DPI resolution, which is standard for images on the internet. This process will invariably make an image a bit noisier, but also easier to upload and download from. There is nothing nefarious or questionable about this. In fact, the “Save for Web” tool in Photoshop automatically changes the document resolution from say, 300 Dots Per Inch (the resolution of AS11-38-5564 on the LPI website image) to 72 DPI. This alone will induce noise at deep levels in the image, and contrary to Mr. Robbins assertion, is indicative of nothing except his desire to deceive his readers into thinking there’s something unusual about it. Jpeg’s are always noisy. It’s as simple as that.”

Okay, first sentence there, yes — if you enlarge something, you WILL introduce noise. I don’t know what the original image would have been that this person on this random forum posted his ziggurat from – and neither do you. Any enlargement is subject to speculation, it is not necessarily true nor false.

A 72 PPI (pixels per inch — dpi = dots per inch and is what printers do) image means nothing in terms of quality of an image nor whether it will have noise introduced. Say, for example, I have a “10-inch by 10-inch image at 300 PPI.” That means that it’s actually 3000 by 3000 pixels. I can make it a 72 PPI image without losing any information by simply making it 41.6667 by 41.6667 inches at 72 PPI.

Similarly, if you shrink an image (such as in the above example if I did make it 10″x10″ at 72 PPI so it’s only 720×720 pixels), then you necessarily REDUCE the noise. You lose a heck of a lot of detail, but by the definition of how image noise works, you will decrease the noise.

This is why, in astronomy, we often do not use detectors at native resolution even though “more pixels is better” is what is commonly thought — when we bin 2×2 or 3×3 or whatever, by combining the pixels, you reduce the noise by the square-root of the counts. The noise is inherently ±SQRT(counts). So, say Pixel A has a value (where “value” here is number of photons recorded) of 10(±3.2), B has 12(±3.5), C has 9(±3), D has 13(±3.6). Combining them (reducing the image size to 50%) gives you a value of 11 at that new pixel with a noise of only ±1.7 — reducing the noise by around 2x. (10+12+9+13 = 44, SQRT(44) ≈ 6.63 … then since we’re averaging 4 pixels together, divide by 4: 44/4 = 11, and 6.63/4 ≈ 1.7) The Google search for this is “Poisson counting statistics” or “Poisson statistics.”

As to “Jpeg’s are always noisy,” that is also a factually incorrect though usually technically correct, but as-stated it is misleading. The JPEG format standard, as defined, does permit lossless compression (so factually incorrect), though it is rarely implemented (so technically usually correct). But there are different levels of JPG compression. You can take a 1 MB TIFF image and save it as a 1 MB almost-lossless JPG. Or you can save it as a 100 KB highly lossy and very noisy JPG. I provide an example of this below (page down a bit).

When saving images, I almost always save as best-quality JPG, and that’s what many professional print shops request for printing. Rather than trying “to deceive [my] readers,” I was pointing out a fact: There is more noise in the Richard’s version than the LPI version.

Mike at this point has not adequately demonstrated that the noise level in his version with a ziggurat means it’s more original than the LPI version.

Edited to Add (08/08/2012): At the moment, Mike is wondering on his Facebook page whether he should respond to my critique in this post, and he also linked to an article he (I think) wrote on Richard’s website. Explaining why he is mistaken in that article is not the subject of this post, but there are a few things correct, including: “One of the acts of processing … involved “Downsizing”. What this does is reduce data present in the image. The ostensible reason for this is to “reduce some of the noise” … .” He also states, “The image is sized down by interpolation by a factor of two to reduce some of the noise.” So, yeah, Mike, you should read your own articles.

Eighth through Eleventh Paragraphs – Did I Add Noise?

Mike makes a statement: “What Mr. Robbins didn’t tell you is that a large chunk of the “noise” that appears in the image he “processed” was deliberately induced – by him.”

Obviously when I read that (and I’m writing this as I’m reading his blog, so I’ve not read ahead), I was intrigued. Apparently, Mike does not understand noise. He makes much ado about my stating that I reduced Richard’s image to 85.28% of his original. Which, again, by definition REDUCES the noise in an image. Instead, Mike claims, “In fact, anyone who knows anything about image enhancement knows that scaling/reducing an image induces more noise and reduces detail by design.” (emphasis his)

Yes, it will reduce some detail. That is true. But at 85.28%, it will not change the detail enough to say “oh look, there’s a pyramid there” versus “what happened to the pyramid?!” and it WILL REDUCE the noise by roughly 8ish%.

Mike continues: “Any competent image enhancement specialist would have enlarged the NASA image instead to bring it in line with the size of the original Ziggurat image. This upsampling process would have the effect of actually making the NASA image better, rather than making the original enhancement worse.” (emphasis his)

Again, this last sentence is factually incorrect. The first sentence can be quibbled about whether one should have scaled the LPI image up or Richard’s down, I chose to scale his down to give it the benefit of the doubt with noise. One can see in any of the “original” ziggurat images that Mike posted that the shadows of his have a significant amount of noise, and that detail has been lost over the majority of the image (look at small, lit craters in the original versus his).

But I’m sorry, Mike, your statement that upsampling makes an image better is factually and demonstrably false. You cannot get more information than was there originally. I would encourage anyone to do any teensy bit of research into this and you will find that I am correct on this matter and Mike is not. That whole thing about “zooming in” on CSI or Star Trek or whatever show where you can keep increasing the size ad infinitum is not possible in real life. I demonstrate this below, as well (scroll down a lot).

12th-14th Paragraphs

The next paragraph is where Mike accuses me of deliberately trying to deceive my readers/watchers ’cause apparently you all are too stupid to read up on this yourself. The next paragraph says that I made another huge mistake.

14th-15th Paragraphs – Histograms

This is a point that I will say right off the bat that Mike’s statements in the next two paragraphs are correct. I also figured that he might hone in on this point, so I was not unprepared.

It’s the next paragraph (the one that starts with “There, at the far left …”) where we again start to have some factual misstatements.

First, Mike claims, “In fact, color zero and the next few colors over (near absolute black) make up more than 33% of the entire image.” No. Actually, 0 makes up 7.40915% of the pixels in the image. This is understandable – and expected – with a sun that’s relatively low on the horizon – so you see a lot of deep shadows – and you have the blackness of space taking up a corner of your image. The next several shades – in fact, the darkest 10% (so 0-25 out of 255 colors) make up only 11.519755% of the pixels. Sorry, Mike, not 33%. (And to those wondering how I determined this, I took the image into graphing/data analysis software, made a simple histogram of the 1.521 million pixels, the histogram being in intervals of 1 from 0-255, and then I divided by the number of pixels. That gives you the % that each shade is in the whole image.)

Mike then states:

“What that means is that somebody put a lot of black and near black into the NASA image. Because in real life, almost nothing in any image is ever absolute black or white. So to find that (by far) the biggest number of pixels is absolute, perfect black is more than a little suspicious. On a properly processed image, the histogram should be pretty much a bell curve, bulging in the middle and then dropping off at both ends.”

Again, this is factually incorrect. I should know – I was processing several lunar images earlier today. In one that was taken when the sun was around 50° above the horizon, there was a small region of very bright crater ejecta. (South Ray crater, visited by the Apollo 16 astronauts.) The histogram is displayed with the image, below. As you can see, properly processed LINEARLY, this image has a very large amount of dark grey in order to fully capture the dynamic range of the bright ejecta. You can change this by stretching the shadows and compressing the highlights, which makes it a non-linear stretch, such as in the comparison (below).

M144524996R - Curves Example and Low Compression

M144524996R – Curves Example and Low Compression

M144524996R - Curves Example and High Compression

M144524996R – Curves Example and High Compression

I’ll state that this is only one example of a possible adjustment one could do to this image, but it also shows how, again, in any kind of manipulation you LOSE data. See that saw-tooth pattern in the blue in the histogram showing the adjusted image? That’s because when I increased the darker colors, mapping them to brighter colors, it left holes. There was no information there at those colors to begin with so it had no information to put there.

Think of it this way: You have colors ranging from 0 to 100. You want to increase the lower 25% to map them to the lower 50%. That means 0 stays 0, 1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, original 3 becomes 6, 4 becomes 8, etc. Notice: You’re missing, now, the shades of 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. Meanwhile, you’ve compressed the rest of the range (25%-100%) into just 50% of the range, so while you won’t get a saw-tooth effect, you’ll still have lost information. As in, the original 25, 26, and 27 will all be compressed into just 50 and 51. The original 28, 29, and 30 shade will now be mapped only into 52 and 53. Etc.

(Edited to Add (08/08/2012): Note — I am fully aware that many algorithms when doing this will interpolate and try to fill in those holes by examining surrounding pixels and trying to smooth things out. As I explained when increasing image size, this is an algorithmic estimate, and it canNOT ADD information to the image. In the example above, I chose an algorithm that does not interpolate to give you an understanding of the most basic idea of how this works.)

Or, let’s say you take a photo of, say, the Grand Canyon after sundown, and a waxing gibbous moon is over it. You might want to set your exposure to something fairly shortish so that the canyon only takes up the lower 1/3 of the brightness levels of the image, and then the moon is in the upper 5%. That’s a perfectly exposed photo and one that beautifully would detail the scene, but the histogram would in no way show the bell curve with the peak in the middle.

Apparently, Mike has an interesting notion of a “properly processed image.”

And, incidentally, I’m killing two birds with one stone here. The first image set above is a near-lossless JPG save (quality 12), while the bottom is a highly lossy one (quality 1). Obviously you can still see a lot of detail in the high-quality, and you see a lot of artifacts in the other.

Finally, as I’ve also mentioned, on the Moon, shadows are almost always very, very, very black. The odd situation would be the case where a pure shadow DOES display anything other than 0 black or very very close to it.

Next Few Paragraph Blocks – Proof?

Mike then states, “So what’s the most likely reason for this? I can think of only one. Somebody got this “official” NASA scan, took a paintbrush tool, set it to color zero, or absolute black, and went to town on it. And I can prove it.”

As I said, I will examine any evidence he provides.

The next several paragraphs are something that I expected, and I will say at the beginning here that I agree in principle with the fact that the NASA image appears to have clipped shadows and highlights. What I disagree with is Mike’s conclusion: “that can only mean one thing; they were painted over by someone at NASA with a black paintbrush tool.”

Why? A couple reasons. First, Mike says that the west wall shadow (see my original third point) – which is actually to the East because the image is flipped 180°(ish) relative to the lunar coordinate system – “casts a dark – but not completely black — shadow into the depression below.”

This is factually incorrect. Given the sun angle of the image, the “West” wall itself should not be casting any shadow, it’s the building for the wall should be in complete shadow. Again, see my original third point. It’s the wall of the crater that is casting the shadow into itself, as all crater walls do at any angle where the sun is low enough. The shadow length is the length of shadow we would expect from that crater in LPI’s version.

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

M118715682M - 300% Crop of "Ziggurat Area"

M118715682M – 300% Crop of “Ziggurat Area”

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

Mike then quotes from Adobe (the company that makes Photoshop) and, in the context of the rest of his blog, it seems as though Adobe is confirming his conspiracy.

As I stated at the beginning of this section, I will agree with Mike in principle that the original photo negative would likely have shown more of a range over a VERY few “pixels” as you go into those shadows, but the fact that the image from LPI shows pure black is definitely not proof of a conspiracy nor deliberate tampering. Very, very likely, the scanning software or whatever pipeline they had in place did an automatic clip — this is very, very common to clip the lower and upper 0.1%. It is not evidence of a conspiracy and, rather, is the default. One needs to present evidence against the null hypothesis (that being the LPI version is more original), and Mike has not done that.

Mike goes on with:

“Oh, I’m aware that the deceptive Mr. Robbins has tried to cover his ass by claiming that because of the lighting conditions on the Moon some areas are absolute black. But the fact is that, contrary to his fallacious claims that there are “no crater wall nor mountain to scatter light onto it,” there is a very bright, sunlit area just to left of the selection marquee that should be scattering plenty of light into the shadowed area, but isn’t.”

Mike, all you have to do is look anywhere in that – or ANY other similar image at ANY crater from this set – and you will see that the shadowed parts of the craters are not lit by scattered light from the highlighted wall. That is a factual statement of observation, and I challenge anyone to find fault with it*.

Moving on, Mike continues to mock my Photoshop skillz with his wiked kewel knowledge of the “Shadows/Highlights” tool. Impressive! (Yes, if you didn’t get the sarcasm, I know of this tool.) It shows nothing new that he didn’t demonstrate before — the black shadows in the LPI version are black with a few pixels right around the transition a wee bit shade of grey. Due to roughness of the lunar regolith, you will not get an exact point of transition, but it’s pretty close. As opposed to what Mike claims: “What this means is that Robbins [sic] assertion about there being “no light scattering” in the area is also proven wrong. Absolutely, completely wrong.”

No, Mike, it’s not scattering, it’s due to the roughness of the terrain. The actual shadowed part of the crater, as opposed to the few meters of transition due to rough terrain, IS in pure shadow.

So to wrap-up this section of the post, I can do it with a picture:

AS11-38-5564 Photo

AS11-38-5564 Photo, Shadows of Mike Bara’s

What I’ve done here is what Mike did with the LPI version, but with his shadowed area. What it shows is that the shadow is noisy. It should be a very, very narrow range of just a few shades of grey. Instead, it is a bell-curve (roughly) around a non-zero value that covers over 6% the greyscale range but about 9% the dynamic range the image actually uses. And is EXACTLY what you would expect from classic noise.

*Yes, there are a very few cases – in fact I found one today – where you can have very steep, fresh crater walls on the Moon and they will reflect SOME light into the shadowed region, but you have to overexpose the rest of the image to see it. I can provide the two examples that I know of if really necessary.

Summary

Mike starts his summary with:

“Which makes Mr. Robbins and his petty, venal lap dog “expat” flat, dead wrong. On all counts. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for an apology from the Confederacy of Dunces that are the “pseudoscience” attack crowd.

I’ll again state that the name-calling really shows who the petty person is in this discussion. “Expat” is not my lap dog, rather I met him on Phil Plait’s blog and invited him onto my podcast to interview about some other mistakes of Mike’s.

Mike summarizes with a few other points (all quotes, numbering mine):

  1. we may not know the exact origins of the original Daedalus Ziggurat
  2. we know with absolute certainty that the NASA version of AS-11-38-5564 has been deliberately faked to hide something from us
  3. they first tried to hide the Ziggurat by reducing the contrast to delete key visual clues
  4. they took out the airbrush tool, set it to absolute black, and started spraying away

1. I agree and have never claimed otherwise.

2. I disagree for reasons explained above. It is up to Bara to provide evidence that NASA faked something, and if Mike knew anything about normal image processing pipelines – some of which I’ve written – then he would know that everything he pointed out (mainly the shadows) has a much more common explanation. In cases like this, one must supply enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis, the null hypothesis being that the image is what was originally presented by NASA.

3. Mike must mean “increasing the contrast,” because reducing would give the result I showed you with South Ray crater. Regardless, see my explanation above for why this and …

4. … this are not adequately demonstrated.

Last Four Paragraphs

The next paragraph of Mike’s summary includes things such as, “the sky above has been backed out, obviously to hide evidence of the glass ruins.” The remainder is pretty much attacking me. I’ll reiterate that no where have I actually attacked Mike and Richard, and you can read my post discussing this kind of “hate.”

The next paragraph states:

“What I have proven here is that the chief critics of the Daedalus Ziggurat are not only wrong, they are foolishly and sloppily wrong. Either they didn’t want to study the images in the depth that I did before releasing it to Mr. Hoagland, or they simply lacked the intellectual capacity to do so. I lean towards the latter, but let’s face it, buffoons like Mr. Robbins and his expat are just haters who attack everything we do, no matter how many times we embarrass them. I doubt this will be the last time I choose to respond to these louts, but I certainly hope it’s now obvious they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Well, again, I think to any objective observer, Mike has not succeeded in proving his one main point. He also again falsely states that I’m a “hater.” And of course the further insults.

If we really want to heap on insults, Mike, I could bring up the fact that you don’t know what an ellipse is, you think an annular eclipse is when the moon is at its closest to Earth, that the sun exerts more pull on the Moon than Earth does (it’s less by around 10x — otherwise the Moon would orbit the Sun and not Earth), or other such things. Again, I’m not a “hater,” nor is my intent to attack you, but to show that you have made many factual misstatements.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I normally wrap-up my post with something pithy. To be honest, this response took about two hours plus an hour for editing and I’m out of pithy things. I’ll reiterate, though, the crux of my argument and what you need to answer to show that the structure is real:

  1. Why there is less noise in the NASA original but more noise in Mike’s, and why is there more contrast (more pure black and more saturated highlights) in Mike’s? Both of these pretty much always indicate that the one with more noise and more contrast is a later generation … you can’t just Photoshop in more detail like that.
  2. Why other images of the same place taken by several different craft (including non-NASA ones), including images at almost 100x the original resolution of the Apollo photo, don’t show the feature.
  3. Why the shadowed parts of his ziggurat are lit up when they’re in shadow, on top of a hill, and not facing anything that should reflect light at them?

1. Mike did not satisfactorily answer the first point, making several factual errors about noise in images. I conceded the point about contrast more because I’m tired, though I still will maintain that based on the shadows in the lower left (below the crater), the original shows more of a dynamic range than the version Mike has.

2. This was not addressed in Mike’s post, ergo this point stands unchallenged.

3. This was indirectly addressed by Mike saying that the crater wall would scatter light onto the “West wall” of the ziggurat, but his geometry is not correct for his interpretation to be valid, as I explained in the post. It definitely should not be as bright and obvious as it is, brighter even than a lot of the darker terrain.

So to conclude, my original analysis stands and I think I have refuted Mike’s points as he laid them out in his blog. I have also done so without resorting to any name-calling nor mocking (okay, maybe a teensy bit of mocking, especially in the last paragraph of the previous section).

Oh, and again, that’s Dr. Robbins.

August 6, 2012

Mike Bara “to utterly and completly destroy you and your insipid “analysis”” Tonight?


Introduction

For background, first please see download and watch this video. Or go to that page for the transcript. Or go to YouTube and watch a shorter, earlier version of it. Or read my initial blog post on the subject.

Earlier Today …

Seems like I may have hit a nerve, considering that this post on Mike’s Facebook page is addressed to “Dear douchebags.” But he addresses that to those “who have been attacking my integrity,” which I have not done in this particular instance. Nor did I “claim… that [Mike] (or Richard C. Hoagland) faked the Daedalus Ziggurat photo.” I stated that someone did, and that Richard was clearly taken in by the hoax.

But apparently, later tonight, Mike is “going to utterly and completly destroy you and your insipid ‘analysis.’ I am going to prove that NASA are the ones that have faked their image. I am going to expose you as the idiots you are.”

I’ll watch his blog for details.

What Mike Must Show

To be clear, I did not address my video at Mike Bara. I addressed it towards the claims (not the person) made by Richard Hoagland about a photograph. But the photo came from Mike (Richard did not give him credit), and even though Mike “found it somewhere on the internet” he is convinced it is genuine and that NASA is faking their “new” version.

If Mike is going to refute my analysis, this is what he must satisfactorily explain:

  1. Why there is less noise in the NASA original but more noise in Mike’s, and why is there more contrast (more pure black and more saturated highlights) in Mike’s? Both of these pretty much always indicate that the one with more noise and more contrast is a later generation … you can’t just Photoshop in more detail like that.
  2. Why other images of the same place taken by several different craft (including non-NASA ones), including images at almost 100x the original resolution of the Apollo photo, don’t show the feature.
  3. Why the shadowed parts of his ziggurat are lit up when they’re in shadow, on top of a hill, and not facing anything that should reflect light at them?

I’m posting these criteria in advance of seeing his refutation so I can’t be accused of retrodicting anything, though these points are laid out fairly clearly in the video I created.

Temporary Final Thoughts

If Mike can explain those, I will post a statement as such and I will undergo a re-analysis. Those are the main reasons why I doubt its authenticity, and they are the main indicators for something that has been faked, and so I’d like to see what Mike will say to expose me as an idiot and show the NASA original is the one that’s been faked (and all the other photos of the site).

I will almost certainly do a follow-up post when Mike posts his blog on it, which is supposed to be around 10PM PDT, around 3ish hours from now.

Already, I can say that paranoia – as is common with conspiracy theorists – has set in. About four hours after that Facebook post, which got his fans rooting for him (“We’re ALL behind you Mike”), he posted a link to the LPI version of that image, telling his legions of Facebook friends to “please go to this link and download this image before NASA has a chance to replace it. Please save it in a safe place.” ‘Cause, you know, once he posts his analysis, NASA’s going to go in and add more cover-up. Meanwhile, most of the 44 commenters who have said they’ve downloaded the image say they don’t see anything anomalous. Likely not what Mike was hoping for.

But as I said, we’ll see what happens. And Mike, if you’re reading this, I really don’t hate you. And name-calling is really childish. Your arguments should be able to stand up on your own, they shouldn’t rely upon you starting out by calling your opponent a “douchebag,” “moron,” “idiot,” or some such other insult.

January 8, 2012

Podcast Episode 18: Ancient Aliens Interview with The Dumbass


Episode 18 of my podcast has been posted. This episode is another interview one, this time with “Parrot,” AKA “Dumbass” who has spent a lot of time on his blog and podcast going over many of the claims by ancient aliens proponents.

First, we address some of the broad reasons for aliens to visit us in the past, such as enslavement, a tourist stop, or as a brothel.

The bulk of the episode discusses some of the main evidential claims put forward, including: Pyramids, the “golden flyer,” the Christian Bible, Nazca lines, Face on Mars, a spaceship painting from A.D. 776, and bone calendars from 30,000 years ago.

The next subject we addressed were about some of the people involved in the ancient aliens phenomenon and some of their specific takes. These were Giorgio Tsoukalos, Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, David Hatcher Childress, and Christopher Dunn.

We wrapped up the ~70-minute interview with a summary of some of the broad reasons for ancient aliens and why people think they came here: argument from ignorance, argument from personal incredulity, making things up, and especially anomaly hunting.

June 23, 2009

The Apollo Moon Hoax: An Overview


Introduction

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a post … sorry folks, I’ve been busy with work and vacations and other stuff. But enough with excuses! In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landing by the lunar module “Eagle” piloted by Neil Armstrong and also manned by Buzz Aldrin, I am going to devote the next month of postings to a series that debunks the Apollo Moon Hoax.

In other words, the direct goal of these postings is NOT to prove we went to the moon, landing 12 men on the surface and bringing them successfully back (along with a load of lunar science). Rather, I will pick through the main hoax claims and show why each of them, in turn, is flawed.

The specific purpose of this introductory post is to discuss the hoax in general and why I will be debunking it as I state above.

All posts in this series:

Why the Hoax?

There is a small group of people who have made propagating the idea that the US government hoaxed the moon landings a significant part of their life’s work. In name, the four main people with whom I am familiar are Bill Kaysing (now deceased), David Percy (along with Mary Bennett), Ralph Rene, and Bart Sibrel. The two most active people in the “field” today are Rene and Sibrel, with Sibrel being the most visible.

One may ask, “Why do you think this was a hoax?” I cannot read these peoples’ minds, and I do not want to be accused of libel, so I am stating up-front that I do not attribute any of these reasons directly to any of those people. That said, in general, people like conspiracies and mysteries. It almost may seem anti-climactic to those Generation X and Y folks who were born over a decade after the landings that, “Yeah, we went to the moon.” It’s much more interesting to think that there is something else behind it. In addition, there is almost always an inherent distrust of “the Official story” and especially if that Official story comes from the government – a body that almost no one really trusts anymore.

But besides my attempt to psychoanalyze the conspiracy theorist mindset, there is a more direct, more visual reason: Anomalies. Anomalies are the conspiracy theorist’s bread and butter, the sustenance upon which they build their upside-down pyramid of cards.

Anomaly Hunting Defined

So that we’re all on the same page, I will define “anomaly hunting” for purposes of conspiracy theories: Anomaly hunting is searching for something – anything – that does not make sense to you within the context of the broader picture.

An example from the 9/11 Conspiracy is that when the Towers 1 and 2 collapsed, the debris/rubble only reached a few stories high, despite the skyscrapers originally reaching 110 stories high. How could they possibly have so little debris? There must have been something else going on – right?

Another example, this time from the JFK Assassination Conspiracy, is that the 6.5 x 52 mm Italian Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle that was used to shoot the president could NOT have been fired 3 times in the supposed 5.6 seconds that it was fired in (even though the Warren Commission found that it could have been up to 8 seconds). So there must have been a second shooter – right?

Well, to answer both of these … NO. These are apparent anomalies. They seem to make perfect sense when you present them at face-value because they appeal to general common sense. But there are really mundane explanations. First, for the Trade Towers, the explanation is that when one owns a building, they make money off of the empty space inside the building that people can then use for businesses (or living). The Trade Towers were up to 95% empty space by volume, and so when they collapsed, only the structure was what remained.

As for the speed of firing the rifle, it was only the first attempted reenactment by the Warren Commission that failed to duplicate the speed of firing. Since then – including CBS’s 11 volunteers in 1967 – many people have shown that it is a relatively easy task to shoot the rifle 3+ times in the time allotted, even if the minimum of 5.6 seconds is that time. A visual example of this was shown on Penn & Teller’s ‘Bullsh-t’ show, season 3 episode 3, where Penn successfully fired it 3 times in the space of 3.45 seconds.

Why Conspiracies Rely Upon Anomaly Hunting

So one may legitimately ask, “Why are conspiracies built upon anomalies?” The answer is because apparent “common sense” does not always apply. It is a very simple thing for me to look at a picture, hear about someone’s observation, or examine a video and see something that seems to defy what I expect to happen during a circumstance.

This is especially true when one talks about the environment of space, off Earth’s surface. Our every-day experience does not prepare us in any way for what to expect if we are in near-Earth orbit, on the moon, or elsewhere. The lack of air, the different gravity, lack of water, and other environmental factors change how things act and interact, giving rise to apparent anomalies.

Almost every single Moon Hoax claim deals with an apparent anomaly. From a lack of stars, to the C rock, to radiation belts, to the computer technology at the time, hoax proponents have come up with dozens of different anomalies within the Apollo program footage, photographs, statements, mission profile, and pretty much everything else that surrounds the program.

Final Thoughts

The next logical question may be, “Do conspiracy theorists have a coherent story, then, of what actually happened?” The answer may surprise you: No.

In general, the Moon Hoax evidences are almost all anomaly pointing-out from the Apollo program. Beyond that, each conspiracist has their own idea of what “really” happened, though they really do little to promote it when compared with how much work they do to find apparent flaws with the official explanation. And not all of their anomalies actually fit into their view of what happened, with many anomalies pointed out by other “researchers” contradicting their own ideas.

This is why my approach to debunking the Moon Hoax is to go through, claim by claim, and show why they are as they are. Once that is through, the conspiracists have nothing left to stand on because all observations can be explained by the “official” NASA story that we actually went to the moon.

December 19, 2008

Record and Unusual Snows and Cold – Proof Against Global Warming?


Introduction

It seems as though every winter now for the past few years, there’s some report of record snowfall or cold temperatures. Last year it was snow in Baghdad for the first time in a century. This year it just snowed in Las Vegas, NV and we have record cold in New England.

And, for the past few years, whenever this has happened we have had global warming deniers clamoring to say that this is proof that not only is man-made (anthropogenic) global warming not true, but global warming period is not true. And predictably, this has happened in the last few days.

I haven’t yet written a post focusing on global warming in this blog, and I don’t really intend to concentrate on it – this is more of an astronomy blog. However, as an astronomer/geophysicist as well as someone sharpening my teeth on instances of bad logic, I wanted to address this issue at least once.

Logical Fallacies

There are two main logical flaws here that I want to address – correlation without causation, and anomaly hunting.

The basic idea behind confusing a correlation (or association) with causation is that because two or more things seem to fit together (they look alike, they happen at the same time, etc.), then they must be related. For example, under this fallacy I would assume that if I turn on my computer and the doorbell rings, then me turing on my computer caused the doorbell to ring.

It should be noted that things that are correlated sometimes really are due to a cause and effect. In that above example, if I turn on my computer and I hear the Apple start-up chime come from my computer’s speakers, then those two correlated events really are causally connected.

The point of the fallacy is that you cannot – and should not – always assume that just because things are associated then they are connected.

The other fallacy is anomaly hunting, where you search for anything that will support your cause out of a vast array of information that doesn’t support your cause, and then use that as proof that your cause is correct. This is very often used in conspiracy theories – such as the Apollo Moon Hoax or even the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – and since the anti-global warming movement has by this point adopted many of the tactics of conspiracy theorists, it is no wonder that this fallacy abounds in their arguments.

What Global Warming Actually Is

The theory of global warming is that, over time, and on average, Earth’s temperature increases. Pretty darn simple. This is also referred to as “climate change.” And this terminology is key: When I took an intro weather geology class in undergrad, I was hammered on two vocabulary words that are often used interchangeably but really mean very different things: Weather and Climate.

Weather is the condition of Earth’s atmosphere at a given time and place, including such things as density, pressure, humidity, and temperature. Climate is the weather patterns over a long period of time. I hope by this point you can see where this post is headed — tying together three threads: Correlation is not causation, anomaly hunting, and weather is not climate.

Now the question is – what would happen if the overall temperature of Earth went up by just a few degrees? Well, the obvious answer is that things would be warmer. But this is NOT the only consequence. A result of areas becoming warmer is that weather patterns can change. Regions of Earth that once got plenty of rainfall could see that diminish, and vice versa. In addition, the overall warming can lead to more extreme weather patterns, including colder weather in some places during the winter. Just a few small changes in the jet stream over North America can easily bring cold air from over Canada down into the lower 48 states.

Why An Abnormally Cold Winter Does Not Sound the Death Knell for Global Warming

Let’s go in reverse order. First, these nay-sayers are focusing on weather events and are not looking at overall climate. Overall climate does show a trend of increased temperatures tightly correlated with atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over the last few decades.

Second, they are assuming, effectively, an anti-correlation here, saying that this abnormally cold weather is the effect of global cooling, far from global warming.

And third, they are anomaly hunting, searching for the few events of cold weather or snowfall amidst an incredibly large amount of data that show evidence of global warming, such as the afore-mentioned actual temperature tracking, shrinking glaciers, and longer term temperature tracking from ice core samples and tree rings.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this post has fairly clearly shown that snow in Baghdad does not prove that global warming is a vast conspiracy propagated by leftist media and liberal scientists. I have no desire, here, to get into the politics of global warming nor really consequences — I simply want to show that the cold weather that global warming deniers use as evidence against it are really missing the point in three main ways.

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