Exposing PseudoAstronomy

October 21, 2013

Podcast Episode 90: Investigation into Billy Meier’s Alleged Foreknowledge About Stuff About Jupiter and Saturn


Investigating
When people knew what about
Jup’ter and Saturn.

I’ve been doing some research on and off for this episode for quite awhile and finally had enough to post it: Episode 90: “Investigation into Billy Meier’s Alleged Foreknowledge About Stuff About Jupiter and Saturn.” The shownotes for this episode are extensive with lots of references. It’s been scheduled as Episode 90 for about two months. I decided to do it because I found it an interesting scavenger hunt, despite the fact that UFO-related posts are among my least-read blog posts.

The blog entry I reference towards the end of the episode is from January: “How Astronomers Are, According to Popular Press, Constantly Discovering the Same Thing.” I recommend looking through it because it’s a good example that has nothing to do with the Meier case where even peer-reviewed, professional science papers will sometimes ignore work that has shown the same “new” thing before, and it’s a good example of how press releases can play up various “discoveries” … even if they’ve been made before.

The podcast episode also has a few notes at the end, and there’s some feedback clarifying the discussion about why oxygen isotopes are important for understanding where objects formed in the solar system.

 

Given what’s happened in the past when I’ve talked about Meier’s material, I’m going to reiterate my comments policy: Comments need to be on-topic, and I make the final decision of what comes through; I do not owe you an explanation if your comment is not posted, my comments policy is pretty clear. Any comment to this post needs to be specifically about this podcast episode.

If you’re going to dispute material in it, you need to provide specific references and be specific about what you are disputing. You need to be succinct. That means no lengthy essays. That means no posts with numerous links to random stuff. That means no links to videos about trees — no embedded videos period, I will remove them and I will remove posts that are simply a bunch of random links to Meier material, especially if they do not support the specific thing you are refuting / referencing. That means not debating whether trees in a video are real or models.

This episode is specifically about certain claims about Jupiter and Saturn, whether those claims/statements were true, and whether it was known or openly speculated before Meier’s writing that they were true or existed, which is what the claim is for Meier’s prophecy: “… with literally dozens of other such documented examples of Meier’s having published specific, accurate information years, and even decades, before terrestrial scientists, the case must be recognized as being authentic based on these irrefutable facts alone.” It is not the claim that this stuff was known on Earth but Meier didn’t have access to that information so he still got it from ETs — and if that’s what is going to be claimed now, then that is an unfalsifiable and unverifiable claim and is moving the goalpost.

January 2, 2013

A Psychic Predictions Addendum


For Michael Horn

Michael Horn, the Official North American Media Representative of alleged UFO-contactee Billy Meier, has attempted to send me various tasks and things to do, apparently failing to realize that I don’t work for him. I’ve pretty much ignored them as is my prerogative and for reasons I’ve explained in detail before.

One such “task” (literally, the subject of the e-mail was: “A new task”) was this:

Hi tehre Stuart,

As you may imagine I receive some interesting information from various people, among them a couple of astrologers who seem to have been pretty accurate.

So I’m copying you some fairly recent emails with content from them. You can of course feel free to examine it critically and see if the past info seems to be more than chance where it’s accurate and the foretold info/events should speak for themselves, one way or the other.

On August 31, Michael wrote in a comment on my blog:

P.S. When I have the time, I will post some interesting information pertaining to an email that I sent Stuart a while ago. In it I put information from a couple of astrologers who had gone on record with a number of specific things, and times they thought they would occur. It appears that they were…right. I notice that Stuart hadn’t put up a blog attacking these “silly” people, or whatever. Nor has he mentioned having checked them out and been confronted with their documented accuracy.

I wrote in response, to which Michael did not reply:

Oh, you mean your e-mail where your astrologer said, let’s see … “July will be a very busy month for the world … which … will also launch a major volcanic eruption, one of the largest we have ever seen, as well as major quakes around the world.”

Or “I see lots of major issues in the way of electrical power blackouts in 2012. There will be so many issues with power world wide, with huge black outs that last months even years. More black outs and rolling black outs then ever. Some very odd and completely un-explained by scientists.”

Or maybe this was more accurate? — “As I’ve said, I see major issues with the severe heat in many places. Temps could reach 130, even 140, this will also have a major effect on the power plants. July and August will be some of the worst times for this. The blame will partially be on sun solar storms that produces record breaking heat.”

Hmm. Unless I’ve been on some other planet the last two months, your astrologer doesn’t appear to be “right,” as you put it.

Let’s actually review the predictions of Michael’s astrologers who were “right,” shall we? I think that this will be informative because it shows how I got about evaluating predictions.

Reverend Michael Vanderpool, Astrologer & Intuitive — 0 hits || 3 can’t judge || 2 misses

First, the “Reverend” part — his “Doctor of Divinity” is from the Universal Life Church, an organization whose Wikipedia page starts by saying, “The Universal Life Church (ULC) is a religious organization that offers anyone semi-immediate ordination as a ULC minister free of charge. The organization states that anyone can become a minister without having to go through the pre-ordination process required by other religious faiths.” He also has a degree in “Healing Sciences” from the Jesus of Nazareth Church International. The certificates are scanned in and posted on his website. Not meant as an ad hominem, simply putting this out there since he consistently refers to himself as a Reverend.

Moving on, I listened to about an hour’s worth of his YouTube videos. The first was posted December 30, 2011. In it, he makes three predictions:

1. “January 9 to January 12, thus possibly affecting [January 8-16] … in terms of that war-like energy.”

2. He relates this to a war in Syria starting around January 15, and then Syrian president Assad is losing power in the time between February 24 and March 15 “with great probability.”

3. Markets will go up February 24, 2012. That’s the basic idea of this prediction, but he specifically stated: “Why do I say that [the Assad stuff]? Because in that window of time, the planet Jupiter will trine Pluto, and it almost always means that we see a a stabilization, or a maintaining of the markets, or an increase – a rising up of all markets when that happens.” He then says that last time this happened, markets went up. “And therefore, because I see that, the markets will go up with great probability February 24 …”

I then watched his video posted February 23, 2012. In this one, there was the very vague prediction:

4. There are “turbulent times” around June-July and a “difficult astrology time” around the November presidential election in the USA.

Analysis: WAY TOO VAGUE to be considered a hit or miss on any objective scale. As a predictor, this is useless.

Perhaps more interesting, he claims that he was 100% accurate in his market prediction that it’s “a very accurate prediction and quite a significant prediction.” This is based on a newspaper article from the previous day that stated the stock markets were at all-time highs since 2008. So taking that newspaper article, sure, he’s correct.

But let’s look at prediction 3 in greater detail, for which I’m using the Dow. The 10-year high for the Dow was October 12, 2007, at 14,093.08. The high in the year 2008 was May 2 at 13,058.20. 2008 ended at 8515.55, while the high in 2009 was at the end of the year at 10,328.89. Overall, the stock market has been improving ever since its low in early 2009, so the prediction that markets will go up on February 24, 2012, is not unlikely.

In fact, February 22-24 was not even the high for February, which came on Feb. 28 at 13,005.12, whereas Feb. 22-24 the Dow was around 12,940-12,985. It did NOT reach the high from 2008 in February in end-of-day trading, though it got close. Nor was this a high in 2012, the high close was 13,610.15 on October 5, 2012, though the actual high was up to 13,661.87.

Strictly speaking, he is correct, the markets did go up Feb. 24. But practically speaking, this was either (a) a high-probability hit that the market will go up on any given day, or (b) too vague for him to claim it was a hit with the specificity that he later did.

Similarly, he claimed that prediction 1 was actually “a great probability — a great possibility of war … in January 9-15, 2012 window, which can be evidence AS AN ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE PREDICTION” by looking at an Israeli news source from January 14, 2012, that said the largest war exercises in US history would be conducted between the US and Israel around that time. Sorry, again, this is way too vague to be considered a hit. He also did not even mention Israel in the Dec. 30, 2011, video, but thought it would have to do with Assad … see prediction #2. In fact, I watched it again because I had actually missed this ’cause I lumped it in with his Assad prediction.

And, the Assad prediction, #2, is a miss. He did not lose power in Feb-March 2012, and is still in power as I write this at the end of 2012. However, he claims that his Assad prediction was actually correct.

So far, we have 4 predictions, 3 claimed hits. I say three are too vague to score, and one is a miss.

The final video I watched was posted on April 6, 2012. He repeated #4, that there would be some potential problems with the banking system around June-July, which could manifest as the closing of the Straights of Hormuz. Could affect gas prices, food prices. The most specific thing I could pull out was:

5. “Gas prices shooting through the roof [in the summer]. … It would be wise for people to prepare for what could be incredibly high gas prices, and thus, in turn, if that does happen, it could affect food prices …”

Analysis: At best for the astrologer, this would be considered too vague, but under my scoring guidelines, I consider this a miss. Looking at 5-year gas prices in the US, we had a high in summer 2008 of $4.12/gal. In 2012, we had two peaks, one at $3.92 at the beginning of April — when his video was made, and a smaller peak in mid-September at about $3.87/gal. Other than the beginning and end of the year, gas prices were at a yearly low during the time period that he’s describing, June-July. Ergo, I consider this a miss.

And yet, in his e-mails to Michael Horn, he quotes news articles from June 30 stating that there are some rising oil prices and some analysts thinking that they’ll go up. Problem for Michael Vanderpool is that they did not.

Tony Vasquez — 1 partial hit || 3 can’t judge || 9 misses

These are all quotes from Michael’s e-mail to me on July 4, 2012. There were several different parts of it that I drew from to put these together. I included nearly everything written, with a few things left out that were preamble or more things simply too vague to judge.

1. “The U.S. presidential election turns out to be the dirtiest and most scandalous election ever.”

MISS

2. “Obama wins by a landslide.”

MISS — Obama won by less than he did the first time, hardly a landslide.

3. “I still see some kind of major controversy/scandal about Romney and it will completely jeopardize his chances at the presidency.”

MISS. Yes, he said some stupid things, but no one considers this a “major controversy/scandal.”

4. “I refer back to my previous predictions, and during this year’s astrological work, I continue to have no doubt that major chaos and destruction come from Iran, and to Iran.”

MISS

5. “I also believe that either Iran or Israel will be hit in a major way, possible hit by each other. This may not occur until late 2012, but July also looks like a possible time.”

PARTIAL HIT — One could consider the Israeli-Gaza conflict of November 2012 as the hit for this, but I consider it partial because (a) it was November and (b) Iran was not involved – at least not directly/obviously/admittedly.

6. “I believe Iran will also endure an attack from the U.S.”

Impossible to Verify with Present Info

7. “Also, as much as they are going to try and tell us Iran does not have a nuke or that they took out their nuke it will not be true.”

Impossible to Verify with Present Info

8. “I see lots of major issues in the way of electrical power blackouts in 2012. There will be so many issues with power world wide, with huge black outs that last months even years. More black outs and rolling black outs then ever. Some very odd and completely un-explained by scientists.”

MISS

9. “I still see major issues with the severe heat in many places. Temps could reach 130, even 140, this will also have a major effect on the power plants. July and August will be some of the worst times for this. The blame will partially be on sun solar storms that produces record breaking heat.”

MISS

10. “I do see 8+ earthquakes/tsunamis(3) hitting Japan and one 8+ hitting India – huge disasters with cities leveled.”

MISS

11. “Major “Events” in July and August will set off a chain reaction that will run right through 2014.”

TOO VAGUE

12. “I also see the Pope dying this year – the last pope then elected. Sept.-Nov. period for this.”

MISS

13. “July will be a very busy month for the world and a time when the planet’s energy shift goes into overdrive, which in turn will also launch a major volcanic eruption, one of the largest we have ever seen, as well as major quakes around the world. … I’m pretty sure there will be a major volcanic eruption – one of the largest ever – in July-August.”

MISS

Conclusions

A sum total of 1 partial hit, 6 too vague to judge, and 11 misses for a hit rate of around 4% and a too vague rate of 33%. This is right in line with the others from my main 2012 Psychic Predictions post.

With those all graded now, Michael, if you care to comment, feel free. But note that, as usual, I will block anything from you that is not SPECIFICALLY ABOUT THESE PREDICTIONS. No posting to your other stuff, no asking to look at other stuff, just comments about these predictions. Anything else will be blocked or edited out — you’ve posted enough stuff to your site that’s not related directly to the topic in other places on my blog.

August 24, 2012

Podcast Episode 49: Billy Meier, Michael Horn, and Asteroid Apophis Prophecy

Filed under: podcast,ufo — Stuart Robbins @ 11:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sorry this episode is coming out late in the day. Pretty much all of today was spent catching up on sleep and working on this and some other blog posts. Plus I’m working on three papers and two conference abstracts plus a grant proposal, all due in the very near future. Fortunately or unfortunately, my normal weekend social engagement won’t be happening so this’ll give me a chance to get more done …

Anyway, this is really an analysis two years later of the whole saga of the “red meteor” “prophecy” of Billy Meier and the analysis I did in 2010 and the responses since then. For background on Meier podcast-wise, check out Episode 32.

This episode returns to my median length of around 30 minutes for an episode, but to get it that length the only segments other than the main one are a quick New News and then a single standard announcement. No puzzler this time. I also haven’t 100% figured out what the next episode is going to be, possibly earthquakes caused by the full moon.

P.S. (8/28) – As I expected, numerous people have come out of the woodwork on this post who have criticized my posts before on Meier. I’ll repeat again that no matter what their criticism is, unless they have evidence linking the “red meteor” to Apophis with specific information before Apophis was discovered, then the root conclusion that it was a retrodiction still stands.

April 1, 2011

April Fools: A Serious Post for the Day


Introduction

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

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

Near-Death Experiences, Spirit Contacts, Ghosts

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

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

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

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

Present-Day Visitation by UFOs and Aliens

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

Ancient Aliens and Alien Artifacts in the Solar System

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

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

Young-Earth Creationism

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

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

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

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

[Pick Your] Conspiracy Theory

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

2012 Doomsday

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

Vaccines Cause Autism

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

April 1, 2010

Giving Up the Fight and Turning to the Light


Giving Up the Fight and Turning to the Light

Introduction

Well folks, I’ve decided to give up the fight. No, not because some “Big Government” folks got to me, nor for the opposite reason that they stopped my paychecks commin’. Rather, I’ve decided to approach life with a much more open, spiritual mind.

Why?

Over the past few months, from listening to shows like Coast to Coast AM, Skeptiko, ID the Future, and Around the World with Ken Ham, I’ve decided that the world really must have some aspect to it that science just can’t explain.

There is just so much evidence of it. People have near-death experiences all the time, proving that consciousness is separate from the brain. Children are born with birthmarks and memories of previous lives, the birthmarks being the exact same locations where they were stabbed or shot by a bullet in those previous lives. Every culture around the world believes in ghosts. Everyone can’t just be imagining it!

And then there’s that Dogon tribe in Africa that knew about the companion star to Sirius way before astronomers did, proving they were contacted by ETs. Everyone and their cousin has seen a UFO that has to be proof of ETs or Secret Government Technology controlled by the Men in Black. And there are such convincing test cases – Betty and Barney Hill, and of course the über-clad case of Billy Meier – that it can’t possibly be just someone’s hoax. Horoscopes are in every news paper – even The Onion – and they’re among the most popular sections … people still pay over $500/hr to see astrologers, psychics, etc. They can’t all be wrong!

We just have to live in a beautiful, created universe by a loving creator. It was tailored just for us – Earth is perfect for us to live in and inhabit, and that Creator has provided us a wondrous solar system, galaxy, and universe to view and explore. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” indeed. Every culture around the world has some sort of flood story in its past – they can’t all be just imagining it, it can’t all be Yungian collective unconsciousness.

Final Thoughts

So, I have decided on this First day of April of the 2010th Year of Our Lord, to throw in the towel and embrace the unknown. After all, isn’t that why so-called skeptics don’t like it? Because they fear the unknown? They’re afraid to put themselves into God’s hands? They’re afraid to admit that there may be something more powerful out there than themselves, or that their science cannot explain?

Besides, with the world ending in just 3 years, at the end of 2012 since the Mayans were excellent astronomers and predicted this, why should I spend the last years of my life worrying about convincing people not to believe what everyone else on the planet does?

February 3, 2010

“How Could a Simple One-Armed Farmer …” A Bit More on Billy Meier / Michael Horn, And What Scientific Falsification Means


Introduction

In what is hopefully the last post for quite awhile on the alleged contactee status of Swiss farmer Billy Meier and his “Authorized American Media Representative” Michael Horn, I would like to discuss two very old (3+ years) interviews that Horn gave on the podcast, The Paracast. Specifically, I would like to address the second interview where Horn is presented with a specific analysis of a specific photograph that was shown beyond a reasonable doubt by one of the foremost experts in Photoshop to have been faked … and then Horn’s apparent refusal to actually answer the claims raised.

What Does it Mean to Falsify Something?

In science, there is pretty much no case where you can “prove” something. Just like the American legal system, someone is never “proven innocent,” nor are they “proven guilty.” They are either shown to be “not guilty” (very different from “innocent”) or that there is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that someone is guilty.

We operate much the same way in scientific circles. Even the two pillars of modern physics – Relativity and Quantum Mechanics – which I note are “theories,” have never been proven to be 100% true. They simply can’t be – science doesn’t operate that way. True, there are literally thousands of independent experiments that have tested these theories and shown them – so far, beyond a reasonable doubt – to precisely predict the results of the experiments to within measurement uncertainties and errors.

However, all it takes is ONE experiment, one piece of indisputable, independently reproducible evidence or an experiment or observation that is irreconcilable with any established theory, and the theory goes out the window. In historic hindsight, it’s really as simple as that, though of course during the process of the revolution it is a little messier.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it’s very relevant to the interviews that I’m going to address.

Paracast Interviews

Yet again, Conspiracy Skeptic Karl Mamer clued me into some older interviews that were done with Michael Horn and put out on June 27, 2006, and July 11, 2006. I think during that time I was on a 25-hr/day schedule to photograph the moon every night for two lunar months … but I digress.

Anyway, in the first interview, Horn was pretty much given free reign, much like in the Coast to Coast AM interviews I’ve heard. It was really the latter that this post will focus on. First off, The Paracast has two hosts – Gene Steinberg who is an award-winning journalist, and David Biedny (pronounced “Bee-ed-nee”) who is one of the world’s foremost experts in the Adobe program “Photoshop” and works at Industrial Light and Magic. His credits include working on the effects of Hudson Hawk, Terminator 2, Star Trek VI, The Rocketeer, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, and Hook (I wonder if he’s the one who digitally removed all of Robin Williams’ chest hair in that movie). The reason why I bring up Beidny’s credentials in what may seem like an obvious argument from authority (though it’s not and I’ll address that below) is that the second interview was almost all Biedny going head-to-head with Horn with the intent of his analysis of a single photograph that Horn claimed was genuine.

Burden of Proof versus Refutation

First, if you end up listening to The Paracast as a result of this blog post please note that it DOES have commercials annoyingly throughout it. Be fore-warned.

Moving on, if we ignore the front matter and the posturing, the real meat at the beginning of the interview as about falsification. The two hosts put forth the idea that if any single piece of Meier’s evidence that Horn was putting forth as genuine was proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be faked (false/hoaxed/lied/etc.), then that should – and would in their eyes – call the entire thing into question. Following the logic of science that I laid out at the beginning of the post, that makes perfect sense to me.

However, without actually acknowledging that, Horn countered that if he could show that a bunch of it was true, then it should be accepted as true. The hosts, and I sitting in my little office, laughed at that.

Why? one may ask. After all, isn’t that only fair – wouldn’t it be a double-standard to think otherwise? The answer: No.

Think of it like this: In my apartment, I could use a mixture of some various chemicals to come up with something that looks like chocolate. I may have actually done this. I could then present it to people as, “This is genuine chocolate. Here, have a taste! It’s chocolate and you’ll be able to tell!” Those people – I may present it to hundreds – may agree with me that it’s real chocolate. I could then call on them as witnesses that it’s real chocolate. However, I may then give it to someone who is able to analyze it in a different way, or may be more sensitive to the actual taste of chocolate or the chemicals I’ve used, and that person could then demonstrate that, beyond a reasonable doubt, what I gave them as “genuine chocolate” was fake.

I could say, “But all these other experts said it was real!” That wouldn’t matter. I had fooled them. All it takes is one, irrefutable piece of evidence that I had hoaxed my chocolate that would then call everything else I had tried to pass off as chocolate into question. Even if some of it actually had been real.

So, that is why I can fairly easily say to Meier, or a creationist, or an astrologer, or anyone else, really, that once I’ve conclusively demonstrated that any one of the claims you’ve put forward as genuine is demonstrably false, then that should call into question everything else you’ve done. Just look at the South Korean scientist who was found out to have faked some of his stem cell research.

[As a side-note, to anyone reading this who has had any chocolate that I’ve made, I would never actually try to pass of fake stuff as real, and I’m up-front when I do use white chocolate which isn’t really chocolate.]

Getting Into It, But Not Really, or “How Could a Simple One-Armed Farmer …”

With this in mind, Biedny did an in-depth analysis of one of the photographs that Horn had been putting forward as genuine. On the episode, Biedny pointed to several artifacts in the photograph that clearly demonstrated compositing different images and models to create the single finished product. Getting into the details is not the purpose of this post – go listen to the episode if you’re interested.

Rather, Horn’s reaction is what I wanted to address. As has been the case in the comments section of my own blog, Horn has refused to directly address the refutations I gave of the alleged prognostication of asteroid Apophis. The first post on the subject contains the bulk of Horn’s comments which simply dodge the issue and point to other alleged predictions. The second post on the subject contained a detailed look at the timeline of the alleged prediction where I looked through all of the available documented evidence to show that Meier did not predict Apophis. For me, that was the equivalent of what Biedny did with the one photograph – I went into detail on one prediction. The third post was more of a superficial discussion of it, discussing my discussion of the blog discussion during my discussion with Karl Mamer. Lots of discussing.

But none addressing the point — I directly challenged Horn on at least 4 occasions on my blog – both in posts and on the comments – to come up with a refute to my break-down of the timeline of the alleged prediction of Apophis. He has not done so.

Neither did he with any of the points that Biedny raised for the faked photograph. Rather, very conspicuously – and discussed during a recap during the last ~8 minutes of the latter Paracast episode – Horn dodged the points that Biedny raised. He had two main things he kept going back to. First was the various other experts that he claims have looked at the photograph and said it’s genuine. However, I refer you to my discussion of chocolate that I had a few paragraphs ago – it does not matter how many experts I have convinced that what I’m putting forward is real, it just takes one to shoot something down. The second thing he kept coming back to was, “Yes, but how could a simple one-armed farmer …” (the quote may have been “simple one-armed Swiss farmer” a few times, I don’t actually remember). I liked the host’s response to that after the upteenth time that Horn raised it (following is paraphrased even though it’s in quotes): “We’re not saying that he did. He could have had help. All we’re saying is that there is undeniable evidence that this photograph has been faked, we don’t care how he may have done it.”

Final Thoughts

That was really the extent of the discourse. Not once did Horn directly address Biedny’s demonstrable claims of pointing out flaws in the photo that show it to have been forged. Horn simply dodged the subject. Occasionally, Horn would ask, “But look at this [other] photograph.” Biedny’s response – in my mind – was quite proper, and it was effectively, “Why should I? I’ve neither the time nor inclination. I’ve shown one that you put forward as genuine has been faked beyond a reasonable doubt, calling into question all the rest of the claims.”

Similarly on my blog, Horn has refused to directly address the evidence I presented in terms of the Apophis timeline, and rather he has pointed to other alleged predictions and claims and lines of evidence that, at the moment, I have zero inclination nor time to pursue. But, I don’t think I need to. I have demonstrably shown with the available evidence that the claim that Meier predicted Apophis is false. I think that calls into question all the rest of his claims, and I don’t think I need to go into them, especially when others already have.

January 28, 2010

Another “The Conspiracy Skeptic” Interview – Update on T Pyx and Apophis (Concerning Billy Meier and Michael Horn)


Introduction

Following my appearance on The Conspiracy Skeptic podcast on January 12, 2010, two events occurred that caused me to go running back to Karl Mamer (the host/producer/creator) and asking if he would deign to allow me back on to do a “quick” follow-up interview about what we had discussed. The first event was that two days later, Michael Horn (the Swiss alleged UFO-contactee Billy Meier’s American shill) was interviewed on the late-night 4-hour radio show Coast to Coast AM by George Noory, about asteroid Apophis. The second event was The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast episode #235 where they also discussed T Pyx and that the astronomers got the numbers wrong … despite NO news source reporting on it other than what I could later find in Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.

The Corrections/Updates

First, I encourage everyone to actually listen to the full episode (bottom of the page, or subscribe through iTunes).

But, if you don’t have time … here’s a quick summary:

(1) No, even if T Pyx is 1 kpc (~3200 light-years) away instead of 3.5 kpc away, if/when it goes supernova it will not kill us all. The astronomers used the incorrect energy values for how much energy is released in a Type 1a supernova, instead using the values for a gamma ray burst with the burst aimed right at us. Unfortunately, NO major media outlet has updated their story (Scientific American, Space.com, MSNBC, to name a few). Rather, I heard about it through the SGU episode and got the information from Phil Plait’s blog. I consider this a failure on my own part, too for not actually trying to run the numbers before appearing on Karl’s podcast — that’ll teach me to trust the news [said partially tongue-in-cheek].

(2) Apparently vampires don’t live forever and when their head is ripped off in the heat death of the universe, then they’ll die. My bad.

(3) Apophis still isn’t going to hit us. Unless you for some unfathomable reason believe in Billy Meier’s “prophecies” and what’s said by Michael Horn. This came wholly unexpected in that I hadn’t planned to ever address Meier and Horn until I heard Horn on the Coast to Coast AM show and then did my original post here. Based on everything I’d heard about Horn, I gave it about a 70% chance that he would find my blog and post a comment. I had decided before I even completed the post that if that happened, I would reply once to him, and that was it. Which I have maintained, despite the numerous (literally dozens) of comments on that particular post (I invite you to peruse them if you have time to kill). I then did a follow-up post that addresses not the language of the alleged contact predictions, but the actual content and shows that, no, Billy Meier did not predict Apophis and that it is going to hit.

Since that post, my blog has been picked up and re-posted by the Independent Investigations Group of the Center for Inquiry – Los Angeles as part of their exposé on Billy Meier and Michael Horn. It’s listed under “The Prophecies Of Billy Meier” as “Asteroid Apophis Deconstruction.” I encourage you to go through some of the links there to really understand the scope of the Meier alleged “contacts” as well as the disinformation and deceit by Michael Horn … if it wasn’t apparent already from the comments he has posted to my own blog. I’ve since offered my continued services to them in anything astronomy-related, but we’ll see what happens there.

Final Thoughts

That’s about it. The episode lasts about 55 minutes, which is shorter than my others on the show, but it’s one of the shortest episodes of the podcast in it’s new “Unplugged” format.

January 21, 2010

Follow-Up on Apophis and Michael Horn / Billy Meier Documented Claims


Introduction

Im my most recent post, “Asteroid Apophis and the Michael Horn Claims of Billy Meier,” I addressed the very recent claims of Michael Horn, the “Authorized American Media Representative” of alleged UFO-contactee Billy Meier, a Swiss farmer. The claims were regarding retrodiction of the near-earth asteroid Apophis, its close encounter with Earth in 2029, and formerly ~1:40 chance of hitting Earth in 2036 (now revised to around 1:250,000).

My post centered around critiquing two main claims, the first being why Meier had called an impacting object “red,” and the second why a “meteor” instead of “asteroid.” In the two days since I posted it, I have come across additional material that addresses another claim by Michael Horn, that Billy Meier had predicted this event (or been told of it by his alien contacts) way back in 1981, over 20 years before Apophis was discovered.

Added (11/09/2011): Two minor corrections have been made.

1981 Documented Prediction?

This is actually one of the first claims made in the Coast to Coast AM radio show from January 14, 2010, that Horn makes. It is quite lengthy so I do not want to directly quote, but effectively Horn states that there is indisputable documented evidence that Meier made this prediction in 1981, as the prediction was published in books that post-date that event but pre-date the discovery of Apophis.

So I did some digging, along with the help of “Conspiracy Skeptic” Karl Mamer. What I found was a wiki site devoted to Billy Meier, which conveniently has all of his alleged contact transcripts in both the original German and translated in English; I will note, however, the site is “unofficial and unauthorized” so “may contain errors” … however, it’s the best I have at the moment. The original claim dates to Contact #150. It seems as though, during a previous contact that I cannot find documentation of, the Plejarens allegedly told Meier of a “red meteor” as he asks, “Insbesondere interessiert mich dabei der ‘rote Meteor.’ Ist das nun der Zerstörer, oder handelt es sich um einen anderen Kometen, der immer wieder durch unser Sonnensystem zieht?” or, “I am particularly interested in the ‘red meteor.’ Now, is this the Destroyer, or is this another comet that passes again and again through our solar system?” (From now on I’ll just be posting the English translation.)

The alleged response: “Neither, my friend. The meteor mentioned in the prophecies, which will exhibit an enormous size and cause very vicious, destructive havoc on Earth, and which threatens to bring climatic and also tectonic and other changes, will also threaten to split the Earth’s crust, from today’s North Sea to the Black Sea, but this doesn’t have to be true with certainty because now, certain factors speak otherwise.”

That is about the extent of the prediction in terms of identifiable information. It is not named. It is not said when it will hit, come near Earth, nor be discovered. It is simply the “red meteor.”

2002 Reader Feedback

The next mention of this anywhere that I can find is in 2002. A question was asked by a man named George Madeyski of Meier: “Is the impending ‘Red Meteor’ event still on? (it will rip a gush in Europe from Baltic Sea to Black Sea). Is it fair to ask you this. When you say ‘IMPENDING’ does that mean: within next 20 years, 50 years or what does that word realy [sic] imply? Will this event stop the growth of the food crops for few years and consequently cause famine leading to war for food sources by nations who have nothing to loose(desperate)?”

The response: “It is still on its way. It has not yet been discovered. Well, “officially” Billy doesn’t know. 🙂 Regarding the end question: No, and the Earth will not explode.” I am assuming this response was actually made by Michael Horn rather than Meier speaking in the third person. It has been pointed out to me that the likely source of this response was either Meier (speaking in third person) or, more likely, Christian Frehner.

So, in 2002, 21 years later, we have a question asking for any more information on it, and still there is none.

Enter 2008

Remember, Apophis was discovered and announced towards the end of 2004.

The next mention anywhere that I could find of “2029,” “2036,” or the “red meteor” was in Contact Report 471: “But since we are talking about Mars, the red planet, the Red Meteor comes to my mind, of which it is written in a prophecy. … If I remember correctly, he said that the great danger by the meteor would threaten Earth on the 13th April 2029, while at the same time he also named a date for the year 2036.”

Woah! Where did that come from? Suddenly, we have the exact date of when Apophis will come near Earth (April 13, 2029) and the would-be impact year, 2036. Now, I cannot read minds (though I always envied Lwaxana Troi’s abilities), and there could be documentation out there that I have not been able to find. But to me, it sure seems as though Meier has taken a previous alleged prediction – by using the “red meteor” term – and fit it to Apophis by attach Apophis’ information four years after Apophis was discovered.

So far we have: A documented prediction in 1981 of a “red meteor” that is prophecised to hit Earth – with an escape clause (“this doesn’t have to be true with certainty”). There is no name, no date, no other definitive information. The next mention of it by Meier is in 2008 where he’s taken the “red meteor” from nearly 30 years before and attached Apophis’ information.

Second “Contact Report” of 2008

Contact Report 475 comes out two months later in November 2008 with yet another veiled reference to Apophis: “Regarding the Red Meteor that endangers Earth on the 13th of April, 2029 and of which we have already spoken on the 16th of September, I have been asked about certain things and, therefore, would like to know how big that bloke is. To my knowledge the terrestrial astronomers have already detected it for quite some time and are calling it Aprophis or something. It shall either hit Earth in the year 2029, or only whizzing by very closely. Should it be the latter case, it (the meteor) would reappear in the year 2036 and its close approach to Earth could really lead to a catastrophe if the scientists undertake nothing against it.”

At this point, we have fully linked to Apophis, calling it by name (sort of).

Final Thoughts

At least from what I have been able to find that is documented, I think any objective look at this would say, at the very least, that Meier did not actually predict Apophis. There is no definitive link between the “red meteor” prophecy in 1981 to get to the exact information that Meier states 4 years after Apophis is discovered.

On a related but unrelated note, I invite readers of my first post who may not have read the Comments section of late to go back and look through. As of when I’m posting this in the evening of January 21, 2010, Michael Horn himself has posted a response many, many responses. After this post goes up, I will make my own reply to his comments.

I would also like to invite you to rate my posts and comments. If you are viewing an individual post as opposed to the list of latest ones on the main page (you can get to individual posts just by clicking on the titles), then you will see a series of 5 stars. Click on them (1 through 5) to rate the post. Similarly, there are thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons at the start of every comment. Please use them to rate the comments. Feedback is always good!

January 19, 2010

Asteroid Apophis and the Michael Horn Claims of Billy Meier


Introduction

I was recently (last week) interviewed yet again on The Conspiracy Skeptic podcast in what I thought would be a short (20 minute) talk about the Russian press release of asteroid Apophis and the AAS press release that the star T Pyx may be 1,000 parsecs away instead of ~3500 parsecs away which would be bad news for Earth if/when it goes supernova. I encourage my readers to listen to that episode for more information, especially the introduction about asteroid Apophis as I’m going to be skipping over much of that in this post.

Anyway, coincidentally, just two nights after the interview went live, Coast to Coast AM had Michael Horn, the “Authorized American Media Representative” for Billy Meier (a Swiss UFO guy), talk about Apophis and spew out some fairly blatant pseudoastronomy that I felt I should address. Note that this post is NOT about Billy Meier and his alleged UFO contacts and predictions, nor Michael Horn’s media-loving frenzies. It is ONLY about what Michael Horn stated on the January 14, 2010 episode of Coast to Coast AM.

Update: I have posted a follow-up to this entry, “Follow-Up on Apophis and Michael Horn / Billy Meier Documented Claims.”

Added (11/09/2011): One minor correction has been made.

Overview of Asteroid Apophis

I’m going to be very brief here in my overview because I go into a fair amount of depth about this Earth-crossing asteroid during my interview. Apophis was discovered in 2004 and preliminary calculations gave it about a 1 in 40 chance of hitting Earth in 2029, and if it didn’t hit then, a possibility of its orbit being altered in 2029 by passing through a “keyhole” region of space. If it were to pass through this keyhole, then its orbit would be altered in such a way that it will hit Earth in 2036.

Needless to say, in the 5 years since this discovery, the asteroid has been observed hundreds if not thousands of times and its orbit has been better-defined. As a result, the latest odds of an impact in 2036 are now estimated at around 1 in 300,000. Definitely not worth worrying about, but it does raise awareness to the fact that one day there will be an asteroid that will hit Earth that is large enough to do serious damage – wipe out a city or small country, for example.

A slight side-note is a discussion of the Torino Scale which is an integer (0-10) and color-coded (white, green, yellow, orange, red) scale developed in 1995. It is a scale of classifying how dangerous an asteroid is to Earth. The 0-10 integer value is based upon the size of the asteroid and probability of impact with 10 (red) being a dinosaur-killer. When it was first discovered, Apophis was rated a Level 4 (yellow), which is defined as, “A close encounter, meriting attention by astronomers. Current calculations give a 1% or greater chance of collision capable of regional devastation. Most likely, new telescopic observations will lead to re-assignment to Level 0. Attention by public and by public officials is merited if the encounter is less than a decade away.” It has since been down-graded to Level 0.

Enter late December 2009, when the head of the Russian space agency told reporters (at least in the English translation) that they were assembling a team to put together a mission to nudge Apophis away from impact. The story – again, at least in the English translations – seemed to imply the Russians thought it would impact in 2036 (“by 2032” was the quote, but I address that in my interview) despite the latest odds by NASA and other researchers. In other words, this statement by him added much fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists.

Overview of Billy Meier and Michael Horn

I said I wasn’t going to get into this, but I think there does need to be a very brief background into these two personages. Billy Meier is a Swiss farmer who is fairly old – born in 1937 he turns 73 this year in February. Meier made a name for himself in the UFO community by producing alleged UFO photographs and video that is very widely regarded as fake, even among many if not most UFO researchers. He claims to be in contact with the aliens, who are from the Pleiades, and are named the “Plejarens.”

Michael Horn, as stated in my Introduction, is the “Authorized American Media Representative” for Billy Meier. In other words, his English-speaking spokesman who very strongly pushes Meier’s story. He has a well-documented habit of demanding time on television, radio, and podcast shows to advocate Meier’s story, including claiming that people agree with him when they don’t.

As I said, I really don’t want to get into these two right now because it would be a VERY lengthy blog post – but I thought I needed to introduce the players. Episode 85 of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe has a fairly lengthy discussion of Meier and Horn, starting about 30 min. 30 sec. into the episode.

Michael Horn’s Statements About Asteroid Apophis

In Hour 4 of the January 14 broadcast of Coast to Coast AM, Horn states several things about Apophis, though there are really only 3 or 4 main ones that I want to address.

He starts out stating the case that Meier predicted (through information from the Plejarens) that Apophis would be discovered and would impact Earth well before the asteroid was found by scientists. I could not find the sample documentation Horn stated was on his website, though admittedly I did not look too hard. However, from his statements on the air, it seems as though Meier did not actually name the object nor provide any additional material, but he stated that it would be called “The Red Meteor.” For the sake of this post, I will assume that Meier actually did make this prediction, that there would be a “Red Meteor” that would hit Earth in the future.

Update: I have done additional research and made a follow-up post about this “prediction”: “Follow-Up on Apophis and Michael Horn / Billy Meier Documented Claims.”

The next claim is that if it hits in 2029 or 2036, it will hit “right in the heart of Eastern Europe – Russia, Ukraine, … Germany … you have millions of people dead, tremendous releases of lava and gases, a wall of sulfurous waste starts coming across, the sky is darkened” (7:20-7:30 into the episode). This is another claim that I’m not going to dispute, though I’ll mention that a “release of lava and gas” would not happen unless this ~270-m-wide asteroid were to hit near an active volcano.

Anyway, the first claim I want to address occurs at about 10:00-11:45 into the program. The jist of what Horn states has to do with trying to do a post-hoc analysis/justification of why the alleged Plejarens call this object “Red.” He says he was contacted by an Austrian physicist who linked it to the Torino scale. Quoting the other person, Horn stated, “‘This could be’ – I’m not saying with certainty … – ‘their way, by naming it this, of giving us the ultimate clue we need’ – which this translates to, ‘this is going to hit your planet.’ … This just blew my mind. … Here’s the kicker: The scale wasn’t even developed until 1995!” (George’s response was, “Jeez! He was way ahead.”)

Hopefully, dear reader, I don’t have to point out how much of a retrodiction this is. But, just to name a few reasons: Meier could have picked “red” because historically it’s a color of destruction. He could have picked red because many people think that Planet X is red. He could have picked red just on a whim. He could have picked red because it’s a “danger” color and most scales use red for bad things – just look at the dashboard of your car. In short, entertaining this idea of the Torino Scale as the reason why an alleged alien allegedly told Meier that an object that will hit Earth is called “red” is one of the largest stretches of correlation that I’ve heard. (Source: Common sense.)

The second claim I want to address occurs at about 12:30-13:15 into the program: “Skeptics will say, ‘Well, you know, he’s calling it a “meteor” why isn’t he calling it an “asteroid?”‘ And here’s the last piece of the puzzle that I found! According to something called the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, Apophis is a ‘good match’ for a rare type of stony meteorite known as a Type LL Chondrite. So they gave Meier a clue in the first part of it – ‘red’ – and they told him not to call it an asteroid, but a meteor. And here, in totally unrelated information …, they are corroborating this.”

To be blunt, this is one of the most ridiculous confusions/entwinings of nomenclature that I’ve heard. An asteroid is a rocky body in space. A meteor is when it’s in the atmosphere. A meteorite is when it hits the ground. Saying that something is an LL chondrite has nothing to do with where it is – on Earth, in our atmosphere, or in space – but has to do with its mineralogy and iron content. Saying that an asteroid is a “close match” to a type of meteorite just means that we know what the spectra of an LL chondrite is and that Apophis matches that more closely than it matches other known types of meteorites that were once asteroids. Trying to claim that because the DPS states it’s a close match is justification for why Meier calls this a “Meteor” instead of “asteroid” is playing nonsensical word games. (Source: Dictionary.)

Oh, and just for your information, LL chondrites (Low-iron, Low-metal) comprise the smallest fraction of the most common type of asteroids (chondrites) at about 10-11%, meaning they are about 8-9% of all asteroids out there. So Apophis had about a 1 in 10 chance of being an LL chondritic asteroid. (Source: “Planetary Materials,” J.J. Papike ed. (1998).)

Final Thoughts

Again, without getting into the broader Meier/Horn claims, just talking about Apophis, claims, you can see fairly obvious (and poor, in my opinion) attempts to retrodict a non-event by playing word games and drawing causal links that an elementary school student would question. The best estimates today are that Apophis, as its orbit and the body itself are better understood, has a continually decreasing chance of going through the keyhole in 2029 that would send it on a collision course in 2036. As I state in The Conspiracy Skeptic interview, the Russians may have been mis-quoted, they may have been using Apophis’ close-miss as a wake-up call that the world should have in place a plan to deal with an incoming asteroid – one that really will hit us.

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