Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 16, 2012

Kaguya (SELENE / かぐや) Photographs of the Moon, Specifically the Claimed Ziggurat Area


Introduction

After this point, Mike needs to answer the basic question of: What would it take to falsify your claim?

It’s a basic question that every person should always ask of anything, including their own beliefs. I’ve explained several times what it would take to falsify my claims that Mike’s ziggurat claim is false. Each time Mike has posted something new about it, he has generally ignored my previous rebuttal as “silly” or “twaddle” or some other such thing, either outright stating (at least once) or implying (several times) that my analysis would be easy to show was wrong, and yet he has not done so.

The Parry This Time

…[H]e’s implying that there are images from “non-NASA” missions which don’t showthe [sic] Ziggurat on them, and further, that he has seen them. How else could he claim they “don’t show the feature” if he hasn’t seen them? If true and these images exist, then he should produce them. The burden of proof is not on me to produce them, it’s on him. He’s the one claiming they exist, not me.

…If there are such “non-NASA” images, then produce them, otherwise shut-up about them and admit you BS’d your readers into thinnking [sic] they ever existed in the first place.

On a small part of this, I would actually agree: I did make the claim that there are non-NASA images that cover the site, and so the burden of evidence is upon me to show that.

In fact, it was the second of my main three points as to why I think that the ziggurat is not real: “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.”

Though, clearly, I was NOT necessarily saying that non-NASA craft had imaged it at 100x the original Apollo.

Of course, Mike misses the point that it is up to him to prove the INITIAL claim that the ziggurat is real when he found it on a video game forum.

Kaguya / SELENE / かぐや

Kaguya was the nickname of the Selenological and Enginering Explorer (SELENE) spacecraft to the Moon, built and launched and operated by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) that flew for several years, 2007-2009. It had several cameras on it, and it was the first to image the Apollo landing sites and actually show something from the missions due to its high resolution of up to 10 meters per pixel (actual pixel scale depended on orbit and instrument).

Using their online data search and retrieval system, you can (and I did) search for and find several images that cover the site. Among them are the following. Note: JAXA is picky, and you MUST go to their main page, agree to their terms, click Start and then you can view the links below.

To remind you, the Apollo photo has a pixel scale of ROUGHLY 65 meters per pixel at that location.

Example Image

I’ve downloaded those six and contained within the obtuse file format (see this link for dealing with it) is the JPG thumbnail. Within the two files at 10 mpp, you have the IMG file that can be read with ISIS.

Here’s one of them, full-res of the target region (again, reason for the wavy edges is the geometric correction I’ve talked about many times before). Make sure you click to enlarge.

DTMTCO_03_05874S092E1744SC

DTMTCO_03_05874S092E1744SC with “Ziggurat” Area at Full-Resolution (click to enlarge)

That’s at nearly 7x the pixel scale of the Apollo photo.

In my post from early yesterday morning, I gave you the following context image of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera’s WAC and NAC:

WAC and NAC of Alleged Lunar Ziggurat

WAC and NAC of Alleged Lunar Ziggurat (click to enlarge)

So you know where the ziggurat is. Now we can also compare the WAC with the Kaguya image:

Alleged Ziggurat Area - WAC and Kaguya Comparison

Alleged Ziggurat Area – WAC and Kaguya Comparison

The sun angles are all somewhat different, though I gave you several other images at other sun angles from SELENE above.

Where Do We Go Now?

I’ve put many of my cards on the table. I think I’ve shown pretty well my points.

But at the same time, we have not progressed anywhere. Mike has not directly responded to any of my direct, specific points, critiques, areas where I explained that he was incorrect about some fundamental points of image processing and analysis (such as with noise), nor refutations/answers to his questions/conspiracies (such as the last one about the “Venetian Blinds” effect of all WAC images). He’s continued to maintain the NASA images are fake, and then insisted that I supply those from other agencies. I think it’d be hard to say that JAXA is under NASA control, or that JAXA painted the ziggurat area black, though I’m sure he’ll probably claim something like they cloned it out of the JAXA image. Hard to back that up considering that, as far as is possible to tell, it matches the other images of the site, along with the other images from Kaguya.

At this point, though, we’re really again at the question of: What does it take to falsify your beliefs? We can’t move forward if the answer is “nothing,” nor if the response to these SELENE photos is simply that it’s another part of the conspiracy.

I understand that Mike feels the need to defend this considering that he’s put so much effort into it and made it a centerpiece of his book due out in October. But seriously – again – I think that to any objective observer I’ve proven my point and Mike has failed to prove his.

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August 15, 2012

Understanding Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Wide-Angle Camera Images


Introduction

In an update to Mike’s blog post from yesterday, Mike displays further lack of reading comprehension plus an inability to understand images and image processing — something that he claims to be better at than I.

Another Conspiracy Claim

The crux of Mike’s bone this time is that the WAC image I linked to has a “Venetian Blinds” effect going on. Why?

Well, Mike says he’s an engineer, so one would think that he would know of the ways to look into this. I’ll help those of you who don’t have Mike’s expertise that he did not exercise: The camera employs 7 filters, and they act like a grating, spreading the light out across the detector. It’s just how the image was recorded. I happen to use command-line software to reconstruct the images, and it can be fairly obtuse. But, 10 seconds of Google searching shows that there’s apparently easy-to-use freeware software out there to do this all by yourself.

If you’d like to read more about it, here’s the official journal paper outlining the craft and its instruments. If you do a google scholar search, then you can find a free PDF copy of it. Here’s a paper specifically on the camera, but I don’t see an obvious link for a free copy.

To quote from the 2007 paper:

The seven-band color capability of the WAC is provided by a color filter array mounted directly over the detector, providing different sections of the CCD with different filters acquiring data in the seven channels in a “pushframe” mode. Continuous coverage in any one color is provided by repeated imaging at a rate such that each of the narrow framelets of each color band overlap.

Every WAC image looks like that coming raw from the LROC website, though I also gave you a link to the global mosaics where you can look at the region yourself, on your own, without needing to assemble the WAC. Again, the coordinates are 174.34°E, -8.97°N.

So to recap: That’s how the WACs look, and it’s a simple matter to process them into a human-happy image. This has been in the literature at least since 2007, and if Mike bothered to look, he’d have seen that EVERY WAC image looks that way and requires reassembly. Why don’t they do that automatically for public consumption? I have no idea. Possibly because if revised algorithms come out to do an incrementally better job, they wouldn’t have to reprocess everything. Same reason the NACs are not properly georectified.

Contrast that with Mike’s conspiratorial ideas:

Hmm. I guess maybe the guys at NASA don’t want anybody sniffing around this area, do they? This is just more proof that you can’t trust digital images NASA produces. They must have posted this temporarily while they’re busy painting over the Ziggurat.

So the truth is, neither of the images he’s posted show anything like what he’s claiming, and they sure as hell don’t show the Ziggurat area in sufficient resolution to make a judgement about it.

Do you know what “truth” means? I mean, really? Another conspiracy? Pretty poor one considering that anyone who looks can easily figure out how to assemble the WACs. And anyone who looks can find out why they look that way.

Another Look at the LROC Images

Here, I’ll do more of your work for you. Here’s a screenshot of part of the NAC frame, from the link I gave before, that covers part of the area you claim the ziggurat to cover. I’ve even superposed part of the footprint of your ziggurat over the image, and this is far from full-res. (Note, this is a bit different from the footprint I showed towards the end of the video; I was a bit off then and a reexamination has led me to revise the approximate footprint. Figuring out exactly what’s going on between the oblique Apollo image and the rectified WAC/NAC images is a tad hard.)

NAC of Alleged Ziggurat Area

NAC of Alleged Ziggurat Area, Approximate Ziggurat Footprint in Green (click to enlarge)

The footprint above is obviously unconstrained off the left side of the NAC. But, here’s a family portrait where I think I have it better figured out:

WAC and NAC of Alleged Lunar Ziggurat

WAC and NAC of Alleged Lunar Ziggurat (Notice, None Present) (click to enlarge)

Let’s see, what else can I think of with what I’m showing that might give Mike a conspiratorial claim … okay, a few potential trivial things that could set the conspiracy-minded off:

  • The WAC has wavy borders for reasons I discussed in my last podcast episode — basically, it’s a topography and spacecraft pointing correction.
  • The ziggurat footprint is a weird shape because the original Apollo shot is very much oblique (a perspective) and when rectified to a lat/lon gird as if you’re looking down on it, it is elongated and not square — you can increase the height (and rotate by 180°) the Bara/Hoagland image by ~5x to get an idea of what it would look like.
  • North/South are flipped if you look at the images on the LROC website — again, that’s just how they’re sent back to Earth and automatically set up for the web interface, nothing conspiratorial as it’s clearly documented for anyone who looks.
  • On the ACT-REACT map that I linked to above, if you turn on NAC footprints, there does not appear to be one that covers the region occupied by the claimed ziggurat. This is because they are using an earlier set of footprints (this is a recent NAC), but if you use the search for the coordinates elsewhere on the site, you’ll find this one.
  • There are deep shadows because the sun was only 15° above the horizon when the image was taken. Since I have no idea why that image was taken (I’m not on the science/imaging team), I can’t guess as to why it was taken at that sun angle, but it’s entirely possible that it just happened to be a region not covered yet by NAC and they had a spare moment with the camera. But that lit part in the center of the NAC that I show is the left half of the claimed ziggurat (remember it’s rotated 180° in Mike’s version, so North is pointing down in his).

Final Thoughts … For Now

That’s about all I can think of, though I’m certain that Mike will find something else or just claim I’m lying and these images don’t show what I claim them to show or that I’ve now shown that the images he claimed were mythical now have two members but I need to find others. I guess we’ll see.

Oh, and it might be worth recapping at this point: This was never originally about Mike Bara. This was about a claim made by Richard Hoagland about an image he had that I then did a short analysis on and showed was likely hoaxed by someone. It’s turned into something with Mike because he has chosen to vehemently defend it, though his defense has been made of name-calling and conspiracies.

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 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.

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