Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Embroidery by Ken Johnston

        NASA astronaut visits BM Birla Science Centre, announced the headline in the 12th February edition of the Hindu Times: dateline Hyderabad, by Our Special Correspondent.

        Well, the "NASA astronaut" turned out to be none other than Ken Johnston, described in the report as "A test astronaut, who is also chief trainer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States of America." Ken, as regular readers will know, is the ex-marine beloved by the NASA-hating folks because he accuses NASA of tampering with the photographic record of the Apollo program, obscuring important evidence.The problem is that Ken was never an astronaut, and never chief trainer of anything. His accusations are based on photo-prints stored in a ring binder for 25 years, then scanned on a consumer-grade scanner in non-clean conditions. The Rational wikipedia article on Ken tells what I believe to be the true story, and it's quite clear from that piece that Ken has misrepresented himself on at least two important occasions, in one instance leading him to be dropped from JPL's all-volunteer Solar System Ambassador program.note 1

        Ken was in India to be an honored guest at an INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR on SPACE ODYSSEY organized by the Chennai chapter of the Aeronautical Society of India. The Chennai City News of 7th February gives the deets, introducing Ken as "Dr. R. Ken Johnston" and providing pix and vids. Again as we know from the Ratwiki article, Ken's Ph.D. is a fabrication.

        This week, James Oberg commented "I think there are two levels of disgrace, first claiming status you never earned, and second, accusing those who DID earn such status of being falsifiers and planetary traitors."note 2

And then it got worse
        The inaccurate description of Ken as a "NASA Astronaut USA" then appeared, not just in an ephemeral  newspaper story, but on a permanent plaque beside the College of Technology's Link Flight Simulator.

        The above photo appeared on Ken's Faceboo page, with the caption "I have  a flight simulator named after me. I am very honored!"note 3 There were several comments, mostly congratulatory, but the following comment from Tom Harnish struck a discordant note:
"Ken, you've done so much good, don't ruin it! I warned you once before on the Mars One debacle. Happily you escaped disappointed but untarnished. But this really is stolen honor. Please be honest with yourself and with others."
Harnish is an author and science consultant in San Diego.

        My message to the NASA haters who consider Ken Johnston a hero is this: Look at that plaque and ask yourself whether a man who is content to be so falsely described is worthy of your respect.

Update 20 February 
        Today's edition of the New Indian Express has another story about Ken's tour. Describing him as "NASA's nemesis," it reports that he "released doctored images to prove that NASA had manipulated photographs to hide unexplained structures and anomalies on the lunar surface." We must assume that they think it was NASA that "doctored" the images, not Ken himself -- in all that James Oberg  and I have written about Ken, we have never alleged that he intentionally changed his photo-prints--there's no evidence of that.

        There are basically two explanations for the anomalies in Ken's pix. One is that he noticed strange things that he thought he had the only image of, but that are in fact present in NASA's official versions. A good example would be the notorious blue flares on several frames of Apollo 14 magazine #66. I blogged about this after Ken's Christmas 2011 appearance on Coast to Coast AM. The other explanation, also lavishly documented in this blog passim, is that the anomalies are not actually on Ken's prints at all, but on the scans done by Richard Hoagland on his office scanner. See, for example, the extensive discussion of Bret Sheppard's collection from June last year.

        During that discussion, it came out that one of Sheppard's favorite examples, AS15-88-11967, is not even a scan from a photo-print but actually from a reversal (a slide, if you like.)

        Slide scans are notorious for producing multiple reflections, which can appear as dot patterns. I've seen it many times in my own scans. So I would say that this example of a "discovery" is absolutely worthless.

And by the way...
        Ken's online photo archive is not focused on anomalies at all.  It's split into nine albums which group images having something in common, but the total lack of labeling makes browsing it somewhat unrewarding. There may be some gems in there but I'm not the man to find them.

Thanks to James Oberg for alerting me to this story

[1] Folklore in the pseudo-science community has it that Ken was "fired from NASA." However, since he was never an employee he obviously could not have been fired.
[2] Private communication, quoted by permission
[3] He managed to get that wrong, too. "Inaugurated by" is not the same as "Named after"

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Srsly, is there ANYBODY who believes Kerry Cassidy?

        In her barely-literate style, Kerry Cassidy recently commented on a couple of space hardware failures. One was the failure of nine clocks on board ESA's Galileo navsats. Each sat has four clocks, and only one of the four needs to be functioning for the system to be effective and accurate. Eighteen (of an eventual 32) units have been launched so far, and clocks have failed in eight of them.

Kerry, being utterly ignorant in matters of spacecraft engineering, wrote this:
"This recent sabotage of the 9 clocks on the satellites would seem to be a warning issued by way of an Artificial intelligence it seems to me.  Although possible targeting by craft based or particle beam weapons aimed either by a competing space program, likely run by the American side is also a possible culprit for this maneuver."

        The "competing space program" would have to be either the American GPS, the Russian GLONASS or the Chinese BeiDou system (a.k.a. COMPASS.) But what possible motive would any of them have for attempting to disable a different  nav system? They serve different populations in different ways. I was going to write "There's plenty of room up there in orbit for everyone," but that may be controversial. Navsats predominantly occupy MEO (Medium Earth Orbit) centered on 20,000 kM, and there will come a point at which interference will be a problem. However, we are very far from that point right now.

credit:wikipedia commons/Cmglee own work

       Another ESA failure also caught Kerry's attention--the crash of the Schiaparelli  EDM Mars lander last October. ExoMars is actually a joint program of ESA and Roscosmos, but to Kerry, everyone is vulnerable in the space wars:
"This is likely no accident but the result of a space war that took down the craft since we know that Mars is a planet with constant territorial disputes between at least one “ET” race and the American Secret Space Program."

"You can also see how the efforts of various countries along with the so-called commercial space endeavors by independent companies such as Elon Musk and others would pose a threat to the primary Secret Space Program operated by the Americans and their allies.  Those ‘allies’ being space races such as Reptilians, Nordics, Raptors and many others according to my whistleblowers.  The recent sabotage of the Elon Musk SpaceX launch being a case in point."
        Of course, failure of Mars landers and orbiters is a not uncommon feature of solar system exploration, so nobody with any actual knowledge would have any reason to be suspicious of Schiaparelli's crash. But to a paranoid mind like Kerry's, "it seems to me" and "according to my whistleblowers" is all the evidence needed to declare anodyne reports of ESA's problems barefaced lies. What I wonder is, is anybody at all swallowing this garbage?

Friday, January 27, 2017

In Memoriam

Lt-Col. Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom
Lt-Col. Edward Higgins White II
Lt-Cmdr. Roger Bruce Chaffee

50 years ago today

Monday, January 23, 2017

Apollo denial on Coast to Coast AM

        Say what you like about Richard Hoagland, Mike Bara and Robert Morningstar, but at least they aren't Moon landing deniers. So, by all logic, they can't be blamed for the fact that some people are. OK, many people are. It makes me sad to report that, but it's a fact.

        However, I'd like to suggest here that in an indirect sense they are responsible for the spreading virus that is belief that Apollo was faked. The very fact that Hoagland, Bara and Morningstar ram home the message that NASA is a deceptive and untrustworthy agency feeds that mind-set even if they don't themselves believe it. If you don't believe me, read the Encyclopedia of American loons. The entry for Mike Bara alleges that he believes the moonlanding was a hoax. Hoagland's entry says, correctly, that he thinks NASA itself started the Apollo denial ball rolling. The encyclopedia is wrong about Bara, but it's an understandable mistake in the sense that whoever wrote the article felt that Bara was so obviously a doctrinal NASA hater that he surely must disbelieve Apollo.

Not from the Moon
        These thoughts came to me as I reviewed Marcus Allen's guest spot on Coast to Coast AM last Saturday night. Allen is a British photographer who publishes Nexus Magazine-- a source of "alternative, overlooked and under-reported news." His schtick on Apollo is that examination of the 5,777 70mm still photos from the Moon missions proves that these images were not shot on the Moon at all, but back on Earth during training simulations. I must say that considering he was given three hours to make his case he was remarkably unconvincing. His major points have already been well answered by clavius.org among other debunkery.

photo credit: NASA

         Allen cites the above photo of Buzz Aldrin as "impossible" because Aldrin is in shadow, therefore there had to be a source of foreground light. He's not the first to grossly underestimate the intensity of the back-scatter from the bright lunar regolith.note 1 He complains that the Hasselblad photos are too good to be the work of amateur photographers under stress and hampered by heavy gloves. The composition and exposure of the photo-set, he says, are virtually perfect. Allen doesn't seems to understand that many of the images were adjusted to be suitable for general release. Such adjustments quite often included re-framing.note 2 However, there's not much that the labs could do about images like this:

photo credit: NASA (Apollo 17)

        Perfect exposure? I don't think so. Allen also thinks photography would be impossible in the temperature extremes on the Moon-- a contention that clavius.org has taken care of.

        When it comes to the moving pictures, Allen's criticisms are even more dismal. He maintains that the bouncing or hopping gait that lunar gravity forced on the astronauts was simply simulated by over-cranking film. The TV show Mythbusters tried that and showed that it couldn't be done. Besides, there were many, many such sequences that were television rather than film, and seen live around the world in real time. You can't over-crank reality. There are other moving images, too, that could not possibly have been obtained on Earth. Apollo 15's hammer and feather stunt... the big "rooster tail" of lunar dirt thrown up behind the Apollo 16 lunar roving vehicle... one requiring a perfect vacuum, the other requiring one-sixth g.

        How, then, does Mr. Marcus Allen say the photographic evidence of Apollo was obtained? Ignoring the above examples, he says it was all created in a studio, in advance, during training. He says it wasn't necessary to keep this enterprise secret because the technicians involved were openly creating training and simulation materials. What they didn't realize was that their work would later be misrepresented as having been carried out by astronauts on the Moon. He doesn't, apparently, wonder why these photographers and crews don't ever yell that their work was mis-labeled.

        It seemed to me that Allen allowed the possibility that the Apollo landings did indeed happen, but only the photography was faked. That, of course, is nonsensical. He's saying that the Apollo astronauts were sent to the Moon with photographic equipment that was useless. AND THEY DID THIS NOT ONCE BUT SIX TIMES. Marcus Allen, go to your room.

        There's another reason why I think Hoagland, Bara, and Morningstar have to take some blame for all this bad information. Late in the third hour, host Richard Syrett asked about possible cover-up of alien structures in the Apollo photography. Allen replied that it would not be surprising, since the Brookings Report strongly advised NASA to STFU about any evidence it might find of extraterrestrial intelligence. Well, this contention is totally untrue, and it's all the fault of Hoagland/Bara/Morningstar that the rumor is widely believed. Hoagland started it, and Bara/Morningstar vigorously espouse it. It's the only way they can answer the obvious question "Why would NASA be shy about announcing something that would do them nothing but good?"

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[1] He stated that the albedo of the lunar regolith is typically 7%. Actually, it's a bit more than twice that.
[2] See, for example, this account of how NASA PR messed with a very famous photograph.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Maurice Cotterell is wrong about everything

        Maurice Cotterell is the dude who made me giggle back in 2011 by saying that if you lined up all the elements in the periodic table, in a row in little containers, you'd get "all the energy you'd ever need." Well, it turns out that this anti-science clown can be catastrophically wrong about more than just the periodic table. He was on Coast to Coast AM last night, and the station published a kind of cheat-sheet to help us all follow along.

        A thorough critical review of this hilarious nonsense would be fun to do but ultimately boring, so I'm just going to pick out two simple elements to mock. First, look at the text at the bottom of page 1:
"[T]here's also a problem with Newton's equation that is just too embarrassing for modern Science to talk about. It goes like this: Galileo showed that all objects fall to the ground at exactly the same acceleration and speed—which is not what Newton's equation says; for example, if we change the apple [m1] with a cannonball [M3], then his equation says that the Force must go up. And if the Force goes up then—given that Force = Mass × Acceleration—the acceleration, and the speed, must increase. Newton couldn't answer this question because he never understood how gravity works."
        So a self-taught engineer with a humanities degree thinks he knows more about gravity than Isaac Newton? Many quite young schoolboys and girls would see the flaw in this argument quite quickly. Cotterell increases the mass in his imaginary experiment from m1 to M3, then says that the force of attraction between the mass and the planet we stand on increases pro rata, and that the equation F = ma then requires that a increase. But you see, dear Maurice, since you've increased the value of m, there is no requirement for a to increase as well.

        Expressed mathematically, the force of attraction of a mass m by a planet of mass M and radius r is:

F = GmM/r2 where G is Newton's gravitational constant

        The acceleration of that mass toward the planet, when any support is removed, is given by:

a = F/m
a = GmM/mr2
a = GM/r2

        Since the m's cancel out, a is independent of the mass you're dropping off the leaning tower of Pisa in  the case of a cannonball, or your kitchen table in the case of a falling jam butty. It's a different law that dictates that a jam butty lands jammy side down.

        Cotterell is awfully wrong about gravity, but last night he went even one step more wrong than that, declaring that "when you spin an object, it becomes weightless." He cited the renowned engineer Eric Laithwaite who, according to Cotterell, demonstrated that a spinning gyroscope levitates. However, that's not what Laithwaite showed at all. He showed that if you apply a twisting force to a gyroscope, the reaction is offset by 90°. That's what gyroscopes do. Here's Laithwaite's demo, and here's a very simple confirmation that a gyro doesn't get any lighter when you spin it up. Never mind that Laithwaite himself was fooled by this phenomenon for a while—he understood it eventually. Note that if he had twisted the gyro in the other direction it would have reacted by going down, not up.

        I don't expect George Noory to be a genius at physics, but when a guest on his show makes a statement like that which is so obviously in error, I think we might at least expect something like "Are you sure about that Maurice?"

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Eugene Mallove

        Somebody on Bellgab the other day referenced the murder of Eugene Mallove, 13 years ago this year, and expressed the usual conspiradroid assumption that Mallove was murdered by agents of Big Physics and Big Energy, fearful that Mallove was on the verge of a breakthrough in free energy that would threaten their own entrenched dominance. At the time, Tom Bearden wrote "Since Mallove was increasingly successful in his attempts to make cold fusion accepted by the scientific community at large… then obviously Mallove was an unacceptable threat and he had to go." Brian O'Leary wrote "Most of us in the field believe that this murder was an assassination." Bearden and O'Leary are (or were) enthusiasts for so-called "Free Energy" who were never able to demonstrate a working device. Even Richard Hoagland said on Coast to Coast AM "I can’t believe it’s just coincidence.”note 1

        Who was Eugene Mallove? A qualified aeronautical engineer who had a prodigious talent for writing on technical and scientific subjects. He taught science journalism at M.I.T. and became a strong proponent of cold fusion and other forms of "Free Energy."  He came to believe that the original Pons & Fleischmann cold fusion experiment of 1989 was what it seemed to be—the beginning of a whole new physics. He created the New Energy Foundation and launched the periodical Cold Fusion, which became Infinite Energy but still under Mallove's editorship until his death. He was a conspiracy theorist, I suppose, to the extent that he promoted the view that Pons & Fleischmann were the victims of an organized campaign of ridicule by mainstream physicists.

What happened
        The facts of Mallove's brutal murder have been proved in a court of law by witnesses, and cannot really be disputed. He had recently evicted tenants from the home where he was raised in Norwich CT. He was in the process of junking the tenants' possessions when the tenants' son, Chad Shaffer, happened by. Shaffer was accompanied by Mozelle Brown and Shaffer's girlfriend Candace Foster. An argument ensued, and Shaffer and Brown eventually bludgeoned Mallove to death. The wheels of justice ground exceedingly slowly in this case, but Schaffer copped to manslaughter on 20 April 2012 and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Brown was convicted of murder in October 2014 and got 58 years.

        As evidenced by the opinion expressed on Bellgab last week, conspiracy-minded people remain convinced that Mallove was offed by agents of Big Physics and Big Energy, rather than by two derelict thugs who Mallove had annoyed very grievously. There are three reasons why I reject this view of the tragedy.

ONE. To make the story work, BP&BE would have to have recruited Shaffer & Brown, and paid them enough to do the foul deed even though their entire lives would then be ruined. BP&BE would have to have known of Mallove's plan to ditch his tenants' belongings, and instructed Shaffer & Brown to show up at the time and place. This strikes me as utterly unbelievable. Of course I know that powerful people employ hit-men to off their enemies, it happens all the time. But the enemies get whacked in private, not out in the open in front of witnesses. That way the hit-men stay out of jail and are available for the next job. BP&BE would have had unbelievable good luck in finding a thug who would a) agree to the deal, and b) have a plausible motive of his own.

TWO. Mallove's rĂ´le in the "Free Energy" movement was as a promoter and reporter of other people's work. He himself was developing nothing at all that was any threat to BP&BE. Surely, if anybody was going to feel the power of entrenched interests, it would be those engineers and physicists who were actually developing something in their labs that might actually work. The likes of Bearden and O'Leary would have something to fear, in this scenario.

THREE. If the motive of BP&BE was to suppress Mallove's strongly-expressed opinions, they were remarkably unsuccessful, let's face it. The periodical Infinite Energy lives on with a different editor. The Nov/Dec 2016 edition is currently on sale. Mallove's writings also live on, and his 1991 book Fire from Ice: Searching for the Truth Behind the Cold Fusion Furor is still in print.

        So for those reasons I find that the conspiracy theory in this case doesn't hold water. Personally I have nothing but encouragement for those who choose to try cheating the laws of physics, but cold fusion was first theorized in 1989 and we're still waiting for it to show social benefit. Mind you, you could say the same or worse about mainstream controlled fusion research, too.

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[1] Transcript of C2C-AM, 15 May 2004

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Richard Hoagland tries again for 2017

12:20 pm EST

        Richard Hoagland, whose own radio show is still off the air, popped up on The Unexplained (edn #281) on Christmas Eve. This is Howard Hughes' podcast from the UK, and Hoagland has been a fairly frequent guest, resisting all Hughes' good faith attempts to make him face up to his mathematical and scientific shortcomings (so they remain unexplained, hah-hah.)

        The primary reasons for his guesting on this occasion were to sell a book and to contribute an impromptu eulogy for John Glenn. Unlike Mike Bara, who memorialized Glenn by alleging that he was a liar, Hoagland expressed genuine admiration. "He personified the idea of the humble pioneer," he said. I think that's fairly accurate.

        As 2016 wound down to its last week, Hoagland couldn't resist making a prediction, as he has done many times before. 2010 was to be "the year we make contact." 2012 was, of course, the year of the Mayan calendar horrorshow that never quite happened. Here's what he said on Christmas Eve, word for word.
 "2017 is going to be the year of disclosure. Now I don't know whether it's going to be Obama who does it, or it's Trump does it, or we who do it. What do I mean by "we"? If you look at the web, Howard, look at all the stuff NASA's dumping, you'd have to be deaf dumb and blind not to see that there's an incredible ruins of an ancient civilization on Mars. Now, it's more complicated--it turns out there's more than one--but if NASA doesn't announce what it's giving us, if the White House doesn't announce, in the waning twilight hours of the Obama administration [...inaudible...] I've even picked a time--it's going to conform to the other stuff we've been working on for years, figuring out, kind-of like an FBI profiler...I would say the most likely time for the President to make the announcement, if he's going to and not leave it to Trump, would be on New Year's Day, probably around noon, 'cause that will be 19.5 days before he leaves office and the next administration takes over."
        Noon Washington time was about twenty minutes ago. I'm checking the news but I think the President is taking things easy today. Not that Hoagland will care at all that he's laid another stinker. To him, he can never be wrong about anything.note 1 On 2nd January 2011 he said of his 2010 failure "contact has happened. You just have to look." So I confidently expect to be hearing, a year from now, "disclosure happened, I was right. We just didn't notice." Happy new year to all.

See also Exposing Pseudoastronomy on this same topic.

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1] But see this summary of 11 busted predictions

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas, Carl Sagan, and extraterrestrials

        At this festive season, what topic could be more appropriate for this blog than Carl Sagan's 1977 Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution in London?

        In my previous blogpost I insisted that Carl Sagan may have theorized a possible 10,000 visits to Earth by ETs in his 1962 paper, but he certainly did not hold that opinion for very long. I made reference to his Christmas lectures for support of that proposition, and I'm about to give chapter and verse on that.

        The overall title of the six-lecture series was "The Planets," and it was Carl Sagan at his best--urbane, charming, fluent and full of good information. The R.I. demonstrators were at their best too, providing excellent models and other visual aids to make this sometimes difficult subject accessible. In the last lecture, titled Planetary Systems Beyond our Sun, Sagan started by talking about techniques for detecting exoplanets. Today those techniques have been refined but the general principles are still the same. He talked about the Drake equation, as a way of estimating how many intelligent civilizations there are in the galaxy, and then embarked on an analysis of how radio contact might be established. This included an intriguing demonstration of how a three-dimensional model of a formaldehyde molecule might be transmitted as a message of 29,791 binary digits. The intent of such a message, he said, might be to direct our attention to the natural frequency of formaldehyde where a more elaborate message would be found. He then went on to say this:

47:55 One often comes upon some other ideas about extraterrestrial intelligence -- namely, why go to all this trouble with radio telescopes when the extraterrestrials are already here? We sometimes hear something like that. The ideas are often expressed in terms of unidentified flying objects, and in terms of ancient astronauts. Now there's nothing silly about being able to fly between the stars. We are already doing it although at an extremely slow pace. It's taking us about 80,000 years to go from here to the nearest star with our present space vehicles. But other civilizations more advanced than we might very well be able to do it in much shorter periods of time--so maybe we are, or have been, visited. It's not ridiculous. On the other hand, it's such an important contention that we should demand only the most rigorous standard of evidence. And my judgement is that on the ancient astronaut business what happens is people look at big buildings constructed long ago and say "My goodness, I don't know how that big building was built, probably people from somewhere else built it." Yes--maybe from Egypt, but not from some other star. These ideas often show an ignorance of archaeology--our ancestors were smart, they could build big. There's no artifact in early human history, so far as I know, which requires extraterrestrial intervention.

Likewise, on unidentified flying objects, there are things seen in the sky which are unidentified--that's what an unidentified flying object is, it means we don't know what it is. It doesn't mean it's a space vehicle from somewhere else. And there ought to be things in the sky that we don't understand--the sky is very rich in phenomena--astronomical, meteorological, optical and man-made phenomena. And therefore only a very reliable sighting of an extremely exotic object ought to be considered in any way relevant to our problem of life elsewhere.  And to the best of my knowledge, there are lots of exotic reports, but none of those exotic reports are reliable. For example, a 30-foot diameter metallic shaped object lands in a suburban garden. A seamless door opens. A metallic robot walks out, picks a flower, smells it, pets the cat, waves to a lady hiding behind her sliding glass door, turns on his heel, enters the UFO, the seamless door closes and it takes off into space. Now that I would call an exotic story--no question about it. But when we look closely into that, it turns out no-one in all of Long Island, New York City, besides the old lady noticed that this had happened. And the cat was unavailable for corroborative evidence.  And that's an example of an exotic story that isn't reliable. On the other hand there are reliable stories, lots of people see something, that are not exotic--a light in the sky. There are no cases where 200 people see something as exotic as what I just said, no cases where there's a piece of the spacecraft that someone captures and sneaks into a laboratory so they can investigate it. No-one has ever managed to steal the captain's log book. And until that sort of thing happens, it seems to me we must be very cautious and skeptical because extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It would save us a lot of trouble if those fellows  would come here, instead of us having to go out and find them. I'm not opposed to it--it's just that there isn't a smidgen of good evidence to support those ideas. I wish it were otherwise. 
It's very unlikely I'll be blogging again until 2017, so best wishes to all.