Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hoagland's Martian missive

In the 1970s, the Viking mission buzzed a region of Mars and discovered "The Face." Mr. Richard C. Hoagland did not coin the phrase, although he did popularize and write a book on "The Face" and a number of other features in the region known as Cydonia in his 1987 book The Monuments of Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever (now in its 5th edition). Since then, Mr. Hoagland has made a career of making unusual and interesting (to put it very politely) claims about Mars and other bodies in the solar system (Phobos, the Earth's Moon, the rings of Saturn, a few meteors, a few other moons). :)

Photo: NASA/JPL Malin Space Science Systems (2001)

Above is a 2001 shot of "The Face", with the frame aligned to north-south (I cropped this one down from the original). Mr. Hoagland's first take on "The Face", which he held to for quite a while, is that "The Face" is clearly a face and nothing else (like a natural landform). Since those early days, Mr. Hoagland has hinted that either "The Face" may or may not be a face but is definitely a building or that it could be two half faces (one human, one lion), kinda like the last page in MAD Magazine (in this article). What, me worry? :D

Before he'd made his kinda-sorta about-face on this issue (pun definitely intended), Mr. Hoagland began to spin an expanded story about the region of Cydonia. The region of Cydonia is filled with artificial constructions and... there is a super top secret code that only Mr. Hoagland could figure out!!! :O

Okay, so what are the claims exactly? (a) There are *special* geometric relationships among the different buildings in Cydonia, which points to the peculiar characteristics of a true pyramid inscribed inside a circle, (b) the geometry revealed in the Cydonia region hints at (all too subtly for those scientists who work out their math to n dimensions) hyperdimensional physics (consider that an echoing phrase), and (c) in a sphere with a true pyramid inscribed inside where a vertice is set to true north/south and the other vertices are at points at 19.5ish degrees north/south, which is über-wichtig (super important) und... I mean "and", as it turns out... but more on this later (all in English, I promise).

Mars' cityscape without any buildings

Cydonia and portions thereof are claimed by Richard C. Hoagland to have buildings and monumental architecture all over the place. I have yet to find one feature that looks like a building. Since I already showed "The Face", I think another major feature, according to Hoagland would be in order. Here is the "D&M Pyramid" and the surrounding topography (cropped and rotated from the original):

Photo: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum) 2006

The "D&M Pyramid" (a five-side pyramid) is just above my direction finder in about the center of the photo. There are quite a few similar mountains in the area, each of which are more or less free-standing. Mr. Hoagland is quite sure that the "pyramid" was built by the previous inhabitants of Mars. Sure, why not? He finds some geometric relationships in the "pyramid" which he think indicates artificiality. Many years ago Dr. Ralph Greenberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington pointed out that, "It is not even clear that it ever had five well-defined corners or a true apex" (source). I am not sure that you can even get anything that looks bilaterally symmetrical when you look at the "pyramid." I suppose it depends on how much you are willing to bend your perception to "see it". In other words, it depends on pareidolia. :D

Which brings us to the bigger issue... the Cydonia monuments/buildings "complex". Mr. Hoagland shows a very complicated geometric relationship which supposedly exists between a number of features in the region (you can see the photo here). Phil Plait from Bad Astronomy (here) and Dr. Greenberg (here) have both pointed out that the claims of accuracy cannot hold much water. The geometric relationships are based on earlier photos from NASA (I have yet to find an update where Mr. Hoagland reconfirms the relationships based on higher resolution pictures) and whatever means of measuring Mr. Hoagland used has its own range of error. Even more important, as both point out, Mr. Hoagland was able to pick and choose which relationships to represent. The following is a newer photo from ESA:

Photo: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum) 2006

If you notice, this is the Cydonia region. I just cropped the image and drew a few lines and circles on it. The green circle toward the top is "The Face", the blue circle is around the "D&M Pyramid", the yellow circle is around the area Hoagland usually refers to as "The City". In this photo, I tried to reproduce the most prominent triangle in Hoagland's geometric relationship "model". Two points are on the pyramid and the face, respectively, and the other says "city" but doesn't really seem to be on any feature. I could go a bit deeper, but I'm not sure there's a point. Since there wasn't anything I could hang my hat on for The City, I just made a circle for where the feature should be, if there were an equilateral triangle as Mr. Hoagland's picture represents. A triangle really has to have three vertices. :)

Hyperdimensional physics

Mr. Richard C. Hoagland has made a number of claims about hyperdimensional physics. This can be quite a broad and wide-ranging discussion, so I will set it aside for a future post. Instead, focus on what Mr. Hoagland says about hyperdimensional physics:

Hoagland's Geometric Relationship Model for Cydonia -- with its potential for quantification and testing of the foundations of the "intelligence hypothesis" itself, in the form of specific predictions made by the Hyperdimensional Physics theory derived from that alignment Model -- has clearly stepped to the forefront of the debate over the artificiality of Cydonia of late. Because of this quantifiable basis for the Model, the Face itself ("But, what does it look like?") has been relegated to a secondary, "confirmatory" status -- rather than the linch-pin around which all decisions vis-à-vis the artificiality of Cydonia must (or should) be anchored. (source) (HT Phil Plait)

Note that Hoagland says "the hyperdimensional physics theory derived from that alignment model". So he admits that basically "The Message of Cydonia" is not a stunning confirmation of Hoagland's hyperdimensional physics theory, but the basis of the theory (or hypothesis). I think I may have heard him say that the relationship on Cydonia is confirmation of the theory, but, if he did, that would be an error due to recursive logic. Hoagland developed his hypothesis by looking at the Cydonia relationship, so he can't test using that because, by definition, it will fit. It is kinda funny that one of his findings is that 19.5ish North and South are very important, but no point on the Cydonia region is at 19.5ish degrees North or South. :O

19.5ish Nord und Sud sind über-wichtig

Entschuldigung... I mean I'm sehr sorry für regressing to Deutsch. Mr. Hoagland generally skips ahead when he begins talking about hyperdimensional physics to how everything important/interesting in the solar system seems to be at 19.5 degrees north or south. Only problem is... they aren't. As Expat, Stuart Robbins and Phil Plait have all pointed out many times, not too many "important" features are actually found at 19.5 degrees north or south anywhere. :D

On his original "Message of Cydonia" paper, Richard C. Hoagland lists 15 features in the solar system. Of those, he only claims that one of them is "at" 19.5 degrees... Alta Regio, which is a volcanic region that covers a large expanse of the planet. As Stuart Robbins has pointed out on his podcast Exposing PseudoAstronomy, it's a little odd to point to a large region where that latitude crosses and say that the whole region is "explained" by that hyperdimensional latitude of 19.5. In fact, Mr. Hoagland was selling himself short because Mauna Loa's location easily rounds to 19.5. The rest of the "hits" just aren't very good, even by Hoagland's rounding (although everything seems to round to 19.5 when Hoagland is on Coast to Coast AM, if I am to believe second-hand reports by Expat and others).

One thing that kinda gets at me is why Mr. Hoagland says that a true pyramid inside a sphere is important, but will allow just any points on 19.5 north or south to be considered a hit. Pyramids with their apexes at 90 degrees North or South have only three other points which they will "hit". Additionally, if you have one point at 0 degrees East, then the other two will be at 120 degrees West and East, so there is a defined relationship. What's Mr. Hoagland's model if 19.5 (potentially) is "important" at all degrees of longitude? A cone inscribed in a sphere. But if we're talking a true pyramid, there should only be 6 chances for a hit, right?

I have a suggestion for Mr. Hoagland: if the pyramid inscribed in a sphere is very important, I have a way to double your chance of hitting "something wonderful"... consider calling the point on the surface of a sphere which has the same slope as the edge of the pyramid a "harmonic convergence" or something like that.

Why can't I read the message?

As I stated earlier, Mr. Hoagland says that the Martians have left us a message in Cydonia. Why can't I read it? Apparently, I need a secret decoder ring, which Mr. Hoagland sells. He's the man who understands all of this. He knows of a special hyperdimensional physics which will unlock our human potential. Free energy? You got it! Torsion fields (whatever those are supposed to be)? You got it! Hyperdimensional astrology (the real, scientific astrology)? You got it! Explaining natural disasters? Hyperdimensional physics is all over it!

If there is a message on Mars which will transform our world, it probably hasn't been found yet. The message of Cydonia, even if it were real, is a pretty oblique communique. Best wait until we find the Great Library of Cydonia before we begin reading goat entrails on the surface of Mars.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Martian Apartment-Hunting

The esteemed researcher Richard C. Hoagland of Enterprise Mission has just made an astonishing discovery on Mars. Somehow the folks at NASA/JPL missed this one: apartments on Mars!

NASA has recently announced the discovery of a few organic molecules. It turns out to be a little more boring that it sounds. They may have been contamination from the Curiosity lander, but they might not... there may be more on this in the future. Mr. Hoagland is super excited about this. Richard Hoagland thinks that NASA knows that life has/does exist(ed) on Mars (and the moon), but that we'd all freak out if we found out right now, so little bread crumbs are being laid out to make it so when the people are finally told, they won't panic (ala War of the Worlds radio broadcast). :S

So Mr. Hoagland sees this, and the "apartments" as indications that "disclosure" is imminent. After all, who can deny that the following image from NASA is, in fact, apartments?!  :O

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Looks to me like sedimentary rock! I wonder why... maybe because IT IS!!! Here's a picture of some sedimentary rock from the Wikipedia article on it:

 Photo: Wikipedia

The picture from Wikipedia looks MORE like apartments than the pic from Mars... In fact, as Hoagland points out, the area is called Shaler. Maybe that's a hint at what kind of formations NASA thinks is there. For those who don't know, shale is a sedimentary rock. Expat went into this a little bit in his blog post "Hoagland confused about everything, including his own copyright". :)

This is one of the worst posts that Richard C. Hoagland has ever done, of which I am aware. As I pointed out on Expat's blog, this is a perfect example of a variant of Poe's Law, which was first put by Nathan Poe in the following: "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is uttrerly [sic] impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won't mistake [it] for the genuine article." In this case, we aren't talking creationism, but UFOism (I wish I were the first to use that term!). This post by Hoagland looks like self-parody, but, unfortunately, I doubt that it is. Mr. Hoagland, you have proven, once more, that you are very susceptible to pareidolia. :)

I strongly suspect that almost anyone who looks at the pictures that Mr. Hoagland shows to prove that the sedimentary rock is actually an ancient alien structure is, in fact, sedimentary rock. The good news is that NASA is sending the Curiosity rover in the direction of Shaler, so there may well be stunning confirmation that the rocks are rocks, not buildings. My curiosity is building. :D

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Phobos, potato-shaped moon of Mars, not a spaceship

In 2010, Richard C. Hoagland, the man most known for popularizing the "Face on Mars" through his book The Monuments of Mars: A City on the Edge of Forever (note the Star Trek episode reference), produced a two-part essay (paper) called "For the World is Hollow ... and I Have Touched the Sky!" (read Part I here and Part II here) on his website Enterprise Mission asserting that Phobos, one of the moons of Mars, is a spaceship. In fact, Mr. Hoagland asserts that it is a tetrahedral spaceship (more on this later), which would show that those Martians were just obsessive about making structures that hint at hyperdimensional physics (at least in Mr. Hoagland's mind)! Just to demonstrate this is not made up, Mr. Hoagland says in Part II, "Phobos is, also--an ancient 'tetrahedral spaceship!'" (emphasis his) :)

Anyone who follows Richard Hoagland's career and different claims should be aware that this sort of thing is Mr. Hoagland's stock-in-trade. Mr. Hoagland claims that lots of different phenomena in the solar system have extraterrestrial technology/structures. The moon has glass domes, Mars has its tetrahedral pyramids/mounds/structures, "The Face" exists (or more recently an obviously artificial structure). Try to set this aside as the evidence regarding Phobos is presented. Phobos is not the Earth's Moon and it is not Cydonia (the region of Mars with "The Face"), so even if Mr. Hoagland is wrong about those, it does not mean he is necessarily wrong about Phobos. But I'm pretty sure he is wrong on all counts. :D

There are four main pieces of evidence which Richard Hoagland presents to support his claim that Phobos is a spacecraft: (a) he states that Phobos has a shape like the asteroid Steins, which he says is shaped "exactly like a classic diamond!" (emphasis his, contained in Part II); (b) he points to the striations (grooves) in Phobos; (c) he points to the hollowness of Phobos (25-35% of Phobos is "empty" or void); and (d) he points to the "monolith" on Phobos.

The potato that orbits Mars

When the makers of Star Wars were creating the second movie, The Empire Strikes Back, the Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) used potatoes for some of the asteroids in the movie (article on making of The Empire Strikes Back). One of the main theories of the origin of Phobos is that it was an asteroid that is captured by Mars. It just happens to be true that Phobos has a striking resemblance to something we are familiar with: a potato.

If you notice from above, Mr. Hoagland plays a little hot potato (pun intended) in his claim about Phobos. He states that the asteroid Steins is shaped like a "classic diamond" (read: tetrahedral geometry) and that Phobos sort of resembles Steins (hence, it is a tetrahedral spaceship). As it turns out, Steins does look a lot like a diamond, (ESA site on Steins) although jumping from that to the assertion that it is a "spaceship" is a "big leap" for any man (again, pun intended). :D

Here is a picture of Phobos, where you can see its potato-like shape:

Photo: ESA (Mars Express), 28 Jul 2008

I'm pretty sure you'll agree it looks more like a potato than a tetrahedral shape, as stated by Mr. Hoagland. To me, there seems to be an optical illusion of "flat edges", which is mostly caused by the craters along the edge of this photo. And there's the fact that in at least one interview, Mr. Hoagland, himself, said that Phobos looks like a "lumpy potato" (interview on Rumor Mill News). In fact, when Buzz Aldrin recently commented on the "monolith" on Phobos, he called Phobos, "this little potato shaped object that goes around Mars once every seven hours." (article on Martian monolith)

Phobos is a groovy moon

In his usual breathless style, Mr. Richard C. Hoagland presents photos which he says show, "sculpted ... geometric ... multiply redundant(and meaningfully organized ...) DETAIL -- endless square miles of sheer, GEOMETRIC detail ... present all across this latest, stunning close-up Mars Express photograph of Phobos." Because I'm feeling generous, here's a photo which, while not being the one he presents, seems to show something similar:

Photo: ESA, 22 Aug 2004

If we let our imagination get away from us, our mind might be processing a parallel image: the Death Star. This seems like a good example of Pareidolia, just like "The Face on Mars" (which later turned out to be a mesa). What we see are striations or "grooves" along the surface of Phobos. They look kind of parallel. Here's what Mr. Hoagland says he sees when he looks at Phobos: 

"Detail composed over and over again of obvious 'right-angle layerings' of the remaining 'deck plating'(!); innumerable, geometric 3-D structures and 'openings' (NOT 'craters' ...) into the interior of this astonishing 'moon'; and, the obvious plan still exhibited by the almost endless examples of surviving surface engineering ... revealing a staggering, three-dimensional architecture--"


Like -- gaping, square-like "darkened loading docks" (image -- bottom right) ... or, "row after row of heavily-eroded (and thus now partially revealed ...) exposed interior, parallel "partitions" and "walls" ... if not entire rooms (image - bottom left)" (both in Part II)

If you want to see the images he is referring to, you can see the second part of his essay or follow these links to photos: here and here. I don't see anything like he's talking about. If you look at some photos, your mind might conflate the image with a familiar one to science fiction fans: The Death Star. But look at this next image, which shows a lot of the same striations (grooves), but non-parallel:

Photo: ESA

On this one, the "lines" along the surface are less parallel. I am not a scientist, so I'm not really able to talk about how these grooves form, but there does not seem to be much basis for talking about "deck plating" nor Mr. Hoagland's breathless statement: "You can almost 'count the rivits' [sic]". :)

The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky

For those Trekkies out there, Mr. Hoagland is talking straight to you. A rogue asteroid is in danger of colliding with a Federation planet and the U.S.S. Enterprise is dispatched to prevent it from wiping out all its inhabitants, except that the asteroid is also inhabited! What did Gene Roddenberry know and when did he know it? :D

As far as I am aware, the only finding so far about Phobos' structure is that it is about one-third empty (void). That means that two-thirds of the structure is solid material. ESA reports that there are "large voids" within Phobos, but that does not necessarily mean that there are rooms and corridors as you might expect from Star Trek vessels. It could just be naturally-occurring caverns. I do not know enough about how Phobos formed, although I am aware of the main theories, to come to conclusions. But "large voids" does not equal rooms and corridors inside an artificial Phobos spaceship.

Phobos Monolith

When it comes to the monolith on Phobos, it looks odd, but I have seen some natural rock formations that look nearly as regular as the single rock on Phobos. Truthfully, nobody knows if it is a single rock, yet. It could be several. The photos available are not good enough to tell much of anything about it, except that, from what we see, it "looks" like it "might be" rectilinear. Where is Hoagland's usual "everything anomalous anywhere is a tetrahedron" assertion? Okay, that was unfair. :)

But the evidence is not really in on the "monolith" yet. Blurry or pixelated images do not help us very much. Here's an article about the monolith from the British tabloid The Daily Mail (photos are there).

Phobos is a moon, not a spaceship

Occam's razor is the principle generally used by scientists to determine what lines of inquiry are most useful. As Albert Einstein paraphrased it, "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." There is nothing in the evidence that shouts out, "I do not fit; Phobos must be artificial!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why 'Interpose Mission'?

To those who follow Richard C. Hoagland, it should be pretty obvious why I chose the name "Interpose Mission" for this blog. It's a pun on the name of Mr. Hoagland's website, "Enterprise Mission". The Enterprise Mission is a treasure trove of weird science conjecture without much, if any, real evidence to back any of it up. I do not claim to be a scientist. As I write this, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Guam. I will try to stay as close to good sources of information as possible, but also rely on my own reason.

I first encountered the ideas of Richard Hoagland when my father borrowed "The Moon-Mars Connection" (a video) from the local library. In retrospect, it's kind of embarrassing to think the library would have such incorrect science, but I found its ideas intriguing and the way he presented evidence seemed compelling, to a casual observer. At this point, I have actively sought out the real science behind the phenomena that Mr. Hoagland used to back up his "oh, wow" presentations. The intention of this blog is to add to the already substantial conversations which challenge incorrect science from pseudo-scientists, such as Richard C. Hoagland, his former collaborator Mike Bara, the ancient alien crowd, etc.

I have been a History Channel watcher for quite a while and have, consequently, seen quite a few of those "Ancient Aliens" episodes. This is really bad. It is very disappointing to see how low the History Channel has sunk (although, I think I remember seeing a lot of silly stuff on there well before Ancient Aliens started). These sort of things really get me agitated. Actually, I find it really funny, truth be told. The reason it's funny is because most of it asks big questions in the format of "Could it be..." and then you insert an off-the-wall, nonsensical hypothesis with no decent evidence behind it, then it has an inflection at the end to indicate this is a question, not a statement of fact. Then, rather than build up a case for the strange conjecture, we find more questions and few, if any, answers. "Could it be... that there is no decent evidence for any of the stuff on Ancient Aliens?" :)

And now I can return to the question raised by the title of this post (because, unlike some people, when there is a question, I want to try to answer it). As noted earlier, it's a neat pun, but I also mean to convey something by it, much like "The Emoluments of Mars" has a message in its title, as well. By the title, I am trying to say that the mission of this blog is to interpose itself between the reader and the incorrect claims of the likes of Richard C. Hoagland and his ilk. In this first post, I am being very liberal with the first-person, which I probably will avoid in the future. But this post is talking to the reader honestly without much pretense. I have come to appreciate Dr. Phil Plait's "Bad Astronomy", Dr. Stuart Robbin's "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" and Expat's "The Emoluments of Mars". They have all made a contribution to discourse about real v. bogus science. I hope that I will also be able to help improve peoples' understanding of reality.

By the way, there is a conspiracy: bogus science promoters seem to collude and agree on their false science and try to convince the public of an unscientific state of existence. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if empirical facts were believed more that incredible (and I mean that literally: "not credible") hypotheses about how the world works. :D