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Episode 19: John Lear

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Recap: An accomplished arline pilot and son of the inventor of the Lear Jet, John Lear has some rather interesting ideas about the universe. Discussed in this episode are just a few: The atmosphere of Venus, atmosphere of the moon, and lunar formation. Pareidolia is also talked about in detail.

Puzzler: As with the puzzler in Episode 17, this one is going to deal with a claim I did not address in this episode: Lear claims that the surface gravity on the moon is 2/3 that of Earth, not 1/6. What's an experiment you could do with any available data that would show what the gravity on the surface of the moon is?

Solution to Episode 17's Puzzler: The solution to the first part is roughly true based upon the numbers that I found for the strength of the heart at the surface of the body and the strength of the brain's magnetic field at the surface of the body. The reason I said that you have to be careful defining your terms is that stating a magnetic field is some number strong is meaningless without a distance. Magnetic fields, just like gravity, follow an inverse-square law. This means that if you are 2x farther away from a source, then the strength is 1/4. If you're 3x farther away, it's 1/9. It's one over the distance-squared. So you have to define where you're measuring the field.

This is a case where you had to know how to get the right answer in the first part to get it in the second part. Earth's field isn't really going to change over a few inches once you're already on the surface. So you have to take the heart's distance from the surface of the chest, using the value I gave you, and then if you get 2x closer to the heart, you increase its magnetic field by a factor of 4x. Get 10x closer and you increase the field by a factor of 100x. If you do the math, or maths if you're Australian, then you would need to get about a factor of 3000x closer to the heart than the chest to have the field equal that of Earth, IF you treat the heart as a point source for a magnetic field, which you can't.

Given all of that, no, Braden's claims make no sense. The impact of the human heart's magnetic field on the magnetic field of Earth around it is somewhere along the lines of a grain of sand hitting a car.

Q&A: Tymek (pronounced "Tim-ek," not "Tay-mek") from Australia who asks: "My question is why phases of the moon are not vertical when seen from Earth (as in the lit up parts top end is not 'directly above' the bottom of the crescent). This is especially confusing when both the sun and the moon are visible at the same time. Is it the tilt of the Earth or the fact I'm not on the equator (I'm in Australia)?"

This is just a note to people who send these in -- if you're asking a question about something visual, it would be amazingly helpful if you provide a diagram.

That said, I think what you're asking is why the crescent moon isn't sort of "straight up and down," either parallel or perpendicular to the horizon. The answer has to do with WHY we have phases at all: The moon is always 50% lit by the sun. From Earth, because of how the moon orbits us, we see this as phases.

What this also means is that the center of the part of the moon that shows the most light is always going to be directly aimed towards the sun in the sky. What I mean by that is, say you have a kinda thick crescent. It's thin at the tips and then you see the "fattest" part of the moon at the center, between the two tips. You will be able to draw a straight line through the start of that fattest part to the end of that fattest part and directly to the sun.

Another way to think about this is the opposite: If you have a crescent moon, draw a straight line directly through the tips of the crescent. If you draw a line perpendicular to that, it will hit the sun.

As you go through the year, the sun will only be setting due West and rising due East on the solstices. During summer, it will rise and set closer to your hemisphere's pole from due East or West. During winter, it will rise and set closer to the other hemisphere's pole. I'll actually be addressing that on a future episode, but, that's a future episode.

Anyway, this means that a line through the tips of the crescent will ONLY point directly towards the north and south pole on some rare occasions. Otherwise, it will be somewhat off.

I hope that answers your question. If you were asking something a bit different, please e-mail me again and I'll try to answer your real question.

New News from Future Episodes

  • From Episode 54
    • Reimer, P.J. (2012) "Refining the Radiocarbon Time Scale."
    • Meanwhile, another paper came out since the last episode by Paula Reimer entitled, "Refining the Radiocarbon Time Scale." It was published in the journal Science.
    • I thought this article worth bringing up because I've previously discussed how radiometric dating works, but rarely do people ever get into the nitty-gritty details. One issue that we raised before is that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere HAS changed over time, and you have to make corrections for objects that formed more than a few hundred years ago. When I interviewed Rachael Acks, she discussed an example of correcting for carbon put into the atmosphere since the onset of the industrial revolution.
    • This new article reports on the discovery of annual layers of sediment in a lake that have preserved organic material for the past 50,000 years, and because of this continuous record, it can be used to better calibrate how we correct for the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere that was incorporated into organic material at the time, and used for radiocarbon dating today.
    • Not a major paradigm-shattering discovery, but another example of how this kind of work is calibrated and how we're always working to refine our methods and techniques.

Additional Materials:

Try out CosmoQuest's Moon Mappers!


Disclaimer: I gave a disclaimer in the January 1 episode on Gregg Braden that bears repeating: I'm addressing the claims, not the person. I'm an equal-opportunities disher of common sense. If anyone makes a claim, it's fair game to look into it. That said, because I'm talking about the claims this time of one person in particular, it's important to know a little about him.

Biography of John Lear

From what I've been able to gather, John Lear is the son of the famous inventor of the Lear Jet, Bill Lear. The son, John, is a retired airline captain with over 19,000 hours of flight time and he's flown over 100 different types of planes. He's claimed to be the only pilot to hold every FAA airplane certificate, and he flew secret missions for the CIA in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. The man also holds 17 world records including speed.

So the guy is a VERY accomplished pilot and definitely knows his way around airplanes. It's for reasons like this that many people will even listen to what he has to say - he is the UFO advocates' perfect "argument from authority," meaning that he can be presented as a pilot who obviously knows everything about airplanes and so obviously is an authority about what can't be a known airplane. I refer you to my second podcast episode for how I feel about arguments from authority, specifically in regards to UFO cases. I may do a series later on on logical fallacies used by purveyors of woo in astronomy, but that's a topic for a different episode.

Anyway, John threw away his credibility when he became friends with Bob Lazar back in 1988, and since then he's become an ardent believer in UFOs, alien presence on Earth, soul catchers on the moon along with a lunar atmosphere and mining operations, and antigravity propulsion systems from beam ships, Area 51 and 52, Einstein was completely wrong, 9/11 Truth, crop circles, Kennedy assassination ... to name a few things. He claims he was fired from his airline job because of these beliefs.

I have listened to over 20 hours, three times, of interviews with him and read several websites of his material. It's a lot.

In this episode, I'm going to focus really on three of his claims, and they're all sort of related: The environment of Venus, the atmosphere of the moon, and the moon's origin and formation. If enough of you like this topic and his ideas, then let me know in feedback and I'll plan another episode.

Environment of Venus

One of John's claims is that every planet in the solar system is habitable, just like Earth. The only gas giant in the solar system is NASA. Claims that Mercury is very hot on the sun-facing side, Venus is incredibly hot with a heavy atmosphere, Pluto is too cold, are just wrong, according to John. At least some of the evidence at least for Venus comes not from careful telescopic observations or the results from space probes, but from a remote viewing class he took: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, May 11, 2006, Hour 3, starting 24 minutes in]

There are many things in there and many ways to go about addressing them. I'll first take the easy one - the claim that Venus is always presented in false-color, looking goldenish to make people think of lava. That's simply not true. Venus' clouds ARE that color. People from around the world have colored Venus as golden-white, and a narrow-angle telescope - also known as high magnification - will resolve it as golden in color, much like Jupiter or Saturn. The idea that it was one country's government that decided at some point in time - be it the 1950s or 1900s - to portray Venus only as yellow to hide human colonies on it by making us think of lava is just wrong.

As to what the clouds are made of, this is something that a science club could figure out with a little doing. I've seen high school science projects where people have done things like this. What you need is a spectrometer. This is a device that splits light into all its component colors and measures how strong the light is at each wavelength. If you have a decent spectrometer, and you aim it through a telescope at Venus, you will be able to tell the major components of its atmosphere. You would find that it is very rich in carbon dioxide - unlike Earth - and has almost no molecular nitrogen - unlike Earth.

As for the other things, like the lava plains, volcanoes, and high surface pressure, that is something that had to wait for the space age, so you do have to "trust" NASA and the Russian space agency for that information. But, those other things are simply wrong.

Environment of the Moon

Moving closer to home, there are many things John claims about the moon, including that there's a soul harvester up there but it doesn't work if someone dies under any amount of water. Anyway, the claim I wanted to address next is that he thinks that there is an atmosphere on the moon, with clouds, that it's about equivalent to 18,000 feet on Earth, and it makes the sky blue on the moon: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, March 21, 2004, Hour 3, starting 37.5 minutes in]

Now, I never really thought I'd say this, but I'm going to use Richard Hoagland to explain why this is wrong: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, January 17, 2007, Hour 3, starting 14.75 minutes in]

To prove that I'm not against people but rather their claims, I'll say this in all its quote-mining applicable foresight: Hoagland is 100% correct in this case. It's disturbing when Richard Hoagland is the sane person in the room.

To repeat his explanation, if you have any air around a rocky object, when a light passes behind it, then the light will dim a bit before going out. If there is no atmosphere, then it's like a light switch, it's on, then it's off. This is exactly the mechanism used to figure out how big extrasolar planet atmospheres are, the shapes and sizes of asteroids, how dense Saturn's rings are, and all sorts of things. It's a basic concept.

But, Lear refuses to accept it and continues to claim that the moon does have a breathable atmosphere. His proposed test is to send both him and Hoagland to the moon and he won't wear a spacesuit. I definitely agree with sending them both off-planet ...

I think this would be an opportune time to point out Lear's reaction when confronted by callers on these things: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, May 11, 2006, Hour 4, starting 17:19 in]

Lunar Formation

The last main claim that I wanted to address in this episode is how the moon got here. You'll note the way I stated that -- "got here," not "formed" ... [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, March 21, 2004, Hour 1, starting 20 minutes in]

His evidence for this is in stories that he's interpreted as there having been a time without a moon in recorded history, and then a book that now sells used from Amazon for over $200 called "Ringmakers of Saturn" by Norman Bergrun where he blew up photographs beyond their limits, squinted his eyes, and said that that blob is a spaceship. But more on that in a moment.

So Lear claims that the moon was towed here and placed into orbit by enormously powerful engines. It just so happens that Richard Hoagland was on Coast to Coast on January 5 and stated unequivocally that the two GRAIL satellites that just entered orbit this month are trying to find the moon's engines inside of it, and they just so happen to be at 19.5°. More on that in a future episode.

How did the moon get here? How did it form? I wanted to end with this major claim of Lear's because it illustrates something of how science works. The answer is that we don't know. We definitely have ideas, in fact there are five with which I'm familiar:

First is that the moon formed with Earth the same way the planets did. I call this the Big Sister.

Second is that the moon was captured by Earth's gravity, which I call the Big Grip.

Third is that Earth was spinning so quickly after it formed that the moon effectively popped off through mitosis, what I term the Big Squirt.

Fourth is that a Mars-sized object crashed into Earth at an angle and the moon formed out of the debris. This one is called the Big Splash.

More recently, people have proposed that there was enough radioactive material early in Earth's mantle that a nuclear reaction occurred, spewing the moon out in what I would call the Big Burp.

You'll note that none of these is that the moon sprang forth from the Pacific Ocean, like Athena springing forth from Zeus's skull fully formed. No one thinks that's a model for how it works, so presenting it is a straw man argument.

So we have all these ideas - how do we know which is what happened? The answer is that every single one of these would make different predictions about composition, orbital dynamics, age, structure, and other things. We can test these. If the evidence found does not fit the hypothesis, then the hypothesis needs to be adjusted to account for it. If the hypothesis can't be adjusted to incorporate it, then it's thrown out.

At this point, the vast majority of the evidence supports the Big Splash. There are still a few things that cannot be wholly explained by the hypothesis, but it is by far the best one we have.

So at that point, it comes down to this false dichotomy I'm setting up: Do you (a) accept a natural explanation that predicts the vast majority of all the evidence we've found, or do you (b) take a special pleading argument for which there is no evidence and say that a technologically superior civilization towed the moon into place around Earth for some reason or another, probably because of the 6-mile-high soul harvester inside of a crater? I'm not going to tell you which one to choose, you have to make your own choice.

Pareidolia of Features on the Moon, Mars, etc.

With that in mind, I said there were three main claims I wanted to address in this episode. I also would like to use this to bring up the general topic of pareidolia. I've mentioned the concept before, especially the last episode about ancient aliens, but I don't think I've really gone into any depth on it. Fear not! I'll do so more in future episodes about Richard Hoagland and Andrew Basiago.

But for now, let's go into it because at least half of John's evidence for his claims falls into this category. First, it bears mentioning that pareidolia is a difficult word to spell. I couldn't figure it out for a few years. Then I realized that the vowels are in alphabetical order. You have a p, then A. After that you have a consonant r, but then the vowels E and I. Then a d, and then the O. Then l and the "ia" at the end. So if you take out the consonants which are easy to sound out and you take out the "lia" at the end, you have AEIO. P-A-R-E-I-D-O-L-I-A.

With the spelling lesson out of the way, pareidolia is the process of seeing a pattern and recognizing it as something that it is not. A colon and closing parenthesis is pareidolia-ized to be a smiling face. In fact, two dots and a line are almost universally seen as a face as the human brain is practically hard-wired to see faces.

Similarly, if you're scouring photographs for evidence of aliens or habitation or machinery or anything that doesn't fit the "official story," you are bound to find something that looks like it that your brain will then convince you it is. That's how we got Kermit the Frog on Mars in the last episode (linked up in the shownotes for that episode).

If you look through any of the numerous and very lengthy pages that John has put online - that I'll link to in the shownotes - almost all of the photos are of pareidolia. In some cases, it's presented at actual resolution, as in one pixel on the camera is one pixel on screen. But in many cases, the images are greatly expanded so they're pixelated, compression artifacts are apparent, and yet it's these pixelation and compression artifacts that are interpreted - through pareidolia - to be things like mining operations on Mars and the moon. I'm not making this up. I'll post a direct example of the City of Tithonia, Mars, in the shownotes.

The best advice I can give when being confronted with an image that someone says is something fantastic is to first try to obtain the original source of the image. The original and highest-quality and -resolution. What you don't want is something that looks as through it was printed on a rag that went through the wash a few too many times and then blown up to the size of a bus.

If you can - and even if you can't - get an original, the next thing to figure out is the scale. I'm looking at the "Ctiy of Tythonia" stuff as I'm talking here - okay, I'll be honest, as I'm writing this to record in a few hours - and they are showing a small image with obvious compression artifacts but no way to know the scale. They are presenting it as a city with a manufacturing plant and homes and staircases and all this other stuff. But, for all I know, it could be about 5 cm (2") high because to me, it looks like the side of a small rock. But, there's no scale and no mention of where they got the original image.

The next thing to do is that many people will make much to do about parallel lines and geometric shapes in these kinds of pareidolia. While that would be on Earth a good indication of civilization, in space pictures it's an excellent indicator for pixellation. They've blown up the image so much and then compressed it on disk that these parallel lines and geometric shapes are both artifacts from compression and the remnants of the original gigantic pixels. Again in this Tithonia example, they're pointing out parallel lines and saying it's a staircase. But if you overlay a grid over the entire image the size of their staircase, you'll see that all the geometry and parallel lines fall in columns and rows like the staircase. That means it's just pixellation.

Now, without the original pictures, it's impossible to PROVE that's what's going on, but it's a much more likely scenario. With some of Lear's claims he does point to specific areas of the moon, but when they are actually imaged with modern equipment, his claims seem to melt away. He compensates for that by saying it's NASA airbrushing them out.

Rules of Evidence

As a way of wrap-up for this topic, for now, I want to point out that in this podcast show - not just this episode - I try to emphasize that you don't have to take my word for something, you can go and make independent observations for many of the things I discuss. You can go to basic physics textbooks or environmental textbooks and find basic principles that are stated and apply to many things. If someone claims they don't apply in their case, then that doesn't just mean that they would have to be right, it throws out all this other stuff.

To that end, we get to the point of evidence - what counts as evidence for a claim, why does someone believe it. In addition to the evidence I mentioned before - the remote viewing, past civilizations' fiction or legends, and pareidolia-ized images - I present this final clip as a summary of much of the evidence for John Lear's claims: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, May 18, 2008, Hour 1, starting 31 minutes in]

Provide Your Comments:

Comments to date: 4. Page 1 of 1. Average Rating:

Stuart Robbins   Boulder, CO

10:54am on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Thanks CJ. I'll mention this in feedback for Feb. 1's episode.

cj   Armagh

4:17am on Wednesday, January 18th, 2012 

Excellent show as usual, but I think you slightly misunderstood Lear's point about Venus and false colour. I don't think he means the clouds are in false colour, rather, he is referring to the Magellan radar and similar images which are often coloured to match Venera images of the surface.

Looking forward to the next edition!

Andy   England

4:01pm on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 

How have I only just now found this blog?!

Very entertaining, and also easy for the lazy layman (ie anyone who would consider what Lear spouts believable even for a second) to understand.

Chris   NZ

12:40am on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 

Another great podcast Stu - well done

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