Episode 26: Richard C. Hoagland, Part 1 - 19.5°
Recap: One aspect of Richard Hoagland's view of the universe has to do with a hyperdimensional number, 19.5° where everything energetic on all objects in the solar system is supposed to manifest. Hogland points to many features on many planets that do. This is an in-depth look at them and this claim.
- Additional Resources
- Diagram: 19.5° of a Pyramid in a Sphere
- Hoagland's List of 19.5° Stuff (at the bottom of the page)
- Hyperdimensional Geometry on Wikipedia
- Data for Sunspot Locations, or My Graph
- USGS Gazetteer on Regios on Venus
- 2011 Storm on Saturn (this is really cool!)
- USGS Earthquake Data
- Wikipedia's Hurricane Season Images (2011 Atlantic, Pacific), UCAR on Hurricane Formation Location, or "Hurricanes of the North Atlantic" book
- Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
- Upcomming Meetups/Conferences
- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
Take a tetrahedron (4-sided solid made of four equilateral triangles) and put it in a sphere such that each point of the pyramid touches the inside surface of the sphere. Draw a straight line through the center of the sphere such that one end of the line intersects a point of the pyramid; think of this line as the polar axis, and now orient it in your mind so that the line that goes through the pyramid point is down. Now draw a line around the circle's equator. Now, if you take the angle between the equator, the center of the sphere, and one of the three non-pole points of the pyramid, you get 19.5°.
That's the magic of Richard C. Hoagland's hyperbolic geometry and all the claims of importance for the 19.5° latitude that I'll be talking about in this episode. And since that was an incredibly visual explanation, I'll have an image in the shownotes.
Richard C. Hoagland says a lot of stuff. Almost everything he says sounds crazy. Over the decades, he has built up a vast conspiracy-laden mythology about the universe, how it supposedly works, and why things are the way they are.
The "19.5° is an important number" stems from his whole "hyperdimensional physics" mythos. Something I won't go into in this episode, but the short-short version is that Hoagland and his followers are the only ones who believe in it and the only ones who offer uncontrolled and uncalibrated data that supposedly back it up. Another reason I won't be going into it in this episode is because it's incomprehensible, nonsensical, and made up. Suffice to say, "A tenet of these views holds that vast amounts of energy originating from dimensions we cannot perceive are available at latitudes 19.5° both south and north on the Sun and every planet in the solar system."
As to why 19.5°, it's because of that tetrahedron in a sphere thing. As to why he came up with that instead of something like, say, a cube? or a dodecahedron? I don't know. As to why he came up with this whole thing in the first place deep down in his heart of hearts, I can only speculate that it sounded complicated and geometrical so he went with hit. But that's besides the point here.In other words, Hoagland and fellow believers claim that it is at 19.5° latitude on every body in the solar system that we have the biggest / bestest / scarriest / craziest / powerfulest / whateverest feature. Hoagland provides a list on his website that I'll link to, and copy, in the shownotes. This is something that's easily tested, one would think. So let's take a tour through the solar system.
A claim that you won't find directly in the table that I just mentioned but I'm starting with has to do with the sun. 'Cause, you know, the sun's important. The 19.5° claim with the sun is that it is where sunspots originate. Sunspots are made of tangled magnetic fields and are often associated with solar flares and other activity.
What the data show - and I'll link to it on the website - are that sunspots generally are anywhere from ±30° latitude to the equator. As you ramp up from solar minimum to maximum, the sunspots start out at an average location of about ±25°, and as you go down from solar maximum to solar minimum, they migrate equatorward to an average latitude of about ±5°.
25° and 5° are not 19.5°. Even during solar maximum - when there are the most sunspots, the latitude range of the spots is between about 10-25°, not even averaging out to 19.5°.
So, we've started out with a swing and a miss.
Mercury: I couldn't find any claims about Mercury, so we'll move on from that to Venus.
On Venus, the next planet out from the sun, Hoagland points to Alta Regio and Beta Regio, the first at 19.5°N and the second at 25.0°S. He says these are both - and I quote - "current volcanic regions."
Now, as a bit of trivia, "Regio" or "regiones" on Venus are large areas marked by reflectivity or color distinctions from surrounding areas, or a large geographic area. They're named for giantesses and titanesses, though two are named after the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. From what I could find, Alta was a Norse giantess, the mother of Heimdall who kept watch near at the bifröst for the start of Ragnarök.
Anyway, you'll note in there that "volcano" is not in the definition of a Regio. And, according to the USGS Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature Alta Regio is centered at 9.2°N latitude, though it's over 3000 km across, and Beta Regio is centered at 25.3° NORTH latitude, not south, and it is ALMOST 3000 km across. As in, the size of the United States. So to say that these features are at 19.5° is like me saying that Antarctica is at the south pole. It's true, but it's not paying any attention to the feature's actual extent or true center.
As to whether these are "current volcanic regions," I could find absolutely nothing to support this claim, not the least reason being that there is no evidence whatsoever of current volcanic activity on Venus. I couldn't even find information that these are volcanoes, though it's not completely unlikely that they were volcanic in origin since almost all of Venus' surface has been sculpted by volcanic processes.
We're going to bypass Earth and go on to Mars for now. In Richard's table, the only entry for Mars is the volcano Olympus Mons, which he says is centered at 19.3°N, and is the largest shield volcano.
Truth be told, Olympus Mons is the TALLEST volcano in the solar system, rising around 22 km over the surrounding plains, but Alba Patera to the northeast is actually the most voluminous and the broadest. Similar to the Regios on Venus, Olympus Mons is around 650 km in diameter, starting at 23.5°N and going to about 13.5°N, which for those of you who can do quick averages in your head, has a mean latitude of 18.5°N. This means that the several calderas at its peak, which are between 17.8° and 18.8°N, are nicely centered. Not at 19.5°.
But if we want to talk big volcanoes, Olympus Mons sits near the edge of the vast Tharsis region of Mars, which, when you get right down to it, is kinda like one giant single shield volcano that covers 25% of the planet. And it's centered at the equator. Now, before my boss rips into me on this one, Tharsis is not actually a volcano in itself. It's a bulge on Mars that was likely caused by a single, large mantle plume - like the Hawaiian hot spot volcanoes on Earth - that manifest as many smaller volcanoes such as Olympus Mons. And there are 23 other major volcanoes on the planet, none of them on 19.5° N or S latitude.
Now, just for fun, Hoagland makes much ado about the Face on Mars (to be discussed in another episode). Surely that's at 19.5°? But no, it and the entire Cydonia region is centered on 40.7°N latitude. There is actually, really, nothing significant and especially unique on Mars at either 19.5° North or South latitude.
On Jupiter, Hoagland's claim to the manifestation of hyperdimensional physics breaking into our reality is the Great Red Spot at 19.5° S latitude.
Oh, wait, sorry. He says it's at 22° S latitude, which it is. 22 is not 19.5.
It also may bear mentioning that the cloud bands of Jupiter don't really start and stop near 19.5° latitude. The equatorial zone is between ±7°. The North and South Equatorial Belts are 7-18°. There are a few more bands before you get to 50°, but none are at 19.5°.
On Saturn, the claim to fame is apparently the North and South equatorial belts which end at ±20°, which Hoagland says are a "region of 'storms' observed from Earth."
Not really. I couldn't find any latitude ranges for the cloud bands on Saturn, so I'll take Hoagland's word for it on that latitude range, but we see storms all over on Saturn. In fact, there's a really weird hexagonal storm at the Saturnian north pole that starts at about 78°N.
And, in 2011, there was a gigantic storm in the northern hemisphere on Saturn. It was so large that it wrapped itself all the way around the planet and was producing over 10 lightning flashes per second. It was at 35°N.
Uranus and Neptune: Hoagland's claims for Uranus and Neptune are even weaker than his claims for Saturn, so I'm not going to go into them.
That brings us back to Earth. Remember what we're after here: Hoagland claims that hyperdimensional physics manifests in our three-spatial-dimension world at 19.5° latitude on planets and objects in the solar system. So at 19.5°, we'll see very energetic disturbances.
Without looking at his list, try to think about really big releases of energy, or manifestations of energy on Earth. I'll give you a few seconds.
You probably thought of things like volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Those are pretty much the biggest natural releases of energy that pack a whollup. If you're thinking that Hoagland might go for more metaphysical things, perhaps Stonehenge, Coral Castle, the Great Wall of China, the Sphinx or the Great Pyramids of Giza, MesoAmerican pyramids, Machu Pichu, the Nazca Lines, or Serpent Mound. At least, those are the ones I thought of when I closed my eyes while writing this.
Sticking with the real things ... I mean, the natural phenomena ... first we'll talk earthquakes. Because earthquakes are a not infrequent claim of modern conspiracy people, I happen to already have all the earthquake data from the USGS since 1900 on hand. Not even by any stretch of the imagination, there is no concentration of earthquakes at 19.5° north nor south latitude. When limiting the data to the magnitude 8 and above, the concentrations are at 50°N and the equator. Same with 7 and above. So, no earthquake concentrations at 19.5°.
Going to volcanoes, the largest volcanoes on Earth are supervolcanoes. Yellowstone is an example of a supervolcano, with the caldera itself being roughly 55x70 km. I'll repeat that. The caldera itself - the mouth of the volcano, is over 50 km in its shortest dimension. The last eruption around 640,000 years ago ejected roughly 1000 cubic kilometers of rock, dust, and ash. Yellowstone is at 44.5°N.
Another supervolcano, Long Valley, is smaller and is at about 38°N. Valles Caldera is at 36°N. The Taupo supervolcano is at 39°S, while the Aira caldera is in Japan at about 32°N. Meanwhile, the Lake Toba supervolcano is at 3°N latitude and is the largest volcanic lake in the world. It last erupted about 74,000 years ago and ejected around 2800 cubic km of material. It's the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years, and there exists the Toba catastrophe theory that holds the eruption had global consequences, severely bottlenecking the human population at the time to only a few hundred or thousand around the world.
Hoagland's volcanic claim to fame, in contrast, is, quote, "Hawaiian Caldera" at 19.6°N which he says is the "largest shield volcano." There are actually 5 volcanoes that make up the Big Island of Hawaii, with Mauna Loa being the largest. It is estimated to be the largest shield volcano on Earth by volume, estimated at roughly 75,000 cubic kilometers (that's 18,000 cubic miles), though its peak is a paltry 37 meters below Mauna Kea. And it is at roughly 19.5°. Could you consider this the first "hit" for Hoagland over all the other misses so far? Sure, I suppose. But I would vote for the supervolcanoes over Mauna Loa any day.
Moving on to hurricanes. I initially made a blog post about this topic mid-last year, and I did not talk about hurricanes. "jimmy" responded in the comments to that post and said: "Hurricanes are born at 19.5 latitude. ... The cause of the storms on earth is the earth's rotation and heat transfer. Could a similar mechanism be the cause of the solar storms at 19.5? Could be."
I'm not really sure if this discounts what I had said, since "jimmy" appears to be saying that Earth's rotation is a viable mechanism to explain where hurricanes are as opposed to hyperdimensional physics. But we'll pretend he disagreed with me just for fun.
Wikipedia actually has some really really cool summary images for every hurricane season in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that I'll link to. I looked at both for the last few years and overlaid them on a map with latitude grids. Guess what? Most of the hurricanes originate at about 10°N latitude, not 19.5°. This agrees with the UCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) website for kids that states they form between about 5-15° latitude. Though a Google book result from "Hurricanes of the North Atlantic" that most are between 15 and 20° N latitude. From all of these, at the very least, I think it's fair to state that the claim hurricanes form at 19.5°N is not correct.
Which brings us to the more metaphysical claims. Which are not physical. And none of the ones I mentioned are really centered at 19.5° North nor South latitude. (Nazca - 15°S, Coral Castle - 25.5°N, Sphinx and Giza pyramids - 30°N, Stonehenge - 51°N).
It's fairly trivial to show that Hoagland has missed a lot of things in the solar system that are important that aren't at 19.5° latitude. To name one example, the geysers on Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, are very near the south pole. I've already named several things on Earth. On Mars, as I said, Tharsis is concentrated at the equator and you have a region of high magnetism south of about 50° south latitude. Venus and Io are generally covered with volcanoes, though Maxwell Montes, the highest mountains on Venus and the only thing named after a man, is at 65.2°N.
I think that the claim of 19.5° features is what we could easily call "cherry picking," where you deliberately choose things to support your claim and ignore everything else.
Sometimes, Richard has stated that there is a margin of error here, and that 19.5° is not exact. A quote from him is, "Remember, we are NOT talking about precise longitude and latitude 'lines' ... but 'bands of activity' -- as with any physical process."
Alright, perhaps fair game. How big is a band of activity according to Richard?
Hoagland claimed that the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year, March 2011, had hyperdimensional physics all over it. The epicenter of the event was at 38° 19' N, 142° 22' E. Richard claimed that this is exactly twice his 19.5° latitude, and the longitude was 120°, or 1/3 of a circle, East of the Great Pyramid, which for you non-Egypt-centered folks, he's talking about Giza.
Problem is that 2x19.5 is 39, not 38, and 120° from the Great Pyramid is 151° 08' E longitude, or almost 9° off. So now Richard is saying that his stuff can be off by around 8 or 9° and also occur in multiples of 19.5. That means his hyperdimensional physical effects covers around half the planet.
If we were playing a "Name that Logical Fallacy" game, I would consider this among the "Texas Sharpshooter" class. The name comes from a joke about a Texan who fires shots at the side of a barn and then paints the target around the bullet holes.
Wrap-Up: The bottom line is that this is not how science works. If you have a hypothesis, you need to have tests that can be done that would verify or disprove it. 19.5° being where everything important happens in the solar system is easily falsified. If you then broaden your hypothesis to include something significant happening over more than 50% of a surface, then you're no longer talking about something unique to your idea - by including 50% of a surface, chance alone says you're going to hit - to quote Hoagland - "something wonderful."
Provide Your Comments:
Comments to date: 7. Page 1 of 1. Average Rating:
7:36am on Friday, June 1st, 2012
Stuart Boulder, CO, USA
9:29pm on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
"me" - you miss the point entirely and appear to not understand how science is done. Bara and Hoagland (Note that Bara was not the subject of this podcast episode) refuse to update their "theories" in light of any new information, refuse to look at any conflicting data while instead only taking into account observations (or literally faking observations) that support their presuppositions, and refuse to calibrate any of their alleged tests. That is not the mark of honesty.
me not home
7:43pm on Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Do I agree with Hoagland 100% of the time - no. Bottom line though, there is no such thing as pseudo astronomy, or pseudo scientists. I can easily prove this with a dictionary and common sense. However, this article likes to point out where Hoagland and Bara were wrong at the time of their statements. Show me anyone in the world who hasn't been, and had to adjust beliefs and theories with the influx of new data and experiments. But Hoagland and Bara's mistakes are unforgivable because people such you are bias; never mind scientists 'knew' the sun revolved around the earth, and scientists 'knew' Earth was flat, and scientists 'knew' faster than light neutrinos existed (until the loose cable was found). But obviously, our real problem in modern science is that Hoagland provides information that does not conform to the current brainwashing, mainstream, absolute, know all standards of the bias 'science community'. Hmmm, what's the real issue here?
C. S. Ireland Canada
12:41pm on Friday, March 9th, 2012
"As to why 19.5°, it's because of that tetrahedron in a sphere thing. As to why he came up with that instead of something like, say, a cube? or a dodecahedron? I don't know. As to why he came up with this whole thing in the first place deep down in his heart of hearts, I can only speculate that it sounded complicated and geometrical so he went with it."
expat Location unknown
9:58am on Friday, March 9th, 2012
Correction: In the Enterprise Mission text that you referenced, Hoagland does actually cite four specific volcanoes on Io: Loki, Maui, Pele and Volund. Since there are some 400 active volcanoes on this moon, a more blatant example of cherry-picking would be hard to imagine.
Stuart Robbins Boulder, CO, USA
9:15am on Friday, March 9th, 2012
Thanks, Expat. Yes, Hoagland even has the Io stuff on his website, but I figured I was running long as it was and had my point already. The Saturnian storm ... Bara obviously has NEVER taken a fluid dynamics course. Fluids in a closed system can set up standing waves that you never would have thought of.
expat Location unknown
7:47am on Friday, March 9th, 2012
Well done Stuart, that needed saying. A couple of adds: Both in "Dark Mission" and in Mike Bara's dreadful compendium of non-facts, "The Choice," the volcanoes of Io are included as support for the theory. However, they fail to say _which_ volcanoes. The largest of them, Pillan Patera, is at 12.34°S, so that won't work.