Episode 79: Is the Movie "John Carter" a Leak by Those "In the Know?"
Recap: By most accounts, Disney's "John Carter" movie, based on the books by Edgar R. Burroughs, was a box office flop. It did get decent reviews, and I don't think it's not worth seeing. But Richard C. Hoagland saw something different, and in an exclusive, three-hour interview in April 2012, he laid out his case that "John Carter" was depicting Mars as it really was, and the Therns who controlled things from behind the scenes were what is going on today, on Earth.
Puzzler for Episode 79: The Guinness Book of World Records lists the farthest long jump for a male as 8.95 m (29' 4.4"), and the highest high jump for a male as 2.45 m (8' 0.5"). The movie, John Carter, shows the protagonist jumping at least several hundred meters/yards. Is that realistic, given the difference in gravity between Earth and Mars? If not, then how far should he have been able to travel, if you take the numbers for a male on Earth for the longest and highest jumps?
Answer to Puzzler from Episode 78: The reason that there are no perfectly circular orbits is the same reason that we can't model the solar system out to arbitrarily long periods of time: Objects pull on other objects. For solar system modeling, this means that chaos builds up and tiny effects that don't matter in the short term do in the very long term. For this puzzler, it means that even a tiny pull on Earth by Venus, or Mars, or Jupiter, is going to build up and perturb an orbit if it ever had been circular, making it slightly elliptical. It's highly unlikely that the planets could even form in a circular orbit to begin with for that reason, too.
Q&A: This episode's question comes from Graham D. who asked: "Firstly, assuming that the Earth was tidally locked, what force(s) would be required to break the lock and start the Earth rotating again? Secondly, is the highest point of the tidal bulge the best place to carry out such an operation?"
This question gets to a topic I've discussed in the podcast before: Pole flips caused by Planet X. The only way to change the geographic poles a significant amount is to apply a torque to the planet. In the narrative leading up to the question I quoted, the situation is that a crew placed their spaceship engine on a high point of the equator and turned it on to start Earth spinning again.
That would do it because you are applying torque, an unbalanced force on one part of the planet. To see how this would work, you need a frictionless surface like an air hockey table. Put the puck on the table, set it so that it's stationary and not spinning, and then lightly brush the edge of it with your finger. That is a torque, and it will start it spinning. If you apply enough, you'd set Earth spinning back the way you want.
Another way to think about this is that Earth is spinning right now due to it having rotational energy. This is slowly bleeding away due to tidal interactions, but it has a lot for now. If Earth were to no longer rotate, then to get it to rotate again, you just need to add rotational energy back in.
As to where the best spot for this is, I would think that the highest point along the equator would be it. The reason is that it can be thought of like moving a lever. If you're really close to the fulcrum of the lever, then it's harder to get it to move, but you do get a larger motion. If you're farther away from the fulcrum, it's easier to move, though it moves somewhat less. Following the same idea of mechanical advantage, I'd say you affix your rocket engines to the highest mountain on the equator and flip the switch.
- Audio Sources
- Logical Fallacies / Critical Thinking Terms addressed in this episode: Conspiracy Thories
- Relevant Posts on my "Exposing PseudoAstronomy" Blog
Claim: First, a warning: This episode will have several audio clips of Richard Hoagland. For those prone to violence upon hearing craziness, you may wish to cover your ears. With that said, we'll start right off with a clip because I think it's important to hear the basic claim from the person themself, as opposed to me summarizing it: [clip from Coast to Coast AM, April 2, 2012, Hour 4, starting at 26:27]
"We are living in a suppressed culture which if my research and a lot of other peoples' who are on this show is correct, we are being spoon-fed just enough to keep us alive, but not enough to really let us advance, which is exactly the core concept of Stanton's film about Mars. I mean, if I had written that story myself, I couldn't've done it better. Probably he has done it light years better than I could 'cause he's an expert and I'm not in filmmaking. The point is, what he has put on film mirrors what we have found in reality about secrets that are being kept from us to keep us down on the farm, and it's going to take a huge game-changer to blow the doors off the vault where they're keeping all the cool stuff - like the film describes - so that we all get to use it, and it benefits all of humankind. That's what's at stake: No less than the future survival and destiny of the human race."
With that in mind, Richard promised during his April 2, 2012, interview that he would post on his website a detailed analysis of his claims as soon as the movie was released to DVD and Blu-Ray and various other forms. He never posted his synopsis. So, everything in this episode is based on his singular interview on the subject.
Idea Behind John Carter of Mars
To understand his claims, a bit of background and a movie summary is in order. Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American author who lived from 1875-1950, and he wrote many different kinds of things in many different genres. He's best known for creating Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, the latter of which is the subject of this episode.
Burroughs wrote 11 books in his series, and they were serialized in various pulp fiction magazines throughout the 1910s-'40s. John Carter was the first-person narrator in several of them and the protagonist: A fictional Earth man who was teleported to Mars, which is called "Barsoom" in the books by the natives.
He was writing during an era that was rife with depictions of Mars harboring human-like life, and especially a dying Mars where the population was attempting to prolong their existence. This came from a simple mistranslation: The Italian astronomer, Giovanni Schiaparelli, observed features on Mars in 1878 that he termed canali, which is Italian for "channels." It was mistranslated to English as "canals," and Percival Lowell, an American, published extensive maps of these channels - which were just imagined by him - in the decades that followed. So this idea of a dying Martian civilization during the present era was well publicized at the time that Burroughs was writing.
There were many themes in his John Carter series, including the American frontier, racial and class division, intellectualism, the paradox of "superiority," and perhaps more interestingly for some of this audience, religious deception. He wasn't anti-religious, but he was very concerned about the followers of any faith placing their trust in religious and people leading religious and then being abused and exploited by those in charge, and he saw this as a common feature of organized religion. For example, after reaching the age of 1000 years, nearly every Martian is supposed to make a pilgrimage on the River Iss where their religion says they'll find a valley of paradise. Instead, they find a deathtrap that's populated by various deadly animals and overseen by a race of cannibalistic priests known as the Therns. It's the Therns themselves - the White Martians - who perpetuate this religious belief of a pilgrimage through a network of spies across the planet.
So that gives you a taste of the genre. John Carter himself is a Virginian who fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War, or, if you're from the South, the War of Northern Aggression. After the war, he and a friend became gold prospectors, found gold in Arizona, and then when hiding in a cave, he appears to die and a facsimile of him is transported to Mars, duplicating everything about him. In the books, he is also an immortal and always about 30 years old in appearance. That part isn't really discussed in the movie.
What makes him a hero is his manner and courtesy that was characteristic of the antebellum South, also known as "Southern Kindness" today for those who aren't USA-ian. What makes him capable of being a hero on Barsoom is its gravity: The premise is that since Mars' gravity is less than Earth's, his musculature, bone density, and other things let him be much stronger and able to jump much higher and farther than a Martian.
And, I should mention that the books have expired copyrights, so you can find them for free online such as at Project Gutenberg.
Now for spoilers. Though, since the movie's been out for over a year, I don't feel guilty about spoilers.
The movie is based on several of the books, and it's based on the characters, but there are some significant differences. The important cast of characters are John Carter, Dejah Thoris, and the Therns.
John Carter I've already described. Dejah Thoris is a princess of a city-state on Mars, the one city-state in a civil war with another, being controlled by another guy who's being manipulated by Therns but more on that later. Dejah Thoris, besides being a princess, is about as close to a heroine as you can get while having the hero being a man. She's also the chief scientist in her city-state, Helios. In the beginning of the movie, she is about to be able to harvest the power of the Ninth Ray which will allow them to defeat their enemies and restore Mars to a lush and life-full planet. But, she's thwarted by the Therns from discovering it and proving her ideas.
Unlike in the books, the Therns are not Martians, rather, they are an immortal alien race that has existed forever and exist for the purpose of leading to the destruction of civilizations. They are able manipulate what is called the Ninth Ray, which is what Hoagland equates to his hyperdimensional physics, but more on that after the summary. In the movie, the Ninth Ray is very poorly explained, and all we really see are its effects. But, it's what gives the Therns their abilities and is effectively a technology as opposed to magic. It manifests as blue "stuff," able to render a person immobile, kill them, control them. Able to be projected as a weapon, an energy beam, a floating platform that someone could effectively fly on, and the ability to teleport from one place to another and change appearance. It's also described at one point to either control or actually be innumerable tiny machines.
In the books, there are seven rays which are the colors of the rainbow that we see on Earth, while the other two we never see on Earth. The Eighth Ray is what makes light move and it's the propulsion ray that propels light and which the Martians capture in bladders and is what makes their craft fly. The Ninth Ray in the books is what lets them use an atmospheric plant to provide enough oxygen for everything on Barsoom to live. So ... the movie and book are pretty different on this point.
By way of very brief summary, we see early on in the movie that the Therns give the enemy of Helios a very tiny bit of Ninth Ray power, giving him the ability to defeat Helios. By way of avoiding destruction, the leader betroths his daughter, Dejah, to the guy.
Meanwhile, John Carter kills a Thern on Earth and is accidentally teleported to Mars after he takes the Thern's medallion that lets him control the Ninth Ray, though John doesn't know how to do that at all. On Mars, he discovers his powers, is captured and later escapes the Green Martians after rescuing a fleeing Dejah from her suitor. All he wants to do is get back to Earth, they travel the River Iss, Dejah starts to believe that he's really from a different planet, they learn more about the Ninth Ray, and Dejah eventually goes back to Helios and her suitor to save John. When trying to later free Dejah, John is captured by a Thern who gives the requisite backstory and motivation for his character, including that Therns are just myths, and they don't exist as far as everyone is concerned. John escapes, rallies the Green Martians, and rescues Dejah just before her wedding in the climax of the movie. Dejah and John do their own obligatory marriage, and when John lets his guard down and throws away his medallion that lets him do some Ninth Ray stuff, he is transported back to Earth by a Thern.
That's the brief-brief-brief version. A bit more is that besides controlling the Ninth Ray and controlling politics from behind the scenes and choosing who rules, they stifle any attempts by others to understand the Ninth Ray. They claim they don't cause the destruction of a world, they just manage it and feed off it.
And throughout the majority of the movie, John Carter is shirtless. In his interview, Richard Hoagland made much about how his significant other homeopathist but not wife Robin Falcov is a huge movie critic and dislikes most things but wanted to see John Carter twice. And Richard saw it twice. He said this in an apparent attempt to lend credibility to his analysis, but I have a hunch that Robin may have just wanted to see it for the tantalizing manflesh. But that's just my own gratuitous observation. In the end, I don't think it was a bad movie per se, somewhat mildly entertaining, good special effects, and a modern take on a century-old view of Mars. Not worth buying, but maybe downloading or renting from whatever service you use to watch as a mindless entertainment feature for about two hours.
But that's not how Richard C. Hoagland saw it.
Location of Barsoom's Capital City
Before I get too much into various plot points and themes, there's the very location of a city that Richard claims shows that Edgar R. Burroughs was "in the know." [clip from Coast to Coast AM, April 2, 2012, Hour 3, starting at 17:07]
- GN: "Now, I've gotta ask you this, did Burrows, when he wrote his book back in the early 1900s, actually pin-point Cydonia on Mars--"
- RCH: "You got--
- GN: "--as an ancient capital city?"
- RCH: "You got it.
- GN: "How did he pick that?"
- (27:24) RCH: "The ancient capital city of Mars in his Barsoom, you know, anthology, all 11 books, was a place called 'Horz,' located in the northern hemisphere, on the edges of a great, dried up, ancient ocean, the sea bottoms - 'the dead sea bottoms of Barsoon,' (is as he described it) - and it was at 0° longitude - which of course is where Cydonia is if the D&M pyramid was [sic] at 0° longitude in an ancient Martian system - and 42° north, which is the longitude and latitude of Cydonia on Mars now."
There are many things wrong with even this basic statement of where the capital city is. First, Hoagland sounds like he is saying the quote, "The dead sea bottoms of Barsoom," is where Horz is. It's not. He's just quoting some random passage from one of the books: The beginning of chapter 3 of "A Fighting Man of Mars," that is describing where tribes of green martians are. That's it. Horz isn't mentioned in that chapter, nor even that entire book.
Second, Hoagland is correct, that Burroughs places Horz as equivalent to Greenwich on Earth, defining the Martian Prime Meridian, 0° Longitude.
But that's the only thing that he's right about. He says that it's at 42°N, but no where is its actual location spelled out as far as I could find. It's based on being north, south, east and west of certain other cities that have either latitude or longitude specified. Various fans have tried to reconstruct a map, and I've seen Horz placed anywhere from 40° to 50° North latitude, usually around 50°N. Cydonia is never named.
Meanwhile, the D&M pyramid and Face on Mars are at 40.7°N, 9.5°W. Not 0° E/W, on the prime meridian. Not 42°N as Richard claimed. And neither Horz nor 42° nor 40.7° are multiples of 19.5°, not that he claims they are, but let's just put it out there.
And then there's the issue of the Prime Meridian: It's defined for Mars by us today based on the location of a key feature. It was defined by German astronomers W. Beer and J.H. Madler in 1830-'32 based on a small circular feature they saw, and it was later refined by Shiaparelli in 1877, later renamed Sinus Meridiani ("Middle Bay") by Camille Flammarion. When we finally had good images of Mars from Mariner 9 in 1972, a small crater within a larger crater that was near that 0° longitude was then defined as 0°. And it was redefined more precisely again based on the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter around 2001.
That's our definition. I can almost guarantee you that if a Barsoomian civilization existed, especially before 1830, they would have defined their Prime Meridian differently. Based on other clues, one fan puts it around 220°W on our current maps. Very, very far away from the broad region that is Cydonia, and far away from the specific point objects that are the Face and D&M pyramid. And remember: The only maps Burroughs used were the nonexistent canals of Percival Lowell.
Oh yeah, then there's the fact that Horz wasn't really the Mars capital, that each race had their own capital city, and that by Carter's time on Barsoom, Horz was deserted.
So, Hoagland is wrong.
Other than that specific claim, Richard has two broader claims about the movie and similarity with real life. The first is the nonspecific - as in, I can't really give you a quote - idea that what is presented in the movie about what happened on Mars to destroy it, and the idea behind the Ninth Ray, are real. [clip from Coast to Coast AM, April 2, 2012, Hour 2, starting at 8:56]
"This is the ancient pre-disaster Mars we have been trying to back-engineer from the NASA data for over thirty years."
Okay, I lied, I did have a clip. This particular claim of the movie presenting his model for how Mars became like it is, at least based on the information he's given, directly contradicts his claims elsewhere that Mars was rendered lifeless when the planet V that it orbited blew up 65 million years ago ... see Episodes 29 and 30. But let's ignore that minor problem. At least in the movie, it seems as though the destruction of the planet's population is by wars, and the destruction of the planet as life-supporting is due to massive machinery that was used to harvest resources. I haven't read the books, so it may be different in the books, and there are enough listeners now that I'm sure some of you have, so please correct me if I'm wrong here.
As for Richard's claims of amazing, astounding, hyperdimensional torsion physics that are supposedly demonstrated by the Ninth Ray stuff I described earlier, it, too, is wholly incompatible with what he has described hyperdimensional physics to be. Basically, he's described it in the past as energy that manifests in spinning objects, or alignments, or at multiples of 19.5° on planets and moons and stars, that alters the mass of other things. Or stuff to that effect. Specific statements, math, and predictions that can be tested are very much lacking despite his recitation of the idea in innumerable interviews.
But you'll notice that no where does that sound anything like the abilities of the Ninth Ray which are described in the Burroughs novels ... which are basically not described but are used in their atmosphere generating plant. Nor do they match with the abilities shown in the movie, like changing your appearance, levitating, making an energy sword, or controlling someone's movement. It's not the same at all. By no stretch of the imagination, other than that it's allegedly being kept secret ...
... which brings us to the conspiracy part of the claims. This is really what he focuses on in the Coast to Coast interview, if you can say that Richard focuses on anything ... and anyone who's listened to an interview of Richard Hoagland knows what I'm talking about in terms of focus.
Richard thinks that this movie is an attempt by Andrew Stanton, and/or consultants, and/or Burroughs, to get the word out about what really happened to Mars: [clip from Coast to Coast AM, April 2, 2012, Hour 2, starting at 9:35]
"The easiest way to get information which is secluded and sequestered and censored into the mainstream of the public is to do it through fiction. You can get away with almost anything if you do it as fiction. And then, only your target audience, that has other clues it's not fiction, will get the message."
I think I remember hearing somewhere that when you think you see hidden messages in things that are talking directly to you, it's a sign of mental illness. But maybe I'm wrong. Richard's point here is just that, though: They're speaking directly to him and others "in the know" that yes, this is what Mars was really like. But, because the reviews of the movie were so bad - despite the copious amounts of hot, shirtless, sweaty, sometimes dirty, man muscles - and that people were saying it was a huge Disney flop, that it was being suppressed: [clip from Coast to Coast AM, April 2, 2012, Hour 2, starting at 26:28]
"In an Arthur Clark term, 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,' kind of technology, that's using this science, this physics, to make amazing things happen. (26:38) That's the story line of John Carter of Mars! The regent of science under her father ... has figured out, has back-engineered the secrets of suppressed science, which the Therns are using to systematically destroy Mars. And she says at one part of the film, 'And John Carter, Earth is next!' I mean, Stanton is giving away all the secrets in this film, and that's why in my political analysis there has been this incredible, deliberate, systematic, concerted effort to keep as many people from going to see this film as possible because it's right up there on the big screen!"
To put it succinctly, Richard wants us to believe that the Therns in the movie represent the Illuminati, Men in Black, Archons, or other secret organization in control of stuff on Earth, but in this case, on Mars. A group that works behind the scenes, orchestrates stuff the way they want, are behind those who appear to be in power, etc. etc. etc..
And not only that, but those people in control behind the scenes on Earth, just like the Therns on Mars, are attempting to control the public perception of the movie so that people won't go to see it so they won't learn about what's really going on. This is the point in my Moon Hoax presentations where I say, "If you're one of those people who believe in a conspiracy to this level, there's nothing I can really say."
And there isn't. This conspiracy mindset has less to do with astronomy than it has to do with giving more depth to the person making the claims. It doesn't mean that Richard is wrong, that there aren't these kinds of groups in control, but most reasonable people recognize the evidence for it is zilch, and that there are much better explanations for John Carter not being a box office success: No marketing tie-ins that are typical for Disney, and not having the "of Mars" as part of the title. Review-wise, it got mixed reviews, the complaints mainly being that most parts of the story had been done before, that it had uneven pacing, and that sometimes the plot made no sense.
So, with all that in mind, I think that I agree with a poster on the JREF forum: Richard seemed to latch on to the movie because it was about Mars and desperately tried to shoehorn his ideas into the movie, despite that inso doing it conflicted with many of his other claims. It was also typical of Richard in that he made the claims once, promised follow-up, and never delivered.
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Jason Goemaat Des Moines, IA
10:30pm on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
Love the podcast, keep them coming. I think this puzzler is a little off this episode. I've thought about this quite a bit before when wondering how high I could jump on Ceres. The world record "high jump" isn't a good value to use because it includes a lot of movement to clear the bar that wouldn't translate to any more height in lower gravity. A standing or running vertical jump would be a better comparison. The records were a little hard to find since it's not a competition event, but training camps for pro sports keep records and the records for various sports range from about 34" to 46", but the highest I've seen claimed in 60" or about 1.5m.