Archive for the Fact Checking Category

Emerging news on the MaKomati front

Posted in Destinations, Evidence!, Expert testimony, Fact Checking, Mysterious origins with tags , , , on November 30, 2008 by Eric S.

If you’re like me, September 20th’s post on the Indiana Jones-like activities of South African airplane pilot Johane Heine, his (unmentioned in the article) cohort Michael Tellinger, and their collective of against-the-establishment archaeologists aka The MaKomati Foundation, you may have finished reading still hungry for more answers. Truly, you may have found yourself with such a hunger even if you’re not even vaguely like me; there’s plenty of wtfage to go around with a theory like the one MaKomati is putting forth.

On the one hand, you’ve got the brotherhood of conventional Archaeology, Paleontology and Anthropology, who collectively agree the earliest traces of civilization can be found with the Mesopotamians, circa 5,000 BCE, in an area modern folk not terribly interested in Archaeology, Paleontology, Anthropology or, for the most part, Geography, refer to as The Middle East.

On a second, third and possibly fourth hand, there’s evidence of other primitive-yet-intelligent humans spread about here and there: Paleolithic tools 2.6-2.5 million years old; remnants of a migration across the Bering Strait during an interval between 50-9,000 years ago; and the reasonably well preserved remains of cave paintings in modern France and Germany commonly believed to be 15-20,000 years old. All of which boils down to this: there are plenty of gaps in the historical record. MaKomati believe they’ve found a hunk of history to spackle into one of the gaps.

Personally, I’m skeptical. No, wait; that’s not quite the right word. Dubious is probably closer to the fact. I admit that’s in part due to my comfort with what I’ve come to accept as fact through years of reinforcement by, well, every source of factual authority I’m exposed to. But I also acknowledge that the factual authorities with which Aristotle, Copernicus and Galileo had their comeuppance weren’t entirely dependable; I freely admit that much of my understanding of how the universe works is founded on the baby-talk summations of consensus of passionate, hard core geeks who take great pains to make sure that I’m handed as best-we-can-tell-fact has been tested, hypothesized, checked, rechecked, challenged, refuted, modified, shot down, rechecked again, confirmed, reviewed, published and subsequently checked by classrooms full of aspiring hard core geeks. Honestly, I don’t think it’s such a bad system.

The question then is, are Johan Heine, Michael Tellinger and the MaKomati Foundation a modern day archaeological Galileo? Or are they a couple of guys with a plane and some ruins in a remote corner of the globe looking to boost local tourism? Okay, unfair comparison on at least three counts: 1) everyone has already heard of Galileo, 2) hard science is by definition easier to validate than soft science, and 3) the establishment Galileo was up against was going to burn him for what he was saying. But I couldn’t think of a suitably foundation-shaking foundation shaker. Maybe Alfred Wegener.

Lucky for me, Michael Tellinger stopped by the site a couple of weeks ago. I followed his initial comment on the September 20 article with a list of questions, to which he graciously responded. Here are his answers in their entirety:

  1. First, according to, conventional wisdom explains the ruins as cattle kraal built and used by the Bantu people within the past 1,000 years. The Makomati Foundation dates these structures as being far older: somewhere between 75,000 to 250,000 years old. This is actually the basis for several questions:

    75,000 – 200,000 years seems like a pretty broad estimate, given what little I personally know of dating techniques. What accounts for the 125,000 year discrepancy?

    We are dealing with a very complex site that covers over 500 square kilometres and makes up the largest and oldest city on Earth that has almost completely eroded.

    We have gathered artifacts from the same site that date back from 300,000 yrs and 600 years. This points to a very long occupation of these sites.

    BUT we deal with Archaeoastronomy mainly to determine the deviation from today’s cardinal points. 3 degrees; 17 min. and 42 sec deviation.

    The presessional cycle of 25,800 years has almost been completed – this means that we are in essence working with chunks of 25,000 years.

    Now we have to look for other clues as to how many years it actually is.

    The main indicators are the alignment with Orion – which could have only happened 75,000 years ago and more.

    And Geology – erosion.

    Dolerite erodes very slowly and the erosion patterns on most monoliths indicate that they were brought there a long, long time ago.

    Lichen growth is also a reasonable indicator. We have lots of evidence there.

  2. What techniques have been used? What are the advantages of these techniques?

    Archaeoastronomy; Geology – alien rocks brought from elsewhere; astronomy; and what most of us often forget about – logic and reason.

  3. Did the Bantu in fact use these structures as cattle kraal, as recently as the 13th century? If so, were they making use of what at that time were already ancient artifacts, or were additional structures built by the Bantuu (or other indigenous peoples) in the intervening time?

    Many examples indicate that the Bantu people used the existing materials to build their own dwellings and kraals and sometime simply occupying existing structures.

    They were also used by the British and Boer soldiers in the South African War around 1900. This has introduced many contaminants into the original sites but many still remain pristine.

  4. If not, would you care to theorize on how this wrongful theory came to be accepted as doctrine?

    This incorrect doctrine was adopted by ignorant and lazy historians who have done very little research themselves into ancient human history – and simply accepted the stories taught in mainstream academic institutions.

    I know this sounds conspiratorial but unfortunately it is so. When ill informed people deal with the current finds they simply cannot see the bigger picture.

    It is as if there was no history in South Africa before the Bantu people arrived. This is obviously a very ignorant and arrogant stance – but it doe hold a firm grip an many academics in this part of the world. It is called political correctness and is doing us all a great disservice.

  5. The ruins cover a considerable piece of real estate. When I think of empires or civilizations with both a) similar geographical spread and b) an inclination to build durable structures ( for example, the Egyptians, Romans, Incans and Greeks, as opposed to the Sioux or Aborigine), I typically picture a display in a museum that includes all manner of ‘household items’: pots, tools, earthenware, jewelry and so forth. Has Makomati discovered any such artifacts?

    We are dealing with the largest and oldest city on Earth with many thousands of habitants over an extended period of time.

    With ancient terraces; roads; wells; irrigations systems; dwellings, temples and work places.

    Many artifacts that show a habitation period of over 300,000 years. With specific items pointing to various incidents.

    We also have what we now believe to be the OLDEST pottery in the world – maybe as old as 50,000 years. But the academics that dated it from WITS university in 1986 were so freaked out by this discovery that they returned the fragments to the owner with a short message – “They are about 10,000 years old.”

    Other archaeologists recall this find and attest that the ash heal in which the potter was found was around 30 – 50,000 years old.

  6. Same question as 1, above, applied specifically to Adam’s Calendar.

    Adam’s Calendar is the flagship among all these because it is unique in the world today and can be dated with some accuracy to a great time in antiquity.

  7. The people who built these structures: do they have a name? Beyond their architectural capabilities, what else do we know about them?

    We know very little about them except what we are discovering on a daily basis in the expansive ruins.

    They were most likely all involved in gold and other metal mining.

My thanks to Mr. Tellinger, and my invitation to anyone who’d care to contribute constructive input.

York, PA ice mystery begins to unfold

Posted in Evidence!, Fact Checking, Hysteria, Mysterious origins, Nature gone amok, The Unexplained with tags , , on October 22, 2008 by Eric S.

“Ice?” I hear old timers, raised in the days before global warming kicked into high gear, “Falling from the sky, you say? T’aint news. That’s what we old timers used to call snow.” Yeah, I threw in that “T’aint” bit because it sounded vaguely like the guy from the old Pepper Ridge Farms cookie commercials. Alas, it’s not the composition that makes this story a story in the news reporting sense of the word, so much as the girth of the invading particle and it’s mysterious origins:

(external video link)

Comet? Hailstone? So called ‘blue ice’? Sure, any of those *could* be the explanation. But come on, folks. How many comets, hailstones and hunks of frozen airline waste merit not only a full 2:10 news story, but demand the attention of a 4-person, multidisciplinary team of scientists including an earth scientist (e.g., code for ‘guy who knows how hunks of rock in outer space (not necessarily just Earth) are put together) and three (3!) biologists?? I’m not prone to alarmism, but this reeks of cover up. If the next thing you hear about this is reported by Tom Biscardi, I suggest you make sure all the supplies in your End of the World shelter are fresh.

Bigfoot press conference barely rates as a disappointment

Posted in Fact Checking, Mysterious origins, Rant, Sighting! with tags on August 16, 2008 by Eric S.

Okay, come on, really now… who’s actually suprised at how this whole We Done Caughted Us um Bigfoot press conference has played out? Believer, skeptic, undecided or uninterested, at the end of the day there’s only so much stock you can put in a press conference announced on a website with a masthead enshrouded in gif animation flames:

(image reproduced sans flame effect, as is displays in masthead of, apparently due to WordPress cheese-supression filters)

Coverage of the event plastered across the ‘Net just about everywhere except, peculiarly enough,

From the New York Times (reproduced in full):

Results from tests on genetic material from alleged remains of Bigfoot, made public at a news conference in Palo Alto held after the claimed discovery swept the Internet, failed to prove the existence of the mythical half-ape and half-human creature. The story was fueled by a photograph of a hairy heap, bearing a close resemblance to a shaggy full-body gorilla costume, stuffed into a container resembling a refrigerator. One of the two samples of DNA said to prove the existence of the Bigfoot came from a human and the other was 96 percent from an opossum, said Curt Nelson, a scientist at the University of Minnesota who performed the analysis.

From the Sydney Moring Herald:

Of three samples in a preliminary DNA test, one came back inconclusive, one contained traces of human DNA and one had traces of opossum DNA, probably from something the creature ate, they claimed.

They didn’t produce a Bigfoot corpse; that is in a hidden location, they said, after being moved from a freezer that broke down a couple of times. They will not say exactly where they found the creature and claim they saw a band of other Bigfoots watching them. Neither will they allow anyone other than their own hand-picked scientists to examine the body of the dead animal.

In honor of Terry Hulk Hogan’s immortal words proclaiming that professional wrestling is “as real as your imagination”, I leave the Scientific Method Slo Motion Replay to the likes of David, who’s already gotten started back here in the comments on Wednesday’s post. Honestly? What I find most shocking about event is the brilliance with which it’s nestled itself between instantly-dismissible poppycock and headline news. Yes, yes, I know that that’s the exact zone that local news teams and the purveyors of the Fox Pop-Sci Flavor of the Week live, but this one was covered by the New York Times.

Let’s review some facts:

  • The conference didn’t include actual bigfoot remains. Which, given the vigilance of airport security personnel, is hardly surprising (and also a swell indication that we’re all still safe from freedom-hating haters of freedom — go TSA!). While in legal proceedings neglecting to bring evidence actually works against your ability to make a case, in situations like this, they actually work against your critics. Because, hey, who are you going to believe: an actual eye witness, or some so-called ‘scientist’ who hasn’t even looked at real actual evidence?
  • The DNA analysis revealed traces of human DNA as well as traces of opossum DNA. Come on, admit it: when you heard opossum, your first reaction was something along the lines of WTF? And thats the brilliance of it: anything more reasonable (say, a new species of hominid) would have quickly disolved into boring, scientific analysis; anything less (say, a part human, part extraterrestrial hybrid) would have rung the bell of anyone that likes their toast toasted on both sides. But a part human part marsupial? That just gives you pause. Pause long enough to think through a couple of impossible scenarios. Pause long enough to make a couple of previously impossible-sounding scenarios seem even a little bit less impossible. Only as real as your imagination, folks.
  • The remains have not shown up on Ebay or been purchased by Yet.

What does all of this mean? I don’t claim to know. I suspect this will ultimately turn out to be a seemingly well meant but honest mistake, that some money will exchange hands, that a few more fifteen-minute intervals of fame will make the rounds, and that the mystery will continue. And have no doubt that that last part is a good thing. Why? Becuase as long as there’s enough of the planet left unpaved for there to be even the possibility of an undiscovered species of 7’6″, 1,000lb wookies to be roaming around, there’s a chance this whole imagination thing will be a skill we take with us when we skip along to a new rock.

Lightning-struck Michiganer wins lottery

Posted in Fact Checking, Nature gone amok, True Story with tags , , , on June 18, 2008 by Eric S.

This story on MSNBC blipped my weirdness radar from three sites away: a 16-year-old girl was struck by lightning, survived, and then won the lottery the next day. I mean, wow. What are the odds? I don’t know about lightning, but I did do a little legwork tracking down the odds of being hit by a meteor not terribly long ago, and figure meteor, lighting, what’s the diff?

And then… what gives? Twenty dollars? Twenty? I mean, I’m glad yound Miss Helsel is okay and all, but, come on. Extrapolating from these statistics I found on Them Internets (i.e., inarguable facts) some two thousand people are struck by lightning every year. Which isn’t a lot, given the current world population approaching 6 billion, but still too many for a list a recent lightning victims to be much of a draw in USA Today. And the number of people that win twenty-dollar bills every day? That’s another of those numbers I can’t really hold in my head. in Must’ve been a slow news day at MSNBC.

Yep. I can relate.

Whoa, look out for that gravity storm

Posted in Fact Checking, Nature gone amok, Randomalia with tags , , , , on June 12, 2008 by Eric S.

Yes, yes, I know it might seem lazy to post a video linked to in the ‘Related Videos’ column from a previous post (the one directly below this one, even), but you’ve got to admit it’s kinda cool. This is a 36-minute time lapse of an atmospheric event I had previously only heard referenced by Jimmy Buffett: a gravity storm. Or, either since it’s not actually storming per se or because the person that posted the video says so, a gravity wave:

I consulted the wiki elves to help patch this hole in my understanding of how the world works:

In fluid dynamics, gravity waves are waves generated in a fluid medium or at the interface between two mediums (e.g. the atmosphere or ocean) which has the restoring force of gravity or buoyancy.

Which totally cleared it up for me.

Errr, ummm, wait. Maybe I didn’t catch that on the first pass.

Since the fluid is a continuous medium, a traveling disturbance will result. In the earth’s atmosphere, gravity waves are important for transferring momentum from the troposphere to the mesosphere. Gravity waves are generated in the troposphere by frontal systems or by airflow over mountains. At first waves propagate through the atmosphere without affecting its mean velocity. But as the waves reach more rarefied air at higher altitudes, their amplitude increases, and nonlinear effects cause the waves to break, transferring their momentum to the mean flow.

So, what they’re saying is that, with the right gravitivity and/or polaritude, these waveforms cause an inverse yet reciporocal… okay, sorry. Lost it again.

The phase speed c of a linear gravity wave with wavenumber k is given by the formula

c = √ g/k,

where g is the acceleration due to gravity. Since c = ω / k is the phase speed in terms of the frequency ω and the wavenumber, the gravity wave frequency can be expressed as


The group velocity of a wave (that is, the speed at which a wave packet travels) is given by

cg = dw/dk,
and thus for a gravity wave,

cg = ½ √g/k = ½c.

The group velocity is one half the phase velocity. A wave in which the group and phase velocities differ is called dispersive.


blink, blink.

Okay, then. Honestly, though, none of this helps make that Buffett song make any more sense.

The Manhattan Equinox

Posted in Fact Checking, True Story with tags , , on May 28, 2008 by Eric S.

This might not be a big deal to those of you from outside the greater New York metro area, known to New Yorkers as out in the sticks or, in hipster vernacular, Pennsyltucky. But to folks who live in (or, in cases like mine, commute into) environs where direct sunlight is as rare of a commodity as, say, knockoff designer watches are out yonder in Pennsyltucky, it’s a big to do. Anyway, tonight at 8:15, the sun set directly down the center line of west-facing streets.

This is the view from just east of Herald Square, which is the intersection of 34th Street, Broadway and 6th Avenue as well as the site of Miracle of 34th Street (though the movie takes place in that department store in the right side of the frame).

Okay, okay… fact of the matter is, Manhattanites as a group don’t really think it’s that big of a deal. But they should. Lied to by subway maps and street signs for decades, it turns out our tightly regimented grid misses ‘true’ compass directions by an angle 28.9°. Add to that our distance from the equator and, well, let’s just say it’s impressive the sun ever sets here at all. The fact that, even once in a blue moon, it does so at the beginnings and ends of east-to-west running streets seems nigh impossible.

Alas, of course, it does. According to the Wiki Elves, weather permitting, one can behold a midlane sunset like today’s every May 28th, and again on July 12-13th. For midlane sunrises on the east end of town, you’ll have to get up early on December 5th or January 8th. Note that the length of time between sunset dates is 45 days, while the wait between sunrises is only 34 days; I’d speculate on possible conspiracy theories, but this is clearly the result of poor city planning.

Wikipedia credits astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson with coining the term for this phenomenon ‘Manhattanhenge’. An unnamed source — a mysterious, pronounless entity — sometimes refers to it as ‘Manhattan Solstice’. For my money, I believe that Manhattan Equinox is more accurate. To review: the equinox is the day when, at the equator, the sun rises in the east, hangs directly overhead at noon, and sets in the west causing day and night to be of equal duration (at least in theory: twilight (an effect of the atmosphere) and the fact that the sun is disk-shaped rather than a single point of light make day a bit longer). The solstice is when the sun sets as far north (or south) as it does during the course of the year, and daylight lasts the longest (or shortest). If you know someone refering to today’s celestial festivities as the Manhattan Solstice, please encourage them to hang their head in shame and/or change their wrongful ways.

Lowdown on the Caspian Sea Monster

Posted in *Them*, Fact Checking, Secret origins, True Story with tags , , , on May 12, 2008 by Eric S.

In the hopes of maybe spicing up the photo of the Chaiten volcano from last week, I did a quick Google image search for flying hammerhead shark. Truth to tell, I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope for actually *finding* such a beast, but Teh Google’s just full of surprises — you just never know what you’re going to get. And while I was mildly disappointed to find nary a single flying shark in all of Googledom, I was pleasantly surprised to find something almost equally cool: a secret cold war property of the pre-Hunt for Red October (i.e, Commie) Russians with the menacing moniker of The Caspian Sea Monster:

Image, and most of the following factoids, borrowed from

With a design sensibility immediately recognizable as both Russian and 1970’s, the Russian Ekranoplan looks to be a result of the same sort of cockamammie Soviet ingenuity that enabled their people to write in outer space not with a specially designed million dollar pen, but with a graphite pencil. Part plane, part boat, part tank, Mr. Lewis reports that the Ekranoplane had a speed of 550 knots (that’s 633 miles per hour to landlubbers), a loaded weight of 540 tonnes (no word on how much of that’s payload, but for comparative purposes, a loaded 747 is in the 80ish tonne range), and presumably for decorative purposes alone, a bank of six missile launchers. Being an amphibious craft, it was capable of deep, shallow, or no water landings, though it required a more or less flat entryway.

Here’s a video: