Posts Tagged ‘hoaxes’

Fake Fallout Map is Fake — But Real Map Is Real

March 17th, 2011 No comments

Back on the 14th, Snopes debunked a fraudulent map circulating on the net, purporting to be from the Australian Radiation Services. That is a real organization, but has nothing to do with the above purported “fallout map,” which looks a little like something that would show up on the inside cover of a Gamma World reboot.

The “rad” is an obsolete unit of absorbed radiation dose. The unit currently in use is the “roentgen-equivalent man,” or rem, in the United States, and the sievert in most other countries. The use of the rad as a unit can often be a tip-off that any information you’re getting about radiation is fraudulent or pseudoscientific, which has been true for a while now.

Obviously, since doses above 1000 rads are likely fatal, and doses above 200 rads usually cause serious illness, this map is intended to freak you out. Did it work?

In any event Monday the 14th (or even earlier, over the weekend) would have been a ludicrous time to begin making projections about how much radiation would cross the Pacific, especially since nobody’s 100% sure even now. It’s almost certain to be irrelevant in medical terms, however.

The REAL projection, from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, doesn’t include amounts of radiation. It also has these wonky dots that represent the Organization’s monitoring stations. That map appears to be entirely un-fraudulent and was obtained by the New York Times despite its not being released to the member governments but not to the public by the Organization — probably in an attempt to avoid causing panic (way to go!!!)

The Australian Radiation Service puts the following disclaimer at the top of its site, in red:

DISCLAIMER: Australian Radiation Services is aware of information about radioactive contamination being spread from the Japanese nuclear reactor incident released under the ARS logo and name.  We wish to be clear that this information has not originated from ARS and as such distance ourselves from any such misinformation.

[Snopes Link.]

[Australian Radiation Services Link.]

The real projection is far less satisfying in visceral terms — see? Here is a screencap of it, and you can find the real interactive version at The New York Times, who loves you far more than the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

Screencap from the New York Times

MIT Damage Control and Josef Oehmen’s “Why I Am Not Worried” About Fukushima

March 16th, 2011 2 comments

There’s  an essay making the rounds by Dr. Josef Oehmen of MIT. It’s called “Why I’m Not Worried About Japan’s Nuclear Plants.” I’ve now seen it posted about 10 times to various message boards discussing the Fukushima I disaster — often by what appear to be trolls, and often with laudatory remarks. In it, Oehmen rails against the media for inaccurate reporting. It’s been reposted on hundreds of message boards, picked up by Discover Magazine and The Telegraph, and I’m quite confident it’s been emailed all over the place.

The piece is presented as if Oehmen’s being at MIT means he’s a nuclear expert because people at MIT are, y’know, SMART. The piece “went viral,” including being posted on a site run by Siemens, a major nuclear-industry powerhouse. In it, Oehmen says that there has not been and will not be a significant release of radiation from the Fukushima I site.

Justin Elliot does a great and thorough debunking on Salon, but here are the high points. Not only is the piece days out of date at this point, but it’s fraudulent twaddle to begin with. It’s been posted, and Oehmen appears to have allowed it to be posted, with the strong implication that his being an “MIT scientist” gives him expertise in this issue. It doesn’t.

The essay was written before releases of radiation had been confirmed, but since some earlier radiation accident at the MIT lab rendered Doctor Happy capable of predicting the future, he may have gotten a bit confused about the benefits of being able to read by yourself at night (it does save on the  power bills, that’s for sure).

The essay, now posted to a site maintained by MIT’s nuclear engineering department, has been modified. Says Justin Elliott at Salon:

So does Oehmen actually work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology? Yes. But not in the nuclear engineering department. He works at an entity called the Lean Advancement Initiative, which focuses on business management issues. Is he a “research scientist”? Yes. But, again, not in any nuclear field. Oehmen’s research focuses on “risk management” with an eye to helping companies “take entrepreneurial risks.” He writes papers on things like “Human Resource Management in China.”

I e-mailed Oehmen to ask if he stands by the claims in the post. He referred me to the MIT press office, which in turn told me that Oehmen is not doing interviews.

An updated version of Oehmen’s blog post is now being hosted at a website set up by students in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Oehmen’s crucial claim — that there was no chance radiation would be released — has been cut. The title, which was originally “Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors,” has been changed. An introduction pointedly says, “Note that the title of the original blog does not reflect the views of the authors of the site.”


Oehmen’s expertise in the nuclear industry is that his father worked in the German nuclear industry. And his area of expertise is…is that supply chain management?!?? I’m not totally sure what any of this means in the version of English spoken by non-academics. He sounds like a business/economics guy, I visited the damage-control site MIT set up.

I found Oehmen’s list of publications, which is all very educational but it’s not his CV. His bio basically spells out his academic studies, and indicates that he did study mechanical engineering, which is in no way shape or form nuclear engineering. It’s all a little obfuscating because high-end academic shit is frankly so filled with buzzwords as to be basically incomprehensible to us simple cavemen.

An actual CV would be more helpful.

So I hit the link for Oehmen’s CV, which is right there on the MIT damage-control site. I wanted to find out what his undergraduate and graduate degrees are in, specifically. guess what I got? THIS.

That’s right, it’s the same damage-control page — a fail-safe loop, leading me back to asking “Who’s on first?” Simple technical error, or has Oehmen’s actual CV been taken down? Who knows? Who cares? Why bother?

This one is actually getting tagged not just with “accidents,” just with “hoaxes.” MIT, an institution for which I have enormous respect, should never be allowed to live this one down.

[Salon Link via Daphne Gottlieb.]

Lehi-Based Sculptor Claims Responsibility for UtahFOs

February 20th, 2011 No comments

Lehi-based sculptor Andrew Smith has claimed responsibility for a series of UFO sightings reported over Utah County, Utah in January of this year, which he says he hoaxed using hinted-at but undisclosed methods. But commenters on the story say that the lights reported over Chicago, Illinois are identical to the ones Smith says he created. And, perhaps most importantly, Smith has nothing of substance he’s willing to provide about exactly how he created the lights, though he does hint at it in the most recent news clip featured on his YouTube channel.

Here’s what Smith told ABC4 in Salt Lake City:

Smith says he experiments with art all the time, from machines, water, to lights and now apparently flares.

The Lehi man won’t say exactly how he gets those strange lights up in the sky but he admits he uses helium and flares along with some other sorts of apparatuses.  “Let’s just say I use helium and it’s not Chinese lanterns up there nor planes with LED lights.”

The artist says he was just experimenting and when he saw the news reports, he decided to do it again.

He showed ABC4 his video of the latest event, and says there’s a reason why he’s coming forward. “I don’t want it to spiral out of control and turn into something more than it needs to be so I thought I’d come forward now.”

The ABC4 story provided a link to a raw video on Smith’s YouTube channel. The video provides no further information about how the lights might have been hoaxed, but is taken from a much better vantage point than the cell-phone camera footage featured on an earlier news story.

Commenters on the ABC4 story refer to YouTube video of a similar Chicago sighting that purportedly occurred on February 18 — the same day Smith talked to ABC-4. And how can you not trust footage posted by someone named “tastethesourpickle” — especially when his on-screen response to his haters in his earlier (very similar) sighting is “GTFO, homos”?

Tracey Parese reports that similarly orange UFOs were seen over Boston in 2010, as were some utterly unconvincing ones during a beantown New Year’s Eve celebration.

Of course, this all pales in comparison to the kerfuffle over the 2010 Jerusalem UFO sightings, which appeared over the ancient Islamic Shrine of the Rock — inviting the serious eschatology nuts out of the closet.

The Jerusalem event was widely reported and shot from many different angles. Discovery News says that based on the apparent size of the object — no bigger than a passenger car — it’s either a deliberate hoax or some reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeealllly small aliens.

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