Doggone Dogon.

I was reminded today of the myth that a certain African tribe (the Dogon) were privy to special astronomical knowledge that could only have been conveyed to them by aliens. The best debunk I’ve seen of this is on a site that I wouldn’t necessarily expect to find it on – well done to the author. Absolutely nothing I could add.  There’s also a summary and a letters page of sorts on Skepdic.

The tl;dr is that it’s likely that the Dogon had taken on board new information about the star in question (Sirius) from prior western visitors. Rather than aliens.



‘sup niggas?

Aaaaaah! Ghost dog!

I trust readers will recognise my title for what it is (an ironic Shaun of the Dead quote), and not go all drama-llama on me. That aside, I had to post about this pathetic piece of ‘news’

Ghost of the Dambusters dog: Picture ‘shows long-dead Labrador’ at memorial to WWII heroes

More in the form of a video from the Beeb (shame!) here.

If it’s a ‘long-dead’ dog, then why the blue blazes is one of the schoolgirls in the grainy photo touching the bloody thing? We don’t even get the usual photographic anomaly – what this ‘story’ boils down to is a real, flesh-and-blood dog wandering over to a group photo (‘appearing from nowhere’) and then wandering off again (disappearing, ‘never to be seen again’). Well, if that’s the photographer being quoted, who was only visiting RAF Scampton, why the hell would he see it again?? If he’s saying that no-one ever saw it again, how the heck does he/anyone know? Black labs are hardly rare, and tend to all look alike (racist black mark #2 against me I fear). I seriously doubt that none have ever visited since.

The idea that you can precisely measure a ‘dog-sized’ area of depressed temperature is hilarious.  I find it odd that despite claiming that the group’s aim is ‘to debunk rather than prove’, it seems that Mr Drake’s mind is made up in this case despite the flimsy evidence, when he’s quoted as saying;

‘There is definitely paranormal activity there.’

Not so much evidence of the paranormal. More evidence that school choirs make field trips and black labradors like people. Newsflash.

This may be great PR for Scampton and may help keep the memory of 617 Sqn alive as the quoted historian says (although the words ‘end’, ‘justifies’ and ‘means’ spring to mind), but let’s not forgot that it also generates more publicity for the ghost hunting group coming up with these claims.

The Daily Dino Fail

Whilst catching up on some of the great dino-gossip on the Dinosaur Mailing List, I came across this little gem of a Daily Mail article that I’d missed through my usual online channels:

‘T-Rex of the Deep: Fossil of 135million-year-old predator dinosaur related to vicious meat-eater discovered completely INTACT’

The first ‘WTF?’ moment came with the title. This was not a T. Rex specimen, nor any type of tyrannosaurid. It’s part of a rather large suborder of dinosaur (see here for a simple cladogram) – the therapoda. There are countless dinosaur species that it’s far closer to, though I suppose by media standards it’s not an UNtrue statement to make.

But then there’s the ‘of the deep’ bit, which makes no sense whatever. This is very similar to the title of an episode of ‘Monsters Resurrected’ about mosasaurs (probably by coincidence, as it turns out). Yet the description, photos, and all other reports on the find in question, make clear that it was a land-based (theropod) dinosaur. What gives? All will become clear – well, nearly all. Time for some BS Palaeontology!

As contributors to the Dinosaur Mailing List pointed out, aside from the wonderful photo of the real fossil in question, the other two images are clearly nothing to do with the find. Thanks to the attribution that the Mail are obliged to provide, it didn’t take too long to find the very library pictures that they’d arbitrarily chosen to pad out this story:

They are taken from a February 2011 find in Antarctica of an archaeocetes – a primitive whale. Which explains why one caption in the dodgy article states:

‘Unearthed: Scientists uncovering the remains of the dinosaur thought to be a relative of the modern-day whale.’

Now, if we look at the Mail comments section, we find that a fourth image was taken down after a comment from a UK reader;

Its extremely unlikely that the ‘computer generated image’ is what the paleontologists who found Otto think he looked like. Did you invent this? Among several differences is the fact that the image is of a sea dwelling creature with a flipper-like tail, and crucially very small rear flippers laterally. The skeleton however clearly has very large rear legs with claws – hence the description ‘Beast-footed’ and suggestion that it is in the same family as the T-Rex. Since I doubt you would show a picture of the wrong skeleton (although this is plausible), I suggest the second image is falsely captioned.
– Alex, Yorkshire, UK, 12/10/2011 19:04

Which rather well describes this artist’s impression from the same story, to be found in the same archive:

Not only falsely captioned Alex, but nothing at all to do with the story at hand.
Quite how the author managed this triumph of fail is beyond me. It’s almost as though they received the press release, went looking for more in the way of ‘Time Team’ style images, found these from another story entirely, and then somehow convinced themselves that they were indeed one and the same. Maybe an overworked writer. Maybe a case of too many cooks. Or maybe a work experience lad given a little too much responsibility. Who knows. But it’s pretty poor and confusing journalism. In the interests of fairness, the blooper about ‘hair and traces of skin’ (dinosaurs not being hairy and skin only surviving as impressions in rock) seems to have been in the main press release and may the result of bad translation from the original German.

Makes you wonder how many other of their articles are this badly cobbled together. This excellent site suggests that the answer is ‘lots’.