Thursday, August 23, 2012


Part #2 – Noise and Image Enhancement


The first of Stuart’s (PS4NASA) 3 pillars of support for his claim that the Daedalus Ziggurat is a hoax is the presence of what he claims is "noise" in the original image, as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg. Or, as Stuart (PS4NASA) puts it:

“1. Why there is less noise in the NASA original but more noise in Mike’s, and why is there more contrast (more pure black and more saturated highlights) in Mike’s? Both of these pretty much always indicate that the one with more noise and more contrast is a later generation … you can’t just Photoshop in more detail like that.”

Response: To start with, I have no idea why there differences in the original, which I have repeatedly pointed out is not “mine,” although I have several thoughts on it which I will cover in these posts.  I assume that as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg is different from the NASA image because somebody scanned it, enhanced it, and then reduced it for uploading to the web, but I really don’t know. Further, I do not agree that there are “more pure black and more saturated highlights” in as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg. Quite obviously, there is far more pure black in the NASA version because of all the paint brushing they did. Contrast in the NASA image”5564.jpg” will be addressed in the final posting. As to the 2nd part about your claims being an indication that as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg is a “later generation,” than “5564.jpg,” you have no proof of that. It’s just your opinion. And we both know what opinions are like, don’t we Stuart (PS4NASA)?

As for the statement “…you can’t just Photoshop in more detail like that.” I’m not really positive, but I think he’s saying that because the NASA fake image has “more detail” in it, that means it must be older or “better” than the Ziggurat image because you can’t use Photoshop to add in detail. Therefore by his (incorrect) deduction, the Ziggurat image must have been made from the NASA image “5564.jpg.” Once again, this is simply his opinion, and I don’t share it. However, NASA has tons of specialized software and high end computing resources that could easily do many of the things he claims Photoshop can’t do. He even admits to using many of these tools on his blog.

I guess he thinks this is important to his argument because he’s trying to prove that the Ziggurat image was somehow conjured up from the image currently on the NASA website. And of course he previously implied that either Hoagy or I had done this. But his argument really proves no such thing, even if he was right. All it proves is that one image has more “noise” in it, which by itself is proof of nothing.

Which brings us to “noise,” and image enlargement and reduction. 

In his post, Stuart (PS4NASA) claims, as others also have, that reducing an image as Stuart (PS4NASA) did when he shrank the Ziggurat image by 15% “reduces noise” and thereby makes the image somehow “better.” After all, if it doesn’t make the image “better,” why would you do it?

But once again this is simply wrong. Reducing an image doesn’t make it better in any way, shape or form. All it does is reduce the amount of information in that digital image.

Here’s the full size image of the Ziggurat that I sent to Richard. As you can see, the pixel dimensions are 2.53 megabytes, and the size of the uncompressed Tiff file on my hard drive is exactly the same. The Jpeg version is about 200K.
Now let’s take this image of the Ziggurat and reduce it as Stuart (PS4NASA) did.

I took the same image and reduced it to 10% to make a point, then zoomed up on it for this image. I’m sure any “normal” person (Stuart’s [PS4NASA] word he used when talking about me) would agree that it’s worse, not better, than the original. This is because reducing a digital image doesn’t just reduce noise, it reduces all information across the board in an image, noise included, and makes it more pixelated and less accurate. In short, it reduces the signal AND the noise.

Which is of course, is why he did it in the first place.

In addition, there is also a nifty tool in Photoshop called “Reduce Noise” that does a perfectly excellent job of reducing noise in an image. Here’s a version of the Ziggurat that I used the filter on. It’s a bit blurry, but you can still see all the major features and it’s not reduced to the size of a postage stamp in the process:

Obviously, this version is much better than the Stuart (PS4NASA )reduced version. So why any “normal” person would reduce an image to make it “better” is beyond me. It can only make it worse, and make fine detail harder to see. Maybe Stuart (PS4NASA) just hasn’t noticed that tool in Photoshop in his 20-plus years of experience working with the program.

Yeah, that’s probably it.

Then, Stuart (PS4NASA) tries to justify his actions in his latest blog post, and along the way admits that what I just demonstrated is true:

“Yes, it will reduce some detail. That is true.”

Thanks Stuart (PS4NASA), I knew that already. He then of course goes on to argue that it doesn’t really count:

“But at 85.28%, it will not change the detail enough to say “oh look, there’s a pyramid there” versus “what happened to the pyramid?!” and it WILL REDUCE the noise by roughly 8ish%.”

Ok Stuart (PS4NASA), if that’s true, then why do it AT ALL? As I just showed you, you can get much better noise reduction with far more precise control by using the “Reduce Noise…” filter in Photoshop. Again, the only reason a “normal” person would reduce an image is to reduce the amount of detailed information in the image. Further, his claim that such an action would not reduce the detail enough to make a difference... I guess we just disagree on that. I’m looking at very fine details in the Ziggurat image and I don’t want to destroy any of them by reducing it.

Stuart (PS4NASA) then goes on to claim that that my statement that interpolating an image will improve it is “factually and demonstrably false.”

“But I’m sorry, Mike, your statement that upsampling (interpolating) makes an image better is factually and demonstrably false. You cannot get more information than was there originally.”

This is  standard shtik from the "debunkers 101" debating manual. I never said that interpolating a digital image can “get more information than was there originally.” What I said was; “This upsampling process would have the effect of actually making the NASA image better, rather than making the original enhancement worse.”

Again, this is a standard professional debunkers technique of making me defend/rebut statements I never made. But nonetheless, let’s examine it more closely using a classic example; our old friend, the Face on Mars.

Here is the original image of the Face on Mars from NASA frame 35A72 that caused so much excitement back in 1976. As you can see, it is full of genuine “salt and pepper” noise and is very contrasty. A few years later a number of imaging specialists, including Dr. Mark Carlotto, took a shot at enhancing that image and several others. The results were rather striking.

“Raw” 35A72 data enhanced by Dr. Mark Carlotto

As you can see, Dr. Carlotto (who got his Ph.D. while your mom was still wiping your nose for you, Stuart [PS4NASA]) was able to do a lot with primitive computers using his own enhancement algorithms long before anyone had ever heard of anything called “Photoshop.” The really interesting thing though is that he got most all of the noise out without reducing the image by even one pixel. But let’s test Stuart’s (PS4NASA) argument on this data anyway.

Actual size

Taking the Face itself and clipping it out of the above data (and rotating it) we can see that it looks much better than the raw, unprocessed version released by NASA in 1976. But if we zoom up on it at the native resolution, we see that it is choppy, pixelated and very course, and lacking in fine detail. This is called “pixel replication,” and is an entirely different process than interpolation.

Better than the original at least

Now let’s follow Stuart (PS4NASA)’s method of “enhancing” a digital image and reduce it to make it look “better.”


Oops. Well that didn’t work so well for us did it Stuart (PS4NASA)? I think most “normal” people would agree that using your method of “enhancement” made the image worse. A lot worse.

So let’s do something different. Let’s use the method that I recommended and that Dr. Carlotto was one of the true innovators of; let’s enlarge it through interpolation.

Interpolated version of 35A72 by Dr. Mark Carlotto

Well gee, look at that. Again, any “normal” person can tell that this is much better than the reduced version. More fine detail, less noise, better overall image. That’s what interpolation does.


In fact, a few years later, Dr. Carlotto was able to improve on the interpolation process and produced even better results showing more fine detail including the “teeth” in the mouth, nostrils in the nose, striping on the headdress, an eyeball in the west eye socket and the so-called “teardrop” just below it. All of these features were later verified by higher resolution images of the Face.

Interpolated images of the Face on Mars by Dr. Mark Carlotto from NASA frames 35A72 (L) and 70A13 (R)

So, does any “normal” person out there really think that you can get this kind of detail from reducing the image, rather than interpolating it? I hope not. Interpolation has been a standard technique for enhancing digital images of this type for decades.

And they are still using it today. Here’s an image taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRise camera of the Curiosity rover descending over the Martian sands on its way to a landing in Gale crater. As most “normal” people can see, it is small and rather contrasty, much like the original image of the Face on Mars.

But a few days later, NASA released this new close-up full size image of the rover and its parachute. Only this one was upsampled (interpolated), contrast enhanced and worked over with specialized filters to remove the noise and sharpen the image.

And a few days later, private enthusiasts did an even better job by interpolating it even more.  At this point, I’ll leave it to the “normal” people reading this to deduce which image is better, the upsampled/interpolated image or the orginal postage-stamp version.

So the bottom line is this: Stuart (PS4NASA) didn’t reduce the image of the Ziggurat to improve it, he reduced it to make it worse, because that’s what data reduction does. Still, Stuart (PS4NASA) is correct that interpolation doesn’t “add” information to an image. But I never said it did. What interpolation does is enhance the information that is already there, to make an image better.

That’s why they call it “image enhancement,” Stuart (PS4NASA), and not “image degradation,” which is what your technique did.

Before I move on, I want to say one more very important thing about the “noise” that Stuart (PS4NASA) is so obsessed about. He seems to have seized on this as some sort of proof that the original Ziggurat image has been tampered with. Not only do I dispute this line of reasoning in its entirety -- as I have made clear in my previous posts -- there is another reason the so-called “noise” doesn’t bother me.

 I don’t think it’s noise.

At least, I’m not convinced it’s not some sort of semi-transparent, intervening medium between the camera and the Ziggurat far below. As you know, Hoagland’s theory for more than 15 years has been that the Moon is covered in miles-high glass structures acting as a meteor shield over formerly inhabited areas. The evidence for this is compelling, and is covered not only in Dark Mission but will be revisited in Ancient Aliens on the Moon. The point is, I think there’s just as good a chance that what Stuart (PS4NASA) think is “noise” is actually a reflection off of real glass structures on the Moon somewhere in the area of the crater Daedalus R. This would also neatly explain why Stuart (PS4NASA) can’t seem to get his head around the lighting geometry in the original Ziggurat photo, although I think it’s obvious and doesn’t need the exotic glass structures argument to support it. But that is Part III.

Besides the two explanations I listed previously to explain the so-called “noise,” there is a 3rd possibility, which is why the “noise” on “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg” never bothered me. In looking at scans of actual first-generation Apollo photographs, as I've done over the years, you can see plenty of dust and dirt accumulation on the print, which is especially visible in the dark areas. Now, this may look like noise to a scanner and to Photoshop (as well as paid NASA shills), but it is really just a normal build-up of residue on the print from 40 years of sitting in a photo album under a plastic sheet.

Photo albums from the 1960’s and 1970’s had pages with a sticky adhesive on them which were in a very even, spotted pattern on the matte. A thin plastic sheet on the front protected the prints. But, if a photo were placed under one of these sheets and the opposite page didn’t have a photo on it, then the pattern of sticky spots on the opposite page would eventually leave an imprint the photo. This is especially true if the albums were stacked one on top of the other for oh, say, 40 years.

Pull any old family photo from a photo album stored this way and you will see this pattern, regardless of how well you’ve taken care of them. The plastic sheets themselves, pressed tightly against the prints for decades by the weight of the rest of the album, will adhere to the print in some places and leave marks on the photo print in pattern of regular, little raised sticky spots. If you were to pull this print from the album 30 or 40 years later, scan it at high resolution and increase the gamma, it would show this pattern of marks all over the scan, which would have to be removed with a noise reduction filter (Note to Stuart [PS4NASA]: NOT by reducing the image).

The only way you can minimize this is by storing the photos using expensive horzontal photo albums purchased from photography stores. This is exactly how Ken Johnston has stored his prints for decades.

So what I have always suspected is that the so-called “noise” in “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg” isn’t noise at all. What probably happened is that some other NASA veteran had an original or near-first generation print of AS11-38-5564 in his collection, stored in a photo album, and his curious son or nephew came along one day, went through his old photo albums and saw the Ziggurat and said “Holy S***!” This person then scanned and processed the image as best he could and posted it on the web, where it has been making the rounds for a while until I spotted it and gave it to Richard.

Look again at this contrast enhanced version of as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg and note the sticky spot pattern all across the image. It is aligned with the actual vertical/horizontal of a print of AS11-48-5564, rather than the rotated close-up. Now go pull an old, pressed down image from a photo album. They’ll look exactly the same.

When you rotate the image to match the orientation of the official NASA version, it becomes even more obvious that most of the “noise” Stuart (PS4NASA) claims is on the image is actually photo-album residue. Again, pull some old photos from your family’s photo albums and make a comparison. Depending on how long they’ve been in there, you’ll find that they are most likely a perfect match for the residue pattern seen on as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg.

And again, when you show as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg and the photo album glue page aligned as they truly would be if the Ziggurat image came from photographic original stored for several decades as I’ve described, they match perfectly.

I would place the likelihood of this scenario at about 95%, and this discussion is part of the “due diligence” that Richard mentioned on Coast to Coast AM the night he revealed the image to the world. What this means is that Stuart’s (PS4NASA) belief that the presence of this “noise” somehow proves that “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg” is a later generation image than NASA’s “5564.jpg” is false, or at least dubious in the extreme.  What then follows is that his further conclusion/declaration that the Ziggurat on “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg” must have been “drawn-in” on top of “5564.jpg” is also most likely an incorrect conclusion based on faulty reasoning.

In fact, it is the other way around. The scan of “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg” was almost certainly made from an earlier generation NASA print, and “5564.jpg” was made much later – decades later in fact – and the offending Ziggurat was digitally removed since “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg” had already been making the rounds of the web.

So, just to quickly recap:

1. There is not less noise in the NASA image “5564.jpg” than in the Ziggurat image “as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg.” What Stuart (PS4NASA) thinks is "noise" is actually photo-album residue marks on the early generation photographic print that "as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg" was culled from.

2. Stuart's (PS4NASA) assumption that "as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg" was therefore made after NASA's “5564.jpg,” and by his faulty reasoning manufactured from it in Photoshop is therefore falsified.

3. "as1120pyramid20smallue2.jpg" shows every indication of being scanned from an early generation photographic print, and therefore has an earlier derivation than "5564.jpg."

4. Stuart’s (PS4NASA) claims that reducing an image will reduce noise is only partially correct. It will in fact reduce both the data quality and the noise. Stuart (PS4NASA) admits this on his own blog.

5. Stuart’s (PS4NASA) claims that "upsampling (interpolating) makes an image better is factually and demonstrably false" is shown to be factually and demonstrably false. Interpolation improves the quality and of an image, as proven by the NASA images shown.

And all this pretty much blows point #1 out of the water.

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