I’m sure most of my readers will have seen Mike Bara on Ancient Aliens, and most will probably vaguely recall that he’s a NASA conspiracy theorist. He, along with his colleague, Richard Hoagland, imagine all sorts of alien ruins on the moon and Mars and accuse NASA of covering them up, despite, of course, the obvious fact that much of the imagery they used to find these “ruins” was given to them by NASA itself.
Bara has previously attributed the origins of his alleged conspiracies to spiritual motives, including, in The Choice the hand of God. After appearing on Ancient Aliens, he changed his tune (like David Childress) and has published Ancient Aliens on the Moon (not coincidentally through Childress’s Adventures Unlimited Press) “to examine whether that unseen hand” that created the moon “might be ‘gods,’ with a lower case ‘g,’” and not God himself.
Mike Bara describes himself as a former “engineering consultant” for aerospace companies, which makes me wonder how exactly he managed that feat given how terrible he is at a basic understanding of the conventions of mathematics.
Let’s look at a claim from The Choice that is also reprinted in Ancient Aliens on the Moon:
Is it even worth pointing out the errors of logic and fact here? Well, of course it is. That’s what I’m here for.
Let’s start with the obvious. The moon’s does not have a diameter “at the equator” because the equator is an imaginary line surrounding the moon, while the diameter is an imaginary line going through it. He must mean its “equatorial diameter,” referring to the diameter as measured from two opposing points along the equator. (Scientists actually measure the radius, but since Bara prefers the diameter, we’ll stick with that.) The official equatorial diameter of the moon is 3476.28 km, which is 2160.06 miles. (The actual measurements were made in kilometers, so all mile values must be converted.) It is not “exactly” 2160 miles; that is the nearest whole number. The polar diameter is 3471.94 km, or 2157.36 miles. Yes, the supposedly artificial moon is not a perfect sphere. Figures for the diameter differ however, because many use the “mean” diameter, which averages the diameter at all points on the moon. This number is 3474.20 km, or 2158.77 miles. Due to rounding, this is why the “diameter” of the moon is typically given as “approximately” 2159 miles.
Now, let’s move on to the slightly less obvious. The precession of the equinoxes refers to the apparent backward drifting of the stars year by year due to the wobble of the earth’s axis. The convention of dividing this wobble into twelve “ages” derives from the creation of the twelve-house zodiac in Babylon in the first or second millennium BCE, long after the moon was created. An “Age” is artificially defined as the years in which the sun rises against a particular constellation on the spring equinox. Currently, the sun is transitioning from Pisces to Aquarius, but the exact moment of transition differs by astrologer. This is because the division of the zodiac into twelve equal houses is equally artificial, a convention created to even out the fact that the twelve zodiac constellations are of varying size and do not take up equal space in the night sky. This entire phenomenon exists only relative to human observation from earth and rests entirely on the (human, Western) convention of assigning 12 imaginary constellations to an equally imaginary 360 degrees across the fictitious dome of the sky.
But no matter, let’s give him his precession. Here’s the thing, it’s not 2,160 years to the Age. That, again, is a convention born of bad math. The actual time it takes for the full “Great Year” (a complete cycle of the sun around the whole zodiac) is 25,772 years. That works out not to 2,160 years per Age but 2,148 years per Age (rounded to the nearest year). Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, in Hamlet’s Mill, speculated that the ancients couldn’t preserve such complex figures in oral traditions, so they rounded off the numbers, rendering the 71.6 years it takes the sun to move one degree (again, conventionally defined: there is no particular reason to assign 360 degrees to the circle) as 72 years. This gets us from the actual 2,148 years to the conventional 2,160 years, and the conventional “Great Year” of 26,000 years even. Graham Hancock picked up on these speculations and popularized them. Mike Bara, ignoring or ignorant of all this, simply takes the rounded numbers as facts.
At this point, there’s probably no reason to pile on, but there is another layer of error. The mile has no relationship whatsoever to the moon. The kilometer, based on the meter, at least has a claim to be based on the measurement of the earth. It was originally designed to be one ten millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole at sea level. Today it’s defined as the distance traveled by light in a vacuum over 1/299,792,458 of a second—a completely arbitrary number used to justify the standard meter, which, as luck would have it, was based on a faulty measurement of the earth’s circumference. (The meter’s official length has only been fixed since 1983.)
The mile, by contrast, lacks even this loose relationship to the outside world. The current English mile is based on the arbitrary definition of the statute mile defined only in 1593 CE by Elizabeth I. Prior to this, different miles were used. In 1500, a mile of 5,000 feet was in use in Britain, while in medieval times, a mile measured 1.3 statute miles. All of these were very roughly derived from the old Roman mile, the mille passuum, or thousand paces. This measured 5,000 Roman feet, or 1,617 (modern) yards. In Ireland, a mile of 1.25 English miles was standard down to the twentieth century. Needless to say, other countries had different definitions.
Now, to make this more fun: Every English-speaking country defined its mile slightly differently due to differences in the exact length of feet and yards used in those countries. The U.S. mile, for example, was based on the U.S. yard, which differed from the English yard ever so slightly from 1893 to 1959, when an international convention finally fixed the many and varying forms of the yard by tying its official length to the meter! U.S. yards used after 1959 are one eighth of an inch per mile shorter than those used before. Over the moon’s 2,160-mile diameter, that would be a nominal difference of 22.5 feet due entirely to how the yard is defined.
But wait, there’s more! Thanks to the redefinition of the meter in 1983, the length of the yard changed slightly (by 2 parts per million), leading to a patchwork of conversion problems as different governments (sometimes, like in the U.S., within the same country) accepted or rejected the new standard.
All of this is irrelevant, however, because the “foot” used to define the “yard” used to define the “mile” is applicable only in England, where it was defined only around 1300 CE in the law called the Compositio ulnarum et perticarum, which tried to create one standard to avoid confusion between Roman and Anglo-Saxon feet, which differed in size. Other countries had (and have) different foot sizes (leading to the myth that Napoleon was short since the British failed to recognize that French feet were so much larger).
Since the unit of measurement exists only because of a random compromise adjudicating between the differing Roman and Anglo-Saxon foot sizes imposed by the English government in the Middle Ages, I can’t imagine that space aliens anticipated this random occurrence, or that England would become a world power, imposing its measurements on America, which, in turn, would reject the meter, thus leading to the designation of the moon as approximately 2,160 miles in equatorial diameter.
So, in all three claims of the moon’s diameter, the length of the precessional year, and the value of the unit of measurement, Bara isn’t just wrong; he is aggressively ignorant and peddling false claims that are even worse than lies since he seems to actually believe them and want others to believe them, too.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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