FAQ on Charles Moore's Mogul Balloon Trajectory Hoax

Originally published on UFO Updates

Q: What is Moore's so-called Mogul trajectory hoax?

A: It is a model calculation by former Mogul Project balloon scientist Charles Moore, based on historical wind data, that supposedly demonstrated how Moore's lost Flight #4 Mogul balloon launched June 4, 1947, explained a crash reported in early July on the Foster Ranch, that triggered the so-called Roswell crashed flying saucer incident. In 1997, Moore bragged that the winds were "exactly right" and that his calculation "exactly landed" the balloon on the Foster Ranch. By implication, in many minds, this virtually proved his balloon explained the Roswell events. But when Brad Sparks and I went over Moore's tables and calculations in 2002, we discovered Moore's trajectory was fraudulent and that Moore had resorted to numerous cheats to get his balloon to his desired location. 

Q: So what exactly were these so-called "cheats?"

A: It's complicated, because Moore cheated in so many different ways. The sheer complexity of the deception confuses people and also tends to turn them off because if of the length of time it takes to carefully go into the details. But basically Moore cheated by claiming to use certain assumptions and methods, but secretly substituting other bogus assumptions and methods when he did the actual set-up of his trajectory calculation table and his final calculation. The major deceptions are in three categories:
    1) Moore's actual table balloon rise/fall rates seriously conflict with half of his given ones (thus
        crazy numbers like 100/12.1 = 350 or 852/2.8 = 100)
    2) Moore claimed he was assuming the balloon had perfectly functioning equipment, but instead
        he secretly treated it as faulty. In setting up his calculation table, he gave it drastically
        shortened rise and fall times to drastically shorten the trajectory and prevent serious overshoot
        of the crash site.
    3) Moore claimed to be calculating his final trajectory using one method (that was correct), but
        used another instead that was mathematically incorrect, again to shorten the trajectory. 

Q: Well surely Prof. Moore has refuted your charges as baseless, right?

A: Wrong. The only word from Moore, via debunker Dave Thomas, is that Moore "didn't want to get into the math." If our charges had no merit, math would be the first thing Moore would argue. The fact that he won't argue the math is a really an admission that he CAN'T argue the math because it is fraudulent, as we charged. (How can one argue that 100/12.1 really equals 350?) But other than this, Moore has remained silent and has issued no retractions. He has let Thomas, and other debunkers like Tim Printy, act in his stead.  Since they can't argue scientifically, they have resorted to propaganda techniques instead to deflect the criticism and confuse the real issues in the public's mind. Among the propaganda ploys, e.g., is to avoid addressing the real math issues and/or accuse us of in engaging in nothing more than "character assassination," to give the impression that criticism of Moore is only personal and not based on anything of substance. 

Q: Let's get into the details. Did Moore claim that he was assuming Flight #4 used their best equipment, was similarly configured to and flew and well or better than the successful Flight #5 the next day? 

A: Yes he did. This clearly implied he was also assuming Flight #4's altitude control equipment functioned properly, like Flight #5, and #4 should have had similar rise and fall profiles as #5. 

Q: So did Moore use a similar rise profile as Flight #5?

A: No, he did not. In his calculation table, he secretly eliminated a lifter balloon cutoff, present on Flight #5 (and other flights), whose purpose was to drastically slow the ascent above 35,000'. Instead of treating #4 like #5, he treated it more like the faulty and failed Flight #6, whose altitude control equipment was noted as being damaged on launch. Lifter balloon cutoff never happened for #6; it rose straight up to high altitude and came straight down. 

Q: So what? 

A: First, Moore was cheating by saying he was assuming one thing but doing something else entirely. Second, and more importantly, this cheating had the effect of cutting about 20 minutes and over 20 miles from the ascent trajectory by having #4 race through the high wind area between about 35,000' and 52,000', instead of having a much slower ascent in this region like #5. This is one way Moore surreptitiously prevented serious overshoot of the Foster Ranch crash site and a critical balloon turn point. 

Q: This is a serious charge. Surely skeptics like Tim Printy and Dave Thomas have addressed it, right? 

A: Wrong. No skeptic will go near it. They either pretend it doesn't exist (e.g. Thomas) or argue all around it, taking the discussing off on irrelevant tangents (e.g. Printy). Again, the reason they won't deal directly with the issue is because they can't. There is no rational or honest defense. 

Q: Did Moore use a similar fall profile as Flight #5? 

A: No, he did not. In his table, he eliminated the noted #5 descent ballast dumps, which drastically slowed its fall, and had #4 fall almost twice as fast. Again, he was treating #4 as a balloon with faulty equipment, contrary to his stated assumption. His model #4 fell an equivalent distance from stratosphere to ground in only 59 min. compared to 96 min. for #5.  This was even much faster than the faulty #6 which fell the same distance in about 72 min. 

Q: So what?

A: Again Moore was cheating by saying one thing but doing another. The purpose was again to drastically shorten the trajectory and prevent serious overshoot of his intended crash site. Had Moore adhered to a #5 fall profile, over 30 more miles of overshoot would have been added. 

Q: And haven't the skeptics discussed this issue?

A: Thomas again pretended it didn't exist and Printy used a frantic, illogical, hand-waving argument to try to justify why the Flight #4 would have fallen much faster than the known neoprene balloon Moguls. 

Q: After setting it up his #4 trajectory table (rightly or wrongly) did Moore calculate the final trajectory properly?

A: No, he did not. He said he was doing it one way (which was one correct way of calculating it), but in reality, he did it differently. So again he was cheating by saying one thing and doing another. But worse, the way he really did it was mathematically bogus. Moore built various wind symmetries and correspondences into his table that were destroyed by his improper method of calculation. E.g., his table indicated identical wind values for the same altitude intervals on the up and down sides. But Moore carried all his wind values back through the previous altitude. This had the effect of applying the same winds to totally different altitude intervals on the up and down sides instead of applying them to the same intervals. 

Q: Again, so what?

A: This again caused a drastic alternation from a properly calculated trajectory because pushing back his wind values also pushed them back in time. By improperly pushing back his wind values on the ascent side, he cut 30 minutes from a critical upper atmosphere turn point. This had the effect of shaving about a dozen more miles from the ascent trajectory, yet another way Moore cheated to prevented overshoot and force an early turn of his balloon. 

Q: And how did the skeptics deal with this? 

A: Printy and Thomas simply reproduced Moore's mathematically bogus calculation to get his bogus trajectory and proclaimed victory, under the bizarre notion that reproducing a faulty math technique magically makes it correct. It's like figuring out how a crooked accountant cooked the books and then proclaiming that makes them clean. Thomas never addressed my many points proving this calculation mathematically wrong and instead accused me of "incompetence," just more use of propaganda techniques on his part. Later on UFO Updates he finally admitted under his breath that my arguments "might even have some merit," but then went back into his propaganda spin mode, claiming that it amounted to nothing more than "disagreements" over how to model. He never responded to my detailed rebuttal arguments. Printy similarly accused me of incompetence. He did dare to argue the issues on UFO Updates last year and was mathematically beaten to death. He finally retreated from debate, but never corrected the many lies and misrepresentations on his website despite being proven wrong. 

Q: So what would the trajectory have been had Moore adhered to his stated assumptions and calculated properly? 

A: Had Moore treated Flight #4 as a properly functioning balloon, i.e., used something like Flight #5 rise & fall profiles, and calculated his table properly the way he said he was doing it (but didn't), his model #4 balloon would have overshot the Foster Ranch crash site by over 70 miles to the NE. Instead of ending up at the Foster Ranch site, only 85 miles NNE of the Alamogordo launch site and about 62 miles NW of Roswell, it would have ended up nearly 160 miles NE of Alamogordo and about 75 miles NNE of Roswell. That's a very big difference! 

Q: But Dave Thomas in the Sketical said your arguments were nothing but "quibbles" and "shrill accusations." 

A: Thomas' language was again him resorting to propaganda to avoid addressing the real math issues and to make the charges sound to the reader as if they were unfounded or trivial. Honestly, is a nearly 90% or 70+ mile miss between a properly calculated crash site and Moore's claimed one a "quibble?" 

Q: But Dave Thomas in the Skeptical Inquirer argued Moore was still "qualitatively" right. What did he mean by that?

A: This was more propaganda. Thomas knew he couldn't argue the case quantitatively so he resorted to a pseudoscientific, handwaving "qualitative" argument. When you read through his Orwellian doubletalk, it amounted to another tacit admission that Moore's math was wrong. His argument was basically that the historical winds Moore used would have blown a balloon to the NE of Alamogordo, very roughly in the direction of the Foster Ranch to the NNE, and not towards El Paso to the south. But the proper scientific argument is the quantitative one, i.e., _where_ the balloon would _likely_ have ended up with the given winds had Moore calculated properly. As it turned out, this was almost double the distance from Alamogordo as Moore claimed. If one followed Thomas' "qualitatively correct" logic to its absurd conclusion, a plane from Los Angeles to Chicago that ended up in New York City because of crew navigation errors would still be deemed on target because it ended up in roughly the same north-eastward direction and not southward in Mexico City. This is a nonsense argument, no? Certainly the passengers and FAA would think so. 

Q: What about Moore's statements that this was never intended to portray the actual trajectory, only a "possible" one, or Dave Thomas' Skeptical Inquirer version, "His point... was to show that the winds that day did not preclude the balloon's arrival at the Roswell ranch."

A: This was just more of the "qualitatively right" spin. But think about it--how can a trajectory that can only be gotten by cheating be a "possible" one? The fact that Moore had to resort to cheating actually DOES preclude the balloon landing at the ranch with the given historical wind data. 

Q: Moore said in his book that he had a clear memory of Flight #4 passing near the town of Arabela and Capitan Peak, about 70 miles NE of Alamogordo and used that as his major "constraint" on his trajectory. In a 1997 Sci-Fi special on Roswell, he further claimed the winds were "exactly right" to take his balloon to the Arabela area. Right or wrong?

A: Wrong! When the numbers are properly run, it turns out the historical winds were not "exactly right" as Moore claimed. What Moore really did was cheat in 2 big ways to drastically shorten his ascent trajectory so that the balloon would be forced to make an early stratospheric turn west and pass near Arabela and Capitan Peak. Had he used a more normal rise rate like #5 (i.e., had lifter balloon cutoff) and calculated his table correctly, his balloon would have overflown this turn point "constraint" by nearly 40 miles. The turn would have actually occurred about 20 miles north of Roswell and 40 miles east of Arabela. According to a correctly calculated Moore model, the closest the balloon would have passed near Arabela was about a dozen miles to the east as it flew past Arabela on its ascent, and about 18-19 miles north of it as it flew westward after the turn

Q: But Moore claims his memory is very clear on this and this was the only possible Mogul flight in which the "exotic" name of Arabela would have been mentioned. 

A: False. A well-documented Mogul flight (#17) only 3 months later flew directly over Arabela. He may simply be confusing flights after 50 years. Moore's memory is probably no better than any other witness and there is no reason to accept everything he says at face value, especially now after it is apparent he is capable of hoaxing. Incidentally, Flight #17 is the only documented Mogul flight known to have passed anywhere near the Foster Ranch. Prevailing winds almost always took the Mogul flights well away from this location. This historical fact alone argues that a Mogul explanation for the Foster Ranch crash was unlikely from the gitgo. 

Q: You claim Moore cheated with his math. Why would he do this?

A: Only Moore knows the real answer. But possibly because he wanted desperately for his little lost Flight #4 Mogul to explain the Roswell crash. Moore went well beyond arguing this was merely a "possible" trajectory. One of his other brags in the Sci Fi special was that he calculated a trajectory that "exactly landed" his balloon at the Foster Ranch. But the math shows he could only do this by cheating. If you play it straight, you can't get his Flight #4 to the Foster Ranch in any plausible way using the historical wind data. The winds were much too strong and would have pushed the balloons much too far to the east and north of the Foster Ranch crash site. 

Q: Did Moore do anything else wrong with the math?

A: Yes, many, many things. Most egregiously (first noticed by Brad Sparks), fully half of his 40 table rise/fall rates are seriously wrong compared to what you get if you calculate them from his stated altitude and time intervals. E.g. his first stated rise rate is 100 ft/min. But his table has his balloon rising 852 ft. in 2.8 min. for an actual rise rate of 852/2.8 = 304 ft/min, 304% of what he states it is. At the end of his table he has the balloon falling at a constant 900 ft/min, but his actual last two calculated values are 1491 and 1655 ft/min, or 166% and 184% of what he indicated. His wackiest value was at the top of his ascent where he "slams on the brakes" and has the rise coming to a sudden halt. His table claims he has the balloons still rising at 350 ft/min, but the altitude and time intervals show it rising only 100 ft. in 12.1 min, or only 8.3 ft/min. That's over a factor of 40 error! The worst region of his table is above 45,000 feet where 13 out of 14 of his rise/fall rates are very seriously in error. 

Q: So what?

A: Well, for one thing, Moore is an experienced scientist, not some high school dropout who flunked math. There is no excuse for it. These are grade school math errors, little more than subtracting two sets of numbers and then dividing the results. Every one of his stated rise/fall rates should have corresponded exactly with the calculated ones. As to why he did it, I can only speculate. But if one recalculates the time intervals to bring the stated and calculated rise/fall rates back into correspondence, you get yet another trajectory where the balloon ends up about 5 miles south of his already bogus "exact" Foster Ranch crash site. In other words, even with all his other cheats, his balloon still missed by a little bit. If Moore wanted to boast that his calculation "exactly landed" his balloon on the crash site, he had to finagle even more numbers. 

Q: Well, this seems pretty clear-cut. Numbers like 100/12 = 350 and 852/2.8 = 100 are obviously dead wrong. How could skeptics argue with that?

A: Generally by ignoring the issue entirely. That has been Dave Thomas' tactic. By pretending there are no such issues and dismissing them as "shrill accusations," he can then claim disingenuously that he "can find NO justification whatsoever for Rudiak's persistent accusations of fraud and hoaxing against Dr. Moore." This is a "See no evil, speak no evil" dodge. Tim Printy foolishly tried to argue that Sparks and I didn't understand how Moore really did the calculation and was again mathematically beaten to death. There is no possible way to "fix" these outrageously phony numbers.

Q: Did he do anything else that you deem questionable?

A: Oh God yes!  Moore did a sudden flip-flop in interpreting historical weather records in order to greatly extend his balloon flight time. In 1995 Moore's interpreted a surviving diary and cloud cover records to mean that Flight #4 was probably launched post-dawn, just like Flight #5 and the other early N.M. Moguls. But 2 years later he had more complete historical wind data, which were much less favorable to Moore's theory of events. These winds turned out to be blowing much harder to the north and east than Moore originally assumed, i.e., away from the Foster Ranch. That's why he devised various ruses to drastically shorten the rise and fall trajectories. But he also had to come up with some rationale to push his balloon much further to the west towards the Foster Ranch, meaning he had to keep it up much longer than Flight #5 or any other early neoprene Mogul. That's where he suddenly came up with his late night 3:00 a.m. launch, then flip-flopped on his original logic in interpreting the diary and weather records in order to rationalize his new position. 

Q: So what?

A: The "so what" here is Moore again suddenly changing positions when it suited him and using contorted logic to try to justify it. It's not so much a matter of actual cheating as adopting a highly questionable assumption to again force an end. In terms of trajectory, had he stuck to his original position of a post- dawn launch, calculated correctly, and followed a successful Flight #5 profile, the balloon would have ended up about 100 miles ENE of the Foster Ranch crash site and about 80 miles NE of Roswell, an absolutely huge miss. 

Q: Anything else?

A: Yes, there are many other problems with Moore's model and math, but they are of lesser importance. E.g., Moore's improper backward table calculation would have thrown out his first wind value at ground level, which in itself is bad scientific technique. But Moore didn't even do that. Instead he created a mutant hybrid number by splicing together the wind speed from his first data point with the wind direction value from his second data point, and throwing out the other halves from the first two wind data values. Run that past any math teacher to see what they think of it. It has very little effect on trajectory, but it is just plain crappy, wrong math. As to why Moore got so creative with his math technique here, one again can only speculate, but it may have another way Moore hoped to cover his tracks. Something was obviously wrong here, but it took a long time before anybody figured out exactly what it was. (Ironically it was debunker Tim Printy who figured it out, but he acted as if it had no bearing on Moore's math integrity.) 

Q: Isn't this just one of your "quibbles" and "shrill accusations," as Dave Thomas wrote in his Skeptical Inquirer article? 

A: It's a "quibble" in that it has little effect on trajectory. It is not a "quibble" or a "shrill accusation" to point out that this is mathematical nonsense, piled on top of far more serious math nonsense. That many of Moore's numbers and calculations are fraudulent are not "quibbles" or "shrill accusations," but statements of absolute mathematical fact. 100/12 does not equal 350; 852/2.8 does not equal 100. And the huge misses Moore would have gotten had he run the numbers properly and stuck to his stated assumptions are not "quibbles" or "shrill accusations" either. Thomas was just trying to trivialize and avoid the serious math issues I raised on my website by spinning them as "quibbles" and "shrill accusations," Thomas again acting as a propagandist, not a scientist. 

Q: Are you quite done now?

A: Well, I could go on and on. E.g., Brad Sparks also noticed that Moore deliberately altered the original Flight #5 Mogul trajectory plot after claiming he was reproducing it exactly as-is. The original plot showed Flight #5 lingering near Roswell base for an extended period of time, finally passing only 4 miles south of the base on descent and crashing about 16 miles east of the base. But Moore removed Roswell base from the original plot and substituted Roswell town 6 miles to the north. Then he invented a new crash site out of thin air about 31 miles east of the base. Furthermore, when Sparks raised these issues in an email debate with Moore mediated by Karl Pflock, Moore lied and claimed that Flight #5 came no closer than 15-20 miles from the base and would have been too small to notice. He also profferred that Roswell base's view was hidden by clouds, even though he knew full well that the balloon had been tracked by telescope the entire time from Alamogordo, nearly 100 miles away. Again, one can only speculate why Moore would do all this, but he had previously claimed Roswell base would have known nothing about any of the Mogul flights before the Roswell incident. The Flight #5 plot seemed to contradict this. Moore's alterations to the original plot, probably to distance the balloon from the base, and then lying to Sparks may have been his attempts to bolster and defend his original claim. This has nothing to do with Moore's Flight #4 trajectory calculation, but it does illustrate another instance where Moore chose to falsify data when pushing a particular point of view. 

Q: Isn't this just "character assassination" of Prof. Moore on your part, exactly as skeptics like Dave Thomas and Tim Printy charge?

A: Moore's statement (via Thomas) that he "didn't want to get into the math." amounted to his admission that his math was indefensible. It would only be "character assassination" if Brad Sparks and I were falsely characterizing what Moore had done or said. We are not responsible for Moore's hoaxing, only pointing out that he has clearly done so. Debunkers like Thomas and Printy can't defend Moore's actions, so they attack the messengers instead (the real "character assassination") awhile ducking the actual issues. 

Q: Well again, so what? Even if Moore cheated, this still doesn't prove a flying saucer crashed, does it? 

A: No, and neither Sparks nor myself ever argued otherwise, only that Moore's trajectory calculation was mathematically fraudulent. However, one can't avoid the obvious implications of Moore's hoax on the Roswell debate. First, it impeaches his testimony on other matters. Second, his hoaxed trajectory had been one of the cornerstones of the Mogul theory. Mogul proponents took it on faith that Moore had practically proven Flight #4 triggered the Roswell events. That no longer stands. I have argued that the historical wind data Moore used actually show that it was highly unlikely for the winds to have taken the hypothetical Flight #4 to the Foster Ranch and explained the Roswell crash. To avoid gross cheating, one has to literally invent a completely different set of wind directions and speeds to get the balloon there in a plausible way. But such an assumption is in itself highly questionable and improbable. What this amounts to is Mogul being practically eliminated as a contender, which currently leaves no other conventional explanations that I am aware of.