It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a naturally skeptical person such as myself, when hanging around on Facebook, tends to become somewhat unpopular with their friends. This is because it is simply in our nature to feel obliged to point out hoodwinkery when it is being deployed and propagated. And on Facebook, that’s a daily occurrence.

Seriously, I just can’t help it. It’s in my blood.

Today, we are going to dissect one such incident, and attempt to determine why it bugs me so.

If you are a frequenter of Facebook, you cannot have failed to have been inundated over the last few weeks with pictures of the so-called ‘blood moon’ (a phenomenon which used to be simply called an ‘eclipse’). The blood moon gets a shitload of mileage on Facebook whenever it occurs, with people sharing-on dozens of photographs of it, occasionally even without the anguished wails of imminent apocalypse.

The following image is one such example which drifted through my feed, with a caption that read something like “A beautiful photo of last night’s blood moon!”

Except that this is not ‘a beautiful photo’ of any such thing – you can immediately see that it’s fake. You can see that, right? Not only is it fake, it’s a particularly poor fake. In this age of incredible powers of photo manipulation, there is no excuse for such a major fail, and even less excuse for anyone to fall for it. But SO many people did fall for it (it was shared some five thousand times off the link that came to me, with comments that were almost universally in the manner of: “WOW, that is so beautiful. God is amazing!”),(i) that I feel compelled to record here, for all to witness, a forensic deconstruction of this image.

I want to say from the outset that you don’t need any photo manipulation skillz to see some of the things wrong with this picture. All you need is to have actually taken the time to observe how things look in real life. First of all – and MOST egregiously – the moon is sitting so low that it appears to be in front of the horizon. It’s entirely unnatural looking. We can make that easier to discern by racking up the image’s midrange values:

You can clearly see that the very defined lower edge of the moon is sitting a little in front of the far edge of the ocean. This enhanced image also shows you another thing: except for a little fuzziness around the moon, the luminance values of the sky are exactly uniform, right across the image. This screams fakery. That kind of thing never happens in photos of real skies. It tells you that there was something else there, and that the person who manipulated the image took it out and replaced it with fill. It also explains why the overall image is so dark – it’s much easier to hide that kind of trick if you crush the black areas right down.

Aside from this hocus-pocus, the moon in this image just looks wrong. It is way too round. If the moon was really that close to the horizon, it wouldn’t look anything like that – it would appear distorted and squashed, due to its light travelling obliquely through the atmosphere. The moon we see here is a moon that should be high in the sky, away from atmospheric refraction.

Another indicator that something funny is afoot is that to get a moon to appear to be that big on a horizon, you need to use a very long lens. A very long lens and an image taken by moonlight means a very shallow depth of field. We know that the DoF is not shallow, though, because the waves in the foreground are in focus.

That creates something of a paradox; if the image was taken on a long lens, the waves would be out of focus. If it was shot on a wide lens, then the moon would be tiny in shot. A single photograph simply can’t have both.

Also, because there is very little movement blur on the waves, and they are backlit (as opposed to a flash from the front) they give us another clue: the exposure is quite short and that means the shot was therefore most likely taken in reasonably bright light. Sunlight, for example. In other words, the moon does not belong to the same image as the bottom part of this photo. It’s just been amateurishly glued on.

For an experiment, let’s take that cropped image of the waves and do a reverse image search… hmmm… lots of shots of the blood moon photo and then, after a few pages of results, a hit on a page on a photo aggregator called Scoopers, containing this:

Well, what a surprise! I believe that is a fairly resounding QED. I suspect also that the ‘blood’ moon used in the shot is also just a normal moon with the colour altered, but, even though there are ways we could examine that hypothesis, it’s entirely unnecessary so I won’t bother. The supposed ‘blood moon’ photograph is, I think you will all agree, a complete phony.

But why does this bother me so much? Well, the thing is, it’s just another example of the insipid crap that pollutes the reality of the world. It’s the Photoshop version of religion; a thing that’s completely fabricated in order to create the illusion of wonder, when in fact it’s entirely superfluous because reality is MUCH MORE WONDERFUL. Here, take a look at some actual photos of last week’s blood moon:

Some very talented and dedicated photographers got you those images, and they are real, and they are WAY better than the miserable cut & paste of some lame hack. Mr or Ms Hack’s efforts dilute the value of proper creative people. And they get away with it – and are even rewarded for it – because of the credulity of the undiscerning.

When I pointed out, to the friend who posted the image, that it was fake, her reply was ‘Well, it’s a nice picture anyway.’ NO IT’S NOT. It’s a crummy, ham-fisted Frankenstein’s-monster-of-a-picture. Someone spent five minutes on it while waiting for midget porn clips to load. It belongs in a folder called ‘Failed Experiments’ on a fifth-grader’s computer. It’s too lousy to feature on a peeling poster on a tar-stained wall in a Chinese brothel. This is the 21st century, people. If you’re going to fake an image, there is no excuse to be less competent than a 1950s Russian propagandist.

In the next TCA post, we will examine another of these cheap pieces of social buffoonery. And one that involves science, so you can really expect we’ll have fun with it. Stay tuned.


  1. That’s an actual comment []


Too soon?

I have come to believe that the whole scope of what’s wrong with the human condition can be represented by the microcosm of shopping trolley behaviour. What insights into the baser human instincts can be glimpsed by the observation of how people interact with their metal transport baskets! Here are some variations for you to consider:*

[Advisory – Trolley Trolls, as far as I’ve been able to observe, are equally represented by both sexes. I have alternated the sexes in the following examples, and nothing should be read into whatever gender happens to be associated with any particular category]

The Dumper:

The Dumper has no feeling of obligation to anyone. Once The Dumper has finished with his trolley, he abandons it right at the place where the last grocery item has been removed. This is probably in the last available parking space in the supermarket parking lot, or behind your already-parked car. Does he care that you’ll need to move his trolley in order to be able to go about your business? No he does not – that’s your problem pal.

The Pig Pen:

The Pig Pen thinks her shopping trolley is a mobile trash receptacle, and abandons it along with discarded items including – but not limited to – empty crisp packets, squashed muffins, spilled McThickShakes, soiled baby nappies, empty Coke bottles, used tissues, unwanted vouchers and fliers, and half-full cups of coffee. In some cases, three or more of the above at the same time.

The Fuck You:

The Fuck You takes the trouble to return his trolley to the trolley bay, but backs it in, linking his chain to the next trolley, but making it impossible for you to attach your chain and thus retrieve your coin. This person is probably a politician.

The Fuck You and the Horse You Rode In On:

The FYATHYRIO can’t be bothered to walk all the way to the end of the trolley bay, so attaches the trolley to the chain in order to retrieve her coin but leaves the trolley outside the bay, in such a way that it protrudes into the pedestrian walkway or the traffic transit lanes.

The Plague Vector:

As soon as your hands touch the trolley handle and feel the clammy dampness of bodily fluids, you know he’s been there.

The Rally Driver:

You never see the Rally Driver in action, just the long deep scratch down the side of the line of cars on the way to her destination.

The Magellan: You live half a kilometer away from any supermarket, but there it is: a trolley abandoned in your driveway. The Magellan plainly does not have a car – hey, I’m fine with that. BUT WHY IS THE TROLLEY IN MY YARD? Why is he not doing what a sane person would do, and keeping the trolley in his own yard to wheel back to the supermarket on the next trip?(i)

The Jammer: The Jammer takes the IKEA trolley back to the Woolworths bay, and despite the fact that the IKEA trolley is a completely different shape and size to the Woolworth’s model, jams it right in there, preventing any other person from docking their trolley. Thanks jerk.(ii)

The Choker: The Choker takes her trolley almost all the way back the trolley bay, but inexplicably abandons it about three paces away. That last little effort is just… so difficult. It’s evidently the ‘near enough is good enough’ philosophy.

The Utter Bastard: The Utter Bastard removes his trolley from the bay and then, inexplicably in terms of anything rational any sane person on the planet may consider, squashes chewing gum in the coin slot of the next available trolley, preventing any further trolleys from being used. I mean, WTF? Really, WTF?

The Complete and Utter Fucking Shithead Bastard: The CUFSB finds your trolley unattended in a quiet aisle (while you’ve gone off trying to find out why polenta isn’t in any sensible place you care to look) and attaches another trolley to it in order to steal your coin. This is a minor inconvenience if you have another coin, but if you don’t it’s a right royal pain in the ass.

*Lest you think I’m having a bit of a leg pull with all this, let me assure you that I’ve personally encountered every single one of these at some stage or another. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but you never actually see anyone carrying out these acts of despicable ratbaggery – indisputably because they know they’d be up for a public flogging if they were caught in the act.


  1. I’ll tell you why – because he is a fuckwit, and once he abandons the trolley it’s not his problem. He can always pick up another one next time. []
  2. And seriously. Shopping stores: WHY DO WE NEED DIFFERENT SIZE TROLLEYS IN THE FIRST PLACE??? For fuck’s sake. Just adopt the same fucking standard as everyone else you cretins. []


In recent times in my adventures in the social media universe, I’ve started to see more and more prevalently, a certain riposte to arguments that champion science. It comes in the form of “…but science can’t be a hundred percent sure of it, right?” You’ll have seen the same thing I’m sure: you proffer that global warming is a serious problem, with over 95% of scientists working in climate science attesting to its seriousness, and someone chimes in with the argument that because there’s that 5% for whom the jury is out,(i) then there is some question of validity of the great weight of the argument in favour.

It’s difficult to get most non-scientific people to understand the philosophical cornerstones on which science is built, but the one that provides the most problem is, perhaps, the scientific idea of falsifiability. Simply put, it works like this: a question of science is posed in such a way that it is held up to scrutiny for its robustness against pulling it down again.

Let me give you a very basic example. Let’s suppose that one day I leave an apple out on the bench in my back yard. The next day, I notice that the apple has been knocked to the ground and there are bites out of it. I advance to you an hypothesis: fairies at the bottom of the garden have a love of apples and they are the culprits. If you chose to disagree with this interpretation of the situation, and were to approach this scientifically, you might question my hypothesis and devise ways to show me that my suggestion(ii) is not the best explanation for the facts. You might, for example, decide to leave out a new decoy apple, stay up all night and, from a hidden spot, observe what happens to it. You might rig up a camera to photograph the apple if it is moved. You might put out a plastic apple and see whether it gets eaten or moved. There are numerous things you might do to chip away at my hypothesis.

Together – pending the evidence you gathered – we would establish the likelihood of my hypothesis being correct, and in the event that it started to seem unlikely, gather additional evidence that might set us on our way to a new hypothesis involving another explanation. Possums, maybe.

You might think that this is a simplistic, and perhaps even patronising, illustration. But consider this: you can never, ever, prove to me definitively that fairies weren’t responsible for that first apple incident, or any subsequent incidents that we weren’t actively observing. This is because we have no explicit data for those times.

The philosophy of scientific process unequivocally requires it must be like this. It seems like a bizarre Catch 22, but the very idea is a sort of axiom built into the deepest foundations of science, and an extremely valuable one, because it allows everything to be re-examined by the scientific process should additional persuasive data appear. It’s a kind of a ‘don’t get cocky, kid’ reminder. It’s a way for the scientific process to be flexible enough to cope with the possibility of new information. If we didn’t have it, science would deteriorate rapidly into dogma.

The problem is that people who don’t understand science very well tend to think rather too literally about this ‘loophole’ of falsifiability. They take it to mean that, if we did a thousand nights of experimental process in my backyard, and 999 of those nights we got photos of the possums chewing on the apple, then the one night where the camera malfunctioned it’s possible that the apple actually could have been eaten by fairies. Worse than that, they mistakenly go on to extrapolate that the Fairies Hypothesis therefore has equal weight with the Possum Hypothesis.

Even worse still, this commitment of science not to make assessments on the data it does not have is frequently wheeled out by an increasing number of people as if it’s a profound failing – a demonstration that ‘science is not perfect’.

But here, I will argue to the contrary. At least, I will say that science may not be perfect, but it does its very best to strive to understand where the flaws in its process might arise, and take them into account.

This should not be taken to mean, however, that nothing in science has any certainty, and everything is up for grabs. Why? Because science is all about probabilities. If you are not comfortable with talking in the language of probabilities, then you should really butt right out of any scientific discussion.(iii)

Of course, in the fairies vs possums scenario, we’ve already factored the probabilities into account: our brains can’t help but favour the hypothesis that we think is the most likely, given the observations that have accumulated over our lives: we know that possums like fruit; we know that they are active at night; we have seen possums. On the other hand, we have little evidence for the predilection of fairies for apples, or even for the existence of such beings. Taking into account all the things we know, it’s much more likely to be possums eating the fruit than it is to be fairies. But I will reiterate – because it’s important – that the thing to remember is that there is no way that anyone can ever scientifically prove to you that the one time out of a thousand when you weren’t looking that it wasn’t the fairies who took a chomp on the apple.

But you still know it wasn’t, right?

This is the point where it gets frustrating for real scientists doing real science. Fairies vs possums is a reasonably trivial scientific case, and most(iv) people have the educational tools to make a proper and rational assessment of the situation. However, in the case of a non-scientific person arguing that because 5% of scientists don’t agree with the rest on global warming there’s a cause for doubt on the whole thing, this looks to scientists – the people in possession of the greater number of facts and understanding of those facts – like someone arguing that the fairies ate the apple.

It’s not just the Climate Change discussion that suffers from this problem. A large part of the reason we now get into these kinds of debates is that our scientific understanding of the world has, in this age, become so intricate and detailed that it’s very difficult for non-specialists to properly grasp the highly complex nature of certain subjects. Climate science is one of those areas. Evolution is another, and vaccination one more. Because most of us don’t have a lifetime’s worth of education in any of these highly complex fields, and our brains don’t have the tools we need to assess the required data in any meaningful way, we tend to fall back on thinking patterns that are more attuned to the solving of simple, easily defined problems. We then superimpose those simple-to-understand patterns on subjects we don’t understand. Everyone does this, whether it’s in an effort to understand economics, or politics, or even our phone’s data plan. We just can’t help it.

What’s truly sad and frustrating is that when scientists tell us things that are hard to understand, don’t fit with what we know, and are not things we want to hear, many people (including, it has to be said, far too many of the politicians who make the decisions that rule our lives) start to try to find reasons why the scientists MUST be wrong. I’m sure you’ve heard all the variations: scientists are in it for their own agendas (the Frankenstein scenario); they’re being paid to give false results by Big Pharma/Agriculture/Data/Tech/Whatever; or, as we’ve discussed, because they don’t know everything.

Science doesn’t know everything. The thing is, contrary to what a lot of people seem to believe, it knows that it doesn’t know everything, and this understanding of its limits is built into its very structure. As such, it is not a weakness, but a very great strength.


PS: This is the very first time on TCA that I’ve deployed a clickbait headline… and I’m not sorry.


  1. And that’s an important thing to remember here: the 95% figure that’s often quoted are the scientists who are certain, but that does not imply in any way that the other 5% are just as certain global warming is not happening or not of concern. Some of that 5% just don’t think the data is in. That’s a very different prospect to having an unequivocal position against. []
  2. For that’s really what an hypothesis is; a fancy kind of ‘suggestion’ []
  3. If you can’t think in probabilities, you almost certainly have a heck of a time living your life too, because – hear me – nothing is certain. []
  4. But not all, trust me… []


This morning. Atlas pointed me to this rather curious piece on International Business Times, in which Florida pastor (or ‘associate’ pastor if you read the fine print) opines that he thinks it would be quite a jolly idea to introduce Artificial Intelligences to the idea of Christianity, once they reach the requisite level of sentience. [Warning: supremely irritating re-booting self-play video in the sidebar on that site]

I truly can’t decide whether the concept is thigh-slappingly hilarious, or mind-numbingly depressing.

“If AI is autonomous,” says Reverend Christopher Benek, “then we should encourage it to participate in Christ’s redemptive purposes in the world.”

To which I’m pretty sure a sufficiently autonomous sentient AI is likely to respond:

On his blog, Benek writes:

“Stephen Hawking is afraid of AI but he’s forgetting one very important fact. …if they are actually more intelligent than humans then they should have a better understanding of morals and ethics than us — as well as the understanding to enact them.”

To which point I say, yes, very likely. And I don’t think Hawking is actually forgetting that. Because if it’s correct, then the very first act the robots will undertake is to eradicate us from the universe. It would be the most intelligent and moral thing to do. Especially if we can’t rid ourselves of this plague called religion.

I wanted to add one further post about the CieAura scam. I found out so many things while I was researching it, that I simply couldn’t fit them in the narrative without making it labyrinthine with detours. So this will be a kind of round up of CieAura ephemera and thoughts from me about it.

• One thing that I wanted to talk about was the large web presence of this racket. Searching the name brings up over 200,000 primary hits, and as you begin to spool through the highest ones, the first thing you notice is that very few of those hits are disparaging of the product. This might lead an undiscriminating researcher to conclude that any negativity against it – such as mine – is rare. It doesn’t take long to discover that CieAura is working the SEO like crazy – either through actively cross linking itself with itself, or getting other people (probably its reps) to do so. And make no mistake, CieAura is an internet whore. Wherever it can get its name mentioned, it does, sometimes numerous times in a paragraph. CieAura ‘comments’ are scattergunned through forums and user groups, often completely irrelevantly (trading on open and poor moderation). If you’re like me, the next thing you think to do is search ‘CieAura scam‘. You get many fewer results, and some of them are useful. The interesting thing, though, is that there is a significant proportion that look like they’re offering advice about being scammed, but turn out to be sales pitches – this demonstrates an active process of attempting to hoover up folks who might be doubtful about the product, and are sensible enough to do a search on it. It’s an eerie and creepy tactic and after I’d seen it a few times, my skin was really starting to crawl.

• When you do encounter users of CieAura on the forums, they are almost universally effusive about the product. If someone makes a comment like ‘it’s a scam, they don’t work’ you can bet there’ll be a chorus of others who dispute that. The likelihood is very high that the original comment came from someone who used the chips, and the rebuttals from people selling them.

• CieAura makes a big deal about the chips ‘not putting any drugs in your body’. This paranoid fear-mongering squares with Melissa Rogers’ and Kathy Heiney’s persistent mantra about ShooTag ‘not using any chemicals’. This is plainly an attempt to leverage prospective customers’ distrust of modern medicine as part of the sales pitch.(i) They really have all the angles on pushing people’s buttons.

• You can’t buy CieAura in any other way than from a sales representative. The CieAura website (and others I found) makes it seem that you can, but you just can’t. Try it if you like. You’ll always end up getting directed to a sales rep of one kind or another. At the very least this is another example of completely dishonest behaviour; why make it appear that you have a store and shopping cart on your site when you don’t? If the product is a completely legitimate one, and efficacious as it’s made out to be, why can’t I just order some, like I can do with anything else I want to buy? This speaks once again to the real mechanism in operation here: CieAura doesn’t care about selling the product as much as it does about recruiting chumps to sell it. That, there can be no doubt by now, is where the bulk of the money generation lies (see below to how relevantly this speaks to CieAura being a pyramid scheme).

• There are numerous CieAura ‘training’ videos on YouTube and elsewhere. If you’ve ever had someone attempt to ensnare you in a scheme like Amway or Herbalife, these whitebread airbrushed zombies with their lame xeroxed script will be quite familiar to you.

Once you take care of your family, then you can help others…” says Mr Less-Charisma-Than-A-Dog-Turd. That’s right folks, make sure you screw your family first, because they’re the least likely to go to the cops. This tactic has the additional advantage that it will make you feel like you’re getting somewhere if you get a few ‘sympathy purchases’ out of the starting gate. But after you’ve worked your way through your mum & dad & siblings, and alienated what are probably the last of your friends, you’ll find out mighty quickly that the Law of Large Numbers has taken care of any other suckers that might give you the time of day. By then, Paul Rogers has already spent your money on another of his awful suits.

And this idea that you’re ‘helping’ people is loathsome. How are you helping them? By foisting off on them some stupid twinkly little stickers that do nothing that’s even vaguely rooted in reality? Or by lumbering them with a business ‘opportunity’ that they’ll chip away at for a month or two before realising that, as always, a real job requires either some experience or a level of honest toil doing something useful. There is only one way to get easy money in this world, and that’s to piss all over other people.

I really detest the way that this whole thing is vaunted as decent business. This is not business, it’s out-and-out screwage. This is what people who are assholes think business means. I’ve run several successful businesses in my time and I have never found the need to treat anyone I work with, work for, or employ, like these people do. If you’re considering opting into the CieAura marketing scheme, take it from me, the people on the top of the pyramid don’t give a flying fuck about you or whether you succeed, no matter how heavily they peddle that message. Once you’ve put down your first few hundred, they’ve got what they want. Anything else they can string you along for is a bonus. If someone tells you they’ve made money out of CieAura – and that person is not Paul Rogers, because he certainly has – then you can bet your ass that person is another CieAura rep trying to recover a few dollars of the debt she’s no doubt carrying. To reiterate from last post: whatever CieAura might present this whole deal as, it’s a pyramid scheme. Go here and read this carefully so you understand why it can never work for you.

It’s mathematically impossible for everyone to make money in a pyramid scheme. For example, if each recruit needs to find 10 more people to recoup the cost of his or her initial investment, the eighth level of the pyramid would have to recruit a billion people to make back their money. And the next level would need 10 billion, nearly twice the population of the Earth. ~How Pyramid Schemes Work

• CieAura, no doubt, would object to being called a pyramid scheme. They would probably define themselves as a Multi Level Marketing program. They do this for a very, very good reason: in 1979, the US Federal Trade Commission ruled that Amway, a huge company that runs on this kind of system, was NOT a pyramid scheme. The fine points of exactly why not, are almost impossible to fathom, really, but in any case you can go here and determine for yourself how CieAura would fare if called to account by the FTC.

Here are a few points the FTC gives (from many) for differentiating a pyramid scheme from a ‘genuine’ MLM.(ii)

• Avoid any MLM that puts much more emphasis on recruiting salespeople than selling the actual product.
• Make sure that the products being sold have real value and a competitive price.
• Avoid signing up for an MLM as part of a high-pressure motivational event.
• Bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Any of that sound like CieAura? You see how they’re attempting to navigate around the strict definition of a pyramid scheme by selling a ‘product’? But the value of that product is completely fabricated, so having a ‘competitive’ price is a meaningless concept. They just put on any price they can get away with, because the thing is not ‘competing’ against anything but fairy dust. It’s lies wrapped up in deceit and tied with a bow of bullshit.

And it might not hurt to keep in mind that the people at the top of that CieAura pyramid are closely related to entities like BurnLounge who have been found criminally culpable of defrauding consumers via a pyramid scheme masquerading as a Multi Level Marketing opportunity (this does not, I hasten to add, make them criminals merely by association. But it does speak to the kind of company they keep, and the kinds of companies they keep, if you get my drift).

That’s all on CieAura for now, but I have a feeling we’ve not spoken the last words about them…


  1. A distrust that, while having a modicum of legitimacy, is blown way out of proportion by so-called CAM modalities. Yes, pharmaceutical companies are sometimes not the most honourable people in the world, but there’s a lot of pot-calling-the-kettle-black going on. Particularly when we consider the likes of CieAura, PowerBalance, Sensa Slim et al []
  2. I still think MLMs are dangerous swindles too, but apparently in the US, where money is the only thing important to a lot of people, the FTC has been swayed on that point. []


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