A Pyramyth

2004, Jul 19th | Emner: Skepsis

af Bob Forrest

There is a myth that regularly does the rounds in earth mystery oriented circles and which really does need defusing before it totters on even further. It is the myth that when a group of scientists X-rayed the pyramid of Chephren, in 1968, in a search for hidden chambers, they obtained results which were "scientifically impossible ".

The myth started in the Times Saturday Review for July 20th, 1969, in the last few paragraphs of an article by a journalist called John Tunstall. Thereafter, coupled with pyramid energy and the curse of the pharaohs, it waltzed its inaccurate way through many an article and book, notably Ostrander and Schroeder’s Psi: Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain (1970) and Lyall Watson’s Supernature (1973 ).

Peter Tompkins’ book Secrets of the Great Pyramid (1971) set the record partly straight, but did not go into details of how a straightforward computing anomaly became virtually an occult revelation.

Tunstall’s account is very largely fabrication with a minimal foundation in fact. The so-called quotes from Dr Amr Gohed (whose name Tunstall mis-spelt: it should be Goneid) are not quotes at all but fairy-tale embellishments of a technical puzzle. Journalistic licence, it seems, is considerably more free and easy than its poetic counterpart.

The technical puzzle was actually a fairly straightforward one. In April 1968, in the middle of the computer analyses of cosmic ray passages through the pyramid, an anomaly did indeed appear. The distribution of cosmic ray passages suggested that there might well be a hidden chamber within the pyramid, but the puzzle of it was that if such a chamber was actually there, it was so big that the pyramid ought to effectively cave-in on it. It took about three days to completely resolve this paradox, during which time no-one outside the small group of scientists concerned was told anything about it. The explanation was that there was no such chamber, and that the paradox was the result of a well-known computer bug known as double binning. (I won’t go into details here of what this means. Suffice it to say that it crops up in many computing problems, is widely known, and is not in the least mysterious once it is recognised. In this instance it arose from the way the cosmic rey passages were catalogued by the computer.)

What seems to have happened is that Tunstall arrived on the scene shortly after the matter was cleared up, was told about the recent puzzlement, and either missed or chose to ignore the fact that it had been explained to the satisfaction of everyone on the investigating team. The only time Tunstall could have heard of the puzzle from "Dr Gohed" or anyone else was after it had already been resolved, and by that time it was known for sure that there was no hidden chamber and certainly nothing et all that was "scientifically impossible".

Obviously, though, the picture of a group of confused scientists plus the legend of the curse of the pharaohs made too good a story line, and with a picture of the sphinx, and a bit of jazzed-up dialogue (the only way to adequately describe it!), the result was that infamous article in the Times Saturday Review on the 26th July 1969. This article was rehashed in the Toronto Globe and Mail on July 30th 1969 and the rest we all, unfortunately, know.

For the facts of the X-raying of the pyramid of Chephren, I would refer future researchers to Science, volume 167, pp 832839. This was published in February 1970, incidentally, well before Lyall Watson’s Supernature hit our bookshelves. However, here is part of the summary of that Science article:

" Cosmic ray measurements extending over several months of operation clearly show the four diagonal ridges of the pyramid and also outline the shape of the cap of original limestone facing blocks, which gives the pyramid its distinctive’ appearance. We can say with confidence that no chambers with volumes similar to the four known chambers in Cheops’s and Sneferu’s pyramids exist in the mass of limestone investigated by cosmic ray absorption. The volume of the pyramid probed in this manner is defined by a vertically oriented cone, of half angle 35 degrees, with its point resting in the Be l zoni chamber. The explored volume is 19 percent of the pyramid’s volume. We hope that with minor modifications to the apparatus the complete mass of limestone can be searched for chambers. "

The above article, remember, was readily available whilst Lyall Watson et al were busily falling over each other to quote Tunstall’s erroneous account!

For much of the information used in the present expose of the Tunstall myth I must thank Dr Luis W. Alvarez, of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of California, who sent me extensive material on the case together with the earnest wish that someone would try setting the record straight for once. It transpires that in America Dr Alvarez himself is now credited with Tunstallesque statements about the scientifically impossible and the curse of the pharaohs. Indeed, such rumours have now crossed the Atlantic in the form of Jeffrey Goodman’s book Psychic Archaeology (1977). Goodman cites Dr Alvarez himself on the basis of an article in The Arizona Daily Star for October 26th (1975). However, the Arizona Daily Star has misquoted Schul and Pettit’s book The Secret Power of Pyramids (1975), which had actually attributed the statements to "one of Dr Alvarez’s colleagues". Schul and Pettit in their turn had quoted Ostrander and Schroeder, who in their turn had quoted Tunstall!

The trouble is that too many authors borrow from other authors inaccurately, and too few of them ever bother to check back to the original sources of their information. When an original source is as inaccurate as Tunstall’s article, of course, the results of inaccurate borrowing are, quite frankly, an irresponsible mess, and it becomes hardly surprising that orthodox scientists get very fed up with the ‘fringe’.

Incidentally, many researches (Lyall Watson is one) don’t even get so far back as the original Tunstall, but simply plunder Ostrander and Schroeder’s account That is how it has come about that many books say that Tunstall’s article appeared in The Times for July 14th,1969, when in fact it didn’t!

One of the worst cases of irresponsible reporting of the cosmic ray expermients occurs in Maurice Chatelain’s book Our Ancestors Came From Outer Space (1979). In Chatelain’s version, even the basic results reported in the Science article get totally reversed! Chatelain writes:

" A modern computer installed in Cairo did the analysing—and out came a lot of garbled nonsense. The cosmic rays were registered alright, but heavy interference from an unknown radiation source in the pyramid covered the cosmic rays with such great density that regular readings and interpretations were impossible. Not even the faces or edges could be distinqu i shed and there was not a chance to find hidden chambers. It was a complete scientific failure. "

By way of a joke, I told Dr Alvarez of Chatelain’s account. He wasn’t amused. "I’m sorry," he wrote back, "but I haven’t time to read about our ‘complete failure’."

Less reprehensible than Chatelain, but nevertheless inaccurate and misleading are references to the Chephren experiments in Warren Smith’s book The Secret Forces of the Pyramids (1975) and in Ian Worden’s article A Triangular Mystery in The Ley Hunter issue 74 .

Returning to the facts of the case again, there is an interesting account, by Dr Alvarez, of the controversial day or two in April 1968, when an impossibly large hidden chamber was explained away by double binning. It can be found in Adventures in Experimental Physics (1972, p.164-5). It makes interesting reading after a diet of Watson, Ostrander & Schroeder, Schul & Pettit et al!

I have tried to contact John Tunstall to get his side of the story, but the Times Nevvspapers, though helpful, were unable to put me in touch with him.

I have tried also to contact Dr Amr Goneid, to find out if Tunstall ever actually talked to him, but without success. So I put the question to Dr Alvarez, and, whilst I was about it, asked if it was possible that Tunstall had talked to Dr Goneid, but because of language difficulties, had simply misunderstood him. This was his reply:

" Firstly, I have never heard from any member of m y team that he met John Tunstall. I have never discussed the matter with Amr Goneid. I spent several hours with him in Cairo early last year and we talked of many things, but the embarrasing matter of the Tunstall interview never came up. I have been quoted {in Tompkins’book) as saying that I never believed for a moment that Amr ever said such nonsensical things. His English is really excellent, so there is no chance of his misunderstanding or being misunderstood.

- The double binning explanation didn’t arise until af t er I arrived in Cairo. I am sure that no-one spoke to any reporters about the apparent hole in the pyramid in the two days before I arrived — it was treated as Top Secret, and the cable I received was so well disguised that I didn’t understand what they were trying to tell me until they explained the ‘code’ to me after my arrival. But I certainly got the message that they had something very interesting to show me.

- So I am quite sure that Amr didn’t talk to Mr Tunstall, or any other r eporter, between the time the effect was first seen and the time it was understood — in the afternoon of the day I arrived. So there can be no time in which Amr would have talked to a reporter — not knowing the full explanation. That is my reason for being so sure that he never said what w as attributed to him. " ( Letter dated 5/6/80) .

Perhaps if John Tunstall reads this, he will get in touch. Or maybe he will prefer to forget all about it. After all, he cannot have foreseen the far reaching consequences of his misguided excursion into the field of X-raying the pyramids. He literally started a mythological avalanche.

Para-nyt 1985 nr. 1
© 1981 by Bob Forrest. Recieved from Bob Forrest. Originally printed in The Ley Hunter Magazine, 1981 no. 90.

© 1997-2004 by Willy Wegner | post@para-nyt.dk

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