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Using Virtual Light, Gaming Component Manufacturer Nvidia Debunks Hoax Claims About 1969-72 Apollo Moon Landings

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Using Virtual Light, Gaming Component Manufacturer Nvidia Debunks Hoax Claims About 1969-72 Apollo Moon Landings
Nvidia sinks moon landing hoax using virtual light

Using its new top-shelf graphics processing unit, Nvidia tackles one of the most persistent conspiracy theories in American history: the veracity of the 1969 to 1972 Apollo moon landings.

by Nick Statt

September 19, 2014 12:50 PM PDT

Few events in US history inspire a paranoiac bent on unearthing political conspiracy theories quite like the Apollo moon landings do. So when Nvidia, the leader in high-end graphics processing units (GPUs) for PC gaming, wanted to show off a lighting feature of its new GeForce GTX 970 and 980 cards, it found its inspiration in the sky.

"Global illumination is the hardest task to solve as a game company," Scott Herkelman, Nvidia's GeForce general manager, said in an interview. "Virtual point lights don't do a bad job when the environment stays the same, but a game developer has to fake shadows, fake reflections...it's a labor-intensive process." So when a Nvidia research engineer used the company's new dynamic lighting techniques to show off a side-by-side comparison between an Apollo 11 photo and a GeForce-powered re-creation, the company knew it had a novel demo on its hands.

"We're going to debunk one of the biggest conspiracies in the world," Herkelman said.

The first manned missions to Earth's satellite began in 1969 with Apollo 11. Just a few years later, conspiracies sprouted up claiming that potentially each of the six lunar landing crews and every one of the 12 Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon had in fact participated in an elaborate ruse. To the conspiracists, it may never have happened -- or didn't happen like NASA said it did -- and oh by the way, we duped the Russians into losing the space race.

Voxel global illumination, however, proves them wrong, says Nvidia. The technique, which the new GTX 970 and 980 can tap into, lets developers use dynamic lighting that will bounce, diffuse and reflect in real-time with unprecedented fidelity when new objects are added to a scene. Nvidia's GPUs are enhanced chips that allow graphics cards to more effectively and efficiently take data from a central processing unit, or CPU, and turn it into moving images on a display. In other words, voxel global illumination is the perfect rendering tool to tackle moon landing hoaxes that often use as evidence for their claims lighting discrepancies with NASA photography.

The result is a near-perfect replication of the 1969 Apollo 11 landing site. Nvidia tackled some of the most persistent claims used to support a moon landing hoax, starting with the notion that astronaut Buzz Aldrin couldn't have been illuminated when descending the ladder to the moon's surface if he was hidden from the sun by the spacecraft.

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[link to www.cnet.com]