Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for October, 2008

Kumburgaz, Turkey UFO video reproduction

Talking about beating a dead horse… above you can watch the amazing video of a metallic dinner tray:

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In the video I covered the yellow support with a black T-shirt. The end result is quite similar to the significant and undeniable UFO” from Istanbul (click to watch the original).

My reproduction is not perfect, as I didn’t quite got the lightning right (in the first half it’s too dark, in the second too bright), and the tray I used was not very reflective (ideally, it should be as reflective as a mirror).

If those conditions were met, and I had spent more than three minutes to assemble the setup and film it, I’m quite sure I could get results identical do the original video. Including moving images “inside the UFO”, which are interpreted as aliens but could in fact be reflections of anything moving.

This video reproduction follows the original suggestion by Toni Inajar, author of the photo below. His tray is more reflective and should produce a better reproduction:

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Ufologists over at UfoUpdates are quite skeptical of the Istanbul video anyway, except for… one from Mexico who also supports Jaime Maussán. So please excuse this repeated violence against a deceased equine, and enjoy the videos of dinner trays.

[Thanks and credits to Toni Inajar]

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Beating a Dead Horse (and mea culpa)

Back on May I mentioned a video footage from Alvin, Texas, by Mauricio Ruíz, which was being heavily promoted by the infamous Mexican UFO-seller Jaime Maussán. I did mention my initial guess that it was:

simply a suspended lamp? I vouched for the suspended lamp, as the wires could have been obliterated by the background sky, and the match of focus and general appearance seemed very nice and real. For a lamp, that is. The fact the “UFO” almost doesn’t move was also a factor".”

But a fellow had received an image which suggested it was actually a computer generated hoax. I initially held my first opinion, until I “realized the time stamp and footage on [the received image were] are nowhere to be seen in the publicized video”. I then concluded it was therefore “a screenshot of the creation of the footage” indeed.

It turns out I was wrong about that. Mauricio Ruíz had publicized several different videos, and the person who created that screencap suggesting it was CGI simply used one of these other versions. This anonymous hoaxer of a hoax never identified himself. He did fool me and fellow skeptics, I have to say, and there is mea culpa before you.

Which doesn’t make the original Alvin “UFO” video any more credible, of course. In fact, I was probably right at the beginning, and following a suggestion on ATS, this “UFO” has all the appearance of a modified solar lamp post:

alvinsolarlampufo

That would have saved Ruiz of the trouble of creating the circuitry for the lamps and everything else. He may have simply removed the middle, transparent section of the post, as well as its base. Even the holes we see below the “UFO” may be simply the original holes used to fix the lamp to the base.

In the illustrative image above, the proportions of the solar lamp post I found don’t seem to match exactly the purported UFO, but there are countless similar variations being sold.

This is surely beating a dead horse, as it seems very few people believed the video was real, and Maussán’s relentless efforts to discredit ufology (and himself) have worked somehow. But besides the mea culpa (which I had already done as an update in the original post), I decided to write about this again because Maussán is promoting claims that the video shows conclusive physical evidence of “magnetic interference” from the UFO.

Which would still be a dead horse, except for the fact he managed to get that endorsed by an academic from UNAM, the largest Latin American University. It was Miguel Ángel Canseco, who tellingly is a chemist specialized in polymers, and apparently not someone quite familiarized with how electromagnetism works.

In an interview and a report about which only quotes have been publicized, Canseco says that analysis of “damaged” and “non-damaged” parts of the video tape show evidence that it was subjected to a “quick” magnetic flux density of 8~10.000 Gauss. That’s ten times more intense than the field in common MRIs, and you can see what that makes to nearby ferrous objects. A “quick” variation would be even worse, as that would induce electric currents. Mauricio Ruiz claims his cell phone was damaged, but the real damage of an estimated “200.000 Gauss” field “quick” variation would be much more evident than that.

And as Alejandro Franz and a few fellow skeptics point out, the “electromagnetic interference” in question is completely bogus. Ruiz and Maussán are so careless that they initially publicized the original video… with no interference!

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Not only that, Franz also notes that though the time stamp in the video shows a 15 second lapse, the actual section shown with interference has only 5 seconds.

This all suggests that the “magnetic interference from the UFO”, claimed by Maussán and his “experts”, validated by an academic from UNAM, is simply the result of a crude video edition done directly on tape (either with the video camera itself or a video recorder). We have all seen that on VHS tapes, as one recording goes to the another and the video tracking goes out of sync.

So, there it is, a severely beaten dead horse. But if you read everything to this point, I hope it may have been somewhat interesting, as this case shows how I do make my mistakes – as any ordinary investigator (read the motto at the header) would – and how hoaxers may eventually get some sort of academic validation for their crude hoaxes, as scientists also make their mistakes. Hoaxers thrive on this.

The saga of a solar lawn lamp. The End.

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Ufologists won’t use Sagan’s name anymore

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Days after being exposed, Brazilian ufologists who wanted to create a “Carl Sagan Institute” to talk with aliens decided to change the name of their group to “Galileo Galilei Institute for Extraterrestrial Life Research”.

The public announcement, though, came only now, on the website of their publication:

“In a meeting of the committee for the creation of the Carl Sagan Institute, September 7th, the proposal was approved to change the name of the group to Galileo Galilei Institute for Extraterrestrial Life Research. … The Institute’s website, still referring to Carl Sagan, will be taken offline soon and will be replaced by a new one.”

Ann Druyan, of the Carl Sagan Foundation, was “delighted with this news”, which is surely a victory to preserve Carl Sagan’s legacy.

We thank all who helped in this borderless effort, with special gratitude to Assis Utsch and Alexandre Medeiros in Brazil, Luis Alfonso Gámez in Spain, and PZ Myers and Bob Carrol from the US.

As we commemorate this news, there’s now the unfortunate abuse of Galileo’s name and legacy instead. One of the founders of modern science passed away more than four centuries ago, which makes a legal stand more difficult – as the ufologists probably considered.

On the other hand, few will assume the Italian thinker – and experimenter – personally endorsed this alienated institute. We will keep watch on their claims regarding Galileo and their actions, acting whenever possible.

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