Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for October, 2009

Get to the bottom of this illusion


Observe the image carefully to see if something does not seem appropriated. You will find there’s actually a shoulder hidden in the picture. It’s all on your mind. [via @barryandstuart, Richard Wiseman, who asks if you’re male or female and what you saw first, bottom or shoulder. Definitely a bottom]

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Viral Invasion Confirmed: Spanish UFOs came from Terra

Just as we told ya, the series of “too-good-to-be-true” videos, which tellingly were all anonymous, now have a source. It was Terra Spain itself that was behind it all, with the excuse of “rendering a homage to Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ in its 71st anniversary”. In the video above which is the punch line, a little green Martian curses the heat inside his capsule, mentions Welles and say that those who don’t know what he did should simply search the Internet.

Terra” means “Earth”, reason for the ad people to make many campaigns involving aliens, including in Brazil where their mascot was also a little green man. Their excuse for a homage to Welles doesn’t quite make much sense, as they are almost exactly a month too early – they should have made it on the Halloween – but we already told you these viral campaigns are often senseless. Some visitors have also noted that one of the videos of the campaign was directing people to a page where Terra was celebrating its 10th anniversary, which would seem more reasonable, but curiously is not mentioned anywhere now.

Many people didn’t like the viral campaign, which was promoted even on the main news page of the website, which could explain this supposed change of mind. Or perhaps not, as we emphasize, viral campaigns often don’t make much sense.

Fact is, love it or hate it, the videos attracted a lot of attention. And the best one of the series is, of course, the making of :


There we have confirmation that they actually used a real helicopter and that the UFOs, including the water splash, were completely digital.

A few visitors still believe the videos were real and Terra is part of “The Conspiracy”. We may laugh at their gullibility, but I ask the reader to ponder how the case would be judged if Terra didn’t confess and reveal the making of. I guess not that few people would be wondering about yet another “unsolved” case. Exactly as in the California Drones case.

By investigating extraordinary claims, perhaps the most important lesson I learned is the “asymmetry of the mystery”. That is, it can be so easy to create a mystery, and yet it can be so hard to solve it. As some sort of fundamental physical law, this entropy of mystery investigation must put in perspective just how we should be impressed by an “unsolved mystery”.

If we were reasonable people, we would be more inclined to be impressed by the simple solution to what looked like a complex, unsolvable problem. But we are not reasonable, we are human. We are often far more interested in the mystery than what can look like their boring, prosaic debunking.

That’s not bad in itself, it’s a manifestation of our desire for the unknown, which is the only way to expand what is actually known. To find a real, puzzling mystery is the first step towards a real, innovative solution. The bad thing is how this natural and fundamentally positive need for mystery can be so easily exploited.

And the easiest way is not to create false mysteries, as in these viral campaigns. The easiest way to exploit and make a living of this is by making even the solved cases look like they weren’t solved, and that trying to solve them is not only impossible and arrogant, but not desirable.

At that moment, the fascination for the unknown is no longer a mean to expand our knowledge, but mere veneration of our own ignorance.

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Chop Cup: “There is a fault in reality”

From “We are Om”, some nice trickery. Pics of the set, making of and our inevitable comment about UFO hoaxes after the jump.

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UFO terrorizes fishermen in Spain: Viral Invasion

“A fisherman from Galicia, Span, decided to make public what he claims to have lived through when he was in his boat. Some military fighter jets scrambling a ‘strange object’ that dives into the sea, and a helicopter of unknown provenance that flies over the boat and demand they leave the location. ‘Leave the area immediately, get in contact with the seaport, there you will receive instructions…’ are the words towards the fisher boat.”
[source: Terra Spain, “El terror de un pescador gallego ante un ‘objeto extraño’”]

And that’s not all! As Terra Spain informs, “A ‘strange object’ was found in Asturias beach after the Galicia UFO case”, and impressive images record how four men in white hazmat suits remove a metallic capsule. Click on the image for the video:


There is another video from a different viewpoint:

But that’s not all! Terra Spain also reveals yet another video of what looks like a black helicopter with an unidentified capsule:


And that’s not all! Days before the ongoing commotion with the videos, we already had news reports of ‘strange lights’ over Galícia, and on September 16, there was already a video showing what looks like a metallic shiny flying object that suddenly flies away.

Is that all? Probably not! We bet more is coming from Galicia!!! But setting the excitement apart for a moment, let’s get to some ordinary investigation.

Even Terra promptly tells that:

“The video was sent to us in a message directed to the Terra Noticias team.”

Which means, those are all anonymous videos. It’s not clear, but the censoring of faces and even names of the fishing boat and all other details, in all three videos, which would allow the identification of specific witnesses were apparently made by the anonymous senders themselves. And it’s some quite professional censoring at that. Even Terra Espanha, despite promoting and milking the videos, also compares them to “Rec” and the “Blair Witch” pseudo-documentaries.

Let’s remember the #1 rule of extraordinary claims investigation: anonymous source screams fishy evidence. That was true decades ago, but now more than ever, after the Haitian UFOs, the Italian UFO and so many others, it must be clear that any kind of imagery, no matter how impressive, can be faked, sometimes without much effort. No source, no witness, no smoking-gun proof of anything. An Internet video is just an Internet video.

Then let’s agree how bizarre it is to have four strangely dressed guys in a black truck taking what we would presume is a secret device… in the back of their truck. Or a secret device being carried by a black helicopter for everyone to see. Those things don’t make sense, except for making some very interesting videos. Anonymous ones.

Everything suggests a viral marketing campaign. The two videos of the guys taking the capsule indicates several people are involved with it. The original video at a fisher boat must have involved more production. I don’t know if the black helicopter seen is real or digital: if it was real, which it may well be, then the production involved some thousands of dollars at the very least. It could also be completely digital, including the sea wave disturbances.

A lot of speculation, granted, but fact is, the “UFO” can be easily faked, and perhaps no one would be better to demonstrate it than the creator of the Haitian UFOs.

French CGI artist David Nicolas, created a couple of months ago a small clip of a UFO diving into the waters of Rio de Janeiro for a local TV show (it’s a little after one minute on):

The UFO, the water splash, all digital. Curiously, Nicolas also had a helicopter there, which I also assume was digital. Interesting coincidences with our recent Spanish video. Could Nicolas be involved? Perhaps, but the same computer graphic tools were used indeed.

The only detail that doesn’t quite fit here are the reports from non-anonymous witnesses of ‘strange lights’ in the sky over the area on September 25, as publicized in the local newspaper, La Voz de Galicia. Those could be just a coincidence, that is, non-related sightings of UFOs. Or they could be the result of another action of the viral campaign. Would the marketing people go beyond the virtual videos, and create fake UFOs in the sky?

If this is indeed a viral campaign, we will soon be hearing more about it, and I will update this post as news come. Cloverfield, some local independent production, who knows what is the product being promoted. Those censured face people probably know.

And in the end, we could be wrong and the invasion… has already begun. In that event, we will blog about it.

[UPDATE Oct 4, 2009]

As predicted, another “too good to be true” video comes allegedly from the same region in Spain:

Once again, no witness can be identified. Visitors of Terra Spain speculate that the viral campaign is for the movie “Planet 51”, scheduled for release on November 20 and produced by Madrid-based Ilion Animation Studios.

It looks like a good bet, although the story of the movie is about an Earth astronaut that ends on an alien planet, not the other way. And viral marketing campaigns often don’t make much sense, so this could be for another product or production altogether. It’s certainly generating a lot of buzz.

We expect yet more videos, and the revelation of what’s being sold soon.

[UPDATE Oct 5, 2009]

Confirmed: it was viral campaign from Terra Spain itself as a homage to Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds”. More on it, including the making of:

Viral Invasion Confirmed: Spanish UFOs came from Terra.

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