Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for the 'Skepticism' Category

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 :

makingof_ovnigallego

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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Debunking roundup

debroundup

I try not to post too many debunking posts in a row as it starts to get boring, but a bunch of images and claims have been circulating these past few weeks and I didn’t comment on them at the time. So I joined all of them into one quick debunking roundup, if you are still not bored by those.

I promise I will try to make the next post about something truly mysterious and wonderful, contrary to exposing some dubious, lame hoaxes.

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Blurred by an angel

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“My name is Marcio and I’m sending this photo for you to explain this phenomenon, I assure you this is no hoax. I don’t know when it was taken, I just know it was captured during a religious celebration, and it looks like an angel… what can you tell me about it?”

One of the most interesting photos I have received (click to enlarge), it no doubt looks like an angel, complete with wings and something in its hands… perhaps a harp?

Perhaps, fact is that there are some other white blurs in the photograph that don’t remind of any obvious religious imagery, and perhaps more importantly, there’s a little girl in a white dress in the same pose as the “angel”.

Or the opposite would be more appropriated.

We can explain the image as the result of long exposure of the film, which captured all the bright elements in the image – like those white and shiny – whilst the photographer shook his camera, by accident. Mix some pareidolia, and we have this image.

The illustration below may help to understand the effects in action here:

angel_blur 

Highlighted in red are the sources of the blurs: the girl’s white dress, the white shirt of a man sitting at left and the shiny metal microphone stand up in the stage. All these elements were reflecting the ambient light, as well as camera flashes, producing the blurs that we highlighted in green.

The yellow arrows point the movement blurs produced by other sources of light and that are everywhere in the image. They also explain the “wings” of the angel, which are in fact blurs of the same white dress. Note the camera movement could be either going up or down, depending on the fact that the blurs were captured before or after the rest of the image.

Also note that the relative position between the white angel and the blur on its left side exactly matches the relative position between the little girl’s dress and the man in a white shirt. This match gives us reason to think our interpretation is correct, and this angel of light is just a blurred image of the little miss singing.

A real angel, indeed.

[With thanks to Marcio Silva for the image]

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Levitation Secret Revealed (70 years ago)

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“Some physical mediums claimed to have experienced levitations. One of the most famous is Colin Evans. The photograph was taken by infra-red light during a seance in 1938. – Comparison of several photos of this event shows that he remained in the air for some time!” [Antigravity Power]

Or was he? I never paid much attention to this photo, having seen it many times, as I simply assumed it was a crude hoax and the “medium” appeared to be suspended by an invisible string.

It turns out he accomplished the feat by another method. Can you guess how? Keep reading for more photos of his levitations that may help.

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Psychic powers: video proof?

psiwheel1

This is honestly one of the most curious videos purportedly showing paranormal abilities I have ever seen. It’s not an extraordinary feat like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, after all it’s just a piece of paper spinning. Hardly useful. But the many ways by which the author tries to make it clear there’s no trickery involved turns this boring spinning piece of paper into something genuinely intriguing.

Before explaining this video, however, I would like to ask for you to write down, Windows Notepad would do, how would you briefly answer to a friend the following questions: 1-“Does this video proves the paranormal?”, and 2-“How was it created?”. It’s important that you write down your answers, as they may surprise you later.

Keep reading for the whole story.

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