Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for May, 2010

Circlemakers say “Hi” (here’s a plank to stomp with)

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Of course, the Mail (and so many other vehicles) reports the story with a slightly different take:

Crop circle hiding ‘beautiful’ maths formula appears in rape seed field
An extraordinary crop circle based on the ‘world’s most beautiful maths theorem’ has appeared in a field next to a windmill in Wiltshire. The complex disc, which measures 300ft across, appeared to the east of Wilton Windmill near Marlborough in a blazing yellow rape seed field. It appeared on Saturday [May 23] just 25miles from another circle that popped up a fortnight ago by the Iron Age hill fort of Old Sarum.”

They quote Lucy Pringle, who says that “Working from the centre outwards, people are suggesting it has a connection to Leonhard Euler‘s theorem e^(i)pi+1=0 which is thought to be one of the most beautiful theorems in mathematics.”

What they didn’t quote was who first suggested this decoding, and as Greg Taylor remarked on UfoUpdates, it was Daily Grail editor Richard Andrews (“Grailseeker”). This is important not only for crediting where credit is due, but because Andrews explains how he decoded the formation.

It was simply a matter of decoding the radial lines: starting from the center, notice how each have 8 bars going either up or down. This can be interpreted as an 8-bit binary code, not unlike the kind of barcode used for mail in the US and other countries. And 8-bits can be always interpreted as encoding ASCII characters, especially when we have previous formations using ASCII. And that’s how you get the message “e^(hi)pi)1=0”.

Click the image below for a nice animation by Andrews explaining the decoding:

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Now, as Andrews explains, “e^(hi)pi)1=0” is not exactly Euler’s identity, which can be written as “e^((i)pi)+1=0”. He suggests this was intentional: Planck found in ‘Euler’s Identity’ Crop Circle?!

“One thing bothered me though, and that was the inclusion of the anomalous ‘h’ in the message/formula. Certainly, with the absent ‘+’, it made up the number of characters to twelve, which would make the crop circle easier to produce on the ground and more windmill-like, as well as referencing a highly symbolic number.

More significantly though, with the adjacent ‘i’, it reads ‘hi‘ – an embedded message from the maker perhaps? It was only when Jim Gilliland suggested in this Facebook thread that ‘h’ could be a reference to the Planck constant, taking us from the world of maths into the world of physics, that I realised what could be the full meaning of the embedded message.

Could the makers have left a ‘Planck’ in the design as a subtle joke on all the croppies who might pronounce this a ‘genuine’ crop circle as opposed to a circle made with a plank?!”

It would be an elegant Trojan Horse joke by the circlemakers. It would not be the first time, the 1991 Milk Hill script can also be decoded with a very humorous message (which you can read on ‘The Field Guide’). And perhaps even more elegant because it can also be interpreted as an error: there’s only one flipped bit between the ascii code for ‘h’=01101000 and the correct ‘(’=00101000. Flipping the bit happens in the best families.

Now, could this be a deliberate error? Notice how even if they didn’t flip the bit, the formula equation would still be incorrect because it’s missing a ‘+’, as Andrews noticed. A mathematician would be quick to point out how this missing plus sign is perhaps one the most important parts of the equation, because that means that transcendental numbers and the imaginary unit can equal a number as comprehensible as a negative integer –1.

The correct equation “e^((i)pi)+1=0” takes 13 characters. Could it be encoded in 12? Yes, you could also write the equation as “e^(i*pi)+1=0”, for instance. Why would the circlemakers choose a deliberately wrong rendition of the “most beautiful theorem in mathematics”*? Another error?

Perhaps, but this could also be interpreted as part of the joke, a blatantly clear message that this is no perfect message. If for nothing else, it should be clear that intergalactic aliens would hardly use the ASCII code established in 1968, with a mathematical notation of parenthesis, Euler’s number, the imaginary unit and even how one would write the Greek letter ‘pi’ in roman characters, just the way one would enter such equation in Google.

A clear message that the only mystery here is that created by humans, for humans.

With a Plan(c)k, perhaps.

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*As Max Reinhold Jahnke points out, “this expression is known as Euler’s identity, Euler’s theorem is another thing (there are several of them, the most famous refers to algebra/number theory). It’s also not correct to call it a formula, since it only has constantes. =)”.

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“My name is Darwin, not Darlose!”

Dana Carvey is "DARWIN"

“DARWIN: First came action-packed Sherlock Holmes now comes action-packed Darwin. From Dana Carvey & Spike Feresten’s new show ‘Spoof.’”

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Secret UN meeting about aliens? Exopolitics exposed

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Our cosmic ambassador being spanked… and enjoying it? First things first. A couple of years ago, the news of “a secret meeting that allegedly occurred at the New York office of the United Nations discussing UFOs/extraterrestrial life” made the rounds, publicized by Michael Salla of the Exopolitics movement.

This story has now been exposed, and quite entertainingly, from an exemplary piece of critical investigation to the wonders – and dangers – of the digital age on privacy. Don’t miss the whole investigation on Reality Uncovered, by Stephen Broadbent. Here’s a summary:

It all started with Clay Pickering claiming he had attended a classified Navy meeting. He posted two photos of the event he himself had taken. Most importantly, “our source was there”, Pickering wrote.

This source is “Source A”, the allegedly “active-duty officer in the United States Navy with a long and illustrious career, spanning nearly 40 years at sea” who, “liaises with Extra Terrestrial races on behalf of the UN”. You read that right, Source A is our cosmic ambassador. Or so the story by the Exopolitics crowd goes.

Michael Salla himself replied to Pickering’s message saying Source A was important. Little did they know these little pieces of information would finally expose who Source A was, and just how bad is Exopolitics’ fact-checking.

John JeddyHi” quickly pointed out that this classified event was conducted at the New York Athletic Club with the New York Council of the Navy League. Any non-member who paid $60 could attend. “At least that price included open bar with wine, beer and soft drinks!”, John joked.

Pickering self-aggrandizing story had been exposed almost instantly. But remember, Pickering claimed our cosmic ambassador was also there. And this was a public event of the Navy League, which posted 100 photos of it on their website.

John and now Andy Murray scoured these photos in search of suspects, in “a simple, yet brilliant piece of investigative skill”, as Broadbent nicely put it. They ended up with three suspects. How to find which was “Source A”?

It would not be that hard since Source A has met with several Ufologists. One of them finally pinpointed Source A in this photo. But they still didn’t have a name.

By the lapel pin in that photo, however, they found he was from the New York Naval Order Commandery. Some further investigation and… this piece of writing by Broadbent is just great:

“In an ideal world, a world where scriptwriters make the rules perhaps, he would find another photo of the person identified as being Source A and he would be sporting a name tag. Of course, such things only happen in the movies and poorly written novels, don’t they?

No, no they don’t.”

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Yes, our cosmic ambassador was there last year, wearing a name tag, available on Flickr. Our cosmic ambassador has been found. And he’s Richard Theilmann.

As I repeat: read the whole detailed story on Reality Uncovered, as they go from the identification to finally fact-check Source A’s story with the so many details Theilmann has gladly put on the Internet about his own life, under his own name. That even includes an embarrassing photo of him in a “male slave” outfit being spanked, taken from his myspace account.

This investigation has been publicized a few days ago, and already we have some reactions. First, there’s no doubt they did a wonderful job, and Source A is indeed Richard Theilmann. Pickering and Salla have not refuted and Salla has already implicitly confirmed the identification.

Then, all the holes in Source A story. He is clearly not our cosmic ambassador. Salla grasps for straws and claims that Bruce Maccabee, who by the way, confirmed the identification, had also told that he met Theilmann in his reserved Navy lab, which would mean he was an active-duty officer with security credentials.

Broadbent of RealityUncovered promises to tackle these and other elements in the next installment of the series. I can’t wait to read it.

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New Montauk Monster? This time it’s an otter

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“Locals in a small Canadian town have been stumped by the appearance of a bizarre creature, which was dragged from a lake. … The creature was discovered by two nurses in the town of Kitchenuhmaykoosib in Ontario, Canada, while out on a walk with their dog.”
Telegraph: New Montauk Monster sighting? Bizarre creature washes up in small Ontario town

The news in the local website for the town, gives the quite important information that “the creature’s tail is like a rat’s tail and it is a foot long.”

It’s quite interesting just how much such unpleasant photos can be milked as a mystery, all the while the news reports end up mentioning – and trying to discard – the most likely explanation.

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A dead otter.

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Let’s repeat: a dead decomposing otter.

Even the Montauk Monster turned out as a raccoon, and the recent “Cerro Azul” Monster from panama was simply a sloth.

In all these cases, the creatures decomposing in water result in swelling, discoloration and the loss of fur, giving these hairy animals a somewhat different look.

In this Canadian case the look is not even that different, however.

UPDATE 05.22.2010: Was it actually a mink? Through friend Biologist Maria Guimarães, we managed to hear the thoughts of doctor James L. Patton, Curator and Professor Emeritus, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California.

“[The] mystery critter looks more like a mink than an otter to me (longer fingers, without any evidence of webbing).  It clearly was dead in the water for a prolonged period, hence the defurred face and head, and somewhat swollen appearance”, wrote Patton.

“If anyone had bothered to look at the teeth, the identification would have been easy, but…”, he remarked, emphasizing that this likely ID was made only through the photos published on the Internet, without the necessary evidence for a more definite conclusion.

So, it looks like an otter, and was probably a mink. Either way, no monster, both creatures are quite cute, that we can all agree on. [with many thanks to Maria Guimarães and James Patton!]

UPDATE 05.29.2010: Giorgio Castiglioni sends more comments:

“The most visible teeth in the upper jaw looks like a canine and also its position is too backward to be an incisor. So we can discard rodents like the muskrat that someone (e.g. cryptozoologist Loren Coleman) suggested as a possible solution (rodents don’t have canine teeth).
Looking at teeth and shape of boy and paws, it seems clear it’s a mustelid. So your first hypothesis as an otter was a good guess, but also my opinion is that it’s an American mink (Neovison vison).”

Castiglioni also remarks how:

“(Hoping I won’t annoy you) the otter whose photo you used in your blog is an European otter (Lutra lutra) that is found in Europe and Asia, not in Canada. The otter of Canada belongs to another species and genus, Lontra canadensis.”

No annoyance at all! To correct the error, here is not an otter, either European or from Canada, but an American Mink:

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[Thank you, Giorgio!]

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Vaccine and Autism: The Facts in the Case

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Darryl Cunningham Investigates, and illustrates, “The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield”. [hat tip to friend Cyntia Beltrão]

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