Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for September, 2010

CSI: Vatican

Zoom in. Now… enhance.

tilma_2It has become a trope, and as such, has also been parodied. Amazingly though, even before television was invented, the Catholic Church was already resorting to this plot device to promote a miracle which, incidentally, may have been a complete work of fiction.

It’s all related to the miracle of Guadalupe, a very special Marian Apparition not only because it’s one of the pillars of Catholic belief in Mexico and one of the largest Catholic shrines in the world…

But also because the miracle left a very physical evidence behind, the allegedly supernaturally formed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  

Like other relics, all sorts of claims to support supernatural characteristics are promoted by the faithful, and among them is the claim that:

“According to many scientists who have inspected the image, it seems that in her eyes, in both of them and in the precise location as reflected by a live human eye, could be seen many figures that have been extensively analyzed and seem to correspond to the shape and size of human figures located in front of the image.”


This is “CSI: Vatican”, where “zoom… and enhance” works even in an image painted over cloth. As early as 1929 alleged “reflections” in the eyes of the image were already being considered, but as in CSI, it would be only with the aid of computer “enhancement” that such claims would gain greater notoriety.


Nevertheless, this only works that way in fiction. Any image record, in any medium, will have several limitations, and one could consider the impossibility of such feats of “enhancement” both through Information Theory – by defining how one cannot extract indefinite amounts of information from a defined set of pixels – as well as limits related to fundamental physical effects such as the uncertainty principle and Planck’s constant.

What the faithful see in the eyes of Guadalupe is simply pareidolia.


Yeah, I know, terrible joke, but now you know how religion can be stranger than fiction.

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Kean and Pilkington UFOs: Mirage Men on the Record


This is not a review of the two UFO books making the rounds lately. I just bought Mark Pilkington’s “Mirage Men”, though it won’t actually arrive here in Brazil before the end of the month. Hurray for standard shipping. As for Leslie Kean’s “UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record”, I will wait a little while until it’s released on paperback. So, I don’t have either of the books on hand, nor have I read them. This is not a review.

But I just had to comment on them beforehand, because both books feature Brazilian cases, it seems quite prominently. Kean features a Trindade Island case photo right on the frontpage of her site. She also quoted (and published) Brig. Gen. Jose Pereira of Brazil regarding a famous local UFO scramble case in 1986. For his part, Pilkington deals with the Antonio Villas Boas abduction case. Or so I read on some reviews, especially the quick blurb by Andy Roberts and David Clarke on this month’s Fortean Times. Let’s start from there.

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Hero and Villain


Superb work by Simon C. Page, Batman vs Penguin.

His Spiderman vs. Green Goblin is pure genius too. [via misterhonk.de]

Popularity: 3% [?]

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Do you feel lucky, time-traveler Punk?


“New York circa 1905. "Unloading at banana docks." 8×10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company” [click for full-size original at Shorpy]

Given that the time-traveler hipster is the most viewed page here on Forgetomori, when I saw the time-traveler punk on Anomalist I just had to blog about it. Even though I must be first to admit this is not as impressive, as his clothes are quite clearly in context, his allegedly mohawk hairstyle is quite interesting.

And as it happens, I was about to blog about mohawk hairstyles, because like stamped T-shirts they look like something quite modern, when contrary to stamped T-shirts, they are not.

The oldest known record of a Mohawk hairstyle actually predates the Mohawk tribe: it’s been found on the Clonycavan Man, an Iron Age body in Dublin, Ireland. That’s a 2,300 years old quite well-preserved Mohawk hair. I didn’t include a photo here because it’s still not that much to look for, but just follow the above link to Wikipedia.


It would be the fierce image of tribal warriors that would make the Mohawk hairstyle enter modern popular culture, but long before the punk movement. In World War II, the US 101st Airborne Division famous for it’s bravery fighting in Europe, as depicted on “Band of Brothers”, had a sub-unit selected and trained for an almost suicidal mission: the Filthy Thirteen.

To incite fear in the enemies, and as a leader of the group, Jake McNiece, was part Native-American, they cut their hair Mohawk style and even painted their faces. The photo above was published by Stars and Stripes in June 1944, and soldiers later in the Vietnam war would also sport such hairstyle.

A fictional Vietnam veteran, Travis Bickle, would then be immortalized in “Taxi Driver” (1976).


Which brings us back to the time-traveler punk unloading at banana docks. By definition this sort of “time-traveler photos” will be singled out because of the fashion statements the apparently out of place hipsters/punks will be sporting.

However – this speaks a lot about fashion – as in the most famous photo, here too the punk wasn’t actually making any sort of fashion statement. He may have cut his hair that way for any number of reasons, you don’t know if he only shaved one side of his hair.

Yesterday’s worker at the banana docks with a ridiculous haircut my be tomorrow’s David Beckham.

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