Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for May, 2011

Ariadne’s Thread


Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete. Minos had Daedalus build a Labyrinth, a house of winding passages, to house the bull-man, the Minotaur, and required tribute from Athens in the form of young men and women to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. Theseus volunteered to accompany one of these groups of victims to deliver his country from the tribute to Minos. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and gave him a thread which he let unwind through the Labyrinth so that he was able to kill the Minotaur and find his way back out again.” [Labyrinth]

I can’t help but remember Ariadne’s thread when looking at these beautiful images, as the contrail left by the Endeavour on its way to space is reminiscent of a very long thread that will soon vanish with the wind. The heroes that go orbit our planet must find their own way back home.

But there’s another way of interpreting the ancient Greek myth into the space age.

We may find ourselves already inside the Labyrinth, fighting and sacrificing millions of young lives each year among stupid and ultimately futile conflicts on the many corners of this planet. A pale blue dot, as Carl Sagan termed it, a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam that yet seems so vast that many think it’s all there is, was and will be.

As a Labyrinth, we have never left it. The farthest we have gone was our own Moon, but we quickly came back, and in fact never returned to it after only a handful of steps. We are still lost inside a labyrinth where we are our own monsters, as an infinite Universe of possibilities awaits to be explored.

The Ariadne’s Threads we unravel with our spaceships do not point the way back home, but our destiny among the stars. [image by @Stefmara and @NASA]

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More Escher’s Waterfall Video Tricks

I don’t have more information on the above video which I stumbled upon, but it’s a very nice real-life reproduction of M.C. Escher’s original lithography.

Also, after a couple of months, mcwolles has finally published videos explaining how he made his version:

See the other two videos on his Youtube channel. [hattip Frank!]

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Battle of LA photo: Nothing indeed


The latest issue of Tim Printy’s SUNlite is out, and among several superb articles are his comments on the recent uncovering of the undoctored Battle of LA photo. And besides Scott Harrison’s article we wrote about here, Printy also points out that Larry Harnisch wrote several articles documenting all the context of the “Battle of LA” (Introduction, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), with loads of news clippings, and even more interesting, better quality and close up scans of the original negative of the famous photo.

And that’s what you see above: “it’s nothing but a convergence of light beams with some randomly clustered dots of light”, as Harnisch states. “Another good story ruined”.

I actually think this is still a great story, and one nicely told by Harnisch himself, of great psychosocial interest, from war nerves to how history was rewritten and reinterpreted in just a few decades to the point where hopes and fears of extraterrestrial beings quickly erased the very real concerns of a real major World War. And it’s still interesting to see how believers still cling to the idea of alien spaceships as the only faint evidence literally vanishes.  “This case will never be closed for those who want to believe it was an actual craft in the center of the image”, comments Printy.

Indeed, Bruce Maccabee, who had previously analyzed – and failed to realize he was dealing with – a crudely retouched print updated his analysis given Harrison’s image, but actually maintained his previous considerations. “The fact is that the beams basically do not get past the convergence”, he states, but given these different scans, with higher dynamic range, it’s clearer both that there’s no solid object there and that the “faint evidence of beams above the convergence” is actually clear evidence of beams right past and above it.


There was something with higher optical density at the region of convergence indeed, but it definitely wasn’t solid, and therefore almost by definition could only be… a cloud or smoke. As Brett Holman from Airminded points out (and Printy had also suggested), a small cloud fits the evidence perfectly.


Finally, Maccabee suggests that one of the beams – the dashed line below, from his analysis – could be a reflected beam.


Over on UfoUpdates I suggested it’s more probable this is actually just a beam which has its source at the right and behind the photographer, which seems to the pointed downwards due to perspective. To better understand this, just look at this photo of a cupola:


None of the structural beams actually point downwards, but several of them in the photo look that way simply by perspective. As Harnisch quoted Marvin Miles of what he witnessed that night, “The objects in the sky slowly moved on, caught in the center of the lights like the hub of a bicycle wheel surrounded by gleaming spokes.”

Or gleaming beams of a cupola, with the photographer below and “inside” it, so that some beams would seem to be pointed downwards even while pointing upwards. No reflections required, no evidence of any solid object, nothing indeed.

But still a good story, just one that will not please those that would rather rewrite the history of a major World War with extraterrestrial invasion.

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