Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for September, 2011

The Paulding Light

“The Paulding Light also known as "The Dog Meadow Lights" have been a mystery in Upper Michigan for over 40 years. To this day you can see them on almost any night!”

And they are not faked.

The first recorded sighting of the Paulding Light came in 1966 when a group of teenagers reported the light to a local sheriff. Since then, the mysterious light appears nearly every night at the site.

Although stories of the light vary, the most popular legend involves the death of a railroad brakeman. The legend states that the valley once contained railroad tracks and the light is the lantern of the brakeman who was killed while attempting to stop an oncoming train from colliding with railway cars stopped on the tracks.

The fact there never were railroad tracks there is but a small detail. Those could be ghost railroads, you know.

Fact is, the Paulding Light Mystery can be quickly solved by looking at it with a telescope. As these students from Michigan Technological University lead by Jeremy Bos show:

They are car headlights from US-45, of which a stretch about 5 miles away lines up at the exact location.

If you view the original video again, you can actually see that the brighter white lights are inbound car headlights on the left lane, with a high beam which is then dimmed for approaching traffic on the opposite direction… of which you can then see the red tail lights!

How could this be a mystery for 40 years, one may ask? Well, it wasn’t. As Bos point out, another team had investigated the site in the 1980s and reached the same conclusion. Several people realized the same even before that.

But like the more widely known Marfa Lights, which by the way have the same explanation, legend and mystery spread faster and longer than prosaic explanations.

Popularity: 2% [?]

No comments

“Iconatomy”: Celebrities and Reification

iconatomy1

In “Iconatomy”, Art Student George Chamoun, from Sweden, mixed movie icons from two different eras in a collage that’s even more outstanding because the pictures were not distorted in any way.

iconatomy2

“What you see is a collage of two different people in each picture”, Chamoun  explains. “Did it take me a long time to find the right pictures? Hell yes it did!”

And the fascinating thing is that with his technique, Chamoun managed to make that fusion of faces happen inside our brains. Because as much as Audrey Hepburn may be very much like Natalie Portman:

iconatomy3

They are not as identical as Chamoun’s collage initially suggests to our grey matter. To get to the bottom of it, did it take me a long time to find the pictures Chamoun originally used? Well, not that much, thanks to Google Reverse Image Search. Here they are:

hepburn-portman

Hepburn was wearing a hat, and I had to flip Portman’s image. Side by side, the differences may be highlighted, and I suggest you may review the collage above.

How could these similar but obviously different faces fuse themselves into one so very well? This must be a perceptual illusion, and I bet it has something to do with the Kanizsa Triangle.

300px-Kanizsa_triangle.svg

Our brain fills in the gaps and we see a triangle that’s not actually there. It’s what Gestalt psychology calls Reification, the constructive aspect of perception, which is not something we feel but something we do.

Chamoun’s collage makes the two faces join exactly where they coincide – at the top of the hair, in the contours of the chin, for instance. Like the vertices of the illusory Kanizsa triangle, our perception does the rest and fills in the gaps, mixing two Hollywood stars in one face.

This illusion also exhibits the Gestalt principle of multistability, famous in the Rubin vase, whereas you can see a mixed face closer either to the Hollywood icon from the past or present.

All of this reminded me of another recent illusion, and one which may not look very, well, sophisticated. It’s what was called “Bubbling” or “Mormon Porn”.

gestalt-porn

“Mormons can’t look at porn, so they had to come up with a creative idea that would give them the illusion to watch nude girls without actually watching at… nude girls! They call it bubbling.”, they said.

I would call it Gestalt Porn. Sound classier. Or more explicit? Either way, it’s all in our minds.

Popularity: 3% [?]

1 comment