Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for November, 2011

Accidental Optical Illusion


As previously seen, but up a notch! [via reddit]

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Koi’s Aliens

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Back in 2009, I attempted to publish skeptical notes on one alleged Alien photo a day for the whole month of November. In the end, however, the work was too much and I only managed to publish 21 of them (in retrospect I’m actually surprised I went that far):





Now, Isaac Koi, a superb researcher, has online no less than 50 of them in Koi Alien Photos, from where we get the image that starts this post. Unfortunately he has not published all his notes yet, but you may have recognized the little alien held by his arms on the right page. It’s Koi Alien Photo 01.

And it’s also his first appearance ever: on a German article, “Der Mars-Mensch!” published on Neue Illustrierte, from Cologne. On April, 1, 1950. There’s also another photomontage of the Alien coming out of his silver disc, and the accompanying story makes reference to an American sergeant named “D. Ussel (13th Airborn Division)”. Koi remarks that “dussel” is German for sucker, or perhaps fool.

If there was any doubt this was an April Fool’s joke, Achim Martin, who provided the copy of the original article we are seeing (via Loren Gross), noted the following issued of Neue Illustrierte on April 5th clarified it was indeed an April Fool’s – and that the “silverman” alien was an artist from the ice-skater group “The Lidstones”. Koi however suspects neither of the pair Joan and James Lidstone were the face of the alien, but rather that they were in another image of the joke showing a multiple exposure image.

Martin Kottmeyer had already identified one source of the series of images on the Neue Illustrierte prank, “one of which is a retouched picture of Dr. E.W. Kay’s model saucer that appeared in the press on January 11, 1950”. I produced this comparison to confirm the identification:


This also illustrates how the images were created by combining original photos with a lot of airbrushing.

On the note I wrote about it, “Die Fälscher Alien”, I quoted Koi himself, through the kind collaboration of “Internos”, from the ATS forum, who pointed me to the many valuable snippets Koi had been sharing there. As it turns out, already in 1982 Loren Gross had named Neue Illustrierte as the source, and had published copies of the article in 2003 sent by Martin. The Neue Illustrierte prank had even reached an AP news wire on April 1950 – and also the Talk of the Times, from where it echoed in the US too.

If any German reader is able to search for Cologne newspapers, particularly around April 1, 1950, they may finally put to a much due rest to this photo”, I wrote in 2009, unaware that years before a German reader had already done that. The photo has been put to rest.

But this explanation, as all good explanations should, does raise some interesting points. At the exact same April Fool’s, another German newspaper published another very similar April Fool’s prank. Coincidence? No. Conspiracy? Probably not.

In fact both pranks were inspired by the hoaxed story of a crashed saucer and its occupants known as the Aztec Crashed Saucer hoax. That very same hoax is actually also where most of the details of what is better known as the Roswell Crashed Saucer story originally appeared. They would only be associated with Roswell decades later.

I’ll be updating and correcting the information on some of the posts I made back in 2009 given the most excellent reference Koi has published.

Unfortunately, to this day, over a century from the invention of photography, and six decades after the initial flying saucer craze, there’s not one single photograph of an alleged Alien that is even remotely intriguing. Sure we still have lots of unexplained ones, mainly because of their unknown origins, but even them are always within the limits of even a shoestring hoaxing budget.

Of course, if you happen to know or have one, you can always e-mail me the scoop of the millennium.

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Through the Eyes of a Statistician

The adorable video above, an entry to The American Statistics Association contest, shows the world “through the eyes of a statistician”.

Statistics is all around us and can be seen in the marks left by the actions of hundreds, thousands of people on objects such as a gas pump slot, as well as on a door handle (as it gets worn out, the corrosion will leave a normal distribution bell curve shaped pattern). On the other hand, the stains left by dripping oil from car engines on a parking lot will display a discrete Poisson distribution emerging pattern.

That reminded me of a funny fact: the “Adam” statue by Bottero at Time Warner Center in New York has a shining area that ends up contrasting against the rest of the sculpture. A tabloid even described the urge to touch the area as “irresistible”.

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Men may be more interested in the statues of the “Crazy Girls” casino in Las Vegas:

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Back to something less related to sexuality statistics – which turns the parts down there “irresistible” to groping – , I also remembered the story about a Buddhist monk who supposedly left his footprints on the wooden floor on which he had been praying for twenty years:

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My critical sense does not buy this story, mainly due to the way the footprints don’t seem to follow the foot parts that actually bear most of the weight, or at least should wear out the wood a bit more – especially the little toe area. Or maybe the peculiar way he is supposed to have been praying can indeed create those footprint patterns?

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Applied statistics, along with other fields of science, would let us put this story to test! [via The Five Best Statues for Groping]

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