Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for the 'Fortean' Category

Triangular cloud falls over Tokyo?


Such a great image, captured over Tokyo and posted December 10 on the popular 2ch, futaba board.

And it’s not a hoax, nor a piece of chemical foam. It’s actually a cloud, it’s indeed a trail. Granted, it’s not actually falling. More pics and considerations after the jump!

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Colored Vibrating Sand, Buddhist Singing Bowls and Levitating Megaliths

Please turn down the volume, and appreciate Japanese artist Kenichi Kanazawa making colored sand dance in beautiful geometric patterns. Magic? Perhaps, but not supernatural.

This is version of what is better known as Chladni plates, as the table top is made of a plate of steel which vibrates when he rubs the rubber balls on its border, an effect similar to rubbing a crystal glass with wet fingers. The vibrating top then makes the sand jump and accumulate in nodal patterns.

Which is a perfect opportunity to present another non-quite-magical, but quite amazing phenomenon: Tibetan singing bowls, dating more than 4,000 years ago, which make water boil almost instantly!

Except that they are not actually boiling water, you wouldn’t be able to cook noodles with it. In a way somewhat similar to Chladni plates, and as Nature News Blog explains, what the bowl is doing is making waves in water which at a critical frequency separates and forms little droplets which can jump and even bounce over the rest of the water, making it look like it’s boiling. Check out above and below some wicked videos courtesy of Denis Terwagne and John Bush:

The phenomenon is non-linear and, thanks to LOST, has a very cool sounding name, Faraday instability, due to Michael Faraday himself, a scientific legend.

And speaking of legend, vibration and Buddhist monks, we come to the last link: acoustic levitation of stones, in the legend of monastery construction, Tibetan style.


Tibetan Monks levitate stones by using an acoustic levitation technique with the aid of drums in this 1939 sketch by Swedish aircraft designer Henry Kjellson. Click the sketch for the full fascinating story.

Acoustic levitation is real, and the grains of sand jumping as well as the droplets of water bouncing are a related phenomenon. And given that Buddhist monks had singing bowls which mastered this resonance, could they have levitated giant boulders with drums?

Unfortunately, we know for a fact they didn’t. You see, there’s a limit in the amount of energy a sound wave can carry, beyond which the sound just turns into a shock wave and the more energy you put into it, it simply turns into heat.

Interestingly, you can make shock waves so powerful that could actually make water boil, unlike the singing bowls, for instance, near a hypersonic jet, though that would be a very inconvenient way to cook noodles. But it’s impossible for thin air in resonating sound to make something like a heavy boulder levitate – granted, a very powerful shock wave could move large rocks, but that’s not something you would get with drums. That’s something you would get with explosives, and this is something we already do.

Well, I hope you’ve seen enough real wonders to allow for one adorable legend to remain just a very nice tall tale!

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Stick-Figure Alien in Argentina was CGI

Last year, a “stick-figure” alien made an apparition during an interview in Caleta Olivia, Argentina. The video has since had more than 20 million views, but as it turns out, shortly after it was published on Youtube, the authors also published this:

Where you can see the original hoaxed video in higher definition (starting at 00:14). And the original alien in some other poses. They also made the Alien model dance in one of Caleta Olivia’s landmarks.

And they also confessed the hoax on Fact or Faked:

One more stick-figure alien video  solved, but let’s review the plenty of other ones from the beggining.

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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.

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A New Natural Phenomenon: Crown Flash

Last month I wrote about Bill Beaty’s “Leaping Sundogs”, with a couple of fascinating videos recording the dancing streamers of light.

Now, new hi-def videos have just been published on Youtube. User “abrigatti” wrote:

“I was pool side in my apartment in Singapore, when I saw something weird in the skies. As I looked over head I saw some weird cloud shoots of light and puff as the clouds seemed to reform sporadically. I could see that a storm cloud was building, but the light and visual show was intriguing me. So I grabbed my iPhone and recorded this.”

Recorded on August 14th, abrigatti also posted a second video:

Beaty had already updated his page with new speculations, and meanwhile, I also received comments from fellows Martin Shough and Wim Van Utrecht.

Shough notes that Beaty’s suggestion of ice crystals re-alignment due to electrical storms was considered during a 1999 conference on sprites, as it seems the phenomenon may have been observed by satellites! And there’s more…

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