Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for the 'Skepticism' Category

3D in the Blink of Electrocuted Eyes?

Experience 3D without the fuss of cumbersome glasses! According to an experiment by Jonathan Post presented by one Francois, all you have to do is stick some small gadgets to the side of your head, activate them with two remote controls and have your eyes electrocuted so that they blink frenetically in synchrony with the images in a display.

This is such a great prank, and it definitely is a prank – even if the system was real, no one would seriously propose such a thing, not even for “CES 2012”.

But is the system real, that is, did they manage to have someone blink that fast?

You may remember one of the pioneers of face electrocution on the web, Japanese artist Daito Manabe. On the video above he tries to reproduce the feat with his equipment, without success.

With my device, muscle couldn’t move faster over 9Hz”, he writes. “Also it was impossible to open my eyes when blinking was too fast.

Note that in the video description, Jonathan Post claims his device only works on 120Hz displays! Surely no one can blink 120 times per second. The eyes would just shut. Twitching your eyes and actually having them fully shut and open are different things.

Even assuming he had his eyes blinking at a fraction of that speed (60, 30, 15 Hz…), we would also have to wonder how he managed to electrically stimulate his eyelids with such tiny wireless devices, which besides strobing lights also happen to be synchronized with very polished remote controls. Controls that must be sending infrared signals – he points the RCs to the tiny things – so besides strobing lights and electrocuting your face, those tiny, tiny things are also supposed to have infrared sensors.

One could speculate that perhaps on the right spot and the right voltages, one could stimulate not only the eyelids to shut, as Manabe did, but also to open, and then one would be able to blink faster. But then, when you see the video, he simply puts the tiny things in the side of his head without much care of exactly where he was putting it.

This works too well and is too polished a thing for a “prototype”. But is exactly what you would expect if you wanted to simulate you had some gadgets electrocuting your eyelids. The remote controls are more appropriated for an air conditioner, the 120Hz value is probably a number he got from actual 3D display technologies.

I bet that the video was instead created with CGI. He is not actually blinking that fast.

So far the only thing we know from Jonathan Post is the video itself, and very soon he will reveal what he was actually promoting. More than a couple million views in three days… well deserved, as this is one more of those virals that make you laugh and then think.

Something short of an Ig Nobel.

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The Floating Cube

Simple and nice illusion. [via Fogonazos]

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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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Jacques Vallée: Magonians create crop circles

Beautiful sunlight through clouds

“Angels, demons, fairies, creatures from heaven, hell, or Magonia: they inspire our strangest dreams, shape our destinies, steal our desires.” – Jacques Vallée, “Passport to Magonia

Recently, acknowledged Fortean researcher Jacques Vallée published a series of posts on our cherished BoingBoing regarding crop circles (part 1, 2, 3, 4). News from last year about a directed microwave weapon by the US army prompted Vallée to argue that, since “these things are typically revealed 30 years after they are tested”, their initial development and testing would fit well with the heyday of the crop circle frenzy.

That is, Vallée promoted the idea, which he initially suggested in 1991, that crop circles are made by the military using directed energy systems, beamed from “a low-observable dirigible using corn fields as a convenient calibration target.”

Crop circle 3

But this is the web, 2.0, this was BoingBoing, one of the biggest blogs on the web, and most of the 66 comments were very critical of the idea, several of them considering it even a joke. Most of the comment authors didn’t even know who Vallée was, an indication they had almost no background on the Fortean field.

In his second post, Vallée started saying that the original text was, “among other things, a social science test of the role of belief systems in the manipulation of memes and factual data”. Critical of the response, he then went on to explain why his hypothesis wasn’t a joke.

Curiously, in his own seminal book four decades ago, “Passport to Magonia” (1969), Vallée himself does not take very seriously the idea that Soviets were responsible for crop circles:

“Rumors circulated blaming the Soviets for using the vast open spaces of Australia to develop scientific ideas one or two centuries ahead of those of the Americans. Why the Soviets could not conduct their secret testing in the vast open spaces of Siberia was not disclosed. Neither was it revealed why the pilots of the super-secret communist weapon could not resist the temptation to buzz the tractor of a twenty-seven-year-old banana grower.”

He has changed his mind since at least 1991, but he should be able to understand why people would find it hard to consider seriously the idea that secret weapons would be tested on highly publicized events, besides Stonehenge for instance, instead of “the vast open spaces of Siberia” or anywhere else, and for what reason would the military “not resist the temptation to buzz” some farmers. Or any other witness.

If this was indeed a social science test, it seems nobody did their homework, as apparently no one confronted Vallée on what he had published. But let’s take the idea seriously: does it stand as something reasonable, even probable?

Keep reading for more of our long comment on the subject, with trackbacks to BoingBoing, of course.

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