Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for the 'Skepticism' Category

The Skeptic Code

Bible Code

“Many conspiracy theorists seem very keen on the idea of hidden messages or codes secretly embedded within ancient writings. Believers claim hidden prophecies of significant world events and disasters can be uncovered and deciphered by analysing the Bible. By simply selecting a random paragraph and taking out the punctuation and merely inserting the passage into a matrix a skeptic, if suitably motivated, and with the benefit of hindsight is easily able to uncover whatever it is they fancy. Believers see predictions of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 9/11 twin towers terrorist attack uncovered in the bible as irrefutable evidence of divine revelation even though rational thinkers can locate predictions of the death of Leon Trotsky and Princess Diana secreted within “Moby Dick”.” – [Science, Reason and Critical Thinking]

Pure delusion, of course…

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Almiro Barauna’s many hoaxes

“One of the most highly celebrated and controversial series of photos in the Blue Book files are those taken by an official photographer aboard the Brazilian Navy survey ship, Almirante Saldanha, off Trindade Island, some 600 miles east of Rio De Janeiro”.
[J. Allen Hynek, The Hynek UFO Report]

Hynek criticizes the mocking remarks by the reporting officer regarding Martians and the harsh criticism of the Brazilian government and military. I don’t know much about Martians and tend to agree the sarcasm was undue on an official report, but as an ongoing many years research on the Trindade Island case has shown to me, the Blue Book report is right on the target and fully justified in all of its other conclusions.

Regarding the photographer, for instance, the report mentions that:

“This gentleman has a long history of photographic trick shots and is well known for such items as false pictures of treasure on the ocean floor. Another time he prepared a purposely humorous article, published in a magazine, entitled "A Flying Saucer Hunted Me at Home," using trick photography.”

Amazingly, these hoaxes by the photographer have been downplayed by supporters of the case. For more than half a century, most people didn’t even see these hoaxes. In 2008, thanks to historian Rodolpho Gauthier, we finally publicized Barauna’s joke with flying saucers, and now, through the pages of Tim Printy’s SUNlite, and again thanks to the work of Gauthier, we reveal the details and images of his treasure chest hoax.

The article is embedded above and can also be downloaded.

Once presented with Barauna’s trickery of flying saucer photos, believers claim the joke was in fact a serious, responsible public service promoting critical thinking in which the photographer took part. Very well. It could be so. His treasure chest hoax, however, was part of a deliberate play to deceive, and we have Baraúna first lying, denying the hoax, and decades later, finally confessing “it was indeed a trick”.

That the man who captured one of the few authentic photos of real UFOs was a lying hoaxer of treasure chest tales and proud creator of flying saucer images cannot be downplayed. It’s a serious problem for the case that automatically leads to considerations of how he could have hoaxed the Trindade Island case.

Believers would then mention that the Trindade Island case is not supported solely by the photos or the photographer’s character and that he could not have hoaxed all of the other corroborating evidence.

About that, our still ongoing research may give a different perspective. It will be published soon, but meanwhile I recommend the readers to our already published analysis, and I repeat the statement that all of our research has led us to conclude that the Blue Book report is right on the target and fully justified in all of its conclusions.

Except for Martians, of course.

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Amazingly faked hoaxes

Or are they hoaxed fakes? Fact is, they are amazing works by “The Faking Hoaxer”. Keep reading for much more, including making ofs and ghosts.

Read more

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Summing up Forgetomori

It’s a faaaake. [via Nerdcore]

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Viral Invasion Confirmed: Spanish UFOs came from Terra

Just as we told ya, the series of “too-good-to-be-true” videos, which tellingly were all anonymous, now have a source. It was Terra Spain itself that was behind it all, with the excuse of “rendering a homage to Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ in its 71st anniversary”. In the video above which is the punch line, a little green Martian curses the heat inside his capsule, mentions Welles and say that those who don’t know what he did should simply search the Internet.

Terra” means “Earth”, reason for the ad people to make many campaigns involving aliens, including in Brazil where their mascot was also a little green man. Their excuse for a homage to Welles doesn’t quite make much sense, as they are almost exactly a month too early – they should have made it on the Halloween – but we already told you these viral campaigns are often senseless. Some visitors have also noted that one of the videos of the campaign was directing people to a page where Terra was celebrating its 10th anniversary, which would seem more reasonable, but curiously is not mentioned anywhere now.

Many people didn’t like the viral campaign, which was promoted even on the main news page of the website, which could explain this supposed change of mind. Or perhaps not, as we emphasize, viral campaigns often don’t make much sense.

Fact is, love it or hate it, the videos attracted a lot of attention. And the best one of the series is, of course, the making of :


There we have confirmation that they actually used a real helicopter and that the UFOs, including the water splash, were completely digital.

A few visitors still believe the videos were real and Terra is part of “The Conspiracy”. We may laugh at their gullibility, but I ask the reader to ponder how the case would be judged if Terra didn’t confess and reveal the making of. I guess not that few people would be wondering about yet another “unsolved” case. Exactly as in the California Drones case.

By investigating extraordinary claims, perhaps the most important lesson I learned is the “asymmetry of the mystery”. That is, it can be so easy to create a mystery, and yet it can be so hard to solve it. As some sort of fundamental physical law, this entropy of mystery investigation must put in perspective just how we should be impressed by an “unsolved mystery”.

If we were reasonable people, we would be more inclined to be impressed by the simple solution to what looked like a complex, unsolvable problem. But we are not reasonable, we are human. We are often far more interested in the mystery than what can look like their boring, prosaic debunking.

That’s not bad in itself, it’s a manifestation of our desire for the unknown, which is the only way to expand what is actually known. To find a real, puzzling mystery is the first step towards a real, innovative solution. The bad thing is how this natural and fundamentally positive need for mystery can be so easily exploited.

And the easiest way is not to create false mysteries, as in these viral campaigns. The easiest way to exploit and make a living of this is by making even the solved cases look like they weren’t solved, and that trying to solve them is not only impossible and arrogant, but not desirable.

At that moment, the fascination for the unknown is no longer a mean to expand our knowledge, but mere veneration of our own ignorance.

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