By some counts a surprising number of people believe that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax. These dis-believers point to, among other things, purported inconsistencies in some of the moon landing photos. I’ll describe the application of a new forensic technique that refutes some of these claims.
Shown below is the iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin in which the physical plausibility of the lighting and shadows has been called into question.
I have previously described how cast shadows in an image can be analyzed to determine if they are consistent with a single light source. In order to determine if shadows are authentic, we connect points on a shadow to their corresponding points on the object. These lines should all intersect at a single point (or in the special case, be parallel) — this point is the location of the light source projected into the image. The application of this forensic technique (as shown here) requires a clearly defined shadow to object pairing (e.g., the tip of a cone). Such shadows in the above photo are in short supply thus limiting the application of this forensic technique.
In collaboration with Dr. Eric Kee (Columbia University) and Prof. James O’Brien (UC Berkeley) we recently developed a new forensic technique that can be applied to ambiguously defined shadows . In this analysis, we start at any point on a shadow and draw a wedge-shaped constraint that encompasses all parts of an object to which the shadow may correspond. Shown below is one such constraint. The constraint encompasses the entire sphere because there is no systematic way of reasoning about which part of the sphere is associated with a particular spot on the shadow.
In the above figure, the shaded red region constrains the projected location of the light source. While obviously not as specific as a single line constraint, this approach allows us to analyze all cast shadows in an image.
Because we can now handle ambiguous shadow-object pairings, we can also exploit attached shadows to determine the location of the light source. An attached shadow occurs when an object occludes the light from itself (e.g., a non-full Moon). Shown below, for example, is an attached shadow on the sphere’s surface. The line that is tangent to an attached shadow constrains the projected location of the light source to be on the illuminated side of the object.
Multiple cast and attached shadow constraints can be specified in an image. If the shadows are physically correct, then all of the constraints will share a common intersection (this consistency check is automatically determined using standard linear programming). Any violations of these constraints is evidence of photo tampering.
Shown below is the result of this new shadow analysis applied to the moon landing image. The cast shadow constraints are shown with solid red lines and the attached shadow constraints are shown with dashed lines. All of the constraints are consistent (the triangular region outlined in black denotes a common intersection). Despite some claims to the contrary, the lighting in this spectacular photo is physically consistent.
 Eric Kee, James O’Brien and Hany Farid. Exposing Photo Manipulation with Inconsistent Shadows. ACM Transactions on Graphics, 32(4):28:1-12, 2013.
 Eric Kee’s presentation at SIGGRAPH, 2013.
- PHOTOS: Friday Evening’s Lunar Eclipse (thesurvivalplaceblog.com)
- Extra light source lit up Apollo 11 film footage? (planet.infowars.com)
- Buzz Aldrin Reviews ‘Gravity,’ Is ‘Extravagantly Impressed’ (news.moviefone.com)
- 6 Conspiracy Theories that have no reason to exist (illuminutti.com)
H/T: Thomas J. Proffit
My favorite moron is at it again.
Now Alex Jones says the government could have caused the tornado devastation in Oklahoma. Yes, he’s serious.
But along his journey to Oz, he made reference to a law i just had to fact check.
At 1:27 into the video, dopey says: “See, under United States Code Title 50, chapter 32, subsection 1520a, paragraph b – it allows chemical, biological, radiological or any other testing … even lethal … on citizens unsuspecting. The government claims it is allowed to kill us.”
You got that? The law allows our government to kill us using chemical, biological, radiological or ANY other lethal testing! It’s in the law!!! The law!!! Right???? Wrong.
I looked up the law and, as you might have suspected, the moron got it wrong. Completely wrong. Again.
The law is 50 USC § 1520a(b) (Restrictions on use of human subjects for testing of chemical or biological agents) and can be found at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/1520a or downloaded here in PDF format.
50 USC § 1520a not only mandates congress be given 30 days notice of any plans to conduct any experiment or study involving human subjects, but the law also mandates “consent to the testing [must be] obtained from each human subject in advance of the testing on that subject.”
Here is the pertinent language in the law. Click the image to download the PDF copy of the law.
It’s a one page law and easy to read. It makes me wonder how Jones can get it so wrong. I think he gets it wrong intentionally because it makes him lots of money and his followers are too damn lazy to fact check his lies.
Mason I. Bilderberg
By BEN DIMIERO & OLIVER WILLIS via Media Matters for America
On the May 21 edition of The Alex Jones Show, a caller asked Jones whether he was planning to cover how government technology may be behind a recent spate of sinkholes. After laying out how insurance companies use weather modification to avoid having to pay ski resorts for lack of snow, Jones said that “of course there’s weather weapon stuff going on — we had floods in Texas like fifteen years ago, killed thirty-something people in one night. Turned out it was the Air Force.”
Following a long tangent, Jones returned to the caller’s subject. While he explained that “natural tornadoes” do exist and that he’s not sure if a government “weather weapon” was involved in the Oklahoma disaster, Jones warned nonetheless that the government “can create and steer groups of tornadoes.”
According to Jones, this possibility hinges on whether people spotted helicopters and small aircraft “in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things.” He added, “if you saw that, you better bet your bottom dollar they did this, but who knows if they did. You know, that’s the thing, we don’t know.”
In April, Jones garnered attention for labeling the Boston Marathon bombings a “false flag” event staged by the U.S. government. Over the years, Jones has endorsed a wide array of paranoid conspiracies, including alleging that the U.S. government carried out or was somehow involved in the 9-11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, and recent mass shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary school and the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Despite his well-publicized career of pushing conspiracies, Jones is regularly validated by media figures and conservative politicians. Jones’ biggest ally has been Matt Drudge, whose heavily trafficked Drudge Report website has linked to at least 244 different articles at Jones’ Infowars website since April 2011.
In the midst of the controversy over Jones’ comments about the Boston bombings, Drudge announced that he had “privately told friends” that 2013 would be the “year of Alex Jones.”
By BEN DIMIERO & OLIVER WILLIS via Media Matters for America
- Alex Jones thinks the Oklahoma tornadoes may have been an Obama plot (pullingtotheleft.wordpress.com)
- Of Course Alex Jones Thinks The Government Did That Tornado To Oklahoma, He Is Alex Jones (wonkette.com)
- Tornado Truthers (slog.thestranger.com)
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already (salon.com)
- Alex Jones Is a Tornado Truther Because, Obviously (gawker.com)
- Alex Jones Explains How The Government Could Have Been Behind The Oklahoma Tornado (freakoutnation.com)
1. Arrogance. They are always fact-seekers, questioners, people who are trying to discover the truth: sceptics are always “sheep”, patsies for Messrs Bush and Blair etc.
2. Relentlessness. They will always go on and on about a conspiracy no matter how little evidence they have to go on or how much of what they have is simply discredited. (Moreover, as per 1. above, even if you listen to them ninety-eight times, the ninety-ninth time, when you say “no thanks”, you’ll be called a “sheep” again.) Additionally, they have no capacity for precis whatsoever. They go on and on at enormous length.
3. Inability to answer questions. For people who loudly advertise their determination to the principle of questioning everything, they’re pretty poor at answering direct questions from sceptics about the claims that they make.
4. Fondness for certain stock phrases. These include Cicero’s “cui bono?” (of which it can be said that Cicero understood the importance of having evidence to back it up) and Conan Doyle‘s “once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth”. What these phrases have in common is that they are attempts to absolve themselves from any responsibility to produce positive, hard evidence themselves: you simply “eliminate the impossible” (i.e. say the official account can’t stand scrutiny) which means that the wild allegation of your choice, based on “cui bono?” (which is always the government) is therefore the truth.
5. Inability to employ or understand Occam’s Razor. Aided by the principle in 4. above, conspiracy theorists never notice that the small inconsistencies in the accounts which they reject are dwarfed by the enormous, gaping holes in logic, likelihood and evidence in any alternative account.
6. Inability to tell good evidence from bad. Conspiracy theorists have no place for peer-review, for scientific knowledge, for the respectability of sources. The fact that a claim has been made by anybody, anywhere, is enough for them to reproduce it and demand that the questions it raises be answered, as if intellectual enquiry were a matter of responding to every rumour. While they do this, of course, they will claim to have “open minds” and abuse the sceptics for apparently lacking same.
7. Inability to withdraw. It’s a rare day indeed when a conspiracy theorist admits that a claim they have made has turned out to be without foundation, whether it be the overall claim itself or any of the evidence produced to support it. Moreover they have a liking (see 3. above) for the technique of avoiding discussion of their claims by “swamping” – piling on a whole lot more material rather than respond to the objections sceptics make to the previous lot.
- Stereotypes Conspiracy Theorists have against Skeptics (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy Theorists: No longer harmless (illuminutti.com)
- The Trouble with Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- KTH: Newtown harassed by conspiracy theorists (illuminutti.com)
- John Cook: Conspiracy Theorists Respond to Evidence They’re Conspiracy Theorists With More Conspiracy Theories (huffingtonpost.com)
- Be a Proud Conspiracy Theorist, You’re in the Majority (theintelhub.com)
- How To Respond To An Anti Conspiracy Theorist (zengardner.com)
Given how unlikely the video seems, there is a vigorous debate about its authenticity. We performed a forensic lighting analysis on this video to determine if it is real or fake.
To perform this analysis, we connect points on an object with their corresponding cast shadow. Because of the geometry of cast shadows, all such constraints must intersect at a single point. (For an understanding of why this is so, read my previous blog post about shadows.)
Shown below are five such constraints from one frame of the video, just as the eagle is about to the grab the baby. The red lines are from the baby and eagle, and the blue lines are from the slide, adult, and stroller. You can clearly see that these shadows are not consistent with one another. The most likely scenario is that the baby and eagle are computer generated and were inserted into a real-world scene. Because this scene is outdoors and illuminated with a single light source (the sun), there is no physically plausible explanation for this inconsistency in shadows.[UPDATE: Minutes after posting this blog entry, we discovered that the perpetrators of the hoax had come forward. They managed to fool much of the internet pretty successfully, but it appears that they can still use some practice in refining their 3D simulations.]
- Bad News: The Golden Eagle Kid-Snatching Video Is Probably Fake (987ampradio.cbslocal.com)
- Sorry, Internet: Baby-Snatching Eagle Video Is Phony (newser.com)
- WATCH: Golden Eagle Grabs Baby – Maybe (newsfeed.time.com)