Anti-ScienceScience

An amusing and uplifting story, courtesy of Fark.

Podcast listener Johan sent in a link to a great thread on Fark dealing with a possible UFO. The original poster (named “forked_at_fark”) wrote the headline, “WTF did I just take a picture of? I thought it was a planet, but it looks really weird.” She included this photo:

The very first response was, “A streetlight?”

“Forked” responded, “No, it is not a street lamp.Not a plane either, because it has been about in the same spot in the sky for awhile”

Dozens of responses followed, all of them reaffirming the streetlight theory (or offering ironic snarks). “Forked” insisted it was not a streetlight and offered additional information: “And what is that tail thingie. I took several pics and it was in all of them. I cleaned the lense well before starting. I was using 48x zoom.”

Again, the majority of respondents voiced their opinion that the UFO in question was in fact a streetlight. “Forked” would have none of it, and to disprove the theory she offered to take a photo of the actual streetlight near her house. She produced this:

And yes, she continued to say that the original photo was not a streetlight.

The thread exploded with people attempting to show “Forked” the similarities between the photos, yet she continued to insist this particular mystery was not yet solved. Finally she returned to the thread with this update:

Good Morning, farkers. My sides hurt from laughing at this thread so much. But, it’s still not a streetlight, even though it does look like one. Thanks for those of you who are saying that it is an Aerostat. So, here is your update. This was taken from about the same spot on the balcony.

Here is the photo she attached:

Someone immediately posted this helpful animated gif, mashing the original photo with the streetlight that is clearly visible in the lower lefthand corner of the above photo:

Amazingly, “Forked” continued to insist it was not a streetlight. She began to like the idea that it was an aerostatic balloon, so at least she wasn’t preparing for an alien invasion. Here’s another Farker’s attempt to set her straight — the original image scaled and rotated with the opacity adjusted:

While the rest of the world assumed this must be the end, “Forked” and a handful of streetlight deniers continued to hold out. What followed was the online equivalent of shaking someone and screaming “STREETLIGHT” at her until she finally breaks down crying. “Forked” logged off Sunday night, promising to return in the morning with more photographic evidence showing the UFO was not, in fact, a streetlight.

In the three years I’ve spent on Internet forums, there have been only a handful of times I’ve seen a person so adament actually change his or her mind about a personal possibly paranormal experience. I’m happy to report that this is one of those times.

The next morning, “Forked” posted this message:

Good morning, Farkistan. Thanks to those of you who are supporting me. I just added some more pictures to the gallery. I took pictures of all four streetlights that are visible from the balcony. I compared pics of the farthest streetlight and the object, and whoops, they match. So, I guess it is time to admit… I am an idiot.

I am speechless. There is hope for the world, yet.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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8 Comments

  1. This reminds me of an incident where someone was videotaping an airplane or something when he suddenly noticed another object in is viewfinder, which he proceeded to chase around the sky until he ran out of tape. This was followed by a rash of related sightings by people using similar camcorders.

    It turned out what they were seeing was a reflection of the sun off the surface of one of the optical elements inside the lens which moved as they moved their cameras to "follow" it.

    If the camera "Forked" was using was not an slr, she might not have seen the reflected image through the viewfinder, because they are two different optical systems, so I can see how she would have been surprised her to see it appear in her picture.

    Still, given the striking conformance between the two images, I'd think she might have realized sooner that she was seeing a reflection of a streetlight.

  2. And yet, anyone looking at that picture immediately thinks: STREETLIGHT.

    Then again, it still amazes me that people photographing "orbs" don't realize they're just seeing out-of-focus dust particles highlighted by the flash. Or that lightstreaks are, well, not ghosts but just lightstreaks that obviously occur when you move the camera when the shutter is still open.

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