Aquareidolia

Contributed by
Oct 18, 2008
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It never ends.

How "spooky" is this?

Face in the tank

The story, "reported" by The Sun, says that a woman took this picture at an aquarium in Hull, East Yorkshire, using a phone cam, and that she only noticed the face when she got home.

Now, we all know how much I love pareidolia, the psychological ability for humans to see faces in random patterns. But look at that one! We see hair, eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, even ears, and they're all in the right place! So is this pareidolia?

Update: ScottH, in the comments below, shows pretty conclusively that this is a fake, a Photoshop. My conclusions about it being a reflection in the next paragraph are, evidently, in error.

It would be easy to say that maybe the woman who took the picture is putting us all on, that this is a hoax. But honestly, isn't it a little bit likely that there was someone else at the aquarium that day, maybe standing behind her, whose face was reflected in the glass? Note that the face is looking up. What's the most obvious thing in the overall picture? A shark swimming... and note too that we see its belly, meaning anyone standing there would be looking up at the shark. It's blue because the water is blue; a white face reflected in the glass would have the blue glow of the water diffused through it. Etc. etc. A reflection explains every single aspect of this story.

... except for the breathless headline and uncritical reporting. The first paragraph of the tabloid article says,

IT’S just what you’d expect to see in a snap from an aquarium. A shark, blue water — and a disembodied HUMAN HEAD.

"Disembodied?" O RLY? How did the writer come to that conclusion? The picture cuts off right where the neck would be, so saying this is disembodied is a stretch to say the least.

This is really obviously just a reflection of another aquarium-goer. And as dumb as this is, I am spending time on it to remind you, my dear BABloggees, that this is what counts for news in many papers. The Sun is a notoriously bad paper, akin to the Weekly World News or The Star: gossip, photoshop, and dumbosities. But this kind of stuff is reported in the mainstream media as well -- remember the gas station ghost (which turned out to be an insect illuminated by IR LEDs and rendered blue by the IR capabilities of the camera)? Or any of the dozens of Virgin Mary/Jesus/Allah sightings?

As long as this stuff is reported uncritically, we all have our average credulity magnified, and our ability as a group to think critically decreased.

Tip o' the severed head to Echobucket.