State Fair Angel: solved?

Contributed by
Nov 16, 2006

So last week I wrote about a picture of a moth or bird or something that was being claimed quite credulously to be an angel. The picture is fuzzy enough to make its subject unclear, but an angel it certainly ain't.

But what is it? The comments were aflame with speculation. But now, via The Blog Of Phyz, it looks like the the author of Xenophilia may have cracked the case: the "angel" may very well be a hummingbird.

He takes a picture of a hummingbird and fuzzes it out until it more or less matches the original picture. Very clever.

In fact, this technique is used by astronomers. I've used it myself! When Hubble was launched with a flawed mirror, the images were slightly fuzzy. I had these images of a ring around a star, but it was really hard to figure out if it was a torus, an unresolved line, a shell (like a soap bubble), or what. So I wrote a computer program to create a simulated shapes, and then fuzz them out as if they were viewed by Hubble. It worked! I was able to figure out the ring was most likely an oddly-shaped torus.

Back to the "angel", the results of the Great Hummingbird Fuzz-Out may not be conclusive, but they're pretty persuasive, and I think it's easier to believe in hummingbirds than angels. I have hummingbirds feeding in my garden regularly, but angels, well, there they obviously fear to tread.

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