Category: Pareidolia

Back from the Old World

By Phil Plait | May 17, 2011 7:41 am

Mrs. BA and I have spent the last week in Europe, on a Center for Inquiry-sponsored cruise with fellow critical thinkers. I’ll post more later, but yesterday we flew across 8 time zones, arriving home late last night. My body thinks it’s 2:00 in the morning yesterday, or perhaps tomorrow — I was calling the time zone confusion "yestermorrow" on the trip — and I’m a wee bit messed up. So instead of some big post about astronomy or Doctor Who or the latest attack on reality, here is a funny picture of a mail slot/intercom (I think) I saw in a narrow alleyway (as they all are) in Venice.

I think it’s a robot saying, "Meh." If you know what it actually is, please leave a comment. I’ll be sleeping until the day before yesterday.

[UPDATE: In the comments, people are asking about the odd lighting in the picture. I did not use a flash (which would have made the shadows distinct and sharp). The alley I was in – as are all of the Venetian alleys – is tall and narrow, with limited sunlight coming from above. We were not near a canal at the time. I can’t remember the precise conditions, but I suspect quite a bit of the light was coming from the alleyway surface itself, which is why it looks lit from below. In a sense, it is!]

Angry slippers are angry

By Phil Plait | April 16, 2011 7:00 am

It’s Caturday, and I have decided to expand my definition once again to include not just animals but also things that aren’t alive that look like things that are alive.

So I present to you angry slippers yelling at you:

What are they yelling about?

  • "C’mon, man, wash your feet first!"
  • "Keep us off the cold tile floor you jerk!"
  • "Store us next to those yakkity flip-flops again and we’ll make sure the cat leaves you a ‘present’ before you stick your feet in us next time!"
  • "We’re a pair of slippers, not a pareidolia of slippers!"
  • "Wear socks with us again and we swear we’re calling Stacey London!"

These slippers were a gift from my mother-in-law to The Little Astronomer, which just goes to show you the world’s a pretty funny place if you keep your eyes open and sense of humor primed.

Related posts:

Caturday nights all right for fighting
A foxy Caturday
Languid Caturday

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Caturday, slippers

Rushmore, doubt less

By Phil Plait | January 27, 2011 7:00 am

You’ve almost certainly seen pictures of Mount Rushmore; it’s a magnificent carving of the heads of four past US presidents, each almost 20 meters high. Located in South Dakota, it’s in a national park and a big tourist attraction (and the scene of the finale of "North by Northwest").

But did you know it’s evidence that man was intelligently designed? Well, it’s certainly used that way by creationists proponents of Intelligent Design; no less a leading light of ID than William Dembski has used Mt. Rushmore as an example:

Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? To see what’s at stake, consider Mount Rushmore. The evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design is direct—eyewitnesses saw the sculptor Gutzon Borglum spend the better part of his life designing and building this structure. But what if there were no direct evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design? What if humans went extinct and aliens, visiting the earth, discovered Mount Rushmore in substantially the same condition as it is now?

Well, I guess it depends if the aliens see vertically or horizontally, because look what happens if you turn the picture sideways:

Aha! Obviously, there’s no way that this fifth face could have arisen naturally. After all, "eyewitnesses saw the sculptor… designing and building this structure"!

Sorry, all my fellow scientists, skeptics, critical thinkers, and reality-based compadres. Dembski clearly has rock solid proof.

Tip o’ the jackhammer to Tucker Phelps.

Related posts:

The Discovery Institute has no shame
Louisiana: even more doomed
Intelligent Designers nonsense: part n
Irony thy name is ID
Astrology and ID sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G


By Phil Plait | January 18, 2011 7:00 am

It’s been forever since I posted some pareidolia: an object or shape that looks like something else. Usually it’s a face or a religious icon — Jesus, Mary, Mohammed, whatever — but really it can be anything.

So behold: the Carrot Shuttle!


That was in a bag of baby carrots. First one I pulled out, too! Pretty cool.

carrot_shuttle2As you can see, it looks even more like the Shuttle from an oblique angle. I love the little rocket nozzle sticking out the back. I think the carrot dried up and cracked while being squeezed by other carrots, flattening it out and giving it the winged shape. Either that or it’s a divine sign that I should be an astronaut.

Of course, I get sick on a kid’s swing set, so that’s probably not it.

… unless this vegetable is actually a sign I should go to Vega! But that can’t be right. They would’ve sent a poet.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia
MORE ABOUT: carrot, Contact

Happy pareidolidays!

By Phil Plait | December 24, 2010 1:49 pm

I know some people have Christmas on their mind today, but this is a bit too literal: a brain scan taken at Newcastle University turned up a familiar face nose:

I always pictured him as somewhat bigger.

The part of the brain they were imaging? The hippocampus. Eh, close enough.

Happy holidays to all, and to all a clear night!

Tip o’ the stirring creature to BABloggee Michael Lonergan

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Christmas, Rudolph

Flushed with pareidolia

By Phil Plait | July 29, 2010 12:00 pm

Pareidolia is the psychology term for seeing faces in random patterns. This usually gets air time due to some vaguely Christlike shape in a stain or something, but not every instance has to be religiously motivated. I don’t want to ignore those secular ones, because, after all, I hate to let anything go to waste.



This picture, taken by Mitchell Whitney, was snapped right after an, um, incident that required some vigorous plunging. The only conclusion is that the toilet itself was relieved when it was all over as well.

I have a series of puns all trying to push their way out of my brain, but I’ll let them go because it’s been an exhausting week. I’m pooped.

Tip o’ the plumber’s helper to Dan Durda.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: toilet

Cectic does pareidolia

By Phil Plait | July 6, 2010 3:09 pm

Funny, that seems like an obscure title, but in fact it’s accurate. Cectic is a skeptical web comic. Pareidolia is the human predilection to see faces in random patterns. Recently, Cectic did a comic on pareidolia:


Click it to see the rest (somewhat marginally NSFW and bound to offend some folks). It’s a pretty handy checklist, in fact, for those disposed to thinking that the face they see is anything more than a stain, wood grain, or hair pattern.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia

The Hallmark of a black hole

By Phil Plait | June 14, 2010 11:01 am

Leon Jenkins is the President of the LA chapter of the NAACP, the organization that advocates for equal rights for black people. The work they do is fine by me, and I support their efforts. But organizations are made up of individuals, and individuals can make mistakes.

This is really one of those times. Here’s the story: Hallmark came out with a card for recent graduates, and it’s one of those deals that has a speaker in it that activates when you open it. Like all such cards it’s twee and sugary and over the top. It involves two cartoon characters with squeaky and high-pitched voices talking about how the graduate can now take over the world. It has an outer space theme to it, and what they say, well… watch/listen for yourself:

Um, yeah. It’s pretty clear to just about anyone who hears it — and doesn’t have any particular stake in the claim — that the card is saying “black holes”. The space theme is obvious enough, and black holes are a common topic. So why on Earth would someone think the card is saying “black whores”, as Mr. Jenkins and other LA NAACP members do?

In fact, there’s a good reason. What we have here is a very well-understood topic to skeptics: audio pareidolia. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pareidolia, Skepticism

Happy chair is happy

By Phil Plait | June 10, 2010 2:30 pm

happychairBABloggee John Kennedy (no relation, of course, to Jamie) sent me word about a fun pareidolia site: Happy Chair is Happy. It features inanimate objects that look like faces. It’s really a fun series to poke through, and it’s brought to you by the I Can Haz Cheezeburgers folks.

I’ll note with some amusement that in a recent entry they included a picture I featured here in March of an alien prickly pear cactus. They didn’t have the source, so I left a comment with a link. I do love that picture!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia, Pretty pictures

May the cumulus be with you

By Phil Plait | May 7, 2010 12:18 pm

Taking pictures at a Vancouver airport long-time BABloggee Michael Lonergan was, when spotted this odd cloud he did.


When 30,000 feet you reach, look as good you will not.

Too bad this didn’t come out on May the 4th. Of course, the dark side clouds everything…


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