Exposing PseudoAstronomy

August 4, 2016

Face on Mars, Face on Hawaii – Pareidolia is Real, Get Over It


News this week that hasn’t been political has included information about Hawaii’s volcanoes finally spilling lava into the ocean again, for the first time in several years. And, a video of one of the calderas has been making the rounds, uploaded to Vimeo and shot by Mick Kalber.

Volcano in Hawaii, USA, Showing a Smiling Paredolia (Mick Kalber)

Volcano in Hawaii, USA, Showing a Smiling Paredolia (Mick Kalber)

One of the main ways this has become viral is pareidolia at work, with headlines such as “Hawaiian Volcano Smiles at Photographer” and such other whimsical things.

Obviously, the volcano, caldera, and lava are not smiling. It’s the human brain trying to make a familiar pattern out of randomness. Which it very happily does. Visually, it’s generic pareidolia. If it were audio noise and you thought you heard something (the ghost hunter’s infamous “EVP” or Electronic Voice Phenomenon), that would be audio pareidolia.

Everyone does it. And yet, there are still some noted pseudoscientists have consistently refused to believe that it’s real. After all, almost their entire repertoire of claims would be blasted away if they admitted that a bit of the right shade here and a bit of the right shade there and something random will appear to be something familiar.

The phenomenon of pareidolia is real. Get over it.

1 Comment »

  1. A better set of examples I’ve always seen here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcahuasi or Google search images and discussions on Marcahuasi. They even have a face staring up like Cydonia. This would mean that even when we’d land on Mars and walk around these rocks, the discussion will still never end!

    Then again, the same psychological phenomenon could also provide a motive for any ancient builders to construct a monument with facial features, since it’s such a primal “early” cognitive process. In other words, it would stand out easier through various circumstances over time. The immortal dream of any big thinking artist! And then even have so many interpretations going on! Isn’t it a clever reversion? The Martian artistic Übermensch made the face *because* of pareidolia being real.

    Comment by Dee — August 7, 2016 @ 9:39 am | Reply


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