Thursday, June 19, 2014

Unmasking Internet Hoaxes

It never ceases to amaze me, in a digital age where facts are literally at your fingertips, how so many can still be fooled by Internet urban legends and hoaxes. Yet, almost daily, we find examples of well-known hoaxes proliferating the digital wastelands with the least bit of examination. Laziness it to blame, chiefly. Below, I hope to clear out some of the garbage you might be seeing on blogs, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook....

The Astronaut On A Spanish Cathedral

"[The story] errs a bit in identifying the astronaut carving as adorning the wall of a cathedral built in 1102. The city of Salamanca in Spain is home to two adjacent cathedrals: The "Old Cathedral" (Catedral Vieja), begun in the 12th century, and the "New Cathedral" (Catedral Nueva), begun in the 16th century. The figure in question is part of latter, not the former. Still, finding this carving of an astronaut on the wall of a cathedral constructed between 1513 and 1733 would be quite remarkable, as the figure anticipates with amazing accuracy a form of technology not realized until centuries later.

Unfortunately for Chariot buffs, however, the origins of the carving are neither ancient nor mysterious. The astronaut figure dates not from the 12th century or the 16th century or even the 18th century, but from 1992, and we know both who put it there and why: The New Cathedral was undergoing restoration work during that period, and one of the artisans engaged in the project chose to engage in a bit of tradition by "signing" his work with a contemporary symbol representative of the 20th century: an astronaut." []

The Google Earth Dead Body Hoax

In April 2013 a meme was spread on the Internet that entering the coordinates 52.376552,5.198303 into Google Maps (a location described in that application as being the Beatrixpark in Almere, Netherlands) and zooming in on the resulting satellite view would reveal an image of a man dragging a body into a lake (leaving a bloody trail behind him), as shown above.

Considering the full context of the image makes that claim rather improbable: it's unlikely that someone would choose to dispose of a body in a public park in broad daylight, from a spot requiring that the body be lifted over a rail several feet high, while leaving an obvious trail of evidence behind him (and potentially resulting in a conspicuous large splash and floating body).

What the image actually appears to show is a couple of people accompanied by a dark brown dog (perhaps a chocolate labrador), and the supposed trail of blood is simply red-stained wood that has taken on a darker appearance due to being wetted (possibly because the dog jumped into the surrounding water and then dripped it onto the wood). []

Ancient Megalithic Ruins In Russia

So-called 'megalithic' ruins in Russia are nothing more than misunderstood geology. The granite boulders of Mount Shoria in southern Siberia demonstrate a common feature of granite upthrusts: cracks forming fairly straight horizontal and vertical lines. This gives the appearance of cut stones that have been put together (doubtlessly by some lost, advanced civilization--and the 'government' is keeping it from you!). Combine this misidentification with some repurposed images from other locations and you have the makings of an Internet Urban Legend.

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