The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Bigfoot’

XKCD: Evidence (or Lack Thereof) Wins Out

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 14, 2014

In a way that only that most famous of Internet comics can say it…

settled

‘Nuff said :)

Posted in humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bigfoot DNA Claims: Big Discovery or Big Bullsh*t?

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 4, 2012

Okay, no doubt by now some of you have heard all about the news that some “scientist” claims to have sequenced the DNA of Bigfoot, concluding that Bigfoot is at least partially human.  Specifically, according to the following LiveScience.com article by my skeptical colleague Benjamin Radford

‘Bigfoot’ Is Part Human, DNA Study Claims

Genetic testing confirms the legendary Bigfoot is a human relative that arose some 15,000 years ago — at least according to a press release issued by a company called DNA Diagnostics detailing supposed work by a Texas veterinarian.

The release and alleged study by Melba S. Ketchum also suggests such cryptids had sex with modern human females that resulted in hairy hominin hybrids, but the scientific community is dubious about her claim.

“A team of scientists can verify that their five-year long DNA study, currently under peer-review, confirms the existence of a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called ‘Bigfoot’ or ‘Sasquatch,’ living in North America,” the release reads. “Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago.”…

Ooh!  Bigfoot-human hybrid freaky furry sex!  Are you interested yet? ;)

Seriously, this is just beyond stupid, folks.  And a little deeper look at the article points out exactly why this whole thing is, at best, viewed with a decidely skeptical eye and, at worst, deserves to be roundly derided in every corner of the Internet for the cryptozoological flummery it most likely is:

… So where’s the evidence? Well, there is none. Not yet, anyway: Ketchum’s research has not appeared in any peer-reviewed scientific journal, and there’s no indication when that might happen. If the data are good and the science is sound, any reputable science journal would jump at the chance to be the first to publish this groundbreaking information. Until then, Ketchum has refused to let anyone else see her evidence. … [emphasis added]

So let me get this straight: she puts together a press-release claiming that she’s made this amazing discovery that could very well change most everything we know about human/hominid anthropology and evolution, yet she is unwilling to allow her scientific peers to see the evidence and examine it for themselves?

That’s kind of the opposite of the way science is supposed to work, Dr. Ketchum.  You would think that a supposedly serious researcher would know that – that is, assuming that she’s a serious scientific researcher and not just some kind of glory-seeking pseudoscientific crypto-hack.  When making such an extraordinary claim, not allowing your scientific peers to examine your evidence is tantamount to saying “I’m right because *poof* magic!”  In other words, it is not convincing at all, and it speaks to your credibility being somewhat minimal.

Last, but certainly not least, there is a very well-worded criticism by Ben Radford about how one is, exactly, to know that the DNA sequenced is actually that of a previously uncataloged Bigfoot-ish creature (a question which I had in mind when first hearing the claim):

… How did the team definitively determine that the samples were from a Bigfoot? Did they take a blood or saliva sample from a living Bigfoot? If so, how did they get that close, and why didn’t they simply capture it or photograph it? If the samples were found in the wild, how do they know it wasn’t left by another animal — or possibly even a hunter, hiker or camper who left human genetic material?

Previous alleged Bigfoot samples subjected to DNA analysis have been deemed “unknown” or “unidentified.” However, “unknown” or “unidentified” results do not mean “Bigfoot.” There are many reasons why a DNA sample might come back unknown, including that it was contaminated or too degraded by environmental conditions. Or it could simply mean that the animal it came from was not among the reference samples that the laboratory used for comparison. There is no reference sample of Bigfoot DNA to compare it with, so by definition, there cannot be a conclusive match. …

Of course, I suppose the answers to these and similar questions will have to go unanswered because we expect Dr. Ketchum to act like a real scientist and share her samples, data, research, and methodology for actual peer review and analysis.  Hah – silly us! :)

Posted in cryptozoology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Another Crappy “Lake Monster” Sighting in Canada?

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 11, 2011

Here’s a new one for the “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” files: a halfway serious ABC News report on a really bad video shot by someone who claims to have evidence of a lake monster in Canada called Ogopogo (basically, the Canadian equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster).  Below is the video footage in question…

Oooh, scary!!!

That’s it?!!  That’s all there is to this supposedly astonishing story sweeping the world?  Some ripples/waves in the water which are likely caused by debris?

Sometimes I weep for humanity; if this is the best that cryptozoologists can come up with (and it pretty much is the best they can come up with), then it is no wonder they are mocked.  I think the following comment on the ABC News story sums it up best…

How come most quickly taken video’s are crystal clear but any UFO – Yeti – Nessie videos look like they were shot by a 2 yr. old with a Fisher Price camera???

‘Nuff said, folks.

Posted in cryptozoology, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Come See Some Heavenly Bodies at the 2nd Annual Skeptics Under The Stars!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 4, 2011

[**Update: We will be offering grants to deserving hopeful attendees who cannot afford to attend. Please contact Elyse Anders at elyse@womenthinkingfree.org to be considered.]

For anyone who likes skepticism, astronomy, camping, Bigfoot, hiking, drinking, and campfire stories, boy have I got the event of the season for you – it’s the 2nd annual Skeptics Under The Stars outing!!!  If you are anywhere in the Midwest during the weekend of Oct. 21-23, consider joining the Women Thinking Free Foundation as we journey to the lovely backwoods of Wisconsin in an effort to get educated on the science of astronomy, tour the world-famous Yerkes Observatory, get liquored up around a cozy campfire, and search for Bigfoot in (where else?) Bigfoot State Park – and things won’t necessarily take place in that order ;)

Read on for more information – we hope that you can join us…

This year’s trip will include special guest Nicole Gugliucci, otherwise known as the Noisy Astronomer.

Like last year, we’ll be staying on a private lake in Delavan, Wisconsin at the beautiful McIntyre Resort and visiting the Yerkes Observatory at Lake Geneva.

McIntyre Resort:
N 6471 Milwaukee Rd.
Delavan, WI 53115

——————
Tentative Schedule of Events (subject to change):

Friday Oct 21
Get to McIntyre Resorts at any time prior to 9pm to set up camp
9pm: Meet at Yerkes Observatory for a private tour

Sat Oct 22
Morning: Breakfast at the campground (provided by WTFF)
Afternoon: Bigfoot hunt at Bigfoot Beach State Park
Dinner: Dinner at the campground (Provided by WTFF)
Evening: Fun with the Noisy Astronomer

Sun Oct 23: Leftover breakfast and packing up the campsite
—————–

Ticket Prices:
$55 for only Saturday night -or-
$75 for both Friday and Saturday night
Children under 10 are free!
You can buy a ticket at this link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e4ytf2y520f4f802&llr=ewyi8mfab

What is included in your ticket price?
– Camping site costs
– Yerkes Observatory tour
– Breakfast and dinner on Saturday
– Getting to camp with the Women Thinking Free Foundation and Nicole Gugliucci
– Wine, beer and other adult winter drinks (mulled wine, peppermint schnapps cider, bailey’s hot chocolate, etc)
– Camping snacks and smores
– Boats (seriously…there are boats we can use at our private lake!)

What do I need to bring?
– Tent
– Sleeping Bag
– Warm Clothes (it will be VERY cold!)
– Flashlights
– Telescope (if you have one)

What happens if you don’t own one of these items?
It’s ok! Many people do not own their own tent or sleeping bag, but there are others that either are willing to share their tent or have extra camping supplies. Please use the comments portion of the facebook event to ask for any supplies you don’t own. If you’re unable or having trouble finding a tent or sleeping bag, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org and we’ll help you out. No one should not be able to attend just because you don’t own the right equipment!

Need a carpool?
It’s ok if you don’t have a car. There are many people driving in from various cities like Chicago. Use the comment portion of the facebook page to ask for a ride. If you have trouble finding a ride, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org and I’ll help you out.

Pets and children welcome! Last year we even had people bring a motor home. If you have any questions about what you can and cannot bring, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org

Want to come, but not really into the camping thing? McIntyre Resorts has two fully equipped cabins and a heated loft. The cabins cost $125/night and I’m not sure of the price for the loft. The cabins and loft are right where we are camping so you won’t be left out of any activities. For questions on the cabins and loft or to book them, call McIntyre Resorts at 262-728-9313 and tell them you are calling for the Women Thinking Free Foundation event. They are first come first serve.

There also will be some electrical outlets. We’ll have to share them, but just know that there will be ways to charge your phone (we’ll be camping but we at least want to be humane about it).

RSVP’ing on this facebook page does not get you into the event. You must buy a ticket at the following link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e4ytf2y520f4f802&llr=ewyi8mfab

If you have any other questions, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org or message Jamie Bernstein on facebook.

Posted in cryptozoology, skeptical community, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The “Loch Ness Monster”… of Alaska?

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 19, 2011

So there’s this video going around the Internet where some fishermen claim to have discovered a new “Loch Ness Monster”… in Alaska.  Here is the article and related video wherein witnesses claim to have found evidence of the creature…

The Loch Ness Monster of Alaska?

Move over, Montauk Monster. Step aside, Nessie. There’s a new sea creature in town–maybe. Footage of a 20- to 30-foot long creature caught on tape by fishermen suggest we have an Alaska bonafide marine-creature mystery.

The black and white footage from 2009 is by no means definitive. It is taken on a rainy day with a shaky camera, which make it all the more confounding. But you can check out the testimony of people who say they witnessed the creature’s appearance in the video above.

The Alaska-dwelling creature has been labeled a “Cadborosaurus willsi,” which means “reptile” or “lizard” from Cadboro Bay, British Columbia, where it was originally spotted centuries ago. Called “Caddy” for short, it has a “long neck, a horse-like head, large eyes, and back bumps that stick out of the water,” according to a report on MSNBC. …

So “Caddy” is the newest craze to hit the cryptozoology community of “monster hunters”, it seems.  Sadly, the supposed “evidence” here is no better than the best ever provided for the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or any other of the many mythical creatures that cryptozoologists claim exist.  In this case, we have a video of very poor quality – it is out of focus, grainy, and shot under bad weather conditions.

The claims that “this cannot be a sea lion” are also very questionable, because this assumes that the “humps” appearing behind the head that surfaces are actually part of the creature’s back without any kind of confirming evidence.  But here is a more reasonable and plausible explanation: as any seafarer knows, oftentimes when a sea lion, boat, or any other waterborne craft/creature is moving across the surface of the water it produces a regular pattern of ripples, such as those shown below…

Looking at this boat and its pattern of ripples from the side at a distance can certainly make it appear like there is a series of humps breaching the water behind the boat, but that is simply an illusion.  It is my guess that this is the same kind of illusion which has fooled these fishermen into thinking they are seeing “Caddy”.

One would think that if cryptozoologists are actually serious about investigating their claims, they could come up with something better than blurry photos, crappy video footage, and a profound lack of alternative explanations which are consistent with the environment they are observing.  Color me unimpressed.

Posted in cryptozoology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Secret Mars Base Discovered? Hmmm, No…

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 7, 2011

According to this story over at Space.com, there is an amateur astronomer claiming that he has discovered what he calls a “Base on Mars” in the following image that he downloaded from Google Mars…

All I can say is… are you kidding me?!  A grainy, fuzzy, and heavily pixelated image from Google Mars shows… what exactly?  Why couldn’t this be some kind of geological feature on Mars, or couldn’t some of the features be artifacts of the imaging process?  Why the rush to jump to “alien base on Mars” without any supporting evidence?  This sort of thing is on par with people using similar crappy-quality images to claim they’re looking at Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or seeing Jesus in the clouds.  Folks, it all boils down to that well documented phenomenon called pareidolia, because if there were decent high-resolution images available then it would be harder for people to see what they (consciously or not) want to see in the pictures.

Some more reasonable possibilities are suggested by some experts in the Space.com article:

“It looks like a linear streak artifact produced by a cosmic ray,” said Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona and the director of the Planetary Imaging Research Laboratory. McEwen is the principal investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful telescope currently orbiting Mars.

Cosmic rays are extremely energetic particles emitted by the sun and other stars. For the most part, the Earth’s protective magnetosphere blocks them from hitting the planet’s surface, McEwen explained. “But with space images that are taken outside our magnetosphere, such as those taken by orbiting telescopes, it’s very common to see these cosmic ray hits. You see them on optical images and a lot of the infrared images too,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries. …

… The digital compression software that converts the image into a JPEG file then “sort of smears out the image, giving it that pixelated look,” McEwen said. What started as a clear streak in high-resolution turns into a streak that, in the armchair astronaut’s words, looks like it is “made up of cylinders.”

That, or this guy actually did discover an alien base on Mars.  I think you’d have to have a particularly dull Occam’s Razor to accept that conclusion, however.

 

Posted in aliens & UFOs, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Borneo Monster” Follow-Up

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 9, 2009

I blogged recently about the supposed “Borneo Monster” – what was claimed to be a 100-foot long snakelike creature photographed in the Baleh River on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. In my earlier post I explained why I thought the photos were bogus, and now we have even more solid evidence that they are, in fact, fakes.

It seems an industrious poster, Fromage, on a BoingBoing.net article on this story has found the original photograph from which the fake photo was made. Here’s a link to the relevant comments by Fromage…

FAKE!

Using the great tool “TinEye” you can see that is a fake.

The original picture can be seen here :
http://sl.iciba.com/viewthread-33-379175-1.shtml

(Could be the Congo river)

The TinEye link :
http://tineye.com/search/48aadefac26549bbf2bfcbd629708aacf3fa4f65

For purposes of comparison, I shall place the two photos one after the other. The real, undoctored photo is shown first…

baleh river

And now the faked “Borneo Monster” photo…

faked borneo monster photo

There you go, folks. It’s a fake. It’ll be interesting to see what the true believers say about this. Should be funny :)

Posted in cryptozoology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bogus “Borneo Monster”

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 2, 2009

I saw a recent news story on LiveScience.com about the supposed discovery of what is being called the “Borneo Monster” – apparently, this critter is supposed to be a 100-foot long snakelike creature that inhabits the Baleh River in Borneo. Already, some photos that are claimed to have been released by villagers along the river are all the buzz on the Internet. Below are the photos in question…

borneo monster 1

borneo monster 2

While the cryptozoology community (the pseudoscientists who make bogus claims about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and so on) is all a-twitter about this “discovery”, the skeptical community (including Ben Radford, the author of the above article) is busy tearing the photographic “evidence” to shreds. For an excellent analysis of these Borneo Monster claims, take a listen to the Feb. 26th podcast from the Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

I just wanted to give my quick thoughts on these photographs:

1) Note the first photo does not include any mention of scale, so I did a little digging on Google Earth. From that analysis, it seems the claim that this “monster” is 100-feet long is completely bogus. In the first photo, the greenery on the banks of the river is most likely made of trees, so this would make the creature of a very large scale; in addition, looking at Google Earth I saw the width of the Baleh River itself was much larger than 100-feet in most places. Thus, the “monster” in the photograph would have to be much larger than 100-feet long, more like 500 to 1000 feet by my estimates!

2) The second photograph was supposedly of the same creature, but it is inconsistent with the first photograph. I say this because the first photo shows what is most likely an animal that is about 500-1000 feet long, whereas the second photo is more consistent with the 100-foot claims. Not to mention, in the second photograph there doesn’t appear to be any disturbance of the water whatsoever due to the presence of the “monster”. In a river where the water is flowing, you could expect to see something like ripples, waves, or froth if something that big were oriented in the river as shown – yet we see nothing of the kind in this photo.

3) A recent discovery of the remains of an ancient snake, called Titanoboa, showed the largest such creature was about 45 feet long. The largest known snakes in existence today are about 33 feet in length, and it is believed by the scientific community that the conditions (temperature, humidity, etc) on our planet now simply are not sufficient to allow larger snakes to survive. In the past, around 58-60 million years ago, when Titanoboa lived, the conditions were right for many species to grow to enlarged size by today’s standards. But those conditions don’t exist today, and even if they did the notion that a 100-foot long snake could survive is extremely implausible.

4) If these photos are the real thing, then why hasn’t anyone else found any other evidence of such a large, land-dwelling beast? Wouldn’t you think that massive piles of shedded snake skin (or, for that matter, poop), tracks in the forests from this thing knocking over vegetation, or other evidence would be easily noticeable? Not to mention, what could such a creature possibly eat in order to stay alive?

In my opinion, these photos are most likely faked, and I also find it is no surprise to hear these tall tales just a couple of weeks after the announcement of Titanoboa’s discovery.

In conclusion, based on this analysis, I think the most plausible explanation for the supposed “Borneo Monster” is the imagination of those villagers along the Baleh River. That region of Indonesia is home to many large snakes, such as shown in the video below…

That fact, coupled with the firing of people’s imaginations at the news of Titanoboa, likely led to this bogus “Borneo Monster” story. It’ll be interesting to see how long this tall tale sticks around, or if it gets even taller as time goes on.

Posted in cryptozoology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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