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Friday, March 23, 2012

Birdman Video a Fake

Camera Shake Analysis of Birdman Video from Wired
I wrote a couple of days ago about Jorn Smeets the flying bird man in "Prometheus and Human Bird Flight."

Turns out it was a hoax (see Dutch video on this page).

The guy, Floris Kaayk, claims to have spent eight months creating the fake video - so I guess we should believe him...  (so you believe someone who has already once deliberately mislead you?)

At the resident physics expert Rhett Allain did a very detailed analysis of the flying video (described here, chart at right).  This involved estimating speed, analyzing camera shake, and so on.

No obvious fakery was discovered.

The hoaxer claims to have made and won awards for other similar videos.  One on a fake disease Metalosis Maligna (which is believable up until about 2:30).

So I was taken in along by birdman with everyone else.

I still think that someone will figure this out someday - but obviously it won't be Smeets.

More interesting is why someone would spend eight months creating a fake video like this.

I suppose for generating a huge number of youtube hits or a lot of interest on Dutch television.

Certainly there are numerous humor outlets like the "Onion" that creates a variety of parody news casts.

One thing I don't understand is the idea of creating something as complex and detailed as this video was for essentially no purpose.  The Metalosis video is much more like a classic parody for a couple of reasons.

For one thing the video clearly goes off the rails on believability around 2:30.  Classic humor in that up to that point it focuses on reality: implants and disease.  I, for example, have an implant, and would be interested in dormant bacteria and their effects on it.

But the images of the implant growing out of control and taking over the body are clearly ludicrous.  So you are taken in by the plausibility of the basic assumption of the video only to led into the weeds as the preposterous aspect of what's later shown.  The birdman video is somewhat different than this.

Certainly its possible to do what's shown.  Since the backpack containing the "powered out-riggers" is never shown or discussed it leaves open the possibility its real.

I, for example, could go off to some horrific slum and create a video showing hopeless, destitute children being miraculously transformed into better circumstances through some means that was not clear.  Poor starving little Suzy is now living in LA, has lots of friends and video games.

Would this video be "funny?"

Maybe, but more likely maybe not.

How would I feel finding out that the little children were not helped.

Such a project might show off my video/film making skill...
Similarly the Wright brothers could have gone to Kitty Hawk and made a fake flying video (or in those days I suppose a fake flying "newspaper story."  Since others at the time were also interested in flight the story might be believed like the birdman story - its certainly plausible.
But would it be funny?

I suppose I am too pragmatic (maybe because I am a geezer) to see the humor in it.

Personally I would rather spend the eight months actually trying to make the flying machine than make someone believe I am doing it when I am not.

Short of a career as Joseph Gobbels or as a humor writer for TV I am not sure of the point unless he wants a job in University creating unreproducible research results as I described here: "Falsified Medical Studies the Norm."

And this is really my point for this post.

Today's "kiddies" seem to like the idea of creating the "impression" of something rather than the something itself.  Its your fifteen minutes of fame so go for it.

Unreproducible research is a good example as is the birdman video.  Imagine if instead it was some obscure science research for a PhD.  Would someone really check the results?  Would the purveyor go on TV an trumpet his success in creating a parody?

I doubt it.

Would they take their PhD - probably - as the linked article describes.

Very much unlike the Wright brothers.

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