Giant Skeleton Hoax
Posted on: December 15, 2007 12:52 PM, by afarensis, FCD
This is equal parts funny (that people were taken in by it) and sad (because it doesn't say much about scientific literacy). The hoax revolves around a picture of a giant skeleton. The picture was part of a photo manipulation contest but rapidly took on a life of its own. Here is the picture:
According to the person who created the photo:
IronKite started with an aerial photo of a mastodon excavation in Hyde Park, New York, in 2000. He then digitally superimposed a human skeleton over the beast's remains.
The later addition of a digging man presented the biggest technical challenge.
"If you look, he's holding a yellow-handled shovel, but there's nothing on the end," IronKite said.
"Originally, the spade end was there. But [it] looked like it was occupying the exact same space as the skeleton's temple, making the whole thing look fake.
"Now it looks like he's just holding a stick, and people don't notice. It's funny."
IronKite also altered the color of the man's clothing to create a "uniform tie-in" with the white-shirted observer peering down from the wooden platform.
What happened next is that a number of media outlets and internet sites reported the find as real. People from various religious backgrounds around the world believed it because it confirmed religious myths about giants in the past. As the National Geographic article puts it:
David Mikkelson of Snopes.com said such hoaxes succeed when they seem to confirm something people are already inclined to believe, such as a prejudice, political viewpoint, or religious belief.
A hoax also needs to be presented "in a framework that has the appearance of credibility," he said in an email.
The "ancient giant" has both elements, according to Mikkelson.
"It appeals to both a religious and a secular vision of the world as different and more fantastic than mere science would lead us to believe," he said.
Because worm eating fungi and tool using chimps aren't fantastic enough...
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