Pareidolia (guess the image)

March 31, 2023 • 3:21 pm

I did indeed have a late lunch of chiles rellenos today, and oy, were they good! This is my go-to restaurant in Hyde Park now: even the tortillas are homemade.

On my way to the restaurant, I saw this burnt spot on a telephone pole (photo below) which to me is a case of pareidolia.

I immediately thought it looked like George Harrison, but a friend I showed it to said it “looked like a turkey butt.”

What do you think?

Thursday: Hili dialogue

July 25, 2019 • 6:30 am

It’s Thursday, July 25, 2019, and we still have two months of summer to go, though the weather has turned refreshingly cool in Chicago. It’s National Parfait Day as well as National Wine and Cheese Day. For me it’s Fasting Day (Mondays and Thursdays).

News of the day (h/t Nilou): According to the BBC, the oldest known extract from Homer’s Odyssey has been found on a clay tablet, found in Olympia Greece and dated “to Roman times” (better dating is impending). The extract “contains 13 verses from the Odyssey’s 14th Rhapsody, in which Odysseus addresses his lifelong friend Eumaeus.” It will be interesting to compare this to other extracts to see how well an orally transmitted work was reproduced in writing. Here’s part of the tablet:

Stuff that happened on this day includes the following:

  • 306 – Constantine I is proclaimed Roman emperor by his troops.

Constantine was, of course, the first emperor to convert to Christianity, and promoted Christianity heavily in the Empire, including calling for the first council of Nicaea.

  • 1603 – James VI of Scotland is crowned king of England (James I of England), bringing the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland into personal union. Political union would occur in 1707.
  • 1783 – American Revolutionary War: The war’s last action, the Siege of Cuddalore, is ended by a preliminary peace agreement.
  • 1797 – Horatio Nelson loses more than 300 men and his right arm during the failed conquest attempt of Tenerife (Spain).
  • 1866 – The United States Congress passes legislation authorizing the rank of General of the Army. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant becomes the first to be promoted to this rank.
  • 1909 – Louis Blériot makes the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air machine from (Calais to Dover, England, United Kingdom) in 37 minutes.

Here’s some footage of Blériot making his flight in what looks to be a rather rickety plane:

  • 1934 – The Nazis assassinate Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in a failed coup attempt.
  • 1965 – Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, signaling a major change in folk and rock music.

There’s a whole Wikipedia entry on “Electric Dylan controversy” (link above), and here’s the very first song in his set, “Maggie’s Farm”. I can’t hear the audience boos on this video, but maybe you can:

  • 1976 – Viking program: Viking 1 takes the famous Face on Mars photo.

Here’s that photo, and it is striking:

This fired up many believers in extraterrestrial intelligence, including those who thought that the “face” was evidence for an ancient civilization on Mars. But it would be remarkable, no, if the Mars aliens looked just like humans? It would be a spectacular case of convergent evolution, though one could argue that Earthlings somehow came from Mars. But, given evidence for human evolution on Earth, that seems impossible.

But over 20 years later, this picture of the “face” was taken by the Mars Global Surveyor:

And Wikipedia says this, giving similar instances of pareidolia on Earth:

Since it was originally first imaged, the face has been accepted by scientists as an optical illusion, an example of the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia. After analysis of the higher resolution Mars Global Surveyor data NASA stated that “a detailed analysis of multiple images of this feature reveals a natural looking Martian hill whose illusory face-like appearance depends on the viewing angle and angle of illumination”. Similar optical illusions can be found in the geology of Earth; examples include the Old Man of the Mountain, the Romanian SphinxGiewont, the Pedra da Gávea, the Old Man of HoyStac LevenishSleeping Ute, and the Badlands Guardian.

Have a look at all the formations.

More stuff that happened on July 25.

  • 1978 – Birth of Louise Joy Brown, the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation, or IVF.
  • 1984 – Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to perform a space walk.
  • 2010 – WikiLeaks publishes classified documents about the War in Afghanistan, one of the largest leaks in U.S. military history.

Brown, who turns 41 today, has a new book that she flogs on her website:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 1848 – Arthur Balfour, Scottish-English lieutenant and politician, 33rd Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1930)
  • 1870 – Maxfield Parrish, American painter and illustrator (d. 1966)

I’m a big fan of Parrish, and here’s one of his illustrations for Puss in Boots (1913):

  • 1875 – Jim Corbett, Indian hunter, environmentalist, and author (d. 1955)
  • 1920 – Rosalind Franklin, English biophysicist, chemist, and academic (d. 1958)
  • 1921 – Lionel Terray, French mountaineer (d. 1965)
  • 1941 – Emmett Till, American lynching victim (d. 1955)

Notables who expired on July 25 were few, and include:

  • 1834 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English philosopher, poet, and critic (b. 1772)
  • 1997 – Ben Hogan, American golfer (b. 1912)
  • 2008 – Randy Pausch, American computer scientist and educator (b. 1960)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is wheedling for noms:

Hili: Why is the garage open?
A: Because I’m going shopping.
Hili: I will make you a shopping list in a moment.
In Polish:


Hili: Dlaczego garaż jest otwarty?
Ja: Bo jadę na zakupy.
Hili: Zaraz zrobię ci listę.

A meme sent by Stephen Muth:

Another cat meme from FB:


A tweet Grania sent me on November 29 of last year:

In an email titled “Lizard heaven,” reader j.j. sent a tweet showing a lizard enjoying a “never-ending snack of ants,” but wants to know what species the lizard is. Readers?

Reader Simon has contributed his first tweet, and it’s a good one, showing a lazy Larry the Cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office (that’s an official British government title):

A tweet from Nilou; Steve finally made it!

Two tweets from Heather Hastie. This one is very cute!

All it took was a glare to stop this kitten in its tracks:

Two tweets from Matthew. The first is “Pet Fennecs Gone Wild”:

This one’s hard to read, so I pulled the photo and enlarged it below the tweet. What a jerk that woman was (and I mean the one who’s having a girl):


Thursday: Hili dialogue

July 26, 2018 • 7:00 am

Good morning on Thursday, July 26, 2018, when I overslept by 1.5 hours. This is unheard of, but I haven’t been sleeping well lately and I guess my body was catching up.  It’s National Bagelfest, and too bad for you if you live in every city in the world save the two where you can get real bagels (New York and Montreal).

Meanwhile, as the news reports (e.g., the Independent and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency), the Labour Party, increasing infested with anti-Semitism, has rejected the EUs definition of “antisemitism”, and for this Labour has been condemned by both the Prime Minister and British Jews, as evidenced below. If you’re Labour, make your voice known!

On this day in 1745, the first women’s cricket match was played near Guildford, England. In 1803, arguably the world’s first public railroad, the Surrey Iron Railway, opened in South London. On July 26, 1882, Wagner’s Parsifal premiered at Bayreuth.  On this day in 1918, according to Wikipedia, “Emmy Noether‘s paper, which became known as Noether’s theorem was presented at Göttingen, Germany, from which conservation laws are deduced for symmetries of angular momentum, linear momentum, and energy”. And in 1945 this was a day for Labour, as the party won by a landslide the UK general election, tossing Churchill from power. And after he had done so much to win the war! On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman signed an executive order desegregating the U.S. military. Exactly four years later, King Farouk of Egypt abdicated in favor of his son Fuad. On July 26, 1977, the National Assembly of Quebec decreed that French would henceforth be the official language of the provincial government. In 1990, George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Finally, on this day two years ago, Hillary Clinton became the first female nominee by a major political party for President of the United States. The rest is sad history.

Finally, Hili is scheduled to be wormed today! She hates it, of course.

Lots of notables were born on July 26, including George Bernard Shaw (1856), Serge Koussevitzky (1874), Carl Jung (1875), George Grosz (1893), Aldous Huxley (1894), Gracie Allen (1895), photographer Elliott Erwitt (1928), Stanley Kubrick (1938), Bobby Hebb (1938; his song “Sunny” won the “Most Soulful Song Contest” on this site), Mick Jagger (1943; he’s 75 today), Dorothy Hamill (1956), Kevin Spacey (1959), Sandra Bullock (1964), Kate Beckinsale (1973), and New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern (1980).

Those who died on this day include Sam Houston (1863), William Jennings Bryan (1925; in Dayton, Tennessee right after the conclusion of the Scopes “Monkey Trial”), cartoonist Winsor McCay (1934), Eva Perón (1952), and photographer Diane Arbus.

In honor of the artists who died today, here is some of their work:

George Grosz’s oddly titled painting “Daum marries her pedantic automaton George in May 1920, John Heartfield is very glad of it”:

Elliott Erwitt, Fidel Castro, Havana, 1964:

Winsor McCary (try to find his “Little Nemo” series in book form):

Diane Arbus, “Boy with a straw hat waiting to march in a pro-war parade, N.Y.C., 1967.”

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili doesn’t like the direction the world is taking, and uses a verb form to express it. Malgorzata explains:

Hili is using the verb “wash” in Polish in the form used in the meaning of Pontius Pilate’s washing his hands. If she just wanted to announce that she was trying to keep her paws clean she would use the form “myję”. I have no idea how to put it into English to get the same meaning.
Hili: I wash my paws.
A: I think I understand.
In Polish:
Hili: Umywam łapki.
Ja: Chyba cię rozumiem.

Two tweets from Heather Hastie:

A majestic Bengal in a majestic setting (not photoshopped):

And a nice human helps a thirsty cat:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one shows Trump’s continuing ignorance:

Pareidolia in smoke:

Look at this adult chameleon!

Can I tell you the Good News about the Divine Wallaby?

Baby leopards:

. . . and a lovely robberfly.

From Grania; read the comment at issue:

Why do people still pay any attention to Gwyneth Paltrow?

Kitten discovers a cherry:


New Jesus pareidolia

June 13, 2018 • 1:30 pm

This speaks for itself (click on screenshot to see article):


This would be Limulus polyphemus, the Atlantic horseshoe crab. Is it also a sign that this species is regarded as a “living fossil”?

My enlargement:

The backstory:

A Florida woman seeking inspiration from a higher power was shell-shocked as she found it — on a horseshoe crab.

Photographer Cathy Rader, of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., had recently quit her job to work full time on a picture book about her town. Eager for help, she called out to God and asked for a sign.

The devout Christian then turned to a horseshoe crab shell that was recently given to her and held it up to the light — and that’s when she saw it: an image of Jesus Christ on the bottom.

“It is crazy,” Rader told “I was trying to find funding for my book and asked God for help and he is always saying, ‘Wait on me.'”

At first, she didn’t believe it and started Googling for images of the top of a horseshoe crab shell. She found hers looked totally different.

When she showed it to her friends, many agreed it looked like Christ. Others did not.

“It doesn’t look like him to every person, but when you hold it to the light, it comes through,” she said.

She said she is “absolutely” taking it as a sign from above.

Rader received the shell on May 4 and made the discovery a short time later. She said she wanted to keep the news of the image to herself at first, but then shared it with a local news station, which helped her crab shell go viral.

The shell is now on display at a local library in the town, where it’s protected by a glass case and security.

“Not everyone is going to see Christ and that is totally fine,” she said, adding, “It is something for me.”

But will she get funding?

There’s also a link to her book, but it says “unsafe” when you click on it. I think it’s fine, though.

Try this one, too. There’s a video! But this Jesus looks a bit, well, unsavory.



Readers’ wildlife photos

February 14, 2018 • 7:30 am

Reader Ken Phelps sent some artistic photos of nature. His notes are indented:

Due to positive feedback on not-always-wildlife images,  Jerry is graciously allowing me to post my Flickr address.

Here’s a heavy coating of dew/melted frost on fir saplings.

Cladonia fimbriata [a lichen], growing on an old piece of knotted rope hanging in the yard.

Macro shot of the melting edge of a snow bank. Looks like a small bird, with the colors of the bank behind giving it a Tuscan feel.
Chatterbox Falls, Princess Louisa Inlet. [British Columbia]:
Princess Louisa again. 80 degree day in September, looking up from the boat at a glacier 6000ish feet above us.

Just for fun, some pareidolia. Snow melt rushing down a steep ditch beside a logging road. I see a skeletal wraith, his ghostly female companion, and an angry lizard.

Satan cat pareidolia

February 6, 2017 • 2:30 pm

In the Leon monologue from three days ago, I missed an example of pareidolia, but it was caught by reader Pete Smith. Can you see it in the original photo?


Yes, it’s a satanic cat!:pareidolia

And while we’re at it, reader Ginger K. called my attention to the Daily Mail‘s article on Alistair Cantley, who spotted the face of Jesus in the door of a bathroom in an IKEA store in Glasgow:

[Cantley] said: ‘It was a fairly normal shopping trip until I saw that. It’s not every day you spot Jesus in Ikea.

‘The door handle was in the way a bit but I think for anyone walking past they can clearly see the face there.

‘I’ll have to call in again soon and see if he’s still there. Maybe he’s watching over me.’



Wednesday: Hili dialogue

September 21, 2016 • 6:38 am

It’s Wednesday, September 21, and the “food day” holidays have reached their nadir with National Pecan Cookie Day. I doubt that any reader here will eat one. Getting to the larger events on this day in history, in 1897 the New York Sun published its famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter, helping inspire, I’m sure, dozens of Christian apologists.  The Sun‘s response, evoked by an inquiry from an 8-year-old girl, is given below. It could have been written by someone like C. S. Lewis, but substituting the word “God” for “Santa Claus” and leaving out the chimney bit. It even extols faith and says the world would be meaningless without Santa! Have a look:


Speaking of fantasy, on this day in 1937 J. R. R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit was published.

Notables born on this day include the great mountaineer Hermann Buhl (1924), killed by falling through a cornice on Chogolisa in Pakistan in 1957. He’d made the first ascent of Nanga Parbat, finishing it solo and bivouacking overnight at atltitude because he was caught out late. Leonard Cohen was born on this day in 1934, Stephen King in 1947, and Bill Murray in 1950. Those who died on this day include Walter Brennan (1974) and Florence Griffith Joyner (1998, epileptic seizure). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has taken to sleeping upstairs on the guest bed.

A: You have become very fond of this place lately.
Hili: The guests come and go but bedding stays.

In Polish:

Ja: Bardzo polubiłaś ostatnio to miejsce.
Hili: Goście przyjeżdżają i wyjeżdżają, a pościel zostaje.
Lagniappe: from Dangerous Minds, via reader T. Fife, we have the face of Charles Darwin seen in a patient’s eye scan. Pity the person can’t charge others to come see it!

The Holy Spud awes Canadian seniors; CBC said it could be a “sign from above”

September 5, 2016 • 2:00 pm

Canadians are acting badly again, and here I’m referring to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, who should know better. From the CBC, we have a story about a Holy Potato. The text is indented, and the figure captions are from the website.

A cook was cutting potatoes at a Quebec seniors’ residence when he decided to slice one lengthwise instead of across, as he usually did.

What he saw inside is being called a sign of a divine presence in the building.

“He saw it was a cross and he said, ‘It’s a sign,'” said Émilien Morin, president of the residents’ committee at Le Mieux Vivre Residence in Grande-Rivière.

“He thought it meant ‘I’m here’ — a religious sign.”

The sacred spud was discovered Aug. 22 at the Gaspé Peninsula residence by cook Alain Lévesque.

“He couldn’t believe it,” Morin said.

The potato will be on display in the dining room where all residents at the seniors’ home in Grande-Rivière, Que., can enjoy being near it. (Submitted by Gaston Lebreux)

I love the figure caption above (my emphasis). But wait—there’s more!

Morin said the residents are devout Catholics and sought a way to preserve the potato.

Jeannette Moreau, a residents’ committee member, is currently housing the potato in her apartment as it dries.

Morin says the potato-drying process could take up to a month, adding that the spud has started to darken but the sign of the cross at its centre is still highly visible.

He doesn’t want people to visit the vegetable until it’s fully dried and ready to be displayed in a custom-made display case.

Morin said the potato will be on display in the dining room where all residents can enjoy being near it.

“It makes them feel safe,” Morin said.

Alain Lévesque and Émilien Morin have been instrumental in preserving the potato. (Submitted by Gaston Lebreux)

Now here’s the bad part in an otherwise amusing article (amusing for nonbelievers, that is): the ending of the article:

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 1.35.21 PM

Seriously, CBC? “Might be a sign from above?” “Divine?” Given that they have a naturalistic explanation, why on earth would they raise the possibility that God made these markings? Who’s in charge of this article?

I sent this to friends in Montreal, who said the only thing to be done with this spud is make Holy Poutine, which could be offered to Québécois as a kind of communion.

Here’s another Jesus potato, along with 21 other images of Jesus in food from BuzzFeed, including my favorite, a Jesus banana:


Someone call Ray Comfort: his apology for the banana video was premature!


h/t: Snowy Owl

Pareidolia: Satan afflicts a sick baby?

March 15, 2016 • 8:00 am

Reader Peter sent a freaky photo of his sick son. His notes:

You sometimes post some pareidolia shots and so I thought I would send this screenshot I took off my webcam while I was monitoring my sick baby. I guess because he was so sick, I was spending extra time looking at him and just when he rolled this suddenly popped up. In the split second that my brain took to see the picture I was startled before rationality set in. The growbag that he is in is all white with coloured dots on it (hard to see from the infra-read webcam). There are no images of anything else. This peculiar set of conditions that enabled these shadows to pop up in this configuration is quite rare, I would think. I can only imagine what an irrational mind would think of it.

Could it be . . . ?