Fractal Woo: Video TransCommunication

This is a short one, but after mentioning this morning how woo-meisters constantly invoke
fractals to justify their gibberish, I was reading an article at the 2% company
about Allison DuBois, the supposed psychic who the TV show “Medium” is based on. And that
led me to a perfect example of how supposed fractals are used to justify some of the
most ridiculous woo you can imagine.

So, I was reading the article about Ms. DeBois. And since there’s nothing more fun than a good smackdown of woo promoted by some slime-drenched
liar, so I wound up reading their full series on Ms. DuBois, and found links to an even siller kind of woo than your basic cold-reading pseudo-psychic: EVP, aka electronic voice phenomena. EVP is where you record sound in an ambient-noise filled environment, and then
listen to it using various filters, speed alterations, etc., and imagine that you hear the
voices of spirits.
Silly stuff. Turns out, naturally, that there’s an entire organization dedicated to
“studying” this phenomenon called the American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena, with an extensive website.
One of the things on their website is what they call “Video ITC” (Instrumental TransCommunication). In Video ITC, you aim a video camera at a TV, and then wire it up
so that the TV is displaying the output from the video camera. Then you stare at the pictures frame by frame exercising your best pareidolia abilities to find things supposedly inserted into the image by spirits. Things like the image at the top of this page, which they claim is an image of an alien; or the two images below which are allegedly images of bearded men.
In the course of describing the various things they found using this method, they actually
admit that “we are finding face features in just about every possible arrangement of optical noise”. You might, naively, think that this would be a *problem*, that finding
things in every random collection of pixels drawn from their “experiments” would indicate that they’re just imposing their expectations onto random patterns.
But if they did that, they wouldn’t be woo-meisters, now would they? No, you see, the truth is, that’s *proof* that there’s something mysterious going on: because the images are
embedded in a *fractal* way! And that means that it *must* be deliberate!
I can’t possibly say it better than they did:
>This is another ‘Elfish” feature. We will not further address the question of the Little
>People here, but we would like to point out a most fascinating aspect of the features we
>are collecting. The feature at the left appears to be that of a man who is looking to your
>right. He is wearing a tall hat and has a rather elongated chin. You can see his right eye
>rather well and most of his left. Focus your eyes until you can see this. Now refocus you
>eyes so that you can see a man looking straight at you. Most of his face is illuminated by
>the spot of light at the center of the image. He is wearing the same hat. The left eye of
>this second man is the same as the right eye of the first.
>Now take a good look at the man’s (men’s) hat. Do you see the face feature there?
>This is typical of the way face features are appearing in our ITC sessions. This is an
>example of an inserted feature being composed of numerous holographic or fractal features.
>As is shown below, we are finding face features in just about every possible arrangement
>of optical noise.
There you go. Elves, ghosts, and communication with spirits, all justified with fractals.
pathetic, isn’t it?

0 thoughts on “Fractal Woo: Video TransCommunication

  1. Blake Stacey, OM

    The image labeled “4” looks, appropriately, like a man’s hand pulling a mushroom off of a vertical surface. The lower horizontal dark region is his thumb, and the upper, curving dark band is his fingers.
    I played with video feedback when I first did digital video editing on my computer (this was in the elder days, circa 1998). It looks pretty cool, although my feedback effects were always bluish-white. Maybe this means my computer was being attacked by Blue Meanies?
    You can do the same thing in some department stores and consumer electronics shops, since they often have demonstration cameras set up to play video onto their demonstration TV screens. If the camera can be re-pointed, aim it at the TV screen and trip away. . . .

  2. John Armstrong

    Oddly enough I was just reading Hofstadter’s latest book on the plane to and from Portugal last week. Plenty about video feedback in there, and plenty about why there’s not any consciousness going on — why the loop isn’t “strange”.

  3. J. John Johnstown

    [Admiring a painting]
    Harris: I like the relationships. I mean, each character has his own story. The puppy is a bit too much, but you have to over look things like that in these kinds of paintings. The way he’s *holding* her… it’s almost… filthy. I mean, he’s about to kiss her and she’s pulling away. The way the leg’s sort of smashed up against her… Phew… Look how he’s painted the blouse sort of translucent. You can just make out her breasts underneath and it’s sort of touching him about here. It’s really… pretty torrid, don’t you think? Then of course you have the onlookers peeking at them from behind the doorway like they’re all shocked. They wish. Yeah, I must admit, when I see a painting like this, I get emotionally… erect.
    [the painting is revealed to be of a red rectangle]

    Steve Martin in the film L.A. Story.

  4. Jianying

    This is silly and interesting at the same.
    Noise often follow a power law, which often is 1/f or 1/f^2
    these type of noises often give rise to fractal patterns.
    So the fact these people are finding fractal faces in these images is more an indication of natural phenomenon than hidden intention.Their result is actually direct evidence of the falsity of their claims.

  5. Lepht

    i can see why this kind of thing leads to paraeidolia woo. it’s a natural object! following a pattern! that cannot be!
    of course, in this case, we can easily point out the fallacy of the woo claim. unfortunately we don’t seem to be able to do that for Intelligent Design, which to my eyes is the same thing (oh emm gee, it’s just too complicated to be natural!)

  6. Fernando

    Hi Mark,
    Tottaly off topic, but I think you’d like this:
    Turing’s unpublished algorithm for normal numbers
    Veronica Bechera,b,, Santiago Figueiraa, Rafael Picchia
    a Departamento de Computaci´on, FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
    In an unpublished manuscript, Alan Turing gave a computable construction to show that absolutely normal real numbers
    between 0 and 1 have Lebesgue measure 1; furthermore, he gave an algorithm for computing instances in this set. We complete his manuscript by giving full proofs and correcting minor errors. While doing this, we recreate Turing’s ideas as accurately as possible. One of his original lemmas remained unproved, but we have replaced it with a weaker lemma that still allows us to maintain Turing’s proof idea and obtain his result.
    1. Introduction
    In this paper, we reconstruct Alan Turing’s manuscript entitled “A note on normal numbers” which remained unpublished until 1992, when it was included in the “Collected works of Alan Turing” edited by J.L. Britton [15,
    pp. 117-119, with the notes of the editor in pp. 263-265]. The original manuscript is in Turing’s archive in King’s
    College, Cambridge, and a scanned version of it is available on the Web from
    Our motivation for this work was to explore and make explicit the techniques used by Turing in relation to normal
    numbers, especially because there are still no known general methods to prove normality of given real numbers; nor there are fast algorithms to construct absolutely normal numbers (see [3,12,13]).
    In his manuscript, Turing states two theorems here transcribed as Theorems 1 and 2. The first gives a computable construction to show that almost all real numbers are absolutely normal. A non-constructive proof of this result was given by Borel in 1909 [5]. A constructive, but not effectively based proof was given by Sierpi´nski in 1917 [14], when computability theory was still undeveloped. Turing’s and Sierpi´nski’s constructions not only differ in terms of computability, but they are based on different (though equivalent) definitions of absolute normality (see Definition 4).
    In modern terms, Theorem 1 proves that the set of reals in (0, 1) that are not absolutely normal are included in an
    effectively null set, and Turing gives an explicit convergence bound for this fact.

  7. Lepht

    Zenith – me too. we should start a church. i’ll be Pope, meaning i get to keep my pseudonymous anonymity, and you can be… Jesus or something. it’ll be fun.
    now, we’re gonna need some Chianti, and some crackers. this might hurt a little.

  8. John H

    William Burroughs was a proponent of EVP, IIRC. His collection of essays “The Adding Machine” includes at least one piece relating to EVP. Woo.


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