Monday, March 9, 2009

JJNN: Subaru pareidolia

Welcome again to JJNN for March 9th, 2009. Today I will be talking about a Japanese contest.

I want to you take a look at a picture and tell me what you see. Just keep your eyes open and your mind blank and see what comes to you. Here is the picture, look hard.

So, what do you see? I will give you a hint. The giant picture is made by 339 cars. How is that a hint? Well, the picture has something to do with the cars that make up the picture. I will tell you about why all those cars came together and than I will tell you what the picture actually is.

This event all started in 2007 in Portugal. There was a group of people that want to get into the Guinness book of records. And like any respectful group that wants to get into the Guinness book of records, they decided to do something stupid. In this case it was to make a giant mosaic using just cars. They type of car that they used was a Japanese car, so some Japanese people that heard about the Guinness record decided that they should out do the Portuguese. There is Japanese pride on the line after all. So last saturday they got 339 cars made by the same company together and made a huge mosaic of that car's symbol. Did that hint help you figure out what car symbol it is? It is actually the Suburu symbol. Take a look at the symbol below and compare it to the mosaic above.

Does it actually look anything like the Suburu symbol? Well, I would say that it has a passing resemblance. But, of course before I knew what the Subuer symbol looked like I couldn't tell you what the mosaic was representing. This leads to something called pareidolia. Pareidolia is seeing an image in an random pattern (or in this case a pattern that is just hard to make out). There is also another version of pareidolia that covers hearing things in a random sound pattern.

Pareidolia has been the root cause of many different types of pseudoscience. The most obvious one is of course seeing the face of Jesus or Mary in the pattern caused by the grain of the wood or the pattern caused by the melted cheese stuck to the bottom of a pizza box. You can see one such example below.

So, why would this happen? Is Jesus really reaching out his all powerful hand and burning himself into a piece of bread for all to see? I would have to say a big "no!" to that question. What happens is that the burn pattern of the bread is natural and the image of Jesus is so engrained into everyone's heads (even those who are not religious have spent most of their lives seeing that image in different places) that it jumps out at us. All I got to say is that the next time you see the image of Jesus burnt onto some toast you better be looking for his signature in the bottom right hand corner of the burn mark before you believe it is a divine sign of anything.

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