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From: frice@skeptictank.org (Fredric Rice)
To: "Gareth Edwards" <abk49@dial.pipex.com>
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 1997 19:42:26 -0700
Subject: Face of God on Moon!

> Hi,
> Thanks for your reply, I'd forgotten about the message I sent

Well, I was in Texas for a period of four weeks and didn't get a chance to get through the mail while I was gone. Alas the mailbox filled up and it seems as though I'm forever ear-marked as someone who doesn't have enough forsight to check my mail often enough. <smile>

> - actually your name has become familiar over the past few days - as
> I've been looking at the Skeptics Dictionary in more detail - more
> about that later.

Oh oh. <grin>

> I'm 2 years into a Ph.D in machine vision in the dept. of Medical
> Biophysics at Manchester University, UK. I suppose I'm still just
> ahead of schedule with it, despite a fairly depressing couple of
> months - I'll have a new web page in a few days with my
> publications on it - I'll send the address when I know what it is.

I would love to see it when you're finished getting things published. I'm in the process controll business myself though we employ a variety of optical sensors and cameras in a grunt-level approach rather than something as sophisticated as machine vision.

> It so happens that my research is automatic face recogntion - there's
> also some overlap with human vision as we try to develop tests for
> Schitzophrenia based on expression recogntion. There's anecdotal
> evidence to suggest it works, so if the double-blind trials fail
> I can always sell it in a health food shop.

<laughing!> Yeah, and you and your colleagues will make _millions_ -- much more than if you find an actual correlation.

But is there any basis at all to determining _any_ kind of mental disorder by analyzing facial attributes? I see in the literature that there are a lot of quacks trying to read persoanities out of faces -- phrenology all over again.

> A few months ago we had a visit from a Moslem guy who claimed to be a
> barrister ( I don't particularly have any reason to doubt this
> claim). He said that he had a new scientific theory of something
> or other, and he was looking to fund research. It's not often
> people walk in with money to hand out, so a meeting was arranged
> with a senior member of the academic staff. The guy in question
> was then referred to me ( the alleged expert ) although he hasn't
> turned up with his data yet.

Will the guy be unhappy with findings contrary to his "new scientific theory?"

> Anyway his story basically starts like this. Apparently it's well known
> that astronauts often see human faces flying alongside their
> rockets. I must admit to being unaware of this 'well-known fact',
> but maybe I don't watch the X-files enough.

I've never heard of it -- and I have kept up on the space projects. The only thing which might even come close is the many reports of _debris_ that astronauts see and mistake for spacecraft in matching orbits.

> If it is true then it's certainly facsinating,
> and I would line up a number of potential explainations to test -
> reflections in the glass misinterpreted by tired and stressed people
> for instance, someone even mentioned cosmic ray interactions
> triggering the face-recognition hard-wiring in the brain - though
> O's razor suggests we might leave this 'til considerably later.

Someone in one of the skeptics publications _has_ done some research on pattern recognition within random visual fields which yields faces more than any other misidentified subject. I believe it was Susan Blackmore and her colleagues.

> However there is no need to think of any more explainations - this guy
> has already found the solution....it's the face of God! (or Allah
> or whatever).

<smile> I wonder who told him that astronauts have been reporting seeing faces. It sounds as though it was opne of his religious leaders telling a typically dishonest yarn to try to concoct evidence for his deity constructs.

> All that remains is to prove his solution to be true to rest of
> the world and we're all heroes - the new messiahs - we might even
> knock the Bible Code off the bestseller spot( I wonder if the code
> predicts that? ) Coming up with the proof is where we are supposed
> to help.

<snort> Well, when you find this god of his, what else would you do with it?

> Apparently, this guy has been all over the world 'trying to get help'(sic)
> but NASA turned him away ( they would though - too busy negotiating
> treaties with grey-headed aliens ) So he looked up Face Recogntion
> and found us.

Neat!

> Now these tales from former astronauts (unnamed) are just that -
> stories - so he hasn't actually got any pictures or anything. However
> he's neatly got round that problem by working out where the images
> come from - the moon!.

This guy isn't just an average nut, I take it. He seems to have money to back him up with.

>Obvious when you think about it.

Of course. The gods and goddesses used to live under lakes, in volcanoes, and in the sky. As science displaced them and searched their hiding places, the gods had to flee.

So naturally he places his gods on the Moon -- some place which costs a great deal of money to search. His gods will be nice and safe on the Moon for a long, long time.

>I thought that this would definitely win me the Nobel >Prize, but it would take a few days work to find God's magic moon latern.

And after you fail, he'll go somewhere else, won't he?

> However it's even easier - he's already found the face of God on the
> moon - and better still he's photographed it. Now we never actually
> got to see the photographs - I think we were asked to sign all
> manner of stupid things - you know - like promising not to take
> over the world with our new found knowledge.

Of course. It wouldn't do to have you take over the place, now would it?

> As any scientist knows, you can't sign things like this, it is out
> duty as scientists to try to take over the world - I've got a few
> ideas, but I can't afford the dug-out volcano with the sliding
> lake yet.

We had a guy in HolySmoke claim that scientists drop fossils from airplanes to deceive humanity -- as part of a "Satanic" plot, no doubt. So you're right -- don't sign anything until he learns the secret hand sign.

> It gets better still...not only has he found the face of God, he can shut
> the feminists up for good - God is a Man. Now I do have a system that
> is pretty good at distiguishing faces, and deciding the sex of
> unknown faces - so he wanted me to check with this system that God
> was indeed a man. No doubt this would establish whether or not my
> system is any good. Apparently further investigation would allow us
> to establish whether or not God was happy or angry. I could go on,
> but I think you probably get the picture...

Wouldn't it be great if your software pegged his "god" as a hermadite? (Is that the right word and horrid spelling?) Wouldn't it be neat if your software pegged some of his photographs as a man and some of them as a woman?

Since he's Muslim, no doubt he would ignore the female results.

> Now as a student I'm usually completely broke - and the thought of
> earning money by fitting ad-hoc patterns to random data, for an
> idiot of a customer - is quite appealing.

Hell, take his money. I would. And do his search. But _publish_ both the search and the results heavilly and, I suggest, be utterly serious and in keepig with professional decorum. The guy wants your help and claims to be investigating a scientific find -- it's a testable claim even if it is for a god, after all.

Man, I sure would do it.

> I suppose my common sense and a supervisor who is reknowned as one of
> the leading experts in machine vision and statistical pattern
> recognition talked me out of it. I don't think he'd like his name
> in the same galaxy as this guy. I did suggest a pseudonym, in fact
> I suggested all manner of things - you'll do anything when you aint
> got no money, but we've never even had the chance, since our barrister
> chap seems to have gone to pester someone else.

But the publicity that could be derived from milking this "search" would have been _beneficial_, not negative. The news service would cover it if you do some public relations release before hand.

Man, I would do it in a heart-beat. Hell, the FOX Television Network would make a special out of it. <grin>

> I was at the web-page of the Bible Code book - looking at the reviews (and
> adding one - number 156 I think ) and it seems that they all want a
> ccopy of Drosnin's software in order to find out what the bible says
> about themselves. He's very mean not making it avaiable, so I've
> decided to write some myself to help these people. I think the
> program has bug though, every time I run it I get this garbled
> string of characters "Drsnoins obvusio a fruad ro a ttoal
> fuckwti"

<laughing!>

> I'm afraid this mail is getting longer than I thought and my eyelids grow
> heavy (it's 1am in Manchester ) I did have a few other ideas about the
> Skeptics Dictionary - particularly in England - but I'll try to write
> again tomorrow. No problem. I would absolutely _love_it_ if you would keep me updated on this vision system of yours and also let me know if there's any chance that you might take this guy up on his search/test of his photographs.

I understand that you have to sign stuff _before_ hand and as such it makes the review unscientific, but surely you can agree to some stipulations yet demand some of your own.

>I hope you feel better now that you know God is male.....

<laughing!> Well, I've never doubted it. Those of us who need them tend to make them in our own image.

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