Skeptic News: Paredolia rising

From: The mirror

Of all the amazing sights you expect to see in space – the Cookie Monster is not one of them.

But there is no mistaking the resemblance of the sweet-loving muppet in this bizarre picture of an impact basin with two smaller craters above it spotted on Mercury.

And it seems the similarities to the Sesame Street character were not lost on the scientists who came across the image while working on NASA’s Messenger mission to the planet.

The researchers posted a photo of the crater arrangement with the title “Anyone Else Think This Looks Like the Cookie Monster?” on the Flickr page of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records when played in reverse.

The word comes from the Greek words para (παρά, “beside, alongside, instead”) in this context meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of; and the noun eidōlon (εἴδωλον “image, form, shape”) the diminutive of eidos. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, seeing patterns in random data.

For more examples of Paredolia see Richard Wisemans blog.

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