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Noise

Most folks know that people sometimes see pictures of things in actually random data, whether it’s faces in the clouds or Mother Theresa on a sticky bun. Michael Shermer did a nice video that talks about this on the TED web site. I want to focus on one example from Shermer’s talk, the “Face on Mars”. Here’s the famous image:

image

It looks like a face because there’s not much detail in the image. A higher resolution picture of the same area (click image for very high resolution version) of Mars doesn’t look like a face:

image

However, if you squint, you can may be able to see the face; that’s because when you squint, you introduce noise.

We see the same effect on the infamous “smiley face” on Alvin Onaka’s signature on Obama’s long form. In this case noise was introduced by the PDF optimization that removed information from the image by converting gray scale to black and white. First the noisy version:

Now the gray-scale version:

image

Basically this same noise trick appears in one form or another in most of the birther analyses of the Obama long form. Let me give you one final noisy example. This is from Paul Irey’s comparison of noisy (in this case pixelated) data from the long form in an attempt to argue that the font is different on different typed information:

image

What we actually see is noise from converting gray scale to black and white and changing resolution. Now, let me show you font changes from an actual fake birth certificate:

image  image

and a real variable and monospaced contradiction.

image image

In these examples, the images are clear enough and not too noisy to declare that the information identifying McCain was not typed on the form at the same time as the other material on the form not specifically known to tie to McCain.

Beware eyeballing noisy data.

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7 Responses to Noise

  1. avatar
    arnash August 6, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    [DO NOT FEED THE TROLL

    I didn't approve one of your comments a couple of days ago. There are 35 comments of yours remaining under your two ID's arnash, and straight-shooter. I have come to the view that you are more interested in provoking argument than expressing and defending any particular point of view, and once I decide this, you aren't going to get much through moderation thereafter. The point is not about agreement or disagreement (there are thousands of comments disagreeing with me), but about whether someone is just trying to make themselves appear smart by dancing around and trying to manipulate other posters into wasting their time refuting comments designed to evoke outrage. You are also wasting time by asking questions that have already been answered and discussed here. I have classified you as a TROLL.

    I have seen no evidence that the WH PDF date changed. It might have, but I have no authoritative source for the so-called original. And even if it had changed, no one claiming that it changed has pointed out what changed, nor why a change implies anything interesting. Calling the change "inexplicable" is ridiculous. You might call it "unexplained" since no one has thought it worth fooling with. Opponents of the WH PDF are essentially asking folks like me to defend every damned bit in the file and this is a massive shift of the burden of proof. Apparently you are too lazy to actually come up with a coherent theory and produce an argument to support it, but rather just want to poke a stick in the ant hill.

    Your comment about black and gray is silly. The background is colored (including gray) and all of the other layers are black and white. That's how the optimization works. If you were actually interested in the question, you could have read the answer on this blog rather than trying to make other people waste their time feeding answering you. If you don't know anything about PDFs, then you shouldn't be offering opinions.

    Your comments about the seal are equally ridiculous and stupid, and completely at odds with the facts. I have an article here where I scanned my own bc, with raised seal, and you cannot find the seal either.

    So I suggest you go somewhere else. Maybe they'll take you at the Fogbow. Doc.]

    I’ve see there are no comments, because someone is censoring what is written? Why were my comments of many days ago deleted? You don’t want anyone disagreeing with you?

    But what I’m writing about is to get your opinion on two subjects. First, it seems you don’t know something that you probably can’t help me with, since it seems inexplicable. It’s that the “last modified” date/time on the WH PDF that I saved the day it was released is Apr 27 4:09:24 AM, but you say that the time is 12:09:24 PM. How can you explain such a strange thing? I just rechecked by downloading it again (though I’m not sure because it opened in Adobe Reader too quickly to have downloaded via dial-up) and it shows the same 4AM time. Any ideas?

    Also, no one has given any explanation for the appearance of most text in the “added” and moveable layers of the PDF appearing as pure gray, and not pure black. I have a theory that I want to publish but I have no expertise in PDFs at all, so perhaps you might know more than I do. I’d like to know if it could be a result of the process of conversion to PDF. I doubt I could replicate it and don’t have the time to try, but maybe you’d be curious enough to investigate what may have caused it.

    Also, one can see the certification stamp on your BC quite plainly, but there is none visible in the WH PDF, or in other Hawaiian COLBs. I suspect that Hawaii has gotten so lax and lazy that they don’t even use them anymore, just as they don’t even sign them anymore. I know that a very faint circle can be discovered on the background but I presume that it is part of the background layer, and not a physically present 3-D change to document paper. Don’t you find it impossible to believe that that faint circle is really the result of a 3-D embossing device? I think an embossed seal would be very visible. And nothing is visible in the photo of Gibbs holding a B&W copy like was given to reporters.

    You can respond to my e-mail address. thanks, a.r. nash

  2. avatar
    J. Potter August 6, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    An excellent note for the pattern recognition thread! Too bad there weren’t multiple angles presented …. a cloud that was literally shaped like an immense 3D model of a head would be a sight.

    Weather channels videos are fun … the hotel being flooded from last April looked so nice …. so hot and dry here, I’d be OK with a month of drizzle. Indoors, even.

    Very noteworthy was the one about the red pool. An algal or bacterial bloom, born in stagnant water and fueled by heat. But what do the passing locals say? “Way-yell, da bigh-bul says da ocean gonna turn ta bluuuhd, so ya jus neveh know….” *sigh*

    Scientist:
    Wow!This is cool

    http://www.weather.com/weather/videos/news-41/top-stories-169/wow-faces-in-the-clouds-21520?role=

  3. avatar
    obsolete August 6, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Wheh! Good catch Doc! Arnash almost caught me messin’ with the President’s PDF! He surely knows the truth now and he’ll have to be dealt with by executive order #36FEMA9.

  4. avatar
    Expelliarmus August 6, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    arnash: It’s that the “last modified” date/time on the WH PDF that I saved the day it was released is Apr 27 4:09:24 AM, but you say that the time is 12:09:24 PM. How can you explain such a strange thing? I just rechecked by downloading it again (though I’m not sure because it opened in Adobe Reader too quickly to have downloaded via dial-up) and it shows the same 4AM time. Any ideas?

    The time stamp that displays will be based on the user’s computer’s time zone.

    The fact that you are seeing a 4am time stamp gives the rest of us good information about your location, assuming that your computer is set to local time.

    The fact that it didn’t occur to you that the stamp is reflecting local time zone differences also gives the reset of us good information about your reasoning skills (or lack thereof).

  5. avatar
    Slartibartfast August 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Last week a friend and mentor told me that, for any natural signal, the power in the noise falls off like 1/f (the inverse of the frequency). This would provide a way (if any of the birthers were clever enough to figure out how – which is about as likely as Orly making an error-free pleading which contains a relevant and articulate legal argument…) to demonstrate very convincingly whether the noise on the documents was natural or not. All it would take is some information theory and some Fourier analysis and the birthers could have scientific evidence… or another epic FAIL.

  6. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy August 7, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    There is also a claim that the MD5 hash of two versions of the White House PDF differ. I say that until I have the two files, both traceable back to the White House, there’s no use bothering to discuss the question.

    Expelliarmus: The time stamp that displays will be based on the user’s computer’s time zone.

    The fact that you are seeing a 4am time stamp gives the rest of us good information about your location, assuming that your computer is set to local time.

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