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The Thin Rainbow-Colored Line
2009.02.15 (Sun) 02:13
It all started with a rainbow.
You know, you'll just be sitting there, minding your own business, and they'll come marching in, and crawl up your leg, and start biting the inside of your ass, and you'll be all like, "Hey! Get out of my ass, you stupid rainbows!"
Wait, no. Not one of those. An actual rainbow. Our mistake.
More specifically, it started with Orange County Register's Sciencedude, who posted a photo taken by Jason Erdkamp of a rainbow astonishingly touching down right in front of his car on the freeway. Right behind an Escalade.
In Jason's defense, he took a picture of something pretty fucking cool. In Sciencedude Gary Robbins' defense, he's a science editor and writer...and we've found no place where he claims to be an actual scientist.
But there's simply no defense of the inane stream of shit coming out of everyone's mouths, including Jason's and Gary's, in the thread over at Sciencedude's blog.
See, the raving stupid over there comes in three varieties, and it drives us fucking insane.
Raving Stupid Flavor #1: The Miracle Gawkers
For fuck's sake, people. How can you keep believing utter bullshit no matter how many times it is explained to you?
Throughout the thread, you've got the people we'd expect to chime in on an unresearched, rather silly article like the one Gary Robbins wrote — they gush on and on about how they've always been told they couldn't find the end of a rainbow, but they totally did, and that's how cool they are, and they share in the coolness of the finding the end of the rainbow wonderfulness, ooh, isn't it gushy, and wonderful, and cool? Or, if they haven't had the experience themselves, they enthusiastically embrace this rock-solid, earth-shatteringly convincing point of evidence "that not everything in a textbook is accurate and not every instructor is right."
Except, of course, that rainbows are pretty thoroughly fucking understood, and these asshats are wrong. Rainbows aren't precisely a physical object, folks — they are perceived due to the particular alignment of specific physical objects and phenomena. You cannot walk through a rainbow, because it doesn't exist in a physical location. (You can, however, walk through the path of light coming from any source, direct or reflected, and you will see the effects of said light reflecting off of your person.) If you really don't understand, at this point, how rainbows are formed based on the angle of the sun, water droplets in the air, and your eyes, then there's not much we can do for you...beyond recommending that you head back to junior high and try to pay attention this time.
What's incredibly sad about this brand of raving stupid is that it clearly comes from a desire to Pursue the Magic — these are people who want to find something breathtakingly wonderful in life, and they are willing to ignore reality in order to delude themselves into thinking they've found it.
The saddest part to us is that while other, smarter folks explain that, no, it is a physical, reality-based impossibility for this picture to actually be of the "end of a rainbow," the real reason why we think the miracle gawkers are so fucking abysmally stupid is because they simply can't appreciate the beauty in what it actually could be, and how incredible that explanation might be...if they'd just fucking listen to it.
People want magic. They don't want truth. And they ignore the fact that the truth is frequently, in many ways, magical. That, to us, is incredibly fucking sad.
But then, this brand of raving stupid is based on a lack of education, or comprehension, or ability. And while it's sad, it's sometimes correctable — you can inform people — and such stupid can be cured by a good dose of reality and patient understanding. (Note that while we do a brisk trade in reality, here, we're not so interested in patient understanding — that's not the purpose of this site. Go elsewhere for that, or catch us in our offline lives, where we're much more apt to patiently explain cool concepts that we're aware of.)
Raving Stupid Flavor #2: The Mock Experts
Then there are the schmucks, like Gary Robbins himself, who have outright declared: there is no way this photo was altered in any way, shape or form! This group heavily overlaps with the first, of course, since the miracle gawkers have a major stake in declaring the photos "not photoshopped" — that declaration, if said loudly enough and authoritatively enough (with or without any actual evidence, apparently), will preserve the magic they so desperately crave.
The idiots in the Sciencedude thread spouting off proclamations like "No, I can tell by the pixels it's not photoshopped" should be fucking shot. Let's provide them with a quick course in, well, obviousness.
Fact: It is possible to tell "by the pixels" (we'll pretend they actually said something intelligent, there, about realistic contrast and color, digital softening to hide discrepancies, and repetitive patterns from a clone brush) when an image is photoshopped, by the artifacts left behind.
Fact: It is not possible to tell "by the pixels" that an image is not photoshopped. If you can't find any artifacts of photoshopping, it means one of three things:
- the image wasn't altered;
- the image was altered, but you can't see the tell-tale artifacts, because you aren't that fucking awesome, so shut the fuck up;
- the image was altered, and so expertly that nobody could discern any tell-tale artifacts, because there aren't any, so shut the fuck up.
The problem with mock experts — including those who invoke experts, which seems to be Gary Robbins' only marketable skill, judging by this thread — is that they've decided they're too fucking awesome for 2 or 3 to be true, so therefore it must be 1.
Again, we may, perhaps, be able to cure this brand of stupid — but since these folks are working off of their own overinflated sense of infallible sensory analysis, it's a much trickier knot to untangle.
Raving Stupid Flavor #3: The Expert Mockers
Finally, we have the asshats who are just plain abominably, butt-crunchingly, abysmally stupid. These are the ones arguing against the miracle gawkers, explaining that "Rainbows Do Not Work That Way!" and, by the process of elimination, the picture must have been photoshopped.
This, of course, leads to the retorts from miracle gawkers and mock experts — like Gary Robbins — that the photo isn't photoshopped, that it's been gone over by experts, and that it is totally genuine, and therefore, you know, the end of the rainbow really, really, really did touch down on the tail pipe of the Escalade right in front of Jason's car.
This third brand of raving stupid consists of people who are so hot on being the cutting-edge, "Bright" (ugh), outside-of-the-box, shake-up-the-paradigm thinkers (and probably use all of those terms, too) that they take skepticism to the extreme, and rather than actually analyze what is put in front of them, they simply look for the quickest, easiest skeptical viewpoint and slap it down on the table.
And that's just fucking asinine, too. If the claim is that it's not photoshopped, then okay — accept that claim for a moment and look into possible explanations for what you're witnessing, because there are many possible explanations, and some of them are perfectly valid. Don't simply stick your fingers in your ears and keep shouting "Photoshopped! Photoshopped! Photoshopped!" Because that's just as dumb as the mock experts saying "I can tell it's not photoshopped!"
Which, of course, devolves into a ridiculous playground argument of "Uh huh!" — "Nuh uh!"
Amid the din, what gets drowned out are a few actually intelligent people in the thread, who make two strong and correct points: one, we can tentatively accept as truthful the claim that the photo has not been photoshopped, because science and critical thinking are about accepting claims provisionally until we have reason to believe they're inaccurate; and two, rainbows, as defined, can not touch down on the road in front of your car. Working from these two accurate statements, the smart folks then take the correct critical thinking approach and look for explanations that fit the evidence (the photo) and our current model of the universe (what rainbows are and how they work). In so doing, these folks come up with a variety of creative explanations, and we'd be happy to place money on any one of these being an accurate description of what happened in front of Jason Erdkamp's car that day. (Of course, it's just as possible that it was photoshopped — but we're giving him the benefit of the doubt.)
In the end, we're sick of ignorance, pedantry, and raving stupid no matter which flavor it comes in.
To the expert mockers: stop giving skepticism a bad name, motherfuckers.
To the mock experts: don't fucking make shit up to cover for the fact that you're complete morons.
And to the miracle gawkers: rainbows are awesome, folks — isn't that enough? They're fucking gorgeous, and the science behind them, if you take the time to learn it, is fucking fascinating, and opens up a multitude of other branches of knowledge for your perusal if you've got the intellectual curiosity and are so inclined. Jokes about pots of gold and leprechauns aside, why do you have to find something "magically magical" when the actual magical universe is all around you, just waiting to be observed?
Every rainbow, by definition, is your own rainbow. It is the personal rainbow created by the reflection and refraction of light as it hits your eyes, and while the person standing right next to you may see something awfully similar, if not virtually identical, your rainbow is your unique rainbow by virtue of being constructed of the photons of specific wavelengths that specifically hit your visual sensory apparatus.
If that's not magical enough for you, then we really don't feel like sharing this fucking brilliantly awesome universe with you. Go find one that bends to your whims. There are no pots of gold. There are no leprechauns. You can't walk in, or walk on, or slide down a rainbow. After all, as we all know, rainbows are simply the T1 lines of ass gnomes, communicating with gnomes in asses throughout the world as they organize their inevitable takeover of Planet Earth. Personally, we welcome our new ass gnome overlords — do you have any idea what kind of terabauds you can get through a rainbow?
Go ahead...tell us it's photoshopped.
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[ Filed under: % Bullshit % Science & Technology % Two Percent Toons ]
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