Flying Ship and the Superior Mirage

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An original problem of expertise leading to wrong science...

Original article:
Sorry David Morris (BBC): it is not a "Superior Looming Mirage"!

The above image is a very good example of a well publicized case with a wrong explanation which went viral: it was explained by the BBC that this photo shows up a Superior Looming Mirage and this conclusion has been "copied & pasted" by all the medias, even in a scientific publication with their "full" approbation, and it is the worst! In fact, it's what we can call a false horizon.

Perfect images of boats hovering in the sky are not mirages. Mirages distort and invert images. Even non-mirage refraction effects like looming will not create this effect (as they raise up the water as well as the boat). In fact, we rarely (never) have a mirage without a certain level of distortion or "glitches" in the appearance of the image. And it is because the refraction surface or conditions are never perfect. 

We should be more conscious that our personal beliefs are our daily driver of our actions and interpretations of the reality.

...and shared definition of what is "True" or "False"

These insidious convictions which are telling us when an information is True or when an information is False, because we are human and we cannot verify everything. As a result, we let (naturally) our convictions driving : "some educated people are serious, so what they said is (probably) True". The Milgram experiment is the result of this kind of cognitive conditioning.

Most of people define the reality in this manner, even scientists are subjects to bias [1]. Scientific knowledge the information of others scientists, or "well formatted" information (when you respond to the standards of a community you rise your chances to be believed: nonsense papers can end-up in respected scientific journals[2]. And when most people are saying that something is "True", then it is the whole reality of humans which is redefined.

Back to our subject: when a meteorologist ("the man of science") say about a viral photo THAT IS a "Fata Morgana" everybody will believe him. Tt will trigger an uncontrollable propagation of this "fake news".

In fact, who is the man of science for this kind of phenomenon?

  • It is not a meteorologist
  • It is a specialist of optic and refraction calculation.

These specialists are rarer and this is where some educative video (like are very useful.

You can show where is really the Horizon using contrasts on this highly zoomed photo :

And also, make a reconstitution of the missing horizon with the original photo embedded: