So the other night my husband was checking his email and saw something he thought was really cool. He said “you have to see this!” and, us being a modern family, he forwarded it to me (sitting 10 feet away) on my laptop.
The contents of the email were these two pictures:
Along with this text:
Look at this Moose! By the length of his beard and the grey legs, I figure he must be over 10 years old. He looks to be well over 8 feet at the top of the shoulder hump,and with his head up the height to the top of his antler must be about 12 feet .This guy is king of the forest, no bear or pack of wolves would dare come after him when he has this rack……Considering that a dirt road can fit 1 1/2 cars across … this fellow is HUGE …THIS IS ONE BIG BOY!
Now I’ve never seen a male moose before, but my dad’s work has taken him to all sorts of small towns in Northern Canada where moose are common, and he’s told me about moose whose legs were as long as he is tall (and he’s a big guy), so I had no reason to be skeptical.
Every Monday, PZ Myers posts an animal picture for his “Monday Metazoan” on Pharyngula, and I thought this was a cool enough picture for that spot, so I forwarded it on to him. I was happy on Monday morning to see that he had used it. But my happiness was short-lived when I saw the comments claiming that the picture was photoshopped!
The whole thread turned into a big debate over whether the picture was real, but I think Pharyngula commenter Steven Mading did a good job of summarizing:
Sigh: The obvious rebuttals to the arguments being used here claiming this is done with an image editor:
1 – Complaint: “But on other sites they’re claiming it’s from other locations – the location keeps changing! It’s an urban (or rural) legend and therefore the image is faked!” Obvious Rebuttal: Just because the claim of the location the photo was taken is incorrect doesn’t imply the image itself is edited. Editing the image and telling the truth about where it is from are two entirely different issues. I could take a very real photograph of Lake Mendota where I live, and simply put a caption on it saying “This is in Saudi Arabia – amazing that there’s a lake here!” and that still doesn’t mean I photoshopped the image.
2 – Complaint: “But you can’t see the moose’s shadow on the ground!” Obvious Rebuttal: It’s already standing in a shadow! The woods are already casting a shadow on the road, as you can plainly see. Putting an additional object into the umbra of another object doesn’t make the shadow any darker than it already was.
3 – Complaint: “The second image is clearly just a rotated copy of the first!” Obvious Rebuttal: No, it’s not clearly rotated since if it was then one picture would look like a flat cardboard cutout since it would be rotating a 2-D image.
4 – Complaint: “Moose don’t get that big!” Obvious Rebuttal; Yes. They Do. Check your encyclopedia.
Now, none of that means the image can’t have been photoshopped – just that the reasons being quoted here for making that conclusion are pretty weak.
The whole thing is ridiculous. Most likely the location was wrong or inaccurate, but why would somebody photoshop an image that could possibly be real?
I got over my disappointment in the skepticism over the image, and took amusement in the controversy, especially when I saw that this online newspaper had done a story on the moose photo:
Is there really a moose this big? Or is it a hoax?
This picture, purportedly taken by someone named Lindsay of a rather ginormous moose “near Elliot Lake, near Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” was posted this morning on ScienceBlogs.com, which describes itself as “the largest online community dedicated to science.”
At time of writing (9:44 a.m. on Monday) 27 readers had posted comments on the picture, some rather skeptical.
“PhotoShop is one of my favorite software programs,” writes Neil B. “I wonder why Lindsay didn’t include a silly squirrel with that moose. :-)”
I didn’t say that I took the picture, nor did PZ’s post, so somebody wasn’t reading too carefully!
As for the title of the article, writer David Helwig only needed to check Wikipedia to find out that moose can get that big. If it is a hoax, then I’ve been had, but it’s the lamest hoax ever!
There was an editor’s note added after I made a comment on the post at Pharyngula:
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Shortly after SooToday.com posted this article, Lindsay, the purported photographer, posted this comment on ScienceBlogs.com: “I didn’t Photoshop it, but why would I need to when moose really get that big? I didn’t take the picture, it was passed to me in an e-mail. If I were there I would probably have been running as fast as I could in the opposite direction!)
I think we’re all just so jaded because of previous photoshop hoaxes that people are quick to call any surprising image a fake. For your amusement: