For years, people who don’t believe the official version of the Kennedy assassination have wondered about a photo showing Lee Harvey Oswald in his backyard holding a rifle. One of the central concerns raised by doubters is that the shadows on Oswald’s face do not match the shadows on the ground. The shadow beneath his nose runs straight down, indicating the sun is right above him, for example, but Oswald’s shadow on the grass behind him runs off to his right, suggesting the sun was to his left. Oswald himself maintained the photo had been manipulated to implicate him. So, is the photo a fake?
Answer: New research by Dartmouth College scientist Hany Farid suggests that at least in terms of concerns about the shadows in the photo, the image is NOT a fake.
It turns out that the hidden brain is extremely poor at predicting the shape of shadows (and this probably explains why many optical illusions work.) Farid not only showed this was the case in general by conducting experiments asking people to predict how light sources would create shadows, he actually constructed a life-size model of Oswald. A single light source produced the seemingly contradictory shadows. If the photo was a fake, then those would have been part of a conspiracy to kill Kennedy would have had to artificially create a photo that looked fake, in the hope that in a few decades or so, someone would come along and explain why something that looked fake was actually consistent with the physics of light. If the photo was a fake, wouldn’t it make much more sense for the fakers to create an image that looked real?
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