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'Hovering ship' photographed off Cornish coast by walker (bbc.co.uk)
616 points by jmkd 42 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 257 comments

I've seen this optical illusion in person, with large container ships, off the US Mid-Atlantic coast, and it's really cool.

The photo in this article is fantastic. It shows an extreme example of the illusion. The ship appears to be, not just hovering over the water, but actually suspended in mid-air.

In my view, it's worth clicking on the link just to see the photo.

Something just occurred to me. Is this actually an optical illusion? My idea of an optical illusion is one where your brain perceives something that is different from reality. Indeed, when I look it up I see examples of that (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_illusion) But in this case your brain isn't doing anything wrong, the light reaching your eyes is what's "wrong" and your brain is correctly interpreting what your eyes see (as shown by the photograph).

The Wikipedia article contains a helpful table [1], which classifies optical illusions. One kind are "physical" illusions, like rainbows or distortions (think stick in water). I think the hovering ship is of that kind. Other kinds include "physiological" or "cognitive", which are tricking your brain.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_illusion#/media/File:G...

This is a false horizon.

Your eyes are seeing the reflection of the sky on the distant water or fog, making it appear the horizon is closer than it really is.

So it is an optical illusion, as your brain is what is perceiving a horizon where it is not.

What you describe here is the usual kind of mirage, the one you see when light travels over a hot surface (desert sand, road) during summer.

This particular kind of mirage ("superior mirage", as the author of the picture calls it) works the other way around: light bends away from the cold water surface. So, of I understand it correctly, the horizon appears where it really is whereas the ship appears higher up (contrary to normal mirage where the sky appears to come from the ground).

Correction before x3n0ph3n3 has to do it again: indeed this does not appear to be either a normal nor a superior mirage.

I can only recommand to check https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=er1mh90wN-k and then https://metabunk.org/refraction/

It’s not just one person’s brain, right? Everyone who was there would see the same thing. Surely, that means our brains are pretty much wired the same. But I wonder if some people would see the “correct” thing.

What’s also mind blowing is that the camera captures the same thing your brain is interpreting!

This is proven to be a physical illusion because the light sensor (camera) is capturing the same image as the two light sensors in your head (eyes). So no person would see the "correct" thing because the light in the scene is actually rendering this image with minimal interpretive transformations from the mind (this is in contrast to cognitive illusions). Unless there is a person with some extreme sensitivity to the polarization or color of the reflected light but that is probably unlikely.

I don't have the reference handy but I recall reading years ago that certain classic optical illusions simply don't work on people who weren't raised in societies with rectangular housing.

For what it's worth, the meteorologist specifically called it a mirage, not an optical illusion. Specifically, this is a "superior" mirage, meaning that the object appears to be above its actual location.

A mirage is not an optical illusion in the way that you describe it. The BBC correspondent is the person that called it an optical illusion, not the meteorologist. :)

I think this is a very fundamental optical illusion with a focus on optical, where air temperature bends light so makes you perceive something different from what it actually is.

It's much more related to optics than direct perception. Your brain is drawing the correct image its received, the light has just been bent so that it doesn't form an accurate representation of what you're trying to see.

I think you're right, this is a mirage. The article uses both terms interchangeably.

It’s a ‘superior mirage’ technically.

It's not -- it's a false horizon.

Wikipedia uses the term optical phenomenon.

The Action Lab had a great video about this effect recently.


Fascinating. From the video, this same effect can even invert the image so that a ship appears to hover upside down: a ghost ship.

ghost ship are supposed to hover upside down? I thought they were just supposed to be ghostly and spooky?

I love this guy's channel. He's constantly cranking out new ideas.

I'm always really impressed how he can make a video that sounds like clickbait, but usually go into pretty interesting (and accurate) scientific detail.

This is what I came here for. Thank you for the link.

I sort of freaked out the first time I saw something like this.

Then Wikipedia held my hand and said everything was OK and this even has a name:


"...The optical phenomenon occurs because rays of light are bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed..."

To me that's the most Men In Black explanation I've ever heard.

Definitely confirms this is aliens.

Here is a lay explanation.

Light travels at different speeds in different substances. But it always takes a path that is locally fastest - meaning that any nearby path would be slower. (This is called the Fermat principle.)

You can see this principle at work when you put a stick into water. Because light travels more slowly in water, the light first heads mostly straight up, then bends when it hits the air. The result is that light does not travel a straight path to your eye. Which means that the part of the stick in the water looks like it is where the light comes out of the water, rather than where the stick is. As a result you can see the stick visibly bend.

Now what is happening here is that you have a layer of warm air over cold air. Light travels faster in warm air. (That is because as air warms it expands, making it less dense. Less dense means that there is less getting in the way of the light and it can move faster.) Therefore that fastest path is for the light to go up into the warm air, go along the warm air, and then dive back down to your eyes.

In many places you can see the reverse of this on hot days where hot ground makes for a hot air layer next to the ground. When the conditions are right the light from the sky can reach your eyes by skimming along the ground, and you get blue patches in the ground. In a desert this can look like water in the distance.

OK so, that's how the air ripples work for heat... because of the density of the air.

It makes me wonder, if you had a 10 inch globe of vacuum suspended in air, how different looking thru it would appear vs the air. It seems like you might be able to detect it via sight alone.

That's what a visible shockwave from an explosion is. Light bending through sharp pressure discontinuities.




The vapour cloud which often forms occurs in saturated air as a partial vacuum forms behind the shockwave:



Yeah, it'd definitely be visible. I imagine it'd be like looking at an air bubble while underwater, in terms of refraction, except that air doesn't have surface tension so the boundary wouldn't look quite the same.

Basically the layers of air above the water have slight variations (temperature, humidity, pressure) between them in such a way that they each have a small change in refractive index that over a distance bends light upwards.

Then you have another group of layers of air further up in the 'marine boundary layer' that bends the light back towards the waters surface.

This is called an 'atmospheric duct' and is somewhat similar in the effect to a fibre optic cable.

Poor mans source: I wrote my thesis 5+ years ago on refractive effects in the maritime boundary layer [1]

[1] https://ceed.wa.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/DSTO-Refra...

Agent D, you're making it worse...

Or proof the earth is flat.

Nah, they're just sailing to Valinor.

There's a spot where I walk my dog near my house. It follows a power line trail up a hill, and you can turn around and see Denali. For whatever reason, on warm spring days Fata Morgana distortion is fairly common from this spot. I've seen it a few times. At it's most obvious, Denali will appear to be sitting on a pedestal of sheer cliffs, thousands of feet high, surrounded by non existent tabletop mountains and improbable, fantastically shaped spires that would be 10,000 feet ASL if they were real. My cellphone camera doesn't do it justice to though.

Have you uploaded pictures anywhere?

No, I just tried posting to imgur and it didn't go so well. It is a white mountain on the horizon, taken with a cell phone. Honestly the pictures don't convey much. If you zoom in, you can see the distortion, though. I'm sure a decent lens could capture it.

This is not a Fata Morgana, it's a false horizon.


This new image needs to go in the wikipedia article. The example images are kinda bleh. But this one really illustrates the concept.

A fata morgana is a special type of superior mirage, where the object is heavily distorted, often to the point of being unrecognizable. The ship in the article kept its shape and is very much recognizable.

I've seen it once and I haven't seen an explanation until now. My wife and I were kayaking on a lake in Northern Sweden and far far away we see a boat that is just moving slowly, lifted up in the air. It was completely calm and we could not hear it (very far away), it was ghostly.

But why does the ship appear in that location, and not the water it's sitting on? What's special about the ship?

I think the explanation in the article is incorrect. This looks more like a false horizon caused by reflection of the fog on the water, rather than a mirage.

There is fog out past the ship. The water close to the viewer is reflecting the sky, and is blue, while water further out is reflecting the fog. The fog above the horizon blends in with the water reflecting the fog making it hard to see the true horizon line (but it is there in the picture if you look closely). The line where this reflection changes stands out much more strongly and the eye mistakes it for the horizon line.

This page has more examples of cases where these two different effects were confused: https://www.metabunk.org/threads/debunked-fata-morgana-or-mi...

I think you're right. I've seen Fata Morgana and it looks nothing like this. With atmospheric ducting you get (even more) surreal images, with all kinds of distortion and mirroring. If you've ever driven through salt flats and seen floating, horizontally symmetric mountains, you'll know what I mean. Look more closely at these pictures and you'll see that the fog and the true horizon are indeed visible.

As far as I can tell, it’s just a lucky coincidence that the distortion “cropped out” the water in this case, causing an exceptionally clean illusion. Compare with other images of fata Morgana[1] and you can see how it tends to look more distorted.

1: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=fata+morgana&iax=images&ia=images

From your link I found this picture of 3 flying ships.


I can feel my brain contorting a bit.

But again with these 3 ships why is it only the ships themselves being precisely cropped out and not even small remnants of the immediately surrounding water?

They aren’t cropped. They are sitting in fog. The fog is the same color as the sky and there is no backdrop to see through the fog other than the ships. In other words, anything in the fog would be “floating”.

indeed the real horizon line is apparent on the right of the picture

As near as I can tell from the wikipedia link in the comments below, it's because the ship is perpendicular to the water and the light just happens to be being refracted to that particular observer right at the water line.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_(mirage)#/media/F...

It's not a Fata Morgana or a superior mirage. It's a false horizon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er1mh90wN-k

The ship is higher up than the water it is floating on.

You don’t see the keel of the ship, but only parts of it that are above the waterline, and not all of those (corollary: this ship is as good as empty)

Less impressive versions of this would show only the top of the bridge, or the entire ship and some of the water it’s floating on (actually, this image might show some water below the ship. That tiny whitish line below it could be that)

I wouldn’t be surprised to discover the photographer had to adjust their position to capture just the ship

The ship is over the horizon but a fiber optic effect caused by inverted thermals projects the ship into the sky for the distant observer.

Look close and you can dimly see water surrounding the ship above the horizon too, but it is much more faint than the water which you can see below the horizon.

Some think this affected the crew on the Titanic and prevented them from seeing the iceberg and some closer ships from seeing her.


This picture will help explain the "superior mirage":


Note in the OP's original link the bottom half is cut off entirely.


This _is not_ a superior mirage, it's a false horizon.


Thanks for clearing that up, I learned something today. That actually makes a lot of sense as well.

It’s interesting the BBC experts didn’t catch the difference but that’s the benefit of the internet I guess.

Growing up in Santa Barbara, I would see something like this everyday. Freighters going through the channel, the oil derricks, and the Channels Islands all exhibited it.

Oh wow! Thanks for sharing. I thought the original looked super weird, but seeing your "distorted" version instantly brought back flashbacks to when I saw this in South Dennis, MA, a few years ago. I took photos and couldn't figure out what the heck was out there, but it was this. Thanks!

> Note in the OP's original link the bottom half is cut off entirely.

Not by any optical effect, I think -- you're seeing all that's visible of it where it actually is, too: The bit that's "cut off" is just what's hidden below the water line. (Some other post here suggested a thin line of water may actually be barely visible along the lower edge of the ship in the "mirage" photo.)

Tangentially related, the fantastic WWII submarine book 'Thunder Down Below' talks about a similar mirage issue being a common occurrence in their submarine warfare. They would see ships that appear to be on the horizon but are actually hundreds of miles away.

[0] https://books.google.com/books?id=Jm-iiEis05AC

wow! hundreds of miles! that's extraordinary. tell me this is only possible using specialist telescopes etc.

I live on Lake Erie, and I've seen this effect before. There will be a point between the shore and the horizon at which the water takes on exactly the hue and luminance of the sky, and makes lakers, sailboats, buoys, even a nearby lighthouse, appear to hover. If the point of transition in the color of the water is pretty straight and is parallel with the actual horizon, the effect is convincing.

That’s not the case here. In this case the ship was ‘hovering’ due to an atmospheric effect called Superior Mirage.


The image in the article looks more like a false horizon (change in color of sea makes it blend into the sky), as jeffmcmahan is describing. You can just about make out the real horizon in the image.

Clearer example of false horizon: https://i.imgur.com/WHzQJ3Z.png

A superior mirage would usually cause more distortion and likely wouldn't so cleanly cut out the ship.

Clearer example of superior mirage: https://i.imgur.com/pa16mOk.png

When I see things like this, I imagine how people would have reacted before we had explanations... it isn't difficult to imagine where some myths and religious stories originate.

The most famous related Chinese mythology is from Yantai in Shandong which is at a roughly similar latitude. They call it "the eight immortals crossing the sea" (八仙过海; bā xiān guò hǎi). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Immortals https://penglaicity.blogspot.com/2010/06/visions-of-immortal... Unfortunately in a misguided bid to generate more tourist dollars in 2011 the local government razed the previously beautiful port and replaced it with a walled fake ancient town. http://pratyeka.org/penglai-destroyed/

The Flying Dutchman :)

It occurred to me that maybe Castle In The Sky (Ghibli) might have some origin (possibly) from such illusions. There was a Chinese news report of a city in the sky illusion. Here's the video, quite impressive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoP1sh1WXm8

The video, although reported to be from the same phenomenon is actually a fake: https://youtu.be/Xmrn2IuSW-Q

Um, “Castle in the Sky” had it’s origin in “Gulliver’s Travels”, published in 1726. Part III, a Voyage to Laputa (et al.).


And “Castles in the Sky” was about the development of radar in England.

Next international helium shipment on its way.

You must be thinking of an airship, not an air ship.

If you want to see ship hovering for real, check out America Cup 75 yacht racing. This year the new rules for yacht design made it so that the yachts literally are flying over the water.


Holy geez. I expected a tiny gap; this thing looks like an aircraft. Wild.

I wonder if this effect has contributed to some "ghost ship" legends in the past?

Really neat to see what deploying a containerized application to the cloud looks like!

(Seriously, people. It’s been hours—has no one cracked a kubernetes joke about this yet?)

I was looking for the CSS offset joke but I like this one better

This is why you never use negative margin in CSS.

As a tangent there is this excellent Captain Disillusion video debunking the floating city which was attributed to the same phenomenon as seen here: https://youtu.be/Xmrn2IuSW-Q

This is not a rare illusion. When I used to be a kid, we saw this illusion all the time When we went to the beach in Albania (Port of Durres)

The Adriatic see can be very calm sometimes, and the blue waters do match the same color/blue hue of the sky.

Why is there a hovering ship but no hovering sea?

Briefly: Because the ship is above the sea. If conditions were slightly different you might also see some part of the sea hovering, or the lower part of the ship missing. In this case the "cutoff" happens to align with where the sea would end (i.e. the horizon).

It's actually a false horizon, not a superior mirage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er1mh90wN-k

The image of the ship would be dominated by reflected light off of side of the ship, water would not cause the same turn around due to the grazing rays.

The only important question in the world right now.

This actually happens pretty frequently where I live, except what we see is trees on a far off island floating. I've never seen a ship float, but now I'll be looking for it.

"Venus was at its peak brilliance last night. You probably thought you saw something up in the sky other than Venus, but I assure you, it was Venus." - Jesse Ventura

It's strange that the air and the water below the "floating" ship is so crisp and clear. In a superior illusion, there normally is quite a bit of distortion appearing like a wall of fog or galss under the ship (or island etc). It's also strange that this was seen at a very close range when such illusions normally involve objects far away, near the horizon.

Is it possible this image is a hoax, or that it was edited to exaggerate the real effect?

Neat! Something like this could have been the inspiration for The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-wreck-of-the-zephyr-30t...

I've seen illusion like this off Herzelia, Israel coast couple of years ago. I think I even made couple of pictures.

Where is the ship's wake? Even if this were the result of a mirage that makes objects appear higher than they are, there should still a wake in the ocean where the ship actually is. This photo is fake.

Anyone else instantly hear the Imperial March and imagining X-wings and Tie-fighters flying around it upon seeing that photo? (and I'm not even a Star Wars fan)


Does anyone else have intermittent problems resolving BBC domains, or is it just me?

Sometimes I can't resolve www.bbc.co.uk, sometimes it works. Same for www.bbc.com. I don't have that problem with any other domain name I have encountered. The intermittency makes it very hard to troubleshoot.

This has happened to me. Do you use a VPN at all?. I think by connecting from different perceived places between your IP location and the cookie (from a previous visit at a previous IP location) can confuse the redirect.

There was one in our local newspaper last year at Folkestone (UK)


Also with the hilarious headline

'Floating ship' appears over Folkestone harbour

I know these things are happen and I understand the effect, but has anyone looked into whether this was photoshopped? Major news outlets have been fooled in the past. Maybe it is a compression artifact, but the lines of this image look so perfect that I have to at least ask.

I think it was photoshopped. I zoomed in on the photo and if you look closely at the edges around the ship, the colors do not match up with the rest of the photo. As in most photoshop fails, the ship was not cleanly cropped from its original photo, and the parts around the edges of the ship in the original photo don't match the photo in which the ship was inserted.

There is no visible wake in the ocean, which there should be, even if a mirage made the ship that made the wake appear to be above the oceam. Therefore this photo is fake.

I strongly suspect the Marfa Lights (in Texas) are the land version of this exact phenomenon. In that case, car headlights looking like they are floating above the land horizon instead of boats over the water horizon.

Another headlight phenomenon, "light pillars": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pillar

Really freaked me out the first time I saw some moving about on a dark country road from other cars off in the distance.

I saw them only one time in my life, a few decades ago. I was leaving a band practice, and the drummer's sister and I were pretty blown away when we noticed it. Well, that's an understatement, because you couldn't miss it. Every light that could be seen was at the base of a pillar. We didn't know why it was happening, but we were pretty impressed.

Pictures do not give you the full experience, since there is a huge 3D element to how they appear, too.

Even if this was shopped, the illusion was correct, meaning the sailors' tall tales from a few hundred years ago weren't quite so tall.

I mean, mermaids ≡ dolphins, so ghost ship ≡ floating ship.

This is making me think again about all those UFO sightings in The Phenomenon!

This photo is fake. Or it doesn't not represent reality, I guess is more true.

If you were there, you would clearly see it's just a boat sitting on the water. The water changing color towards the ship

I guess you could take a photo yourself, reduce the resolution like here, pick the one that works best and show people, a similar 'real' photo and lie and say it's called a 'superior mirage' (It's beyond a false horizon). But you will never have seen it either, it only exists in the photo.

"Hovering Boats are Usually Not Mirages, they are beyond False Horizons" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er1mh90wN-k

I think I saw Hog Island in Lake Michigan do this trick back in 2006.


due to a contextualized cognitive hiccup, i noticed another illusion in the article. my brain told me the meteorologist’s name was ‘david blaine’, the catatonic magician.

I've heard of this happening across Lake Erie, people in Canada said they could see the color of the traffic lights all the way across the lake in Erie PA.

I prefer to think it's antigravity.

If it's just light bending then why don't we also see the surrounding water elevated in the supposed mirage?

I wonder if effects like these were the inspiration for the design of the imperial star destroyers in Star Wars.

I love stuff like this - reminds you that Science Rules Everything Around Me and will play tricks on me.

These kinds of stories always seem to originate in the UK. I read somewhere that planting fake news stories in the mainstream media is a favorite pasttime of the Brits. I believe that this has been photoshopped. I zoomed in on the photo and it is clear to me that the telltale signs of photoshopping are visible around the edges of the ship.

Maybe this kind of thing is the origin of the 'Flying Dutchman' legend.

Overloaded Helium tanker?

A vacuum "filled" tanker would be lighter than a helium filled one :D

Look up Floating Island on the Utah Salt Flats. Similar type of mirage

And now you know the source of the "Flying" Dutchman ;)

Very nice picture, but how does this advance the "flat earth theory"?


I know you're joking, but this is highly useful in this regard, because flat-earthers often swear up & down that they can see beyond the "ostensible" horizon limit without understanding that refraction effect. This one is kind of unique but it demonstrates refraction nicely.

Really, I think we're usually so busy being dismissive and condescending towards flat-earthers, it's easy to forget that proving the spherical earth is kind of a tricky matter without putting people in spaceships (but if I could afford it, I'd happily buy a few tickets for them...)

Best cover up article yet for alien hovering tech

"Just say it's the warm air and the cold air and bending light and stuff. They'll buy it."

Food for conspiracy theorists and flat-earthers.

this kind of steals the thunder from the flying pirates ship in Peter Pan. I'll have to reconsider my childhood.

Isn’t this just Fata Morgana?

Yes - it is exactly that, when the ocean is cooler than the above air is when this can happen.


The Flying Dutchman?


Who is walker?

Cornish ranger.

Could this be what caused the TicTac video?

The title should be 'Hovering ship', as it is in the BBC article. There is nothing special about a floating ship.

The submitter posted the title that the article had at the time. Then the BBC changed it there. Then a moderator changed it here. And then a moderator (this one!) marked this subthread—which was stuck to the top of the page, gathering mass and choking out anything interesting—off topic.

I don't fault the comment for that so much as the upvotes, but downweighting top subthreads that are off-topic and/or generic in uninteresting ways is probably the highest-leverage intervention that moderators do here. Unfortunately it requires human intervention, and we don't see all the threads, so if anyone notices an off-topic or generic top subthread before we do, letting us know at hn@ycombinator.com is super helpful.

For future reference, the current title on HN is:

> 'Floating ship' photographed off Cornish coast by walker


And the current title on BBC is:

> 'Hovering ship' photographed off Cornish coast by walker


Interestingly though, because of the quotation marks I understood “floating” to mean, as intended, that it looked like the ship was in the air and didn’t even think about the possible ambiguity until I read your comment about it.

BBC article at the time of posting was indeed 'Floating ship'

I might even go so far as to say that that is their desirable default state.

As long as the front doesn’t fall off.

If anyone doesn’t get the reference, this is required viewing. It’s gold. https://youtu.be/3m5qxZm_JqM

Marvellous; I'd never seen this.

The format and humour remind me very strongly of the Bird & Fortune (aka The Long Johns) skits here in the UK:


You should watch more of these two, Clark and Dawe on YouTube. Behind the humor is biting commentary but a lot of education, I learned a lot through their humorous and pretend political interviews as an American about the Australian government and even the European debt crisis.

John Clark (the one who kept insisting the front fell off) passed away a few years ago.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirki_(tanker) for the real life ship that inspired that piece of comedy.

under the related articles is the 1990 spill of the tanker "Mega Borg". After reading the first time about "the front fell off", I am given to think that the earlier comedic opportunity has gone sadly missed. [Ed. but I don't know if Scorpio Tankers Inc took the ticker STNG for related reasons...]

I can honestly say I laughed until I cried the first time I saw that. Possibly the most hilarious thing I've ever seen in my life.

> their desirable default state.

Who would have guessed...

When I read the title I assumed it meant something like a hovercraft.

I think "Flying" would be even better, as the ship is most likely moving somewhere, not just standing still.

Would also tie the story into the story of the Flying Dutchman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Dutchman) and maybe provide some explanation for why people been seeing it as flying

The first time I read about optical illusions like these as a kid was this Uncle Scrooge story referencing the Flying Dutchman:


In this case, being off the coast of Falmouth, the ship is more than likely standing still.

Especially if you can see big sails flapping or moving with the wind.

Or if it's got a hydrofoil. Those are also flying, just in water

It is more than likely not moving anywhere.

Title should be ‘Fata Morgana sighted off Cornish Coast.’

No, it is not a Fata Morgana [1] but a superior mirage [2] as the article says. A Fata Morgana is a subclass of superior mirage that has multiple distorted images. Just learned this because of another comment. Whether calling it a Fata Morgana would be appropriate because it is the common laymen term for mirages in English I can not tell as non-native speaker.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_(mirage)

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirage

Actually, in this case, I don't think it is any type of mirage. Rather it is a false horizon [1] caused by reflection of fog.

[1] https://www.metabunk.org/threads/debunked-fata-morgana-or-mi...

Another form of mirage are the Marfa Lights on Route 67, where (of course) UFO's were quickly in the picture. Most probably headlights, campfires.


I’ve seen one similar to the Marfa Lights, Paulding Light in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Paulding Light is caused by car headlights.


The requirement for multiple distorted images is ... in dispute.

Hm. But is there anything particularly special about a hovering ship... a hovering... craft? :)

Yes, because it's full of eels.

I will not buy this record, it is scratched

This is a tobacconist's.

It would be very special if it were built by aliens

It likely was- but probably the terrestrial, non-xenobiological kind.

the use of this term in this manner has been deprecated

By whom?

current US Pres Admin. there was a memo. did you not get it?

No, I don't get US Presidential memos. Also, last I checked, the US President was not in charge of how words are allowed to be used on HN.

Like there's really a memo. It's been in so many different news outlets. The current admin is trying to distance from previous use of the word. And if you think I was being serious, then you must not have gotten the memo on sarcasm. You should really declutter your inbox. You seem to be missing a lot of memos.

Perhaps you didn't get the memo - about charity, about not replying with snark or sneering, and about sarcasm often not coming across well in a text-only medium. All have been said here, by dang, frequently.

I’m guessing the (current) HN title was the original BBC title, and someone figured this out and changed it (after it was posted here).

To be fair, there's nothing particularly special about hovering ships either given the invention of the hovercraft...

Sigur Ros - Valtari (2012)

Imho it s a great album. It also has a 'hovering ship' on its cover: http://www.progarchives.com/progressive_rock_discography_cov...

Hey don't diminish human prowess.

Yes, we’ve had hovering craft for a while; they typically appear to be closer to the water, though.

While not special, it is accurate!

The original title may have changed in response to similar comments.

BBC article names change very frequently, often multiple times in only a few hours.

reassuring to know i'm not the only one we [edit:who] (the irony) edits my post:)

Just for fun, you can track title edits happening on HN as well! https://hackernewstitles.netlify.app/


Le Monde in France do that too. They even go as far as rewriting portions of their articles after publishing, and partially re-using them under different title(s). Hard to take them seriously when they cry about fake news when their own articles are so malleable.

Probably A/B testing through social media clicks.

Since, as you say, one expects a ship to float, I assumed "hover" was intended and the title to be deliberately jocular.

Nice try by the government to cover up testing of anti-gravity drive recovered from UFO.

Could you please stop creating accounts for every few comments you post? We ban accounts that do that. This is in the site guidelines: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

You needn't use your real name, of course, but for HN to be a community, users need some identity for other users to relate to. Otherwise we may as well have no usernames and no community, and that would be a different kind of forum. https://hn.algolia.com/?query=community%20identity%20by:dang...

As always never believe anything until it is officially denied

While it’s the less plausible explanation, I think this theory should be explored further.

With a photo like this, what can we do to assist in proving or disproving the theory that it’s indeed flying?

Also, is the headline incorrect if it indicates that it’s flying when it’s not, if it appears to be?

Give it the proper name. This where the "flying" part of the Flying Dutchman comes from.

Off topic, but BBC blocks me because I use iPhone’s Adblock.

BBC is government funded with a mission to inform the British people. Why would they require ad viewing and default to not showing news without ads? Seems against their mission.

For profit news I understand as the whole “maximize shareholder equity” thing, but when government news sources use these anti-consumer tactics it’s depressing to me.

BBC is free to UK viewers but ad-supported for international viewers. This seems fair to me as UK citizens are the ones funding it.

I have occasionally sent BBC articles to my friends in the UK, only to find the article is blocked in the UK.

I guess it's shockingly difficult to identify advertorials.

The marginal cost of UK vs international viewers is less than the ad revenue collected, I expect. Since the ads are the same as CNN or other for profit news agencies it also seems odd that a non-profit, government (in the English language sense, not the UK part of government sense) would have more stringent ad controls than for profit.

Making a government news source profit seeking is a pretty bad plan, I think.

BBC Worldwide has always been profit seeking (because it subsidizes the UK taxpayer so the license fee can be lower). If you're not going to see the Ads, then the website also has a right to deny you access.

exactly! we don't want just anyone reading OUR news for free;) (I'm a bit horrible that i'm happy because someone else is having a worse internet experience then me. I'll try and work on myself.)

The BBC is not a government news source. It's not even funded by the UK government.[0] It is - by law[1] - required to be completely editorially independent.

The BBC is primarily funded by the TV Licence. The licence is levvied on anyone who watches live TV (any live TV) or uses BBC's SVoD service, BBC iPlayer.

The BBC does operate a commercial subsidiary (BBC Studios), and the main BBC does have other revenue sources like patents owned by BBC R&D and, as you have noted, advertising on bbc.com for people who are outside of the UK.

[0] Well... there are some grants given to the BBC to fund its activities internationally, but those are quite limited in scope and size.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/aboutthebbc/governance/charter

Same in Denmark, but the collective opinion is that the structure makes the license a TV tax (a yearly fee you must pay by government mandate as a result of owning a type of device irrespective of use) that goes to the media company, thus making it state funded by that tax, regardless of what the company and government claim.

If it was independent it would have to sell its services on its own, with citizens purchasing the service only if they wished to use it.

In Denmark we're also soon abolishing the license and just making it a normal tax. The structure was pointless and the attempted indirection only angered people, especially as it was expanded to also apply to anyone having internet access over a certain bandwidth.

Furthermore, anything funded by law cannot be truly independent in content either, as it will wish to appease the hand that feeds it.

> Same in Denmark, but the collective opinion is that the structure makes the license a TV tax (a yearly fee you must pay by government mandate as a result of owning a type of device irrespective of use) that goes to the media company, thus making it state funded by that tax, regardless of what the company and government claim.

>If it was independent it would have to sell its services on its own, with citizens purchasing the service only if they wished to use it.

It's similar here. the Office of National Statistics has considered the licence fee a tax rather than a service charge for ~15 years. But I don't think that changes the nature of how the BBC is funded.

>In Denmark we're also soon abolishing the license and just making it a normal tax. The structure was pointless and the attempted indirection only angered people, especially as it was expanded to also apply to anyone having internet access over a certain bandwidth.

There has been a live discussion around the continuation of the licence fee here, too. Although that seems to have - mostly - gone away since the BBC proved its value during the pandemic. I think it helps that the requirement is still fairly narrow here.

The indirection is a feature - having the BBC's funding taken out of the regular budgetary process adds to its independence.

Politically it's a distinct action to change the value of the licence fee.

>Furthermore, anything funded by law cannot be truly independent in content either, as it will wish to appease the hand that feeds it.

To be fair that applies to more than funding. As an example, if trade unions piss the government off too much they can get a majority in the legislature to rewrite industrial relations law.

> the unique nature of how the BBC is funded.

of course, other funding sources are available...

> a TV tax (a yearly fee you must pay by government mandate as a result of owning a type of device irrespective of use

That's not the case in the UK. You only need a TV license if you use equipment to receive a live TV programme (which is something that falls under the remit of OFCOM[1] - not a livestream of Everyday Astronaut), or if you use BBC's iplayer.

[1] Specifically from 2003 communications act

  “television programme service” means any of the following—
  * a television broadcasting service;
  * a television licensable content service;
  * a digital television programme service;
  * a restricted television service [consists in the broadcasting of television programmes for a particular establishment or other defined location, or a particular event, in the United Kingdom, which is licensable by OFCOM]

> You only need a TV license if you use equipment to receive a live TV programme

Better than Denmark, but the quoted legal snippet is not restricted to BBC content, but instead applies to reception or any kind of television broadcast irrespective of provider or source (foreign satellite TV being an obvious alternative).

It's a different TV tax than that in Denmark, but absolutely a government mandated tax.

(I am unsure how to interpret the digital television broadcast service aspect. I wonder if they mean something wider than DVB, as the previous points do not use "analogue" as classifier. It's need more of the text to figure that out.)

> It's not even funded by the UK government.[0]

> The BBC is primarily funded by the TV Licence. The licence is levvied on anyone who watches live TV (any live TV)

Who mandates the payment of a TV License and allocates the funds from it to the BBC? I would assume that's the UK government. These terms may be used differently in the UK, but in the US that would be considered government funded.

The license is mandated (in certain circumstances), however the funds are collected by the BBC directly.

The US mandates obamacare I believe, does that mean it's government funded?

> The license is mandated (in certain circumstances), however the funds are collected by the BBC directly.

Interesting. I would still consider that government funded, personally, since it's a mandatory fee imposed by the government and applied to all TV watchers, not just consumers of the BBc. It's certainly a bit more blurry though with the direct collection.

> The US mandates obamacare I believe, does that mean it's government funded?

It depends what you mean. "Obamacare" is an extremely broad term.

Speaking generally: If the government is mandating a fee for some activity, and allocating the funds from said fee to some entity, that entity is government funded. Those fees are defacto taxes.

> Interesting. I would still consider that government funded, personally, since it's a mandatory fee imposed by the government and applied to all TV watchers, not just consumers of the BBc. It's certainly a bit more blurry though with the direct collection.

Not all consumers. No need for a TV license to listen to radio 4, or use the website.

I do have a TV license, but that's mainly because I very occasionally use iplayer - I don't even own a TV aerial.

Some states in America require a dog license and/or a cat license, is that a tax? Is a fishing license a tax? How about a fee to enter a national park?

In at least some states in the US the government mandates you to have car insurance if the car is operated on the public highway. This mandatory fee is collected by private companies and goes to private companies, is it a tax?

> Not all consumers. No need for a TV license to listen to radio 4, or use the website.

I may misunderstand then. In order to watch live TV in the UK you must pay a fee, mandated by the government, and that fee is paid to the BBC? If that's the case, I stand by what I said previously.

> Some states in America require a dog license and/or a cat license, is that a tax? Is a fishing license a tax? How about a fee to enter a national park?

A defacto tax, yes, to all of these. Taking the definition of tax I receive from Google and trimming to the relevant bit: "a compulsory contribution to state revenue ... added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions." The state says "you must have permission to have a dog. If you want permission, you must pay". That's a compulsory contribution added to the cost of some service.

> In at least some states in the US the government mandates you to have car insurance if the car is operated on the public highway. This mandatory fee is collected by private companies and goes to private companies, is it a tax?

That's an interesting question! My knee jerk reaction is no, and I think it is because the insurance provider is actually selling me a service separate and distinct from the activity. That is to say, the BBC is selling "TV" and you're paying a fee. The insurance carrier is selling me a promise that they'll pay me if something should go wrong while I drive, not driving itself.

I fully admit that's a tenuous difference, and I could probably be convinced otherwise. You make a good point.

"a compulsory contribution to state revenue ... added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions"

A license fee, be it for a dog, cat, or television

1) Is not compulsory

2) Is not added to the cost of anything

And in the case of a UK Television license it doesn't go to the state.

I think the problem is getting hung up on the definition of tax, which itself is a rather meaningless debate. The UK government, and indeed parliament, has no say over the BBC budget or income, only the level of the license. If a million more houses decided to license a tv set, BBC income increases by £150m, if a million more houses "cut the cord" and just watch netflix, disney, etc, then BBC income decreases by £150m.

Compare with primary/secondary education, where the government decides how much money to spend on education each year. It could increase it one year, decrease it the next, it's a government funded service.

Trying to define the BBC funding model as "tax for a government department" or "not a tax to an independent company" is itself problematic, the BBC is pretty much unique in its funding model and its control. It's overseen by a board which comprises of zero members of government, although the chair and some non-executive directors are appointed by the government.

EDF, the energy company, is owned by the French state, but I don't think people consider it to be government funded.

So, is car insurance a tax, then?

This is cherry picking information about the BBC.

The chairman has worked for the PM and the Chancellor and has donated large sums to the Conservative party.

The BBC Director General is an ex Conservative Party councillor.

The BBC board Chairman and the non-executives are effectively appointed by the government.

The TV license is a tax imposed by the government, ergo the BBC is funded by the UK government.

>The TV license is a tax imposed by the government

The requirement to hold a licence is a statutory one. Likewise, payment of the fee must, by law, be made to the BBC, and enforcement of the licensing regime must be done by (or on behalf of) the BBC.

Thus, it is Parliament, not the government, that imposes the tax.

(Yes, I know that all taxes must have a statutory basis, but this is one that is levied outside of the usual budgetary process using Finance Acts (the passage of which are traditionally considered confidence votes), and the TV Licence is not considered by government as part of its annual budget).

> Thus, it is Parliament, not the government, that imposes the tax.

I think we're encountering the "two countries separated by a common language" thing here.

"Government" (in the UK sense) refers only to the current Prime Minister and assistants, yes? In the US sense, Congress is considered to be part of the "government".

>"Government" (in the UK sense) refers only to the current Prime Minister and assistants, yes? In the US sense, Congress is considered to be part of the "government".

Broadly, yes; "The government" almost exclusively refers to the executive. So, The Crown, ministers, and perhaps the civil service depending on the context.

but the license fee is not imposed by one government after another, it is imposed by law, a law passed by a government and enforced by a sequence of governments thereafter

Wait, hold up, the Parliament is not the government? That's a very confusing take.

> the Parliament is not the government?

Correct. In the UK, "government" refers to the ministers currently in power, the "executive branch of the government" in US terms.

What's confusing about it?

The government wields executive power, Parliament legislates and holds the government to account.

The confusing part is that the government has to maintain the confidence of the house, and is comprised of members of parliament.

Normally the government whips mean that parliament does whatever the government tell it to do, so "holds the government to account" is a laughable statement.

Unlike the US system where the president can easily not have the confidence of the Senate or House (R president, D House, D Senate for example), and appoints his own secretaries from a pool of 300+m people, in the UK, the prime minister appoints ministers from parliament (usually the house of commons but can appoint from house of lords). Technically the PM could make a new lord (like Blair did with Sugar), but it's convoluted, and conventionally the main jobs must go to MPs

Most people think "I like Boris, I vote for him as PM, he runs the country". In the last 5 years this has broken down and parliament has asserted itself more -- this independence was punished at the ballot box in December 2019.

> The confusing part is that the government has to maintain the confidence of the house, and is comprised of members of parliament.

Confidence of the Commons, yes. The government doesn't have a majority in the Lords.

>Normally the government whips mean that parliament does whatever the government tell it to do, so "holds the government to account" is a laughable statement.

To an extent, that's true. The select committee system enables alternate power base within Parliament (especially the Commons) so that independently-minded backbench MPs to scrutinise ministers and other public officials with less interference from the whips.

And over the past 2 parliaments we have seen the rise of the Tory "research groups" - especially the ERG - which have been very influential on the government.

I'm not saying that everything is perfect here, until we ditch the first-past-the-post electoral system everything is still screwed up, but the government does have to listen to Parliament when the latter wants something.

The Tory "Research groups" and the 1918 are influential inside the tory party, but tories always stick together.

Nothing new, Redwood challenged Major in the 90s, and Thatcher lost support of the tory party before that, but various backbenchers might arrange for PMs to leave, but they would never dream of voting against the government in a vote of confidence.

Parliament isn't important, internal politics of the conservative party are important. (And Labour, but less so as (apart from Blair), Labour don't win elections)

The government in the last few years has broken the law time and time again, but nothing happens. They did lose support of parliament, some tory members actually rebelled - including grandees like Ken Clarke. The electorate put them where they belong.

Democracy doesn't really exist in the UK, we have 40+ years of a dysfunctional opposition party that only won thanks to Blair, and the only times that parliament started to assert itself, it was massively punished.

AV wasn't perfect, but it was still far better than FPTP, and the masively rejected it. We can have a government that kills hundreds of thousands of people, flushes billions into the back pockets of tory donors, and we reward them with ever higher approval ratings.

Parliament is a part of the government, at least under the en_us understanding of the word.

Government n. 1. the governing body of a nation, state, or community.

That's a very broad definition. It's definitely not one that is shared in en-GB nor, at least to my knowledge, amongst other English dialects.

Are opposition legislators considered "members of the government", even if they don't actually, well, govern anything?

Yes, in the same way that I would consider a government employee who does not have carte blanche to be part of the government, even when not every decision they make is implemented. The government is the entire apparatus that governs a state, under the en_us definition.

If you changed the funding of RT to be controlled by the Duma, but left all other details intact, would you then say that RT is not government sponsored? To me, that seems like an odd distinction to make. It doesn't capture what most people find salient when talking about government sponsorship of the media. To wit: where is the money -- and therefore power -- coming from? Is it primarily controlled by the people or is it controlled by the rulers?

> required to be completely editorially independent.

Although historically it seems very rare that the BBC view on any international politics differs from that of the UK government.

Hopefully that's because both cater to the views of the British public, but it also seems possible that there is some kind of informal backchannel going on...

> Although historically it seems very rare that the BBC view on any international politics differs from that of the UK government.

I know a lot of Britishers that would dispute this version of affairs. To my mind the typical BBC point of view is mildly left-of-centre, well-to-do and urban.

> the typical BBC point of view is mildly left-of-centre

Many people would claim that the BBC is left-of-centre, but if you look at their most prominent/best paid journalists, that is near-objectively not the case.

Andrew Neil was been one of the highest paid BBC journalists 2003-2020, having previously worked for Rupert Murdoch, and has gone on to be Chair [correction: Chairman] of "GB News".

GB News hosts the most right-wing voices in British political discourse, and been compared to Fox News in this respect.

I might concede that the BBC is left-of-centre compared to the average British news media, but given that British news media is exclusively owned by conservative billionaires, I'm not convinced this is a great anchor point.

On the flip side you could argue that Andrew Neil leaving the BBC shows evidence of it not being right wing.

Fundamentally the BBC is definitely left wing[0], with enourmous right wing bias[1]

Everyone agrees [2] it's biased.

[0] https://www.cps.org.uk/files/reports/original/130814102945-B...

[1] https://inews.co.uk/culture/television/bbc-left-right-wing-b...

[2] https://inews.co.uk/culture/television/bbc-left-right-wing-b...

>To my mind the typical BBC point of view is mildly left-of-centre, well-to-do and urban.

sounds accurate.

I use NoScript, and the page loaded fine: if you don't load any JS there is no code to detect an ad blocker :-). (This doesn't always work of course, but it does for many websites).

Oh, and the website loaded in ~500ms with a 50kb of data downloaded. The "full version" loaded > 5MB of data in 10+ seconds.

Sure but lots of pages won't load without javascript so it's double edged. If the javascript won't load it can't download the page via js only mechanisms.

Underfunding and neoliberal management. There's a fair chance the government is hollowing it out to undermine public perception of the institution so they cang et away with doing away with it completely.

uBlock Origin with Firefox on Android. The site loaded fine.

BBC news used to be so good for a long time but over the last few years it seems to be gravitating more towards advertising and click bait.

What is iPhone's Adblock? Is there some default iOS ad-blocker that I don't know about?

Probably talking about the anti-tracking stuff built into safari. It's not exactly an adblocker but if they're tracking you and can't (a typical but not exclusive adver tactic) then it could certainly be dropping their javascript/cookies so it's functionally blocking their ads. Same goes for Firefox which bills itself as antitracking rather than anti-ads

That settles it. We're living in a simulation.

Your perception of the ship position is definitely more similar to "a simulation" than to "the absolute truth about where the ship is", so if you want to understand it like that then yeah. If by this statement you mean that the ship or we are all some kind of software construct programmed by some other beings that can simulate things then I think you should leave religion out of the dicussion.

Honestly given that weird explanation, I think Occam’s Razor says that ship can fly 0.0

The schematic here on Wikipedia might help clarify: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fada_morgana_graphnn...

If instead of layers of warm/cold air there were giant glass lenses hovering over the ocean, the mirage wouldn’t be mysterious.

I’d find giant lenses hovering over the ocean to be pretty mysterious.

I think they were attempting a joke. Hot-road mirage is a common thing that most people that were in a car trip during summer have seen, same principles.

I’m aware it was a joke :) But I think the confusion was sincere; the explanation in the article is lacking if you don’t have a clear picture to begin with.

Ah, so there's a man on an island bobbing fake ships on his massive attenae. It's like the myth of the Sirens but instead of ladies saying, "come heeeeere" it's a dude saying, "look a shiiiip".

Id pinch myself if I ever see that before my eyes. And when I see that Im not dreaming I’d be stunned. I still am as I’ve never seen this one so up in the air before

If anyone wants to learn more about paranormal activity in Cornwall, they can check out a relevant episode of Fortean TV, a fantastic documentary series from the 90s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aEX3Z3mjCk.

But this isn’t paranormal.

Fortean TV was, admittedly, fun but silly fun nonetheless.

What has the world come to, when a BBC 'journalist' can write an article like this, without even including the words 'fata morgana'?

Of course, we know the answer, it is a comprehensive lack of education, and a total failure of any claim to knowledge, by a self-appointed class, which pretends to tell us about the world.

I would normally just say caveat emptor, and hope the journalist would be fired, or the news agency go out of business immediately, but the Brits have a mandatory tax, called the 'TV License' to sustain all this bullshit.

Comprehensive lack of education? People received an education for ~12 years.

In most parts of the world, I would say _caveat emptor_ and the agency would go out of business immediately, but the Brits have a mandatory tax, called the 'TV License' to pay for this bullshit.

Would they?

This is the first time I heard of this phenomena, so I wouldn't know.

If you are British, you will recognise my italics.

It is perfectly acceptable for any member of the public to be ignorant of some unusual phenomenon. It would be fine if this was a blog from the walker who took the photo. But it is not acceptable for a professional 'journalist': either they are a 'science correspondent' and they should know the answer; or they are temp-ing in the science department, and should ask an expert, or at least find 5 minutes from their busy day to google the explanation.

Then again, most 'journalists' these days seem to be employed by the 'social media' department.

I am not an expert but according to Wikipedia this is a superior mirage just as the article says but not a Fata Morgana [2] which is a subclass of superior mirage that has multiple stacked images. So the uneducated author got it right after all. ;-)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirage

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_(mirage)

Your 5 minutes of googling is already more informative than the article. Did the article say it was not a 'fata morgana'? No. How long did the effect last? We don't know. Did the ship image move, or disappear, or return to the horizon? We don't know. Were there multiple images? We don't know. Did he take just one photo? We don't know...

If this is your metric for how the world is doing, then it's fine.

Of course we know it isn't, but this right here is absolutely not a core issue with it.

Wow, what a toxic attitude you have towards journalists. This is a fluff piece, not a serious piece of investigative journalism. The bar does not not need to be very high for this kind of article.

Even for a fluff piece, this clears a relatively simple yet efficient bar: get the impressions of the photographer, bring in an expert's take to explain the science behind it, and that's it.

Note that apparently the expert didn't need to mention the words "fata morgana" either, so maybe that's a stupid focus point after all which just sounds like elitism at this point.

I know who here "pretends to tell us about the world" and it's not the journalist.

Well, the bar should be a little higher, and in particular, it should be higher for the taxpayer-funded BBC, which would once have thought it had a reputation to protect, but now seems to have destroyed its integrity in favour of fluff pieces - whatever that is supposed to mean - empty articles for empty people?

I don’t look at BBC news much, but now looking at its website, I have to agree with you that there is too much of this kind of content there. Its home page has articles about flying ships, eggs, and pterodactyls.. it does look like they are hitting a pretty low bar across the board, so maybe you’re on to something.

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