Image by Inga Neilsen
Ian Jukes is a smart guy. He is one of the old guard of ed tech with a substantial resumé backed by decades of working with teachers and educational leaders.
He has written several books on the “digital generation” as he calls it, the future of education and how our students should be digitally literate. He has made a name for himself talking about how students and educators need to be taught digital literacy skills in order to survive in today’s world.
One of his speaking topics is entitled “Infowhelm and Hyperinformation” where he talks about “…but how do we determine the good from the bad, interpret right from wrong, and distinguish complete, accurate, and usable data from a sea of irrelevance and digital inundation?”
With that kind of background, it was particularly disappointing to see Ian posting on Facebook and Twitter a meme featuring the picture above.
With the title “Sunset at the North Pole” this looks like something straight out of the Star Wars universe. Not many of us have the chance to see an actual sunset at the north pole, so of course it is sort of plausible that it might look something like this.
Who knows. I bet that Ian never made it to the North Pole, so he probably thought, “Heck, it could happen.” No critical thinking involved here. Just a matter of clicking the “share” button on Facebook and Twitter and off it goes to all of his networks. Probably a few of them “shared” as well, on to their networks. (As of this writing, the meme has been shared at least 18 times on Twitter alone from his @ijukes account.)
Not content however to just share a pretty picture, Jukes also included the accompanying text to go with the picture:
“This is the sunset at the North Pole with the moon at its closest point last week. A scene you will probably never get to see in person, so take a moment and enjoy God at work at the North Pole. And, you also see the sun below the moon . An amazing photo and not one easily duplicated. You may want To pass it on to others so they can enjoy it. The Chinese have a saying that goes something like this: ‘When someone shares with you something of value, you have an obligation to share it with others!’ I just did. Your turn.”
Never mind the poor grammar and bad punctuation. That is how things go viral. Copy paste. Share button. Copy paste. Share button. Copy paste. Share button. Mindlessly pushing forward. No critical thinking, no checking to see if the image is real. The very things that Ian Jukes writes entire books about and gets paid to lecture about was ignored by Ian Jukes.
Ian is, of course, not the only one to pass that image along. Even so called “Educational” and “Astronomy” sites have used the the image to show what the moon looks like at the North Pole, or to demonstrate a so-called “Super Moon.” Go ahead and Google “Sunset at the North Pole.” It is the number one image. It has even been used to celebrate various new years across the globe. The thing about this image is that it is totally fake. Made up in the mind of Astronomer and Digital Artist Inga Neilsen back in 2006 when she was 22. So unless God is a 22 year old German Astrophysics student that uses Terragen scenery rendering software, that whole meme, image and words, is a fake. It is out of Star Wars because it doesn’t really exist and is real as Tatooine. Too bad Inga isn’t collecting royalties on her copyrighted image that is being ripped off all over the place.
Ian Jukes should have known better and should have done a simple Google search before posting. He instructs kids and educators to do so, he should have followed his own advice. That is what is disappointing. The expert on assessing information didn’t assess information.
(Do you know that Google has a “Reverse Image Search” function, where you can simply enter the URL of the image you are looking at to find out where else not eh internet it is being used? Check it out here.)
However, if the guy that writes books about not being fooled online is fooled online, it demonstrates how easily that can happen for the rest of us. Don’t feel too bad that you got fooled by the Russian troll farms into voting for Trump. It could have happened to anyone. Just don’t fall for it again.
Thankfully, there are a lot of online sites that make it their business to check the veracity of memes like this. One is “takes2minutes2debunk” that wrote about this particular picture:
“The distance between the moon and the earth is much larger than the radius of the earth. So the small change in moon size between horizon and zenith will not be observable. The ratio of the actual size of the object to its distance is however a useful quantity to evaluate pictures being shared. The apparent sizes of the sun and the moon are approximately equal. The sun is much larger but is also much farther. Accidentally the ratio is the same. This is the reason for the total solar eclipse when the moon completely masks the sun and stars become visible. (It is dangerous to the eyes to try and compare the size of the sun at zenith using the procedure described for the moon). The so called view of the sun and moon at north pole clearly is a hoax. In it the moon appears much larger than the sun!”
Even as a casual inhabitant of the earth, there is no way the moon in the sky can appear larger than the sun from anywhere. That’s why we can have solar eclipses.If you have been living on earth for any amount of time, you should have known this. (If you are new to our planet you can be forgiven.) Even Forbes wrote about it back in 2017:
“Artist Inga Nielsen made this digital composition, called ‘Hideaway’, years ago. It has gone viral with the caption ‘Sunset at the North Pole’ ever since. It is not a real photo.”
Be careful when you are about to hit the “Share” button. Where did that meme come from? Does it have verifiable information? Did it come from a reputable sources? (No, grandma is not a reputable source.) Is the grammar and spelling “iffy?” Does it have an agenda? Does the image violate some natural law?
It only takes seconds to share a meme. It only takes a few seconds more to check to see if it is true before you share it. Right Ian Jukes?
Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.
Feel free to leave a comment. Read his previous columns here.