Earlier this week we posted thermal images taken by two British newspapers that seemed to show many Occupy tents in London were being abandoned at night. Both the Daily mail and the Telegraph published the photos (which were then picked up by ABC News) suggesting protesters may not be as dedicated as they seem. But now, a new video has surfaced on YouTube that could call those images into question.
A video posted by "thermalunderpants" claims to show protesters using the "exact" camera used by the media outlets. And it shows that the tents may be blocking the heat signature of the protesters who are in them. Here's what the video says:
Following all the media hype (Telegraph, The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Express) about 'empty tents' at OccupyLSX we decided to check out whether their thermal imaging evidence was true.
We got hold of *exactly* the same thermal imaging camera and showed that - surprise, surprise - you can't tell when people are in their tents.
So don't believe the lies - come down to OccupyLSX and join the vibrant community of people working for a better world.
Here's the video:
Several newspapers have filmed tents outside St Paul's Cathedral using thermal imaging equipment, producing images that seem to suggest many tents are unoccupied. But the military scientist, who asked not to be named, said on Wednesday that the photographers were not using the right camera settings, and consequently the information needed to draw any conclusions from the images had been lost.
A camera of this kind would very rarely be able to see "into" a tent, said the scientist, as tent materials are almost always opaque to thermal imaging. A photographer would only be able to detect internal activity if the tent fabric was itself re-radiating heat produced by a warm object behind it – and this in turn would only be possible if very specific camera settings were used.
He said: "They cannot make the assumption that they have made from those images. The way they are set up, you wouldn't be able to tell if there's anyone in the tent or not, especially if someone is sleeping in an insulated sleeping bag."
A separate report also cast doubts about the papers' earlier claims that police had noted the same occupancy issues with their thermal imaging cameras (and noted the objections voiced by the protesters that we included in our original piece):
A local councillor quoted in the reports said he had been told about the thermal camera by a City of London officer on Monday, but admitted he had not been able to verify the "second-hand" information.
"I simply heard it from talking to an officer on the street," said Matthew Richardson, councillor for the Coleman Street ward. "The summary was that they have got a helicopter with a thermal camera in and only 10% of the tents are occupied."
Several of the protesters outside St Paul's admitted they were not staying at the camp full-time, but they disputed the occupancy allegations.
"This 10% figure is bullshit," said one camper, who did not wish to be named but said he was from Birmingham. "It's closer to 70% occupancy. People who live locally are going to their homes to sleep, but the rest of us generally sleep in our tents."
We can't know if the video was taken using the same settings as the others, or confirm that it wasn't doctored. And we should note that our search didn't turn up any retractions or clarifications on the British papers that originally published the photos. But it's still important to note the recent developments.