Science on Tap uses physics to detect fake videos

Dr. Rhett Allain's Headshot

Physics professor Rhett Allain will be exposing fake videos with the use of physics in his lecture, “Detecting Fake Videos with Physics.

The internet is filled with websites and videos that may or may not be real.

 Physics professor Dr. Rhett Allain is starting off the first Science on Tap series for this fall with a lecture on how physics can be used to disprove videos on the Internet on Tuesday, September 1. The lecture is open to those of all ages at Tope lá Catering, 113 East Thomas Street in Hammond at 7:00 p.m. However, Tope lá Catering will be opening its doors at 6:30 p.m. for those who will be attending the presentation. 

Allain has been teaching physics since 1992. Allain began teaching physics at Southeastern since 2001 and has been working on video analysis since 2008.

“There are a lot of cat videos. Cat videos are probably real,” said Allain. “But some of these weird things people show like, ‘Can you charge your phone inside a microwave?’ That’s fake.”       

The idea of the presentation is to use simple physics to determine if a video is fake or real.  

The inspiration of his video analysis came from a commercial that featured a truck being deployed from a plane and the truck used its brakes to stop the plane as to demonstrate to viewers how well the brakes worked.

“I’m not sure that’s really a good measure of the brakes,” said Allain. “So, I’m going to analyze how hard it would be for a truck to stop a plane. I used this as a student example of a student project so students could understand physics.” 

However, commercials aren’t the only videos that could be fake. YouTube, for example is a website that is packed with millions of videos that are posted online each day. After watching some videos, viewers could find themselves asking, ‘Was that real or fake?’ 

Throughout his presentation, Dr. Allain will present many methods and examples of how to detect fake videos through physics, which he finds pleasing.

“The idea of analyzing videos is something I really enjoy,” said Allain. “There’s several things you can do. One of the things that comes up a lot, is what we call projectile motion, which is the motion of an object where it only has the gravitational force.”

Once the viewer knows how things should move, if it moves in any different way, then viewers will realize the video is fake.   

Dr. Allain hopes to demonstrate how people can use physics to do fun things.

“I’ve always wanted to do a survey on YouTube and find out what percent is fake; however I don’t know if I’ve even come close to doing that,” said Allain. “Always keep a skeptical eye on different videos and don’t just believe what you see online.” 

Future Science on Tap series lectures include: “The Nuts and Bolts of Quantum Mechanics” on October 6, “The Fountain of Youth” on November 3 and “The Reptiles Made Me Do It: 20 Years in the Austrailian Tropics” on December 1. For more information contact the Department of Biological Sciences at 985-549-3740.