Skeptical about the paranormal? I am
too. This page discusses a more scientific approach to assessing
the validity of this phenomenon.
It bothers me when people dance
around something they want to find out empirically and never engage it
experimentally. For example, in all the discussion on the web I've
read about paranormal "investigators" going out and taking pictures of
all these "orbs" and things, but I never see any effort to pin down the
nature of this phenomenon.
For instance, try different levels of light,
take pictures in places that less likely to be "haunted," etc. If
you vary the conditions experimentally, you can determine the nature of
the phenomenon. I think there most likely is something interesting
going on in many of the pictures I have seen, but I have yet to hear convincing
evidence that they are, in fact, a supernatural phenomenon.
As a first step toward addressing these
larger questions, here are a number of smaller details that have never
been adequately (read: experimentally) posed. In some cases
I propose specific studies where they aren't clearly implied by the question
Quantification: Average numbers of orbs, their
size in the frame (expressed as a percentage), and frequency of appearance
(# of pictures/total pictures taken) with attention paid to various conditions
(time, temperature, humidity, etc.)
Are orbs ever obscured by other objects in
the frame? Experiment: Fill the room with "branched" (as opposed
to "blocked") objects that will act as something as a forest rather than
a Euclidean volume.
Do orbs ever interact with objects in the
room? (e.g., do they travel around and/or through furniture, walls, etc.?)
What would be seen in photos taken simultaneously
from virtually the same place? Note: The cameras should be placed
as closely together as possible so as to avoid a parallax view and/or missing
dust and/or orbs at close proximity.
What would be seen in photos taken simultaneously
from two angles?
Is there a consistent range of their rate
of motion? Experiment: requires knowledge of absolute size or actual
position in at least a 2D plane.
What is the absolute size of an orb?
Is this variable? Experiment: Take two photos simultaneously from
opposite sides of the room with the opposing photographers in the other's
picture. The scale relative to the photographers from two perspectives
will narrow the possible sizes. (e.g., if orb appears the same size
in both photos, then it is halfway in-between; therefore its distance from
the photographer is known and the size of the orb can be extrapolated from
the size of the photographer in the image.
Two cameras shooting at the same time should
see them. Similarly, it would be unlikely that only *one* camera
of two would see orbs without the other seeing the same. If only
one does, it is likely that the effect is caused within the camera.
Do orbs turn up less frequently when photos
are taken at close range to the wall? I.e., with less volume of space
photographed, do the number of orbs observed diminish proportionately (on
average)? To use an analogy, if you look out into a ballroom, you
see lots of people. When you turn to the wall, there are fewer people
in front of you because the floor space is reduced.
Relating to photographic focus: Do orbs vary
in appearance with changes in focus, f-stops, or even fogging of the lens?
(I have a shot in which many of them appear in focus even when they appear
in a photo that is out of focus. Conversely, I believe I have a photo
in which an apparent orb was obscured by moisture on the lens.)
Do they show up when no flash is used? Experiment:
Take multiple shots w/o flash. Alternate with a flash (and perhaps
vary the intensity of the flash as well) to determine if light is required.
Can the side-by-side presence of orbs be demonstrated
in the same frame as identifiable dust? Experiment: Isolate dust
to one half of the frame with a large pane of glass or a wall. Stir
the dust on one side (or room) and photograph.
crux of the paranormal issue
Is there any indication that orbs
are associated with ghosts? Compare quantifications in "haunted"
locations with randomly sampled photos taken elsewhere. Problem:
So-called "investigators" go to places where "hauntings" are suspected,
but those are the only places where they conduct investigations.
Suppose this is a more ubiquitous phenomenon. If you only look in
"haunted" places, that's all you'll associate this with. On the other
hand, why am I finding them beneath the ground in urban areas where no
deaths/burials would have occurred? Control samples are required.
Personally, I haven't seen a good association
between the supernatural and the orb phenomenon. That's the most
tenuous of connections for me. I see orbs in many of the photos I've
taken, but they aren't strictly relegated to "haunted" locales.
I really haven't spent a lot of time on
paranormal web sites largely because they tend to be populated by kooks
and pranksters... always a bad combination. One group supplies dubious
"evidence" that reaffirms the otherwise unsubstantiated beliefs of the
rest... thereby creating a larger audience eager for more images that are
often (and perhaps always) fakes. It's a dangerously reiterative
- The Sceptical Approach - An article on Paul Lee's site.