Paranormal investigations: Orbs
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.

An experimental approach

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 itself.

The 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 process.

Further reading
  • Orbs - The Sceptical Approach -  An article on Paul Lee's site.

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