Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The thought police are in town. Again.

Did anyone see Terry Gilliam’s film ‘Brazil’, from 1985? It depicted a dysfunctional society ruled by departments of the Ministry of Information.

Information Records stored everything, although nobody read it. Information Dispersal put out propaganda. Among these departments, the most feared was Information Retrieval, the secret police who extracted information from suspects by any means possible. Torquemada would have been proud.

Everyone was classified, sorted, categorised and placed in a slot.

It seems the UK’s tinpot dictator, Tony Blair, has seen this film and evidently considered it a great idea .

Coming soon to an ex-democracy near you!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sorry, but... I'm not listening.

One of the most infuriating bits of modern speech is the starting of any argument with 'Sorry, but...'

It drives me nuts.

If you start any statement with an apology for that statement, it can only mean that you already know that what you are about to say is wrong, worthless or both.

Therefore there is no point continuing past those words, especially since I've already stopped listening.

Monday, March 19, 2007

EMF, ELF and misinterpretation.

Because paranormal investigators use devices that detect electric fields (ELF), electromagnetic fields (EMF) and similar invisible effects, the misconception has arisen that these devices detect ghosts. They do not.

They detect ELF or EMF, depending on the meter. That’s all they do.

High electric fields can cause your hair to stand on end. This can be demonstrated by putting your hand on a Van der Graaf generator while someone else cranks it up. Most people, at least those who did physics at some level in school, will have experienced this. Unless the safety police have banned this demonstration, which wouldn’t surprise me.

So if you walk through an area of high ELF your hair will move. In the dark, and amid the heightened expectations of a ghost hunt, this will feel exactly as though someone touched your head. That’s one of the reasons investigators take readings before the investigation proper. If all reports of touching occur in areas known to have a high ELF, then they are probably caused by the electric field. Where the field comes from is then important to determine but it’s usually due to electrical wiring. This applies equally to EMF measurements.

Now, I know I’ve made it sound as though these meters are the tool of the sceptic, and yes, they often are. They must also be the tool of the investigator. If there is an electric field effect in an area you’re investigating, you want to know about it before you report anything. Otherwise, all a sceptic needs to do is wander around your location and hey presto, he’s debunked you. Debunk such effects yourself first. Don’t leave yourself open to the sceptic.

Where there are fluctuations in ELF or EMF, always, always look for the natural explanation first. Sometimes there isn’t one, but most times there is. Remember the story of the boy who cried ‘Wolf’. You don’t want to be an equivalent in ‘the investigator who cried Ghost’.

Investigators who repeatedly make easily-disproved claims will find that eventually, everything they say will be ignored. If such an investigator finally produces a perfect EVP, photograph or video, nobody will listen. Don’t get into that position. It’s better to report nothing for years than to report the wrong thing once a week.

Use the ELF and/or EMF meter, but don’t treat it as a ghost-meter. It’s not. It’s an instrument for measuring a specific, known, quantifiable physical phenomenon. If it comes up with an anomaly, take note of that and look for an explanation. Once in a while there won’t be a readily available natural source for the anomaly. That’s when things get interesting. However, unless you’re an electrical engineer, don’t assume that because you don’t see an explanation, there can’t be one. Note the anomaly and investigate further. There could be wires buried in the walls connected to appliances you don’t know about.

If we assume ghosts are composed of some form of energy—and to fit in with the laws of the universe, they must be—then it is reasonable to suppose that their presence will affect local electrical and electromagnetic fields. Reports of flickering or dimming lights and of spontaneously-drained batteries support this theory. I have no reason, at this time, to suppose that ghosts are exempt from the laws of nature. Rather, I consider that the spirit form is part of the natural order of the universe, and therefore subject to the same physical laws.

However, there is no absolute proof that ghosts actually do affect these fields, nor can we even guess by how much we would expect the fields to be affected. Note anomalies. Don’t crow about them too soon. They might have nothing to do with the spirits, even when you know for certain they are present.

Remember, instruments measure only what those instruments were designed to measure. There is no such thing as a ghost detector. EMF meters measure EMF, ELF meters measure ELF, thermometers measure temperature, and so on.

A blip in ELF or EMF is not proof of spirit presence. It’s proof of a blip in EMF or ELF. A temperature drop is not proof of spirit presence. It’s proof the temperature went down. Don’t jump to assumptions as to why these things happened.

There are no easy shortcuts. There is no scientific instrument that can positively detect an incorporeal human spirit. The devices we have give indications of where anomalous events occur, and thus where we should study further. Detailed, methodical study will eventually produce the proof we all seek. A quick one-night stand will never do that.

Investigations should never be one-off visits, unless the first visit finds no evidence to support a second. Before the second visit, check out those anomalies.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bye bye brainstorm.

I never liked the term 'brainstorming' myself. It was made up by a manager somewhere to describe a process of random babble from which the enlightened could fool themselves into thinking they extracted brilliant new ideas.

However, like it or not, it became a term. It described something. I took part in one once and was amazed at how pointless it all was. I never did it again.

Even though I find the term silly, I had to groan at the news that 'brainstorm' is now a politically incorrect word. Apparently it might offend epileptics. Soon the language will be reduced to the words 'and', 'the' and 'it'. George Orwell's Newspeak is here.

So the silly term devised by management is no more. It's been replaced by the half-minds of the Politically Correct with a new, non-offensive term. I warn you to swallow anything that's in your mouth before I tell you what it is.

Thought Showers.

It's no less silly, but at least it does accurately describe the thin, wet thinking that goes on in those meetings.

Can I still say 'wet'? Or does it offend those who can't swim?

Friday, March 09, 2007

The perils of procrastination.

Once I lived, for a few years, in a place called Ayr in Scotland. Just across the sea was the island of Arran. Well, I often thought I might like to visit that island. I eventually did, on a visit to Ayr, some years after I’d moved away. While I was there, Arran was so easily accessible I thought ‘I’ll go tomorrow’ – but never did.

Those who have read ‘Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator’ will recognise this photo. It’s of a derelict, abandoned house, left alone by surrounding road developments and a likely spot for an investigation. I’ve passed it many times and thought ‘I should spend a night in there’.

I passed it again recently. It now looks like this:

Procrastination has killed any idea of an investigation here. Spending a night sitting on a pile of rubble holds no appeal for me. Nor, I suspect, does it appeal to any spirits who might once have been in residence. Even recording-type apparitions will be gone, because the structure that recorded them has been destroyed.

The house is to be part of a new site development. Retail units, I believe. One can only hope that any spirits who might have been in the house take up residence in the new shops, and that these shops are not filled with women’s clothing. I don’t want to be seen hanging around there if that’s the case. It’s not the sort of thing I want to be famous for.

There’s a lesson here. Don’t assume you can do something tomorrow, just because it’s possible to do it today. Putting things off has, in this case, led to disaster. It’s time to look again at that list of potential sites that are so easy to get at that I’ve always given them a low priority.

They might not be there tomorrow.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

...and the moon shall turn to blood...

Well, not quite blood-red, but an impressive copper colour at least.

The cloud broke before the eclipse was complete but there was little light left and still some thin cloud, so I didn't get a great shot as the eclipse happened. At least it didn't rain.

Clouds then covered most of the actual eclipse, but I was lucky--they cleared again as the moon emerged. For a while anyway - enough time for a good few photos. Here's one of the better ones:

The clouds came back to spoil my fun before it was all over. Here's the last worthwhile picture I took, and it's not a particularly good one.

It was an impressive display. The pictures don't do it justice. I hope, next time, it happens in the summer. It's still very, very cold here. Anyway, playtime's over. Back to work.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Move that cloud.

Tonight there is to be a total eclipse of the Moon (11.20pm, GMT).

If the clouds don't break in time, cover your ears. You'll hear words you shouldn't hear otherwise, and I'll be saying them very, very loud.

In case they do break, I'll be charging up my video cameras.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tax - the new panacea.

The rain has, if anything, intensified. So still no chance at photos. The frustration is unbearable.

So I'm doing a lot of thinking, and the environment has been part of that - all this global warming and CO2 emission stuff. The sort of thing Victor Allen Winters discusses a lot.

The UK government has found a way to tackle global warming. It's the same way they tackle everything else, from traffic through smoking to alcohol.

They're taxing it.

The price of airline tickets has been increased because of a new tax which will help the environment. Quite how the environment benefits from us poor plebs giving more money to the government, I don't know, but they assure us it will. Maybe they distribute it as grants to badgers, foxes and hedgehogs. I had a rant in mind about this but the head of Ryanair, an Irish budget airline, has put it so well I thought I'd just link to that instead.

Here's the article.

Read it quick, before the government decide to tax your eyes.