Friday, December 24, 2010

Missing datapoint.

Every year at this time I visit a local haunting and try to get photos. Last year looked promising and I had hoped to build on it this year.

However, I chickened out this year. Temperatures here have been well below freezing, even during the day, and once the sun goes down the frost is severe. It's not forecast to reach above zero until Tuesday. So I have a missing datapoint but then it would have been impossible to hold a camera steady at these temperatures anyway. It's disappointing but the site will still be there next year, and it might not be quite so devastatingly cold next time.

I'm keen to photograph this haunting event but I'm not keen to become part of it.

Apparently this freezing weather is caused by global warming. It seems the alleged scientists involved think we have no memories, because the run of mild winters we had a few years ago were also caused by global warming. We were in fact told that we could expect to see no snow at all in the UK in the future, and we'd all be growing grape vines and Kiwi fruit. Last summer I struggled to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse!

So, if it gets warmer, that's global warming. If it gets colder, that's global warming. If we get a summer drought, that's global warming and if we get summer floods, that's global warming. It seems that if we get any weather at all, it's global warming.

If you doubt that anything and everything is global warming, you are a climate heretic and must be silenced. If you accept that no matter what happens, it's all global warming, you are allowed to consider yourself 'scientifically literate' even though you are self-evidently a deranged lunatic who will accept exactly the same explanation for diametrically opposite events.

When this country is under a kilometre of ice, rest assured that it will be due to global warming and heating will still be frowned upon.

'Weather is not climate' is the mantra these morons spout. Unless, of course, it's a weather event that supports the idea of global warming. Then it's climate. Any weather event is global warming. The explanation comes first, the observation must then be made to fit. This is what passes for science now. Alchemists were far more rigorous.

I'm glad I no longer teach science. Current standards have fallen so far, I'd be castigated for having unreasonable expectations of students.

You see, I wouldn't let them just make it all up.

Anyway, Merry Christmas. Time to get the whisky out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Busy day tomorrow.

There are a few things happening tomorrow. It's the Winter Solstice and it's also a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse starts at 6:30 am GMT and is visible from the UK. I'm not sure how good it will look from other parts of the globe but I think Eastern parts of North America might get a good view. In fact, I'm a little late with this because Americans will see it in the early hours of the 21st.

Here, the moon will be setting as it goes into eclipse and the sun will be just starting to rise. The last time this happened was in 1638. The years following it saw the English civil war, the Great Plague, the Witchfinders, the beheading of King Charles and finished with the Great Fire of London in 1666. So it wasn't a good omen, really. Fortunately we don't currently have a King Charles, so let's hope the Queen is in extraordinarily good health.

I hope to see the eclipse, but it's full cloud cover at the moment. It doesn't look promising.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Forest ghoul?

(Picture found here)

This made the rounds of UK newspapers a few days ago. It is allegedly a picture taken by an American hunter in Louisiana.

One commenter on the story says it's an advert for a computer game and cites the bottom-left tag 'Wildgame Innovations' as evidence. Nope. Wildgame Innovations is a hunting supplies company, not a games manufacturer. The picture appears under their 'success stories' listing, is taken using an infrared camera and was put there by someone who says it was taken by 'a friend of a friend'.

I am unconvinced.

First, if you were alone in the woods on a dark night, equipped for hunting, and that came at you - what would you grab first? The camera or the gun? I mean, it doesn't look as if that thing wants a conversation, does it?

Second, look at the arms. Huge shoulders with thin arms poking out of them. The musculature makes no sense. Its right arm has straight bones, its left arm has rubber bones. The right leg appears to be much thicker than the left.

My suspicion is that it was a photo that included an interestingly shaped object, perhaps a fallen branch, and that the head was added later. Or maybe it's a totally digital image.

Real? Not impossible, but I'd rate this as having no more than a 5% chance of being real. A second photo would improve that rating, preferably by someone completely unrelated to the first photographer.

Unknown large animals are certainly possible. There are many wild places on the planet where nobody ever goes. In recent years, a new species of ape has been found in Africa and it's only a few decades since the discovery of the giant and colossal squid species.

The thing in the picture, though, looks to have such odd musculature that it would be unlikely to thrive in woodlands. Its arms don't have enough muscle to be much use, it appears to have no fur or scales, its teeth don't look very big and its jaw isn't strong enough to rip through much of anything.

So, for now, I'd file this as 'not very likely at all'.

Unless someone else from Louisiana has seen one?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Something for the Greens.

Two feet of snow and still falling. The earliest snowfall in twenty years, the deepest snow since 1965, the country is once again almost entirely white when seen from space and it looks like this weather is staying for a long while yet. There are icicles hanging off everything and the temperature is not getting above freezing during the day. Tonight it's due to hit -20C (-4F).

Still, we hear about all this global warming. We hear about the less than one degree of increased temperature in the Arctic over the last decade and we keep hearing that Arctic ice is melting.

Well, followers of the Green God of Climatology, here's what they are not telling you.

It has nothing to do with the climate. Nothing to do with 4x4 cars or people flying around in planes or anything else we do. You have been duped and you have demonstrated and demanded tax increases because you were told to.

Now, the cost of heating is to go up again. Last year over 20,000 pensioners died in the winter in the UK because they could not afford heating. So, Greens, are you trying to top that this year?

You'll be pensioners one day. You might regret your zeal in disposing of the elderly by then.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Double standards.

I've already mentioned the study on precognition that looks remarkably well done. Last week's New Scientist (issue dated 20 Nov 2010) mentioned it too, in dismissive terms. The scientific world's analysis of any such study is 'It simply cannot be' and that's the end of it. The New Scientist editorial goes so far as to claim that investigators set up some kind of magical sensory adaptation in volunteers with half a ping pong ball taped over each eye, and white noise in the ears.

In fact, those conditions are used to be certain that the subject could not have heard or seen anything that might clue them in to what they were supposed to receive telepathically. Far from being a magical ritual set up by investigators, they are a response to the scientific world's insistence that the experimental procedures are absolutely cheat-proof.

Yet now, these methodologies, brought in as a result of mainstream insistence, are held up as proof of the lunacy of paranormal investigation. Doublethink is everywhere these days.

Yes, we have to take special care in any investigation, not only because we are guaranteed to meet a wall of 'I don't believe it' no matter what we do, but because there are cheats out there. Lots of cheats. Some very clever ones. Some have become famous by convincing most of the world that stage magic is real magic, even after regular debunking. So yes, we have to be very careful in our methods.

Taping half-balls over eyes might seem like overkill but cheats have been known to adjust blindfolds so they can see. To have that cautionary experimentation referred to as if it is some kind of arcane ritual simply serves to demonstrate the blinkers worn by mainstream science. If they cannot find fault in that study on precognition, they will use derision and scorn to belittle the whole field.

In that same issue is an article on quantum physics, which claims to have sent particles back in time to interact with themselves. No scoffing from New Scientist here. This claim is lauded as a great breakthrough. I admit that the details of quantum physics is way over my head but having read the article twice, I cannot see where the 'back in time' part fits in. Maybe that's just me.

So, in one issue, there are two articles on, effectively, time shifting in which an event that has not yet occurred shows an effect in the present. One is considered a great breakthrough, the other is the babbling of the spooky brigade.

There is really nothing that can be done about personal prejudice. If, faced with correctly performed experiments, someone wants to resort to abuse and misrepresentation to support their preconceived notions, then why bother arguing with them? Nothing will change their minds. You might as well try to persuade the Pope to convert to Buddhism. Or bang your head on a wall.

I choose to spend my time investigating things that mainstream science simply dismisses. Will I ever persuade any of the mainstream to take any of it seriously? Probably not. It no longer matters to me. My own curiosity is the only drive I need. So, scoff away, pretend I'm not here.

The only other thing I need is some decent weather. Cold and damp might be fine for ghosts but not for me. It doesn't do much for expensive electronics either.

Just as well I don't have deadlines.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

God and gods.

I haven't been to the lab for a while. I have things to do that require me to shift my sleeping pattern away from nocturnal and it's not easy. It hasn't worked yet.

So I have had time to think. And read blogs.

I read a lot on ancient Celtic religion and other things that come under the 'Pagan' banner, as well as on modern religions. I am not religious, neither am I atheist. Pascal's wager states that belief is better than non-belief because if there is no God, it doesn't matter - but if there is, it matters a lot.

Pascal was wrong. You can't just say you believe, you either do or you don't and if there is a God, he will know. So if you don't believe, don't waste your time pretending. It's not going to work. You might as well enjoy some debauchery, drunkenness and devilment because you're going to Hell anyway. So I didn't take up Pascal's wager even though I don't have time for any of those other things.

I am not a believer. I am also not a fervent non-believer. I am an apathist. I don't care whether there is a God or not, I'm an outside observer. However, I am very interested in the reasons people believe or don't and in the structures of religions. A study conducted some time ago suggested that there was a genetic component to belief and that priests were likely to beget more priests. That's bad news if you're Catholic because your priesthood has been busy wiping out their own genetic predisposition to the priesthood. All they have now are politicians and paedophiles.

Maybe I'm looking for something, maybe I'm just curious. I don't know. One thing that came up on Tom Sheepandgoats blog led to me wondering if there was a subliminal reason I left the church in my youth. On the back wall of the church I visited were the Ten Commandments (Exodus ch. 20). The second one says 'No graven images - you worship a graven image and you're hot pitchfork fodder, matey' or words to that effect. At the front of the church was a carving of Jesus on the cross. A graven image, and we all had to bow before it. Perhaps my subconscious thought the dichotomy was just too much.

Anyway, I left faith and became a 'don't care'. Even so, my interest remained. The thought processes were fired up again by a post on Tessa Dick's blog.

What I chiefly noticed about all the other gods, Pagan, Roman, Greek, Norse, all of them (before Gerald Gardner's New Age revision of the Pagan faith) was that these gods had to be appeased rather than worshipped. There were gods of war and of storms and all sorts of nasty things and if they didn't get what they wanted, people got hurt. This was more a Mafia of gods than any sort of benevolent father figure.

The Abrahamic god structure through the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths all depended on one god (they call it by different names but it acts much the same way) who basically says 'Follow me, be nice to each other and you're in. Oh, and smite the unbeliever while you're at it.' I am, so far, unsmited but with all those religions out there it's only a matter of time. One thing the Abrahamic religions state, unlike the rest, is that their God will not whack them just for fun.

All of these trace back to something called a War in Heaven in which many angels decided they could do better than their creator and staged a takeover bid. They failed and were cast out. Not to Hell. To Earth. They weren't the first.

The best known is, of course, Lucifer but he wasn't one of those who first came down in defiance of law. Nor was he the serpent in Eden. He was still allowed into Heaven in Job's time, at least. According to the book of Enoch (not in the current Bible), it was Semjaza and eighteen others, plus many unnamed ones, who came down to Earth and took wives, giving rise to the Nephilim or giants, depending on the version you have. The Nephilim eventually died out and the angels involved were fired.

They weren't killed. Separated from their source of power they would be limited in what they could do but they were most likely still immortal. So they're still around.

Could they have set up their own godlike structures? They knew how to do it, they were trained by the best. After the heavenly war they would have been joined by many others. In Solomon's time, according to Goetia (definitely not part of the Bible, but part of Lemegeton which won't be found in any devout Christian library, although you can get it on Amazon), seventy-two of the fallen asked to endure penance so they could go home. Solomon sealed them in a brass casket and threw them into a lake beside Babylon. The Babylonians, thinking he was hiding treasure, eventually retrieved the casket and opened it and the compressed fallen angels, by now driven nuts, escaped. Shades of Pandora's Box?

What interests me is the way it all fits together. Most of the pantheistic gods can be somewhat petty at times and none of them have the omnipotence and all-over power of the one God. Each of the gods in a pantheon is a specialist. None of them - not even the leader - is all-powerful and none are omnipresent. Tales of Zeus/Jupiter producing children from human women matches Abrahamic tradition of angels - not God - doing the same. God only does this once and even then it's not absolutely certain he was the father. Nowadays he'd be paying maintenance anyway.

It's an enormous jigsaw puzzle but the pieces fit together gradually. Solomon and the seventy-two fallen angels, Pandora's box. The Nephilim, and Leda and the swan. Immortals cast to Earth with limited powers and pantheons of gods with one power each. Pantheons that come and go - Norse gods, Roman and Greek, changing names and moving to a new patch just as businesses do nowadays.

I am not convinced that this stems from a God. Before the Abrahamic religions, there was one that regarded the snake as a carrier of wisdom. It is logical, therefore, that the new religion would try to discredit the old by casting the snake in the role of deceiver. Whether that is what actually happened, thousands of years ago, is impossible to say. Nevertheless, it must be included as a possibility.

It's just that there are so many coincidences in these things. The dates of festivals are irrelevant - Easter is there to overshadow the spring equinox, Christmas to cover the winter solstice (the holly is not of Christian origin, but stems from the Pagan battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, and you are probably happier not knowing where the tree decorations originate). Even Halloween was once just Celtic New Year. There is considerable overlap in religion as the new always strives to eradicate the old.

Still, there is too much overlap to ignore. Goetia/Clavicula Salomonis and the story of Pandora do not reference each other at all. Neither do the tales of Zeus as a lusty swan and those of fallen angels taking wives. Hercules and the Nephilim. I have seen no connections made between these.

There is much in folklore and religion that should be studied seriously but is not. Science dismisses without thought far too many things that really should be examined. Sure, they might turn out to be of no importance but can we really decide that with a snort and a sneer?

Is that modern science? All too often, I fear it is.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Who saw this one coming?

At last there has been a scientific study of premonition that was so well set up that not even the sceptics can tear it down.

There was no fault in the methodology, although nobody predicted anything really worth knowing - just which words would be chosen and where a randomly-placed picture would be. An attempt to replicate it over the internet failed, but the effect might be distance-limited so replication should really follow the format of the original experiment, with subjects in the lab. All the same, the principle is there with results well above the possibility of chance.

The scoffers are out in force as usual - but these are scoffers, not sceptics. Being sceptical is part of science. Simply sticking your fingers in your ears and saying 'I don't believe it' is not science. Sceptics check things, scoffers simply deny them.

There is a flipside to this of course, and it's the anti-sceptic statement 'the science is settled'. Real science is never settled. Science that is afraid of sceptical inquiry is science with something to hide. Like Climatology, and much of current obesity, alcohol and smoking research. So much as question it and they'll scream 'Heretic!'. The science is settled, you see, and dissent must be punished. Not answered. Punished.

What's the connection? Those who simply make pronouncements rather than bothering with all that 'reproducibility' and 'transparency' stuff are the same ones who scoff at any form of paranormal research. Yet paranormal researchers' methods have to be open and clear because there is no chance of anyone listening if the full data is not available.

Climatology refuses to release data and details of methods. Ask why, and ask why it's actually getting noticeably colder every year and you won't get a reasoned response. You'll be called a heretic.

Smoking research has long since descended into the utterly bizarre, with infections now blamed on little tobacco goblins and trace amounts of tobacco causing nonsmokers to drop dead on contact. Question it, and you'll be told the 'science' is settled and you're a heretic.

That five-a-day vegetable thing, and the alcohol units per week per adult... do you know where they came from? Have you seen the research that produced those figures? No. You haven't. There isn't any. Those figures were simply plucked out of the air and they are now Government policy. They are based on nothing at all. Reproducibility of methods and falsifiability of theory cannot be tested where none even exist. In these cases, 'science' skipped all the theory, experimentation and analysis and went straight to the conclusions. Try questioning it and see what you get.

And yet these same people will scoff at paranormal research. They accuse us of 'making it up'!

These days, paranormal research might be the only branch of science still applying proper techniques. That's something I certainly never expected to see.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wake-up time.

I have left this blog dormant for a long time. The weather has made outdoor investigations impossible for the last couple of years. Currently we have gales and rain and even if the ghosts were dancing in my garden, I wouldn't go out there tonight. They don't get wet or feel cold. I do, and so does my expensive camera equipment.

Lab ghost remains elusive, and in this weather the creaks, rattles and bangs in that old building mean I'd have trouble finding a banshee. Any low voices will be drowned out by howls, whistles, creaking and banging doors and rattling windows and all of it is easily discounted as being down to the wind. I wouldn't be able to prove a thing against that level of background interference.

Things are starting to liven up in the news though. There's another UFO report, although it's one of those 'black triangle' ones. They always make me think of those stealth fighters which, oddly enough, appeared a few years after the first black triangle UFOs. If the military were testing a new secret plane, they would test it at night and they certainly wouldn't admit it was anything to do with them if someone spotted it. So I am very sceptical of black triangles.

The saucer ones are more interesting. I knew that the German air force was interested in that form of flying machine during the Second World War. I was aware they had drawn up plans but I didn't know they had actually built fifteen prototypes. Unfortunately the article doesn't say whether any of them flew. The moon base is part of the movie being advertised. That's fiction. The German attempts to build such a machine were real.

There's one big flaw in the design. If the outer rim rotates at high speed, I don't see how they could stop the inner part rotating in the opposite direction once it left the ground. Helicopters get around this by having a small rotor on the tail to keep the body steady, but these discs don't seem to have a tail. Another way would be to have two sets of blades rotating in opposite directions. Again, there doesn't seem to be room for this in the designs.

Is it even possible to make a circular flying craft? It seems it certainly is. At least at the model scale. I don't know how well those designs would scale up. It is, however, possible.

What's special about this shape of craft is its maneuverability. Like a helicopter, it doesn't have to travel in any particular direction. It can hover or even fly backwards. It can change direction at speed without having to bank or turn. It would be faster than a helicopter at all these things because it is, in effect, just the blade part. There is no heavy passenger cabin hanging below the propulsion unit, the whole thing is the propulsion unit. One thing stops them being spaceships - they can only work in an atmosphere. Rotating propellors get you nowhere in space.

If I was involved in a secret military project to get one of these things working (I'm not and never have been) then how can such a thing be kept secret? Simple denial won't work for long. They'd have to be test-flown and sooner or later, someone will see them. Once in a while there's likely to be a crash.

If, however, a couple of pilots were to dress up as aliens now and then, land in a field where they'd be seen, and start a rumour that the ships were from another planet, then the entire project remains secret as long as everyone who takes an interest is looking the other way.

It's still possible that these UFOs are coming from another world, of course, but there is also the possibility that those 1940's plans weren't discarded when they were captured. They might be from another world. Or they might be from this one.

Perhaps even a mixture of both.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Nature laughs at us.

This is a Venus flytrap. It's just a little plant. The leaves are able to close over insects if two of the four internal triggers are tripped and if it gets one, that leaf seals closed and acts as a stomach. The insect is digested.

I know, I shouldn't use flash facing glass but it was the only way. This little plant has been in my greenhouse all year as a natural pest control but now it's cold, it's inside.

The insect-catching part is pretty clever for a plant that lives in nutrient-poor swampland but it's not the cleverest part. It does something much cleverer.

The flower stalk appeared many weeks ago. Since I have seen 'The little shop of horrors' I thought, if that thing says hello, it'll be meeting the secateurs. It didn't. It produced a very long stalk with flowers at the top and as soon as the flowers opened, it stopped producing insect-catching leaves.

This plant, like most plants, needs insects to carry pollen from one flower to another. It also needs insects for nutrients because its natural habitat has so few. So, in a remarkably clever way, it puts its flowers well out of reach of its insect-catching leaves and also reduces its rate of production of those leaves. Now that it's nearly finished flowering it's throwing out the flycatchers again.

That's thinking ahead. By a plant.

Oh sure, we can say that it's just evolutionary response, but that means we have to reduce human 'thinking ahead' to evolutionary response too. Which will we have? Religion puts us above nature, atheism makes us part of nature but above mere animals and plants but that is not logical.

Plants have been here a hell of a lot longer than humans, by the Dawkins Directive, therefore we cannot claim to be evolutionarily superior to plants. Or even bacteria. Intelligent human life has, by geological timescale, only just popped up. So have plants, reptiles and birds stayed stupid all that time?

One thing or the other is all I'm asking. Are we part of nature or not?

I'd say we are but we are not a big part. Not as big as we imagine, not by a long way. We see ourselves as masters of the universe.

Nature sees us as monkeys with shiny toys.

We are part of nature, we are not and never have been its masters. Even if you take the religion standpoint of Adam and Eve, we are not in charge. We are merely gardeners.

We don't even have the observational skills of a pigeon...

So let's keep our arrogance in check. We are a fairly impressive species for the current epoch, but if we had been around in T. rex's day we'd have been a food crop. We make estimates of the universe based on local observations, we declare scientific rules that might or might not apply beyond the small places we have measured and we insist that we are in some way important.

Yet, if the Climatologists are to be believed, a degree or two of warming will kill us all even though here in Scotland the difference between summer and winter can far exceed 40 C. It has been wider. Scotland is not depopulated. The country is not brought to its knees by climate change (aka seasonal variation). And I can assure you, it's not warm here.

We were part of nature but we are becoming a joke. Scared of a bit of frost or of the sun that keeps us alive. Frightened of 0.5 C temperature change when nobody lives anywhere that doesn't vary by ten times that amount within 24 hours.

Nature is not out to get us. Nature is just laughing.

Nature - and this is the hard part to get - genuinely doesn't care.

Nature is busy with new stuff. We are old stuff.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Lab ghosts and copyright theft.

The lab ghost remains camera shy and uncommunicative. I've taken to leaving video cameras running overnight, so we'll see if that catches him out. His most active areas are in parts of the building I can't access at night but now that the clocks have gone back and the winter approaches, it will soon be dark enough within normal working hours.

The new boss of that part of the building scoffs at the idea of ghosts but I noticed that on the Monday following the end of summer time, she was out of there along with the rest of the staff at 5pm, when darkness fell. Usually there are a few hanging around until after 6 pm. So maybe he's been busy spooking the new girl.

It's getting darker and colder and according to the long-standing residents, that's when the ghost gets most active. That's most likely to be because in the summer, it doesn't get dark until well after everyone has gone home and it's full daylight again before they come back in the morning. It's not so much that he's more active, it's more that there are still people there when it's dark. If he has more to play with, it's going to make him harder to catch but then I'll stay later than the rest will so if he wants someone to spook, I'll be the only one available.

Anyway, in the absence of anything to report, I did a little browsing and came across an interesting tale of Internet retribution.

This writer claims that a magazine lifted an article she wrote and republished it without telling her. When she complained, the magazine claimed that 'everything on the internet was public domain' so there was no copyright issue (they are very, very wrong) and that the writer should thank them for editing the work they stole before publishing it.

Well, the magazine has a Facebook page which is now likely to collapse under the weight of comments. In fact they seem to have two, although one might be a spoof. The magazine is unrepentant and if they keep up that attitude, I don't expect them to last very long.

Every word on the Internet is copyrighted, in the same way that every word on paper or chiselled into stone is copyrighted. Whoever tapped the keys that put those words into the machine - that's the copyright holder. It doesn't have to be registered anywhere and it doesn't need to have that little 'c in a circle' symbol attached.

Some things matter more than others. I'm not going to engage a lawyer if someone takes stuff from this blog. It's just ramblings, it costs nothing and earns nothing and I have no intention of making it into a book. The photos I occasionally post are not as good as the originals because I have to reduce their size to make them fit here. I would like to see anything copied from here credited back to me (as I would credit anything I find back to its source) but it's just not important enough to chase.

Articles and the like are not blog posts. They take much more thought and effort than the stream-of-consciousness babble that appears here. They involve work and taking someone else's work to sell for profit is theft. Even if the thief leaves the owner's name on it. It's no different to selling a stolen jacket with someone else's name tag inside - sure, their name is on it but the thief is getting the profit from that stolen property.

I don't think those running that magazine have appreciated how copyright on the Internet works. They took someone's article and published it without contacting the author at all. They then used that article in a magazine which makes them money. The author received no payment of any kind and only patronising condescension when she complained. That was a very bad idea.

In real life, if you act like a dick, only a few people are likely to see it or hear about it. As long as you stop, it's soon forgotten.

On the internet, it's global. The whole world sees, and it's immediate. Computers all over the world record and cache your idiotic behaviour and Internet users can message each other in seconds on things like Twitter or those instant message-link things like MSN that I've never managed to cope with. Within hours, it's everywhere, and it will leak into the real world through Emails and iPhones and Blackberries soon after that.

Yet the magazine in question still refuses to issue a simple apology and a small donation to an organisation - which is all the original author wants. Huge compensation lawsuits have been built on less than this. Sooner or later, an unscrupulous lawyer will find this author, note that it's an open-and-shut case backed up by the snide response of the magazine, and persuade that author that he can get her enough compensation to retire. He probably can, too, and he'll leave the entire staff of that magazine in the poorhouse when he's done.

We call such lawyers 'ambulance chasers' because they are on the lookout for easy cases where someone has been wronged and someone else is clearly and definitely to blame. Everything on the internet has a date stamp. Proving which copy was first is no problem. Compounding this, the magazine have admitted by Email that they care not a jot for copyright and that they did, indeed, lift the entire article without attempting to contact the author.

Someone once copied 'Ghosthunting for the Sensible Investigator' by taking a download, printing it and selling the copies on eBay. I would never have known, had a kindly commenter not spotted it and pointed it out. I didn't sue, the book is hardly an important (or even noticeable) source of income, but I did write to eBay and the plagiarist vanished. It wasn't about the money because the book doesn't make enough in a year for half a bottle of Christmas whisky, it was the principle. It was theft.

Don't rush to buy that version. I'm working on a much longer and more detailed version. It'll take a while.

When you copy a computer file, the original file remains intact. This is the justification for 'it's not really stealing' because nothing physical has gone missing. However, the principle of theft still applies. It's still taking something without the owner's permission. Something they created through their own efforts and are entitled to profit from, should they so choose. Even if they don't intend to profit from it, that does not justify someone else taking it and profiting from it.

The magazine has admitted taking the writer's article and using it in their for-profit publication. That news is now on the Internet, and it should come as no surprise to find that the Internet is stuffed full of people who write or create art and who don't want their work stolen. Logically, then, you can expect the internet to react to the identification of such a thief in their midst in much the same way as cows with calves will react to the presence of a dog. By stamping on it until the bloodied pulp presents no further threat. They will not stop until the threat is extinguished.

It might have been a good magazine. I doubt I'll ever get the chance to read it now.

Update: Looks like this cookery magazine is toast.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Teeth grinding time.

With the onset of dark evenings, the lab ghost is active again. I have been staying there very late and have been so frustrated that if the swine wasn't already dead I'd strangle him.

Tonight, another renter-of-labs (he works on solar power installations. In Scotland!) left at around 7 pm and said, on his way out, 'Watch out for the ghost'. He doesn't know why I'm there so late, so often. There are only so many 'crank' jibes you can stand to hear so it's best just to leave them in ignorance.

The ghost is well known among the occupants of the building. In winter it can be dark at 3 pm so it's not only the late-stayers who get to meet him. Long-term residents have called him 'Fred' but he doesn't interact so his real name isn't known.

The history - 'Fred' has scared many over the years but he's not doing anything scary. Lone workers late at night hear footsteps and voices. 'Fred' likes to slam doors that have been left open. He seems a bit obsessive about closing doors to unused rooms - as anyone who lived before central heating would be. Sometimes he's seen but never clearly enough for a description. He never pops out and goes 'boo', he rarely moves anything and never throws anything, he ducks out of sight if spotted and generally appears to be shy. He has shown no sign of being dangerous at all.

The lab block is built on the site of an old watermill that goes back centuries. There are no records of deaths in the lab block and so far, I can't find anything at all on the watermill. Part of the old building still exists but most is now modern. 'Fred's' range extends beyond the old watermill part so it's possible he was a farm worker in the fields surrounding the mill, or died in a house or farm building that was once here. I don't know yet.

Everyone in this place is aware of 'Fred'. Everyone. He is not restricted to psychics and mediums. He can get close to a full apparition. The swine will not speak to me and disappears as soon as he sees a camera. I know he can speak and I know he's not alone because there are conversations. Get the recorder out and they shut up.

There is no reason to be scared of 'Fred'. He has never done anything threatening. His range extends outside too, I've seen him out there, but he will not let me photograph him. He is not a 'recording' because he doesn't repeat actions, he is aware of the living, and he can interact. He just won't.

Catching him on film is going to be difficult. He's very good at avoiding cameras.

This is possibly the most challenging one yet.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Better Not-green than Dead.

Americans will remember the McCarthyite 'Better Dead than Red' slogan of the past, unless your history has been eradicated or politically modified just like ours. I have taken liberties with it which is the opposite of what any politician likes. After all, if we all started looking after ourselves, those poor useless politicians would all have to find real jobs and they just aren't suited to that.

There have been interesting developments in recent days. Smokers are to be punished. Fat people are to be punished. Now, if you don't worship the Green God of the Church of Climatology, you are to be pureed.

This is not for the faint of heart. It comes from people who call other people 'violent'. Keep that in mind while you watch the casual murder of those who disagree with the Green God's acolytes.

Nasty, eh?

Inspired by this Green polemic, I think I'll burn down a forest, ignite a gas field and hard-wire all the street lamps to permanently 'on'. If I was ever asked to describe the absolute worst way to persuade people to any cause, this video would cover it.

This comes on the same day that we learn the British scientific establishment has taken the first step to admitting Global Warming was all a con trick.

Those Green Men had better press their red button quickly because the sensible people are building a green one.

I'll press it.

Updated Oct 3rd:

The video vanished within hours and the YouTube version was made private. However, the Internet is an unforgiving place and YouTube now has an evil twin where nothing is censored or hidden.

So the video is still available, and the first 'adapted' versions are already appearing - there's one here.

Making blunders on the Internet is never a good idea.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The herb wintergreen contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient of aspirin. For many years we have been told that half an aspirin a day wards off heart attacks. Wintergreen is never mentioned.

Now we are told that a quarter of an aspirin a day can ward off bowel cancer. Still no mention of wintergreen.

There is no need to add to the profits of the pharmaceutical companies and risk the effects of additives in the pills.

Just plant some wintergreen.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The pub ghost?

Many pubs claim ghosts, certainly in the UK. We like pubs so it's not surprising that so many choose to spend eternity in one. Many Brits spend most of their lives in one anyway. Well, until smoking was banned in pubs, and now they are dying at an alarming rate because most of their clientele were smokers - but that's a different story.

There was a video on this story but it's been removed due to a copyright claim. The story might vanish as a result because it's nothing without the video.

The video is available in the local paper's website or by clicking on the 'video' link here. I'm not sure if this will work outside the UK because it's not a national newspaper.

Much as I would love to believe this is a ghost, and even though it looks to be the right size and fits with the seating arrangements in the pub and looks very convincing, unfortunately I can't escape the feeling that it's a small fly on the lens. I see it flexing its wings and then scurrying out of shot. I am not convinced.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Sensible investigations.

Something Southern Writer pointed out to me, and which is deserving of further propagation, is the story of an amateur ghosthunter who was looking for a ghost train but was hit by a real one. The story was picked up by the UK press too, here.

Looking at the picture of that bridge, it is not a good place to be. There is no room to stand back and let a train pass by, the only options are run or jump when a train comes. So being on the bridge is not sensible.

It's also not a good place to try for a photo. Better to be at the end of the bridge, safely clear of the tracks, with the camera covering as much of the bridge as possible. Trying to take a photo, even of a real train, at the trackside at night will get no more than a blur. Trying to convince anyone that it's a photo of a ghost train will just invite derision. Stay clear of the tracks. It won't help your case if you are pureed by a few hundred tons of steel. It'll probably hurt a lot too.

So, be sensible. You're going out in the dark, sometimes the pitch dark. Check it out by day first. Is there a safe place to duck into to avoid live hazards? Are there holes you could break a leg in? Are there trip hazards? Could you describe to the emergency services exactly where you are and how to get there, should the need arise? Is your phone fully charged? If it's pay-as-you-go, as mine is, is there credit on it? Can you get reception in that area - and if not, have you told anyone where you'll be and when to expect you back? Check everythng in daylight first. Sometimes you'll even find a logical explanation for the phenomenon, such as (perhaps) a distant reflective sign, that will help explain an alleged haunting. That will save you spending the entire night in the cold and dark.

I have no problem with amateur ghosthunters, they have time to look at things I don't have time or funding to investigate. As with amateur astronomers, they will likely produce a lot of very useful information.

However, the collected information is no use if you die before telling anyone about it. So the first priority has to be - get out of the investigation intact.

Remember, we are trying to prove the existence of ghosts. We are not supposed to be in a hurry to join them.

That day will come, soon enough. When it does, there will be a host of people who won't believe we even exist.

And those we prove ourselves to will be of no use if they are a streak of red paste on a railway line.

First rule of investigation: make sure you can get out of it alive.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lemon Tree Rider.

The language in some of the videos of this event is somewhat intemperate. I'm sure the light is genuine because there are multiple observations by different people. I'm just not sure it's a ghost.

First, an apology for vanishing for so long (to anyone who gives a damn). Life has been hectic this year and weather has been dreadful so I've had nothing at all to report. It rained every day through most of June, all of July and up until a few days ago. Not good ghosthunting weather at all.

Now, the story. This is an Australian alleged haunting, which is supposed to be the ghost of a motorcyclist killed on a road called Lemon Tree Passage. Rumour has it that the ghost follows speeding drivers to persuade them to slow down and appears, Candyman-style, if you hit 111 miles per hour.

Now, the idea that seeing a ghost behind you would cause you to slow down must sound strange to most people. I'd stop because I'm actively trying to find and record them but I know most people's reaction would be to push their car to warp speed.

The magical 111 miles per hour seems unlikely too, unless the ghost is set up along the road with a police-style speed camera. Indeed, some commentators claim the light appears when they drive at much lower speeds but always well over the speed limit. The other aspect is that the driver must have just passed their driving test within the last year.

It sounds to me more like a rite-of-passage challenge than a haunting. Even so, there is the light to consider, which has been filmed multiple times and resembles the single headlight of a motorcycle following the car.

It might really be there. It might even be a ghost. Or it might be a live motorcyclist driving along behind, with no idea that the car in front thinks he is in any way supernatural.

Another possibility is in the camera. The images are total darkness apart from occasional glimpses of bits of passing foliage and in once case, what might be a street lamp or a passing plane. In those conditions, the camera might well be set to 'night-shot' or equivalent.

Many cameras now sport one or two infrared LED's for their night-shot capability. Digital cameras see infrared and show it on screen as white or as shades of grey. It is possible that what many of those films show is a reflection of the camera's own infrared LED in the back window of the car.

Of course, that might not be the case at all. It might still be a real ghostly night rider following these speeding youths, but I have to consider all alternatives. In any case, it would be sensible to debunk this ghost whether it's real or not, to stop the lunacy of inexperienced drivers driving at 111 miles an hour in total darkness. They have some large wild animals in Australia and animals don't always check for traffic before crossing the road.

Australia is on the other side of the planet so I'm not going to pop over and see for myself. It would be interesting to see whether any local ghosthunters take up the challenge (with a professional driver) and ideally with a roof-mounted rear-facing camera to avoid reflections from the rear window.

If that could be done, and they still saw a light. and it didn't pass them when they slowed down, I'd be very interested indeed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ships and disaster.

After the World Trade Centre was destroyed by terrorists (I don't believe that 'inside job' conspiracy), a ship was made out of the steel that was recovered. The USS New York is a battleship, which seems appropriate.

What is really spooky about this is that while the excavations are underway for new building at the site of the World Trade Centre, they uncovered the remains of... a ship. Part of a ship, anyway, from the 1700's and most probably used as landfill to extend Manhattan's land area.

So the building that became a ship was always standing on top of a ship. Funny how things tend to go in circles, isn't it?

The one worry in all this is that if they are digging foundations in a place where a very tall building stood and they've found something they haven't seen before... were the previous foundations really deep enough?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Film watching, and fun with mirrors.

Chaos still rules the weather here. Thursday night was a monsoon, Friday was tropical heat, and today (Sunday) we had hail. If there were any Americans here who fancied a 4th July firework celebration, the hail was powerful enough to knock those rockets back down. Nobody has anything to investigate, none of those outdoor venues are safe to visit while the weather remains unpredictable, so I have to find other things to do.

I finally managed to see a film Southern Writer recommended a long time ago - 'Paranormal Activity'. It was a very entertaining film with pretty accurate background information. Within the 'artistic licence' range of accuracy, naturally.

Some points - if you have a haunting, ouija boards almost always make things worse. You might think it's a good idea to play with a ghost but you know, they might have games in mind that you don't want to play. Once you have invited them to play with you, you lose the choice of when the game ends. You hand over control to the spirit and that is never a good idea.

Why do you think those old magicians designed all those elaborate and time-consuming diagrams? It's because what they were calling was dangerous and had to be contained. If you were taking delivery of a wild-caught tiger, you'd be sure to have a strong cage in place first, right? Playing with an ouija board is like taking delivery of that tiger, giving it the run of the house and thinking 'It just wants to play'. It does, it wants to play cat-and-mouse. You get to be the mouse.

The paranormal investigator who opted out of the job was right to do so. This particular job was out of his skill set. If someone wanted an exorcism, I wouldn't do it. I don't have that skill and if I tried, I'd make matters worse. Rather than sedating and removing the tiger from your house, all I'd achieve would be like poking it with a stick until it was really angry. The spirit world is not a TV channel. It's not there for entertainment and if you turn it on, you can't turn it off. I think the film makes that part clear.

A very entertaining film, with pretty accurate background. Don't have any drinks in your hand for the last fifteen minutes or so.

Anyway, with nothing to do, I decided to wander with my camera on Friday. A blue-sky day, rare in these parts lately, and the heavy rain the night before had washed everything clean. In particular, it had washed a certain mirror clean.

On some roads with blind corners, there are convex mirrors so you can see whether anything is coming around the corner. These give a distorted view but all you need to know is whether anything is moving, so they do the job they're supposed to do. Unless they are dirty or coated with condensation.

This one was the cleanest I've ever seen it. I trimmed the photo down to just the mirror and its black backboard.

I've never owned a fisheye lens. These mirrors provide a decent approximation of the effect.

Pity they are fixed in place.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Electric Smoking again.

I'm still Electrosmoking rather than real-smoking. The benefits - No ash. No ashtray. No lingering smoke. It's considerably cheaper and best of all, no cough. The only downside is that it's not quite the same as a really good cigar and sometimes I miss that. I suppose I could allow myself a real one once in a while. National No Smoking day, perhaps. I'll consider it next time.

However, Electrosmoke has no particulates, no tar, none of the nasty chemicals at all and in fact, no smoke either. It's steam with a little nicotine in it, and nicotine is just about as harmful as caffeine, ie - not. Not unless you take in massive amounts at once. None of the nasty stuff is present in Electrosmoke, and nothing is burning. The vapour is produced by a little heater and a 3.6 volt battery.

I don't consider myself an ex-smoker and I won't be calling myself a 'vaper' because I'm still a smoker. I'm still enraged at the ludicrous claims made by the antismokers (who still hate me anyway so I might as well keep the 'smoker' tag) and I am still absolutely opposed to the North Korean style of control these people want to exert over everyone.

So I'm a smoker who has moved with the times and now does it without all that messy ash and fire. It's better for night time photography too - the steam vanishes within seconds instead of hanging around on a still night and getting caught up in photos.

I'd recommend any smoker try one of these things. If you smoke cigarettes you can get a trial set here. Not everyone takes to them, some find them just too different from tobacco, but if it works for you then you can smoke without any risk at all. Sure, there have been attempts already to claim that they 'harm non-smokers' but if you believe that there is a risk in second hand steam, then there really is no hope for you and you'd be better to sell your brain to someone who can make proper use of it. Second-hand smoke is touted with no proof at all. Second hand steam?

(Those are UK company links. They sell overseas, I think, but you might get a local supplier if you run a quick search.)

No particulates and no chemicals apart from flavoured steam and nicotine. You can get any flavour you like. I don't just mean cigar/cigarette/pipe. You can get apple and strawberry and coffee and absinthe and even roast chicken flavours for a really surreal smoke. Many flavours are available.

You can also get all these flavours nicotine-free so all you get from the device is flavoured steam. Just as the non-drinker can join in the party with alcohol-free wine and the vegetarian can join in the barbecue with vegetarian sausages and burgers, the non-smoker can now have something that looks like smoking but is nicotine-free, tar-free, in fact smoke-free. Just flavoured steam.

Whenever I say that, I get 'Oh, but it will start people smoking'. Will it? Does the veggie burger make the vegetarian crave a rare steak? Does the alcohol-free wine make the non-drinker demand whisky? If there is no nicotine and no tobacco at all in there, what can they become addicted to?

There is a certain terror attached to smoking these days. All you need do is put a cigar on a table - even a fake cigar like mine - and people break out in a sweat. They seem as scared as if I had placed a bundle of dynamite there with a timer ticking down. It's because it's never been about the health. It is, and has always been, about social control.

The smoking ban caused the invention of Electrosmoking which is totally harmless. There is a risk in real smoking, that's undeniable, but it's only a risk to the smoker. Smokers can eradicate that risk by switching to Electrosmoking or they can reduce the risk by switching to part-Electrosmoking. It would be like cutting down without cutting down. It would be like an alcoholic replacing part of his daily intake with alcohol-free drinks. The risk can be reduced to negligible.

The antismoking groups don't like Electrosmoking because it looks like smoking and that is what they want to stop. Also, they get a lot of their funding from the makers of patches and gum that are useless. It's not health that drives them. It's control. Control over smokers, but more than that, control over a huge mob of antismoking zealots who will believe any old rubbish because it suits them.

Electrosmoking works for me. It won't work for everyone. It is a completely harmless form of smoking and it has been banned in several places already - not because of any real harm, but simply because it looks like smoking.

As long as the antismoking Nazis exist, I am a smoker and will remain so.

Just... a high-tech one.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The world behind the shed.

In the absence of investigations, garden repairs continue. This year's solstice was a grey washout but today there was a big yellow thing in the sky for a while. I seem to recall seeing it before...

The most terrifying part of the garden is Behind the Shed. There is room to get in there and paint both shed and fence - but not without getting covered in paint - and that space is deadly. It's where all the junk goes, all those things that might be useful but never are. They can't be seen from anywhere in the garden so there is no barrier to their buildup over time.

Therefore, Behind the Shed has been neglected for years because to paint and repair in there means clearing out the junk first.

This year, with nothing better to do, I have removed all the junk, patched and painted the shed and fence and it all looked great until I put the junk back. Well, not the stuff that had actually rotted, but the stuff that might be useful one day.

Realistically, I won't even look behind there again for at least two years.

The clouds are breaking here and hopefully it will be safe to risk staying out overnight very soon. I have done something that will guarantee it won't rain for a while. I've installed a rainwater barrel.

Investigations soon. I hope.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The human becomes inhuman.

There are fewer and fewer reports of ghosts lately. This is probably due, in large part, to the weather. A few days from Midsummer and I have plants dying of the cold, so anyone who wants to claim the world is warming had better brace themselves. I'm likely to get vociferous.

In the cold, staying out all night on the off-chance of getting a result is not an appealing prospect. Few are willing to shiver, only to find the scratching sounds they recorded were a mouse or rat, the 'voice' was just the wind and the lights were some reflective surface a mile or so away. Good results are rare and take persistence and it's hard to be persistent when you can't feel your fingers. No wonder so many take solace in those out-of-focus dust particles and mice in the walls.

There is also the matter of the economic state of the country which is such that homeless people are richer than the government. They might have nothing but at least they don't owe more money than exists. Many people are in constant fear of losing their jobs and their homes. Distracted people with heads full of worries rarely see the lamppost they are about to walk into, never mind a ghost.

Plenty of reason, then, for the general public to ignore hauntings or any attempt at communication by a spirit. This does not explain the cries of 'Photoshop!' as soon as any photo appears. No investigation, no study of the image, just shout 'Photoshop!' and the debunking is considered done. Yes, in many cases, it is Photoshop but these can be spotted. Images dating from before Photoshop are not so easily dismissed, yet the cry is the same. Even nature photos, dramatic pictures of an eagle in flight, say, are met with this cry. Why so cynical?

This might be the reason.

People don't interact with nature any more. When they ignore the normal, how can we expect them to pay any attention to the paranormal? If they don't believe a photographer who captures images of an eagle taking a bird in flight, they certainly will not believe an image of someone who's dead.

I have a mouse in my garden. I have mentioned this to people locally and they are horrified. They want me to kill it. I refuse because it's not doing me any harm. If it was in the house, chewing electrical wiring and eating holes in food packets it would be a different matter. It's not. It's in the garden, where, as far as I am concerned, it has a perfect right to be.

As do the bumble-bees who have set up home in my compost bin. I have been told I must kill them in case they sting someone. They won't sting anyone unless they are threatened. Bumble-bees are not vicious, not like wasps (who are top of the kill list, even above slugs). I have fruit trees. Bumble-bees are welcome. I can tolerate not using the compost bin for a year. Bumble-bees only live one year, then they produce queens and males who leave and mate. The males die, the queens hibernate and all of the original colony dies. So I'll get my compost bin back at the end of the year and in the meantime, my plum and apple trees are already showing the beginnings of fruit.

Against a six-foot fence stands some bamboo. This has surprised me by surviving several winters including this last one, which seems to have not quite left yet. I pulled it back to paint the fence but let go quickly. On top of the fence post, behind the bamboo, is a blackbirds' nest. They've probably finished with it already but I'll leave it there for now, just in case. It'll be the cheeky blackbird who has often faced me down (and lost) for ownership of the garden. He's almost a pet, that one. I've noticed a couple of young ones about lately, along with young sparrows by the dozen and a load of tiny bluetits who seem to fly like hummingbirds. There are regular visits from a robin, some wrens, three wood-pigeons, starlings and a host of others.

I haven't seen a heron this year but that'll be because I filled in the dead pond. Not that they ever managed to get any fish after the first time. I installed a net. I have nothing against herons but there are two rivers nearby. They can fish there.

I wonder how many could even name these birds now? How many would eat apples from a tree? How many recognise any kind of fruit if it's hanging from a branch? I know of several local public paths where blackberries and raspberries grow wild. Nobody seems to touch them. That's fine by me, I can get a few pounds of free fruit every year.

There was a time when you had to compete. You had to watch the wild fruit until it ripened, knowing others were watching too, then it was a race to get it. You also had to pick out the insect grubs before consumption even though it didn't really matter too much because they aren't poisonous. We don't have many dangerous animals in the UK as long as you know what you're picking up.

These days, hardly anyone bothers. I've seen such fruit rotted on the plant. I've seen woodland floors strewn with hazelnuts and crabapples. What I never see any more, as the author of that article says, are children turning over logs to find lizards or picking hazelnuts or setting up a makeshift camp or building a mud dam across a stream or even climbing trees. Health and Safety forbids it all. As children, we would not have listened.

Modern children would probably not listen either but their parents are brainwashed into believing that there's a paedophile on every street corner and that anything not cellophane-wrapped is deadly. Children in this country are developing rickets - rickets! - because they are not getting outside any more. They are becoming obese and every official idiot is demanding something be done but in the old days, when we ignored the official idiots, children weren't fat. Well, a few were, but genetics could account for that. Most of us were active and fairly slim.

We ate gooseberries and blackcurrants off the bush. We climbed for crabapples and nuts. We came home covered in mud with jars of lizards or tadpoles to keep as pets. My father once set up an old tin bath in the backyard, filled it with water and stones and we watched the tadpoles grow into frogs. I once came home with a toad who lived in our back garden for a while and kept the slugs under control. There's a hedgehog who patrols my garden now and performs much the same purpose. You don't have to control nature. You just have to let it control itself. It's been doing the job for a very long time and it doesn't need our help.

In the modern world, if it hasn't been sanitised by a supermarket, people won't eat it. They want it on a plastic tray or they don't believe it's food. It also has to be guaranteed to be free of any of those 'dangerous' bacteria that are easily killed by proper cooking because they are too lazy for proper cooking.

People have disconnected from the natural world. They don't even believe in the natural so how will they cope with the supernatural? There's only one way to cope - to dismiss it entirely. If they insist that a photo of an eagle catching its prey is Photoshopped, then how can they possibly accept what cannot be so readily seen?

When people lived on the land and were among nature every day, the paranormal was accepted as normal. Now people live in concrete and plastic and the paranormal is an entertainment show on late-night TV, with some pretend psychics and pretend hauntings to tittilate the masses.

Who is right? Those who were in tune with the real world, or those who aren't?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The dead ghosts.

I haven't been online for a while because there hasn't been much to say. The sky is slate grey from horizon to horizon and featureless. Rain is spontaneous and unpredictable so investigation is pointless.

Instead I've been wondering about things. There are six billion people on the planet now. There are an awful lot of dead ones stretching back over the ages. Where are all the ghosts? We should see at least a dozen each by now.

Another thing I wonder is when did it start? Are there Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal ghosts? I haven't heard of any. Australopithecene hauntings are unheard of. At some point, we either changed from an animal to another type of creature or the religious are right.

Sceptics are guffawing already but last week's New Scientist insists that we are not as other animals. We are not only aware, we are aware of being aware. If we are special, then the question must be 'why?' If we are not special, then why does science regard humanity as better than dogs? If we can have a lucid dream then why cannot a cat or a pig or a duck-billed platypus? Is it because we are much more spiritual than other animals? Why? If the word 'spiritual' gets the sceptic muscles twitching, then what word would you prefer? Either we are just another mammal or we are not. Which do you want? One or the other. You can't have both and switch between them depending on the situation.

Either we contain a soul or spirit, call it what you want, that carries on existing after we die, or we don't. The evidence I have seen but cannot irrefutably prove suggests we do but then why are they not all still here? Where are they?

Most religions say that there is a heaven and/or hell where spirits go. Catholics have made up levels of hell and a new place called Limbo that isn't in any religious text, but then Catholics do tend to get carried away with this sort of thing. Those spirits who are lost remain here. I have no evidence at all for a heaven or hell but then the ghosts I've seen won't have been to either of them - because none come back. So I can't discount that.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that there are no ghosts, only demonic spirits who can pretend to be human ghosts. One I know locally, who is a self-employed painter (canvas painting, not decorator painting) will not paint any subject that includes a graveyard. It might provoke the nasties he believes hang around there. That's possible. Faced with something ethereal and human-looking, could any of us tell for certain whether it was Granny or a demon pretending to be Granny? I think the JW's are wrong on this. My grandmother called to me at the moment she died and I was hundreds of miles away. That's my feeling on the subject but I cannot absolutely rule out the possibility of an impersonating demon. I just don't see what the demon would have gained in that action.

Three more possibilities are floating around. One is that the spirit, separated from the body, has a finite lifespan. This can depend on available energy to support that spirit. It would explain why rural areas are largely ghostless. If the spirits have no energy source they will not be able to sustain any sort of manifestation and might eventually fade out of existence altogether.

The second concerns travel. Are ghosts bound to Earth? If I had the ability to visit Jupiter or Saturn, without being crushed by their atmospheres, I'd do it. Who wouldn't? If, as a spirit, we could wander the universe, why would we stay here? If ghosts are not bound by a planet then they could be off wandering and sightseeing.

Finally, what if there is a spirit predator? Every natural system we know about has predators. Could there be some kind of unknown creature that lives on ghost energy? Are those ghosts being eaten? It would explain why there are so few very old ghosts around. Roman ghosts, for example, tend to be of the 'recording' variety rather than the actual spirit.

All speculation, but being effectively house-bound can do that. There's a local ruined church I've been itching to look at but with no roof and random rain, it's out of the question for now.

Any more possibilities? Somewhere there are a lot of missing ghosts.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

More dubious science.

It looks as if science has just given up these days. Instead of reason and logic, many now seem to be depending on 'This is how it is because we say so, just shut up and do as you are told'.

Those 'units per week' limits on alcohol consumption weren't the result of any research at all. They were made-up numbers. That 'five-a-day' rule for fruit and vegetables was made-up too. No research behind it at all. Second hand smoke has not a shred of evidence behind it. Third hand smoke is risible. Global warming is not actually happening - the whole thing is based on a short period of warming that ended a decade ago, and since then the planet has been cooling. It has been much hotter in the past according to those ice-core samples and life wasn't erased.

Even in the 'debunkers' camp, those who spend a lot of time trying to disprove every aspect of the paranormal, they're just not trying any more.

A group calling themselves scientists claim to have proved that those out-of-body experiences reported by people close to death are just sparks in a dying brain. Yet when you look at the report, they have proved no such thing.

What they did was to run brain scans on dying patients. A perfectly logical and sensible way to look for an explanation of near-death experiences. What they saw was a burst of furious brain activity in the unconscious patient, followed shortly by death.

None of the patients came back after that burst of activity so there are no reported visions or experiences to link to it. Furthermore, they describe the activity like so:

'We think the near-death experiences could be caused by a surge of electrical energy released as the brain runs out of oxygen,' Dr Chawla told The Times.

'As blood flow slows down and oxygen levels fall, the brain cells fire one last electrical impulse. It starts in one part of the brain and spreads in a cascade and this may give people vivid mental sensations.'

That does not sound like brain activity leading to coherent and remembered images. It sounds like the sort of random cascade that happens in cases of epilepsy.

They found a random cascade of last-burst activity in a dying brain. A final firing of neurons that have done their job and are shutting down forever. Not a series of logical and coherent pathways firing, just a last blast of random noise. None of the patients survived so there were no reported visions to link with this random noise.

From that, they conclude that they have explained the phenomenon known as near-death experience.

This is not science. This is starting with a conclusion and forcing a tenuous link from the data to pretend you've proved that conclusion. There is an awful lot of this about these days and it's time the higher echelons of science took these ludicrous experiments to task. Science seems to me to be in a seriously bad way nowadays. It's losing credibility at an alarming rate - and I say that as a scientist working on the paranormal, a field of study these same scientists deride as 'woo'.

It's not much fun battling sceptics and debunkers if they're not even going to try for the slightest shred of credibility. When nobody challenges the science, when those who do challenge it are simply labelled with whatever label they now apply to heretics and then ignored, then science is not science. Paranormal investigators are challenged on every detail and that is how it should be. It makes us take more precautions to rule out errors, and it makes us cautious in interpreting results. All branches of science must be subject to that scrutiny or there'll be more and more rubbish spouted by people who should know better.

If this slide into pretend science continues, the paranormal could well end up as the only credible branch left.

I don't think I'd like being mainstream.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An odd sort of thing.

It probably means nothing but the current weather (warm with occasional and unpredictable monsoons) leaves me with time to brood on little things.

In the UK, if you use a mobile (cell) phone to send a text message, but send it to a landline phone, there's no screen on the landline phone so the message can't be displayed. Instead, you get an automated call and a recorded voice reads out the number of the phone that sent the message, then reads the message.

I had one such call today. I have no idea who owns the phone it came from, the number is nowhere in my list of contacts. The message was short and enigmatic.

"Jim passed away this morning."

Now, I know several people called Jim, scattered around the country. There are even some overseas. One in particular is an uncle who is old and hasn't been well for some time. So what do I do? Phone back the number and say 'Who are you, and which Jim do you mean?' I have a reputation for being allegedly insensitive but that's a bit much even for me.

The alternative would be to phone every Jim I know with the following short exchange:

Jim: Hello?

Me: Oh, you're not dead then.


The one who doesn't answer gets a card. I could call it 'Funeral Roulette' but that would get me further accusations of insensitivity, I suspect.

Then again, it could have been a wrong number. Probably safest to do nothing and wait until someone doesn't turn up somewhere.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is it or isn't it?

This the the 'Wem Ghost', photographed in 1995 by Tony O'Rahilly while photographing the town hall as it burned in a fire. Apparently it was a real-film rather than a digital photo and while it could be faked using real film, it's very hard to do that without it being spotted. Digital fakery is easy, but apparently this image wasn't digital.

Now, someone claims to have debunked this photo. Brian Lear claims the girl's image appears in a 1922 postcard - the girl at the left of the picture.

Unfortunately these are the only images I have, the ones from the newspaper article I've linked to. I can't enlarge the postcard to see if it's the same girl so I'll take it on trust that the two girls look very similar. They certainly seem to be wearing the same clothes.

I'm not convinced that this is a debunking. I'm not convinced by the original photo either because I'm not aware of any checks made on the negatives. Even so, all I really see here is that the Wem Ghost was dressed in 1920's style and looks like - indeed might have been - the same girl from the Wem postcard printed some 75 years earlier.

There was speculation that the Wem ghost was Jane Churm, who accidentally set fire to an older town hall in the town in 1677. The correlation in dress between the 1920's postcard and the ghost photo suggests it wasn't - but it still does not prove that the ghost photo was faked.

It is possible that the ghost photo contains the image of that girl from the 1920's postcard. She was resident in the same town and we have no record of when she died. It might have been the day after the postcard photo was taken and she might have been haunting the town since then. So the Wem Ghost might indeed be that girl from the postcard.

Or it could have been faked by transposing the postcard image onto the burning town hall. I don't think her stance is the same in the ghost photo as in the postcard but I'd need better images of both to be sure. I also don't think a 1920's postcard photo would reproduce well enough to produce the ghost image. There should be visible grain in the image, and it would be different between the image of the girl (taken with 1920's film) and the image of the fire (taken with 1995 film).

Any competent photo technician could spot that. Hell, with images from 1920 film and 1995 film, anyone with a hand lens should be able to see it.

I'll look out for better quality images on the Internet. The Wem ghost photo won't be hard to find, but the postcard might be.

I'm not saying the ghost photo is real, but I don't believe this debunking is credible. The ghost photo, for me, stays in the 'not disproven' category.

UPDATE - The Shropshire Star is where this story originated. They have an enlarged image of the girl in the postcard and she does look very, very similar to the one in the ghost photo. Even down to the shadow across her face.

The case for 'fake' is very strong indeed for this one.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Something happened while I was asleep.

I feel as if I'm coming out of hibernation. For months, it has been freezing here. Far longer and far colder than usual. Only now is it warming up out there. Then we had the Government election that nobody won, and the lunacy that followed (and still follows) it. The paranormal seems to have been brushed aside - nobody has time any more.

Then again, nobody has much time for anything any more. Or anyone. People seem so tense, so rushed, so angry all the time. It does indeed sound like what Tom Sheepandgoats would call the 'end times'. Everyone is angry all the time and nobody seems to know what they are angry about.

There has been a proliferation of amateur psychological tricksters. Have you noticed, in a supermarket queue, the person behind taking small steps forward? It's an intimidation technique designed to make you hurry up. It works if you don't know about it. If you do know about it and are annoyed by it, the response is called 'precision packing' where every item must be tested in various orientations before placing it in the bag, and on no account must you be anywhere near ready to pay when the last item has come through.

By the time you put your credit card in the reader slot, they will be at your shoulder. That's when I turn around, look them in the eye and say, loudly;

"Would it be easier if I just told you the number, so you won't have to watch me type it in?"

You want to play psychological games? I like such games. Once they have withdrawn, red-faced, and I have paid and left, they still have to go through that same checkout, with the same checkout operator, the same customer waiting behind them, the same staff and customers on adjacent tills...

A small woman once decided I was in her way in the shop so she accelerated her trolley at me and looked sideways. I was supposed to panic and move aside. I stared straight at her. She lost. Cars, when overtaking, like to swerve in to assert their dominance. I have a rusty wreck so a few more dents won't trouble me so I swerve right back at them. It accelerates surprisingly fast too. I have followed people who tailgate, overtake with an inch clearance and then cut-in too tight for tens of miles. I have seen them slow to let me pass and speed up to lose me and I have stayed there, grinning in their mirrors, with no intention of doing anything more than scaring the living daylights out of them.

Psychological games are the only ones worth playing. Play them with me if you want, I like those games.

There's something deeper going on. People didn't used to cross the road without bothering to look. People didn't used to barge each other out of the way. People didn't used to try every trick to intimidate everyone they met. Cars didn't used to race at you if you were turning a junction well ahead of them. I'm not talking about twenty years ago. The difference is noticeable between this year and last. The world (at least, the UK) has become childish and pathetic. Everyone is out for themselves and cares not a fig for those around them. Okay, it means I get more justification for using voice-tone tricks and the Glare but really, those are for particularly objectionable people and troublesome students. Now, it seems everyone is asking for it.

What happened out there while I was homebound by ice? Did you all go mad or something?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The temperature has dropped below freezing and it's snow and hail here. There might be a reason for that.

The UK has just elected a new government, with a massive public voting declaration of 'don't care'. Nobody won it. There has been a lot of behind-the-scenes horsetrading in the last few days and now we will have a weak Conservative government propped up by Liberal Democrats until the whole lot collapses and we'll have to vote again. It shouldn't take long.

In this election, for the first time, a Green MP won a seat. Since then, the weather has returned to winter.

Last October our government met to discuss global warming and how much tax they could squeeze out of us for it. It snowed. The first time we'd seen snow in October for a very long time.

Then there was the Copenhagen meeting where lots of governments discussed global warming and how much tax they could squeeze out of us for it. We had the coldest and longest winter in memory and Washington looked like a scene from a natural-disaster movie. Around here, gardens that had been established for decades have been ruined by one single winter.

The tax issue mystifies me. How does taking more money from us solve anything? Are they going to bribe the planet to stay cool?

Every time the people of this planet get worked up about global warming, the temperature drops. I wonder if it's connected to Jung's 'collective unconscious' with perhaps some form of telekinesis thrown in. When so many people are trying to wish-away global warming, are they producing a cooling effect?

If so, it's a bad thing because the planet isn't warming.

Not when it's sub-zero in May.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Heavy Soul.

In 1907, Duncan MacDougall published a paper on the weight of the soul. Fortean Times carried an article on it in the latest issue and so does the Journal of Scientific Exploration this month.

In essence, he took volunteers who were doomed and laid them on a bed which was suspended on a scale. When they died, their body weight immediately declined by between 10 and 45 grams. The same test applied to dogs showed no weight loss on death. Then again, it was 1907 and a smaller animal's soul might not be detectable by the methods available then. It has not been repeated because Science doesn't like it.

Involuntary evacuation of bowel or bladder at death is of no relevance because that weight is still on the bed.

It looks as though the soul might have mass. Not very much, but it does suggest a cohesive existence in the physical world. If we have up to 40 grams of reality to deal with after death, then the lack of frequent manifestation is easy to explain. We end up as substantial as fog, and must draw on external energy to appear.

Scientifically, it all fits together but Science will never recognise that.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Random thoughts. Can you hear them?

I'm still spending a lot of time fighting the garden (most of which has now been deleted). I'd like to plant fresh things but I'm not yet confident the frosts have passed. The snow has at least gone but it's still pretty cold.

This isn't 'climate change'. I remember a fishing trip in April in the 1980's where the line froze to the rod rings. I also remember a May 1st, about ten or twelve years ago, where I had to seek shelter in a hurry because of hailstones that came down like buckshot. They actually punched holes in many plants.

The last ten years or so have seen warm April weather but it's just a natural cycle and nothing to get all worked up about. Unless, of course, you've set up a career or a tax income based entirely on lunatic scare stories. As, indeed, many have these days, and not just on climate change. Scares range from third hand smoke (comical) to deleting salt from the diet (dangerous) and they are everywhere now.

Funnily enough, nobody seems to be doing much about pollution, which is a real problem. They're all too involved in what kind of light bulbs we use and never seem to mention that the low-energy ones are full of mercury vapour. Whatever you do, don't break one of those things. They are far, far worse than the old filament types.

The logic has gone from science and the world, I think. This week I read an article in 'Fortean Times' about telepathy. It's not a subject I study but it's interesting because there are tantalising hints that there might be something in it. No proof, just hints.

My only possible experience was when my grandmother died. I knew she had gone even though I was hundreds of miles away at the time and when I was informed of her time of death, the time matched my experience exactly. However, that is not evidence of telepathy, but of an entirely different phenomenon which I've experienced more and more since then. Personally, I have not experienced anything I could definitely call telepathy.

The problem I have with studies on things like telepathy is not that they are too likely to find an effect, but that they are too likely to find no effect.

The current method for testing telepathy is, basically, this:

The receiver wears headphones transmitting white noise, half a ping-pong ball taped over each eye and is in a dimly-lit room with no contact possible with the outside. Okay. They can't hear or see anything.

The sender chooses one of four pictures and attempts to send it to the receiver. Then the receiver comes out of their sensory deprivation room and, with the sender cleared away so they can't give any hints, points out the picture they 'saw'.

On pure chance they would choose the right picture 25% of the time. Statistically that is correct. However, it assumes something. Something very important.

It assumes everyone is a telepath.

It assumes everyone can 'send' and everyone can 'receive'. Well, I don't seem to be able to do either of those things. Some might be able to receive but not send and vice versa.

The 25% result due to chance must be modified by the proportion of people in the population who are actually able to use telepathy. What proportion of the population can do that? I have no idea and neither does anyone else. Every test assumes it is a standard human trait.

Which is rather like assuming every human can run a mile in four minutes, or pull a railway carriage, or land an arrow in the bullseye every time. A few people can but most people can't.

I suspect telepathy is like that. I am certain that mediumship is like that. Using randomly selected people means that the few who might be genuine are lost among the noise of those who have no ability at all. So when a telepathy study turns up a 38% success rate, that is not 'just above chance'. That is astoundingly above chance.

What to do about it? I leave that to those who actually study telepathy but I would suggest devising some sort of 'pre-test' procedure which can select for those who show promise as 'senders' and those who would be best placed as 'receivers'.

The sceptics will say that this is introducing bias, but how so? If telepathy is not real then no amount of pre-selection will result in improved results. The results would be the same every time if there is no effect, no matter what criteria you use to select the participants.

If there is a real effect and if it is not in every person, then pre-selection will show an improved set of results over random selection. It will weed out those with little or no ability in the same way that successive races weed out the slow runners until only the fastest are left. If there is no real effect (as in, if everyone always ran at the same speed anyway or if nobody can transmit thought) there will be no difference.

So, take the participants who scored accurately and test them again as a subset. If telepathy is not real then the success rate will be about the same. If it is real then the selected group will score much higher than the random group. Treat it like a competition.

Worth considering, perhaps?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My new decking is covered in snow. All preparation for the greenhouse has stopped.

Mood: murderous.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Corporeal visitor.

This little fellow lives in my garden. He's less than an inch long (excluding tail which is twice as long as he is) and he's photographed in the act of raiding the bird-feeders.

He wasn't bothered by my presence and I like him, so he can stay.

I'll put in a lower-down feeder for him.