I read an interesting article today entitled, Why have UFOs changed speed over the years?. The article examines how in the 1950’s UFOs were reported to move at very high speeds, but since about the 1960’s they more often than not move very slowly or not at all, hovering in the air. This reminds me of other conversations I’ve head or been a part of about ghosts.
In the 1800’s and early 20th centuries, ghosts were misty, gossamer things, looking in photographs of the time like gauze which, it was shown, they were.
Today, ghosts are often shadows, cold spots in a room, mysterious voices on tape or spikes on meters.
Anyone interested in UFOs or ghosts should be asking themselves, “What is it about the properties of these things that have changed over the past decades or century?”. Of course, most anyone who believes in ghosts or that UFOs are alien crafts would never ask themselves these questions because they don’t want to have to think about it, because to do so would be to come face to face with facts that they won’t like.
Occam’s Razor tells us that the simplest of two or more theories that fit the facts for a phenomenon is most likely the correct one.
What does Occam’s Razor tell us about the change in properties of ghosts and UFOs over time? Let’s consider two possible hypotheses for each, shall we?
We will take UFOs first.
In the 1950’s UFOs were unbelievably fast, often attaining speeds in excess of 18,000 mph! They also often traveled in groups and straight lines or other geometric patterns. They were also almost always seen during daylight hours.
Since the mid 1960’s on, UFOs have slowed down. Now they appear almost exclusively alone, unaccompanied by other UFOs. They move very slowly and often hover only feet above the ground. They don’t travel in geometric patterns anymore, but often waft along as a leaf in a gentle breeze. And almost all of them appear at night.
One possibility to explain change in behavior and even appearance is that there are different aliens visiting us now than there were 50 years ago. But if so, where did they first ones go? Were they driven out by the new comers?
The other possibility is that alien ships have never and don’t currently visit earth and UFO sightings, then and now, are misinterpretation of natural phenomenons.
Distances are notoriously difficult to judge, even for experienced observers like pilots. This is even more true at night. Light and shadow during the day can create unexpected and unfamiliar shapes. The same is true of lights in the night sky.
Given that our brains are hard wired to seek patterns in everything we see, it isn’t surprising that we will jump to conclusions about what we just saw. This is called pareidolia. UFOs are a popular topic so it is one of the first things that come to our minds when we are trying to explain the unfamiliar in our skies.
Given that our current understanding of physics tells us that to travel the vast distances of space in any reasonable amount of time, say withing a generation or so, would take more energy than an entire star puts out, we can safely conclude that the probability of aliens visiting us is fairly low.
On the other had, given that our brains will always, almost without fail, assign meaning to random patterns, the probability that UFO sightings are misinterpretations of unfamiliar patterns in the sky is very high.
So, apply Occam’s Razor, we can confidently say UFOs are not anything out of this world and can be explained by natural phenomenon, even if we can’t always determine what those phenomenon are in every case.
Now, onto ghosts.
At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, ghosts were white or gray, misty things that communicated with us mortals by knocking or rapping on floors and tables.
Today, ghosts are shadowy figures, or often, completely unseen, that communicate with us via EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon), EMF (Electro Magnetic Frequency) meters, or K2 meters, which measure magnetism. In fact, according to Grant, from the SciFi Channel show Ghost Hunters,
“The K2 meter measures magnetic fields, and it’s been specially calibrated for paranormal investigations. The theory behind the K2 meter is that if there’s a spirit in the area, the K2 meter will pick up it’s magnetic field. You can then train the spirits, supposedly, to intensify its magnetic field, therefore lighting up the lights on the meter.”
Wow, specially calibrated for paranormal investigations! I would so love to find out just how you calibrate a device to detect the paranormal, but I supposed I’ll have to leave that for another blog entry.
So, let’s put our hypotheses out there and see what Occam’s Razor tells us about them.
The ghost hunters will say that all of these things are caused by spirits or ghosts. They can’t tell us exactly how they do these things; what mechanism is enabling the ghosts to create shadows, make it cold in one part of a room, put voices onto tape or make an EMF meter change.
Now for the rational hypothesis.
All of these things can be explained by known psychological and scientific mechanisms.
In the 1920s and 1930s, it was show rather conclusively, by people like Harry Houdini, that the raps and knocks that were supposedly from spirits, were in fact made by the psychic mediums who conducted séances. The gauze like emissions made by the “spirits” was exactly that, gauze. The misty apparitions in photos, double exposures.
Today, we have shadows, cold spots, EVPs and EMF readings. Let’s look at each of these a little closer.
Shadows are just that, a darker area amongst a better lit area. Anyone who was a child can remember being in their room in the dark, terrified, sure that the shadow on the wall, or in the closet was a ghost or monster there to devour them. A quick flick of the light switch, or turning on of the flashlight showed that it was merely something as mundane as a coat hung upon the back of a chair or a baseball bat leaning out of the closet.
Cold spots. Considering that most ghost hunts take place in older structures, it really isn’t any surprise that there are drafts wafting about all over the place. Unless a room had been hermetically sealed, I’d be surprised if there weren’t changes in temperature within any room.
EVPs. These are supposed spirit voices caught on tape or other recording devices during ghost hunts that normally can’t be herd while the recording is being made. Lets see how these “voices” might get on the tapes.
In almost any modern community, we are surrounded by electromagnetic waves of all types: radio, T.V., cell phones, high voltage electrical wires. All of them produce electromagnetic radiation that can interfere with recording devices. These waves pass through the circuitry of the devices and can generate electrical currents that can cause spurious noises to be recorded.
The vast majority of times, it is just random burst of noise that rises about the background static. And, as with random patterns that our eyes see and our brains try to apply meaning to, the same is true of sound. Our brains desperately strain to make sense of senseless static and noise. Listen to the same section of noise on a tape enough and your brain is bound to assign meaning to it. Once that meaning is in your head, there is no getting it out. Once you tell someone else what you “heard” they easily hear the same thing.
EMF readings. Remember all that electromagnetic radiation I talked about flying around us all the time? Well, these EMF meters are able to detect certain portions, or frequencies, of that radiation and they do what they were designed to do: display some numbers, or in the case of the K2, light up sets of lights.
What does Occam’s Razor tell us here?
Considering that the first hypothesis doesn’t have an explainable mechanism, and the second has boat loads, I think the answer is clear The second one have an overwhelming preponderance of evidence to support it.
It is amazing just how much gunk and other crap you can get our of your brain if you just apply some critical thinking. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather live in a world that I can reasonably explain than one full of fear and anxiety.
How about you?