Wednesday, 9 October 2013

No, orbs really are NOT dust!

Truncated orbsI'm surprised to still be writing about orbs so far into this decade. Orbs are the subject that, against all the odds, just refuses to go away and I've got a theory about why that is. It's because the popular idea that they are paranormal has been largely replaced, at least among paranormal researchers, by another one - namely that they are dust. This is despite the lack of any even mildly supportive evidence in either case. My theory is that if we could get rid of the 'dusts are orbs' myth, we might see orbs finally dumped once and for all into the dustbin of history.

The idea that orbs are NOT dust will, no doubt, come as news to a few paranormal researchers, though not, I think, to regular visitors to the ASSAP website. So how do we know orbs are not dust? Well the most obvious evidence is that airborne domestic dust consists largely of fibres, few of which, if any, are circular (or, indeed, hexagonal or diamond-shaped), unlike orbs. In addition, some orbs are 'truncated' towards the edges of frames of photos (see photo, right). There is no way of explaining this effect in terms of orbs as dust. There are many other aspects of orbs that cannot possibly be explained by the idea that they are dust (see here for some examples).

Orbs are, of course, out of focus highlights reflected from any number of different objects. This does include dust particles but also insects, water droplets, airborne seeds and even objects which are not floating at all (things dangled just in front of the camera, for instance). Indeed, dust is a much less common cause of orbs these days than it used to be. For a demonstration about how this works, see this video or read this article. Any explanation that doesn't mention that orbs are highlights and/or out of focus is completely missing the point.

There are any number of other myths still doing the rounds concerning orbs. There's the idea, for instance, that cameras with large numbers of megapixels don't get orbs, for instance. See here for the answer to that one. Then there's the idea that orbs captured with film cameras are 'different', maybe even paranormal. In fact, you can get orbs with film cameras, they are just rarer due to the (generally) physically larger frame size (see here). Then there's the old infrared myth. And the list goes on and on.

The wider point here is the vital importance of explaining any xenonormal phenomenon scientifically. Using non-explanations like 'orbs are dust' is worse than useless. Because these 'explanations' don't actually explain anything, they allow myths to persist and multiply. In fact, the orb zone theory has so far explained every aspect of orbs yet thrown at it (see here). By contrast, the 'orbs are dust' idea has yet to explain anything.

This may sound like I'm saying that only scientists should be doing paranormal research. Far from it! What I AM saying is that science is the best tool with which to do paranormal research. Some people say that the paranormal cannot be researched with science. I don't happen to agree with that but it is at least an arguable case. What is unarguable is that the xenonormal can be studied with science. And, since the vast majority of reported paranormal cases that have been carefully investigated had xenonormal explanations, it is obvious that science is a crucial tool for investigators. It would, therefore, be highly useful for investigation teams to include at least some people with scientific training or, if not, to consult with such people outside the group as required.

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