Wednesday, 23 October 2013

UFO against a cloudy sky

UFO with cloudOne of the questions I constantly puzzle over is, why does the xenonormal exist? Or to put it another way, why do people consistently report natural phenomena, with which they are unfamiliar, as anomalous or paranormal? To some people the answer may appear obvious but not to me. My best guess, so far, is that it comes from unconscious assumptions we all make about how the world works, based on our life experience.

Consider, for instance, that you walked into a room and found a small cardboard box hovering stationary in the exact middle of it. You would, no doubt, be surprised and might go through a few theories in your head to account for this bizarre occurrence. One obvious idea would be that the box is suspended by a fine thread that you cannot see. If you pass your hand all round the object and hit no thread, things would begin to look a bit more mysterious. Assuming you were sure you weren't hallucinating, you might well consider the possibility of the event being paranormal.

So why might you consider the event paranormal? Well, you don't need a degree in physics to know that such things should not normally happen. You know simply through your own life experience. And I think the idea that the paranormal might be involved in any witnessed incident generally arises when something apparently defies all that particular witness's life experience of similar events. But there's a problem here. Just because something is outside your life experience, it doesn't necessarily make it anomalous or paranormal.

Consider photography, for instance. Casual photographers expect their pictures to be reasonably accurate representations of what they saw when they took their photo, because that's their experience. Serious photographers soon realise, however, that 'reasonably accurate' is more like 'not even close' when photos are examined in detail. A photographer may see a scene they want to capture, take its photo and then compare the two, now easily possible using the screen on the back of their camera. They soon notice significant differences between the photo and the scene itself. The photo may be darker, lighter, more or less colourful, than the original scene. Even more serious, some objects might be out of focus or show motion blur. Some particularly bright or dark areas of the photo might show no detail whatsoever, unlike in the original scene. All of this arises because the camera does not work like human vision.

Most of the time, the differences between the photo and real life are too small for the casual photographer to notice. But not always. And it is when these difference are noticed that the photo may be reported as possibly anomalous. A popularly reported difference is the presence of object in the photo that the photographer cannot recall being there at the time of exposure. It could be a photographic artefact, like lens flare or an orb. But sometimes there really WAS an object present that the photographer either didn't notice at the time or didn't recognise in the subsequent photo. Here's an example.

The photo, above right, shows an apparent saucer-type UFO (top left) against a cloudy sky. Its presence could easily have been overlooked at the time of exposure, though in this case it wasn't. That's how I know it is a distant gull. We are used to seeing gulls as bright white birds but against a bright sky they often look dark. And their shape and characteristic gliding flight gives them a 'saucer' shape when viewed from the side.

How do I know this? From my own extensive experience of photographing birds. What might be a flying saucer type UFO to a casual photographer is a silhouetted gull to me. And I think this is how such things come to be reported as anomalous. And it is the whole point of xenonormal studies.

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