Tuesday, 31 December 2013

On finding a light in the sky

UFO light in the skyMany UFO reports could be fairly summarized as someone seeing a light in the sky. So when I saw just such a light recently, I took a photo of it (right). It really did look just as it does in the picture. It was late afternoon and just starting to get dark. This eerie light was NOT the moon, nor was it the sun shining through clouds.

It looked like this for about a minute. I know that because I took several photos of the object and that's how long it took before I got a shot which made it obvious what the UFO actually was. The light drifted silently and slowly across the sky during that period. Though I wasn't deliberately looking for odd things to take photos of, I'm always on the look out for them. And they can be surprisingly easy to find if you stay alert to the possibility. I'm sure that if more people looked out for such things, and watched them long enough to discover their true identity, there would be fewer reports of anomalies.

Silence is one of the factors almost always mentioned in UFO reports. Presumably that's because if an aerial object sounded like a plane or helicopter, its identity would be obvious to the observer, so they wouldn't report it. However, when ordinary aircraft are in the distance, they can be too far away for their engines to be heard. Also, many natural objects that traverse the sky make no sound when they move, like balloons, satellites or meteors, for instance. So silence, so commonly reported for UFOs, is not in any way a reliable indicator of a something extraordinary.

UFO light planeHere is a photo of the same object, taken 1 minute and 14s after the one above. It uses a lot more zoom than the first image. It is an aircraft coming in to land at a nearby airport. Because it was flying towards me, all I saw at first was one silent bright light near the horizon. It gradually got brighter as it approached and eventually I could hear the engines and see the aircraft itself.

Although I knew what the light was all the time, others not so familiar with how aircraft behave near airports might not (as I've discussed previously here). It certainly looked genuinely mysterious at the time - a bright white light silently floating through a twilight sky. Had I not known what it was, I'm sure my first thought would have been UFO!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Dust particles turning into orbs

Dust into orbsOne of the aims of my new orb video project (see last post) was to show individual dust particles actually turning into orbs. In a previous video (here) you can see floating dust being put deliberately out of focus so that it turns into orbs. In other words, the orb zone was being intentionally expanded to include the dust.

I wanted to do something more naturalistic this time, in line with xenonormal principles. The idea was to show in-focus bits of dust drifting, on air currents, into the orb zone to become orbs. This new video (here) thus shows what happens at the boundaries of the orb zone.

When the dust in the video is in focus it mostly appears as moving bright lines or streaks, rather than the dots you might expect. This is because the dust is moving relatively quickly and the dots are motion-blurred to become bright streaks. Many of these dust particles then turn into orbs as they move (and some later 'pop' - see here - as they cross another orb zone boundary).

Just before they turn into orbs, some of the dust particles turn into the more obvious dots you might expect to see. That's because most of the particles swing upwards as they approach the torch. As they do so, their motion-blur disappears because we are watching them approaching the camera. Also, this upward motion brings them into the orb zone which is why they then become orbs. If you follow individual dust particles in the slow motion sections of the video you can see this happen.

The photo (above right) is a grab from the video. You can see the dust particles as motion-blurred light streaks going towards the torch on the right. Near the torch you can see the ones that have already arrived and turned into orbs. Notice how the orbs start out white when they are small and become blue as they expand. I think the colour comes from a blue tinge in the torch light. You can see hints of blue in the torch itself in the photo here.

PS: I experienced a heavy thunder storm (with hail) the other day, in winter! Looking on the web, though rare, winter thunder storms in the UK but not that unusual.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Popping orbs!

Video orb zoneOrbs just won't go away! Most paranormal researchers now agree that there is no evidence that orbs are paranormal. But there are still people who DO think some orbs might be paranormal. So, rather than simply ignore the subject, I decided to make some videos exploring the orb zone. And I was rewarded by some surprising images, like 'popping' orbs!

Most orbs are illuminated by a flash (or another light) attached to the camera. In the setup I used (pic right), a torch illuminated the area just in front of the camera creating an orb zone where dust is out of focus and strongly illuminated. The diagram may be difficult to see on this page but there is a much bigger version here.

You can see the 'popping' orbs in the short video here. What you will see is a group of orbs floating around in front of the torch. The orbs were created using real dust, abiding by the authentic conditions demanded by the principles of xenonormal studies. Particles of dust were deliberately disturbed to get a reasonable number floating around but, apart from that, the conditions were typical of just about any building.

Circles of confusionWhat you will see is an area lit by a torch (on the right). The background is rough paper with bits of dust on it. You will notice that some of the moving orbs appear to grow larger, and in a few cases smaller, as they move about. In particular there are some examples of orbs that grow steadily larger and then vanish (especially towards the end of the orb clip), as if they are popping out of existence, like a bursting soap bubble. This phenomena would not be obvious in most orb videos because the position of the light illuminating the scene (usually on the camera) is different.

Orbs are growing larger because they are approaching the camera and so getting more and more out of focus. In the diagram (right) you can see how a tiny object (like a particle of dust) is projected by a camera lens onto a sensor. If it is in focus (particle A), it appears as a dot on the sensor. But if the dust particle gets too close to the camera to be in focus (B) the dot becomes a diffuse circle - an orb - on the sensor. And the closer the dust particle approaches, the larger the orb becomes.

However, in the setup with the torch, the orbs are reaching a point where they are no longer illuminated by the torch. As you can see in the upper diagram, there is an area just in front of the lens where the light from the torch does not reach, so no orbs show there. So when an orb 'pops' it is simply leaving the area illuminated by the torch. The orb is not really bursting, it is simply vanishing.

Monday, 16 December 2013

A different shadow ghost!

ShadowLooking out of a window at the night outside, a figure in the street caught my attention. Nothing obviously odd except that it suddenly vanished! So, a ghost then! It was only afterwards that I remembered it had been a really strange figure, unnaturally thin and small (probably what caught my eye). Not so much like a child as an ordinary adult made to look bizarrely thin by a trick in photo editing software.

The figure looked solid but dark a featureless, like a shadow. So, a shadow ghost then! It did not look as weird as it sounds because, in the poorly illuminated street, many definitely-real passing human figures also were mostly dark with few visible features. What really struck me, however, was actually seeing the figure vanishing. I have often seen misperceptions turn into the objects they really are, but seeing a figure simply vanish is new to me.

My first thought was that it was a misperception of something reflected in the window. I have had such misperceptions before, including the door ghost, which this figure superficially resembled. I tried to reproduce the effect with my hand, which had been moving when I saw the apparition. I couldn't reproduce it exactly but it was close enough to make me think I was on the right track. Certainly, given the distances and angles involved, my hand could certainly produce a similar reflection in the right position.

With the door ghost, also a reflection, the apparition appears behind me. So why didn't this one if it was, once again, my own hand? The difference is that the door ghost window is frosted. The window I was looking through this time was clear, so that reflected images sometimes appeared to be outside, in suitable (low) lighting conditions.

I am still puzzled by just how convincingly human the figure looked, albeit with decidely odd proportions. I think it was my perception system that did that. The odd shape of the figure would have come from my reflected hand. So why would it appear as a human figure? Well, there were several people walking by at the time. The ghost moved along a pavement, just where you'd expect to see a human! Expectation appears to play an important part in misperceptions. Had the 'figure' appeared somewhere else in the scene, it might have been misperceived as something else.

Another interesting point is that the figure appeared to move BEHIND a car! How is that possible? Well, the car was a bold white colour and I think this overwhelmed that part of the rather feeble dark reflection of my hand that would have appeared on the car itself. This affect certainly added to the impression that I was watching a real figure, until it vanished. No doubt my perception system ensured it all looked normal! The ability of our brains to construct reasonable looking versions of what MIGHT be present is truly astonishing!

Am I bothered that I could not reproduce the figure exactly at the time? Considering that I made a reasonable approximation of it using my hand, which I knew was moving at the time of the sighting, I'm happy that I've found the explanation. Considering all the angles, relatrive positions and distances involved, it is actually amazing that my hand could approximate the figure so well. Also, it is not generally possible to reproduce misperceptions twice in rapid succession. As I've discovered with the door ghost, you usually need to forget about the previous misperception for it to happen again in similar circumstances. Maybe I'll see this figure again once I've forgotten about it. Overall, I'm satisfied this was another case of misperception, albeit a particularly dramatic one.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

More hair raising!

Parrot in treeI was recently mentioned a hair raising incident that happened to me once, many years ago. And now, it's happened again!

OK, not quite the same. This time it was even more embarrassing. I was walking alone along a suburban street in broad daylight when I nearly jumped out of my skin. The reason was a very loud squawk from just behind me. The fact that I recognized the call didn't help. I turned round quickly and, after scanning in all directions, finally saw the culprit flying rapidly away. It was, as I already knew, a Ring-necked Parakeet.

As a birder, I should have spotted this large green bird which must have been very close to me when it squawked, in a place I'd just walked past. In my defence, I was day dreaming and not looking for birds. And these parrots have a habit of sitting silently and motionless in trees for lengthy periods, blending in with the foliage surprisingly well (see photo). I have examined trees before where I knew for a fact there was a bird present (having seen it fly in) and still not found them.

It would be easy to imagine someone not acquainted with these parrots reporting such an apparently mysterious incident as anomalous. They would have looked around in vain for the cause of this very loud unfamiliar noise. Even those people reasonably familiar with common birds in the UK might well not know about these parrots. They only occur in quite small areas within certain parts of the UK. Many anomalous reports are generated by people experiencing something perfectly natural yet unfamiliar to the witness. In other words, xenonormal.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Why did I look away from the ghostly hand?

Rock concertI glanced around and noticed a huge ghostly white glowing hand hovering above the rock concert audience. Strangely, I then looked away! Belatedly realizing I'd seen something truly weird, I quickly looked back but it had gone.

I have reported before how I once saw a ghost on stage at a rock concert. This, much more recent sighting, was in a similar situation. I was at the back of an audience in a darkened room at a concert with only the stage illuminated strongly. Unlike on the previous occasion, I had the presence of mind this time to try to analyze what I'd just seen at the time.

Firstly, looking again, I concluded that the 'hand' was almost certainly on the wall, rather than hovering over the audience. Secondly, I only saw the hand in one short glance, making it likely to be a 'glance misperception' of some kind. It may have been a deliberate lighting effect but, since it only happened once, I suspect not. That the 'hand' was white was interesting (and the same as in the incident linked above) given that most lighting at the concert was every colour except white! This suggests that it may have been a reflection of the white spotlight used to illuminate the artist on stage. Regular concert goers will be familiar with the experience of being momentarily dazzled by reflections off guitars! Maybe this was one, playing on the wall.

But why did I only glance at this extraordinary thing, whose cause was far from immediately obvious, and then look away? I've heard this sort of thing before in reports of anomalous phenomena. It can take a second or two for someone to register the fact that they've just seen something truly weird. And by then, it may well have gone, as in this case. Had the sight been alarming, rather than simply bizarre, I'm sure I would not have taken my eyes off it. So maybe that is why some witnesses continue to gaze at something weird while others don't. It may all come down to whether the object is perceived as any kind of threat.

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that we see odd things in darkened rooms filled with unusual lighting, typical of rock concerts. Most people probably dismiss anything odd they see in such situations as a deliberate lighting effect, given that they are watching a performance ('just part of the show'). If a ghost wanted to walk unnoticed through a crowd of people, a rock concert would be the perfect place to do so.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Where is that strange sound coming from?

MagpiesI heard the characteristic chattering call of a Magpie and looked up, as I do when I hear one of my favourite birds. On this occasion I could not see it. I was walking along a street lined by terraced houses, so it wasn't surprising. The bird sounded like it was on a roof on one side of the street but there was nothing there. So I looked round in all directions.

Why would I do that, you might ask? Because sounds are strongly reflected by walls and, in my experience, if you can't see the bird straight away, you are probably hearing a reflected sound. That means the bird could be in almost any direction, depending on the layout of the house walls nearby.

I walked further along the street until there was another terrace-lined street leading off to one side. Now the direction of the still-calling bird seemed to change, appearing to be coming from the side street. But a quick look showed that it wasn't there either. Finally, I looked behind me and there was the Magpie. It was on a tall tree, down an alleyway, behind the street I'd been walking along. Now that I could see it, the sound obviously came from the direction of the bird.

The difficulties of locating the origin of a sound in buildings, on ghost vigils for instance, are well known (see here). But, as this incident illustrates, there are also problems outdoors, especially in the vicinity of buildings or rock faces. . When investing anomalous phenomena outside you should consider that, just because you hear a sound from a particular direction, it doesn't necessarily mean its origin is that way. Sometimes odd noises are attributed to something invisible (and possibly paranormal) when, in reality, what you can hear is just not where you think it is.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Looking closely doesn't always help

Blobs over waterI sometimes see anomalous photos which are clearly cropped sections of a larger original. This cropping may be done to protect someone's anonymity. More often, however, the photographer has cropped the photo to show only the anomaly itself. While this might seem a good idea, at first sight, it can affect how the photo is interpreted.

Take the example here! The photo (right) shows some water with some decidedly strange looking translucent blobs apparently floating above it. One blob, on the left, is shaped like a bottle while another, bottom right, resembles a pebble in shape. The other blobs look roughly circular. It's difficult to judge the scale without knowing how high those waves are on the water. If they are big, perhaps at sea, then it is difficult to imagine what those objects might actually be!

If, on the other hand, the waves are small, maybe in a pond or lake, then the blobs might be easier to understand. They could then, for instance, be droplets of water kicked up from a splash. And that is, indeed, what they are! The uncropped version of this photo shows a duck diving, kicking up those droplets, fortuitously captured in midair just as the photo was taken. Obviously, once the full context is available, the objects are no longer mysterious at all.

While this is a trivial example, purely for illustration, I have come across many others which were not. And, in almost every case, when the whole uncropped photo was examined, a natural explanation for something that initially appeared mysterious rapidly emerged. People often crop their anomalous photos to be helpful, concentrating the eye on the central mystery. It is, perhaps, an obvious thing to do, to look most closely at the mystery object itself in order to explain it. However, it is often what is going on elsewhere in the photo that provides the vital clue to solving such photographic mysteries.

PS: Regarding the last blog entry, MA later recalled having seen the 'fox' video at Verbier online with a French commentary! This might explain where the French accent originated.