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Ghost Hunting Methods and Standards


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#31 canuck

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 12:11 AM

This all suggests that we have reached the point of diminishing returns in collecting additional audio or photo files of spooks.

These files do give some useful information; but that information is necessarily limited. However, I believe that we are now at the point where the information that we already have can serve as the basis for further study.

Specifically, the audio files seem to be telling us: that some spooks are an invisible mobile point source, producing sounds in the audible range and at a power level above the audible threshold.

Given this, we should be concentrating on how we can explain this in physical terms, and how we could reproduce this in the lab.

Similarly, the available pictures of spooks suggest that some spooks are manifest as discrete, animated and reflective bodies, becoming visible as a consequence of either a chemical reaction or a phase transition.

As with the sound files, we should be shifting our focus to producing an explanation of this phenomenon in physical terms, and coming up with a method of reproducing this in the lab.

Such studies would be far more useful than yet more cold nights attempting to capture yet more audio or photo files to add to the pile.

#32 CaveRat2

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 03:03 PM

On these points we agree. But my question to you is how do we motivate the masses to actually get the quality needed to do this level of study when most are simply content to accept everything as paranormal, and use techniques not suited to in depth study?

#33 Moregan

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 05:59 AM

@ canuck: Good point. But the problem is that most of us have very limited knowledge of physics. I've tried to get in touch with physicists via a physic forum, but most of them just thought I was totally crazy. Most of them didn't respond to my questions, though I was really careful with my questions and my phrasing. However, I've managed to get a few good answers and collected them on my website...
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#34 Moregan

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 06:12 AM

By the way, here's the link: answers from physicists
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#35 CaveRat2

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Posted 20 September 2008 - 09:27 AM

By the way, here's the link: answers from physicists


An interesting discussion of ghosts as they relate to the physical sciences. I won't dispute their conclusions based on what is assumed regarding what we perceive as ghosts. I agree most don't have the working knowledge of physics to deal with the science itself. And the sciences have little use for our field of study because the evidence we provide is lacking in quality.

The reason is simply the point of this thread, we have no standards in place to establish our own evidence. We can never expect credibile scientists to validate what we present when our evidence is tainted, and they can demonstrate exactly how that has happened. We need to start with the best possible data then build on that. Which means when we do something that can be demonstrated to be faulty we need to stop right there, and fix it, before we try to move on. This has to be done methodically.

For instance consider the use of white noise with digital recorders. If one is familiar with exactly how digital recorders work, that is, binary encoding and A to D conversion, it is evident that at some level background noise renders all data below a certain weighted point useless on a digitally sampled signal. This is because the randomness of the signal creates a random numeric pattern of data. But in order for digital to analog conversion to restore a signal to its original pattern, a value must appear that can be recreated into the waveform as it was sampled in the A to D process. Noise makes this impossible since these patterns are not random; they represent speech. All digital recorders suffer from this inherent problem, but the high end digital recorders use electronic circuits designed to minimize this noise as much as possible, thus it becomes less a factor. Plus, the use of 24 bit conversion, instead of the 16 bit used in voice recorders renders a much higher resolution which further improves respomnse.

But add white noise and the problem becomes much worse. As I said anything below whatever noise threshold you have will become corrupted. Adding white noise just increases this noise threshold. It means that anything in that region likely is paraedolia, so why would we want to create a situation where false positives are likely? The problem also applies to analog, however because analog does not require conversion it is less likely. Still it creates a problem and as much noise as possible should be avoided, not added to the signal.

So what can we do? We may not be able to change the minds of those physicists who poo-poo the idea of the paranormal, but we certainly can change the quality of evidence we obtain. We can use better quality equipment to prevent the kind of false positives the physicists use to discount us as a start. And maybe, armed with something we can defend, some of them might even come around to see the field as worthy of study.

But as it stands now, I can fully appreciate why a credibile scientist does not want to get involved. He probably feels the same way I do when I see the methods many use to obtain EVPs. He looks at some of the techniques and laughs at how we ignore basic laws of science to get easily expolained results, yet we choose to discount something right before our eyes to make a false claim of paranormal. When I see how EVPs are obtained, I too laugh. I have 40 years in the electronics field and do equipment design. I understand exactly how digital conversion works and what its flaws are and how to avoid them. Yet here we have investigators claiming to be scientific ignoring the scientific laws which govern the conversion process used in digital recording. They make a claim they captured a spirit on the rcorder. The quality of the recording is poor, so of course they run it through the computer and modify it till where it says what their minds thinks it should. And all it science. Between paraedolia, noise, some outside interference, and a little imagination they create a great EVP. And let's not forget the Ghost Boxes......

Likewise I'm sure there are professional photographers who get a chuckle out of some of the pictures some of us take and the claims we make. The problem here is when will we take advantage of the people in our own field who do have some expertise in a particular field and heed their advice? When will we choose to advance our own research before we condemn others who won't join in this fiasco?

Sometimes, like these skeptical physicists, I too want to just throw up my hands and wait for this field to move out of the dark ages.

#36 canuck

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 12:58 AM

I don’t think you are going to get a lot of joy in your attempts to motivate the bulk of people to conform to scientific standards in their investigations.

The reason for this is that most people with an interest in spookology have this interest because it fills a mystical need; therefore, anything which would serve to dispel the mystical and enhance the conventional is bound to be rejected.

Add to that the people who view spookology as a source of entertainment, and you have something less than a sound basis for rigorous investigation.

On the other hand, there are people who view spooks as a naturally occurring phenomenon that is worthy of investigation. These people, such as yourself, are slowly moving the field forward and take the need for a formalised and standardised approach as an obvious given.

It is in this context that I have taken the position that we stipulate that ghosts exist, and given their apparent characteristics, focus our attention on trying to explain and replicate the phenomena.

I have had this same conversation with various colleagues over the years; they are each experts in their respective fields: physics; chemistry; engineering; etc.

We have approached the problem as a standard problem, such as we deal with on a daily basis, and have done the corresponding “mind exercises”. Unfortunately, none of us has the funding to do any “real” experiments; which is one of the reasons progress is slow.

However, the more analysis is applied to this problem, the more profound the problem has become. So far, the thinking has moved beyond conventional physics, chemistry and engineering; and encompasses some pretty deep concepts in quantam physics, cosmology and relativity.

What is evident is that spooks are an entirely new, and totally unknown, area of science.

Overall, the consensus is that if this subject were to be taken seriously and afforded the level of study that it requires, it would mint a whole army of PhD’s.

Moregan:

I suggest that in asking your questions of scientists, you rephrase the question.

I suggest that you ask, without mentioning the words “ghost” or “supernatural”:

“We have observed two phenomena, with particular characteristics. How would you explain these phenomena, and how would you reproduce them?

The characteristics of these phenomena are:
a. An invisible and mobile point source of sound, manifest in the human audible frequency spectrum and at a power level within the human audible range.
b. A discrete, coherent, reflective, animated and mobile body which is seen to spontaneously fluctuate between visibility and invisibility.”

#37 Moregan

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 04:09 AM

I think the first step is to clearly define, list and categorize all the phenomena witnessed and/or recorded over the years. We need to know what we are dealing with. We need to define certain fixed terms for all these phenomena (like "ghost"). What properties does a "ghost"/"apparition"/"spirit" possess?
As soon as we've sorted that out we can think about scientific methods to research these phenomena further. But I think this can't be done without a team of scientists. We need physicists, psychologists, chemists, photographers, audio specialists, forensic scientists etc.
A layman can't do this and nobody would take anything he says or does for serious. We need to follow a certain protocoll as well and all the results from the experiments need to be reproducable. I doubt very much that this will ever be possible.
But at least we should work together on an international basis and take the first steps. What we can do is define and categorize the phenomena. We can try to figure out the "nature of the beast". And we can try to find scientists willing to work hand in hand with us.

@ canuck: Thank you very much for your suggestion. I will try to post this in a physics forum. Maybe it will bring better results if we don't use the word "ghost".
I posted my questions in 3 different German physics fora and translated the questions (and I just discovered a few mistakes, sorry for that). I've also posted similar questions in photography fora and psychology fora. The people in the DSLR forum told me that nowadays it would be impossible to prove that a picture is genuine, because of the many possibilities of modern technology. If a specialist would produce a really good forgery, then it would be virtually impossible to debunk it.
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#38 OMPRDave

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Posted 21 September 2008 - 10:40 PM

Actually, what we need is more detail-minded people who will take the time and document EVERYTHING. DATA....we need data. We need every possible piece of information jotted down when something is experienced that will give us that corner stone of which to better approach it in the future. We need to stop thinking "outside the box" and start looking at the box from every angle, and then, when we understand the basics and have the information to support our ideas, we need to go back and do it all over again. And again. And then one more time for good measure.

I would suggest three things to help further paranormal investigation:

1.) When investigating, every personal belief must be put aside and our focus needs to be kept on objective data.
2.) We need to break down the walls created by people wishing to capitalize on their findings and start sharing information so everyone has the same points to study from.
3.) We need to break away from the fantastical image we've painted the paranormal and give it the respect and attention it deserves.
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation." Herbert Spencer

#39 CaveRat2

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Posted 22 September 2008 - 09:18 AM

I completely agree regarding recording all data, not just a few highlights. We need some standardization of forms and data, I have an example on my website. Since I do mostly EVP work, I have put together a logbook which goes on every EVP investigation. It serves as a guide and form to record this other data, as well as analyzing the EVP itself. The form is available on my website for free download to other investigators and groups. (It is copyright and may not be sold or otherwise used as a derivative work, but is free for personal use only.)

You can view it HERE.

It is a Word Document. If you want to view the entire website, CLICK HERE.

Likely most on this forum will want the Paranormal Destination, just click the signpost.
But feel free to look at other destinations too.

#40 canuck

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Posted 11 October 2008 - 07:09 PM

Some really good ideas for formalising and standardising investigations!

The development of an international network of spookologists is an excellent idea; I think this forum is a good place to start for that. How are our friends in Germany coming along?

Having said that, the collection of more photos and sound files really only seems to serve to confirm the existence of spooks; albeit with standardisation, the data is more credible.

In my opinion, the problem with an ever expanding collection of sound files and photos is that each new photo or sound bite does not seem to contribute much new to our knowledge base; they are only so many more rocks to the pile.

So I suggest that, in parallel with collection of audio and photo data, the emphasis should be shifted to the finding of explanations.

To this end, we have already stipulated the existence of spooks; and we have preliminary audio and visual characterisations of spooks.

Therefore, these characterisations can serve as starting points to developing theoretical formulations and the corresponding hypotheses leading to an explanation for spooks.

In this respect, all spookologists should be watching the developments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland with great interest.

As we know, there are huge gaps in our knowledge of the universe; physicists and cosmologists have filled these gaps with numerous theories. (Some of these theories are so fanciful that they suggest the proponents spent their years in graduate school in a pharmaceutically induced haze.)

Nevertheless, the next few years are make or break time for both physics and cosmology.

If the Higgs boson is found, this will confirm “The Standard Model” and provide the definitive foundation for some truly revolutionary developments in physics and cosmology, and our corresponding understanding of the universe.

On the other hand, if it is not found, then that means that something is drastically wrong with our understanding of the “laws of physics”; if our understanding of these laws are wrong, then our entire understanding of the universe is also wrong.

What does this have to do with spookology?

Confirmation of the Higgs will not only bring rationality and direction to physics; but the consequent downstream effects will serve to provide a specific context and direction to spookology.

On the other hand, if the Higgs is not found, then humanity will have to start all over and build an entirely new model of the universe, all of its components, and all of its “laws”. This has equally profound consequences for spookology.

We live in interesting times.




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