Archive for September, 2008

Orbs-Spiritual spheres or just dust off the mantlepiece?

Posted in Science Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2008 by redshiftblue

The phenomenon of photographic orbs has only cropped up with the introduction of digital cameras and so is the perfect bit of potential paranormal to jump on, if you’re looking for some new interests. Its also one paranormal possibility which has be investigated by qualified physicists, along with a general array enthusiasts, making it that bit more valid; a scientific curiosity rather than fanciful legend.

Experimental physicist, Klaus Heinemann, and founder of the company Eloret, began investigating orbs after attending an energy healing conference with his wife, Gundi. After examining photographs they had taken during the conference, they noticed the luminous orbs objects floating above the heads of those seated in the hall. Intrigued by their presence, Heinemann returned to the hall to find a reason for the abnormalities, and to retake a few photos. He could find no physical explanation for the presence of the orbs. He also realised that photos taken in the same environment as those previous, contained orbs also, but in different positions and sizes.

Dust?It’s the most obvious explanation. Floating particles of dust, lint or water dispersing randomly and unnoticed by the photographer could reflect light of a flash, appearing as large bright orbs on the resulting photograph. It would also explain why orbs never appear on photographs except those taken with a flash. Those arguing against the paranormal aspect of orbs will suggest that the flash is the key point. It causes an intense light of its own which leads to orbs as a result of reflection and not an independent light source. Those falling in with opposition would tell us that the orbs require the energy they absorb from the flash to emit radiation in the visible or near-infrared spectral range. Heinemann, over the course of the work carried out (and outlined in his book The Orb Project) has developed an experiment to counter the flash-argument. He used set-ups which involved a flash native to the camera (A) while actually taking the photograph from another camera (B).These experiments showed orbs, with equal probability, in camera (A) providing the flash and in the “slave” camera (B), which used the flash from the camera (A). The camera (A) was mounted several inches away and delivered essentially no light from the flash in the immediate vicinity of camera (B) to illuminate dust particles or droplets in front of it to produce false orbs.

Heinemann does concede that false orbs do occur, and that for the most part they are caused by the two things which critics of the supernatural orb theory suggest to prove that orbs are “artifactual:” These are:

(i) reflections at dust particles or water droplets that are close to the camera lens, and
(ii) internal reflections at surfaces of the various camera lenses from external reflections of image details back into the camera lens. He agrees with the research carried out in a paper by Gary Schwartz and Katherine Creath, published in J. of Scientific Exploration, 2005 where they assert that the “vast majority” (they suggest as many as 98%) of all orb pictures are artifactual. Heinemann (and other orb researchers) are just interested in the orb pictures which cannot be explained.

The majority of experiments aim to remove dust as a possible explanation for orbs. The most convincing argument was presented by Joan Ocean, who has taken orbs photographs under water and observed identical orbs to those seen in thousands of photographs under normal conditions. Any arguments regarding dust particles or reflections would have to be inherently entirely different under those conditions. And yet the orbs remained completely unaffected despite being under water. Another argument presented against the dust theory is the changing positions of orbs with time. While some would regard it quite possible that dust/water droplets positions in air could change dramatically with time, Heinemann suggests that there is no reasonable logic to uphold that in one situation there might be many dust particles or water droplets in the air, while a few seconds later there are none. He has routinely taken multiple photos from the same camera position with greatly varying results of orbs (number and position), including many cases when pictures with no orbs and pictures with many orbs alternate. He also remarks that he has recorded at numerous times orbs that are eclipsed by an object between the orb and the camera i.e. the head of a person clearly positioned between the photographed orb and the camera, making it impossible that the orb could be a dust or water particle a few inches away from the camera lens, or a stray reflection from anywhere.

The digital camera itself has been blamed for the appearance of orbs and also cited as a reason why the theory doesn’t make sense. As mentioned, orbs only began to appear with the development and commercial use of digital cameras. Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow for CSICOP puts it to the general public, that surely there were always spirits around, available to be photographed? Why would they just show up now? The varying quality of cameras could also be a reason for orbs, making them mere unwanted artifacts of photos taken with a cheap or unsophisticated camera. Heinemann will contest this point; he has seen orbs indiscriminately with expensive (4-10 megapixels) and less expensive cameras (3.3 mp was lowest I used). And so he concludes that a rationale that cheap camera lenses produce more of this effect is difficult to uphold.

Which brings us to asking, if some orbs are not the results of cheap cameras, dust/water particles, and/or the reflection of a flash on these particles, then what exactly are they? To start with the logical: they may be “electrical emissions coming out of the ground.” This is according to Robert Baker, an investigator with the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). Or alternatively they could be ectoplasm left behind by travelling spirits. Heinemann tells us to remember that what we can actually see and visualize only makes up a small portion of what is real and what exists. After all we cannot see the light on either end of the electromagnetic spectrum, and yet it is there. Digital cameras are more sensitive to low energy light, the light which appears at the end of the spectrum and so can capture what we cannot see. In examining orb pictures Heinemann has found that the multi-coloured spheres have interior patterns resembling computer circuit boards, and that each interior is unique.

Could they really be a unique and individual “fingerprints of a spirits caught on film”? This is the phrase used by M.F. “Chance” Wyatt, a ghost hunter from Melbourne,Florida who wrote Spirits Visit Earth: Documented and Recorded Spiritual Happenings. He believes that the spirits (orbs) we see on photographs are those who decide that they want to be photographed. In support of this, Heinemann has noted that orbs often appear if you “ask” them to, suggesting an intelligent communication which no one will argue can happen between a human and a piece of stray dust. The orbs which are observed in pictures, Wyatt says, are the result of a pure thought or consciousness. He also has an explanation for why they assume the spherical shape; “Spirits are magnetic energy fields that take on any shape they want, and a sphere is the easiest shape to attain, because it gets stronger when you apply equal pressure to all sides.”. Apparently there are differences between regular orbs and “thought projections” which can also be visualized in photographs. For e.g. an individual claims to place an intensive thought projection to the left side of his head and when the photo is taken, a bright glow of energy can be seen on the left. This is not a captured spirit but something entirely different, belonging to, and manufactured by the individual in the photograph itself.

For those looking for confirmation of the orb as a paranormal wonder, a summary of Klaus Heinemann’s findings and statements will provide more than enough support. Even if you argue with his theories, you cannot help but admire and respect his methods and his dedication. He has studied a multitude of digital photographs that contain clear and irrefutable evidence of phenomena that cannot be explained on the basis of conventional physics. His conclusions are as follows:

Orbs are not explainable with conventional physics
They are emanations from intelligent life outside of the conventional physical realm
They are abundantly around us (but we must use discernment)
They have individualistic features and may have “faces”
They have different intensities (some require digital enhancement)
They can move extremely fast (presumably at infinite speed)
They can follow instructions
They can expand (presumably to infinite size) and contract (presumably to atomic size) extremely fast
Extreme contraction at infinite speeds allows the hypothesis that they may be instrumental in certain aspects of alternative/spiritual healing
Thought projections look similar to orbs

If you really are a believer of such phenomenon as orbs you may merely suffer from “true-believer syndrome,” as developed by M Lamar Keene, who remarks that when it comes to true believers, “No amount of logic can shatter a faith consciously based on a lie” Then again, maybe we are too quick to dismiss a theory which cannot yet be confirmed nor denied adequately. As C.G. Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology said: “I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” We must be careful to keep our minds open.