Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Demonstrating precognition

Sun behind treeI was thinking about precognition the other day, as one does. I came to the conclusion, despite some apparently excellent examples around, that precognition is surprisingly difficult to demonstrate. Here are some hypothetical examples to demonstrate what I mean.

Example 1: Witness A has a strong feeling that event A is about to happen and it does, within a day. On the face of it this looks like a good demonstration of precognition.

Example 2: Witness B has a strong feeling that event B is about to happen and it does, within a day. Yes it's the same as example 1. However, further research reveals that witness B has strong feelings about the future several times a week and has done so for over a decade. This is the first time any of B's premonitions have come true.

Example 3: Witness C reads about event C in a newspaper and suddenly remembers she had a dream about just such an event the night before.

OK, firstly, examples 1 and 2 are identical in what actually occurs - a witness feels something will happen and it does. However, in example 2 the witness has had so many such premonitions, which were all wrong until now, that far from appearing incredibly unlikely, the final correct prediction almost seems inevitable!

Secondly, in example 3 witness C only remembers the dream after reading the newspaper. So how many dreams has the witness had which did not apparently predict any real life event? The answer is probably rather a lot. It is, in effect, the same situation as with witness B. The main difference is that witness C has forgotten all the dreams that did not come true whereas witness B may remember many at least some of their previous wrong predictions. Also, witness C did not initially see the dream as precognitive while B thought their feeling was. Question: if you only realise you've predicted the future after it has happened, but didn't think it was a premonition at the time, is it precognition?

Thirdly, there is the question of what constitutes a correct prediction. Suppose witness 4 dreams about event 4 which actually occurs. The essential events in the dream and event D are the same, However, there are many details in the dream that are different to event D. Also, many additional things happen in the dream than do not occur in the real life event D. Do all these differences count against this being a hit or not? I have, incidentally, seen many examples of this where there are a number of material differences between the prediction and event but it is still counted as a hit. I'm not so sure.

Fourthly, there is the question of symbolism. Do we accept a prediction as being fulfilled if it relies on symbolism rather than a literal description of the actual event? Again, I'm not so sure.

When I view some remarkable-sounding examples of precognition against these points many start to sound rather less amazing. I think when it comes to judging examples of precognition it is a case of "it's complicated".

Monday, 10 July 2017

Looking at an angle but seeing level

Perspective foxThere is something wrong with this photo (right), to me at least. The photo appears to be taken at the same height as the fox's head, looking straight at it. The thing is, the picture was taken from above at an angle I've calculated as at least 40 degrees.

The first question is this: do other people agree that the photo looks to be taken at fox head level? If not, then it is misperception and some people will see it straight ahead while others won't. If anyone sees the fox as if from above, please let me know (here). I have seen this effect before in other photos (see below). However, I've never seen the effect when simply looking at an object with the naked eye so I assume it's a photographic artefact.

So next question: what might cause such a photographic artefact / misperception? First clue: the photo was taken with a telephoto lens. This introduces a perspective distortion, namely flattening the scene. In other words it 'compresses' the scene so that objects appear closer to each other than they really are in real life. For instance, the out-of-focus leaves in the foreground look close to the fox but they are many centimetres from it.

I think such flattening of perspective may be part of the answer. I think also the lack of a visual cues to the angle of view is important. If the fox was near a fence or wall, for instance, I think would be obvious what the angle of view was. The fact that a camera has one lens may also be a factor as this removes the stereo vision that allows us humans to get a 3-D view with our eyes.

StorkI have come across other examples and here is one (right). This clearly shows a flying stork, apparently from the same height as the bird. However, it was taken from the ground and I would estimate that the stork was at an elevation of at least 30 degrees. Once again, a telephoto lens was used and there are a lack of visual cues in the background to the angle of view. And once again the point of view has been 'changed' to look at the object as if it were straight ahead.

It appears as if the viewer's brain is 'rotating' the image to make objects appear straight ahead, for some reason,. I don't know why but if anyone does, please let me know. More examples would help in solving this puzzle. Whatever the reason, it is clear that photos do not always show objects at a correct angle. This is worth bearing in mind when examining photos with few objects in them, such as views of the sky. Such photos may give a false impression of where the photo was taken from which could be vital in understanding any anomaly in the picture.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

One possible explanation for some haunting sounds

Sun behind treeI realise I've mentioned my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) several times recently. I don't apologize fore this as MA keeps reporting novel phenomena from MWR episodes. Each such novel phenomenon increases the range of apparently paranormal reports that MWRs might explain. So what's happened now?

Well, MA's MWRs fall into two broad categories - voices and visual. The 'visual' phenomenon are totally immersive, like virtual reality. MA is sometimes 'transported' to somewhere completely different. There is also a variation where the scene is the same as the one where MA actually is but with some significant differences (like the train ghost). The 'voices' phenomenon is not immersive and MA continues to see what is going on in the real world. It sounds like snatches of an overheard conversation which are usually nothing to do with MA. There was a notable new variation recently where MA's own voice appeared in such an episode.

The latest novelty was in such a 'voice' phenomenon. In addition to a voice there was the sound of a heavy lorry driving by. When MA 'woke' from the MWR both 'voice' and 'lorry' stopped instantly. This is the first time such a 'voice' MWR has involved sounds other than actual voices. It clearly demonstrates that these 'voice' MWRs can extend to a broader soundscape involving other noises. It is also perfectly possibly that MA has had 'sound' MWRs involving no voices but other non-real noises instead! These would not have been as obvious as voices in a room where MA was alone and so might have been dismissed as 'normal'.

Inexplicable sounds are probably the commonest phenomena reported in haunting cases. So a witness who was getting MWRs, not realizing their true cause, might hear strange, inexplicable sounds that could be attributed to a ghost. MWRs are typically a symptom of certain sleeping disorders. Sleep disorders often go undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed, for years, sometimes for an entire lifetime. So there is likely to be a small but significant percentage of the population who experience MWRs without realizing what they are. And, as MA's experiences have shown, these experiences could easily be misinterpreted as paranormal experiences, including haunting phenomena.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More real than actual reality!

Sun behind treeI am often struck by how witnesses are completely convinced they've experienced something paranormal even when there is a compelling xenonormal explanation for their experience. Having experienced many misperceptions I can understand this. Such misperceptions are drawn from visual memory so they are look absolutely real. You don't see something resembling a human figure, you see a real person!

Now I've come across an experience that feels even more real than reality! That is what my acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) told me about a recent experience. MA was witnessing a dramatic 'incident' in a room when suddenly it vanished. Instead, MA was suddenly sitting on a moving train with nothing remotely unusual occurring. Baffled. MA thought it must be an unwelcome MWR. However, the train scene persisted and MA realised that it was the train that was real, not the 'incident'!

This is the first time that MA has ever been confused about what is reality and what a MWR. While MWRs feel real at the time, it is always obvious they were a dream straight afterwards (to MA who is used to MWRs). But not in this case, at least not for a few seconds. The dramatic incident felt more real than actual reality! So why was this?

It seems that the dramatic MWR was much more emotionally engaging than the humdrum reality of the train journey. Indeed, MA longed to return to the MWR to see how the incident unfolded but it was not possible. MWRs cannot be artificially induced. Or can they - a fertile area for future research perhaps? Anyone who experiences MWRs and does not realise what they are could easily think they were experiencing something paranormal and very real.

So what does tell us about apparent anomalous incidents actually caused by MWRs, or indeed misperception? I would speculate that it is the emotional engagement in the MWR/misperception that makes it feel profoundly real. MA said that the MWR felt like suddenly seeing a previously unseen scene from a favorite TV drama. It was immediately engrossing and felt profoundly authentic.

This may well explain how xenonormal experiences can feel utterly real. Many witnesses continue to believe the paranormal explanation for such an experience even though they can see how the xenonormal explanation fits well. It may be that the witness's emotional engagment in the dramatic content of the experience is more important even than that what they believe about the paranormal.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Pale figure at a window

Sun behind treeWalking along a suburban street the other day something caught my eye. There was a very pale human figure in an upper floor window of a house ahead of me. I couldn't help but think 'ghost'. This was despite the fact that ghosts are usually reported to look like perfectly normal people (see here). The pale or white ghost appears to be largely a convention of movies rather than real apparition cases.

So, I was intrigued by this unusually pale figure. I watched it continuously as I walked closer to the house. The 'figure' changed shape as I moved, getting larger and losing all resemblance to a person. I realised the pale shape was the reflection of a nearby tree. It looked pale due to the lighting conditions and because it was a reflection.

It was yet another example of a coincidence causing an anomalous observation. If I'd noticed the shape just before or after the moment when I did it would never have resembled a ghostly figure at all. And if the lighting conditions had been different it would never have looked so strangely pale.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Is that my voice?

Sun behind treeMy acquaintance (MA) who gets microsleep with REM (MWR) has had possibly the weirdest experience yet! MA was just talking when there came the unmistakable feeling of coming out of what was clearly a MWR. A witness was present and could confirm that MA had, in fact, said nothing and looked asleep. MA was, however, aware of the real surroundings exactly as they were and felt there was nothing wrong until 'waking up'.

Usually in MWRs, MA is a passive observer, or listener, to what is going on. But on this occasion clearly MA was speaking out loud though the witness heard nothing. This, then shows that MWRs are not always passive experiences. This would appear to border on lucid dreaming. However, MA experienced it as listening to a voice which was clearly MA's own but was not consciously aware of speaking voluntarily. I've had a feeling like this myself in everyday life when doing public speaking! It is certainly a strange aspect of MWRs that could explain yet more apparently anomalous experiences.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

White flying object

White flying objectSo, here's a UFO picture I took recently (right). I suppose, technically, it's not a UFO because I knew what it was when I took the photo. However, when I looked at the picture later I was struck by how it resembled a classic flying saucer. It is pure white with a shiny metallic look to it.

People routinely discover human figures (or objects resembling them) in photos that they did not notice at the time of exposure. They are often interpreted as ghosts. I have also come across this phenomenon with UFOs. People will notice an object in the sky in a photo when they saw nothing there at the time of exposure. If it is recognisable as a plane, balloon, cloud or some other mundane object, that is the end of it. But if it is not obviously recognisable, it may get reported as a UFO.

The very fact that a figure is only seen in a photo, but not at the time of exposure, is enough for people to think it might be a ghost. This relies on the commonly held belief that there are invisible ghosts. I'm not convinced that such invisible ghosts exist, as I discussed previously here. But I can see how something appearing in a photo, but not noticed at the time of exposure, might be considered paranormal. I guess a similar argument could be made for UFOs. If it really was an alien craft then some kind of invisibility would probably be an easy thing to do compared with interstellar space travel.

However, as always in such cases, it is entirely possible that the photographer simply missed what was plainly visible at the time. They may have been paying attention to the subject of the photo, not some object in the background. Another possible explanation for such pictures is a photographic artefact. In other words, the object in the photo is not what it appears at first sight to be. And that is the explanation here.

White flying object detailThe white flying object is actually a bird. Here (left) is a zoomed version of the object cropped from the same photo. The apparent 'saucer' shape is caused by the way the bird is holding its wings at the precise moment the photo is taken. Had the picture been taken at a slightly different time it would never have looked like a saucer. Had the photo been of lower resolution it would not have been possible to zoom in and get the extra detail required to show the true nature of the object. It might, then, have remained a mystery. This is, then, yet another example of a coincidence causing an apparent anomalous incident.