10 January 2006

Some random thoughts on ghost hunting and hauntings

It is interesting to live in the modern era and see such things as A Haunting, which gives you a weekly dose of haunted places, people, things and other para-phenomena. I particularly love seeing folks hauling old reel-to-reel tape recorders and large bulky equipment around with them, while having a laptop in front of them capable of running some relatively low-end software that would put most tape recorders to shame. For all the advances in technology, going after things as the Cornish or other proverb describes them: "From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!", still seems a pretty low-tech affair. I mean in this era of disposable cameras, web cams, parabolic sound enhancers, Fourier transform analysis and noise cancellation, easy to obtain non-visual spectrum cameras... we still get people clunking around with flashlights, in dark basements!

So, here are some advancements I would like to see in the haunting investigation business:

1) Real time audio enhancement allowing direct conversations with those... whatever. This may take a little bit of time, but really it should be possible to give people headsets so that when they speak their voices are automatically cancelled out and responses can be analyzed. Put on a damper to keep noises from getting too loud. Adjust the sensitivity up and down the audio spectrum. And get some basic answers to these questions:

  • Are these spirits speaking in the normal, human vocal range? Is it just a matter of sensitivity of the microphones? Perhaps two parabolic microphones with a bit of offset could help not only in sensitivity but in direction. Add auto tracking capability. Let the equipment track the noise sources as they move.
  • If speaking outside the normal vocal range, adjust and find out if they are speaking at a normal amplitude outside of it. What *is* the exact frequency and amplitude of these voices? What does that indicate for the actual generating of such sounds? Is the sound diffuse generation over an area or point generation as in actual mouthed words? Two sets of the above parabolic apparatus will help pin this down.
  • In the era of the iPod, check for PORTABLE EQUIPMENT! It is all very nice and spooky to be in a Alien arrangement, but do remember that was supposed to be a lash-up of components not commonly kept on-board such a vessel. My guess is that a quick search of Edmund's Scientific will start anyone off well in this. And remember that Google is your friend!
2) Spectral analysis! Ok, you have all these wonderful and inexpensive cameras available, but these could be added to by such things as infrared cameras or scopes. I mean we have the entire non-visual spectrum to deal with and all we get to see are these extremely faint images or dots of light. How about a good digital video arrangement? How about a real time IR scope with digital feed off of it? These things are not only available, but they are coming down from the stratosphere to the hobbyist range. Some things I would like to see as results of a real set of optical and non-visual spectral cameras:

  • What is the emmissivity of these spirits? Is it in infrared? UV? Above or below? Even a broad spectrum detection system will at least give the possible range for such. Do they emit anything at all?? If so, do for these emission sources as done for audio: two cameras in a stereo vision arrangement and auto-tracking capability. Does the emission source track with the audio source?
  • Are spirits passive reflectance sources? If so what is their range for absorption and reflectance? Use multiple cameras with emission sources for that camera type and pin this down. Yes, the standard human visual equipment is nice, but limited. If they reflect mostly in IR or UV or up or down, then how about putting some emitters and cameras more well tuned to such things?
  • Visual enhancement software has come way, way, way down in price. Motion detection and changes in video frames are pretty easy to catch and enhance in real time. So how about it?
  • Many webcams are also pretty good IR cameras. If this is the part of the spectrum that spirits and such emit or reflect in, then putting up a 3D coverage of a home room-by-room becomes relatively inexpensive. Other parts of the spectrum, save visual, are not so easy to do at this point, but more specialized rigging may help on doing a partial scanning and sweeping.
  • If these things are mostly in the visual spectrum, then how about filters? There is an entire host and technology dating back to the earliest era of film technology available to work with. Haven't *any* experts been contacted in this?

Working with the above the goal is: a real time tracking and recording system to get the best visual and audio enhancement of spirit tracking around. Spirits don't seem to be too in tune with laptops, digital cameras, iPods and the such like, and don't seem to mess with them. Duplicates of same make it really, really hard to take them all out at the same time without other setups tracking that.

Now, once you can get good real time audio and visual enhancements, add headset and tracking goggles which allow direct sight but overlay the enhancements. Ta-da! Now you can *see* and *hear* what these things look like to a close approximation of what they really are.

Next up, the not easily perceived stuff.

How about magnetometers? Just to see if there is a magnetic field associated with these things? Even such things as a simple compass could help and cheap ones distributed over a room or other space would help to track changes. There must be better out there than that, and I leave it up to the interested parties to look them up. The basic point is that you want to classify as much about these spiritual phenomena as possible. And as oh-so many of these hauntings are regular or at least frequently episodic in nature, spending some time in putting a good set-up will pay dividends very quickly.

Note that IR cameras will do a good job of detecting changes in temperature. Is this a subjective (i.e. only felt subjectively by an individual) or objective (i.e. real temperature changes in the air) phenomena? Some of those insty-temp directional sensors would be a huge help here. Like the audio and video equipment do a stereo arrangement and auto track. Get amount of changes in temperature for a volume of air. This indicates the amount of energy being expended for that volume. Or is it a point source? Inquiring minds want to know!

These two alone will give the amount of energy being expended for thermal and electromagnetic phenomena and start to put real energy values on spirits for these things. Visual absorption/reflectance and emmissivity amounts further lets us know the energy budget of spirits. What are we looking for here?

  • Do these phenomena follow the Laws of Thermodynamics? Every known and measured phenomena does so along with Entropy, and getting the idea of the actual energy being used and an overall energy budget will help determine just *what* these spirits actually *are*. There are all sorts of speculations out there, and they remain speculations because no one has bothered to do a real job of analyzing the phenomena. Are these static waveforms being supplied by seismic phenomena? Are these 4D manifestations of some higher order of being? Please, please, I do not want *spookiness* or 'Secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know' sorts of answers. Real energy budgets and reasoning as to how they are processing such energy, please.
  • When these phenomena exert kinetic energy (poltergeisting) they use up energy. There is a transference of potential energy to kinetic energy. Moving a 70kg object (a woman say) 5 meters with a resistance of drag involved gets you an energy expenditure. That energy does *not* come from nowhere! Its source may not be obvious, but tracking it, categorizing it and understanding it will help to sort out just what that source may be. Once that list can be made, crossing things off the list becomes a Holmesian search.
  • Finally tracking when such events happen may be able to sort out ties to other phenomena. Why, oh why, do they mainly happen at night? Is it due to the state of the observers? Or is there a good *reason* behind it? Most people are not at their sharpest at night and getting a good evaluation of events from people in a near-sleep state is not reliable. Time to get the wooly thinking out, and the measured phenomena in.

Finally the spiritual nature of these things. What *exactly* happens during an exorcism or other ritual to spiritually remove such a phenomena from a place/person? And just where, exactly, *are* the psychiatrists in all this? Damn rare, it seems... Can we possibly get some real evaluations on the individuals involved and the phenomena itself?

Ok, last idea on all of this... since it *is* the Discovery Channel... how about crossing in another show with this? A couple of men who have a great background in lashing up equipment, not minding physical discomfort and willing to do some very strange things on the fly? Like, oh.... Mythbusters?

Until someone gets real about all this, I will remain in the 'open to persuasion, but generally skeptical' camp. And save the stories for the campfire.

No comments: