Saturday, 29 July 2017

Four Armed Is Fore-warned: More Panoramic Spooks Debunked.

The following story first appeared in the Belfast Online news on July 27th, before dispersing to various tabloids as these things tend to do. The Daily Mail version of the story (29/07/17) tells us: 
"A mother-of-four was startled to see a picture of her son sporting an extra leg - and herself with three arms - in what she believes could be a message from beyond the grave from her late father. Laura, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, shared the image of her holding three-year-old Theo and smiling for the camera during the family's 'day of the dead' party to honour their loved ones who had passed. During the memorial party, Laura's sister took the picture but her husband only discovered the strange appearance of the 'extra' limbs the next day.Now, following a series of unexplained events in the household, Laura believes it could be the work of her late father, Terry, who passed away shortly after her youngest son was born."

 So let's take a look at the image that has warranted the tabloid news space. 

As you can see it appears that little Theo appears to have three legs and there also appears to be a ghostly severed arm in the frame. The Mail goes to some trouble to assure us that no one else was present in the room at the time, something which feels like a purposeful distraction from the most obvious explanation, a photographic glitch.

The first thing I noticed about the image is that all the "anomalies" seem to occur down the central axis of the image.

If you took the separate halves in isolation, there wouldn't be anything unusual about them. The anomaly is only present if you put both halves together. That makes me believe that the anomalies are a result of the image being taken in panoramic or stitch mode on a digital camera or phone. In the panoramic mode, the camera builds a picture of everything caught in the view finder, as the device is moved side to side. The propose of this is to move the camera and build a larger picture than could usually be captured, it builds the image section by section. In this example, Laura's sister hasn't moved the camera as the image is being built.

So here's what I think happened. The "recording" of the image begins right to left. Mum has her right arm under Theo whose leg is drawn in. The right half of the image is captured:

Mum moves her arm to secure her slipping head gear. Theo instinctively puts his leg out to steady himself. The left half is captured.

So that's a pretty sound hypothesis, but Fortean Times Appreciation admin and photo whizz Willie Kay wasn't sure. He suggested that someone with a panoramic camera try to replicate the image and anomalies that result. So I picked up the gauntlet and using an iPhone SE in panoramic mode in tandem with my intrepid MinI-Boot lab assistant we did just that!

Reach for the skies Mini-Boot!

As you can see, in my example the left-hand side preceded the right. Breaking it down. Mini-Boot has his left-hand across his midsection. The left-hand side is captured.

I tell MB to raise his left arm and as he does the right-hand side is captured.

You can even see in my example, the jagged edges that occur in panoramic stitching. 

Jagged edges in my example.

From Laura's example.

I think this one is well and truly debunked. Take five Mini-Boot.

There's just one thing left for me to say. I think 
It's appropriate to extend my sympathies to Laura. Sometimes in the rush to explain these things we forget the people behind them. I know the pain of losing a parent and how that is amplified in the knowledge that they will not be there to see your own children grow. I am in no way surprised that she seeks comfort in the idea her father is present. Unfortunately, this isn't an example of that presence. Sometimes I think the best way to remind ourselves that our mothers and fathers are never far from our children is to instil in them the values and qualities our parents instilled in us. We should also consider warning our children of the cynicism of outlets like the Daily Mail that take the grief of people like Laura and turn it into advertising revenue via click bait.

Looks like the panoramic glitch is the new "orb" or double exposure image, as it's providing us with an increasing amount of tabliod dross and ghost images.


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Electromagnetism As The Cause Of Supernatural Experience: A Very Skeptical Dogma.

A few days ago I shared an article from the Sun regarding ghosts in a completely non-critical way. Digest that for a minute. The reason I did this was despite being extremely lightweight, it was refreshing to see one of the UK's leading propagators of nonsense and paranormal bullshit take a semi-skeptical approach to ghosts. Of course, the article wasn't perfect. One section, in particular, reminded me of numerous heated discussions with various skeptics and skeptical paranormal investigators on the internet.

The subject: Can electromagnetic fields be the cause of supernatural experiences?

From the Sun article:
"Apparitions, cold spots and ghostly touches can be caused by man-made magnetic fields, experts have suggested...
APRA investigator Alvis said: "High electromagnetic fields and bad wiring can cause temporal lobe activity, making people believe that they are in the presence of ghosts. It is often associated with strange sensations, time distortions and hallucinations."

It's is a query that's long been pondered by skeptics and by scientific paranormal investigation teams. I think part of the reason skeptics are so enamoured with the idea is that it's tempting to attempt to find a catch-all explanation for phenomena. Flawed as we all are, these explanations are appealing, but they're often too simplistic and a poor fit for the phenomena in question. Quite often when this subject is broached I am met with claims that this is just "common knowledge" and that we "just know" this is accurate. That's a worrying position for investigators and skeptics to adopt. How have we come to this conclusion and is there any validity to it?

There has been some research aimed at providing an answer to the question of electromagnetism and supernatural experience. The most prominent example of this being Michael Persinger's work with Stanley Koren's "God Helmet", a crash helmet (left) equipped to create low-level magnetic fields in contact with a subject's frontal lobe. The hypothesis is that this causes the subject to experience what alternately described as "spiritual", "paranormal", "religious" or just plain "weird" experiences. This highlights the first problem with Persinger's work. It's all very vague. What exactly is a spiritual experience? What metric can we use to establish one has taken place. It's extremely subjective to say the least, for example as the father of a five-year-old and a six-year old I can tell you that lying on a bed in complete silence for a few hours sounds pretty spiritual to me, gaudy yellow helmet or not.

But Persinger's work has indeed provided positive results and seems to imply that low-frequency electromagnetic fields could be connected to paranormal and supernatural experiences. The problem is, no one has actually been able to successfully replicate the experiment. In fact, a team of Swedish researchers who attempted to replicate Persinger's work did so, but in a double-blind study, meaning neither the subjects nor the experimenters knew who was experiencing the directed field. Positive results vanished leaving them the team to conclude that the results shown in Persinger's testing were due more to suggestion than to electromagnetic field effects. Persinger's positive results they concluded, were as a result of failure to properly "blind" subjects.

This is seemingly borne out when we consider the experiences of subjects tested by Persinger. Jack Hitt, for example in a 1999 article for Wired magazine tells of Persinger's ominous warnings of "freaking out" in the helmet.
"Has anyone ever freaked out in the chair? Persinger smiles slightly and describes when a subject suffered an "adverse experience" and succumbed to an "interpretation that the room was hexed." When I ask if, say, the subject ripped all this equipment from his flesh and ran screaming from the dungeon, Persinger curtly replies: "Yes, his heart rate did go up and he did want to leave and of course he could because that is part of the protocol." One more time: Has anyone freaked out in the chair? "His EKG was showing that he moved very, very quickly and dramatically," Persinger offers, "and that he was struggling to take off the electrodes."..." (Wired, 1999)
Such comments are likely to colour a subject's experience and could even induce a panic which could be mistaken for a negative spiritual experience. If this is typical of the treatment a subject receives before the experiment it's easy to see this as them being "primed" to experience something odd. Let's face it, it's already a stretch to expect people to feel normal whilst they know they are taking part in an experiment. If they are then primed to expect odd sensations, this discomfort may well manifest as a feeling of being watched. Are you seriously not going to feel unusual rigged up like this?

Further to this, patients are placed in conditions approaching sensory deprivation, a state which has also been connected to inducing hallucination as demonstrated by Brady, Mason, et al in a 2009 study. All of which seems to leave Persinger's findings in some doubt. Despite this many skeptics have wholeheartedly embraced Persinger's work and similar tests such as "the haunted bed" performed by ASSAP. Likely because it provides a seemingly plausible, scientific sounding explanation of paranormal experiences. What I often hear is:
"Surely EMFs are a much more suitable explanation for ghost experiences than ghosts themselves? I mean EMF exists, right?"

Sure EMFs exist, but that doesn't immediately make them a plausible explanation for ghostly phenomena. Nor does the fact that ghost experiences often occur near sources of EMFs, electromagnetic fields are too ubiquitous for this to be anything more than a trivial statement. You're never far from electromagnetic fields. As an example take a passenger on a high-speed cross country train passing under electric pylons generating EMFs. Their frontal lobe would be exposed to rapidly alternating EMFs, shouldn't we expect some effect with respect to the passenger's perception? Is this where the expression "ghost train" comes from?

Don't worry about the Vampires and Zombies,
 it's the EMFs you have to watch for!

What is always missing from discussions about electromagnetic fields and ghost experience is a proposed mechanism by which EMFs can affect the body or the brain. There are two ways in which electromagnetic radiation can demonstrate physical effects, thermally and via ionisation. We can pretty much discount heating as a proposed mechanism for generating ghost experience for a number of reasons. Firstly all electromagnetic radiation has heating properties. We don't see these sensory effects from exposure to sunlight, if all EMF caused these effects, then surely our sensory perception would be permanently skewed? Thus there would be nothing unique about a supernatural experience. Secondly, if the proposed effect is thermal, we should expect any source of heating to be a source of sensory alteration and we should expect ghost sightings to be correlated with hotter regions of the planet and in hotter periods of the year. Also, consider that sources like power lines, the most frequent source in these claims, despite carrying strong electric currents are non-thermal.

No such correlation exists.

Let's consider the second effect electromagnetic fields interact with matter. Via ionisation. Again what we have to state clearly is there are two particular forms of electromagnetic radiation we have to consider. Ionising and non-ionising.

You can see from the above diagram that X-rays and Gamma rays (right-hand side) can damage DNA, this is done via ionisation. Ionisation occurs when electromagnetic radiation has enough energy to liberate electrons from atoms. As valence (outer shell) electrons moderate the kinds of chemical reaction a molecule partakes in, this can be disastrous when it occurs in DNA and can lead to all sorts of nasty diseases and disorders. Could short term exposure also have sensory effects? Possibly. We know there's a physical effect to consider here, a physical effect on the brain is possible.

The problem is that none of the items commonly accused of causing sensory alteration and supernatural effects, mobile phone towers, power lines and household items emit ionising radiation. The electromagnetic radiation they emit is too low-frequency and thus low-energy to cause ionisation. The energy of electromagnetic radiation is related to wavelength and frequency by the following relationships.

c=the speed of light, h= Planck's constant, f= frequency, λ= wavelength,
E= energy.

So you should see clearly that the longer the wavelength the shorter the frequency and the lower the energy. So you should also see that the radiation emitted by power lines and household items carry considerably less energy than X-rays or gamma rays as their wavelength is much lower. In fact, they even have less energy than even visible light. As we are specifically concerned with radiation's effect on the brain, let's look at the ionisation energies of the most common elements in the human brain namely carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen which are roughly 11.3 eV, 14.5eV, 13.6 eV and 13.6 eV respectively and calcium which has an ionisation energy of 6.11eV and calculate whether a photon of microwave radiation has the requisite energy to ionise any of these elements. Before we do that there is something that is important to recall here. If an element has an ionisation energy of 10.0 eV then only a photon of 10.0 eV and above will ionise it. Two 5.0 eV photons incident upon the atom will not work, nor will five 2.0 eV photons. What this essentially means is the intensity of a field doesn't make a difference to its ionisation effects.

Let's focus on power lines which generally emit a field with a frequency between 50-60Hz and are skeptics are paranormal investigators go-to culprit in manufacturing supernatural phenomena. Using that second formula up there, that gives us an energy of:

Converting that to electron volts (eV) you can see it's an insignificant amount of energy and nowhere near ionisation energies.

There is research into the possibility of low-frequency EMF causing physiological damage, but it is particularly poor and mostly published in open access pay-to-play journals. One striking example is "Fielding a current idea: exploring the public health impact of electromagnetic radiation" (Genius, et al, 06) which offers evidence in the form of four case studies. An example of which is below:
"Case history #3

A 17-year-old boy experiencing a 3-year history of intrusive thoughts relating to religious themes believed he had committed unpardonable sins and was convinced the devil was imminently taking him to hell. As well as increasing depressive symptoms, the adolescent displayed escalating aggression towards his parents. The nominally religious parents took their son for religious counsel to no avail. Psychiatric diagnosis included a thought disorder. Psychotropic medication failed to control the symptoms but caused numerous side effects. Human exposure assessment uncovered extremely high gauss measurements (4200 mGauss) at the head of the teen’s bed, as electrical entry to the house was immediately adjacent to the bedroom, right beside his bed. As well as changing rooms, all other sources of EMF exposure were minimized. Within 12 weeks, the intrusive thoughts abated considerably, the mood symptomatology declined, the medication was stopped, and the parents indicated that their son was now a friendly, motivated boy. One episode of symptom aggravation subsequently occurred immediately following 4 h of online work in a high school computer laboratory; symptoms subsided within 72 h of deliberate EMF avoidance. All adverse symptoms completely cleared within 6 months and wellness was maintained over the next 2 years and at the time of writing." (Genius, et al, 2006)
So Genius concludes that medication was not successful, but was continued until symptoms abated. How he can conclude that the cessation of symptoms was as a result of non-exposure to EMF is unclear, especially as psychotropic medication has a tendency to take some time before an effect is displayed. As for a mechanism of effect, Genius suggests "dirty electricity" electromagnetic radiation that enters the home at a "pure" frequency and is altered, although quite what makes one frequency bad, and another good, escapes me.

There are other factors that have to be considered when focusing on outside sources of EMF such as power lines. Building materials provide excellent screening for electric fields but screen little against magnetic fields. What we also have to consider is that electromagnetism is one of the many physical forces that obeys an inverse square law. This means the strength of an electromagnetic field falls off rapidly at increasing distances.

Now let's say that Persinger's experiment was robust. All those issues with this work, forget them for now. Replications were successful in our hypothetical world. It's accepted science. Now can you see why his experiment may still not account for ghost experiences?

I'll give you a clue. In this shitty diagram, the distance between the lines indicates the strength of the field. Closer lines, stronger field.

Persinger's helmet gives a highly directed, local exposure. Not something you're going to get from a power line!

Of course, some are still going to argue that despite what I've said here, electromagnetism is still a valid explanation for the cause of ghost sightings. As a skeptical paranormal investigator recently pointed out to me from her experience, proximity to power lines was most definitely responsible for the experiences of her clients.

Her evidence was purely ancdotal in nature.
"Most definitely they can, we had a client with a huge fear cage around her home from defective outside power lines, we measured levels all around and it was extremely high up until about 20 yards then it slowly went down the further you got. They all suffered insomnia, delusions, hearing voices and seeing apparitions. Their dog almost died from seizures and would periodically go insane fighting something that wasn't there, the vets were baffled."...and I know that once I got the state power authority involved and the problem was rectified their symptoms dissipated entirely. They had been told they had demons they were not confident that I had solved the problem until that point."
There's also a hefty dose of correlation without causation mixed in there for good measure. Perhaps the client's apparitions went away because they believed our skeptic when she said they would? Much in the same way as the ritual of exorcism may help alleviate symptoms of spiritual possession because the subject believes that it will. It's simply the power of suggestion, and until more evidence is provided it's as pseudoscientific to claim hauntings are a result of electromagnetic exposure as it is to say they are a result of the spirits of the dead. Crucially evidence suggests it's just as incorrect an explanation too. It's a clear example that skeptics too must be careful not to fall into accepting ideas simply because they are suitable or even comforting.

References and further reading.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dark Matters Indeed: What Dark Matter Tells Us About a Potential Physical Model of Ghosts.

Was there something I was meant to be doing?

Oh yeah, I was going to elaborate on the comments made by Brian Cox way back in February this year. I discussed the reaction the internet had to the comment but never explained why I think people in the paranormal community reacted so badly to the comments.

Firstly let's revisit exactly what Cox said:
"We are not here to debate the existence of ghosts because they don't exist. If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That's almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies. I would say if there's some kind of substance that's driving our bodies, making my arms move and legs move, then it must interact with the particles out of which our bodies are made. And seeing as we've made high precision measurements of the ways that particles interact, then my assertion is there can be no such thing as an energy source that's driving our bodies."
Most people familiar with physics weren't shocked by these comments, in fact. many pointed out that Cox didn't have to recourse to such modern developments as the work conducted at the LHC to dismiss ghosts as a possible element of a physical model of reality. The second law of thermodynamics, they argued, showed that any cluster of energy could not exist for a sustained period of time as it would lose energy to heat. I think we could go even more basic than this. Energy is a facet of matter. A property of matter, much like mass. It doesn't make much sense to consider energy away from some physical element be that matter or some kind of field or force carrying particle. To think of energy sat in some amorphous cloud or vague human shape, or orb is nonsensical.

Of course, that isn't the physics that the paranormal community is normally exposed to. This is a community where typical proclamations about energy run something like this:
"Energy can’t be created or destroyed; it can only change forms — that’s a law of physics. Not a theory of physics — a law. It’s called the law of conservation of energy. It means that if you take an isolated system, such as a person, the energy contained in that person can’t be destroyed. It can change forms from chemical energy — like the signals that travel down your nerve pathways — into kinetic energy, the energy required to move your arm, for example, but the energy is always there. This law makes sense to me. It means that when we die, our energy must go somewhere. The flesh and bones — the empty vessel — is left behind, but the energy survives." -Nick Groff
Scientific Evidence That Proves Ghosts Are Really Real
And sure that's true. Your chemical energy does go on. But not in the form of a "ghost" much of it is lost to heat. The rest consumed by other organisms converted to kinetic energy and electrical energy and eventually heat too. Your energy will indeed go on, just not in the way Groff wants you to believe. Manipulations such as Groff's require an extra mechanism in our physical model of reality. A living energy. A vitalism if you like. It's something we've found no evidence of, but more important than that we are missing a much more important piece of the puzzle than evidence. Something more fundamental than evidence. We can identify this missing piece in the reactions to Cox's comments and one particular aspect that his critics raised repeatedly.

What about dark matter?

And so on.

So why are ghosts any different than dark matter? Surely both are unknowns not within our current understanding? Frustratingly unknown, perhaps even unknowable?

The fundamental difference is something even skeptics miss when considering ideas of ghosts and spirits, dark matter exists as a concept within physics because it is necessitated. We observed gravitational effects in far regions of the universe that could not be explained by observable matter in those areas. The need for dark matter in our models of the universe became clear as early as 1906, when Henri Poncaire assessed the work of Lord Kelvin. The distribution of velocities and masses of far flung star systems did not match with the observation of visual matter in those systems. There was a need for "something else" not gas, dust or plasma, dark in both its interaction with light and its place in our body of knowledge (this also answers the question "could ghosts be dark matter?" Not if you also maintain ghosts could be something seen or even photographed.) By the 1960s we were analysing rotational curves of disc galaxies to discover galaxies were enveloped in dark matter halos, as the rotational curve of the M33 galaxy (below) shows. The difference between the calculated velocity (the white line) and the observed velocities (yellow line) can be accounted for by the addition of a dark matter halo.

In the hundred plus years since 1906 we've become adept that detecting dark matter. Perhaps the most striking example of this is the observation of colliding galaxies such as the Bullet cluster (below).

This image shows the gas and plasma colliding and slowing down at the meeting point of two galaxies as they merge. Yet when we observe the gravitational lensing, the way light passing its strong gravitational influence is bent, often forming a ring-like pattern, produced by this super-cluster we see a different picture emerge.

It appears as if the majority of the mass of the colliding galaxies has passed harmlessly through the site of collision distributing itself at either side of the cloud. We have observed this multiple times. This is the inner edges of the dark matter halos slipping through each other and everything else to form one outer halo. It is unencumbered by the violent electromagnetic battle that dominates the gas and plasma interactions.

That should illustrate what we are missing when we ask for evidence of ghosts. With dark matter, we identified a hole in our model of reality. There was an element that current elements of that model could not explain. We then set out to find evidence that this factor exists. Then we quantified it and began to identify its properties. We still don't know what dark matter is, but we know what it isn't. It isn't baryonic matter, it doesn't interact with baryonic matter, it doesn't absorb or emit light, it doesn't interact with itself. But it has a gravitational influence that can be measured. Step one here, in the case of ghosts, is missing. There is no hole in our model of the universe that requires a ghost shaped piece to fill, some behaviour or observation that defies any other explanation. Before we speculate on the properties of a ghost, before we collect evidence we must first ensure there's something to speculate on. Otherwise, the evidence we collect is random, amorphous and pretty meaningless.

I believe it's this missing necessity that both skeptics and believers fail to recognise that accounts for some of the disconnects between the two groups. Believers present evidence to the skeptics and fail to see exactly why it is dismissed. Often it's because it's clear that evidence isn't warranted without cause.

When we approach the idea of ghosts through a lens of physics, the concept becomes redundant beyond even pure hypothesis. We can hardly express anger or dismay at the attitude of Brian Cox to ghosts when we consider this. He isn't being a skeptic, or a cynic, or cruel.

He is simply being a physicist. Physics doesn't speculate beyond things which are in some way necessitated, it tends to ignore the superflous in favour of utility. Unfortunately this includes ghosts.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Only "Paranormal" Image That I Can't Explain.

I recently came across a thread in the Fortean Times Appreciation group on Facebook asking members to post a Fortean or paranormal image that they find scary or haunting. The request relates to a question I was often asked when this blog concerned itself predominantly with debunking ghost images posted on social media and in the tabloid press: "This there an image you've come across that you can't explain?" For myself, there's one image that fits both of those categories. Neither can I explain it nor can I dismiss it from my mind. It frightens me every time I look at it. There isn't anything remotely paranormal about it of course. The reason it gives me pause is entirely Earthly.

The image is one taken during the exorcism of Anneliese Michel. All the images taken during that ritual involving Anneliese are particularly disturbing. Her physical deterioration is enough to give one pause.

 But this image stands out for a reason besides that.

The lady with her arm wrapped around Anneliese's neck there is her mother Anna. This image starkly shows how badly this young woman was let down by the very people with a duty to protect her above anyone or anything else.

Of course, I don't consider the image remotely paranormal. Demons do not exist, they don't possess young college students. Anneliese suffered from several mental health conditions in addition to temporal lobe epilepsy  (TLE). She received treatment for severe depression, and due to her extremely strict religious upbringing, she became fixated on the idea that she was possessed. Her parents, family and local Priest indulged this delusion. Conditions that were treatable. There's no reason this woman could not have led a normal healthy and productive life. TLE sufferer Pete Bell commented on my Facebook page where I recently discussed this image. His insight into what Anneliese went through is invaluable. It also clearly shows why a person with a strong religious upbringing may interpret their condition as a demonic possession:
"During the seizures you can quite frequently feel the presence of a dark entity, I've described it as demonic myself before. The fear and utter dread is off the scale, you just feel like this is it, you're going to die and go to hell. And hell is like nothing you could ever imagine, what's weird us it's like you're remembering it from past experience. Religious experiences are often described too, some are lucky that they get the blissful types of seizures. Mine were always scary as shit and the following psychosis wasn't much fun either. This is a case that really resonates with me, I've experienced the personal hell she would have been through and I can't imagine what that combined with superstitious bullshit must have been like. A really sad story."

Pete recommends the talks of neuroscientist V.S Ramachandran to understand TLE better.

The image above is a stark reminder of how ignorance, superstition and blind belief can destroy lives and lead to the perpetration of unspeakable cruelty even by our loved ones. And unfortunately this is isn't a thing of the past. Incidents of children and young men killed during exorcisms continue to this day. They don't occur in far flung regions of the world, they aren't part of some strange alien culture. They happen amongst us now. That's why I want to share this image with you. It's why I hope it continues to haunt me, so I'll always be motivated to speak out about these beliefs and practices and this understanding of physical, neurological and mental disorders.

This video may upset you. 


Youtube version if you don't have a flash player.

The most haunting thing about this image, these are Anneliese's own mother and father restraining the frail, dying body of their daughter. They can see her wasting away in front of their eyes, yet they don't take her to a hospital. They continue the barbaric ritual that eventually kills her. Their superstition outweighs their love for their child and their instinct to protect her.

It empowers them to assist in her murder, as is the cases I document in that short video.

I can't think of anything that scares me more. Or that escapes my attempts to understand it.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Mothers Who Refuse to Put Sunscreen On Their Children. A Video Response.

If you regularly check the column on the right-hand side you'll notice there's now a Skeptic's Boot YouTube channel. I intend to use it for reviews of video footage and TV shows and visual evidence. Everything I post will still be linked here.

The first video proper was a response to a recent article published in the Daily Mail regarding the growing trend in not applying sunscreen from a misplaced fear of "chemicals" and synthesised materials.

You can watch here:

If you enjoyed the video please share it to your social media, give it a thumbs up and subscribe to the channel.

Thanks as ever.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

A Proponent Of Hyperianism Demonstrates Perfectly Why Hyperianism Doesn't Work.

Here's a quick update to the Morgue post I featured on the blog a few days ago. Since then I have posted an objection to Hyperianism on Morgue's Facebook page. I wouldn't normally post social media interactions to the blog, but this exchange perfectly exemplifies why Hyperianism doesn't work.

A quick recap of relevant information. Morgue tells us in his video "Science, the new irrational religion" that Hyperianism trumps science as an epistemology because it does not rely on sense data, empiricism (testing by experiment) and induction. In this interaction, you'll see how a Hyperianist reacts to a challenge to their pure logic based approach to reality.

Firstly I put to Morgue my objection to Hyperianism based upon the flaw in pure logic that it leaves us with no way to assess the premises of a logical conundrum using the example used in my previous post regarding Morgue.

At this point a follower of Hyperianism, Iilania Novic takes up the cudgel for Morgue.

When Novic talks about assigning values of T or F, 1 or 0 to the premises I offer it's vital to note these are truth values. As Morgue does, Novic is using mathematics to avoid answering a legitimate question. How do we assign a "truth value" without ascertaining something is true? We could regress to further logical conundrums, but all we are doing is introducing further premises which remain unverified until examining them empirically. This applies to Venn diagrams and truth tables, whilst these are useful data displaying conventions, they are ultimately useless until an empirical method is used to fill them!

My last statement there is a trap for Novic and she walks straight into it.

In order to prove that sensory data isn't necessary to assess the premise "Carl has blond hair" Novic, a supporter of an epistemology that rejects empiricism mind you, recourses to the EMPIRICAL findings of physics! Wavelengths of light can be represented numerically Novic insists. True. But how does she account for the quantification of those wavelengths? These things were verified experimentally, using induction. Thus they should be rejected by Hyperianism, a system which, again, rejects empiricism, and thus experiment, as a method of ascertaining knowledge.

Also, these aren't pure numbers. They are numbers attached to an arbitrary system of measurement. Without units of length, the numbers themselves are meaningless

Backed into a corner, Novic resorts to a tactic we see all too often these days, appeal to offence. By noting she seems intelligent I have "insulted" her somehow.

The takeaway from all this is just how useless Hyperianism actually is. It's proponents can't even verify a simple premise without completely throwing it out of the window!

No wonder Morgue is so grumpy.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

David Rountree: What You Need To Know.

Like a creature returning from a hibernating state, emerging from its lair blinking in the sunlight, then pulling a plug of faeces and hair from its anus for the world to examine, David Rountree has begun to emerge from his self-imposed exile from the paranormal community. Rountree was scheduled to appear as a guest on a paranormal team's radio show a few weeks ago. The appearance didn't go ahead due to a concerted effort from within the paranormal community to inform the hosts about just who and what Rountree is. I won't mention the name of the hosts, simply because they had no idea what they were getting into with Rountree, the opinion of the people I spoke to had in turn spoken to the team mentioned their shock at the magnitude of the reaction to the man.

"I've been caught lying this many times!" Not even close Dave

The aim of this post is to prevent other teams experiencing the same shock and to explain why there is such negative feeling towards this man. What I hope is clear here though is that I don't actually believe Rountree should be "no platformed." I think David shouldn't be denied a platform. But, I do believe that the hosts of shows that intend to feature Rountree have a responsibility to make their audiences aware of who he actually is and crucially who he is not. Rountree can't be allowed to talk with authority on subjects like physics and archaeology, he simply isn't qualified enough to do so, and to allow him to do this is to allow him to badly mislead your audience.  Also, hosts should be aware, based on some of his past actions, he's a pretty shitty human being

Rountree's reappearance in the paranormal field didn't exactly come as a shock to those who follow his activities. He recently began posting on his personal social media about a haunted mirror left at his abode by a girlfriend and "activity" in his attic. Not exactly a smoking gun of a return to the field right? Well, he followed these posts with a long form posting exposing a new paradigm of physics. Like much of what has gone before with Rountree, the explanation of his new theory involves a great deal of terminology used incorrectly, but coherent enough to appear legitimate to the layman.

A sample of his latest musings is below. You'll probably be unsurprised given what you are about to reed that these latest insights are plagiarised also. The original source is the wikpedia page on Materialism.

Following this Roundtree appeared at a Paranormal convention dressed as a child's drawing of an archaeologist.

This brings us to the first thing that potential Rountree hosts should know:

0. Stolen Valour.

This is the elephant in the room and the first thing anyone aiming to discuss Rountree must address. You may be very surprised that I'm not going to dwell on this given how important that is. There's a very simple reason for this: Respect.

I am not, nor will I ever be, a member of the armed forces. I have no family members or close friends in the armed forces. As such I can't fully comprehend the sacrifice that service men and women commit themselves to, especially as they are deployed to combat zones. This doesn't mean I don't consider stolen valour a disgusting and reprehensible act. Far from it. But I believe the criticism of Rountree's actions when he committed this act and falsified his service record should be delivered to you by someone who does understand.

That's why I'm directing you to the blog of No Blue Falcons, who has, alongside others worked tirelessly in exposing him in this area. In these blog postings you will see a wealth of evidence, most notably David's DD214, his Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, showing Rountree...

A. Did not serve in Vietnam as he claimed in various sources, most notably the biographies in his published works of fiction.

B. Did not earn the Bronze or Silver star, or any of the medals he both claimed and displayed in social media postings such as this one:

C. Was never certified as an officer, as also claimed.

I'm also going to reproduce No Blue Falcon's justification for pursuing and exposing Roundtree, I have my own reasons which I will lay out in my conclusion, but I concur with the sentiment expressed here:
"In regards to invasion of privacy, invasion of privacy occurs when you publicly disclose private facts not related to public concern. Because Mr. Rountree made so many public claims about his biography and his military service over the years, as well as it is published in his book currently being sold, the claims can be investigated for truth. Furthermore, he instructed the public to “google him” and he is a public figure, as he was on television and continues to do radio shows, has had articles written about him in numerous magazines, and does podcasts. The facts that are shared above about him ARE REFUTING WHAT HE PUT OUT PUBLICLY AND THEREFORE ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO PUBLIC CONCERN."

You'll find the links to the No Blue Falcons posts in the sources section after my conclusion.
Moving on to my initial involvement with Rountree and his most commonly repeated falsehood. The one that earned him a spot on ghost hunting TV show "Ghost Stalkers".

1. Rountree isn't qualified to talk about physics.

This is the most pertinent point to the post and that future groups that aim to host Rountree must consider. This isn't because Rountree's claims of physics qualifications are an insult to people who dedicate their lives of the discipline, but it's because it is in this area where Rountree initially found fame, it's also the area that he repeatedly returns to when he feels scrutiny is off him. Case in point. Rountree's recent radio appearance was going to revolve around physics and cosmology. See below.

My involvement with Rountree came as a result of his physics claims, and one claim in particular. Rountree claimed that he was not only a PhD in quantum physics but had published a dissertation in the peer-reviewed press. In an attempt to shift focus from the exposure regarding his military service and other aspects of life, Rountree boldly claimed that the problem with his critics was they focused on him personally rather than his "work". I was determined that Rountree wouldn't have this avenue to retreat down anymore by tackling his work head on.

Rountree's main claims in physics revolve around wormholes and the detection of the same. That's what he'll probably want to discuss on your show. I can't stress strongly enough: If Rountree had discovered definitive proof of wormholes, we would be a Nobel Prize holder. Wormholes are purely theoretical at this stage. The world's foremost cosmologists are unsure if they exist, yet Rountree claims not only have discovered them but a method for their detection. The big problem is Rountree doesn't understand physics well enough to make these claims. He tells us that his "wormhole detector" operates by detecting gamma ray emissions. But, he also tells us that wormholes do not have an event horizon or the massive gravity of their cousin black holes. This means that wormholes can't have an accretion disc, a massive spinning disc of blazing hot matter that builds when material feeds into a black hole. The problem with this is that's where the gamma emissions of a black hole emerge from. Wormholes can't have gamma emissions by Rountree's own logic!

You can read my full exposure of David's self published "paper" here. The first thing of note is despite Rountree's claims, his paper was not published in a peer-reviewed journal but on Research Gate which is a "pay to play" journal that will accept any submissions that come with a cheque attached. One of the most shocking things I found regarding Rountree's "work" was not just that it was utterly nonsensical, I expected that. What shocked me, was how little of the paper was actually written by him.

Here's my comparison from a brief section of that post:







Even the equations used in the paper are lifted wholesale from Wikipedia, this is clear from the font they are presented in:





So not only is Rountree's work not credible it isn't even his.

We shouldn't be surprised at how poor Rountree's grasp of physics is, so poor he's on record stating that mathematics isn't actually that important in physics. The fact is he doesn't have any qualifications in the subject. Here's what Rountree used to claim on social media regarding his physics background:

After Roundtree's deception regarding his quantum mechanics qualification was exposed he changed "Princeton" in his education bio to a qualification in Physics from "the school of life" (below).

Consider, this is a man who is going to speak to your audiences about physics. A man who confesses the pinnacle of his education is what he's learnt from life in general? Would you let a surgeon who claims he's education in anatomy comes from the school of life? Of course not, and life teaches you a lot more about anatomy than it does about quantum mechanics.

You'll also notice Rountree lists another qualification from the "school of life" Rountree now claims to have a qualification in "archaeology". Unlike his claims with physics Rountree doesn't seem to have made checkable academic claims in this area.

This is a pattern that Roundtree repeats frequently. When he is caught in a lie, he replaces that lie with something equally grandiose but more nebulous and less specific.

2. Rountree isn't an archaeologist either.

After his exposure as a physics fraud, Rountree began appearing on paranormal shows as a "paranormal archaeologist". I consulted many people who have been following Rountree's activities for a long time and not a single one of them remembers a single occasion before Rountree claims were debunked when he mentions being an archaeologist. His claims in this area are less grandiose than the corresponding claims in physics, but they are as easy to debunk. One of the most telling signs, despite claims of attending various archaeological digs, is that Rountree has yet to publish a single image either from a dig or even from any of the various countries he claims to have visited. Not one. And as you can probably see, Dave is a selfie addict. Heck, he even publishes photos from his hospital bed, wearing a lovely... erm... alligator foot?

Let's look at some of Rountree's specific claims regarding archaeology or to be more precise, finds.

Roundtree tells us he has found a "spiritual blade" at an excavation of a temple site. He neglects to mention that this blade can also be found in a slightly less auspicious location, E-Bay.

An amazing find indeed! And a snap at $24 with free postage! This isn't a one-off either. This "9th-10th Century Viking Ring" Rountree claims to have found?

Can also be found on an auction site, or at least a similar one, Live Auctioneers (below).

No Blue Falcon points out with regards to Rountree's archaeological claims:
"Rountree also claimed to have polished and fixed the box the dagger came in, this can also be bought online. And it is Chinese not Tibetan (below). Tibetan temple artefacts would be held in a holy Tibetan box which would not be readily available. 
Furthermore, anything found on an expedition would not be taken by the "digger" as Rountree claims to be. It would belong to the institution that has the grant and permit for the dig, and would eventually be turned over to authorities for the purpose of historical preservation. If he is restoring these items, as he claims, he has destroyed their authenticity. That's Archaeology 101."
So we can be sure Rountree isn't a physicist or an archaeologist but is there anything he's told us we can be sure of.... Surely there's a limit to the things he is prepared to lie about?

3. Rountree's claims regarding his ethnicity. 

Rountree's habit of shifting from one claim to another extends beyond his academic claims to his ethnic heritage. Initially, Rountree claimed to be of Native American descent, with his mother being Eastern Cherokee and his father part of the Nasemond tribe. No Blue Falcons Points out here that the Nansemond were not the "larger nation" as Rountree claims below. They were part of the Powhatan chiefdom and confined to the VA area. NBF says someone of tribal ancestry would know this.

 I believe much of the reason for this was to appropriate an air of "shamanism" and give Rountree's activities in the paranormal community weight. He claims to be considered an "elder" of certain tribes and a "medicine man".

Roundtree has founded several groups based upon this ethnic identity, in particular, his page "Wolf Shaman" is a striking example of Roundtree's desire to ascribe specialist abilities to himself. Case in point.

When several individuals researched Rountree's actual ethnic origins they found he had essentially falsified his connection to Native Americans. The following E-mail exchange occurred between the blogger No Blue Falcons, who will return to our story in a major way shortly, and the genealogist of the tribe from which Rountree claimed his father belonged to:

When Rountree was exposed with regards to these claims regarding his ethnicity, he once again shifted his story. He became the descendant of "Viking Kings".

The last word regarding Rountree's heritage should go to the person who knows him the best. The only person truly in a position to expose Native American tales of wolf shamanism as completely fallacious. Rountree himself. This post came from a genealogy website Rountree used in 2002.

We can see that Rountree tells a lot of lies. Why does he do it? Essentially I believe that David desires an air of authority. Like many mediums, psychics, demonologists and the like, he seeks to give himself abilities and powers that set him above others in his field. He claims to have access to knowledge beyond that of his peers. His desire to be considered a source of wisdom is telling. Roundtree wants admiration and respect but doesn't want to work to earn it. He seeks it the easy way, by lying to obtain it. 

But your audience's respect and admiration may not be the only thing Rountree seeks to obtain. He's not above using his elevated position to hawk some tat.

4. Roundtree's Merchandise. 

Let's be clear here, Rountree isn't the worst culprit for this in the paranormal field, but that doesn't absolve him from criticism. Rountree not only used his falsified physics education to obtain a position on the short-lived Destination America show "Ghost Stalkers" but he's also used it to sell some utter rubbish to his fellow ghost hunters. In a November 2016 blog Rountree wrote: " I am selling off little by little, the tools and equipment from Spirit Lab. I just have to find the right home for each piece."

Equipment like "the orb sucker" which found its way to a group known as Revenant Research in 2011.

That red bag at the back? It's a handheld vacuum cleaner. Rountree designed an orb removal device that is a vacuum cleaner. Mull that over for a second.

If that's not your speed (bearing in mind that many vacuums have two or more speeds), how about a wormhole detector? A device designed to detect something that is purely theoretical that the greatest minds in science cannot move past hypothesis. Rountree detects them regularly using equipment built from materials from Home Depot.

In case you're wondering, PVC will not contain gamma rays which this claims to detect.

Don't worry if you're not into technology built from vacuum cleaners and PVC rings, Rountree has some more spiritual in nature paraphernalia to sell your audience which he sold via his "wolf creations" page on Facebook, now gone, Rountree now produces and sells Viking pieces in line with his switch in ethnicity.

This one brings death to your enemies, for when shit in a burning bag on a doorstep just won't do! Also note here the two posts pictured below connect David to the aforementioned "Wolf Creations".

David's attitude to his critics brings me to my next point.

5. Rountree doesn't handle criticism well. Understatement.

Let's say you go ahead and feature Rountree on your show, and some of your audience doesn't like him, doesn't rate his ideas or realise he doesn't really know what he's talking about. How is he going to react to that?

Well, he could do what he did to me when I pointed out his error in physics, refuse to answer any of the points put to him, then refuse to allow any other points to be put to him by blocking them.

At least he didn't imply that I was criticising him out of repressing sexual desire as he has done with his female critics.

Pretty mild right? Blocking critics isn't anything extraordinary these days. Well, Roundtree may also respond to criticism in a more extreme way. Including taking shots at a woman's physical disability...

And of the disabilities of one of his critic's children.

I'm not going to share the image Rountree directed to the mother of a child with severe disabilities. I've never asked my readers to take anything on faith, until now. I don't want to see it again, I don't want the lady in question to see it again and I don't want you to see it at all.

Rountree is also not averse to releasing the personal information of at least one of his critics to the public whilst threatening to do this to others. Doxxing is illegal may I add. Ironic as he has also threatened to sue the person in question as well as threatening others with cease and desist notices. One would think this would have been pointed out by his lawyers if he ever consulted one that is.

Insults are one thing, doxing is another. It's particularly chilling as Rountree has explicitly threatened to kill his critics and demonstrated that he has the capability to do just that by displaying weapons in images addressed to his detractors.


You are no doubt getting this right now, this is what you potentially expose your audience to if you chose to engage with Rountree. This is not an honest man and in my humble opinion, not a stable man. Do you really want your audience to be exposed to the things I've discussed in just the above section alone?

Insults, doxing, threats to kill?

If you do, go ahead and feature him on your show. But at least now you'll understand why people react so strongly towards the decision.

Many may wonder what motivated me to write this lengthy post, Rountree has never attacked me after all. Am I just a busy body, jumping into some witch hunt? Well, my issue is one of sacrifice. All the things that Rountree has lied about, taken shortcuts to cease adulation and respect and credibility, those things take sacrifice to achieve.

I'm acutely aware of the sacrifice it takes to achieve a degree in physics. I have two children, a partner and a job. During term time I work until 2 or 3 am on occasion, shower, go to bed, then get up at 7.30 am and head to work.  I take beta blockers to manage stress during exam periods.  I've sat cradling my child with a raging fever, rocking and soothing him, with a text book cracked open in my free hand.

You may think I want sympathy here. Or respect even.

Fuck sympathy. Respect? As Bon Scott once said, "for what?"

I want to know everything I can about physics. I want to share it with the paranormal and skeptical community, to help and inform and dispell ignorance, and have them trust what I am telling them. Not because I speak in jargon or with arrogance, confident in the fact that my audience won't catch me out. Not because I hide from critics, or abuse them, threaten them, say disgusting things about their children. I want to teach my children how amazing our universe is, the profound beauty in nature.

I will get that because I made the sacrifice. I paid my dues.

And my sacrifice is nothing. Nothing.

I know physics professors who battled dyslexia and a fickle and uncaring school system, dragged themselves from working class families in Warrington to Oxford. You all know Stephen Hawking, who was given two years to live after a devastating diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease at the age of 21. He is now 75. His survival alone borders on miraculous, the fact that he is the greatest living mind is beyond that. The man transcends a miracle. And I speak of these people because I study physics. The field of archaeology is also built on the sacrifice of its students.

Despite all this, these sacrifices pale in comparison, to that made by those in the armed forces. Those in combat may make the ultimate sacrifice, their families too.

Rountree's easy route to success spits on all of this and that means that it ultimately spits on the spirit of our desire to be better. Not just to appear better to those too ill informed to spot deception.

-Robert Lea,

Skeptic's Boot. 

Thanks and Credit.

I didn't really write this post. I gathered the of several individuals who have spent years dedicated to exposing David Rountree. Their reward for this thus far has been scorn and abuse. They've visited social media in the morning to stare down the barrel of a gun. They've had to deal with the knowledge that this man knows where they live, knows about their disabilities, their children's health and watched as this man and his followers attacked these vulnerabilities. I hope they look at what is posted here as a reward of sorts. They aren't alone. Their message about this man is out there.

Many of these people are wary of being named, others blatantly refused. Given what we've seen, who can blame them.

Special thanks to the team at Beyond Bullshit, Parawood and No Blue Falcons, who have helped me tirelessly over the past week assemble this post. They've been there at all hours of the day to answer my questions. I'm very grateful.

Stolen Valour

Rountree's Physics Claims.