The Physics of the Paranormal

by: Jim Hall

In regards to paranormal phenomena, most opinions and theories can generally be placed into one of three categories:

  • Spiritualism – Paranormal phenomena are real and are caused by the existence of another plane of existence where our universe’s physical laws do not apply.
  • Rationalism – Paranormal phenomena are not real and all the evidence that has been collected over the years and all the phenomena that have been observed have been misinterpreted. All physical laws apply.
  • Compatibilism – Paranormal phenomena are real and are part of the physical world, albeit a part that is not completely understood by current scientific knowledge. A belief in other planes of existence is possible, but not necessary.

It probably comes as no surprise that most of the members of Haunted North Carolina fall into the last category (although no two people have identical beliefs). In other words, we believe that the paranormal is real and can be explained by physics. Our research is part of trying to discover that explanation.

In order to examine the relationship between physics and the paranormal, one needs to have at least a rudimentary understanding of it. Unfortunately, most resources available to beginning investigators fall short in this area. Beginners are encouraged to purchase scientific measuring equipment, such as gaussmeters (EMF meters) and digital thermometers without ever being given an explanation as to what these devices really measure and how these principles relate to paranormal research. We are told that a cold spot or a warm spot is a possible indicator of ghost activity, or that EMF readings in the 2 – 7 milligauss range signal the presence of a ghost, but nobody ever says WHY!!!

This article is meant to act as a primer to the beginning (or confused) investigator. I will discuss some commonly used terms, explaining the principles behind them as I go.

Electromagnetic Energy and the EM Field

In simplest terms, electromagnetic energy is the movement of photons. It covers a wide range of types of energy from Radio Waves, through the visible light spectrum, all the way to X-rays and Gamma Rays. It is everywhere and exists in everything. In fact, if you examine an atom, the nucleus and electrons take up less than 1% of its volume. The rest of that space is occupied by photons being traded back and forth between the positively charged nucleus and the negatively charged electrons. So you could say that the universe is made up mostly of energy. (In terms of volume, not in terms of mass. Photons have no mass.)

The movement of an electron generates an electromagnetic field. The electron carries an electrical field (called the E-Field) which creates a corresponding magnetic field (called the H-Field) as it is in motion. In other words, electricity (the flow, or current of moving electrons) creates a magnetic field, and we measure these combined fields as EM Fields.
What does this have to do with ghosts? One current theory that is being researched at the University of Surrey in England is that our consciousness does not reside in one particular part of the brain, but rather in the EM Field that surrounds our entire body. As living things, we are animated by electricity. Electrical impulses are transmitted throughout our nervous systems to our brains. Relative physics says that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, when we die, that electromagnetic energy is not destroyed, merely changed or transferred. If The University of Surrey’s theory is true, then it is possible that our consciousness could survive the death of the body.
Paranormal researchers have hypothesized a connection between paranormal phenomena and fluctuations in local EM Fields. This correlation is what we are trying to establish when we measure local EM Fields with an EMF meter (or gaussmeter). Another possible explanation for the correlation is a growing body of evidence that shows strong EM Fields can alter brain activity, possibly causing hallucinations. Of course, this is question begging, as we still have to identify what is creating the EM Field to begin with.

There is also a myth that has permeated the ranks of paranormal research. Some investigators will tell you that EMF readings in the 2 – 7 milligauss range are an indicator of ghost activity. Let me be clear on this; there is NO scientific data supporting this claim. I believe that this particular “urban legend” can be explained as follows. Gaussmeters are not designed for paranormal research. Most affordable commercial models are designed to detect ELFs (Extra Low Frequencies) for electronic equipment such as mobile phones and computers. These meters generally read in the 1 – 10 milligauss range. When the novice investigator first starts working with these tools, they will typically pay little attention to EM Field fluctuations of 1 milligauss or less (indeed, the needle barely moves), so a reading of 2 milligauss or higher is necessary to get the observer’s attention. As these meters have a very small range, anything generating a significant field (including electrical appliances) is going to send the needle “off the scale”. Field fluctuations are important, and they are one of the things we are looking for, but don’t get hung up on the specific numbers.

The Peltier Effect

Physicist Jean Peltier discovered the Peltier Effect in 1834. It can be simply described as this: when an electrical current passes between two dissimilar conductors, heat is either released or absorbed, depending on the direction of the current. The amount of heat released or absorbed is directly proportional to the strength of the current. This principle of physics has many everyday applications (including some types of refrigerators).

What does this have to do with ghosts? One of the more famous types of paranormal phenomena is the “cold” spot (or the opposing “hot” spot). If, as we theorized earlier, paranormal activity is connected to EM Fields, than a moving EM Field would be accompanied by temperature variations (hotter or cooler depending on the type of conductor contacting the Field, water vapor for example).

(Republished by permission from Haunted North Carolina)

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011 at 12:07 am and is filed under Ghost Info, Physics, Theories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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