Saturday, October 17, 2015

Skeptics Cannot Explain Moving Orb Photos Like This Site Has

This site shows many photos of moving orbs -- in fact by using this link, and continuing to click on "Older Posts" on the bottom right of the page, you can see 700+ photos that seem to show moving orbs. Or you can use this link to see five videos showing hundreds of these moving orbs. These moving orbs often display very astonishing characteristics. One characteristic shown in this series of 88 photos is a “string of pearls” effect where you seem to see multiple position states of a very rapidly speeding object – kind of the same thing one might see if one photographed a speeding fast ball thrown by a baseball pitcher, using a camera with a slow shutter speed. Since the effective shutter speed of my cameras (when taking a flash photo) is about 1/1000 of a second, such photos seem to show objects moving extremely fast.

At other times my photos seem to show orbs that are making astonishingly sharp turns. This series of 46 photos show orbs that seem to be making sharp right-angle turns. Other photos seem to show orbs moving in an undulating, wavy manner. Then there are many photos on this site showing orbs that seem to have trailing “tails” – what I call orb comet tails.

Below is a composite photo showing some examples of this site's moving orbs.

moving_orbs
Below is another composite photo showing other examples of this site's moving orbs (right click to see this composite at its full resolution).


See here and here and here for similar photo grids of speeding orbs.

Photos like these can be found in great abundance. Do a Google image search for “moving orb” or "speeding orb," and you will find many such photos. Let us now consider: do skeptics have any tenable explanations for such photos?

Below are some of the attempts at explanations I have heard at various times.

Hypothesis 1: Such photos are merely photos of single fast-moving dust particles.
Hypothesis 2:Such photos are merely photos of multiple dust particles that coincidentally happened to exist near each other, giving the impression of a single orb that was moving very fast.
Hypothesis 3:Such photos are photos of insects moving about.
Hypothesis 4:Such photos are photos of raindrops moving about.
Hypothesis 5: Such photos are photos of hair or camera straps.  
Hypothesis 6: Such photos were taken while the camera was moving sharply, creating an illusion of motion.
Hypothesis 7: Such photos are caused by smudges on the camera lens.

I will now explain why none of these explanations can stand up to scrutiny. In regard to Hypothesis 1, almost all of my photos of moving orbs were taken indoors. The speed of dust particles indoors is a well-established fact: it's the same as the air speed indoors. That speed is about 2 or 3 miles an hour. Anyone can verify that by shaking some fine powder (such as cinnamon) in the air, and watching the particles move about. They will never move about more than about 2 or 3 miles an hour, unless there is a nearby fan that makes the air move much faster. Since none of my orb photos have been taken while nearby fans were running, we cannot imagine that dust particles were moving at the very rapid speeds that would be needed to produce photos like my photos of moving orbs. Also,  as explained here, airborne dust particles are not big enough to produce orbs in photos, unless one is photographing under very dusty conditions; and all of my moving orb photos were taken in normal clean air.

In regard to Hypothesis 2, such a hypothesis might have a little weight if my typical photo of a moving orbs showed a great number of orbs. Then we might reason that it is not too unlikely that some of those orbs in that swarm might appear in a line, looking like a single moving orb. But, in fact, almost all of my photos showing moving orbs show only what looks like a single moving orb, with few or no other orbs floating about. So Hypothesis 2 requires a belief that there have been a great number of coincidences, each very unlikely. For example, to explain one particular moving orb photo we would need to evoke a coincidence that would have less than 1 chance in 10,000 of occurring – the coincidence of identical-looking dust particles lining up in a way that fools us into believing that it is a single orb moving fast. To explain 500 of my moving orb photos, you would have to believe that this extremely unlikely coincidence has occurred over and over and over again. The overall chance of so many coincidences would be less than 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000, making Hypothesis 2 untenable. For example, you can use this binomial probability calculator to calculate that even if you have taken 40,000 photos, your chance of getting as many as 20 examples of something with a probability of only 1 in 10,000 is less than 1 in a million.  The chance of getting 500 examples of something with a probability of only 1 in 10,000 (given 40,000 trials) is much, much smaller than 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000.

From this site

There are two other reasons why Hypothesis 2 is untenable. Again and again my photos show what looks like multiple position states of a single moving orb, with a blurry trail of motion connecting them. That's exactly what you get when you photograph some object hurtling very fast, but it is not what you get when some slow-moving particles are just coincidentally positioned in a line. Also, my moving orb photos repeatedly show motion blur of a type we would not expect to see unless an object or objects were moving very fast.

Now let's look at Hypothesis 3, the idea that these photos of moving orbs are photos of moving insects. There are five reasons why such a hypothesis completely fails to work. The first is that insects don't move very fast. For example, the average speed of a house fly is only about 5 miles an hour. But in order to explain photos like many of my photos of moving orbs, we would need to imagine objects moving much faster-- more than 100 miles an hour (see the postscript at the bottom of this post for more on this point). The second reason is that no flying insects were ever observed by me during any hour when I took any of these 600+ photos of speeding orbs -- and I live in a city where I see a flying insect less than 1 in 10 days. The third reason is that my photos of moving orbs often show orbs making extremely radical motions of a type that insects never make – motions such as right-angle turns, double right-angle turns, or wavy undulations. It is physically impossible for insects to make such motions. The fourth reason is that my photos of moving orbs show circular objects, and there is no type of flying insect that is circular. The fifth reason is that my photos of moving orbs often show bright colors such as bright pink or bright blue, colors that one does not see with insects. A fly is black-colored, but none of my photos of speeding orbs show such a color, or even a dark gray color.

If you use a very long exposure using a DSLR camera -- an exposure such as 10 seconds -- and photograph insects attracted to a light at night, you may get streaks of motion that might look a little like moving orbs (although not really, because you will get a "kite tail" look or a string-like look, without any orbs showing ). Such photos do nothing to explain moving orb photos such as mine, since my photos were all taken with very short exposure times such as 1/30 of a second, and were all taken when no insects were observed.  None of my photos of moving orbs were taken using "night settings" that cause longer exposure times or streaking effects.

Below we see a flash photo I took of a flying insect. It looks nothing like a moving orb.

flying insect at night
Below are two other flash photos of insects, which show nothing that looks like a speeding orb.



As for Hypothesis 4, it completely fails because all of my photos of moving orbs have been taken in dry weather – either completely dry outdoor weather, or indoors. Most of my more spectacular photos of moving orbs have been taken indoors, completely ruling out raindrops as an explanation.

Hypothesis 5 (hair and camera straps) does not work because all (or virtually all) of my photos of moving orbs show orbs that are not connected to any of the borders of the photo. You can't explain a moving orb as being a camera strap or the photographer's hair if it appears only in the middle of the photo.  I may note that I have very short hair, and always photograph with the camera strap wrapped around my wrist. Also, hair in front of the camera does not look like a moving orb. Below is a composite photo showing some flash photos I took of dust, hair, and fiber strands I deliberately dangled in front of a camera. We don't see anything that looks like a moving orb.

hair in front of camera

Whenever a hair is photographed in front of the camera lens, it has a very distinctive characteristic in regard to its dimensions: such a thing will almost always appear to have a length at least 15 times longer than its width (because hairs are very thin).  But as you can see by looking at the grids at the top of this post, the vast majority of the moving orbs I photograph do not have any such characteristic. 80% of the moving orbs I photograph appear as something that has a length less than five times the width,  and the length is often only about two or three times the width. This is an additional strong reason for rejecting Hypothesis 5.

Hypothesis 6 (photos taken while the camera was moving sharply) completely fails to work, because if you look at the original versions of my moving orb photos (the larger ones showing the full photo), as you can do by paging through this series of 593 photos, you will see that all of the other details do not appear to be moving except for the moving orb. My policy has always been not to publish a moving orb photo if the photo has that streaked look you sometimes get when the camera was moved sharply while the photo was taken.

Hypothesis 7 does not work because every time I have ever photographed a moving orb, the next photo always showed no such anomaly.  If a moving orb were caused by a lens smudge, you would keep seeing such an anomaly until you cleaned your lens. 

In short, skeptics have no workable explanation for moving orb photos like the ones on this site. Such photos show a paranormal reality that we cannot explain using familiar realities such as dust, insects, or raindrops.

Postscript: There is one other hypothesis I can think of: a light reflection caught when a photographer shot through glass. This doesn't work, because none of the photos on this site were taken while photographing through glass.

See this post for a discussion of the absurdities of one skeptic's attempt to explain moving orbs.  In that post I have a flash photo (reproduced below) testing whether an object moving at about 2 meters per second -- the speed of a house fly -- would produce any type of look resembling that of a speeding orb. The answer is negative. When I photographed Cheerios flying at 3 meters per second, they appear frozen in motion, not as anything looking like a speeding orb.


Another way to do such a test is to place your camera on a little base in front of a bowl, and then drop Cheerios from a distance of about a meter above the camera. This will cause the Cheerios to accelerate to a speed of about 4 meters per second, twice the speed of a house fly.  Below is a photo taken through such a method.  The fly-sized Cheerio particle was falling directly in front of the camera lens, at twice the speed of a house fly. We see nothing resembling a speeding orb.

A better procedure is to try the same thing using raisins rather than Cheerios, because a raisin will match the black color of a house fly. Below is a flash photo using such a technique. Dropped from a height of one meter, the raisin was falling directly in front of the camera lens, and was falling at twice the speed of a house fly. We see nothing resembling a speeding orb. In this case we can see that using a flash on a dark object will not at all cause it to become white-colored.  The photo shows the falling raisin and its shadow.


We can summarize the case against insects as an explanation for moving orbs by saying that flying insects are the wrong speed, the wrong shape, and the wrong color.

(Post updated June 17, 2019.)

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