We’ve been having quite a discussion in one of our forum threads.
It started out as a technical discussion for testing and quantifying the phenomenon of battery drain, but it has gone on from there. So far it has encompassed the value of personal experience, the science of batteries, ideas for testing batteries in controlled circumstances, and most recently how an entity may actually communicate with the living, as well as how they may act on instruments.
Yup. It’s got all of the good stuff. I’d invite you to pop in, read the thread and share your thoughts. Jim and I are gearing up to go to the haunted location we have planned for this soon. We have a date scheduled in early July.
Since that discussion is all in one thread, I’m not going to rehash it here any more than I already have. But, to me, this thread brings up a terrific point. We started with what may be a faulty assumption – that batteries often drain in reportedly haunted locations. We don’t even really know this. Do the batteries, indeed, drain, or is it something else that causes the appearance of battery drain?
I think that we do that a lot in paranormal investigation. We look at an observed phenomenon for which there is a lot of anecdotal information and we make an assumption. Granted, you have to start somewhere, and I suppose that if you start with an assumption that is faulty, you will learn just as much from that as you would from it being a non-faulty assumption.
I’m blogging about this because it is an epiphany to me. As we design this experiment, I am seeing all of the traps and pitfalls inherent in such a thing. Heck – even finding the right thing to test seems to be complicated. This is why I am a writer and not a scientist. Thank goodness I’m married to Techie McScienceGeek. And I say that in the most loving and respectful fashion possible.
The assumption that we were starting with is that batteries are draining, and such a drain would be measurable. But even that isn’t cut and dried. Sure people experience a flashing battery sign followed by the swift and sudden death of their equipment. And certainly the issue seems to be alleviated when a new battery is put into place. To me, that would appear to be battery drain. But then why, when you leave the area, does the battery often spring back to life if you put it back in the same piece of equipment? Not only that, but we assume it is a battery issue. What if it isn’t, and it is an equipment issue that only appears to be a battery issue?
I realize that true science makes as few assumptions as possible. So my question is this. When you are dealing with a commonly reported phenomenon, how do you break it down to its most basic elements and test? No – really. It isn’t a hypothetical question. How?
Every investigation starts with a personal experience. Something is reported that seems significant enough to warrant further testing. But the reporting of personal experiences assumes things. Something turned the lights on and off (did it? was it imagination? a wiring malfunction?), I heard a voice (did you? was it truly hearing and not a form of clairaudience? maybe it was imagination? people in across the street calling out to one another?), my batteries in my camera drained (did they? could it have been some other instrumental malfunction? was it a permanent drain or did you test to see if they worked again? were they old batteries? how long had they been on the shelf?). On and on it goes – assumptions piled on top of one another.
Maybe we are working the problem backwards. To me, it seemed like we first needed to establish the reality of battery drain. A battery. A digital multimeter. A controlled location and a haunted location. It seemed so simple.
But now it appears that actually getting to the testing of the battery may appear later on in the process. How do environmental factors affect the battery? If the drain is temporary, will it register as a dip and then a return on a high-resolution multimeter? Will the multimeter have a high enough resolution to find it? How much of a dip would be statistically significant? How do we capture that? If it isn’t the battery at all, but rather a malfunction of the instrument, how do we measure that and quantify it? Certainly not with a battery and a multimeter.
Every question raises more questions. This tells me just how little I know and truly understand. Something simple like a battery raises a mess of complicated questions and brings to light a plethora of assumptions that are being made.
Still, we have to start somewhere. But when it is all looped upon itself in an endless knot, how do we unravel the knot to find the starting point? Beats me. I’ll let you know if I figure it out. In the meantime, those of you with experience at things like this – chime in.
Want to participate in paranormal research? Check out our EVP Baseline Experiment.