The Orb Zone: Orbs Explained

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  For the first time, presenting actual scientific evidence for the causes of the 'orb' phenomenon








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Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena


ASSAP provided the funding for the Orb Zone research project.

 What are Orbs?

There is much evidence on the Internet about the causes of orbs.  However, the sticking point is what constitutes 'scientific evidence'.


Use the links, below, to be taken to various sections:


What Science is Not - and what is Not Evidence

What Science is

Should you Accept the Scientific Evidence?

What is the Scientific Evidence?

Download the Original Research Article in PDF format


What Science is Not - and what is Not Evidence

Many people mistake 'science' and 'logic'.  Whilst logic is a strong element of the scientific method, with the controls of science, logic can easily be faulty.

Every 'Internet experiment' encountered has been scientifically flawed.  In many cases the experiments do not consider 'chance'.  So for example someone fluffs a cushion and takes a photo, producing an orb.  The theory is declared proven with no consideration of other factors that might have caused the orb or whether an orb would have been present whether or not the cushion was fluffed.  There are dozens examples, online, of experiments that make conclusions that have not applied the scientific method.

It may seem picky, but unless the scientific method is applied some very fundamental mistakes can be - and in the case of orbs, have been - made.


What Science is

Whole books cannot define what science is, but there are some useful rules that can be described briefly:

Scientific experiments should 'control extraneous variables'.  For example there is little use conducting an experiment across very different rooms, or with very different cameras, or in different environmental conditions.  The reason is because any of these 'varying' factors could interfere with what you are studying.  This is made especially difficult as not many people know all the 'variables' that could interfere with whether orbs are produced or not.

Scientific experiments should have 'control conditions'.  This is because it is important to know whether something would have happened 'anyway'.  For example taking a photo when dust is produced compared to taking a photo when dust is not produced.  Similarly, in the case of orbs, conducting experiments in both places said to be haunted and said to not be haunted.

Experiment results should be 'statistically significant'.  This is because one, two or ten repeats could be the result of 'fluke'.  For example this is why opinion polling companies ask a set number of people, which is usually quite high, rather than just asking 100 people for their opinions.  Certain 'tests' should be applied to results, to ensure they are not the result of 'fluke', in order to adhere with the scientific method.


Should you Accept the Scientific Evidence?

The purpose of publishing 'scientific research' is to let others judge for themselves whether your method - and therefore your results - is really scientific.  Again, it can be difficult to judge this with limited knowledge of the scientific method.

However if you accept the method as scientific then - if you believe in science - you should accept the evidence.

The scientific method also tries to ensure that results from one place and one study can be applied to other places and other circumstances.

Because of the difficulties with this process science tends to make it as easy as possible to accept methods.  So most research is conducted by professional academics in Universities and then all the details are checked by other academics before studies are published.  Then other academics can publish problems they find with the research.

PSI are not professional academics, but several academics in UK Universities did assist with, and oversee, the design and the conduct of these experiments.


What is the Scientific Evidence?

In order for a study to be scientifically credible it must pain-staking provide all the necessary information in a way that follows the conventions of science.  Unfortunately this tends to result in research articles that the general public do not feel are 'accessible'.

This is the purpose of this website, to present the theories in a way that is accessible to the general public.  However we also have provided the original article, below, which people can study and scrutinise.


The basic results were as follows:

1. The number of orbs captured in places that were 'haunted' was not significantly different to numbers capture in places considered to be 'not haunted'.  This suggests that the presence of a 'haunted environment' makes no difference, so orbs have nothing to do with 'haunted places'.

2. When all variables were forced to be constant there was no significant difference between the number of orbs captured when using different rates of megapixelage.

3. Digital cameras captured significantly more orbs than 35mm cameras.

4. An enhanced 'depth of field' lead to significantly more orb photographs than a normal depth of field.

5. Significantly more orbs were photographed where the flash was closer to the lens of the camera.

6. Significantly more orbs were photographed when the flash was activated compared to not.


The experiments demonstrated that mundane factors, like camera type, depth of field and flash distance, correlated significantly with orb numbers. By contrast, whether the location was haunted or not had no significant effect. It therefore follows that orbs are caused by normal, rather than paranormal, causes


This still leaves the question of exactly how orbs are photographed, this is addressed in the explanation section.


Some researchers may still believe that 'fake orbs' are natural but 'real orbs' are paranormal.  This is addressed in the questions section.


Download the original research article in PDF format*


*As published in varying formats in the Journal of Investigative Psychical Research, the Journal of Paranormal Research and is currently under review by the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

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