Ramblings about what I encounter within the realm of the geosciences, as well as the occasional rant about nonsense.

14 November 2008

Orbs and rods...pseudoscience meme

Eric has raised the issue of perhaps a pseudoscience meme. And I agree, there is very little that is more fun than poking fun at modern mythology represented under the guise of science. One of the less well known "branches" of "pseudology" is the "study" of "orbs" and "rods" (wow, that is a lot of "air-quotes", and they shall pervade this post). "Orbs" and "rods" are supposedly ethereal beings who live their entire lives in mid-air (though some argue they are ghosts, aliens, or undiscovered animals whose body's decompose instantaneously after they die, or live in a dimension that partially intersects our own).

On a side note:It is always fun to note how readily "cryptozoologists", or as they are nowadays called "fortean zoologists", invoke the existence of the giant squid as a success for their "science". Of course they ignore the fact that we came across dead remains of giant squids from time to time (that is how we knew they existed, we had actual evidence).

Here's what "Rods" and "Orbs" are, and here is where any wackaloon reading this should get out a piece of paper and take note, they are a trick of poor photography (optics messing up, or something slightly out of focus, or something passing through the frame too fast for the camera to pick it up, or something moving through the frame out of focus... etc.). There are numerous ways to make a "rod" or an "orb", and none of them involve a papa rod or a mama orb (unless you work for the center of fortean zoology... please don't click on the link unless you have properly braced yourself for the burning stupid).

Some examples:
At first glance this is just a really crappy picture of a doorway. I mean it is dark, not much going on. Compositionally it is even poorly balanced. Truly an example of epic fail. Upon closer inspection....

you will notice TWO (count em, two) balls of dust or drops of moisture on the lens. This is what people with little imagination (who want to be experts in photographic fakery) call "orbs". The third circle (which looks like a reflection of light, or something moving across the frame [since it is dark the exposure time was probably quite long, so an insect catching the light as it flew past is quite withing the realm of possibility]). But this is what is "interpreted" to be a "rod".

Here is a GIANT PIZZA (seriously it was ~30 in). But if you notice, behind the surprised looking fellow known as "Chad" (who truly deserves his own branch of pseudoscience, except he actually exists).....
it's another "ORB"! Now, I took this photo, and there was no "orb" on the curtain when I took it. However, I failed to clean my lens before the photo was taken (oops on my part). But there it is, an "orb").

What's more, this "rods" nonsense (seriously bad nonsense, at least Nessie is an entertaining product of the imagination) has made it onto news broadcasts. It is even complete with the full-on nonsensical cut-aways (Unit 13? really?).

And here is someone who rather sensibly showed how this phenomenon is easily reproducible without invoking imaginary flying "jelly-worms".


Eric said...

"Orbs and rods" sounds like a sort of slang term for...well...YOU KNOW.

OR a totally awesome porn title!

Chad CERTAINLY does warrant his own branch of psuedo-science...crytpochadology? Chadocological Studies? Chadic Research?

BY THE WAY...the WORD VERIFICATION deal below me wants me type in the word "stratu"...that's ALMOST stratum...SPPPOOOOOOOKKKY PSYCHIC INTERNETS!

Bryan said...

or it is almost strata, I think the interwebs is hitting on you.

weleuoiu said...



All the Latin on this page is from my vague recollections from High School. There are mistakes in the text. I just was trying to get the point across

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM
The photo of the travertine spring was taken in the small opening in the center of the image.

Lectio Liber