have always been attracted to strange and unusual events in
the world around me ever since I was an impressionable child
reading science fiction, UFO literature and everything I could
lay my hands on about ESP. My family is from Sweden, and there
are many 'stories' in my family of weird events and hauntings.
As a scientist who is afraid of the dark, I still find myself
drawn to these subjects, but in a more controlled way. One of
my two favorite books which I still read from time to time,
are William Corliss's Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena,
and Frank Edwards Stranger than Science. As a scientist,
Corliss's book is a great read, and combined with other things
I have run across in my research life, it really puts me in
a very 'altered' frame of mind sometimes.
on this page are some of my favorite 'mysteries' studied with
my usual scientific approach to anything I encounter that
seems out-of-place. Hope you enjoy my musings! I have tried
to capture the history of each phenomenon and in some cases
how science has 'closed out' these mysteries or actually incorporated
them into even more refined understandings of the physical
world. It is this latter part of the journey that I fully
enjoy. How many other of the mysteries in my list will also
join the ranks of the known in the near future? Here is my
personal ranking of the status of each phenomeno:
means that scientists now have a complete answer for the phenomenon
and no longer consider it either supernatural, or part of
some New Physics to be learned. It's just old physics in a
This means that scientists at least accept that this phenomenon
can occur, but are still trying to understand how it fits
into our current framework of science. They may have explanations
for a few examples but perhaps not all of the accounts that
are known or have been witnessed.
The phenomenon has been so poorly documented, or is surrounded
by so much folklore, that it is hard to identify if there
really is something physical going on or not. Meanwhile, scientists
have their careers full of more concrete phenomena that have
far better data, so progress in understanding this phenomenon
will take considerable effort, especially in quantifying what
is going on and not relying exclusively on 'eyewitness' anecdotal
evidence which is known even in a court of law to be
unreliable. Scientists may have offered explanations, but
they do not seem to apply to all examples of the phenomenon
at least if you ask the 'believers'.
are unfamiliar with the night sky, it is common to misidentify
a number of perfectly natural, though physically obscure,
phenomena. here are a hundred FAQs I have received at Ask
the Astronomer from people that think they have seen something
unusual in the sky, and wonder what it might have been:
Sky Sightings FAQs
For hundreds of years, perhaps even thousands, witnesses have
sworn that they were beset by luminous balls of light that
bounce around and vanished, sometimes with a bang. By the
late 1900's, ball lightning is an accepted natural phenomenon.
In some circles it has became the 'rage' of the physics community.
Corliss reports in his book that there are several places
in the world (one in Nevada) where sands move and cause musical
or 'booming' sounds. In recent years, scientists finally discovered
how the sands 'sing'. If you should hear sands sing on some
remote dune, I bet you'll still feel like you are in the presence
of something mysterious and sublime
are usually globes of light seen after sunset on long stretches
of railroad track, or dark narrow country roads. Their descriptions
are so cloaked in spooky ghost stories and anecdotes that
it is hard to make sense of what is going on. Still, if I
ever saw one of these on a dark back road, I would probably
scream and run the other way!!
Foot, Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, is there anything to these
stories? Well...scientists did find Coelacanth 'living fossils'
off the coast of Africa, so perhaps there are other surprises
'out there'...or perhaps not!