Ghosts: is there a libertarian, religious or scientific explanation?

David Davis

I came across this a number of years ago while a student, doing a subsidiary on Nuclear physics: it is not an original idea and I have tried to restate  it as I remember.

This was presented as a semi-joky _Physics_  thesis paper at a dinner, and not a metaphysical one. It was presented by a real physicist. The main audience was comprised of Classicists, Lawyers and Historians, with us, the resident hard-Scientists, present and passing the Port round.

It has long been thought that ghosts can penetrate closed doors and internal walls of buildings up to say 10cm thick. However, anecdotal evidence suggetss they are confined if present in older buildings with external wall thicknesses of 30-40 cm or more, such as castles, old churches and the like. According to the ideas therefore of Schrödinger 1928, de Broglie and Brillouin also 1928, this would define them as objects whose associated wave functions decrease to 1/e of their full amplitude, and about 10cm from their boundary. A ghost’s de-Broglie-“wavelength” is therefore of about this order, and so their mass at non-relativistic velocities must be less than the elctron by the order of 1E+16, so it must be about 1E-46 Kg or 1E-43 grams. This is astonishingly, almost non-credibly, small, but cannot be mathematically ruled out without testing.

Thus, such an object of this low mass _could_ be accelerated to high velocity with very little energy expenditure. Relativistic effects must thus be taken into account when dealing with its motion (Einstein 1905) and we can see that therefore escape velocities to extract it from the earth’s gravitational field – and indeed to eject it entirely from the solar system, can be theoretically and even practically attained. The energy required for it to escape the earth’s gravitational field is only about 1E-38 Joules: a fine breath of wind would be enough to start such a journey at high speed, and further interactions could lead to relativistic velocities. (See Newton, principia London 1687 for refs to escaping gravitational fields.)

Thus it is unsurprising that despite the astonishingly large number of ghosts possibly formed by Homo sapiens alone over the past few million years, the number of actual “ghosts” “encountered” remains mysteriously small, a few thousands, millions, whatever.

Now, when for example a person is killed with a spear which is not removed, or hanged in metal chains, his/her ghost will remain at the spot, encumbered, and will haunt it even though the event occurred in the open air. The spear or chains are real objects with normal mass. Without these, a ghost could rapidly leave the site and as we can see, could probably leave the earth and possibly the Solar System. However, following death in dungeons or inside old castles with thick walls and small windows, the escape probability is tiny even with the small masses estimated, and the ghost will haunt such a place for many years or centuries. Wearing armour or dragging chains will of course prolong the period enormously, and even such a thing as a layer of dust would create a substantial increase of time.

It is relevant to estimate that a ghost will be accelerated to 1/√2 or about 0.7 x the speed of light, by a tiny amount of work, say about 1E-29 Joule. Its mass is then 2x its rest mass (Einstein 1905) and its wavelength is halved (Schrodinger, de Broglie, Brillouin 1928) and so it is _even less_ able to penetrate a wall or door when its speed has increased a lot. A ghost is rapid motion in a confined space is therefore less likely to escape than when moving slowly, and will be difficult to locate (Heisenberg.) Although its momentum is tiny, it will be enough possibly to  displace small objects on collision. Thus, we have a possibly plausible hypothesis about ghosts themselves _and_ also of the “Poltergeist” phenomenon:  vases and other light articles are displaced from shelves in a disconcerting manner, since the presence of high-speed ghosts is impossibly to observe directly (Heisenberg again.) Like other elenetary particles such as the neutrino (Pauli 1933), their presence or passage can only be inferred form their secondary effects.

Empirical evidence therefore suggests that one can in no sense at all, eject such a ghost by the use of violence. Any further increase in already high speeds will just make its escape more difficult. The only possibly approach, if the presence of a high-velocity ghost is thought not to be desirable, must thus be to try to calm it and bring it near to rest, so it can glide slowly through the wall. The proceedure of exorcism is probably designed to get this result, though how this is done is not something I or the presenter of this paper even pretended to understand. It follows of course that the attempt is best made in near-darkness.

This is because the velocity of a ghost due even just to thermal effects will be large at STP, in view of their small mass. Thus the mean kinetic energy of ghosts at say 20C or 293K at 3kT/2 Joules (Maxwell 1860, Boltzmann 1872) corresponds to a rather relativistic figure. Few ghosts wil be moving slowly enough to be seen, unless they are very cold or attach themselves to some material object.

When light strikes the surface of an object,  it appears to exert pressure (Maxwell 1873) and carries momentum (de Broglie 1920s.)One photon of visible light say at 5E+14 Hz incident on a ghost and reflected, could transfer momentum 2hf/c, say 1E-27 J s m-1, whihc would cause its acceleration to a high velocity. An unloaded ghost, or one not holding ont an objetc or person, would be removed rapidly if the walls were thin, or otherwise display poltergeist phenomema. Presumably the reflection coefficient of a ghost’s surface must be very much less than 100% or it might never be seen at all. no doubt for this reason it seems the general lore that ghosts are only seen under very low-light conditions.

This, to examine a ghost, one ought not to shine a torch at it, but to use a more suitable thing like a shielded candle.

Of course, the low mass leads to a very ;arge wavelength shift, Δλ , of radiation incident on a ghost surface and scattered by it (Compton 1923) and the value of Δλ for mass=1E-46 kg can be as much as 1E+4 metres. Thus, everything such as light, infra-red and the like, will be scattered at long radio frequencies. therefore the scattering of shortwave em radiation by ghosts in flight through the Universe must be a major source of cosmic RF noise. attempts so far by astronomers and cosmologists to explain this noise have taken too little account IMHO of this possible contribution.

It has sometimes been tought that ghosts prodice a sensation of cold in their environment. this may be understood if they have just retuend from deep space where the radiation temperature is believed to be about 2.72K (Penzias and Wilson 1965.) It is less obvious why this is so if they have been resident for some time. But if the observation is right, then it imples that ghosts have a high specific heat capacity, which indicates that despite their low mass they are _not_ structureless objects. More research into the possibility of reliabel evidence about the K temperature and heat capacity of ghosts is indicated.

The idea of a quasiparticle of large area and volume was at the time of this paper new to physics, though it does not appear to be excluded a priori even now. Whether such an object would seem to be hot or cold to us when stationary is not obvious, as temperature and specific heat of ordinary particles does eem to depend on the state of motion. Thus even if the observation was correct, it is not certain that ghosts have structure – they may still be elementary particles. Moreover the observation itself might be wrong. the impression of cold might be an illusion, a result of fright on the part of the observer, or just the result of faulty reporting. It is possible that the observer might feel cold through experienceing fear, although it’s not obvious, metaphysically, why such a reaction ought to occur.

Thus we must consider if the situation of the concept of a quasi-particle is applicable. It’s then desirable to investigate a ghost’s spin properties, which would tell us whether they obey the Fermi-Dirac (1926) or the Bose-Einstein (1924) statistics. For increasing the potential reliability of results  in this matter, the behaviour of observable ghosts in strong magnetic fields would be instructive.

If ghosts tend to accumulate in a sink in any part of the Universe, and if they can be seen to behave as particles, then they will constitute a “degenerate” or condensed population even at low density, say 1 ghost per cubic metre. How it will be will depend on which statistics (see above ) they obey.

It is tempting to envisage that in human and other vertebrate or invertabrate ghosts with sexual differences a trace of this is carried over, and might be representable by the antisymmetric wave functions characteristic of the Fermi-Dirac statistics. Particles obeying these would of course have half-integral spin, and the ultimate state would be one in which ghosts of opposite spin had paired up to occupy correctly the energy states available. This highly satisfactory disposition from the point of view of the physicist might well constitute a state of Nirvana or bliss, which all ghosts are seeking to achieve.

Whether there is such a sink of ghosts, whether these terms are really appropriate for such a state,  and where in the Universe it might be, remain problems we might only solve in the far future. Meanwhile, the above might offer a hypothesis which meets the requirements of a contribution to theoretical science: it co-ordinates the known facts and empirical observations in the llight of existing knowledge, it is not contrary to know facts, and it suggests further llines of enquiry that could be pursued in the future. Furthermore, it illuminates an area of human experience previously thought to be inaccessible to the Scientific Method.

28 thoughts on “Ghosts: is there a libertarian, religious or scientific explanation?

  1. 1SL/CNS,

    I wouldn’d* usually ( yeah I know it’s a bit unorthodox, ‘would not’ if it keeps you happy)….

    I’m about to get laid, seess….ye..//

  2. Dear Sandahl,
    You theory is based on a false premise.Ghost are part and parcel of many dwellings and in open fields. The most haunted place in the World is Gettysburg. Although to manifest it seems they have to acquire which may take time discharging that mass seems to be much easier. what is happening with spirits will not neatly fit into any religious dogma. They respond to many belief systems. Some of the minds that have cross over may have the be able to make the same choices we have. They may be afraid of the unknown. What ever it is the most simple explanation is consciousness is not just matter. It can assemble itself in other dimensions. It also suggest we are not just part of this universe.
    Joseph Capp
    UFO Media Matters
    Non-Commercial Blog

  3. Arthur Koestler’s “Ghost in the Machine” contention is still apposite. No-one has come up with a halfway-passable explanation of the Mind-Body Problem other than Interactualist Dualism.

    Interactionist Dualism must mean that the Self can act upon Matter (and vice versa).

    I know that my Self can, from indepenhdently-observable evidence upon thousands of occasions. Including “Action-at-a Distance”, which is usuall considerd “occult” (the word simply means ‘hidden’).

    The Force will be with you…


    It may well be that the entire infinite-in-all-directions Universe is alive, always has been, and always will be. Insofar as photons are comprise of matter, their substance is eternal, and they can recrudesce into grosser forms of matter under gravitational and other forces.

    No “Heat Death” of this Universe! Perpetuum mobile…

    Consciousness and life are still mostly unexplored in Science. There’s a lot of work that needs doing.

    Clever idiots like James Randi just clutter up the world with their absurd “Impossibility-of-knolwedge’ pseudo-skepticism…


  4. OK Steven,

    Pity really. Hoped you’d got a shag. I wonder if the probability of it would be greater or lesser under ZanuLieBorg socialism?

    I suspect greater, and you’d as a man be luckier, as women are less empowered under the StalinoGramscians, and thus have to work harder therefore and for longer and for less, as in Cuba….

    It makes me wonder where the Feminazis are coming from really. One the one hand, they trumpet their wimmin-empowering credentials, and on the other, all that their philosohpy sows for women is death – such as “natural childbirth” – you know! – the type where 5% of women and 20% of newborn children die.

  5. Dave:

    Please cease this “EcoNazi” nonsense.

    People like Al Gore don’t come anywhere close to having the power to impose a ‘police state.’

    A few thousand VERY RICH AND WELL CONNECTED PEOPLE want to turn the planet into an agrarian refuge for their own pleasure and benefit. They do not care about everone else, except insofar as to chant: “Well, it’s for their own good.”

    OF COURSE most people wat to live on a beautiful blue-green planet. When Robert A. Heinlein writes absurdities like:

    “We’ve used this planet up. Time to go to a new one”, he (and others like him) fail to mention that (a) we have no knowledge of the whereabouts of an alternative planhet; and (b) we have no means whatsoever of getting there, even if we could find one.

    Just give it a rest, Dave:

    The “Gramsco-Marxians” are not your problem (YOU’RE a “Gramsco-Marxian” — you want totalitarian ideological hegemony and the concentration of Capital to build a vastly productive economy.

    Your “ZanuNuLab” is a US front outfit.

    And your “Rage at the Machine” is the Rage of Caliban, seeing his own face reflected i’ the glass…

    Truly, Dave, write a lexically-ordered list of the interventions and oppressions and social controls you really do not like; and post them here.

    I will then tell you where they originate, with citations.

    What thease unspeakably evil ‘people’ want is a New Aristocracy, with themselves as the “New Aristocrats”, which is forever irremovable.

    And they won’;t get it anymore.

    Best Wishes,


    ———— * * * * * ————

  6. Tony, old fellow,

    Why don’t you start your own libertarian blog, whereon you can take whay I say about these people, the ecoNazis, and the Gramsco FabiaNazi Marxists, and fisk it? The market for projecting ideas will discover, then, who gets more hits.

  7. Cheers David. I know what you’re saying, it’s hard to gie a decent poke in peace these days, every tom dick and harry always wanting to butt in and spoil the wedding.

    Just as well really, it would have kicked the hell out of her. They’d have probably struggled to get the bastard out as well, they did with me. As the old saying goes…

    Still, the future’s bright.

  8. The other point, Tony, is this:-

    I’m not here to be a fully-referenced-detail-man, expounding the finer pints of internal-stuff within policy-positions of people like Al Gore…or Monbiot, or Michael Moore, and the like, on the basis of some obscure quote or other about 19 years ago, in which they implied they were not as wicked and nasty and scumbaggish as they seemed.

    This blog is turning into a proverbial “mass-market tabloid of libertarianism” such as the Mail or the Express (rather than The Sun or The Star) and I am not interested in fine detail providing we are broadly accurate.

    The sort of sweeping generalisations which I and my expanding team of Young Writers will continue to make, on behalf of missionarying libertarianism to Those That Sit In Darkness – such as saying that Al Gore is an EcoNazi, and Michael Moore is a non-libertarian who hates The West and all it stands for – are for arousing masses. not for arguing about detail. We have done that for far too long which is why the Enemy Class is where it is – and the time for that is passed.

  9. Dave:

    You (not unreasonably!) ask:

    “Why don’t you start your own libertarian blog?”

    Simple, really:

    (a) I like it here!

    (b) I don’t want to run a blog!

    (c) I like you! (Smiles)

    (d) I already have a fullscale conferencing system based in Atlanta, Georgia, which I would want to build up and run for a somewhat different mix of ‘clientele’ — Intelligence folk, policy wonks, philosophers, artists and scientists and technologists and ‘ideas people.’

    A blog format is not well-suited to this mission.

    (e) Once upon a time, in a Galaxy far, far away, I expended considerable financial and other resources to help keep the ongoing storm system known as the LA in safe hands. I have a historical, legal and financial property claim on the LA…

    I’m saying what I like on my own (inter alia) property. Is there some problem with that?

    Or was I expected to put my life on the line for CRT, and spend _thousands_ of UK Pounds and call in markers, only to roll over afterwords??

    All for nothing? ‘Aunk-cost’?

    You mean, ROLL OVER & PLAY ‘DEAD’???

    No way, Jose!


    Tony Hollick

  10. Well that’s interesting david, but after reading your article is shows nothing
    from scientific learnings that outright deny the existance of such matter.

  11. Your theory is based on the presumption of what I describe as advanced science, history tells us this can be unreliable in source, I only have to glance over a bundle of various theories produced in the last century to understand these facts. Look at the Nazi scientific papers on nuclie for instance. Firstly, in the last decade there has been much research and development in the understanding of electromagnetic fields, especially that of low frequency and radio frequency fields. it has always been recognised that haunted sites have a strong bond relationship with EFM, the lastest equipment with active and passive filtering are able to filter out such things as cell phones, radio transmissions or eletrical EMF, and study the intermittent fields associated with ghost or paranormal activity, these are described as paranormal energies. Of course what you say about tempreture changes is interesting, One such study site in Crybaby Bridge brought some very interesting results, the site was known to be haunted by numerous reports of witnesses claiming they had seen the figure of a ghostly woman crossing the road, the site is claimed to be a burial ground. when an investigation was conducted with the use of advanced scientific techniques including advanced EFM measuring equipment, it was found that inside the alleged haunted window, EFM readings went off the scale, the tempreture dropped from 78F to 38F breath turned visible, despite being a warm summer night, it’s interesting science can offer at least some part explinations if not biblical to say the least, I’ll be more than glad to see the current oddball or headcase theories go out of the window, these are an injustice to the many people who do indeed witness such unexplained phenomena.

  12. Of course there are some interesting fire side Ghost Stories, Hampton Court is a good example of three such strange hauntings witnessed by numerous observers, A problem developed at Hampton Court with fire doors being left open without explination, CTV footage caught a man like figure in robes reaching out for a door handle, the photographs concluded the figure of the face did not look human and was somewhat blurred, his face appeared white as if the materialisation contained no earthly blood. Even security guards who witnessed the alleged ghost could provide no logical explination in their statements, they even conducted an internal investigation, with no explainatory results. Jane Seymore died there and has been allegedly seen by numerous witnesses walking across the cobbles, I have indeed been there myself. her son Edward had a nurse called Sibell Penn, she was intered in the palace grounds in 1562, In 1829 her grave was disturbed by builders, and shortly after a strange whirring noise became apparent, when workman traced the noise to a wall, when they entered they uncovered a small forgotten room containing a spinning wheel identical to the one Penn used. Catherine Howard has also been seen gliding in the Palace galleries dressed in white. It follows, therefore, some very interesting observations and witness accounts have indeed unfolded over the centuries without any doubt whatsover, Ghosts indeed, make up your minds, all is free to intepretations.

  13. That’s your opinion Carl, but may people beg to differ even church leaders,
    it’s you right to decide or interpretate.

  14. Thank you for allowing me to disbelieve in ghosts. It’s not exactly an “interpretation” though, is it? The burden of proof is on the believer, not me.

    Mr Harry Price claims that “Catherine Howard has also been seen gliding in the Palace galleries dressed in white”. I guess that settles it then, eh?

  15. Yes, well we still search for the truth, as I said people have the right to believe or interpret as they wish. Science will find the truth eventulally
    one way or the other.

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