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Science and the Séance (BBC Documentary)

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Now Showing Science and the Séance (BBC Documentary)

Post by Candlelight.kk on 10th March 2018, 16:35




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Now Showing Re: Science and the Séance (BBC Documentary)

Post by Candlelight.kk on 9th July 2018, 23:56

From the BBC NEWS archives:

BBC NEWS
Science and the Seance

By Hannah Goff
BBC News

The world's most eminent scientists are not usually associated with the dim-lit surroundings of a clairvoyant's parlour.

But some of science's biggest names have not only dabbled in, but been entirely convinced by the world of the seance.

Guglielmo Marconi, Alexander Graham Bell and John Logie Baird are familiar to most for the household indispensables they invented. But the attraction to spiritualism they all shared is definitely not part of the GCSE science syllabus.

All three men, and many other Victorian scientific pioneers, became involved with the religion, which depended on strange forces being demonstrated through bizarre phenomena.

Legitimacy

But how did the world of certainty and precision collide and, in some cases, fuse with that of levitating spiritualists and voices from the "other side"?

To some, it was simply down to chronology. When the Fox sisters of Hydesville, New York State - widely considered to be the founders of modern spiritualism - first claimed to have communicated with the dead, the world was awash with scientific endeavour.

Just four years earlier a communication of a very different sort - the first electric telegraph - was sent across the Atlantic.

Science was challenging the old certainties about life - making the impossible, possible.

According to the biographer of the Fox sisters, Barbara Weisberg: "There was so much that was exciting and so much that wouldn't have been thought possible two decades before.

"If people could communicate over the telegraph, why couldn't this world and the next world communicate?"

This gave the sisters' claims greater legitimacy, she says.

As the spiritualist craze grew people from every level of Victorian society crammed into dingy parlours, where knocks and raps indicated the presence of spirits.

Defying gravity

Messages from the dead were spelt out using lettered cards while strange voices were mumbled in the dark.

But it was in the search for proof these phenomena were real and not cons, that the world of the spiritualist and the scientist came together.

Science historian at Cambridge University, Dr Richard Noakes, says scientists leapt to the task.

“ I am convinced that discoveries of far-reaching importance remain waiting along these shadowy and discredited paths ”
John Logie Baird on spiritualism

"If there was any truth in phenomena that appear to defy the known laws of nature, the known laws of gravity, then scientists believed that they had to be the ones to investigate."

When the bizarre phenomenon of table-turning hit the parlours of Victorian England, the leading experimental scientist of the day, Michael Faraday, was called in.

After attending two seances, the deeply Christian Faraday devised an experiment to see if there was a rational explanation. He decided there was and dismissed supernatural causes as nonsense.

Hypnotist

Some 15 years later, the feats of medium Daniel Dunglass Home reached new heights as he was seen to levitate out of one window and back through another. Many believed he was simply a hypnotist.

This time the eminent chemist, William Crookes, who unlike Faraday was keen to discover a psychic force, subjected Home's activities to his own test.

He devised a machine he called a radiometer to measure the "invisible forces" the medium appeared to be tapping into.

Another gave a reading when the maestro appeared to move a lever without touching it.

"Here's an instrument Daniel Dunglass Home can't possibly mesmerise because it's not a living being. How can you hypnotise an instrument?" says Dr Noakes.

"So Crookes reckons he got the traces of a psychic force in operation."

Crookes went on to invent the cathode-ray tube, pioneer research into radiation effects, photography, wireless telegraphy, electricity and spectroscopy.

Logie Baird, who built on Crookes' work to create television, was also persuaded by his seance experiences.

'Shadowy'

Not only did he claim to have communicated with the spirit of US scientist Thomas Edison, but after visiting a seance in 1926 he wrote: "I am convinced that discoveries of far reaching importance remain waiting along these shadowy and discredited paths."

But Logie Baird was trying to do exactly what mediums of the day were doing - transmitting sounds and images through space. Only the source of these, if you believe the medium, were different.

At the end of the 19th Century when Guglielmo Marconi was experimenting with the first radio signals, he was shocked when he started to receive signals.

The author of Spirit Communication, Roy Stemman, says Marconi concluded these were from the spirit world.

"He spent his last years trying to perfect an electronic device that would establish a permanent contact between this world and the next."

This was never achieved, but his work pioneered the telecommunications that still link the globe today.

Dr Noakes says that whether or not the scientists declared the whole thing to be bogus, the example they set was "extremely powerful to the next generation of scientists".

Despite years of research, no scientist has proved seances were anything more than an elaborate con trick.

But the work they did trying often contributed to a greater understanding of the laws of physics.

The documentary 'Science and the Seance' was broadcast on BBC Two on 31 August 2005.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/magazine/4185356.stm

Published: 2005/08/30 16:10:39 GMT

©️ BBC 2018



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Now Showing Re: Science and the Séance (BBC Documentary)

Post by Candlelight.kk on 8th December 2018, 23:41

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