Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are Marfa Lights Headlights?

A recent post on Modern Pterosaur ("Scientific Skepticism and Marfa Lights") mentions only briefly the car-headlights explanation for the mystery lights of southwest Texas. That post was in response to another post, one by Brian Dunning, on Skeptoid ("The Marfa Lights: A Real American Mystery"). I recommend the first post, not the one by Dunning.

To the best of my knowledge, no scientist who has studied or researched or observed any lights around Marfa, Texas, (including James Bunnell, Edson Hendricks, and Norman Huntington) object to the idea that some spectators at the Marfa Lights Viewing Platform sometimes observe car headlights and have assumed that they had seen "Marfa Lights." There is adequate studies to make this clear: Night mirages of car headlights can sometimes appear mysterious. But that is not the point. Other lights that occasionally fly around this part of southwest Texas appear quite different; they are not mirages of car headlights.

Dunning, in his post "The Marfa Lights: A Real American Mystery," falters in two ways when he sells car headlights or exchanges them for mysterious Marfa Lights. But his double trip-up can be overlooked for the moment, for the research of James Bunnell calls for a closer look. What about the strange lights that greatly differ from car headlights?

On pages 168-169 of Bunnell's book Hunting Marfa Lights (available at a discount on Amazon), we find the definition of "CE ML." They "exhibit chemical or combustion-like properties with electromagnetic attributes." Bunnell says that those Mystery Lights (ML) "are truly mysterious and do not fit into Mirage . . . categories." He should know about chemical and combustion-like properties, being literally a rocket scientist.

Bunnell's remote automatic cameras have recorded amazing flying light behaviors, including one flight at low altitude for eleven miles. This kind of ML he classifies as "CE-III." Some flights have been obviously unrelated to any automobiles, traveling where there are no roads or highways. But also telling is the nature of the light from these flying things, for a series of explosions seems to be involved, whether or not it relates to propulsion (which I discount). Not just flight directions or explosive characteristics distinguish these lights from car headlights, however; CE-III's can fly around in colors nothing like any car headlights.

Now back to Dunning. How did he falter regarding car headlights? First, he assumed that if strange lights existed around Marfa before the advent of cars, somebody would have written about it in some permanent form before any cars appeared. He seems to be confused about the significance of various kinds of evidence. If somebody had written, in a book, before there were any cars, about mysterious lights around Marfa, it would be clear evidence against the car headlight hypothesis. But the absence of an old written record does not make second-hand reports of nineteen-century sightings of mysterious lights worthless; it just makes it less decisive against car headlights. Evidence is rarely considered either proof positive or worthless; most evidence is somewhere between those extremes.

Dunning also trips up on a brief study (much briefer than Bunnell's investigations) by a group of physics students. Their conclusion was not that all lights ever seen as mysterious around Marfa are from car headlights. They concluded that the lights that they had personally seen were car headlights. But the CE-III and similar non-mirage lights seen by Bunnell and other scientists do not appear every night like the predictable car traffic on a nearby highway; they appear only a few times each year. Apparently, the CE-III lights did not show up when the college students were looking at car headlights on those two or three nights: unlucky for the students, but they were apparently unaware of their bad luck.

This post contains the opinions of the author, Jonathan Whitcomb.

See also the post about Marfa Lights and Pterodactyls

See also Ropens (live pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea)

See also Marfa Lights in the Houston Chronicle

See also Marfa Lights not Car Headlights in Texas

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are Marfa Lights "Pterodactyl" Lights?

On the blog post "Ghost Lights Versus Science?" it says, "It may seem like science is pitted against the mystery of those Marfa Lights of southwest Texas, but in truth scientific investigations are making progress in unraveling the mystery, notwithstanding one hypothesis that makes the result appear to be science fiction." It then tells us about the research and searches of James Bunnell, a scientist who has been unable, after years of work, to explain what is happening with those mysterious lights in southwest Texas.

Other scientists have tried to tackle the mystery, with no success, notwithstanding their many conjectures about things like earth lights and geologic features that have some kind of energy release. Some of those lights fly around together in ways so strange and complex that local ranchers and others refer to them as "dancing devils" or "ghost lights." They behave in ways suggesting some general intelligent cause or individual purpose for each light in a group.

Evelyn Cheesman, a British biologist who is now known as the first woman to be a curator at the Regent's Park Zoo in London, witnessed strange lights during one of her expeditions in the southwest Pacific. She wrote about them in her 1935 book The Two Roads of Papua. But in her lifetime she never realized the potential significance of those lights to biology. In the early twenty-first century, a few cryptozoologists began suggesting the "Cheesman Lights" were made by flying creatures related to the ropen of Papua New Guinea.

Now the Marfa Lights are being evaluated for their potential as flying predators, and bioluminescent ones at that, similar to the ropen lights. All of them, including the Cheesman Lights, are probably bioluminescent flying predators, and eyewitness sightings in daylight indicate at least some of them are large living pterosaurs, called by some Americans "pterodactyls."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Marfa Lights Keep Flying

Comparing Marfa Lights with ropen lights may be speculative, but the potential for a dramatic scientific discovery is thrilling. What at potential! Living bioluminescent pterosaurs in Texas! Even if the flying creatures turn out to be something other than pterosaurs, it would be a wonderful discovery of such incredible glowing flying predators.

Headlights and Hard Heads Knocking Marfa Lights
So why do some blog writers and blog-post commenters still insist that all mysterious lights seen around Marfa are from car headlights? What could it be other than careless thinking? For those who would like to really learn the truth about what is known and about the possibility (however probable or improbable) of Marfa Lights coming from large bioluminescent flying predators, read one or both of these nonfiction books: Hunting Marfa Lights by James Bunnell and Live Pterosaurs in America, second edition, by Jonathan David Whitcomb. Both books are the result of years of research and investigation.
Science and Marfa Lights
. . . scientists have tried to know and understand Marfa Lights: observing, testing photographing, and theorizing. Interesting ideas have emerged; none but one, however, seems to come close to adequately explaining the apparent intellegence associated with those flying lights, the mystery lights of Marfa, Texas.
Ropen Chasing Ropen in Marfa, Texas
I'll call it the "Huntington Hypothesis" (HH), this conjecture that the May 8, 2003, sighting by James Bunnell involved one flying predator that was chasing another one for many miles. Consider this carefully; I see no problem with this hypothesis. It involves a male flying predator chasing off a rival male, in a chase that lasted eleven miles.
Pterodactyls in Texas (including Marfa)
With mammals the size of houses diving deep under the surface of the oceans, with not-quite-so-large mammals having noses many feet long, with birds that can swim, with spiders that catch small birds, with so many wonderful forms of life on this earth, why not pterodactyls in Texas?