Ghost in the Machine

Wet day timetable! Bah.

For those not in the know, we shorten our lunchtime by about 15 minutes when it’s really wet. Normally I love this because it means I get home earlier but unfortunately today it meant a shorter meeting with my kids! Add to that the fact that there were debating meetings going on and a soccer competition under way I was amazed to get the 20 kids that I did.

Anyway. It went well.

I gave them a quick recap of last week’s pareidolia slide and quickly moved onto the audio pareidolia examples. We chatted about incomprehensible song lyrics. We’ve all listened to songs with garbled lyrics. You try really hard to understand what’s being sung but just make anything out. Eventually, in frustration, you look up the lyrics online and it suddenly falls into place. From that point on you hear the lyrics perfectly and can’t even remember what it was like not being able to understand them.

That’s basically what happens in audio pareidolia. You listen to some static or music being played backwards and might hear some weird sounds. Somebody hears their name in the noise (because you can always recognise your own name), tells you about it and from then on you can’t hear anything else.

We listened to a clip of Jim Morrison singing the words “treasures there” from the amazing song, Break on Through. When played in reverse it sounds like a garbled mess. That is of course until somebody points out that it sounds like “I am Satan”. Now that’s all I hear.

The real highlight of the session was listening to a clip of some EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon. This is where people take recording devices into empty rooms and interpret the static created by interference (mobile phone, AM/FM radio, TV…) as voices from the dead. Or aliens. But mostly the dead.

None of my kids could understand what was being said until the subtitles appeared. Then it became obvious. It seems pretty silly but there’s something slightly creepy and unsettling about listening to static and hearing voices in it. I honestly don’t blame for hearing ghosts. Still, a rational mind tries to find more reasonable solutions than ghosts. We can’t prove that it isn’t ghosts but I wouldn’t be putting money on it.

You can download the PowerPoint presentation I used on the Resources page.

On a wonderful note, one of my senior students has put together a logical fallacy quiz! She’s found several statements containing fallacies and wants us to figure out which ones they are. It means I’ll have to do some more sessions on fallacies to get them up to speed but how wonderful! It makes me so happy to see the kids getting into things and taking the initiative like this. Some others are also interested in running some sessions themselves.

Right now I am a very, very happy teacher.

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1 Comment

Filed under McKinnon Secondary Sceptical Society

One response to “Ghost in the Machine

  1. Pingback: Faces in clouds, tigers in jungles. | Sceptic School

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