Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Who ya gonna call? DustBuster!

While I've always wanted to have a direct experience of something supernatural, I have to admit that a lot of the options aren't that attractive.  I'd love to be contacted by an alien, but being abducted and having the traditional examination of my body via various orifices doesn't sound like much fun.  Some of the interactions people have had with various cryptids haven't ended all that well, and a few have resulted in one or more people being strewn in tiny bits over a large geographical area.  And while establishing the veracity of psychic communication would be cool, I'm not really all that keen on there being honest-to-goodness telepaths.

I'm pretty sure that what goes on in my mind on a daily basis isn't all that different from what goes on in others' minds, but even so, I really would prefer not to have my every thought potentially becoming public knowledge.

Then there's ghosts.  No one would be happier than me to find out that there's an afterlife, and I'd love to have the opportunity to have another chat with my paternal grandma, not least because I'd like to ask her about her wonderful chocolate fudge recipe, that I've tried unsuccessfully for years to recreate.  I have questions for various other ancestors, too, not to mention curiosity about historical figures.

But there's the inevitable downside, which is that if there are ghosts, and they choose to take up dwelling in your house, there isn't much you can do about it other than a full-on exorcism, which seems like overkill to me, kind of like using a flamethrower to kill a housefly.  So it was a bit of a relief to find out that a Japanese woman has discovered that if you're visited by a troublesome spirit, and want to get rid of it, all you have to do is...

... turn on an air purifier.

[Image is in the Public Domain]

I'm not making this up, and the woman who made the claim (known only as "Shinuko") seems fairly earnest about it herself.  Shinuko says:
When I first moved into the apartment I’m living in now, there were a lot of strange happenings that really freaked me out.  But then I got a (Sharp) Plasmacluster air purifier, and it all completely stopped.  I did some research on ghosts, and I found out that ghosts are kind of like plasma.  Isn’t it amazing that air purifiers can not only clean the air but also exorcise ghosts?
"Amazing" isn't the first word that came to my head when I read this, but that's just me.  The Sharp Plasmacluster is indeed an air purifier, which allegedly works as follows:
Ions are dispersed into the air.  Positive and negative ions are created using water vapor in the air.  Ions actively attach to and break down pollutants.  The ions neutralize their charge by pulling apart airborne pollutants, thereby reducing the pollutants in the air.  [Afterwards] the ions return to the air as invisible water vapor.
Amongst the things this is supposed to take care of (according to the website) are bacteria, mold spores, viruses, and molecules causing bad odors.

The website mentions nothing about ghosts, and you have to wonder how that would work anyhow.  If the Plasmacluster's ions stick to things, wouldn't that create a static charge?  As far as I can tell this would result in the ghost stuck to your ceiling in the fashion of a balloon you've rubbed against your shirt, which seems kind of counterproductive.  Not only would that mean the ghost would still be hanging around (literally, in this case), it'd probably be really pissed off.

I know I'd feel that way if I were a ghost and suddenly found myself stuck next to the dining room chandelier.

My own doubts aside, there were a lot of members of the Twitterverse who were fully in support of Shinuko's idea.  Here are a few of their responses:
  • Yesterday my bedroom light turned on and off on its own and I couldn’t sleep by myself. Maybe I’ll buy a Plasmacluster.
  • Even in ancient times, it was popular to purify places with salt and alcohol, and sometimes they had an anti-bacterial function, too.  In today’s Reiwa period we can use high-tech gadgets to exorcise and purify instead!
  • Maybe the air was stagnant. When you move into a building that isn’t new, sometimes, even if there wasn’t an accident or something, traces of the person who lived there before can remain in the form of spirits and souls.
Then there was the person who said that if you're troubled by ghosts, you don't need to shell out five hundred bucks for a Plasmacluster, all you need is... a bottle of Febreze:
Apparently a horror game company kept hearing mysterious sounds in their office.  They stopped after they aired out the office and used Febreze.  Changing the air is really important.
Just for the record, bolstering a crazy claim with an even crazier claim is not really all that successful as a strategy for convincing people.  If someone says they've rid their house of evil spirits using magic ash wand, it's probably not going to be helpful if you mention that you had once achieved the same results using a plastic spork.

But if you think an air purifier might help you with your ghost problem, I encourage you to have at it.  If you end up with my grandma stuck to your ceiling, give me a call.  Maybe I can get her to tell me her fudge recipe before she figures out how to get herself loose.


This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation is a little on the dark side; Jared Diamond's riveting book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.  Starting with societies that sowed the seeds of their own destruction -- such as the Easter Islanders, whose denuding of the landscape led to island-wide ecological collapse -- he focuses the lens on the United States and western Europe, whose rampant resource use, apparent disregard for curbing pollution, and choice of short-term expediency over long-term wisdom seem to be pushing us in the direction of disaster.

It's not a cheerful book, but it's a very necessary one, and is even more pertinent now than when it was written in 2005.  Diamond highlights the problems we face, and warns of that threshold we're approaching toward catastrophe -- a threshold that is so subtle that we may well not notice it until it's too late to reverse course.

[If you purchase this book using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to support Skeptophilia!]

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