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An anomalous phenomenon is an observed phenomenon for which there is no agreeable rational explanation. Because such observations don't fit into the established framework or consensus reality, they can be the subject of controversy.

Some phenomena aren't widely accepted as real by mainstream scientists. Ideas about hard-to-reproduce anomalies are often deemed pseudoscientific, partly because science needs phenomena to be reproducible.

Other phenomena are recognized to be substantially real, but can't be readily explained. For example, many people have observed unidentified flying objects; naturally their explanations for such objects will differ as a result of their backgrounds. The Tunguska event was an obvious and undeniable anomaly, but ideas of what eventuated it have ranged from asteroids to cross-dimensional rips. Scientific opinion tends to be conservative partly because reputations are at stake, partly because standards are rigorous.

Some anomalous phenomena are, on investigation, clearly the result of fatigue, illusion, perceptual misinterpretation. Dalí celebrated the waywardness of the mind in his famous melting clock image. Hallucinations, sometimes the result of altered states, are an example of such misinterpretation. Some mirages look very much like water. In this case, the brain interprets an unusual phenomenon as a similar and very common one.

Einstein recognized that wonder is essential. The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

Examples of anomalous phenomena

Some examples of anomalous phenomena are:

As the framework of scientific knowledge expands, some anomalies get explained logically, losing their status as unexplained phenomena. For instance, while the idea of stones falling from the sky was long ridiculed, meteorites are now acknowledged and well understood.

Though actually a subcategory of anomalous phenomena, paranormal phenomena are studied in the field of parapsychology, and can be divided into three main classes:

Written works

  • Classical civilization included unique signs and prodigies of nature in works of paradoxography such as The Phaenomena (240 BC) by Aratus of Soli.
  • Inoue Enryo, a Japanese educator and philosopher, authored the six-volume The Study of Yōkai (妖怪学). As a result, he was best known as Dr. Ghost (お化け博士) or Dr. Yōkai (妖怪博士).
  • Charles Fort, in his four works on anomalies, lambasted and ridiculed the scientists of his day for their shortsightedness. Some of the anomalies listed in his work have been explained and incorporated into modern science (e.g. meteors), while others continue to be unexplained.
  • William R. Corliss' Science Frontiers has covered reports in the scientific literature regarding anomalies for years. He, through his Sourcebook Project, has published a large body of reports collected in many of the scientific disciplines.
  • Leonard George, a psychologist who specializes in anomalous phenomena, compiled an authoritative encyclopedia of unusual experiences, activities, and beliefs in his 1995 book Alternative Realities.
  • Fortean Times, a British monthly magazine, continues in the spirit of Fort's work by publishing reports of anomalous phenomena and longer investigative articles.
  • The Anomalist, edited by Patrick Huyghe and Dennis Stacy, is another magazine/journal devoted to the study of anomalies (which may be called anomalistics).
  • Strange Magazine is another magazine devoted to the study of anomalies in the spirit of Fort's work.
  • Fate Magazine, with the slogan "True Reports of the Strange and Unknown" has been published continuously since 1948, and is the longest-running publication of its kind.

Further reading

See also

External links

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