Energy In The Body & How It Relates To Hauntings After Death
Photo: © David Matos
The question of whether energy could survive death and exist outside of a physical body is a difficult one to answer.
Discussions about the topic are often approached from the perspective of spiritual and even religious beliefs, even the term "energy" has a different meaning to many believers in the paranormal field.
However, what we're really getting at by attempting to answer this commonly debated question is whether a person's soul or personality can survive death as a form of energy that can linger independently of a body.
Ghosts and spirits are often closely linked to electromagnetism, this belief is backed up by ghost hunters' tendency to use devices like the popular K-II meter, which detects spikes in electromagnetic radiation which are often attributed to the presence of supernatural entities.
The link between hauntings and electromagnetism is further fuelled by the well-publicised work of the late Canadian neuroscientist, Michael Persinger. Persinger claimed that electromagnetic fields can induce strange experiences in people exposed to them. Symptoms can range from seeing light anomalies, feeling a perception of a presence, or sensations of being touched.
For a long time it was thought that this could explain some reports of hauntings in locations where there is an erratic or strong electromagnetic field, but more recent research has shed doubt on the validity of Persinger's experiments.
Despite this doubt, Persinger's findings are still often talked about in the paranormal community, but the nature of the claims have been flipped resulting in the belief amongst ghost hunters that electromagnetic radiation is a product of a haunting rather than being a possible cause for misdiagnosed hauntings. This is an example of correlation not implying causation, or of confirmation bias.
This perceived link between consciousness and electromagnetism seems to be an extension of the fact that the human brain uses minute electronic impulses. Many think that when someone dies this energy can continue to live on outside of their body as a form of psychic energy.
In the body bioelectricity is very real and is measurable, for example the electrical activity in the brain can be measured by attaching electrodes to the scalp. However, the type of energy that spiritualists and many ghost hunters think might be able to survive without a physical body is less rooted in science and completely unmeasurable.
In physics, energy is a measure of work or potential, that in accordance with the law of conservation of energy, cannot be destroyed or created, only transferred or converted. By "work" we mean when a force causes any form of movement or state change such as heating, melting, evaporating or changing its shape. For example, when we boil a kettle, electrical energy causes the kettle's element to heat up by converting electrical energy to thermal energy. This energy is then transferred into the water making it hot and causing it to boil.
As living humans we get the energy we need to function from food in the form of chemical energy, which is primarily stored in carbohydrates, fats, proteins and ethanol. The energy content of food is measured in kilojoule (kJ) or more commonly calories. The more calories there are in a meal, the more energy you will have to move, think and live.
Let's imagine you use some of this energy to knock on the surface of a table with your knuckles. In this example the potential energy stored in our cells is converted to kinetic energy in order to perform a mechanical movement. The action of our knuckles tapping the surface causes the table to vibrate, which in turn vibrates the air around it creating a sound wave which we can hear. The law of conservation of energy is preserved throughout, no energy is created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another.
This becomes relevant to the world of the ghosts and hauntings, especially poltergeists, when trying to determine how paranormal activity can occur. If a spirit knocks on a surface, we know that energy cannot be created, so there must be a transfer of energy in play, but where is this energy stored without a physical body?
The problem with the theory is that even a living body doesn't just hang on to energy indefinitely. When we eat, we normally consume more than we need to keep us going for the day. The body stores that energy as carbohydrates and sugars, like glucose. If we have an excess of energy in or system, the body stores it for a longer term in fats and oils called lipids.
The energy you consume as food is converted into movement and other bodily functions, some of it is lost as heat and other weak forms of radiation. But, like a battery, over time the energy is used up. If you don't eat, of course you die. You literally starve your body of energy.
When a body dies, you obviously no longer digest food and all electrochemical activity ceases. This is like flicking off a light switch, when the circuit is broken the light goes off because there is no flow of energy to power it. After death all you're left with is the energy stored in the body as chemical potential, but bioelectricity is no longer produced.
In the minutes and hours following someone's death their body cools down as their body heat, another form of energy, is lost to the air around them. Eventually all the energy stored in carbohydrates, sugars and fats is released into the environment around the body as it decomposes. As our bodies decay but the particles that make us up aren't destroyed, they remain part of their respective quantum fields forever.
All this means that there is no energy, at least not a conventional or measurable type of energy, which can leave the body and survive, but could there be some kind of undiscovered energy that does live on outside the body that gives rise to consciousness? Perhaps a sort of exotic energy that mainstream science simply isn't looking for?
The idea doesn't seem too far fetched, after all perhaps these "spirit particles" simply can't be detected, but the problem is, if they can't be detected then this must be because they are not capable of interacting with the normal matter that our measuring and detection devices are made up of. If this is the case, then this energy's influence wouldn't be felt by the human brain in order to give rise to consciousness.
Furthermore, if a ghost was made out of this type of energy then it wouldn't be able to interact with its surroundings. It wouldn't be able to reflect light in order to become visible to the naked eye, it wouldn't be able to move or throw objects, and it wouldn't be able to knock on surfaces or do any of the other things ghosts like to do.
Even if a ghost did have a means of storing and using a conventional type of energy, it still wouldn't be possible to detect it with ghost hunting gadget like a K-II meter. After all, if these sort of devices were capable of detecting the electric signals of dead spirits, then shouldn't they also be able to detect a living human's field too?
If you hold one near your's or anyone else's head, there is no change in the EM field strength. This is partly because brainwaves simply aren't strong enough to be detected. For comparison, the magnetic field of the Earth is just strong enough to move the needle of a compass. Signals from the brain are a billionth of that strength.
In fact, even if our brains did kick out a strong enough current to be detected, it still wouldn't trigger an EMF meter because they aren't capable of detecting it. Brainwaves cycle at 12.5 to 30Hz, lower than the minimum 50Hz threshold of an EMF meter. There aren't any commercially available devices that are capable of contact-free detection of a living human based upon their electromagnetic signature alone.
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