3 Halloween stars don’t stand up to scrutiny

I feel it’s important to note that most of the Halloween myth makes no scientific sense.

Ghosts can’t walk through walls. It isn’t the passing through walls that is the problem. The problem is that ghosts can’t walk. If they are not made of material, then they are not subject to material laws.

To walk, ghosts must be able to exert a force that would create an equal but opposite reaction. Because they don’t have material bodies, they cannot exert an equal and opposite force on anything. Without weight, they can’t exert a force on the floor; and with no force on the floor, they can’t propel themselves forward. For the same reason, they can’t cause you bodily harm because without material bodies they cannot exert a force. Seeing a ghost might be startling, but of no danger whatsoever to you.

I’m sure to get into trouble over this one: There can’t be any such thing as vampires. As I understand it, vampires feed on human blood and, in the process, turn the bitten human into a vampire. The physicist Costas Efthimiou calculated that if the first vampire came into existence on Jan. 1 of the year 1600, the human population would have been approximately 536,870,911. If the vampire fed only once a month, by February there would have been two vampires and one less human. By March there would have been four vampires and four fewer humans, and by April eight vampires and eight fewer humans.

Following this progression, all humans would have become vampires in less than three years, and there wouldn’t be any food source left for all the vampires to feed upon.

There are, however, such things as vampire bats ... in South America. But they only feed on chickens and cattle. They never kill their prey or turn them into bats like themselves, or vampires. Most bats simply feed on insects. They do have beady eyes and ugly faces but, hey, some people have said as much about me! It should be noted, though, that by Halloween most bats are hibernating in hollow trees or caves — that or they are flying south for the winter like birds.

Witches are especially interesting. Both scientists and witches aim to change the course of the future and control events. Scientists study nature and seek ways to achieve their goals consistent with nature’s laws. They often conduct trials and experiments before trying out new methods of control or prediction. They acknowledge that there are things that are not within the control of science and restrict their activities to certain realms.

Witches, however, assume their own powers are so great that nature will follow their dictates. Witches don’t hypothesize about how nature works, experiment or use double-blind studies. They just try to make the world work the way they want by using force of will, incantation or magic. Witches are so sure that their ideas will make a perfect world that they just impose their ideas without testing.

And they seldom seem to be dissuaded by their failures. When their potions and incantations don’t work, they just get more eye of newt and start over. A newt, by the way, is a salamander: a disgusting, nocturnal, slimy, tailed, amphibious carnivore. Like most carnivores, they only attack things smaller than themselves, so they don’t bite humans. A newt’s principle claim to fame appears to be that their eyes are standard additions to witches’ potions.

Probably the largest groups of witches known today are called political scientists and politicians. They are convinced that their ideas are so infallible that they don’t need to be tested before application. No double-blind tests of gun-control laws. No initial studies of minimum wages or tariffs. It doesn’t matter that estimated income is less than projected outgo. Those things are just numbers.

Karl Marx was sure his designed society would be a perfect world, but 62 million people died under the Bolsheviks. Now that’s scary!

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Gary McCallister is professor of biology at Mesa State College, and he ain’t afraid of no ghosts.


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