Min Min Lights and the Fata Morgana
By Michael Williams
The paper Min Min lights and the Fata Morgana was interesting by Australian academic John D. Pettigrew, if only because it dealt with only one aspect of the lights, ie the mistake of viewing a distant prosaic light source and labelling it a Min Min light.
In the study of unusual light phenomena, or for that matter anything at all, this would be referred to as the "noise factor", that is, a case of mistaken identification. It has nothing at to do with real, close up observations of Min Min lights.
The reason this was not quoted is obvious. The author actually refuted his own hypothesis with the comment "this explanation is based on the inverted mirage or Fata Morgana, where light is refracted long distances." The majority of the lights in the only book the author is quoting from are at 100 yards or closer, this is on page 128.
The hypothesis the author is suggesting is completely untenable when the reports in the only book he is quoting from are properly examined.
For instance he asserts that the "apparent direction and distance are ambiguous for isolated stimuli". Fine, but in numerous accounts in the book that the author fails to quote or mention, there are reference points quoted by the observer. Or, as stated in the paper, "if there are no reference targets", however there are many in the reports.
Many of the stories from the book that is quoted are negated by any hypothesis about light refraction. I will not quote them all, even if the observers were not acquainted with "the concepts of parallax and angular subtense". For instance, page 32 with the light moving behind a tractor, page 88 where a light pursues the car and is then "inside" the car, page 14 where a light moved among cattle or page 70 where a light moved in spirals and shot up to a height of approx 1000ft.
For the past 15 years I have spent more time than anyone else has researching the phenomena and interviewing witnesses. I spoke to Maureen before she died, and was lucky enough to receive several signed books from her.
Interestingly, the paper quotes a comment of mine featured on http://ww.castleofspirits.com/minmins.html and also on this website at http://ww.strangenation.com.au/minmin2.htm
The quote deals with a story about hardened bushmen used to all sorts of things at night, yet would claim that the lights had come so very close to them that they had been reduced to a state where they wept in fear.
Even when the author used my comments, it didn’t seem to cross his mind that it was odd that seasoned observers like these folk could so misjudge a distant light source as to believe it was within metres of them.
Instead of "apologising" to Maureen for having "solved" the phenomena, why didn’t the author just contact me? I could have helped him understand the complexity of the lights, rather than the straw man discussion of distant mis-perceived light effects.
I also noticed a page was also quoted off Strange Nation’s website here: http://ww.strangenation.com.au/casebook/minminlight.htm
The author's statement "why no associated sounds" is odd - why does a known/unknown light source/effect have to be associated with sound? There will be no "great resistance to the acceptance of this and any other explanation of the Min Min light". Why would there be? It would appear the author of the paper did not even read the book he used the quotes from.
Five "mis-observations" and a rejection of all the sightings/distances/observations that do not fit in with the author’s ideas is fairly sloppy work. Which, amusingly, make up the majority of sightings in the book. It was lucky for the author that the referees for the paper never actually checked the only reference book used for the paper.
Sociological terms such as cognitive dissonance easily explain this type of pseudo-scientific attempt at reasoning (http://www.ithaca.edu/faculty/stephens/cdback.html). The only "damage" done is that some sections of the scientifically illiterate media have jumped on the idea. Other than that, it was a pretty funny paper, disguised poorly as "hard science".
The original Min Min lights and the Fata Morgana paper: