Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: Hunting Marfa Lights

Hunting Marfa Lights
Hunting Marfa Lights by James Bunnell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Nonfiction – Investigative, Scientific studies/Mysterious Lights events Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free eBook eGalley from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Hunting Marfa Lights reports the results of an eight-year investigation (2001-2009) into mysterious lights seen near Marfa, a small West Texas town. This is, to date, the only long-term, extensive study of these phenomena. Reports of unusual lights east of Marfa extend back to the 1800s. Based on data collected, the author finds that while most of the observed lights in this area can be explained, about 3 percent are truly mysterious and of unknown origin. In addition to frequent on-site observations and photography, the author installed three automated monitoring stations equipped with a total of nine cameras, to collect nightly video records. Included in this 311-page book are 34 firsthand accounts from eyewitnesses and more than 120 illustrations and photographs. Of particular interest are compelling stories told by people, including the author, who have encountered these mysterious lights and have been astonished and amazed by the experience.

My Thoughts: While I usually prefer to read books on an eReader, due to the extensive illustrations and pictures in this text, I had to read it using Adobe Digital Editions on my computer, so those wanting to purchase this as an eBook may want to take note. There are limits to what a basic eReader can do, after all; at the very beginning of the book there is a really cool night-vision picture of owls, only the first of a number of illustrations that are very important to understanding the process behind the investigation outlined in this book, not to mention just some really nifty images and extensive tables. Unless you have a tablet or high-quality color eReader, it would be best to read this on a desktop app, or to buy a pBook version.

I feel the need to emphasize that this is not a novel. This book outlines the scientific investigation into the mysterious lights that are seen around Marfa, in Texas. The author believes that there is an as-of-yet-unknown explanation for the lights (extensive definitions are given as to the different sorts of lights seen, and it is acknowledged that the actual “mystery” lights are rare, but do exist), quite possibly electromagnetic and/or chemical in nature. The author takes pains to point out that he does not believe the lights are extraterrestrial or paranormal in origin, but that they are due to a natural, albeit as-of-yet unknown process. For the more scientifically minded, there are extensive appendices and long lists of data; for the less scientifically minded, there are well defined sections of information explaining what all these data mean, as well as a section that consists of anecdotal evidence (stories told by those who have witnessed these mystery lights), which are quite interesting. While written in a fairly engaging manner, it is still the description of a scientific study, so there are some sections that are easier to read than others.

I know it seems amazing that, in this day and age, there could remain anything completely mysterious, but the truth is, the world is full of mysteries and mysterious events. The more humans learn, the more we discover there is to learn – and I think that applies to more than just on a singular basis. As the author says: Believe me, folks, we do not know it all, and no one should be surprised at that revelation. Hopefully there will always be mysteries to solve – and there probably will be, with an infinite universe to explore. We can only hope, as a species, to rise above our own limitations and learn to work together to reach forward, rather than continuing to force divisiveness upon ourselves.

One thing that made me laugh, because it was so illogical, was the mention that a local university actually funded a study to see if the mystery lights were just headlights from cars. The author acknowledges that a lot of people mistake car lights for the mystery lights, but since the earliest records of people seeing the mystery lights were in the late 1800s, I hardly think they could all be cars; headlights for cars didn’t exist until they were invented in 1908. Therefore, the idea that all mystery lights are car headlights is, by extension, impossible, since they existed before headlights. In fact, many of the explanations are similarly impossible for the same reason – reports of the lights predate many of the technological possibilities that people present. I agree with the author that the lights probably have an electromagnet or chemical basis.

At any rate, this is a really interesting topic, and I know I will be taking the time to do a bit more looking into mystery lights. If you are interested in the mysterious, and want to learn more about these sorts of things, be sure to take a look at this book.

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