Hilary Evans and the The SLI Effect
Hilary Evans, an English author who writes about paranormal subjects, coined the word 'SLIder' to refer to someone who causes this effect, in his book The SLI Effect. In this book on page 15 he explains that a wide variety of street lamp types show
the effect is spontaneous and is apparently meaningless; it serves no practical purpose, nor does it seem to provide satisfaction for the individual or in any other way serve some kind of psychological purpose.
In the preface of the book Evans says,
SLI is an apparent phenomenon, based on claims by many people that they involuntarily, and usually spontaneously, cause street lamps to go out. Generally the effect is intermittent, infrequent and without an immediately discernible sequence of cause and effect. SLI deserves study because it gives the appearance of being an anomalous phenomenon in its own right. That is to say, it appears to be an effect which is not consistent with our current knowledge of how people interact with the physical world, and which occurs in specific circumstances.
On page 16 he explains what seems most likely to be happening,
Most commentators, confronted with the Street Light Interference phenomenon, look - and rightly - for a straightforward physical explanation. For example, when Robert McMorris of the Omaha World-Herald devoted two or three issues of his regular column to SLI reports in January 1990, he quoted Allen Klostermeyer, manufacturer's representative for Lighting Specialists Inc., who pointed out that when a sodium (amber) bulb nears the end of its useful life, it may go into an off-and-on sequence:
When one of them starts to 'die', it requires more voltage. This will cause the lamp to go off temporarily;
when it cools down, it will come on again for a while. Eventually it will die completely.
This, it was suggested, is sufficient to explain the SLI effect; what happens is that the witness just happens to be passing such a lamp during its death-throes, and is led by the synchronicity to imagine that he is somehow responsible. But as the testimony shows, even if we allow the coincidence in place and time, this effect could account for only a small fraction of the reported cases. For one thing, other types of lamp are involved besides sodium lamps. Then again, only a small number of reports describe anything like an SL going off, then on, then off again. And what about when a witness extinguishes a whole batch of SLs: are we to conclude that the whole batch was purchased together, and so shared the same life-span, and such was the perfection of their manufacture, that they all reached their death-point simultaneously? Yet even if we allow that, there is still the fact that some SLIders extinguish a row of SLs in sequence, each one going out as the witnesses nears it: it is asking too much to suppose that a series of lamps would have been arranged in order of their life-span.
Skepticism of SLI
The skeptical explanation to claims of SLI is to consider it an example of confirmation bias: people are much more likely to notice when a street light near them turns on or off than they are to notice a street light in a steady state. This is compounded by a failure mode of street lights, known as 'cycling', in which street lights turn off and on more frequently at the end of their life cycle. Also, a bizarre personal causal inference, especially in the case of inferring a relationship from one or few instances, is known as magical thinking. A top high pressure sodium engineer at General Electric, quoted by Cecil Adams, summarizes that SLI is 'a combination of coincidence and wishful thinking'. Massimo Polidoro notes in Skeptical Inquirer that 'Paranormal phenomenon is the least likely possibility.'
^ CNN reports on street light interference with interview in a video clip of this person making such a claim.
^ ASSAP Early SLI (street lamp interference) News reports from the later 1980's to the early 1990's.
^ SLIders & the Streetlight Phenomenon, in About.com's 'Paranormal Phenomena', by Stephen Wagner.
^ The SLI Effect (PDF) by Hilary Evans (Pub: Frome, ASSAP - London, England 1993, 2005) pp 12, 23, 24, 25, 26.
^ Cool - Street Light Interference
^ The SLI Effect by Hilary Evans (Pub: Frome, ASSAP - London, England 1993, 2005 ISBN 0952131102
^ Evans, p. 16
^ a b Cecil' Adams. 'Can some people extinguish streetlamps by means of their bodily emanations?' In 'The Straight Dope', October 28, 1994. Retrieved April 6, 2007.
^ Polidoro, Massimo (November 2008). 'The Curious Case of Street Lamp Interference'. The Skeptical Inquirer (Amherst, NY: Committe for Skeptical Inquiry) 32 (6): 2122. http://www.csicop.org/si/2008-06/polidoro.html. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
Waymouth, John (1971). Electric Discharge Lamps. Cambridge MA: The MIT Public Press. ISBN 0-262-23048-8.
Spencer, John The Paranormal: a Modern Perspective, 160 p. Hamlyn, London (1992) [Paranormal Phenomena].
Street Light Interference article published in scientific magazine Omni, September 1990 journalist Dennis Stacy,
Street Light Interference articles reported by Robert McMorris Omaha World-Herald several issues January 1990.
The Paranormal Investigator's Handbook by Valerie Hope. Publisher by Sterling Co. 1999. ISBN 1855857030.
Evans, Hilary, The SLI Effect, [Frome]: ASSAP, 1993, ISBN 0-9521311-0-2
Sodium vapor lamp
High-intensity discharge lamp
Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Street light interference
Street Light Interference amateur videos
'SLIder' illustrating light going out
'SLIder' illustrating light coming on
'SLIders' and the Street Light Phenomenon
Everything2 article - Street Light Interference
Yahoo Answers about Street Light Interference
Paranormal Phenomena: More Illumination on SLI
Web Poll of 1000+ people on SLIders phenomenon
The Washington Post: SLIders & the Streetlight Phenomenon
'SLI' in the James Randi Educational Foundation's commentary archives
ASSAP - a paranormal organization's view on how SLI should be investigated
The SLI Effect by Hilary Evans, a free download book on Street Light Interference. ISBN 0-9521311-0-2
'Bad Karma, or Just Bad Lightbulbs? The Mystery of Blinking Street Lights'. Washington Post (Nov 17, 2002)
Close Encounters of the Street Lamp Kind. Independent (Aug 31, 1995)
Categories: Psychokinesis ; Street lighting ; Forteana ; Electrical engineering
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