Why Anakin building C-3PO is stupid.

I'm probably not the first person to have this idea. I'm sorry. I can't be bothered to do any research to see who else has already figured this out. If you've strung all of these points together before I have, good for you. Have a cookie.

One of the many loose, tattered and mismatched threads of chaos winding its way through the storyline of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace is the ludicrous idea that Anakin Skywalker, at the age of nine, built the protocol droid C-3PO.

This is very clearly one of the gigantic neon signs that George Lucas insisted on littering throughout The Phantom Menace. Uncle George's signs all say the same thing: Anakin Skywalker is the greatest kid that's ever existed. He's a whiz with technology, he can build outrageous things, he can fly a deathtrap around a canyon better than anyone else, and the Force is with him because he can randomly mash buttons in a spaceship and shoot battle droids by accident.

He also built his mother a protocol droid. I can imagine the day he wheeled its naked, wiry form into the kitchen: "Mother, I've made you a monster. It's hideous, unfinished, smarmy, speaks with a British accent, and its elbows don't bend, so there's no chance it can help you with the dishes."

There are two things wrong with this entire scenario. The first is obvious: Anakin is an idiot.

He’s a protocol droid, to help Mom.

Great, kid. Mom doesn't need a protocol droid. Mom is a slave. Mom doesn't need to speak six million forms of communication. Mom also probably won't appreciate having to constantly spit-polish the exterior of a metallic gold translator with a superiority complex, either.

The second problem with the whole Anakin-builds-3PO concept is that there's no real reason why Anakin should have built, specifically, a protocol droid. Anakin could have built anything. Anakin could have built something customised to his (or his mom's) situation. Anakin could have built something, y'know, cool.

C-3PO is one of a series of protocol droids. Without going full nerd on you, he's part of the 3PO series, he's made by a company with the remarkably stupid name of Cybot Galactica, and he's -- assuming the alphabet in Galactic Basic Standard (Star Wars' overcomplicated way of saying "English") has the same number of letters -- one of about 26 extant units. To put this into perspective, several other 3PO models appeared in the original Star Wars trilogy alone:

From left to right:

  • C-3PO, the gold one, companion to R2D2.
  • E-3PO, the silver one, incredibly rude droid C-3PO encountered at Cloud City.
  • K-3PO, the white one, generally hung around Rebel bases doing important things, was standing about in the control room during the first Death Star battle, and was later seen staggering around in the Rebel base on Hoth.
  • R-3PO, the red one, also seen staggering about in the Rebel base on Hoth. Later, apparently, revealed to be an Imperial traitor in one of the expanded universe things that I don't care about.

So, Anakin built an exact knock-off of an already existing product that did not actually suit his mother's purposes, and -- if anything -- would actually hinder his mother.

This is the equivalent of an amazing technological and mechanical whiz kid who has the ability to build a car in his garage from scratch, and instead of choosing to build an exact knock-off of a Bugatti Veyron, OR a practical vehicle that suits his (or his mother's) purposes, OR a completely customised vehicle that's exactly what he (or his mother) needs, instead.....he builds an exact replica of Volvo.

On climate change, because nothing's sacred

Opinions. They're like arseholes: everyone has one, and they all stink. For what it's worth, here's mine, vis-a-vis climate change. You can take it or leave it. It's pretty brief. I don't care if climate change is 'real'. The net outcome of having people, in general, do the correct thing outweighs any political shenanigans that are going on behind the scenes.

PumpkinCloud

Let's suppose that climate change is real. What's the best we can hope for? The best we can hope is that people will comply with the basic instructions they're being not-so-subtly given. Look after the environment. Switch to alternative fuels. Be energy efficient. Waste less. Use less. Be, in general, healthier -- both in your life, and for the planet you live on. What's the worst we can hope for? We're screwed.

Now let's suppose climate change is not real. I don't have an opinion either way. As I said above, I don't care if it's real or not. I do believe, however, that the underlying issues are very real: We will, one day, run out of fossil fuels. It's inevitable. They're non-renewable. Once they're gone, there are no more. We need to find alternative energy sources, and if they're ultimately renewable ones, they'll eventually end up cheaper, more reliable, and more efficient than what we're currently using. We need to look after our environment. Whether all of the crud we're pumping into the atmosphere is causing climate change is entirely moot, the point is: we're pumping it into our atmosphere. We're having small-scale, detectable effects on our immediate surroundings. We live in smog-covered cities. We need to, generally speaking, clean this shit up. So, supposing climate change is not real, our best-case scenario is a cleaner, more efficient, more advanced world than the one we live in. What's the worst we can hope for? Well, I suppose we can live in shit.

It's an option.

As an addendum: I find the whole climate change debate to be akin to the argument than man never walked on the moon. At the end of the day, unless you're a climate scientist in your own backyard, you're relying on other people to supply you with the data you're basing your argument on. Often, those people are the ones you're arguing against, a task that has some pretty obvious flaws. You can believe what you please when it comes to man walking on the moon, at the end of the day, the people holding all of the proof are the ones trying to convince you. Unless you've got a spaceship of your own, you'll never know for certain. I'm starting to think climate change is an awfully similar argument from the average Joe's perspective.

Observations about energy drinks

An example of a good energy drink.
An example of a good energy drink.

A long time ago, when I was more enthusiastically reviewing my ridiculous collection of energy drinks, I received an e-mail from someone, asking something along the following lines: "Why do you drink and review energy drinks when you think they all taste like crap?"

Allow me to address this.

I don't think they all taste like crap. I think most of them taste like crap.

Energy drinks, by their nature, have a great tendency to taste terrible. This is because the key ingredients that give energy drinks their energiness taste, with few exceptions, like shit.

Caffeine is a very bitter tasting chemical. That's why most caffeinated beverages are extremely sweet (such as energy drinks), or have their own bitter flavour to mask the caffeine (like coffee or tea).

B-group vitamins, a group that includes our friends thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid and B12 (among several others) taste horrible. Have you ever been curious enough to chew on a Berocca tablet? That's b-group vitamins. They are not tasty.

Taurine is made from bile. Sorry to spoil that one for you, but it's true. It's mostly synthetic these days, but still. If someone tells you "that's not real vomit, it's synthetic vomit", I don't think you'll be okay with it going into your dinner. Needless to say taurine has a hideously unpleasant flavour, and contributes big time to the unique and apparently desirable flavour of Red Bull.

The trick for manufacturers of energy drinks is to create a flavour that either masks or compliments these unpleasant flavours. Most energy drinks take the "overpower it with something sweet and fruity" approach. Some take the "embrace the flavour, enhance it, make it salty and sweet" approach, like Red Bull. Others take a completely different tack, and throw in peculiar Amazonian berries and things you can't pronounce in the hopes of creating a unique flavour they can call their own. Sometimes this works. Most times it doesn't.

Limitations bear creativity. Without a box to think outside of, and envelopes to push, new flavours and concepts can't be created. The fact that energy drinks are made to suffer is what makes them fascinating to me. Sometimes I come across a good one.

It makes me happy.

Bad automotive marketing decisions

There are a squillion possible things you can name a car. Generally, you take something that sounds vaguely foreign, and slap an "a" on the end. Cecil at The Straight Dope did a column a while ago (and by 'a while', I mean 'when I was one year old') on the subject. I do not understand the marketing logic behind the decision, then, to bring out a new vehicle with the same name as an older one. This is particularly puzzling when the new vehicle shares zero design lineage with the old one. It's not a two-thousand-and-whatever model of the same car, it's a whole 'nother car entirely.

Case in point, the Holden Cruze. Holden is an Australian car manfacturer. Half of the Australian population support them. The other half support Ford. I'll get to them in a moment.

hold_cruzThis is a Holden Cruze from 2002. It's a kind of beach buggy thing. It's pretty hideous. The rear of the thing has ghastly round tail lights. It's about as intimidating as a boiled potato. You might sometimes see re-branded Cruze(s) getting around as Suzuki Ignis(es).

hold_cruz_09This is the Holden Cruze from 2009. It's an economical small car that boasts the looks and spaciousness of a larger car. It's actually kinda sexy, all things considered. It's a completely different vehicle, targeted at a completely different audience in a completely different market sector, and for a completely different purpose. It's clear that someone just kinda thought "Cruze" was a cool name, and it's a shame it was wasted on that Tupperware container on wheels they made in 2002 -- but wait, maybe no-one will remember that piece of junk. Yeah, lets use the name again.

The '09-onwards Cruze is also marketed as the Daewoo Lacetti, in a badge-and-name-change that gives it that ring of class it was initially lacking. The only thing cool about the Daewoo Lacetti is its occasional appearance on Top Gear as the "reasonably priced car", but unfortunately for the '09 Cruze/Lacetti, the car featured on Top Gear is an earlier model that bears no resemblance to the vehicle pictured above. It was also retired from the show and replaced by a Kia. That's just..........rude.

Case in point part deux: The Ford Kuga.

ford_kuga_13This is the 2013 Ford Kuga. It's a cool looking car. Mechanically, it's a four-wheel-drive (ish) thing constructed over the chassis of a Ford Focus. It's marketed in Australia as the smaller brother of the Ford Territory, and aimed at the 'soccer mom' demographic (ironic, perhaps, for the purposes of this article that it circles back around to the market sector the original Holden Cruze was potentially aimed toward).

This is great, except: In the non-rhotic Australian accent, "Kuga" is a homonym with --

ford_cougar-- the Ford Cougar. This horrid thing is a mid-life-crisis-on-wheels from the late '90s to early '00s that was marketed in Australia in thankfully limited numbers.

I do not understand why the choice would not be made to use a more unique name for a car model. There are now undoubtedly loads of Ford Kuga drivers who, upon announcing the name of their new ride, are greeted with the looks of stunned incredulity well due to someone who's just announced they've bought a curved-up ludicrous looking skateboard with two doors and a hernia, until they realise the error of their pronunciation and start inflecting the "ah" in "Kug-aaaahh" like Hermione Grainger.

As an aside, Wikipedia has informed me that "kuga" is the Serb-Croatian word for "plague", and that Ford didn't opt to alter the name for its launch in those countries. Dunno about you, but I want to move to Zagreb and buy a black one.

Grammar peculiarities: "Mose well"

I find it kind of satisfying when I Google the crap out of something and don't ultimately come up with a decent result. It means a couple of things:

  • it means I'm looking for something incredibly obscure, which is always satisfying
  • it means there's an opportunity to fill a gap in the internet, even if I'm filling it with my own opinion

Case in point, the phrase (or fragment of a phrase), mose well. 

It means, rather obviously, "might as well". "I might as well eat an apple" could be contracted to "I mose well eat an apple".

Some examples, trawled from the results of a Google search:

A fair question -- I'm not so pleased with the answer, though. I'm not sure what Samantha means by "the first way is the correct way". Does she mean "mose well", or "most well"? Or "might as well"? My head hurts.

I have that problem ALL the time.

Yes. Yes, you should. 1184 people are waiting with bated breath.

Arnt you?

It's more of a verbal slur than a contraction, and its something that has found its way into writing by purely descriptive means -- people writing they way they speak.

A brief aside on prescriptive versus descriptive recording of language, if I may --

When the words and usage of a language are recorded in the way they should be used, the recording is prescriptive. It's giving an instruction (a prescription, if you will) for how to use the language. A dictionary, usually, is prescriptive.

Descriptive recording is the recording of a language as it is spoken, with all its flaws, with the kind of "bad grammar" that evolves over time through a culture of people who use the language as a tool for communicating efficiently with one another. Historically, this kind of record is found in the writings of authors who mimic the voice of characters, inflections and pronunciations exaggerated or enhanced. Today, you'll find it everywhere, from Facebook status updates to "txt speak" and SMS messages.

There's some discord among scholars and pedagogues about which of these methods of recording is right or good, and at the end of the day the answer is always both and neither.

I digress.

Mose well is an informal contraction of "might as well". The closest similar terms I can think of are informal abbreviations like should of, would of and could of. These three examples are descriptive recordings of pronunciation, where the "ov" sound of the contracted "have" in should have, would have and could have has been replaced with its homonym: the word of. In my opinion -- for what that's worth -- should of, could of and would of are wrong. It's entirely possible they're going to worm their way into the English language anyway.

They mose well.

Why Australians can't act

australia-poster

It's come to my attention, from watching movies and television, that Australian actors...can't. This is not an observation targeted toward specific actors, it's a gross generalisation that applies to all of them. Even the best Australian actors tend to perform jarringly, unnaturally and in contrast to their British and American counterparts, just plain badly. This has become rather lengthy, so I'm going to put a lead break in it. You'll need to click "read more" to, uh, read more.*

* Unless you came directly to this page, in which case these paragraphs are just here to confuse you. Confused? Good.

Rather than structure this as an essay, I'm going to present a bunch of observations, then a bunch of extrapolations, reasonings and inferences based on those observations. Some of this might be a bit vague (or, in contrast, way too specific), so bear with me whilst I organise my thoughts.

  • First up, let me make it clear that I don't have a problem with Australian films, Australian actors or Australian television programs. This is an observation based on all Australian actors, with no total exceptions that I'm aware of at this moment.
  • It's not an accent problem. While it's well known that the Australian accent is difficult to imitate for outsiders, which I don't dispute, I'm concentrating largely on Australian native actors, here.
  • Having said that, this same phenomenon also applies, largely, to actors from other Antipodes-esque locales, specifically New Zealand and South Africa.
  • Although there's another corollary to the same point: If you take an Australian actor and put them in the role of an American character (as happens with monotonous regularity), provided none of their original accent peeks through, they are as good as any American actor. Even a bad one. So, this leaves us with the distinction that the issue lies entirely with casting Australian actors as Australian characters, usually (but not exclusively) in Australian films.
  • Australian actors cannot act in US productions. When placed alongside American actors, Australians come across as unnatural, artificial characters with phoney accents that do not fit into the universe of films at all. While I'm perfectly able to watch a production with an ensemble cast made up of American, British, French, German, etc actors, throwing a single Australian into the mix is always, without fail, noticably painful.
  • Even in home-grown Australian productions, the acting quality is false and noticable. While I'm the first to admit that Australia has a relatively small film and television oeuvre in comparison to other nations' film industries (more on that later), the bizarrely bad acting appears to be an across-the-board problem, from the likes of Home and Away to full-length motion pictures.
  • We've gotten worse as time has passed. Older Australian movies, such as those prior to the 1960s, tend to have less noticable bad acting. I have a suspicion that this is a result of Australians behaving (and speaking, particularly in a film'n'theatre environment) in a much more 'British' fashion.

Theories:

  • American and British films and television shows are dilute. There're thousands of them. There's a vast abundance of bad to go with the good, and you don't have to look far to find it. The "average" water mark in cinema and television outside of Australia is not a high one. I believe the result of this is that average-to-bad actors in the US and UK are, statistically, the norm, and their behaviour on-screen has become expected and accepted. When a "bad" American or British actor appears in a high-quality production, their appearance isn't necessarily noticeable as a bad performance because they're still conforming to the expectations of the audience. Australian films and television productions, by contrast, are not at all as abundant. You could count them, if you had a weekend to spare. An Australian film is immediately compared against all other Australian films, and the comparison is fair. The average water mark is not a gigantic amorphous blob of facelessly beige film that everyone's seen but no one remembers. The average Australian film is just that -- an average film. You saw it, you remember it, you can judge the next one against it. I believe this contributes to the "Australians can't act" phenomenon greatly. Until the Australian film industry produces enough product to map out a smooth bell curve of expected acting behaviour, the highs and lows are going to continue to stand out like neon lights.
  • The US and UK film industries have, over the decades, built up an established "stylised" version of their worlds, which have become accepted by the moviegoing audience. Everyone knows that the real USA is not like the USA of the movies. Everyone accepts that what you see in a film is stylised and warped for convenience, tweaked for storytelling and stretched to meet the moviegoer's expectations. Australia doesn't really have a stylised version of itself. Audiences watching a film with Australian actors can only compare it against the Australia of real life, and it will always fall short. If an Australian film tries to use the stylised universe of the US or the UK, it will fail, because Australia is not those places, and Australian characters do not behave as American or British characters would in those situations.
  • The stylised version of Britain seems to be based around a combination of theatrical acting and cobblestone streets, but regardless, it's established, and it works. Suspension of disbelief is achieved. No one questions it.
  • Having just said that there's no established stylised version of Australia, I need to backtrack enthusiastically and correct myself: There is a stylised version of Australia that appears in film and television. We just don't like it. Australia, both internally and internationally, has a tendency to be represented on television as a stereotype of itself, with enormous sheep farms, dusty deserts and backwater hicks that talk like they've not had a single day of schooling. While these things in themselves are certainly extant in Australia, they do not form a picture of the day-to-day life of the average Australian citizen, nor do they represent the average Australian's ideal of their country. I suspect this aspect of Australia as shown on the silver screen (and the idiot box) is a detriment to the suspension of disbelief required to put stock in a production's characters and the actors that portray them.
  • The Australian film and television industries, as you'd expect, reside largely in the country's major cities. If an Australian film is set in the country, as many of them are (see above, it's the done thing for representing "Australia", remember), the actors that portray the country characters are invariably actors who were born and raised in the city. Australia prides itself -- falsely -- on not having much variation in accent. There's not a huge difference between the speech of someone from Perth vs. someone from Sydney. But there is a difference. There's also a difference between the speech of someone from Sydney's inner suburbs to someone from Sydney's west. There's considerable regional variation. If memory serves, Australia has three distinct accent classifications: urban, rural and high. Urban is the voice of the people of Australia's cities. Rural is the open-mouthed drawl of the folks from the country. High is the "posh" accent ascribed to the likes of Alexander Downer. Australian actors born and raised in the city thrown into a production set in the country have a tendency to be jarring, possibly because they didn't consider the need to study and alter their accent. Maybe this is overlooked because of the acceptance of regional diversity in accents in other countries -- it's not unusual to find someone with a New York accent in Los Angeles in an American film, and it doesn't require explanation or clarification. In Australia, however, someone from the city in a dusty outback town requires acknowledgement, or the viewer will subconsciously be aware that something is "wrong" with the character's behaviour. Worse than this, though, are actors born and raised in the city who choose to imitate country behaviour. While this is just flat-out bad acting, it's an example of overcompensation for something ending in disastrous results.

I'm going to finish these thoughts by again reiterating that I have no qualms with Australian actors or films. This is just an observation about believability, and it's something based entirely on the quantity of productions we have to sample for Australian actors, I'm beginning to believe. If the time ever comes that the pile of Australian productions is the same height as the pile of American and British productions, then I believe the quality of Australian acting will equalise, but until such a time, I suspect that many Australian viewers will continue to cringe whenever someone with an Australian accent makes an appearance, especially in a production from the US or the UK.

As an entirely unconnected thought, here's a strange little fact: There has never ever been an Australian character in the Star Trek franchise. There've been Australian actors -- Wendy Hughes, for example, appeared as Jean-Luc Picard's love interest in Star Trek: TNG -- but they've always appeared with an American accent. Food for thought, perhaps.

As a final addendum, here's a random video from the YouTube channel Veritasium, in which a bunch of folk with different accents (host is American, various Australians, one enthusiastic Scotsman) have a chat about Young's Double Slit Experiment. Notice how the Australians are not jarring against the others as they tend to do in films. Intriguing, no? Also, I bet the Veritasium peoples didn't expect a secondary language experiment was also taking place.

Blocked telephone numbers, and the not answering of them

PhoneInAdelaide

There seems to be quite a strong mentality these days that one shouldn't answer phone calls that come from blocked numbers -- that is, phone numbers with their caller ID suppressed. I find this interesting. I did a bit of Googling, and I've discovered heaps upon heaps of people who refuse to answer them, often on entirely vague or misguided grounds. I have a number of plausible theories for why people do this, some of which can be combined together: 1. They're expecting bad news. Or they owe money. While it's probably better to answer a telephone call from a debt collector than have them come knocking on your front door, I can at least understand the logic behind avoiding the call.

2. In the '90s, prior to the ACMA Do Not Call Register being introduced to Australia, there was a strong predilection for telemarketers to use blocked numbers when calling. A lot of these companies would also employ computer systems that would automatically dial from lists of numbers, confirming a number's validity when someone answered. These culled lists of numbers-that-get-answered would then be sold on to other telemarketing companies for a sizeable profit. Since the introduction of the DNC Register, it's illegal for telemarketers to call, period, let alone use blocked numbers. That's not to say that a scad few don't choose to break the law and call anyway, but the odds have reduced significantly. Charities and other organisations that are immune to the DNC Register are required to have their numbers visible to the receiver, so that removes them from the equation.

3. Psycho exes, drunk friends, whatnot. You can opt for your own telephone number to be made silent/blocked/private. Some handsets differentiate between blocked numbers and private numbers. Dialing 1-8-3-1 before the recipient's number will temporarily make your Australian phone number into a blocked number, so it's entirely possible to prank call people in this fashion without having a prior arrangement with your telco. In the scenario of these types of calls, I can once again understand the decision to not answer.

There are another couple of things I'd like to add to this inconclusive report:

• Many businesses, particularly doctors and large agencies (to give only two examples) use blocked numbers for a perfectly practical reason. Doctors want to be able to contact their patients to deliver news or test results, but they don't need the patient to be able to call them back on their own personal desk phone with every little itch and malady. That's why there's a receptionist and a system to make appointments. Agencies with call centres use blocked numbers because their staff are often trained in specific tasks (such as performing a data fix on client accounts, for example) and only need to contact the public for specific information. There is no reason that the recipient of the call should ever need to contact the staff member again, because the staff member is not trained to help with general enquiries. It would be a waste of the company's resources to make public the staff's individual extension numbers, because the phones would then be ringing with calls that could not be acted upon by those answering them.

• "If you need to contact me, I have the right to know who you are". Fair enough, but why don't you ask them when you answer the phone? If I was calling from a number that you wouldn't recognise, what would make you answer that number in contrast to no information at all? You can always hang up.

My work calls me from blocked numbers. That's a pretty good reason to answer them. But maybe that makes me unique.

Ring ring.

Follow-up, August 2013: Answers to common search queries relating to this article:

Question: why shouldn't i answer calls from blocked number Answer: There is absolutely no reason why you should avoid answering calls from a blocked number. (Provided you're not avoiding a stalker or dangerous ex or calls from a utility company that wants your money in exchange for a service they've already provided you. In the latter case, perhaps you should just pay your bill. Or arrange a payment plan. Something like that.)

Educational arcs

I have a new annoyance. It's another one of those pieces of English that no one seems to know how to use. It's deeply misunderstood. It's the term "learning curve". I'm continually, it seems, encountering people who believe that because something involves learning, that the entire project can be described as a "learning curve". "It's a learning curve." "This is difficult. It's a learning curve."

This is not correct.

It may have a learning curve. In fact, I guarantee it has one.

A learning curve is not the mere existance of learning. A learning curve is a way of describing the increasing (or decreasing) difficulty in the learning process for a given activity. A steep learning curve exists when a task is difficult to master, a more gentle curve when the job is easier.

You can read about learning curves in far more detail than I care to go into over at Wikipedia, the bastion of opinion-disguised-as-fact and the bane of high school paper graders world-wide.

If you have a new skill to learn, remember that it has a learning curve, and if you want to complain about it, it's probably a steep one.

It's Orb-vious

Some "paranormal" phenomenon can't be easily explained. Some can. I suddenly feel compelled to explain one. Orbs.

The usual story behind orb encounters is that a would-be ghost hunter, or some other kind of believer in orbish things will traipse through a "haunted" location taking happy snaps with their point-and-click digital camera. Upon viewing their photographs, they will more often than not find several of the photos are festooned with round objects, usually with hard glowing edges and often with tiny details inside of them.

There are a bunch of potential paranormal explanations for the spots -- ghosts, spirits, fairies. The description usually depends on the location, and what one expects to find there.

The reality is much more boring, though. The glowing items are just dust motes illuminated by the camera's on-board flash, hovering somewhere outside of the camera's focal plane. The hot-spots created in the photograph by out-of-focus illuminated debris are called circles of confusion.

Usually, these kinds of photos are only taken with cheaper point-and-click style digital cameras. The location of the on-board flash on these cameras is the cause behind the tendency for "orbs" to appear in the photos. The closer the flash sits to the lens of the camera, the more accurately the reflected light bounces back into the camera's lens. Digital SLR cameras do not capture as many artefacts of this kind, because the on-board flash is positioned further away from the lens.

The focal plane is the vertical slice of the universe at the correct distance from the camera's lens to be in focus given the camera's shooting settings. For a camera with a wide aperture (f-stop), the focal plane will be narrower, a smaller aperture will produce a deeper focal plane. Adjusting the camera's aperture controls two things: The depth of field (focal distance) and the amount of light that is allowed onto the camera's sensor. A wider aperture means more light, but a shallower depth of field. Point-and-click cameras, when used at night, will usually automatically open the aperture as wide as possible and adjust all available settings to allow the best possible photographs at night, the implications of which are that the camera is then set up to perfectly capture orbs!

Dust motes, insects and rain will produce orbs in varying quantities. While "circle of confusion" is the term for an individual hotspot, the collective term for the effect is bokeh, a Japanese word describing the qualities of the out-of-focus parts of a photograph.

Bokeh from Christmas lights.

Quality bokeh in a photograph is desirable, and can be achieved by using prime lenses with stupidly low f-stops. The above photograph is bokeh produced by Christmas lights at f-1.8. The lights closer to the camera produce larger circles of confusion than lights further away.

Here are some fun links, from the pro-orb side of the fence, just for shits and giggles:

Some crazy talk about how orbs are ghosts -- I'm particularly fond of the footnote on this one, which pretty much debunks all of the paragraphs above it with a bit of "oh, but they're often just dust, too". Some more crazy talk -- I've included this one because the sentence "No one has the true answer to this question yet" makes me want to slap people for lack of research. orbs.net -- this place has literally ones of photos of illuminated dust particles, all of which look eerily (if you'll pardon the inappropriate adverb) similar to my examples above. Must be ghosts! This article includes the advice to turn your flash off if you want to photograph orbs without the interference of dust particles. Desire to slap is still high, but at least it's some progress! Apparently some orbs are energy, and energy is spirit. I was under the impression that energy was energy. The law of conservation of energy insists that energy can't be created or destroyed, only transformed. I guess it can be transformed into spirits, and therefore into orbs. Or not.

So. Orbs. Just dust. Next please.