Anomalistics is the systematic study of anomalies -- things that, according to the beliefs and theories of a particular era or culture, cannot or should not happen, but which happen anyway.
When anomalies are first noticed or discovered they are usually ignored or rejected by mainstream science–and the culture at large–as nonexistent or impossible, and pigeonholed as naive misunderstandings or deliberate hoaxes. But many are eventually embraced and integrated into mainstream knowledge, either because they have stubbornly refused to go away or because acceptable explanations have been proposed (which suddenly makes them real and allowable) and/or the consensus framework of reality has been expanded. Lest we forget, much of what we take for granted today was considered impossible not so long ago.
"At each shift of the paradigm, the impossible presents its impeccable credentials ... and the unthinkable becomes the norm."
-Rabbi Michael Berg
Discovery begins with the awareness of anomaly - the recognition that nature has violated the paradigm-induced expectations that govern normal science. The area of the anomaly is then explored. The paradigm change is complete when the paradigm has been adjusted so that the anomalous has become the expected. The result is that the scientist is able "to see nature in a different way."
- Thomas Kuhn, in his seminal work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Since the birth of photography in the 19th century, images have appeared on photographic film, and more recently in digital photos, that appear to defy conventional explanation. Some have been hoaxes; others are naive interpretations of common photographic defects and optical phenomena. But not all anomalous images can be dismissed quite so easily.