Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

more on the power of the mind thingy

Lance commented to my previous entry on PEAR. He said:

[...] I'd like to know if The Sceptic (I forget the correct name of the magazine devoted to debunking the paranormal) ever looked at this. They are a fairly respected bunch (well, by other skeptics ;-) ), whose number included Isaac Asimov.
I'm not aware of The Skeptic assessing these claims. But there are several things that make me doubt that this is a massive gag of some sort. First, PEAR is a group that has been based at Princeton for almost 30 years now. I'd like to think that after such a long time Princeton would have taken measures to kick them out if they had been engaging in some massive lie. Second, they have never sought publicity. Fakers love publicity (remember cold fusion at the end of the 80's?). Third, and more important, not only anyone can go to their lab and request a demonstration (true, if the apparattus is rigged, that wouldn't prove much) but also they have many publications, not in Tabloids, but for example in the Proceedings of the IEEE. Now, I agree that this doesn't prove anything. But it certainly makes it harder to maintain a lie if it existed.

The problem in part in accepting PEAR's findings is that we have for decades relegated "paranormal" phenomena to the level of science fiction at best and tabloid-garbage at worst. About 200 years ago this was not the case, great scientists and philosophers were interested in weird, unprovable stuff as much as they were interested in more 'concrete' things (as much as, say, a differential equation is 'concrete'). In fact, Newton is a good example.

PEAR has made experiments that sound even more ridiculous than the ones I described in my previous entry. For example, they have made hundreds of experiments of ... err ... "mind travel"... were a person is asked to describe or draw the place where another person is. In many cases subjects described with detail places they had never been to. I can see you rolling your eyes... well, I find it hard to believe too.

Now, since we are on X-Files and Twilight Zone mode, here's another Princeton project that is truly strange: The Global Consciousness Project. This project grew out of the PEAR research (see the About section in their website, regarding Random Event Generators, or REGs). This project has "nodes" deployed all over the globe measuring "global-consciousness effects". I don't want to continue giving cursory descriptions, the website has good info on what they do.

In particular, note this article they wrote regarding the September 11 attacks. It's very strange.

Obviously, nobody in their right mind would accept these things at face value. But I think it's fairly common for people to have experienced strange things that can't really be explained by science as we know it today. At a minimum, these studies might take us to a level of understanding that we don't have today.

The fact that we can't say that this is absolutely positively impossible within what we know tells us (IMO at least) that there is too much yet that we don't know about the mind, and reality itself. A sort of proof by the negative. Even what we know is confusing for our 'standard' view of reality; for example it's impossible not to feel amazed every time when reading texts or papers on quantum mechanics (or general relativity for that matter, although relativity seems to match our worldview a little better better). And we always resist to new views: I think that if a hundred years ago someone had explained Schrodinger's Cat paradox to a meeting of "learned men of the age" they would have been kicked out of the room. :-)

Anyway, as Eminem says in Lose Yourself: "Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity". :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 30 2003 at 7:00 PM

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