Not sure where I came across this one (apart from the memebase.com tagline) - but pretty darn good! Wonder what percentage it works for? And does it mean you took the red pill or the blue pill?
A quick heads-up on a new experiment performed by parapsychology researcher Dr Dean Radin (with others) which could provoke debate with its publication in Physics Essays: "Consciousness and the double-slit interference pattern". Basically, the results may just put the consciousness aspect back into the quantum world. Here's the abstract (full PDF downloadable at the link above):
A double-slit optical system was used to test the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of the quantum wavefunction. The ratio of the interference pattern’s double-slit spectral power to its single-slit spectral power was predicted to decrease when attention was focused toward the double slit as compared to away from it. Each test session consisted of 40 counterbalanced attention-toward and attention-away epochs, where each epoch lasted between 15 and 30 s. Data contributed by 137 people in six experiments, involving a total of 250 test sessions, indicate that on average the spectral ratio decreased as predicted (z=-4:36, p=6·10-6). Another 250 control sessions conducted without observers present tested hardware, software, and analytical procedures for potential artifacts; none were identified (z=0:43, p=0:67). Variables including temperature, vibration, and signal drift were also tested, and no spurious influences were identified. By contrast, factors associated with consciousness, such as meditation experience, electrocortical markers of focused attention, and psychological factors including openness and absorption, significantly correlated in predicted ways with perturbations in the double-slit interference pattern. The results appear to be consistent with a consciousness-related interpretation of the quantum measurement problem.
Dean also notes in his blog posting that his team has also "completed data collection for two replications of the experiments reported in this publication. Both were statistically significant and in the predicted direction."
Hope to cover this in a bit more detail to this in an upcoming post once I have the time to dig into it properly.
Daryl Bem jumped into the headlines around 18 months ago after his research offering evidence of precognition made news around the world. Discover magazine profiled Bem for their March 2012 issue, and for those interested the article has now been posted online. The profile delves into Bem the man - a former magician/mentalist turned respected psychology professor, turned parapsychology researcher:
Over the years, Bem cemented his reputation as a rebel by floating other controversial theories on topics such as personality and sexual orientation. His own personal life was also decidedly unconventional. Despite being married to a woman, Bem never hid from his family the fact that he is gay. A few years ago, he explained this conjugal conundrum in an Internet posting (pdf) distinguishing between romantic love and sexual attraction, arguing that many individuals—like himself—fall in love with a person of the “wrong” gender.
Even in the context of a career of irreverence, there was little to suggest that Bem would end up defending the possibility of extrasensory perception, or ESP, which most mainstream scientists consider unworthy of serious inquiry. Through most of his career, he was as dubious about telepathy (mind reading) or precognition (seeing the future) as any of his colleagues.
Then data changed his mind.
Bem's article has created a storm of controversy regarding both the use of statistics in the field of psychology (as the WSJ vapidly says, "if you can use statistics to demonstrate that people are able to predict the future, there must be something wrong with your statistics"), as well as the failure of psychological journals to publish replications of controversial research (in this case, the negative replication by Ritchie, Wiseman and French). The latter point has escalated to such an extent that it is the cover story on the latest issue of The Psychologist, which features a debate over the replication controversy, including input from Bem himself. His article and others are available to read in the online sample of the mag, which I've embedded below (you'll probably need to fullscreen it to view properly). I've also extracted a couple of choice quotes from Bem beneath the embed, as I think they're worth pointing out:
The coverage of [the negative replication] has revealed many longstanding misunderstandings about replication - held even by those who should know better.
The first misunderstanding is the sheer overestimation of how likely it is that any replication attempt will be successful, even if the claimed effect is genuine.
...Second, it takes a long time for enough replications to accumulate to draw any firm conclusions. Wiseman set up an online registry for those planning to replicate any of my experiments. As he noted: 'We will carry out a meta-analysis of all registered studies...that have been completed by 1 December 2011.' The deadline was only a few months after my article appeared, and by then only three experiments other than those by Ritchie et al. had been reported. Two of them had successfully reproduced my original findings at statistically significant levels, a fact known to Ritchie et al., but not mentioned in the literature review section of their report...
...In mainstream psychology it takes several years and many experiments to determine which variables influence the success of replications.
...Finally, I believe that some major variables determining the success or failure of replications are likely to be the experimenters' expectations about, and attitudes toward, the experimental hypothesis. Psychologists seem to have forgotten Robert Rosenthal's extensive and convincing demonstrations of this in mainstream psychology during the 1960s. The same effect has been observed in psi experiments as well. Ironically, Wiseman, a psi-skeptic, has himself participated in a test of the experimenter effect in a series of three psi experiments in which he and psi-proponent Marilyn Schlitz used the same subject pool, identical procedures, and were randomly assigned to sessions. Schlitz obtained a significant psi effect in two of the three experiments whereas Wiseman failed to obtain an effect in any of the three...
...The existence of such experimenter effects does not imply that psi results are unverifiable by independent investigators, but that we must begin to systematically include the experimenters' attributes, expectations and attitudes as variables.
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In a recent article here on TDG, Jack Hunter described some of the paranormal experiences of anthropologist Edith Turner, when working among the Ndembu people of Zambia (see: "Anthropology of the Weird"). Today I was browsing through a book I helped publish last year, Communing with the Gods: Consciousness, Culture and the Dreaming Brain, by Charles D. Laughlin, Ph.D. (available from Amazon US and Amazon UK), and came across some quotes from Turner on what she sees as flaws in how anthropologists do their work:
Members of many different societies, even our own, tell us they have had experience of seeing or hearing spirits. Let us recall how anthropology has dealt with the question in the past. Mainline anthropologists have studiedly ignored the central matter of this kind of information – central in the people's own view – and only used the material as if it were metaphor or symbol, not reality, commenting that such and such "metaphor" is congruent with the function, structure, or psychological mindset of the society... the neglect of the central material savors of our old bete noire, intellectual imperialism. What is pitiful is the tendency of anthropologists from among the Native peoples themselves to defer to the western view and accordingly draw back from claiming the truth of their own religion. The mission of western anthropologists to explain the system in positivist terms at all costs, which thereby influences a new elite, is oddly similar to the self-imposed task of the more hidebound religious missionaries who are also sworn to eliminate their hosts' religion…
Laughlin discusses this problem in terms of the "don't go native" rule in anthropology - which, in many ways, comes from a foundation of staying objective and thinking rationally, which is a state of mind very far removed from the beliefs and practices of many non-Western cultures. But, as Laughlin says (and Jack Hunter's essay shows), "the simple fact is that these [transpersonal/paranormal] dream phenomena do seem to occur in the experience and data of ethnographers".
The danger for the 'scientific' anthropologist? "One's brain mediates one's states of consciousness, and one is only able to reach a new state of consciousness when the circuitry of the brain has transformed into a new configuration. Once the new configuration is developed, there is no going back." Scary stuff indeed for the committed rationalist...
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Lucid dream expert Ryan Hurd has posted a wonderful review of Charles Laughlin's Communing with the Gods: Consciousness, Culture and the Dreaming Brain (available from Amazon US and Amazon UK), a book that I'm proud to have released via Daily Grail Publishing in 2011. Ryan really nails my own feelings about the book:
Whenever I have had a spare moment for the past three months, I’ve been sneaking peaks at Charles Laughlin’s new book Communing with the gods: Consciousness, culture and the dreaming brain. It’s a tome, over 500 pages long, and because of its girth I have approached the volume each time with some hesitancy… and a little fear. But each time I’ve dived in, I’ve come away with big ideas, and also some unusual clarity.
This book may be heavy, but it’s really approachable for an academic text.
That’s an accomplishment for a book that essentially takes on the weighty task of summing up the topic of dreams in cross-culture perspective, including the evolutionary impact of the dreaming mind on our species, history, religion and art. Laughlin does this remarkably well, and he tells some great personal stories along the way.
There’s really only a few people in the world who have the personal experience and the scholarly prowess to single-handedly write an anthropology of dreams. In fact, no one has attempted this feat in a generation or longer.
Filled with the expert opinion of a life-long researcher of consciousness, dreams and shamanism, and wrapped in the perfect cover image courtesy of Adam Scott Miller, this is one book you need on your bookshelf. Grab a copy from Amazon US or Amazon UK.
Read the review in full here - thanks to Ryan for his thoughtful (and positive!) feedback.
A nice profile in SF Weekly of a legend of parapsychology, Dr. Stanley Krippner, covering everything from his involvement with the famous Maimonides dream telepathy experiments through to drum hypnosis sessions with The Grateful Dead:
For the better part of the past 40 years, Krippner, 79, has been a psychology professor at San Francisco's Saybrook University, a small graduate school near Jackson Square established in 1971 by the founders of psychology's humanistic movement. He has penned close to 1,000 papers on subjects as far-reaching as childhood creativity, combating soldiers' post-traumatic stress disorder, and worldwide shamanistic rituals. He has won more laurels from more organizations than he can keep track of, including several lifetime achievement awards from the American Psychological Association — the world's largest organization of psychologists and the definer of mainstream thought in the field.
And yet, among Krippner's cavalcade of papers are the following eye-openers: "LSD and Parapsychological Experiences," "The Paranormal Dream and Man's Pliable Future," and "An Experiment in Dream Telepathy with the Grateful Dead." (That last one, perhaps the only scientific study undertaken at the behest of Jerry Garcia, was published in the incomparably titled Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine).
Krippner has traveled to every continent, save Antarctica, to participate in mind-altering tribal ceremonies or investigate "psychic claimants," and ventured behind the Iron Curtain to inspect "psychotronic generators" built to store and harness "psychic energy."
He has established a firm standing in the realm of parapsychology — the scientific study of psychic phenomena generally known as extrasensory perception — akin to the Dead's place in the pantheon of rock 'n' roll. Among both "advocates" and "counter-advocates" of ESP, his decade of meticulous experimentation with "dream telepathy" is viewed as some of the field's strongest and most methodologically sound work of the 20th century.
"Stan belongs on the Mount Rushmore of parapsychology," says fellow ESP researcher Charles Tart. James "The Amazing" Randi, perhaps the world's most prominent skeptic, also offers Krippner his benediction: "There are so few things in this field you can depend on, and there are so many people who are prejudiced and biased. But I can depend on Stan. And I don't think he's biased at all."
One of the best articles I've read on a parapsychology researcher in terms of balance, which may be an outgrowth of the calm and sensible manner in which Krippner himself approaches the topic. And make sure you don't miss the side-bar article on the "cartload of mind-blowing anecdotes that didn't make it into the final article.
Read: "The Psychic World of Stanley Krippner" at SF Weekly.
I came across an interesting passage from Prof. Paul Davies' book The Mind of God which I thought would be worth sharing. In this section of the book, Davies is discussing the apparent independent, stable, 'reality' of the landscape of mathematics - the so-called 'Platonic Realms', or what Rudy Rucker labels the 'Mindscape' - and the mystery of why and how the human brain has evolved extraordinary abilities that allow comprehension of seemingly useless (in an evolutionary sense) concepts such as abstract mathematics:
The mystery becomes even deeper when we take account of the existence of mathematical and musical geniuses, whose prowess in these fields is orders of magnitude better than that of the rest of the population. The astonishing insight of mathematicians such as Gauss and Riemann is attested not only by their remarkable mathematical feats (Gauss was a child prodigy and also had a photographic memory), but also by their ability to write down theorems without proof, leaving later generations of mathematicians to struggle over the demonstrations. How these mathematicians were able to come up with their results "ready-made", when the proofs often turned out to involve volumes of complex mathematical reasoning, is a major puzzle.
Probably the most famous case is that of the Indian mathematician S. Ramanujan. Born in India in the late nineteenth century, Ramanujan came from a poor family and had only a limited education. He more or less taught himself mathematics and, being isolated from mainstream academic life, he approached the subject in a very unconventional manner. Ramanujan wrote down a great many theorems without proof, some of them of a very peculiar nature that would not normally have occurred to more conventional mathematicians. Eventually some of Ramanujan's results came to the attention of Hardy, who was astonished. "I have never seen anything in the least like them before," he commented. "A single look at them is enough to show that they could only be written down by a mathematician of the highest class." Hardy was able to prove some of Ramanujan's theorems by deploying the full range of his own considerable mathematical skills, but only with the greatest difficulty. Other results defeated him completely. Nevertheless, he felt they must be correct, for "no one would have the imagination to invent them". Hardy subsequently arranged for Ramanujan to travel to Cambridge to work with him. Ramanujan unfortunately suffered from culture shock and medical problems, and he died prematurely at the age of only thirty-three, leaving a vast stock of mathematical conjectures for posterity. To this day nobody really knows how he achieved his extraordinary feats. One mathematician commented that the results just seemed "to flow from his brain" effortlessly. This would be remarkable enough in any mathematician, but in one who was largely unfamiliar with conventional mathematics it is truly extraordinary. It is very tempting to suppose that Ramanujan had a particular faculty that enabled him to view the mathematical Mindscape directly and vividly, and pluck out ready-made results at will.
Scarcely less mysterious are the weird cases of so-called lightning calculators - people who can perform fantastic feats of mental arithmetic almost instantly, without the slightest idea of how they arrive at the answer. Shakuntala Devi lives in Bangalore in Inida but regularly travels the world, amazing audiences with feats of mental arithmetic. On one memorable occasion in Texas she correctly found the twenty-third root of a two-hundred-digit number in fifty seconds!
Even more peculiar, perhaps, are the cases of "autistic savants", people who are mentally handicapped and may have difficulty performing even the most elementary formal arithmetic manipulations, but who nevertheless possess the uncanny ability to produce correct answers to mathematical problems that appear to ordinary people to be impossibly hard. Two American brothers, for instance, can consistently outdo a computer in finding prime numbers even though they are both mentally retarded. In another case, featured on British television, a handicapped man correctly and almost instantly gave the day of the week when presented with any date, even from another century!
We are, of course, used to the fact that all human abilities, physical and mental, show wide variations. Some people can jump six feet off the ground, whereas most of us can manage barely three. But imagine someone coming along and jumping sixty feet, or six hundred feet! Yet the intellectual leap represented by mathematical geniuses is far in excess of these physical differences.
An interesting confluence of two stories that crossed the Grail news-desk yesterday. Firstly, there's this story about an 'outbreak' at a New York school where 19 people (18 girls, 1 boy) "have developed a sudden-onset disorder with symptoms similar to the movement disorder Tourette’s syndrome."
Several of the girls report that the symptoms seemed to come out of nowhere — one minute they were asleep, the next they had woken and developed uncontrollable movements and vocalizations. Their tics could be dramatic: arms twitching or jolting out to one side, speech chopped up by nonsense utterings, head jerking, eyes blinking. Some girls have also had blackouts and seizures.
Thus far, no physical causes have been found that explain the symptoms, and eight of the girls have been now diagnosed with 'conversion disorder', or mass hysteria. This seems an odd explanation though, given the long period of 'contamination' and lack of social contact between those suffering from the symptoms.
Coincidentally another link that I came across at the same time discussed the 'Dancing Mania' that occurred from the 14th to 17th centuries in Europe:
As early as the year 1374, strange episodes of dancing mania were reported across Europe. No obvious pattern or triggers to the outbreaks, just large gatherings of men and women of all ages, forming circles and dancing for hours at a time, often until they collapsed with exhaustion...
...Priests, town councils, and local rulers were all alarmed by the dancing mania. The Church blamed the dancing mania on demonic possession and fought it with all the tools at their disposal. Along with frequent sermons directed at the dancers, churches conducted long religious festivals designed to stop the dancers. Although a few priests even resorted to exorcisms, 250px-Die_Wallfahrt_der_Fallsuechtigen_nach_Meulebeecknothing seemed to keep the dancers down for long. While the priests did what they could, local governments resorted to more direct approaches including having the dancers beaten with sticks and even banning the wearing of round-toed shoes in some places (which made dancing harder).
Although the dancers often burned themselves out after a few months, the relative calm afterward rarely lasted long. As the dancing stopped in one part of Europe, new outbreaks would happen in other parts.
All rather strange, and a testament to how little we still understand about the human mind (or even 'spirit', if that is the case).
A fascinating new study by Dean Radin (and Leena Michel, Karla Galdamez, Paul Wendland, Robert Rickenbach, and Arnaud Delorme) appears to offer supporting evidence for conscious influence of quantum effects. "Consciousness and the double-slit interference pattern: Six experiments " will be published in the June 2012 issue of Physics Essays:
A double-slit optical system was used to test the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of the quantum wavefunction. The ratio of the interference pattern’s double-slit to single-slit spectral power was predicted to decrease when attention was focused towards the double-slit as compared to away. Each test session consisted of 40 counterbalanced attention-towards and attention-away epochs, where each epoch lasted between 15 and 30 seconds. Data contributed by 137 people in six experiments, involving a total of 250 test sessions, indicated that on average the spectral ratio decreased as predicted (z = -4.36, p = 6 x 10-6). Another 250 control sessions conducted without observers present tested hardware, software, and analytical procedures for potential artifacts; none were identified (z = 0.43, p = 0.67).
Variables including temperature, vibration, and signal drift were also tested, and no spurious influences were identified. By contrast, factors associated with consciousness, such as meditation experience, electrocortical markers of focused attention, and psychological factors including openness and absorption significantly correlated in predicted ways with perturbations in the double-slit interference pattern. The results appear to be consistent with a consciousness-related interpretation of the quantum measurement problem.
I'm yet to see the paper, but the interesting parts of the above abstract are the highly significant results per prediction, vs control experiments, as well as what appears to be improved results for subjects with enhanced aspects of focus (e.g. meditators) (Dean notes in the comments that "about half were meditators...They did much better than non-meditators".
The latest issue (Vol 3, Number 1) of the free journal Paranthropology ("anthropological approaches to the paranormal") is now available to download. In the new release:
- "The Sublime and the Profane: A Thealogical Account of Psychometric Experiences Within a Sacred Space" - Patricia 'Iolana
- "Money God Cults in Taiwan: A Paranthropological Approach" - Fabian Graham
- "Proceeding With Caution: What Went Wrong? The Death and Rebirth of Essential Science" - Charles T. Tart
- "Transpersonal Anthropology: What is it, and What are the Problems we Face Doing it?" - Charles D. Laughlin
- "Contemporary Physical Mediumship: Is it Part of a Continuous Tradition" - Jack Hunter
- "Charles Richet at the Villa Carmen" - Robert McLuhan
- "Nourished by Dreams, Visions and William James: The Radical Philosophies of Borges and Terence McKenna" - William Rowlandson
- "An Inner Curriculum Vitae" - Paul Devereux
- "Communing With the Gods - An Overview" - Charles D. Laughlin
- "Brazil: Where Cows Might Fly" - Guy Lyon Playfair
And in case you haven't read this great resource before, all of the previous issues remain available to download from the site as well. Don't forget to support the journal with a PayPal donation if you find it interesting/useful...well-deserved and will help ensure publication into the near future.