While today's 'blood Moon' lunar eclipse occurred in the middle of Monday night for people in the United States, here in Australia the eclipse rose in the east - over the ocean for me here in Brisbane - right on the stroke of sunset on Tuesday evening. We took the kids down to the pier with a camera and tripod and grabbed a few images, including the one above. Bonus points for this shot, because it includes the star Spica (above the Moon) and the planet Mars (out to the left). Did you get clear skies and the opportunity to walk outside and take a look?
Can we sense the future before it happens? That question was at the heart of a set of nine experiments that sparked widespread controversy and debate when Professor Daryl Bem published his results in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011. The reason: Bem's results were positive, suggesting that we can in some way do the seemingly impossible, and somehow 'know' (precognition) or 'feel' (presentiment) things before they even occur. The controversy grew even further, however, with widespread coverage in science media outlets of attempted replications from others that failed to find the same astonishing results. A number of scientists and 'skeptics' poured scorn on Bem's experiments, and prominent skeptic James Randi was even moved to award his infamous 'Pigasus Award' to Bem "for his shoddy research that has been discredited on many accounts by prominent critics".
In a previous post I pointed out that this focus on replications with negative results had glossed over the fact that there had also been a number of positive replications, suggesting that there might just be something to Bem's original results. And now, a meta-analysis of 90 experiments which replicated Bem's research, performed in 33 different laboratories (in 14 different countries and involving 12,406 participants), has offered significant support for the theory that humans can indeed sense the future:
The primary question addressed by the meta-analysis is whether the database provides overall evidence for the anomalous anticipation of random future events... the answer is yes: The overall effect size (Hedges’ g) is 0.09, combined z = 6.33, p = 1.2 × 10-10. The Bayesian BF value is 1.2 × 109, greatly exceeding the criterion value of 100 that is considered to constitute “decisive evidence” for the experimental hypothesis.
A subsidiary question is whether independent investigators can successfully replicate Bem’s (2011) original experiments...the answer is again yes: When Bem’s experiments are excluded, the effect size for the replications is 0.07, combined z = 4.25, p = 1.1 × 10-5, and the BF value is 757, which again greatly exceeds the criterion value of 100 for “decisive evidence.”
The meta-analysis paper, co-authored by Daryl Bem, Patrizio E. Tressoldi, Thomas Rabeyron and Michael Duggan, began with a search for all potential replications of Bem's method between the year 2000 and September of 2013. The experiments were then categorized according to the type of effect tested for, the number of participants involved, the statistical techniques needed to measure the effect, whether the study was published through peer-review, and the type of replication (exact, modified, or independently-designed). They found that 51 of the 90 experiments (56.6%) had been published in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings.
But could the positive results have been an outcome of the 'file drawer effect', where mostly positive results were published but negative replications were not - put in the file drawer, so to speak, due to no interesting findings? The authors of the paper did the math, and found that the number of 'missing' experiments needed to reduce the overall effect size to a trivial value was (conservatively) 520. This seems unlikely.
Another possible criticism addressed by the authors is the effect size. While the meta-analysis offered highly significant results, statistically, the actual 'precognitive' effect was very small. But, the authors note, "even very small effects can have both theoretical importance and practical utility":
One frequently cited example is the medical study that sought to determine whether a daily dose of aspirin can prevent heart attacks. The study was discontinued after six years because it was already clear that the aspirin treatment was effective (p < .00001), and it was considered unethical to keep the control group on placebo medication. Even though the study was considered a major medical breakthrough, the size of the aspirin effect is actually quite small (d ≈.07), about one third the size of the presentiment experiments and Bem’s (2011) original experiments and about one half the size of the exact replications in our database.
Skeptics also often raise the lack of an explanatory theory as a problem when it comes to psi results. The authors of the meta-analysis argue, however, "that this is still not a legitimate rationale for rejecting all proffered evidence a priori. Historically, the discovery and scientific exploration of most phenomena have preceded explanatory theories, often by decades or even centuries (e.g., the analgesic effect of aspirin; the antidepressant effect of electroconvulsive therapy; and Maxwell’s field equations of electricity and magnetism, which were formulated centuries after the phenomena were first explored)".
The meta-analysis also revealed possible refinements for future testing. 'Fast-thinking experiments', where the speed of the test reduced conscious cognition, produced more positive results than 'slow-thinking experiments': "every fast-thinking protocol individually achieved a statistically significant effect, with an overall effect size of 0.11 and a combined z greater than 7 sigma. In contrast, the slow-thinking experiments achieved an overall effect size of only 0.03, failing even to achieve a conventional level of statistical significance (p = .20)". According to the authors, "fast-thinking protocols are more likely to produce evidence for psi because they prevent conscious cognitive strategies from interfering with the automatic, unconscious, and implicit nature of psi functioning".
Another discovery (which might well dominate some news reports on this paper) was that the experiments which tested for precognitive detection of erotic stimuli achieved "a larger effect size (0.14), a larger combined z (4.22), and a more statistically significant result (p = 1.2 × 10-5) than any other protocol". The experiments were also the most reliable in producing substantial effect sizes, with 10 of the 11 achieving effect sizes between 0.12 and 0.52 (perhaps notably, the one replication failure in the erotic stimuli group was a study which used a set of erotic photographs "that were much less sexually explicit than those used by Bem and other investigators").
This latest meta-analysis adds to previous data collections which suggest that precognition/presentiment is a natural (if very weak) human ability. Just last month I reported on a meta-analysis of results from seven independent laboratories testing physiological responses to stimuli, that concluded the human body "can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1-10 seconds in the future". And a 1989 meta-analysis of all forced-choice precognition experiments appearing in English-language journals between 1935 and 1977 - 309 experiments conducted by 62 different investigators involving more than 50,000 participants - also found a small but highly significant hit rate (p = 1.1 × 10-9). Both of those meta-analyses also reported that the file-drawer effect was an unlikely explanation, given the number of experiments that would be needed to overturn the positive result.
Other scientists - and skeptics - will no doubt have their say on this paper in due course, which will hopefully bring some clarification to the validity and overall importance of this meta-analysis. From the data presented in it though, it appears that the debate over human precognition and presentiment is a long way from settled. If only we could look into the future to see how this all plays out...
Until then, follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter to keep up with the latest news from the fringes of science and history.
You might also like:
- Scientific Research Suggests We Unconsciously React to Events Up to 10 Seconds Before They Happen
- Retrocausality: Physicists Ponder Whether the Future Can Influence the Past
- Is Precognition Real? Positive Replications of Daryl Bem's Controversial Findings
- Feeling the Future
- Not Feeling the Future: New Bem Replication Fails to Find Evidence of Psi
- Precognition Debate
- Document suggesting that Jesus had a wife is proven to be authentic.
- As Rome approaches 2,767th birthday, excavation reveals wall built more than a century before official founding year of 753BC.
- Tambora, 1815: Largest volcanic eruption in human history changed the 19th century as much as Napoleon.
- 'Hubble Madness' picks a winning image, and deep space never looked so good.
- Blood moon: Don't miss the total lunar eclipse on April 14/15. Darkness will cover the craters and mountains in which humans have spotted faces and figures for millennia.
- Phil 'Bad Astronomer' Plait owns up to some Bad Skepticism.
- Melvin Morse, well-known for his research into near-death experiences
in children, gets a three year prison sentence for 'waterboarding' his step-daughter.
- How the Freemasons got caught in a plot to topple the Castros.
- El Niño could grow into a monster, new data show -- on a par with the biggest El Niño ever recorded, in 1997-98, which caused $35 billion in damages and 23,000 deaths worldwide.
- Desmond Tutu calls for anti-apartheid style boycott against the fossil-fuel industry.
- Entire marine food chain at risk from rising CO2 levels in water.
- 'Bigfoot has Australian genes!': The myth and mystery behind Australia's bush monster the Yowie.
- The real Darwin fish: Why creationists hate Tiktaalik.
- Whole brain emulation: Can we really upload Johnny Depp's brain, as depicted in Transcendence?
- The hubris of Fukushima and Chernobyl. Fukushima’s lessons, unlearned in America?
- A brief, terrifying history of viruses escaping from labs.
- Study reveals gene expression changes with meditation.
- Happy people are more productive (especially if they get chocolate).
- Occupy was right: Capitalism simply isn't working and here are the reasons why. More details.
- An immodest proposal: A global tax on the superrich. Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is available at Amazon US/Kindle & UK/Kindle.
- What is it like to live on Britain's most expensive street? (Apparently, they really do need all that security.)
- The appalling program that allows local cops to seize (and cash in) pot-related assets, even where marijuana is legal.
- El Salvador's battle to keep its gold in the ground.
- HIV's grip on the American South.
- Dying to make your chips: Samsung’s cancer-stricken workers are focus of fresh debate in South Korea. (Also explains why Silicon Valley has more hazardous waste sites than any other US county.)
- Politicians have delegated power to global corporations bent on engineering a world of conformity and consumerism.
- Study: American policy exclusively reflects desires of the rich; citizens' groups largely irrelevant.
- The US Navy just announced the end of big oil, and no one noticed.
- Correction: Seawater-to-fuel story I meant to post, instead of the one linked above.
- Statue of a homeless Jesus startles a wealthy community.
- Three expensive milliseconds.
- How Heartbleed broke the internet.
- NSA exploited Heartbleed to siphon passwords for two years.
- What the NSA's denial isn't telling you: it didn't even need know about Heartbleed to vacuum your privacy and store it indefinitely.
- A look at good coding: They Write the Right Stuff (Dec 1996/Jan 1997 issue of FAST COMPANY magazine).
- An interactive map showing global cyberattacks in real time.
- The magic of metaphor: What children's minds teach us about the evolution of imagination.
A big thanks to Perceval and Greg for loads of links.
Quote of the Day:
We live in a world dominated by greed. We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. It is clear [fossil-fuel energy companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money.
Well-known near-death experience researcher Melvin Morse, convicted two months ago of 'waterboarding' his step-daughter by holding her head under a faucet, has been sentenced to three years prison by the judge presiding over the case. Shockingly, given the details of the case, Morse was a former pediatrician (his licence was revoked) who had become famous for his research into the near-death experiences of children. This had led some to speculate that the abuse of the child was an attempt at inducing an NDE, though ultimately the judge disagreed on that count:
The judge ordered Melvin Morse, 60, to serve two years on probation after completing the prison term. Morse also received concurrent sentences of probation for other charges of endangering and assault.
...Morse, whose medical license was suspended after his arrest and has since expired, wrote several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children. He has appeared on shows such as "Larry King Live" and the "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to discuss his research, which also has been featured on an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" and in an article in "Rolling Stone" magazine. Morse denied police claims he may have been experimenting on the girl.
"The idea that the defendant was experimenting on (the girl) is speculative, and I see his actions differently," said the judge, who described Morse as controlling and manipulative in his abuse of a vulnerable child.
Beyond the sad tale of abuse in this case, where does this leave Morse's body of research on the NDE? Should it be disregarded on moral grounds simply because it is the work of a convicted child abuser, or perhaps more cogently because - in a field that leans heavily on personal testimony - this throws doubt on his honesty and integrity? I for one would find it difficult to cite any of his research in future, for the latter reasoning, unless the details could be corroborated via another source.
A summary of all the stories and news briefs posted on The Daily Grail over the past week - check 'em out if you missed any:
- News Briefs 07-04-2014 (Monday)
- Explore the Temples of Angkor with Google Street View
- Mars Rover Sees a Light on the Horizon
- News Briefs 08-04-2014 (Tuesday)
- Rare Video of Oarfish Beaching Themselves
- News Briefs 09-04-2014 (Wednesday)
- News Briefs 10-04-2014 (Thursday)
- For Your Dream Travel List: Kailashnath Temple
- News Briefs 11-04-2014 (Friday)
- Document Suggesting That Jesus Had a Wife is Proven to be Authentic
- Jason Silva: What is a God?
Have a good weekend!
We've covered a few of Jason Silva's "Shots of Awe" here on the Grail over the past couple of years. But if you're going to do 'awe', then you've got to go big, and in this latest monologue Jason scales things up to star size, contemplating the light- and life-giving presence that is our Sun. So much awe in fact that you can begin to understand how you might form a religion based on it...
More Jason Silva monologues:
Dating tests performed on a controversial piece of papyrus which suggests that Jesus had a wife have found that, contrary to claims of a hoax, it is indeed an ancient document:
Since Harvard professor of divinity Karen L. King publicized the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” in 2012, scientists and theologians have fiercely debated the authenticity of the fragment — the only known papyrus containing the words “Jesus said to them, my wife.” Biblical scholars have argued that the 1- by 3-inch chunk of papyrus is modern, “oddly written” and a “clumsy forgery.” But results from recent chemical and handwriting analyses say otherwise.
...Scientists used a technique called micro-Raman spectroscopy, which measures the way objects scatter photons from a laser, to determine the chemical composition of the ink used to write the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” The chemical composition of the ink dated back to between the sixth and ninth centuries, or earlier, and matched other samples from the same time period.
A second study examined the fragment’s handwriting to verify its authenticity. King, at Harvard Divinity School, weighed all the evidence and concluded that the fragment is likely a product of early Christians, not a forgery. The findings were presented in a series of studies published Thursday in the Harvard Theological Review.
Note that this does not necessarily prove that Jesus was married, but it certainly provides additional evidence for those wanting to build such a case (though if you're a fiction writer who think s novel based around that idea could be a bestseller, you're about a decade late...).
"May your trails be crooked, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view..."
- When neutrinos collide…
- Three spins on the Mars light story-- Choose your own adventure.
- Step into Saturn’s hexagonal pole.
- Flying saucers for Mars!
- Saving Gaia-- You’re doing it wrong.
- When the seas boiled.
- Hubble bubble just got bigger.
- A cosmic cover-up.
- …That’s no moon.
- Trees. In. Space.
- Dinosaur-killing asteroid’s big brother, revealed.
- Our submerged prehistory, revealed.
- More gray matter.
- 30 years of NDEs.
- This week’s proof of the pending robot revolution… Roach nanobots.
With thanks to Kat for today’s looming robo-pocalypse news.
Quote of the Day:
“May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest...”
I was blown away by this photo of Kailashnath Temple taken by Santha Faiia, and posted by her partner Graham Hancock to his Facebook account. The world is filled with a mind-boggling array of amazing ancient sites which I'd one day love to visit. Here's what Graham posted about it:
One of the most mysterious and most beautiful sites I visited on my recent trip to India was the in the Ellora Caves complex of Maharashtra state. From a quick glance of the attached photo you do not immediately realise the scale, but look closer, find the people in the shot, and then you will begin to get the idea. The temple, which is intended to symbolize Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, mystical abode of the god Shiva, was not “built” but is rather sculpted in one piece out of the solid basalt bedrock of the area. It is estimated that close to half a million tons of this very hard igneous rock had to be removed, cutting downwards from the top to isolate the core body of what would become the temple before the mass of intricate relief carvings were begun. So far as I am aware none of the tools used to create this stunning monument have ever been found and it beggars belief how the work was done with the rather simple technology that archaeologists tell us was available in India in the 26-year reign (757-783 AD) of King Krishna I of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty. Either there is something wrong with archaeological undertstanding of the technology of that epoch – very likely in my view – or with the time-frame attributed to the temple, or both. But however it was done it is undoubtedly a tribute to ancient Indian craftsmanship and aesthetics on an exceptionally grand and breathtaking scale. Though smaller I have visited similar temples, also hewn from solid rock, at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu in south India. It is noteworthy that the Mahabalipuram shore temples overlook extensive submerged ruins which may date back to the last Ice Age when sea level was 100 metres lower. I dived on the underwater ruins at Mahabalipuram in April 2002 as described in my book Underworld.
To keep up with Graham's travels while researching his new book and see more amazing photos from Santha, be sure to follow the official Graham Hancock Facebook account.
- Science gives you permission to trust your gut.
- How to tell if you're dealing with a 'pseudoskeptic.'
- Robert McLuhan's take on cases of alleged reincarnation involving children.
- Tony Morrill discusses the phenomenon of demonic possession.
- 'Switching' to quantum computing, thanks to new breakthrough.
- Rendezvous with Rosetta: The ESA is ready to land a spacecraft on the surface of a comet.
- Move over, Chicxulub! THIS is the Mother of all asteroid impacts.
- Divinity as Monstrosity: A look at Aronofsky's obsession with the story of Noah [Mild Spoilers].
- Lawmakers decide Sea World can keep its orcas… for now.
- Nick Redfern investigates the mystery of lake monsters.
- Exhibit (a) that the US Navy is turning into Battlestar Galactica: Turning seawater into fuel.
- Exhibit (b): Their sci-fi electromagnetic rail-gun.
- ...Speaking of which, you can start praising (or cursing) the lords of Kobol: Battlestar Galactica is coming to the silver screen!
- The Paracast interviews Canadian UFO investigator Chris Rutkowski.
- Valeria Lukyanova, the 'human Barbie doll', sees herself as a 'Nordic' & frowns upon 'race mixing.'
- Red Pill of the Day: Space Barbie, Vice's 2013 documentary on Valeria Lukyanova.
Thanks to Susan.
Quote of the Day:
“Their mouths, which mere minutes before had been employed in the process of demolishing and ingesting various foodstuffs, were now jammed up damply against one another while still being used for breathing, which must have been more than a little uncomfortable.”
“Bits of one jammed into bits of the other, dangerously close to some of the weakest and most important internal organs.”
“With absolutely no regard for personal space, the two of them created an unnecessary amount of friction, generating sweat in the process.”
“Some sort of gel emerged.”
“One sat upon the other, like furniture that sneaks inside of your body.”
Erotica Written By An Alien Pretending Not To Be Horrified By The Human Body (excerpt), by Mallory Ortberg.