Noetic Now

About Noetic Now »

« Previous Post Next Post »

Goldilocks and the PK Experiment – a Q & A from IONS’ Parapsychology Lab

by Heidi Fuller

I was talking to Dean Radin about “Things that Go Bump in the Lab,” a talk he’s giving tonight that will be live-streamed from Aqus Café in Petaluma. We ended up discussing a PK experiment he won’t be talking about tonight, and it conjured up images of Goldilocks breaking into the lab and trying out all of the equipment to find the device that is “just right” in detecting psycho-kinetic (PK) abilities. Here’s how it went:

Heidi Fuller: Dean, last summer you were working on a PK experiment to test subjects’ abilities to use their intention to change refracted light inside a black box. How’s that experiment going?

Dean Radin: That project has been shelved – literally and figuratively. The box is right there on the shelf next to you. We were hoping that it would either provide an interesting PK task to test a person’s ability to influence a light beam by focusing their attention on it – or that it might work as a subtle energies detection method.

HF: This black metal box? I thought it was an old VHS player. What was it supposed to do that it didn’t?

DR: This box is fashioned after something called a Bioscope, developed by a group out of the Armenian Academy of Sciences. Inside the box, a light beam is bounced off a thick piece of glass. The top of the glass is covered with black paper so the beam doesn’t go through the glass, nor does outside light go through it. The Armenian team claimed in two published papers that if you bring a living system towards the top of the glass, the amount of light reflected off the glass, from the beam underneath, changes. They tested the system to see if the effect they were seeing was due to heat or other influences, but they claimed that it only responded significantly to the presence of living systems.

I read that and thought about healers who use their hands at some distance to influence a person in their practice. If this device could detect a person’s hand near it, perhaps we would see a change in the signal to detect distant intention.

HF: A heal-o-meter?

DR: Wouldn’t it be great to be able to measure those abilities? That kind of device could help people train their ability to heal.

HF: Futuristic! What happened with the PK experiment?

DR: Well, as you often find with extremely sensitive systems, everything affects it. This box in particular showed an unexplained drift in the signal from the beginning – even before the experiment started. It was designed so that it wouldn’t drift. But because we were seeing this drift, interpretation of the results was too complicated. It wasn’t viable to continue the experiment.

HF: Yet you want a system to be sensitive, right? Intention can be a subtle thing.

DR: I wanted a system that was absolutely rock stable so that if you bring your hand near it and it changes, you can be reasonably assured it wasn’t caused by some mundane influence. You want your detector to be extremely sensitive but only towards the thing you want it to react to. That turns out to be a very difficult engineering job.

HF: I’m thinking Goldilocks: “. . . and this device is just right!” Right? But even if you have that “just right” piece of equipment, you still start with an understanding that your result might not be a true depiction of intention.

DR: Right. So you have to do an experiment by protocol, which I did with this device. By protocol I mean let’s assume there is a real signal that’s drifting in the presence of random noise, and all sorts of other variables that we don’t know anything about. We’ll say, “Put your hand on top of box and keep it there, which undoubtedly introduces all kinds of influences, but now for 30 seconds use just your mental intention to try to affect it, and now for 30 seconds withdraw your intention.” That way, the only manipulation is what’s happening in your head. If you see an effect then, well, maybe it’s your mind, but it might also be your body that’s reacting relative to your intention. For example, you might radiate more heat when you think intently about the box. So you still need to be very careful about whether the effect is what you’re looking for, or if it might be a more mundane artifact.

One of the reasons I usually run PK experiments with no proximity to the device is because it gets rid of a huge range of mundane influences. In our online double-slit experiment, for example, the device is in our laboratory and subjects are located all over the world. No one is near the device. It gives us a very clean way of testing for pure mental intention effects.

HF: Experimenting with experiments to get it just right?

DR: At the leading edge, there’s a lot of tinkering going on before you run a formal experiment. And when you finally make an argument based on your data, you have to make sure that the instrument and your measurements are “just right.”

Stay in touch with IONS