Can human consciousness affect the physical world? Being able to reliably demonstrate that consciousness can directly interact and change the physical world would be a game-changer, especially for breaking out of the materialist paradigm, or the paradigm that believes only physical matter (and energy) makes up the world.
A potential target for testing this hypothesis is electrical plasma – an electrically conducting medium that is the so-called “fourth state of matter,” in addition to solid, liquid, and gas. Electrical plasma is now thought to make up about 99% of the visible matter in the universe and it is also associated with anomalous luminous effects reported throughout history, including phenomena called will-o’-wisps, ball lightning, and possibly with moving points of lights observed during seances, shimmering apparitions, and even unidentified flying objects.
Stanford University materials scientist Dr. William Tiller used electrical plasma to conduct a series of experiments to explore mind-matter interactions, and concluded that “this energy can be directed by the human mind.”
In new research, we set out to see if we could replicate Dr. Tiller’s results.
The hypothesis of our experiment was that the plasma streams in a plasma ball would behave differently when human attention and intention were focused toward the plasma as compared to when attention and intention were withdrawn (i.e. when the participant relaxed). We did not have a hypothesis about whether the plasma would behave in or out of alignment with the intention.
To test this hypothesis, we asked participants to direct their intention toward or away from 8-inch diameter plasma balls – the kind typically used as night lights, party decorations, or science toys. The ball generates an aesthetically pleasing, undulating display of dynamic plasma streams that randomly move around inside the sphere. If the glass surface of the ball is touched by a finger, the plasma streams move toward the touched location, and increase the amount of overall light in that spot.
While a webcam recorded light changes in the plasma ball, participants were invited to mentally “pull” the plasma streams to move toward a particular spot on the ball in 30 second increments (intention phases), which would increase the overall light in that direction. During relax phases, participants were asked to withdraw their attention and intention from the ball. During the intention phase, the participants could track their performance via real-time computerized feedback on a continuously updated graph.
We conducted three different experiments.
In Experiment 1, the plasma ball and webcam were placed inside an opaque cardboard box on a heavy wooden table about three meters from the participant. In Experiments 2 and 3, the plasma ball and webcam were placed on a small wooden table inside the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) double-walled, solid steel, electromagnetically-shielded chamber, with nothing else in the chamber. In Experiment 2, the chamber door was left open so participants could see the ball, and in Experiment 3, the door was closed so participants could not see the ball. The chamber was used to reduce possible influences from ambient electromagnetic fields.
During the intention phases, participants were told that they could express their intention in several ways: (1) imagine that their fingers were touching the plasma ball, (2) imagine they could move their hand inside the plasma ball, or (3) simply gaze at the graph on the computer monitor and mentally intend that the line being drawn on the screen would go up.
In Experiment 3, we wanted to test “directional” intention, so participants were asked to either aim their intention to the right (aim right condition), to the top (aim up condition), or to relax (relax control condition). A second plasma ball (powered off) was placed in front of them to act as a target “effigy.” This was intended to help them focus on the task via being able to “remotely touch” the ball.
Did human intention move the electrical plasma?
We found that human intention affected the plasma streams, although the direction of plasma movement was not consistent across the experiments. In Experiment 1, the amount of overall light decreased during the intention phases versus the control condition, whereas in Experiment 2, the overall light increased during intention phases. When we tested the direction of intention in Experiment 3, the overall light increased in the upper right corner of the webcam image during the aim right condition, but in the aim up condition, the overall light increased in the upper left corner. The differences in direction were highly statistically significant.
What Do the Results Mean?
Our results support Dr. Tiller’s findings, suggesting that electrical plasma may be reactive to human intention, although the findings also suggest that the effect is not always in alignment with the direction of the intention. There is no obvious reason why the results differed from one experiment to the next, but the results are promising enough to warrant more research. There may be many as-of-yet unknown physical or mental factors that influence how human intention interacts with matter and energy, which also includes influencing the direction of the effect. It will be exciting for researchers to explore and map out these factors!
These results add another boost to mind-matter interaction research by showing that human intention can directly affect physical systems, although the precise mechanisms by which this happens haven’t been worked out yet.
What does it mean if human consciousness can directly interact with the physical world? It suggests that while we can often feel physically separate from our surroundings, we are actually far more connected to everything and everyone than everyday perception leads us to believe. It also means that our thoughts and intentions are more powerful than we often give them credit for. Deeper questions also emerge from this line of thinking, such as how much does our internal subjective world influence the outer objective world? Are these two worlds actually separate or are they continually dancing in an intimate relationship? As we blaze new trails in the fascinating space between mind and matter, we repeatedly encounter clues suggesting that — in alignment with the late Princeton University physicist John Wheeler’s concept, which was based on his interpretation of quantum mechanics — that we live in a participatory universe.