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IBM And Mind Input Devices 221

An anonymous reader writes: "The basic idea is that an electronic device that produces random static noise may be affected by an observer if that static noise is based on the state of subatomic particles. This interaction of the user with the device can be measured and used as a form of input. An interesting aspect of quantum physics is that when a subatomic particle is observed its state changes (its wave function collapses), and the new state that it assumes cannot be predicted. Various theories exist as to why a particle assumes whatever state it does when its wave function collapses. One theory is that the observer is somehow interacting with the particle, causing it to assume its new state. Researchers at Princeton's Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab have amassed statistically significant data that says that an observer affects the new state of the observed particles. In some way, our mind interacts with these particles, and this interaction can be measured. IBM wants to use this measurement to create a new type of input device that basically reads your mind, no wires attached. IBMs Patent, PEARs Website. Incidentally, the inventors of this patent are a who's-who of the members of PEAR. Particularly Jahn and Dunne."
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IBM And Mind Input Devices

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is so fishy... It has not been replicated! And the PEAR lab won't let anyone else look at the software they used for this experiment. They wouldn't give professors Ray Hyman or James Alcock (two leading skeptics of these claims) access to the important data. There is also the rumor going around that only one participant demonstrated anything above chance and that was the same person who wrote the software! I hope PEAR will put this rumor to rest and allow other labs to look at their software. Meanwhile, the PEAR lab won James "The Amazing" Randi's pigasus prize for this farce. An award previously given to Uri Geller.
  • infinite energy rocks more :)

    Dont mention complex energy.
  • due to the relative nature of time, a message that travels faster than a beam of light could inform an observer of an event before it happens

    How so? This seems counter-intuitive, but then again so do a lot of things in relativity, so if you could point me to a URL with a more detailed explanation I'd appreciate it. Here's what my intuition says: say I were on the moon and I was observing events down on earth. If I were watching them through a telescope there would be a delay of about a second or two between the events occuring and me seing them due to the time it takes light to travel that far. Now if there were some way for me to observe the events half a second sooner the information would be travelling to me faster than the speed of light, but it's still well after the events happened. I don't understand how I could have a chance to change the original event.

  • It'd be great to have some information on how to replicate this experiment at home. This would be great fun.
  • That was the very first theory to explain quantum phsycis. It was disproven by Bell's theorm which was specifically designed to PROVE your arguement. Needless to say the results was that quantum theory is 'non-local'. I.E. does not follow classical newton laws.
  • Yeah, but if Hearst actually had the Maine sunk (and I have no idea if he did or didn't), then that's a whole different kettle of fish than just stirring people up with words.
  • "That would be like blaming the Washington Post for Watergate or the Hearst newspapers for the Spanish-American War!"
    I'm sure Nixon blamed the Post, even though they couldn't have invented those oval office tapes, just found out about their existence (don't shoot the messenger), but Hearst has *long* been suspected of having started that war in order to boost circulation.
  • Well, it's on princeton.edu, so you better tell their sysadmin that their server's been owned.
  • "... an electronic device that produces random static noise may be affected by an observer..." In other words, when your old radio or televsion set gets static-y, smack it. :-)

    "These random devices also respond to group activities of larger numbers of people, even when they are unaware of the machine's presence. ... Venues that appear to be particularly conducive to such field anomalies include small intimate groups, group rituals, sacred sites, musical and theatrical performances, and charismatic events. In contrast, data generated during academic conferences or business meetings show no deviations from chance."

    Unfortunately you can't attribute the field anomalies to mass hysteria due to the lack of them at academic conferences and business meetings any more.:-)

    But seriously, when I saw the part about group activity, group rituals, sacred sites, et cetera, I immediately thought about something I read a couple of years ago about some experiment some doctor in California did with prayer groups praying for sick people that they didn't know, that didn't know that they were being prayed for, where those patients did better than a control group. Maybe prayer works with or without God.

    As someone with a relative experiencing increasing "packet loss" between legs and brain (myelin sheath deterioration), I'm wondering if there's any "routing around the spinal cord" application this could be part of.

  • I presume you're talking about experiments like EPR? You can't communicate information that way. For those unfamiliar with it, the theory goes like this:

    - particles 1 and 2 are "linked" but their spin (either up or down) is unknown
    - particle 2 is transported to another solar system
    - we measure particle 1's spin
    - particle 2 gets measured, and it is the opposite spin of particle 1 (instantly!)

    Hey, particle 1 and particle 2 are linked! So we could send a steady stream of particles to alpha centauri, keep the linked ones here, and then measure them up or down (0 or 1)!

    I'm afraid not. The central problem now is *there is no way to control which way the particle is measured*. In other words, you can't *choose* whether the bit is 0 or 1, it just comes out one or the other.

    It ends up just like two different computers in different parts of the world "communicating" with completely synchronized random number generators. Woo hoo! You know what the other guy is seeing on his screen! ... but it's still just a stream of random numbers.

  • I don't think LPs are a good example. It's very easy to play back a record, and requires no cryptanalysis or anything, as might be required for playback of a digital medium. You just stick a needle in the groove, and spin the disc. CDs, on the other hand, even assuming that the physical objects can survive for any reasonable length of time, which they can't, would be a little tricky to play back. They need all kinds of DACs and lasers and things, which might not be obvious to an alien. Given enough thought and experimentation, though, most things can probably be figured out.
  • So essentially IBM would be reading my mind? Now ok, amazingly cool idea for an input device, but this really has a possibility for massive abuse. Remember the outrage over the PIII serial numbers? That didn't even come close to actually reading your mind. So long as it's handled appropriately there shouldn't be anything to worry about, but otherwise.... I don't even want to imagine.
  • The effect you describe is exactly like taking a pair of cards, one red, the other green and sealing each in an envelope while blindfolded. Then you mail one to yourself and the other to your friend. Once you see that you have a red card, you know immmediately that your friend has a green one. But the cards themselves have not travelled faster than light!

    Umm, what you have described here is not an example of instantaneous communication between you and your friend. When you open up the envelope and find out what the color of your card is, no information is transmitted between you and your friend; its all still contained in your vicinity.

  • ...actually examined that data at any length...
    Well, I did. I read their book. As a reader of Skeptical Inquirer, it dismayed me that there wasn't more controversy over this singular demonstration of the paranormal. It's no joke and they've gone to extremes to do rigorous science. However, the effect they found is so minute, that I decided it was indistinguishable from experimental artifact. Check it out at PEAR [princeton.edu] . IMHO there is a fundamental problem with these ideas: the presumption that there is some link between our mental representations of reality and reality itself. "willing" sub-atomic particles into particular states just don't happen folks...
  • The ball analogy is not only imperfect, it glosses over one of the central philosophical questions raised by quantum physics. It's not just that we don't know what state the particles are in, it's that the state of the particles is not decided until they are observed in some fashion, and exactly what does and doesn't constitute an observation is still a subject of debate and research. And you can't just get out of this by saying "how do we know that the particle's state isn't pre-decided, but we just don't know what it is yet", because tests have been done to rule this out.

    This bugged the heck out of Einstein ("spooky action at a distance"), and I suspect if the answer was as simple as the balls and socks analogy, someone would have pointed that out to him if he didn't figure it out himself!

  • Nah, that level of control - using electrodes which measure some aspect of the electrical variations of the brain or nervous system - has been done by many people, including researchers, commercial organizations, and the military, in the US, UK, and Israel to name a few that I'm aware of. It's still in the very early stages in terms of practicality, though. All the demos I've seen of it involve very simple control mechanisms which are often biased in such a way is to make it appear more impressive than it really is.

    For example, there was an off-the-shelf "mind mouse" available in computer stores in the US a few years ago. It worked off a finger sensor, and the store demos used a skiing game in which you could move a character left or right by thinking. However, the demo was such that it was difficult to tell when you were actually making a difference. It appeared to sort of work sometimes, but for all I know it could have been a total scam.

    But the hypothesis behind this patent is rather different, since it not only implies a way to perform such control without wires at some distance, but if valid (which I seriously doubt) would have some interesting implications for physics and our understanding of the universe.

    Even if their hypothesis *is* valid, though, it's even less likely that it would ever result in usable control devices, given the demonstrated unreliability of direct electrical hookups.

  • Here's a link [mindsonginc.com] to the company that is using this patent. They actually have some products even. If you just want to try this stuff out. I would recommend checking out the RPKP Project [fourmilab.ch]
  • Thanks for your information.
    And about the "thought-quantum" connection I absolutely agree. And IMO it's not really philosophy, it's more like trying to explain the meaning of equations to someone who is not able to understand the mathematical meaning - trying to find analogies which seems nearly impossible in that (microscopic) world.

    This is offtopic, but one philosophical interesting aspect is the question whether quantum mechanics is the fundamental reason why it's possible to talk about free will (it destroyed the idea of Laplace's demon).

  • Illogical hand waving? Find the error in my argument and explain it, rather than claiming it's simply illogical.

    I'm not claiming my doctrine is correct. In fact, I'm claiming it's not correct - at least, not completely. What I *am* claiming is that the claim of the person previously, which was that the collapse of the wave function can be explained by particle interactions, is wrong. Here's the kicker - he's using the same doctrine I am - quantum mechanics! This is *math* we're talking about here, pure and simple differential equations. Computers can solve them (pretty well, actually). Math has a right and a wrong, and it's not based on any complex that I have.

    (Incidentally, I wasn't insulting the previous person - he claimed that everyone else was being stupid, and challenged someone to show that he was wrong. I took him up on that challenge.)

    Finally, because flames don't particularly amuse me, coding is no better than physics in this regard. Look at Microsoft. Windows compiles. It seems to work. Is it a fact that it's well coded then? Yah. Right. If you think an uptime of about 4 days on average is "well coded". Not to mention the philosophical arguments as to whether or not microkernels or monolithic kernels are better, or any other piece of coding.

    If you think physics is all about philosophy, you're quite dead wrong. Physics is as much about philosophy as computer science is.

    And just to get my small flame in, you go right ahead making machines work. When you want more processing power than the speed of light allows, I'll just sit back and smile as you come crawling to me (or physicists in general). I do physics because I want to do more than make a few things better - I want to make *everything* better.
  • I guess there will always be some desire to find some "quantum magic" out there. As a computer scientist however, I am less inclined to find that operation of the mind has anything to do with quantum properties of matter.

    Anyway, recalling those incredible experiments that involved "collective mind control" over random number generators, and claims that statistical evidence had been gathered at "nodal" events such as the new year's eve, y2k, I am quite skeptical about the scientific accountability of this "branch" of research.

    To me, it makes little more than no sense to spend research resources on para-psyhchology or a plain wrong interpretation of quantum mechanics.

    One wonders what they have in mind next; a TCP/IP connection to God? Amusing.



    homebox$ telnet www.rab.com/heaven
    Connecting to
    IBM AIX on RS/999000
    heaven login: exa
    password: ....

    Welcome to IBM's wonderful ethereal connection
    to the almighty! Here you will find great
    resources on religion, and have the chance
    to talk to dead people. Meet famous artists,
    scientists and all alike.

    Launching IBM Heaven/Menu...
    Please wait...



  • Well, feel free to use as little of your brain as you wish. Please keep the distance between us in direct ratio to the percentage which you are using.

    In the decades since that 10% number appeared, a few more things have been learned:

    • Children have many more neurons than their brains tend to have later. Many neurons die during childhood. So 10% measured when? And before or after they're organized to become more "efficient"?
    • New neurons are being constantly created, even in adults humans. So any measurement is temporary, as we don't know what parts of the brain may become activated by new connections and learning.
    • While awake, every vertebrate brain uses energy faster than the bloodstream can deliver it. Your brain functions differently when it starts running low of energy -- things start malfunctioning and different parts of the brain activate to try to compensate.
  • I do like the science fiction author who came up with the idea of putting mirrors on each side of the metal plates and creating a laser powered by vacuum force. Used it as free energy for a photon-drive sublight starship...
  • Just read the state of quantum functions outside the brain, not inside it.

    • You are presented with one box after another.
    • To input a one bit, observe a live cat in the box.
    • To input a zero bit, observe a dead cat in the box.
    • This sequence lets you create input to the computer very simply, and the computer only has to observe the resulting state of the cats.
  • "Experimental result X is impossible according to theory Y, therefore the experiment is so obviously in error that we need not even consider the possibility that the theory is incomplete."

    With a well established, well tested theory, making decisions about how to allocate resources for research should probably take into account whether the dominant theory precludes the possibility of the result.

    Once the research has been completed, making decision about how much of one's personal time to spend investigating the results should probably take such considerations into account as well.

    Given the number of genuine cranks out there, this is just common sense. BUT: Don't let these pragmatic considerations become a dogmatic acceptance of the intrinsic validity of the theory in question! If an experiment contradicts the theory, then either the experiment was flawed, or the theory was wrong. I don't have the physics credentials (or more importantly than the credentials, the skills) necesary to judge this particular case, but there does exist the possibility that the theories making up your physics worldview and intuition are WRONG. It makes sense to develop standards by which to avoid throwing out a useful theoretical framework at the drop of a hat, but there seems to be a lot of "GR says X is impossible, so if you've demonstrated X there is no conceivable possibility other than that you didn't really demonstrate X". That argument may be useful in filtering out cranks, but it also means you've elevated GR from the level of falsifiable theory to Dogma from On High--the antithesis of what science is supposed to be about.

  • I don't know about you guys but I believe that once someone says that something is possible, it WILL be possible and will be done.

    Let me say once for the record that it is possible that every reader of /. will write a check for $1000 (US) payable to the "Help Fund Claudius's Leisure" Fund.

    I propose that it WILL be possible when all of /. reads this post and marvels at my rapier acumen.

    When will it be done?
  • I think that it's because so many people are armchair physicists. (You have to admit that alot of physics is just plain cool, and it's alot of fun thinking about stuff like relativity and quantum mechanics). Discovery Channel blurbs are great for public exposure of interesting ideas, and speaking as a physicist (IAAP), it is heartening to see more public interest in physics, even if it is "out there" stuff like this.

    Perhaps a light-hearted earlier discussion [slashdot.org] of the social phenomenon may be of interest.
  • Tunneling is one of the more interesting consequences of the position-momentum uncertainty, but remember that energy-time is another uncertainty relationship. The uncertainty relationships in QM are in fact an artifact of the math that you get whenever you have two non-commutating operators.

    Another sticky issue is the fact that these particles that are being measured are by definition inistinguishable. Who is to say that the particle that emerges from the other side of the potential barrier is the incident particle? It's not like you can mark it with a sharpie.

    The fact is that the universe at the subatomic scale is significantly different than our daily experience. Application of ideas gleaned from our lives at the classical scale are bound to lead to problems of interpretation. Space and time are inextricably bound. Energy and time are linked by observational uncertainty, momentum and position as well.

    Measurement of these velocities depends on sure knowledge of distance and time which from where I'm standing don't look like absolutes.
  • I've studied their (and others) research far enough to discern that what they are speaking about is not quite what you describe. No, it is not being able to mentally direct the action of a single particle, it is literally interference with random events.

    And yes, everyone can do it. Actually, the research is quite interesting in this regard. Those who can do it in the direction of intention (ie: "Make this graph go up") usually have some level of belief in ESP, or characterize their belief in luck as something that is "made".

    Those who have no beliefs in either direction usually show a smaller effect, and ironically, those who profess a strong negative belief usually generate results that are opposite of intention (graph does down when they want it up).

    Also, the effect size is small. %10 beyond chance expectations.

    Finally, they've never found a "Superstar", someone who has a level of ability far beyond the norm.

    So on the face of that research alone, it does appear to be an ability that is shared by all conciousness. Whether or not it has anything to do with the structure of the brain is an open question.
  • Yeah, but it would get very, very cold.
  • Basically, not with this technology. To do that would require either being able to hook external information storage into person's memory, or write the memories straight in. Personally, I prefer the first solution, although it may be the less feasible of the two... *ponder* maybe use a mind reading device hooked up to data storage and the optic nerve to supply a readily searchable information supply?
  • No. This is not right. What you're talking about is entangled? photons. These share the same wavefunction, so that when one is collapsed, the other collapses. However, no information is actually exchanged.

    While it IS possible for things to occur at speeds greater than that of light (flick a laser quickly across the surface of the moon), information cannot be exchanged at speeds greater than c.
  • by Yarn ( 75 )
    But its not terribly useful.

    Presumably you know about matter-antimatter annihilation, well, its that in reverse. However, the particles only last for an extremely small time. The only effect is that it limits the purity of vacuum.

    It's been shown by measuring the force between two plates that are too close together for these particles to form between. They still form on the outside, and produce sufficent pressure to give a measurable force.
  • [WARNING. Rant. Don't write your final paper on this stuff. Asbestos Longjohns armed and ready.]

    Whoever came up with the term, "Observe", really cursed the hell out of Quantum Physics.

    Observe implies an observer. Apparently a human, rational, very much alive OBSERVER.

    Ontological and Epistemological arguments aside...the universe is not formed by our perceptions. (If it was, we'd be sending shockwaves of reality back through time, as a reaction that occured at T minus five million years would be "caused" by the reaction's evidence located by some paleontologist at time T.)

    Folks, this is essentially *the* most pernicious linguistic flaw in all of physics, and maybe even science as a whole. Heisenberg's law is turned from a relatively simple concept(particles can only be detected by collisions with other particles, and these collisions are probabilistic in nature) into these metaphysical 'Mind over Boson' claims that get referenced in stories like this.

    The "spooky action from the distance" stuff always bugged me too--it's as if Heisenberg's rules were transmuted from "exact state cannot be known" to "exact state cannot exist", even if the exactness of the state is itself only a relative exactness outside of probabilistic boundries. Given two particles that are quantumly entangled(yet can apparently transmit no data), perhaps my limited experience has isolated me from the rather simple analysis of either one particle being the inverse of a pseudorandom non-linear function of the other's apparent randomness.

    In other words, when the two entangled particles are split apart, their wave functions are not truly random but a pseudorandom temporal-spatial generator dependant on an initial state--if the two states are the same, the two particles will remain identical across time and distance. Entropy is conserved, though linearity is shunned.

    The fact that identical states should not be comprehensible--because then the (human) observer might know too much--is a rather annoying fault of this anthropomorphistic tendancy.

    The Universe got along just fine before we were around to observe. It's not like we created the Big Bang or anything.

    Gawd. Mind Input Devices. And for my next trick, magnets that don't even bend the rays from my monitor yet somehow relieve all your pain.


    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • You mean I can kill Schroedenger's cat just by thinking about it? Cool!

  • Why do I need all these wireless modems when I can trail a cable behind me? Why do I need natural, non-intrusive mind interface with a device when I can carve up my skull and stick foreign bodies in my brain, possibly prone to infection and dependent upon intrusive brain surgery?

    As for it being spooky... I bet you would have loved to burn Gallileo. =P

  • I find it interesting that people feel compelled to tack an "IANAL" on shaky legal advice, but people don't bother putting "IANAP"s on shaky physics advice...
  • You shouldn't be too surprised. After all, the Defense Department also funded research into "remote sensing".

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • But what does it really mean to "figure" it out? If we were advanced humans, but ignorant of CDs, we would still enjoy the use of sound as a medium of communication. We would already understand the language, and what certain instruments are meant to sound like. In other words, we would know what to look for. The alien would have no idea to look for "sound", they wouldn't know how it sounded, and they certainly wouldn't know our language. I think establishing meaningfull communication with a species which we have nothing in common with would be very very difficult. It would probably be impossible if it's not interactive communication (e.g., one way).

    Disclaimer: I'm haven't studied this stuff a great deal. But if someone could give me a good argument as to how we could go about this, that would be most interesting. I've heard about communication through "math" and what not, and while I understand it could establish intelligence, I fail to see where else it could lead.
  • Well, there is a lot of snake oil that can be sold, but building a computer input device should really separate the wheat from the chaff: if it doesn't control the mouse or the airplane, people won't use it.

    I think PEAR's claims are shaky and unlikely to be true. What "observation" means in QM is still an open question, but it seems unlikely that it is anything tied particularly to human perception (although early physicists seemed to think so). If IBM's funding will contribute to resolving this question, all the better.

  • > Is this the phenomenon also known as tunneling?


    > IIRC the chance of tunneling occuring drops drasticly as the distance it is to
    > tunnel increases. I think that in theory there is the chance of a given particle
    > tunneling huge distances but the chance is so incredibly small as to be worthless.

    You are correct. The transmission probability T is an exponential decay as shown by:

    T = e ^ (-2kL)

    where k = sqrt(2m(U-E)) / hbar

    U is the potential energy of the barrier, and E is the energy of the particle. The closer they stay to each other, the smaller k is, and thus, the farther L (the length) can be without reducing the transmission probability.
  • > Who is to say that the particle that emerges from the other side of the potential
    > barrier is the incident particle? It's not like you can mark it with a sharpie.

    This could be determined with a sharpie, provided one used the sharpie to solve Shroedinger's equation for the exiting wave. The coefficient in front of the wave component that would be incident from the exiting side is set to 0 because there is no object to reflect the wave, which would be necessary to make it travel in the opposite direction.

    The wave on the entering side of the potential barrier must be expressed as a combination of an incident wave and a reflected wave, while there can be no reflected wave for the exiting side, which corresponds perfectly to the laws of optics.
  • > But just because you boinked your particle with a photon.

    Not quite. You can close one slit entirely, and the interference results disappear, yet no particle was boinked with a photon.

    Also, if you have the detector on just one slit, half the time you do not detect the particle, so you're only boinking half the particles that go through, yet there is still no interference pattern from the other half of the particles.

    This is what has led people to claim that it is not the method of observation that causes them to interfere or not, but whether or not the knowledge of their state is obtained.
  • Well, you're wrong. Allow me to dig out my undergrad modern physics book and quote a section from it. This section immediately follows what you just described, that photons bouncing off of a particle cause uncertainty in measurement.

    "Arguments like the preceding one, although superficially attractive, must be approached with caution. The argument above implies that the electron can possess a definite position and momentum at any instant and that it is the measurement process that introduces the indeterminancy in delta-x times delta-p. On the contrary, _this_indeterminancy_is_inherent_in_the_nature_of_ a_moving_body. The justification for the many "derivations" of this kind is first, they show that it is impossible to imagine a way around the uncertainty principle; and second, they present a view of the principle that can be appreciated in a more familiar context than that of wave groups."

    Basically, the particle description of the uncertainty principle that you present is incorrect. It produces similar, but slightly innacurate, resulting equations, but it is conceptually very wrong, since experiment shows that the uncertainty is an inherent property of the particles.

    For more info, read "Concepts of Modern Physics" by Beiser, or consult a book of equivalent scope.
  • Except that they don't, so far as I can tell, ever throw out data. They keep all of it, even the "bad" results; the sums are still outside of a comfortable estimate of "chance" results.

    They're not taking the "good" results. They're taking all the results, and analyzing how many of them are "good", but when they talk about overall results, they mean *all* the results, not just the ones they liked.
  • What would fascinate me is if skeptics *consistently* failed to reproduce these results...
  • There are people on both sides of this debate who are very strongly attached to their positions. Isn't this supposed to be science, and if so, shouldn't it be the results which determine our beliefs?

    Anyway, I hear lots of "no one has duplicated this". I hear no one identifying the flaw. Could it be that the desire to not duplicate the result is good enough to suppress the result? I don't personally think any of this makes sense, but I'll accept an impossible experimental result a lot sooner than I'll accept the argument-from-current-beliefs.

    You'd have to try a lot more experiments...

    "Step 1.: Make two copies of reality. In one copy, the control group, we..."
  • I'm not sure what you intend to convey; you seem to get it up to the exotic behavior part.

    And the brain does generate radio signals, and these can interact with things just like any other EM device... but what else would they interact with, besides subatomic particles? Atomic particles? Fridges and couches? We can't exactly move cars with our minds... much less chunks of gold or sodium or lithium. But it would seem, given how weak the waves are, that interacting with an electron or two makes perfect sense. After all, isn't that how CCDs and solar cells word? Photon at a time, from light...

    At least, I'd imagine they would build some kind of imaging array, tuned towards the mind, but in general on a similar principle as a CCD or solar cell... Just apply QM to it because of the statistical nature of the information.

  • I'm not saying anything about the effect itself, just that doubt, while useful, is not the end all. Open mindedness needs to be balanced by the doubt is all.

    I do believe, if this effect exists, is available to everyone, however, it would also make sense that the average guy, untrained in exerting himself in this way, should effect everything in a neutral way; statistically, the guy averages out his effects on his TV because he isn't trained to focus anything. I mean, if the way a person stands in a room can affect the TV reception, why should the radio waves a person puts out also affect it? It should be more subtle, however, and may require more sensitive devices, and it would need effort, and training, the same way that any other skill is developed.

  • I'll try to explain (sort of) this concerning the simplest form of Quantum Mechanics, the non-relativistical Quantum Equation from Schrödinger.

    Around 1900 (actually before that) physicist got a recognized a problem in explaining the results of certain experiement. Emission of alpha-particels observed by Rutherford, black-body radiation (http://ars-www.uchicago.edu/~grier/p236/blackbody /blackbody.html), and Compton-Effect.
    In short, to explain these (the last two) natural phenomenoms physicists had to think of light as particels to explain some non-continuos behavior of energy exchange. Planck postulated that energy exchange happens in "packets" i.e. quantums and introduced the Planck-constant. He postulated the the "blackbody" emits energy (in form of radiation) as integer multiples of h*w (where h is this constant and w is the wave frequence).

    Einstein worked to explain the photoelectric effect (this is what he got his nobel prize for, not relativity) and postulated that light is formed of photons to explain some non-continuosity (sp??) in the way electrons absorb energy when being "hit" by light.
    But as we all know, light interferes, which cannot be explained if we assume "particles".
    There we have the so called wave/particle duality where we cannot decide for one or the other, because every decision would lead to contradictions.
    The same kind of "quantums" is a problem when trying to explain the spectrum of atoms. Why does a certain atoms only emit light in certain frequencies? (Bohr)
    So the need emerged to find a theory which is (mathematically) "nice" in explaining as much as possible in a very compact way - not a different rule for every experiment.
    The idea is to find a theory which describes matter _and_ radiation in one equation.
    Enter Schroedinger. He wrote down the Schroedinger equation which allows to explain each and every experiment which I mentioned before. It's important here to get the meaning of "explain" - it means "able to calculate the outcome before acutally doing the experiment".
    You have to understand the scale of the given problems it's atomic/subatomic, it's a complete different "world" than for instance Galilei's experiments.
    "Unfortunately" a consequence of that equation is that very small particles do not act as macroscopic things. You cannot tell the position of an electron like that of a golf ball, that means it simply does not exist as an entity before you "look" at it.
    Einstein had big problems with that (like you), IIRC he said "natura non saltat" which means somethink like "nature doesn't jump" and assumed some "hidden variables", which means that Schroedingers theory just isn't complete enough and lacks some more variables to make exact calculations instead of probabilities possible again. As far as I know (which isn't alot) it was proofed that either these hidden variables don't exist or they change with space, i.e. their value depends whether you are on moon or on earth. That's even more unacceptable for physicists.

    To finally answer your question, similar to relativity theory quantum mechanics today is a well accepted reality. It just leads to the conclusion that very small particles are something completly different from macroscopic things and therefore we cannot expect them to act as such.

    While seeking for the right translations I stumped accross this link: http://www.geocities.com/hotquanta/ which you might consult.

  • Garund wrote:
    The way a particle changes when observed is that you have to bounce a photon or electron of it, (or whatever your microscope is using), in order for a signal to come back to your eye.

    And OF COURSE bouncing an electron off a particle is going to affect its state.

    Um... I'm no physics whiz but I don't think the fact that you're observing is what causes the photon or electron to bounce off of it. Yes, I need light to see but you seem to be saying that the fact that I am looking at something is the cause of the light.

    Secondly, the point is not that "something happens" (which your theory would explain) but that something entirely different happens each time and that there is no testable reason for this difference outside of the observer.


  • Okay, so I forgot about how electron microscopes work -- but my second point still stands

  • I've always found, and granted, I'm not a major in quantum theory, a small problem with the way the 'wave function' is described.

    It is said that the state of an unobserved subatomic particle is 'all possible states', ie: it exists as a probability. When observed, it 'collapses' into one of it's possible states.

    Now, one could *also* view this as

    The particle is *already* in a state, however, there is absolutely no way we can know this without observing it. What it boils down to, really, is that both theories can be correct.
    THe probability wave stuff... it makes sense. I mean, until we observe something, we do not not it to exist or anything about it. As to whether it really changes state or not.. it's almost a philosophical question. DOES something exist beforew we observe it? Does anything? Or rather, until we observe it, does it's state matter to our universe? Wierd...
  • What you say about a particle changing state is untrue.
    The only thing that will change when you view a particle by bouncing a photon off of it (which isonly one way of viewing it) will be it's direction and speed. What you are describing is heisenberg's uncertainty principle. You cannot observe both location and speed with accuracy, making one more accurate makes the other less accurate.

    What is described in the article is a totally different thing. They describe the probability wave and collapse of particles into known states upon being observed. Go read a book on quantum physics. One might be 'atoms, leptons, and quarks'.
  • Not quite, but you can decide it's time for the cat to either live or die.
  • What it means that, provided the box the cat is in is perfectly sealed, and there is no way for information to travel from inside the box to outside the box, or vice versa, that whether the cat is alive or dead makes no difference to the universe, and hence, is in both states. (as obviously, it can't be neither).

    To an observer inside the box, it's already decided. Then again, to someone ouside the box, the views of the observer inside the box are still a probability as well.

    This suggests that, to different observers, the particle/wave can be different things.

    As for the machine that stored information about the cat.. yes, it means that, if the data on the disk is our *ONLY* way to observe the state of the cat, that the cat IS still a wave function until we observe it, at least, from our point of view, as, until we observe, it, it makes no difference to our reality one way or the other.

  • Not exactly true. Take the double-slit-photon-interference test thingy.

    Basically, a set of two slits is arranged such that when a beam is shone through them, an interference pattern is created behind them. (as each slit distorts the waveform). Even if the rate of transmission is slowed down so single photons are being emmited, there is STILL an interference pattern. However, if we observe a photon, there is no interference pattern.

    In other words, until we 'observe' it, it's a wave, and can split and interfere with itself. When we quantize it and observe it, we collapse the wave function, and get a particle.

    Yes it's wierd, but that's how the universe is.
  • As several have posted, and I'll repeat in the hopes that someone remembers this, this is not IBM's patent. IBM runs a patent server, that stores ALL patents. The patent itself has absolutely nothing to do with IBM.
  • "Researchers at Princeton's Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab have amassed statistically significant data that says that an observer affects the new state of the observed particles."

    I see. Let's think about this for a second.

    First of all, I'm assuming (from the idea that IBM has supposed had) that when they say "an observer affects the new state" they mean "mentally". Clearly the surrounding environment of a particle affects it's new state--that is, if it were being bombarded by photons that might change probabilities. So the only possible new claim here is that mental action somehow affects wave function collapse.

    At this point we need further information on PEAR to form any firm conclusions, but we can imagine some things to get a flavor. For instance, let's imagine their experiments were something like this: A subject is told to think "photon go left, photon go left" when a photon is released towards a double slit apparatus. As a control, they have run a series of double slit experiments on the same equipment, but without the subject. There would also have to be a control with a subject who is thinking something that isn't supposed to influence the photon (e.g. "I like ice cream, I like ice cream").

    Let's further assume that PEAR has done the above experiment (or something like it) and has come out with results that indicate it works.

    Thought #1: This would prove that thoughts are directly detectable outside the originating brain. This is stronger than the power of EEGs that only detect activity not content, so I can see why IBM would be excited about the possibility of thought-controlled computers. Simple electrical activity (as someone else here asked) provides only limited control.

    Thought #2: Assuming the experiment were done right, mind-body duality would be (or could be) proven. If photons are only affected in the presence of minds (and not in the presence of just any sufficiently complex matter), mind-stuff must be different somehow than brain-stuff.

    Thought #3: Assuming thought #2 above holds true, this would also solve the "Zombie Problem". It would be a "consciousness detector". Want to know if a cat has a mind? Put it next to a double slit experiment.

    Now, since all three of these items come out of PEAR's (supposed) work, I have to express extreme skepticism about the work itself. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The only evidence we have here is one line from an anonymous coward on a known research-poor "news" site. At least provide us with a link.
  • Axial movements progress down a rod at the speed of sound in that rod. Effectively, you have a little sonic shockwave going down the rod: the particles where you push bump into particles down the line, bump into others, etc. While a really stiff rod may have a speed of sound much higher than the 7?? MPH of sound in air, you can't get matter stiff enough to have a superluminal speed of sound.

  • I think the fact that they have gotten a patent for this is great, because it means that in twenty years direct mental input will begin taking off. Sort of like how great it was that they patented PK cryptography in the early 80s so that it could take off around now.

    Of course, one might question why those 20 extra years are necessary, but, haha, how silly of one...

    We cannot reason ourselves out of our basic irrationality. All we can do is learn the art of being irrational in a reasonable way.
  • Are we suppose to give IBM credit for every patent [ibm.com] in their database?
    That link probably seemed a little redundant. :-) I meant to illustrate my point with this one: http://www.patents.ibm.com/detai ls?pn=US05836864__ [ibm.com]
  • Yup, at best, giving them the benefit of the doubt (quite a stretch) this would have to be placed in the "highly speculative" file, maybe tucked in just behind the Rupert Sheldrake file.

    If someone does claim to measure a particle produced by consciousness, I vote we name it the "bogon". Or maybe we could refer to the whole thing as the GSSG Effect (Grad Students Sniffing Glue).

  • could it be, "sexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsex ..."
  • I'd rather the moderators erred by occasionally failing to filter out garbage than have them err by filtering out some real and important - but far-out-sounding - news.

    I'll make my own determinations, thank you.

    (But note that "occasionally"... If slashdot turns into a hi-tech Wiggly World News it will also lose its value.)
  • It doesn't realy matter if it is an error - or a self-con. They claim there may be an effect that could lead to a psychokenetic input device, and have patented the approach.

    Now if it turns out it doesn't work, they're out the cost of getting the patent. But they might make that up and more by licensing it to people trying to find out if it works... B-)

    And if it turns out it DOES work they have a monopoly on it for 17 years. And it could be worth billions.

    So it's very low probability it works. So what? The cost is low and the potential payoff is high.

    It's almost Pascall's wager.
  • Here are a few things I observed when visiting PEAR's labs and working a little with them as a engineering undergraduate at Princeton taking the human/machine interaction course that spent a week or so on PEAR-related stuff. These are impressions worn by time, rather than hard-core facts, but might give you a little better sense of where PEAR seems to be coming from:

    1) They've been working on these experiments for well over a decade; billions of trials (each requiring a reasonably attentive human) are only made possible with significant amounts of time. This is not fly-by-night research.
    2) From what I could tell, the research was made possible by two things: A) the university tenure system that allowed the engineering professor who switched fields to investigate this to stay employed (albeit shunted to the worst facilities down in the basement of the engineering building), and B) a small amount of funding from various U.S. defense/military research sources.
    3) The fact that someone could keep this kind of research funded for two decades is itself remarkable. I found the reasoning used to justify NFS/DARPA grants memorable: if conciousness can effect sensitive electronic equipment, there is a big payoff in understanding the interactions of, say, fighter pilots with their $20 million dollar aircraft. Do such machines really break down more frequently under extreme operator stress, and why/how? Given the tens of billions spent on such equipment annually, spending tens, hundreds of thousands of that on research checking out these implications would be prudent. Not to mention the payoff if you do discover something truly new. That seems to be the primary argument for funding.
    4) The (apocryphal?) story I heard about how this research got started went like this: Princeton undergrads have the opportunity to do independent research on topics of their choosing and most degrees require such a project to graduate. Jahn got interested in the research when one of his advisees, against his advice, did research into a form of this mind-affecting-reality phenomenon and he as advisor was unable to disprove the results or methodology. So he has been doing various experiments over time to replicate the results or try related methods.
    5) The research has never to my knowledge satisfied the strong version of the skeptic's credo, "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence", but the researchers have been claiming statistical significance for various findings for years. However, the statistical methods are subtle enough that I frankly find it hard to trust them. I've never recovered from my distrust of statistics after watching so many experts argue over the Monty Haul problem a few years back- there are just too many ways to overlook dependencies and definitional criteria. I suppose that if I found them reviewed in a peer-review statistics journal, I'd be able to muster a little more faith. On a related note, I'm not sure the skeptic's credo is really applicable to scientific judgements; perhaps over the long-haul its a useful measuring stick, but both valid and invalid scientific findings tend to start out with only modest amounts of evidence.
    6) Regarding your specific descriptions of PEAR methodology. I would be concerned about the multiple-hypothesis apparatus you describe; I didn't see it in action but I intuitively wondered about its effects on the endeavor overall. However, if the hypothesis does give repeatable results, then it should be explainable and add to our store of knowledge. Repeatability is always the touchstone for this kind of research. Like you, this would probably be my biggest concern. As for other factors, there clearly was some labelling of people as talented and untalented within the project. I didn't hear of any "throwing out of data when the subjects feel tired, or are otherwise displeased with the results" but I wasn't involved in any real data collection so wouldn't know one way or the other.
    7) I find it vaguely comforting that there is at least someone with strong previous academic experience (Jahn) is investigating these phenomenon. However, while I don't understand statistics well enough to trust their main assertions, it seems to me as a lay engineer that even if their work comes to naught, they were probably pushing the boundaries of knowledge about A) random number generators, developing a wide variety of physical sources of randomness necessary for their experiments, and B) practical application of statistics to such random/noise environments.

    In summary, in an oddly perverse way it seems to me sort of like SETI-in-the-small: take a lot of noise and search for a signal. Weed out bad signals. Low potential for success, but high payoff if realized.

  • Another interesting read on the subject of this kind of communication gap is His Master's Voice [amazon.com] by Stanislaw Lem.

    The SETI project finally received a signal from another star...but it must be interpreted. The government puts together a top secret group to work on deciphering it...mathematicians, philosophers, physicists, biologists...there seems to be no good theory as to what it means, and there are some questions that have to be answered about the alien intelligence that sent the message. If they are friendly they must have known that anybody who received the message would get it long after they themselves are dead. If they are not friendly, should the message even be deciphered?

    A great sci-fi story that poses some great questions about the philosophy of science and about the limitations of human intelligence.

  • Reading for this comment: end of related article from an above post, search for "Bohm" (apparently a major quantum theory person) where it talks about an actual scientific theory for a thought-like quantum field: http://www.techweb.com/printableArticle?doc_id=TWB 19980515S0019

    There are other ways to disrupt a random system than spooky quantum effects in microtubules though personally I think it more likely than not that something quantum will turn up too. If that is how the world works, it seems improbable that the brain completely fails to harness quantum effects after a billion years of trial and error. For that matter it seems likely that quantum effects may have helped along the evolution process..

    Regardless of whether posited phenomenon is based on human electromagnetic radiation or quantum effects, at least you should be able to build a gadget that can tell if it is being looked at intensely by the Princeton project's top performers. Another way for immediate effects to be generated is related to a post I made a week ago to Slashdot that got cancelled.

    A Canadian fringe physicist was arrested last month (again, he keeps getting his equipment confiscated). He is said to have found all kinds of bizarre reproducible physical effects from the interaction of different kinds of electromagnetic signal generators, microwave towers, and geographical areas, effects normally called supernatural. It's been dubbed the Poltergeist Effect and apparently can be effected with standard house current.

    In a different site I found a science teacher/experimenter who shows how to make charged masses of air with static electrical fields and documents all kinds of bizarre effects like a strong "wall" of charged air (accidentally created under a roll of moving plastic film) and visualizing threads of electrical energy emitted from the hairs on the skin. It appears that if you have a very complex jumble of electrical and magnetic fields in a space with charged air of the right humidity, it is perfectly reasonable that a person's own bioelectrical field and physical structures could be enough to alter it chaotically.

    So differences between subjects could be either microtubule level, or capacitance/emission level. Unreproducible results could be related to local geomagnetic anomalies or saturation of the area with a high level of RF energy (which was a key factor in the Poltergeist Effect apparently).

    Not that I'm against the quantum stuff, personally I think it is more likely that there is something to it, and I think it would be great. But you have to give a hand to the PEAR crew for trying desperately to explain it. It just seems pretty juvenile to discount "billions of trials" with pseudo-authoritarian shlock.

  • Dean Radin's book "The Conscious Universe" [barnesandnoble.com] is the place to start if you want to understand what is going on in psychic technology. If I remember correctly (someone 'borrowed' my copy of TCU so I can't verify this at the moment) Radin got into this area while at Bell Labs after being assigned the problem of taking statistics on malfunctions in electronic equipment. Eventually, he discovered correlations between malfunctions and the presence/absence of certain people. But, these weren't the sorts of malfunctions you could attribute to sabatoge -- too random and inconsequential. Princeton was nearby and some of its researchers had demonstrated psychokinetic influence on quantum. Radin saw their experiements and was hooked. He eventually wrote the book reference above.

    My own work in this area leads me to believe there is some profound sense in or extent to which we can control our own identity, thereby becoming in touch with things outside our bodies. Any good technologist knows the feeling of really identifying with his tools and materials and understands how profoundly that affects the creative process. There is a point where one shifts one's thinking from "I want this thing to do that." and toward thinking "What can I do with this thing?" That is at a boundary between identities where the creative technologist and the psychic have more in common than either currently realizes.

  • There seems to be a bit of a fad for the paranormal at the moment. NASA and British Aerospace investigating warp drives and antigravity and IBM into this telekinesis experiment. Nothing will come of it of course. Unfortunately the popular science press are keeping alive the strange notion that the 'mind' has something to do with wavefunction collapse. It is only a minority fringe within the theoretical physics world who think that this has any validity.
  • Did you even bother to look at the link before posting?
    The patent is not "IBMs patent". It's very obviously a quack patent by "Pear, Inc.".
    It is really unfair to IBM to associate it with them just because it's in their database.

    Applicant(s): Pear, Inc., St. Paul, MN

    If article posts could be moderated, this one would be moderated down as far as possible. As far as mind reading and perpetual motion patents go, this is one of the more obviously rediculous. It is an example of the allowance of pretty much any "explanatory" content in the specification (in this case pseudo-QM) no matter how little sense it makes.

  • It is exactly like that, except that you have 3 axes about which to resolve the spin of an electron. The statement that each electron is in both states is precisely why it is misleading to laymen.

    For example, I could say that the it is either (-1/2,+1/2) for an entangled electron pair or (+1/2,-1/2). Probability half of either. That would be a classical but fair way to decribe the system. No QM is necessary to describe this situation. This is exactly like the envelope models.

    The thing about QM is this. The probabilities don't add. It is the complex amplitudes which add. This is why the two possibilities can be described by using only one wavefunction. This is also why sometimes, amplitudes can add, but the probabilities go down. Plus the mysterious idea that you can only measure one component of the spin simultaneously, wherein all the knowledge of the other components are gone.

    But you are right about the ability to control the outcome. I was not thinking clearly. Even if you could control the outcome, this would not mean that a signal can be transmitted.

  • Well, if the mind can influence such results, we should have plenty of evidence for it already. For example, the average guy should be able to control where an electron hits, and distort a TV picture just by thinking about it.

    Why average guy? Becuase it is a QM effect. QM is everywhere, and why should one persons brain be any different when it comes to something very coarse like producing distortions in TV tubes?

    Maybe you say that only some people with special brains can do it. Sorry, but then that is already saying more than originally posited. You are saying that (i) electrons can be affected by minds (ii) only some minds can do it, the average one cannot. In an experiment, then you would have to check for both of these effects. So far, I have never heard of people trying to isolate one effect from the other.

  • Sorry, but superluminal signalling just does not happen in the way it is described.

    The effect you describe is exactly like taking a pair of cards, one red, the other green and sealing each in an envelope while blindfolded. Then you mail one to yourself and the other to your friend. Once you see that you have a red card, you know immmediately that your friend has a green one. But the cards themselves have not travelled faster than light!

    In the real spin +1/2 and -1/2 case, it is the fact that you have no control over whether you get the +1/2 or -1/2 that prevents any signal from propagating from you to him. All you can do is note whether you have a +1/2 or -1/2. You have no way of choosing which to send.

  • when simple classical physics/biochemistry will do?

    All we need are electrode implants in the brain, plus some way of intgerfacing, making sure thet this is completely safe. That's a mind-input device. Why employ all of this complicated statistical effects that is so hard to detect, and so obscure to harness?

    True, we still have a long way to go in making such human brain/electronic devices reality. There are so many issues involved in doing something like that. But at least this sounds more promising than pseudoscientific balderdash about spooky QM!

  • If you read the papers on the PEAR site [princeton.edu], you find that the best results they get are about 1e-4 from random, i.e. for random guessing, 10,000 out of 20,000 guesses would be right, but they claim to observe about 10,001 being right. That's awfully close to noise.
  • First of all, let me express my excitement.
    Now regret.

    I don't know about you guys but I believe that once someone says that something is possible, it WILL be possible and will be done. Now, if someone could read your mind for the purposes of speeding up your response reaction to a scene of Quake that is one thing. On the other hand if someone reads your mind as you are entering an airplane in order to figure out whether you are some kind of a terrorist and will be hijacking this plane, that's another matter (I still this could be justified by saving lives)
    HOWEVER, If your government or the police or feds or your neighbours are reading your mind for the purposes of controlling you / predicting your behaviour and altering it / stealing your ideas / finding out your personal stuff / etc etc etc. Now this I don't believe can be justified.

    Knowing your very thoughts can be such a powerful tool for the state, for the economy, for the policing, for crime prediction, for medical reasons, for mentally ill, for SPYING etc etc etc. SOME of these causes can be justified and some are just plain criminal.

    You know what, we will need some kind of a device to JAM thte signals that can be read from our heads.

    Now if someone will in fact come up with an idea to not only read, but inflict, alter your thoughts and your mind patterns, your behaviour. Then basically people will become Robots / Droids / Zombies / etc etc etc. Call it anything you want, I don't like it.

    The only real freedome you have is only inside your head, they will take it from you. The only real character that you are, is hidden inside you, they will find out exactly, and QUALIFY you and QUANTIFY you and LABEL you and assign you to a group and in some cases will try to alter you.

    Mind reading is probably the worst that humanity can come up with (don't mind the A and H bombs) Thought infliction and altering should be considered the worst crime, WORSE THEN MURDER because if they kill you, you still had your own line of thought and your dignity and your personality. If they control your mind, all you are is a Zombie, a part of "something larger than you are", not an individual.
  • Not true. General theory of relativity only rules out the possibility of travelling faster than light in our own space/time due to the fact that if e=mcc then while approaching the speed of light an object will have an infinit mass in direction of acceleration, an infinite length in direction of acceleration and the time for this object will stop if measured from the point in space and time opposite to the direction of acceleration.

    Special circumstances are possible. Space/time continuum is subject to the gravitational fields that describe the geometry of space. Objects with very large masses change (concave) the plane geometry of the space, curve the space (hence the well known, described and observed lensing effect of stars and even of our sun) If the mass is extremely large then the very geometry of the space is changed, in this special circumstences, it could in principle be possible to travel faster then light by going from one point in space to another point by the new "straight" line, not the previous "straight" line that only was straight while there were no extra gravitational forces. Imagine a bow with a thread. Before you put the thread on a bow, it was a straight stick of wood or other material. Now, you applied force to the stick and put a thread on it, you have a bow, what used to be straight is now curved, the distance between two ends of the stick stayed the same if you look from the point of view of some ant that is walking along the stick, however, it is now possible to travel from one end of the stick to another by going along the thread. Relatively, you have gone quicker then the maximum speed allowed for "Normal" space.
  • Ok, so if they could read one's mind, could they also write into it? That's the interesting question. I believe many students desired this, one way or another, especially just before the exams. If you could store entire books in your mind and actually be able to read them later, that would be beneficial. On the other hand, if instead of simply storing data, it was possible to create neural connections and "Teach" a person to do something as if he was always able to do it, then Keanu Reeves becomes some sort of an experimental field. First Johny Mnemonic and then Neo in the Matrix: -I know Kung-Fu!
    Well, Johny/Neo you now you are the guinney pig of the future technologies, congrats.
  • I meant to say "infinitely SHORT length in the direction of acceleration" sorry.

    It is a well known effect actually measured on airplaines, the time slows down, you become shorter and more massive with higher acceleration.
  • I wouldn't take this at face value. PEAR has been claiming these results for years and nobody else seems able to duplicate them.

    Check out http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19980515S0019 . Brenda Dunne, PEAR manager, is quoted extensively and comes off sounding like she is trying to sell the most alarmist ideas that can be made to sound plausible. So it seems to my reading.

    Doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the results when she says things like "Or what about the guy in a missile silo, watching the output of a radar detector hour after hour" when there is no evidence whatsoever that such a system might be affected in any way by the phenomena PEAR is describing -- I mean, that tendancy to automatically assume the likelihood of such extreme hypothetical situations from insufficient evidence (or in this case no direct evidence) is very dangerous when you're researching this kind of barely detectable and scientifically far-out result. Its exactly that sort of attitude that can mislead one into seeing something that's not there -- concentrating on "what might be true if only this works" before you've really established that it does work.

    Anyway. Maybe it is for real, but then again maybe it's not. Be sure to have better evidence than has been presented here before you make up your mind....
  • >> But you have to give a hand to the PEAR crew for trying desperately to explain it.

    Exactly. I don't see how the possibility of something like this could have so many people not only skeptical, but completely against the entrie project. I'm no physics genius, but this sounds like something well worth looking into, BS or not.

    "As long as the machines don't start controling me..."

  • Call me a curmudgeon, but. . .

    The way a particle changes when observed is that you have to bounce a photon or electron of it, (or whatever your microscope is using), in order for a signal to come back to your eye.

    And OF COURSE bouncing an electron off a particle is going to affect its state.

    There's no mystery to it. It's not magic.

    Like I said, either I'm a total heathen, or 90% of the world is foolishly treating quantum mechanics like the second coming.

    Get a grip.


  • "Damn. They aren't paying me enough to do this crap. You get it almost _perfect_ and bug-free, and they go and change the spec on you and you need to rebuild it from scratch. No, they just don't know a thing about.. Oooh, Buffy pics. Mmm.... damned bosses. Damned code. I bet they'd love it if I were to just Delete the whole project... Yes sir, they'd be really happy then... hey, what's that progress bar doing? Uh... did I leave that stupid headset on? Oh, sh---"

  • The effect you describe is exactly like taking a pair of cards, one red, the other green and sealing each in an envelope while blindfolded... it is the fact that you have no control over whether you get the +1/2 or -1/2 that prevents any signal from propagating from you to him.

    Ummmmm... actually, it's not "exactly" like that. Go back to the case of the interference slit experiments: what happens is that the system is in both states (a superposition of the states) until and unless an attempt is made to determine which state some component is in. At that point, each component of the system assumes a single state, all of which are consistent with each other -- regardless of their spatial separation at that time. It's as though both cards are red and green at the same time, until you look at yours -- which is not at all the same as what you've laid out, which is merely lack of knowledge about the state of your card; in fact, the state of your card is indeterminate until you open the envelope.

    You can argue the meaning of "signal," but the demonstrated physical fact is that there is an apparently-instantaneous communication of some sort between the entangled wavefunctions. Your perceived inability to influence the outcome is independent of that.

    What's interesting about PEAR's results, is that they seem to be saying that we indeed have an ability to influence the outcome. This is difficult for me to believe, but then most of QM is pretty difficult for me to get my mind around... given the counter-intuitive (but still consistent) results of the experimental outcomes to date, I really don't feel like saying that such-and-such is impossible.


  • It is exactly like that, except that you have 3 axes about which to resolve the spin of an electron. The statement that each electron is in both states is precisely why it is misleading to laymen.

    I disagree -- it's simply not "exactly like that." The reason it's confusing to laymen is precisely the same reason it's confusing to physicists: QM is counter-intuitive, and not consistent with our macroscopic experience. Formally, in QM each electron is in "both states at the same time" -- the superposition of the two "observable" wavefunctions. This may be confusing, but it's what the mathematics says.

    ...That would be a classical but fair way to decribe the system. No QM is necessary to describe this situation. This is exactly like the envelope models.

    There is no way you can use classical descriptions of the system to correctly predict the outcome of, for example, the interference slit experiment. The difference is that the "unobserved" QM system displays a different outcome (interference fringes) from the "observed" system (discrete spots), while the classical system of your cards hidden in envelopes displays the same, unchanging outcome -- whether you know the outcome or not. These two aren't symmetrical descriptions!

    ...Even if you could control the outcome, this would not mean that a signal can be transmitted.

    I don't follow this: if you can control the outcome, you control not only the state of the local electron but also the state of the remote, entangled one. How is this not transmitting a signal? (I admit that there are tremendous problems with causality if you can do this, which is why I have problems with it -- but that's a different issue.)


  • If GodSpiral's post deserved moderation to +3, then Hartwell's deserves similar moderation -- Hartwell is indeed correct in his statements about statistical analysis.

    While I'm skeptical about the PEAR results, I've got to come down on the side of accuracy here...


  • The discovery.ca piece oogled the science with a bright eyed moron anchor dork that the show uses.

    The piece was pretty much an infomercial for PEAR.

    on your advise, I went to PEAR's site and looked at what pdf's they had available (1). Of course this is wasting my time, since their paper like most others, is vague enough not to provide any holes that the reader can simply shoot down the results with.

    If I really wanted to, I could run tests until I had some results that showed there was no ESP effect. Wanting the results and patience is enough to generate data that supports the results within a reasonable time in most cases, and so self created statistical validation procedures yields no useful information to outsiders.

    The other issue in the context of the overall article, is that even if they have discovered a valid ESP phenomena, its discovery is currently useless to computer input. Even if the interaction of the mind is able to affect a random binary phenomena 55% of the time, that 45% error rate is too high to be useful. Moving a mouse in one of 8 directions (3 bits) would have an 85%+ error rate.

  • by zCyl ( 14362 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @09:18AM (#1115955)
    I see a ton of posts from people who know a little bit about physics saying things like, "You can't use quantum means to send information faster than light". Some of them are even bringing relativity into the discussion. Let me clarify a few things.

    It is an unjustified extrapolation of relativity to assume that the equations describing the limitations of mass increases and time contraction due to conventional particles that are accelerated to a velocity different than an observer particle carry over to all forms of communication.

    First, it is not established that all forms of communications require particle transmission. For a simplified and incorrect analogy that is understandable, let me refer to electrons in a wire. Electrons move very slowly through a wire, it is only the signal which moves at near the speed of light, caused by the forces between the electrons. (Yes I know these forces are propagated by photons, and photons are particles travelling at the speed of light.)

    There are some currently unmeasured things fundamental to quantum mechanical theory that travel faster than the speeed of light. By derivation of Shroedinger's equation, it can be shown that the particles we measure are simply envelope waves wrapped around other waves. It is derived that the envelope waves must always travel slower than the speed of light, but interestingly enough, it is also derived that the waves wrapped inside must ALWAYS travel faster than the speed of light. This is handwaved away by saying that we can never measure or interact with these waves.

    But that isn't entirely true. While we cannot interact with those waves, we CAN reshape them and make them interact with each other. In a spectacular experiment, researchers were able to fire particles at a thin solid barrier, called a potential barrier. The barrier is composed of such solid material that it is physically impossible for the particle to go through the barrier. Instead, by a consequence of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, as the particle strikes the wall, it's position becomes uncertain, and there is a real and measureable probability that the particle will show up on the other side of the wall.

    The result? When researchers measure the time it takes for the particle to stop existing on one side of the wall and start existing on the other side of the wall, they find that it covers the distance significantly faster than the speed of light. The best recorded time I've heard of was 30c, or 30 times the speed of light.

    So far this has only been done over tiny, but definitely measureable, distances. It isn't directly useful for communication, but it does show that it can no longer be argued that communication cannot occur faster than light, because it does.
  • by Greg W. ( 15623 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @08:27AM (#1115956) Homepage

    Hofstadter's book Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid has a discussion of this issue. (If you haven't read it yet, do so.)

    He discusses this in terms of envelopes and inner messages. If I hand you a vinyl record, what is the message? You could use the record as a plate for eating from, but that's clearly not the message I was trying to give. If your understanding is a little better, you'll know that the record is a sound recording, and you'll be able to play it back. But you might not know how fast to rotate the disc, so your hearing may be at a lower or higher speed/pitch than the recording was made. Once you actually hear the sounds, there's another layer of meaning. Let's assume the record contains only human speech. It might be in a language you recognize, or it might not. You'd have to decode the langauge first, to translate the sounds into symbols (words). Then, finally you get to the innermost meaning -- the significance of the words. If the words are a poem or similarly complex communication, then simply understanding the individual words may not be enough to give you a full understanding of the communication. You'd have to be able to put the words together in the appropriate context; in other words, you'd have to be able to share some insight with the person who wrote the poem.

    Imagine a poem from a hypothetical alien creature who lives on a gas giant. Perhaps the poet is eloquently singing the praises of a particularly rich methane stream. Even if you understood the individual words, would you necessarily be able to understand what the poet is talking about? We can't see or smell methane gas, after all -- so what reference points would we have in interpreting the words of a creature who can?

    However, even if we fail to decode all the layers of meaning of any given communication, we still gain some understanding even from the physical envelope itself. In the case of a record, we know that there is someone out there who is capable of communcation; that this person can produce sound; that this person can engrave an analog version of these sounds into vinyl; that this person can then deliver a vinyl record over long distances; etc.

    This is a bit incoherent (sorry), but I hope you get the point. And that you read the book -- it's much better than my poor little /. post would indicate. :-)

  • by Anonymous Shepherd ( 17338 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @05:42AM (#1115957) Homepage
    Why do you say nothing will come of it? You don't know, already, do you? Because if you do, and you can prove it or show it or demonstrate it, please do, and save taxpayers and the rest of humanity untold millions of dollars in waste and embarrassment.

    The whole point of basic research is that *everything* you look at is within the minority fringe until something has been shown, validated, modeled, predicted, and reviewed. Think Relativity; 100 years ago it would have been viewed as rubbish. Think QM. Think QED. Think gravity 500 years ago! So now it is fringe and faddish and strange. But what about 100 years from now, when IBM or Intel or someone discovers the way to interact with brainwaves(we do emit radiation, you know... and I suppose if you built the appropriate devices, you could read them or respond to them)?

    Personally, I don't think this post deserves the moderation... but, if it prompts conversation, it's probably worth keeping it here

  • by kaphka ( 50736 ) <1nv7b001@sneakemail.com> on Sunday April 23, 2000 @07:09AM (#1115958)
    Excuse my tone, but I think this is the most irresponsible /. article I've seen in a long time.

    First, what does this have to do with IBM? The only connection seems to be that it appears in their patent database. Are we suppose to give IBM credit for every patent [ibm.com] in their database?

    Suggesting that this project is associating with IBM only lends credibility to this ridiculous idea. (If I were IBM, I'd be vehemently demanding a retraction right now.)

    As far as the project itself, I'm afraid I'm too tired right now to effectively debunk it, but hopefully some of our local physicists will pick up the ball. All I can say is that if there was any reality to their claims whatsoever, it would completely shatter everything that we know about how the universe works, particularly from the perspective of cognitive science.

    (Just in case TPTB retroactively correct this story, as they have in the past, you should know that when I saw the article, it was titled "IBM And Mind Input Devices", and had an IBM logo next to it.)

    Between this and Elian (troll), I haven't been this disgusted in a long time.
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @06:26AM (#1115959) Homepage Journal
    Read the article "On the Detectivity of Advanced Galactic Civilizations", by C. Sagan
    Reference: 1973, Icarus, Vol 19, pp 350-352

    The paper is an attempt to quantify, in a general way, the number and distribution of ETI's, and to show that many or most of them are ancient civilizations well advanced beyond our own. The paper concludes that very advanced civilizations use technologies that we cannot detect or communicate with.

    The author uses two analogies: radio versus New Guinea drummers, and humans versus micro-organisms. The analogies are quite good, but they bring up an interesting point. What is communication? Humans can have an effect on micro-organisms by an exchange of chemicals, in which case the organism will react. A sort of communication is seen here. The same applies with the New Guinea drummers. The technological humans use radio waves, but we still have not discarded older forms of communication, such as speech. In other words, the radio-user can communicate with the New Guinea drummer. If civilizations do indeed discard older technologies entirely, then Sagan has a stronger case. Perhaps one day we will lose the ability to play back old phonographic records, in which case this example would be a stronger analogy.

    Carl Sagan refers to "communications horizon", a civilization can communicate with others within its communications horizon.

    Here are the types of civilization described by the author:
    Type I - ability to manipulate the resources of a planet.
    Type II - the ability to manipulate the resources of a star. This idea has been explored under the name of a "Dyson sphere". Dyson spheres are detectable via the infrared radiation left over from industrial activity.
    Type III - the ability to manipulate the resources of a galaxy.

    Carl explains that in principle we can communicate only with civilizations that use radio waves for communication over relatively short distances, i.e., within a single solar system. The author states that we can communicate with Type II, and I would gamble on the detectability of a fully developed Type I civilization. Beyond our reach are the Type III civilizations.

    So SETI knew all along that their observations could be completely useless from this stand point but they argue that if we don't search at all, for sure we will not find anything. If we at least try to search, we have a better chance.

  • by Chops ( 168851 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @07:41AM (#1115960)
    It get much wierder; I'm optimistic (in a kind of "good luck, better you than me" way) about IBM doing this kind of research, because AFAIK we know almost nothing about the rules for what an "observer" is in quantum-mechanical terms, and this might shed some light if the research was done right.

    Example: According to something I've read somewhere and believe (I think it was in a Dilbert book, but hey, I trust Scott Adams), you still get the interference pattern if you turn the detector on but instruct it to throw away its data instead of sending it anywhere -- this is what discredits the hypothesis that the detector beam interacts somehow with the electrons.

    What's always bothered me about this (and Schroedinger's Cat, which was made up to illustrate exactly this point, I guess) is the messiness that goes with it. What if the scientists just don't look at the detector? What if the detector, instead of throwing the data away, XORs it with an unknown bit and outputs the encrypted data? Does the pattern change depending on who in the room knows what the unknown bit is? What if the detector has audio output, but the scientist is deaf?

    If you build a QM burglar alarm that rings when it's observed, and the burglar who glances at it is unobserved by you, does he count as an observer from your viewpoint, or does he become part of the wave-equation, like Schroedinger's cat? Does the alarm ever ring when you're not around?

  • by barawn ( 25691 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @05:56AM (#1115961) Homepage
    Learn the physics first, please. You don't exactly understand what they're talking about.

    Imagine an electron is in a mixed state, that is, it is not in a measurement eigenstate (i.e. it is not 'definite' what the result of the measurement will be). Now, *observe* the electron. I don't care how. Just make it so that macroscopically, the state of the apparatus is linked one-to-one with the state of the electron. Now, the question is, when you observe the apparatus, you don't see a superposition of eigenstates - you see one eigenstate. This is what is typically referred to as "the collapse of the wave function."

    Your explanation would be "well, you scattered an electron or something off of it, and that changed the state and 'somehow' that pushed it into an eigenstate." Good explanation. Two points for trying.

    Too bad you're wrong. Quantum mechanics knows how particles interact - they interact via the Schrodinger equation. You can do the basic QM for the apparatus/electron interaction. You do *not* get that the electron emerges in an eigenstate. (You couldn't. That would indicate a hidden variable theory, and Bell's inequality says that QM and a hidden variable theory don't work.) You get that the entire system is in a superposition of eigenstates.

    This again leads you back to the previous problem. Somewhere, the wave function collapses. Guess what? We don't know where yet. We have no idea where yet. "We're working on it."

    So, is there a mystery to it? Yes. Is there a *problem* here? No one's been able to find one - i.e., no one has been able to find anything other than philosophical problems with QM to my knowledge.

    In conclusion, to sum up, in this case, yes, you're a total heathen. Sorry. :)

    If you want a good reference to the philosophical issues regarding measurement and quantum mechanics, read J.S. Bell's Physics World, August 1990 article "Against 'measurement'" and the subsequent follow up articles in October, January 1991 and May 1991.
  • by Hartwell ( 100734 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @06:29AM (#1115962)
    PEAR is hardly a con and seeing an article on the discovery channel does not qualify you to decide on experimenter bias as reporting is intrinsically biased and set to get attention, not provide facts.

    Read some of the research that PEAR has done and some of the better meta-analysis (which is a well documented, demonstrated, and researched technique) that has been published on this subject (see my other post for a book referance http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=00/04/23/09462 36&threshold=-1&commentsort=3&mode=threa d&pid=43#98)

    Further, I do not know the exact number which should have a type I error (rejecting the null hypothesis when you should fail to reject it), but we are definantly talking about more than 1 out of every 20 experiments having a p-value (probability of having a type-I error) of less than 5% (alpha = .05 is the commonly accepted value in statistics when dealing with scientific phenomena).


    "It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to our taste." - John Tyndall
  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @05:41AM (#1115963)

    It's more than that.

    Take double-slit diffraction experiment. The slits are of comperable width to the wavelength of a photon. Fire a beam of photons through the two holes. They produce an interference pattern.

    Place a sensitive detector where the target screen is. Now you can detect individual photons, and you can detect where they hit.

    Now take a source of photons which though somewhat random would be just as likely to spew a photon through one slit or the other. It's not that hard to produce, nor is it terribly critical for the experiment. The key point is that rate of photons coming out can be controlled.

    Slow down the source and watch the pattern. lots of interference... turn it down more... still lots of interference.

    What happens when only single photons are going through? One would expect a simple non-interfering diffraction pattern right? After all, singular photons are going through the slit, how could they possibly interfere with one another?

    The pattern is that of interference. Peculiar isn't it? Which hole did the photon go through?

    As soon as you attempt to observe the hole which the photon goes through... you have a non-interfering diffraction pattern. It has nothing to do with the fact that photons are bouncing off eachother or that the mechanism of detection is affecting the experiment. The pattern on your detection screen is for the particles which you did not interfere with.

    This has been scrutinized very carefully by many very meticulous people. If you doubt the results, pick up a book by a reputable author or publisher and read about it. There are practial applications of these results, and the same properties were found for electrons. There is more evidence that the results are not propreties specific to photons or electrons, though I have not read it personally and cannot comment on it.

  • by Master Switch ( 15115 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @05:04AM (#1115964) Homepage
    On a similar note, it is implied by quantum physics, that quantum particles appear to be aware of eachother, and that this action at a distance has no time delay, such as the limit of the speed of light. I wonder if SETI is listining to the wrong thing. Imagine this technology coupled with the action at a distance principle, so that you could choose coupled quantum particles to communicate over vast distances with no time delay. Couple these technologies with virtual reality, and it could be possible for communities, seperated by vast distances of space, to communicate and interact in real time. Wouldn't it be surprising to find a universal (literally) quantum network that was in use, and that we have been looking in the wrong place all this time. I would imagine that any species entry in to the universal forum would be predicated by their discovery of the technologies, and their ability to apply them to interact with this universal network. Instead of physically traveling in a space ship to distant worlds, we instead project our consciousness over vast distances with the help of virtual reality and quantum communication. Perhaps ET isn't going to show up in a galactic cruiser, but instead is patiently waiting for us to pick up the damn quantum telephone. We just haven't heard it ring yet.
  • by hypergeek ( 125182 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @06:35AM (#1115965)
    Well, first of all there's [hey, look at the bird out the window!] the fact that [I wonder if Janie will go out with me] it's hard to [I should upgrade my computer] differentiate between [how come this mind interface keeps making all my programs barf and die?] deliberate thought [hmm... what will I have for breakfast today?] and those annoying [I'm a little teapot, short and stout...] little background thoughts. [I'm hungry. Why isn't this page loading faster? What's the meaning of life? Why do we have ten fingers instead of sixteen? Where did I put my keys? What was that sudden popping noise in the back of my head?]

    [Brain overload. Core dumped.]

  • by GodSpiral ( 167039 ) on Sunday April 23, 2000 @05:34AM (#1115966)
    I saw a dicovery channel magazine segment on these guys, and wasn't impressed.

    I believe their results are biased.

    Its based on a pretty basic statistical phenomenon that unfortunately is not documented very much in research.

    If you generate 20 hypotheses (hypothesising structure) on random phenomenon, odds are 1 of them will falsely show structure within the common 19/20 (95%) confidence intervals.

    when you combine this with the selective labelling of people as talented and untalented (in ESP), and throwing out of data when the subjects feel tired, or are otherwise displeased with the results, you get the self fullfilling results used to obtain increased funding from the stupid.

If you suspect a man, don't employ him.