Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Global Consciousness Project: The Machine That Could Tell The Future

"The past is but the past of a beginning." -H. G. Wells 

DEEP in the basement of a dusty university library in Edinburgh lies a small black box, roughly the size of two cigarette packets side by side, that churns out random numbers in an endless stream.  At first glance it is an unremarkable piece of equipment. Encased in metal, it contains at its heart a microchip no more complex than the ones found in modern pocket calculators.  But, according to a growing band of top scientists, this box has quite extraordinary powers. It is, they claim, the ‘eye’ of a machine that appears capable of peering into the future and predicting major world events.

The machine apparently sensed the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre four hours before they happened – but in the fevered mood of conspiracy theories of the time, the claims were swiftly knocked back by sceptics. But last December, it also appeared to forewarn of the Asian tsunami just before the deep sea earthquake that precipitated the epic tragedy.

Now, even the doubters are acknowledging that here is a small box with apparently inexplicable powers.

‘It’s Earth-shattering stuff,’ says Dr Roger Nelson, emeritus researcher at Princeton University in the United States, who is heading the research project behind the ‘black box’ phenomenon.

‘We’re very early on in the process of trying to figure out what’s going on here. At the moment we’re stabbing in the dark.’ Dr Nelson’s investigations, called the Global Consciousness Project, were originally hosted by Princeton University and are centred on one of the most extraordinary experiments of all time. Its aim is to detect whether all of humanity shares a single subconscious mind that we can all tap into without realising.  And machines like the Edinburgh black box have thrown up a tantalising possibility: that scientists may have unwittingly discovered a way of predicting the future.

Although many would consider the project’s aims to be little more than fools’ gold, it has still attracted a roster of 75 respected scientists from 41 different nations. Researchers from Princeton – where Einstein spent much of his career – work alongside scientists from universities in Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. The project is also the most rigorous and longest-running investigation ever into the potential powers of the paranormal.

‘Very often paranormal phenomena evaporate if you study them for long enough,’ says physicist Dick Bierman of the University of Amsterdam. ‘But this is not happening with the Global Consciousness Project. The effect is real. The only dispute is about what it means.’ The project has its roots in the extraordinary work of Professor Robert Jahn of Princeton University during the late 1970s. He was one of the first modern scientists to take paranormal phenomena seriously. Intrigued by such things as telepathy, telekinesis – the supposed psychic power to move objects without the use of physical force – and extrasensory perception, he was determined to study the phenomena using the most up-to-date technology available.

One of these new technologies was a humble-looking black box known was a Random Event Generator (REG). This used computer technology to generate two numbers – a one and a zero – in a totally random sequence, rather like an electronic coin-flipper.

The pattern of ones and noughts – ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ as it were – could then be printed out as a graph. The laws of chance dictate that the generators should churn out equal numbers of ones and zeros – which would be represented by a nearly flat line on the graph. Any deviation from this equal number shows up as a gently rising curve.

During the late 1970s, Prof. Jahn decided to investigate whether the power of human thought alone could interfere in some way with the machine’s usual readings. He hauled strangers off the street and asked them to concentrate their minds on his number generator. In effect, he was asking them to try to make it flip more heads than tails.

It was a preposterous idea at the time. The results, however, were stunning and have never been satisfactorily explained.  Again and again, entirely ordinary people proved that their minds could influence the machine and produce significant fluctuations on the graph, ‘forcing it’ to produce unequal numbers of ‘heads’ or ‘tails’.  According to all of the known laws of science, this should not have happened – but it did. And it kept on happening.

Dr. Nelson, also working at Princeton University, then extended Prof Jahn’s work by taking random number machines to group meditations, which were very popular in America at the time. Again, the results were eye-popping. The groups were collectively able to cause dramatic shifts in the patterns of numbers.

From then on, Dr Nelson was hooked.

Using the internet, he connected up 40 random event generators from all over the world to his laboratory computer in Princeton. These ran constantly, day in day out, generating millions of different pieces of data. Most of the time, the resulting graph on his computer looked more or less like a flat line. But then on September 6, 1997, something quite extraordinary happened: the graph shot upwards, recording a sudden and massive shift in the number sequence as his machines around the world started reporting huge deviations from the norm. The day was of historic importance for another reason, too. For it was the same day that an estimated one billion people around the world watched the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey.

Dr Nelson was convinced that the two events must be related in some way. Could he have detected a totally new phenomena? Could the concentrated emotional outpouring of millions of people be able to influence the output of his REGs. If so, how?  Dr Nelson was at a loss to explain it.

So, in 1998, he gathered together scientists from all over the world to analyse his findings. They, too, were stumped and resolved to extend and deepen the work of Prof Jahn and Dr Nelson. The Global Consciousness Project was born.

Since then, the project has expanded massively. A total of 65 Eggs (as the generators have been named) in 41 countries have now been recruited to act as the ‘eyes’ of the project. And the results have been startling and inexplicable in equal measure. For during the course of the experiment, the Eggs have ‘sensed’ a whole series of major world events as they were happening, from the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia to the Kursk submarine tragedy to America’s hung election of 2000. The Eggs also regularly detect huge global celebrations, such as New Year’s Eve.

But the project threw up its greatest enigma on September 11, 2001. As the world stood still and watched the horror of the terrorist attacks unfold across New York, something strange was happening to the Eggs. Not only had they registered the attacks as they actually happened, but the characteristic shift in the pattern of numbers had begun four hours before the two planes even hit the Twin Towers.

They had, it appeared, detected that an event of historic importance was about to take place before the terrorists had even boarded their fateful flights. The implications, not least for the West’s security services who constantly monitor electronic ‘chatter’, are clearly enormous.

‘I knew then that we had a great deal of work ahead of us,’ says Dr Nelson. What could be happening? Was it a freak occurrence, perhaps? Apparently not. For in the closing weeks of December last year, the machines went wild once more.

Twenty-four hours later, an earthquake deep beneath the Indian Ocean triggered the tsunami which devastated South-East Asia, and claimed the lives of an estimated quarter of a million people.

So could the Global Consciousness Project really be forecasting the future?

Cynics will quite rightly point out that there is always some global event that could be used to ‘explain’ the times when the Egg machines behaved erratically. After all, our world is full of wars, disasters and terrorist outrages, as well as the occasional global celebration. Are the scientists simply trying too hard to detect patterns in their raw data? The team behind the project insist not. They claim that by using rigorous scientific techniques and powerful mathematics it is possible to exclude any such random connections.

‘We’re perfectly willing to discover that we’ve made mistakes,’ says Dr Nelson. ‘But we haven’t been able to find any, and neither has anyone else. Our data shows clearly that the chances of getting these results by fluke are one million to one against. That’s hugely significant.’ But many remain sceptical.

Professor Chris French, a psychologist and noted sceptic at Goldsmiths College in London, says: ‘The Global Consciousness Project has generated some very intriguing results that cannot be readily dismissed. I’m involved in similar work to see if we get the same results. We haven’t managed to do so yet but it’s only an early experiment. The jury’s still out.’ Strange as it may seem, though, there’s nothing in the laws of physics that precludes the possibility of foreseeing the future.

It is possible – in theory – that time may not just move forwards but backwards, too. And if time ebbs and flows like the tides in the sea, it might just be possible to foretell major world events. We would, in effect, be ‘remembering’ things that had taken place in our future. ‘There’s plenty of evidence that time may run backwards,’ says Prof Bierman at the University of Amsterdam.

‘And if it’s possible for it to happen in physics, then it can happen in our minds, too.’ In other words, Prof Bierman believes that we are all capable of looking into the future, if only we could tap into the hidden power of our minds. And there is a tantalizing body of evidence to support this theory.

Dr John Hartwell, working at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, was the first to uncover evidence that people could sense the future. In the mid-1970s he hooked people up to hospital scanning machines so that he could study their brainwave patterns.

He began by showing them a sequence of provocative cartoon drawings. When the pictures were shown, the machines registered the subject’s brainwaves as they reacted strongly to the images before them. This was to be expected. Far less easy to explain was the fact that in many cases, these dramatic patterns began to register a few seconds before each of the pictures were even flashed up.

It was as though Dr Hartwell’s case studies were somehow seeing into the future, and detecting when the next shocking image would be shown next. It was extraordinary – and seemingly inexplicable.

But it was to be another 15 years before anyone else took Dr Hartwell’s work further when Dean Radin, a researcher working in America, connected people up to a machine that measured their skin’s resistance to electricity. This is known to fluctuate in tandem with our moods – indeed, it’s this principle that underlies many lie detectors.  Radin repeated Dr Hartwell’s ‘image response’ experiments while measuring skin resistance. Again, people began reacting a few seconds before they were shown the provocative pictures. This was clearly impossible, or so he thought, so he kept on repeating the experiments. And he kept getting the same results.

‘I didn’t believe it either,’ says Prof Bierman. ‘So I also repeated the experiment myself and got the same results. I was shocked. After this I started to think more deeply about the nature of time.’ To make matters even more intriguing, Prof Bierman says that other mainstream labs have now produced similar results but are yet to go public.

‘They don’t want to be ridiculed so they won’t release their findings,’ he says. ‘So I’m trying to persuade all of them to release their results at the same time. That would at least spread the ridicule a little more thinly!’ If Prof. Bierman is right, though, then the experiments are no laughing matter.

They might help provide a solid scientific grounding for such strange phenomena as ‘deja vu’, intuition and a host of other curiosities that we have all experienced from time to time. They may also open up a far more interesting possibility – that one day we might be able to enhance psychic powers using machines that can ‘tune in’ to our subconscious mind, machines like the little black box in Edinburgh.

Just as we have built mechanical engines to replace muscle power, could we one day build a device to enhance and interpret our hidden psychic abilities?  Dr Nelson is optimistic – but not for the short term. ‘We may be able to predict that a major world event is going to happen. But we won’t know exactly what will happen or where it’s going to happen,’ he says.

‘Put it this way – we haven’t yet got a machine we could sell to the CIA.’ But for Dr Nelson, talk of such psychic machines – with the potential to detect global catastrophes or terrorist outrages – is of far less importance than the implications of his work in terms of the human race.

For what his experiments appear to demonstrate is that while we may all operate as individuals, we also appear to share something far, far greater – a global consciousness. Some might call it the mind of God. ‘We’re taught to be individualistic monsters,’ he says. ‘We’re driven by society to separate ourselves from each other. That’s not right. We may be connected together far more intimately than we realise.’

Source: Daily Mail; London (UK), 2010.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bertrand Russell: On God - "Knowledge, Kindliness & Courage"...

video
 EXCERPT – “Why I am not a Christian:”

The Emotional Factor

“As I said before, I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel Butler's book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he is worshiped under the name of the "Sun Child," and it is said that he ascended into heaven. He finds that the Feast of the Ascension is about to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will; but they are the high priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says, "I am going to expose all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon." He was told, "You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into Heaven they will all become wicked"; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.

 That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.

 You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world."

Fear, the Foundation of Religion

"Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it."
 
What We Must Do

"We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world -- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create. “

-Bertrand Russell (EXCERPT: “Why I am not a Christian”,  Russell delivered this lecture on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall. Published in pamphlet form in that same year, the essay subsequently achieved new fame with Paul Edwards' edition of Russell's book, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays, 1957. VIDEO INTERVIEW: Bertrand Russell, 1959).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

CONVERSATIONS: Samuel Johnson: Dying Easy & Supernatural Interposition...


”A man may be so much of everything that he is nothing of anything.”  -Samuel Johnson

A CONVERSATION: between Samuel Johnson & James Boswell, 1778:

Boswell: We must be contented to acknowledge that death is a terrible thing.

Johnson: Yes, sir. I have made no approaches to a state which can look on it as not terrible.                                                   Mrs. Knowles: Does not St. Paul say, “I have fought the good fight of faith, I have finished my course; henceforth is laid up for me a crown of life”?
 
 

Johnson: Yes, madam, but here was a man inspired, a man who had been converted by supernatural interposition.

Boswell: In prospect death is dreadful, but in fact we find that people die easy.

Johnson: Why, sir, most people have not thought much of the matter, so cannot say much, and it is supposed they die easy. Few believe it certain they are then to die, and those who do set themselves to behave with resolution, as a man does who is going to be hanged—he is not the less unwilling to be hanged.

Ms. Seward: There is one mode of the fear of death, which is certainly absurd: and that is the dread of annihilation, which is only a pleasing sleep without a dream.

Johnson: It is neither pleasing, nor sleep; it is nothing. Now mere existence is so much better than nothing that one would rather exist, even in pain, than not exist.

Boswell: If annihilation be nothing, then existing in pain is not a comparative state, but is a positive evil which I cannot think we should choose. I must be allowed to differ here, and it would lessen the hope of a future state founded on the argument that the Supreme Being, who is good as he is great, will hereafter compensate for our present sufferings in this life. For if existence, such as we have it here, be comparatively a good, we have no reason to complain, though no more of it should be given to us. But if our only state of existence were in this world, then we might with some reason complain that we are so dissatisfied with our enjoyments compared with our desires.

Johnson: The lady confounds annihilation, which is nothing, with the apprehension of it, which is dreadful. It is in the apprehension of it that the horror of annihilation consists.

 CREDITS:

- Samuel Johnson & James Boswell, 1778 / London, ( “ A Conversation: The Dying Is Easy ,” Lapham’s Quarterly. Image: Unknown, Woman visited by Death ).
                           
NOTE: James Boswell, from Life of Johnson. Arriving in London from Edinburgh in 1762, Boswell, then in his early twenties, soon met and befriended Samuel Johnson, who was a prominent essayist, poet, and lexicographer in his fifties. Boswell’s account of Johnson and his own journals, the latter only rediscovered in the twentieth century, form his unique contribution to the world of letters. His Life was published in two volumes in 1791, seven years after its subject had died at the age of seventy-five.