Thursday, November 16, 2006

25 Greatest Science Books of All Time

DISCOVER magazine (Vol. 27 No. 12 December 2006) has published a list of its editors' picks of the 25 greatest science books of all time. Nobel Laureate biologist Kary Mullis, who invented the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), provided an introduction to this article.

Mullis listed Entangled Minds among his favorite science books, and he explained some of the reasons why in the Discover article. He continued with:

"Books like Radin's doggedly pursue scientific evidence for ideas that have been widely, but unreasonably, discredited for decades, or even centuries. Fortunately, scientists (at least in the Western world) no longer get confined to quarters or excommunicated for their books. But when an author puts himself on the line by embracing an unfashionable idea, even though he is guaranteed to generate scorn or indifference, this should somehow be recognized."

That was a nice thing to write. Thanks, Dr. Mullis.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Effects of distant intention on water crystals

Some people, when faced with claims like Dr. Emoto's "intention affects the formation of water cystals," immediately dismiss it as nonsense. Others uncritically accept the claim because it sounds nice. My first reaction is to try to replicate the claim to see it for myself. I conducted such a test with Dr. Emoto, where he and his staff were kept blind as to which bottles of water had been treated. The paper reporting the experiment has just come out. Here's the abstract:


The hypothesis that water “treated” with intention can affect ice crystals formed from that water was pilot tested under double-blind conditions. A group of approximately 2,000 people in Tokyo focused positive intentions towards water samples located inside an electromagnetically shielded room in California. That group was unaware of similar water samples set aside in a different location as controls. Ice crystals formed from both sets of water samples were blindly identified and photographed by an analyst, and the resulting images were blindly assessed for aesthetic appeal by 100 independent judges. Results indicated that crystals from the treated water were given higher scores for aesthetic appeal than those from the control water (p = 0.001, one-tailed), lending support to the hypothesis.

Citation: Radin, D. I., Hayssen, G., Emoto, M., & Kizu, T. (2006). Explore, September/October 2006, Vol. 2, No. 5.

A triple-blind replication of this effect is presently underway.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Biased and blinkered mentality

In a recent article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine, physicist Stanley Jeffers (Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University) reviews the results of the PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) Laboratory research with random number generators (RNGs). His opinion is that PEAR's claims that intention influences randomness is not supported. He concludes: "Despite the best efforts of the PEAR group over a twenty-five-year period, their impact on mainstream science has been negligible. The PEAR group might argue that this is due to the biased and blinkered mentality of mainstream scientists. I would argue that it is due to the lack of compelling evidence."

We are all entitled to our opinions. But when it comes to evaluating evidence, one would think it more than a mild oversight to fail to mention that literally hundreds of similar RNG experiments have been published by other researchers, and many of those studies were reportedly successful (and discussed recently in a meta-analysis and two commentaries published in Psychological Bulletin).

Failing to mention that the PEAR work is part of a larger body of studies is one thing, but Jeffers also forgot to mention that he participated in an RNG experiment he helped to design that was supposedly (and arguably) better than the PEAR design, and that it successfully supported the PEAR claim! (That paper can be accessed here.)

A case of "biased and blinkered mentality"? Or a case of preaching to the converted (since Jeffer's article appeared in the confirmed debunker's bible).

Saturday, June 24, 2006

AAAS Symposium on Retrocausation

I gave a talk at a AAAS regional conference at the University of San Diego earlier this week; part of a symposium on retrocausation. About half the attendees were mainstream physicists hailing from the US, Europe and Israel. The linked newspaper item discusses it a bit.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Weird Science?

Snippets from a March 17, 2004 article by Ronald Bailey, entitled "Weird Science."

My comments in blue. Original text in black. This article is typical of authors whose knowledge of this topic is limited to third party sources. I address these types of comments and assumptions in Entangled Minds. I won't repeat those discussions here, but I will briefly comment on a few points here.

Still, a 2001 Gallup poll found that Americans continue to be credulous about the reality of psychic phenomena. About half of all Americans believe in psychic healing and extrasensory perception (ESP), and around a third believe in ghosts, telepathy, and clairvoyance.

The implication is that only stupid, uneducated, credulous folk believe in such silly things. The unstated assumption predicts that the more educated one is, the less one should believe in psi. The problem is that surveys show that the relationship is significantly positive, and not negative. Skeptics don't like to talk about this because it doesn't fit preconceived assumptions about who believes and why. I discuss this in Chapter 3 of Entangled Minds.

Notoriously, during the Cold War, the CIA and the KGB both had programs researching paranormal abilities like "remote seeing" and telepathy. It should be noted that a 1995 study of the Department of Defense's STAR GATE remote viewing program done by the American Institutes for Research concluded: "[T]he information provided by remote viewing is vague and ambiguous, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the technique to yield information of sufficient quality and accuracy...for actionable intelligence. Thus, we conclude that continued use of remote viewing in intelligence gathering operations is not warranted."

The implication here is that there was insufficient evidence to support the reality of remote viewing (not "remote seeing"). But that's not the case at all. The conclusion cited above refers to an application of remote viewing, not whether it exists. Both of the analysts agreed that the scientific evidence (the little they were allowed to evaluate) could not be easily explained away, and one of the analysts firmly concluded that remote viewing was indeed real. Given the scientific implications of such phenomena, one would certainly hope that governments would be sponsoring research on these effects.

Still, according to the New Scientist, most micro-PK experiments fail to show results. For example, Stanley Jeffers of York University in Canada, using a different random number generator, found no effect. Even Jahn himself, collaborating with German researchers, could not reproduce his earlier results.

This doesn't state what "fail to show results" means. It is quite true that not every experiment works, but this is also true for any experiment, especially those involving human performance and health. What we can say about the micro-PK experiments is that when we consider the cumulative data, meaning all available studies, we find strong evidence that the effects are being repeated by independent investigators. Even Jeffers is a coauthor on a successful micro-PK study. The high variance in study outcomes is most likely due to our poor understanding of all the important variables. The same can be said of similar high variance results often observed in studies of new drugs and medical procedures.

Most studies of paranormal effects, then, find that they are not very robust; research results are often on the knife-edge of statistical significance, and can appear and disappear capriciously. There is also the believer effect: researchers who believe in the paranormal regularly find effects, while those who are skeptical do not...

It's true that many psi studies do not provide robust effects, meaning statistically unequivocal results on demand. But as I state above cumulatively, when considering all data and not just selected portions, there is little question that effects occur more than they don't occur, even when taking variations in experimental quality and selective reporting practices into account.

What would convince skeptics that there are paranormal phenomena like remote viewing and clairvoyance? In a word, "replication." One may be skeptical that photons can act like waves, yet the double-slit experiment showing this effect can be replicated on demand by anybody. If just thinking at them could reliably bend photon beams for all researchers, then there really would be something to study. Until experimental replication without a lot of fancy statistical massaging occurs regularly, research on the paranormal will and should remain on the fringes of science.

The author is correct about what is required to convince some skeptics who need in-your-face demonstrations to accept evidence. But his idea of what replication means is far too stringent. He means repeated on demand by anybody. This is an unrealistic requirement. In no other area of science (excepting demonstrations in high school science labs, and even those don't always work as any high school teacher will attest) do we demand that anyone should be able to demonstrate anything, anytime. In addition, when I see an author using a phrase like "a lot of fancy statistical massaging" it tells me that he doesn't know how to evaluate meta-analytical arguments. In which case his opinion is that of an amateur.

I don't say this to be disparaging. Outside any scientist's own speciality he or she is also an amateur. At the frontiers of all scientific disciplines specialists are always arguing about details and interpretations of experiments and analyses. The same is true in parapsychology. But as I describe in The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds, when we look at the accumulation of experimental data over many decades, we find increasingly strong, scientifically valid reasons to believe that extraordinary experiences reported by the majority of the world's population are, in some cases, precisely what they appear to be: extrasensory experiences that transcend classical notions of space and time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

About the Google ads

I'm now using Google ads to help pay for the hosting fees for my site. The Google adsense program automatically searches words in the blog to decide what type of ads to display. Thus, if an ad appears for say, a psychic service, this does not mean I endorse it! The ad is there because Google decided it matched this blog. If you don't like it, don't click on it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Constructive criticism

From reviewer Julio C. S. Barros on (my comments in blue):

"However, I do think Radin was rather "weak" in other points. I did not like the way "consciousness" was discussed. Concepts and terminology regarding "consciousness" and "mind" seemed ill defined and sometimes confused with one another. This is very bad, because Radin's central thesis is that psi is our "experience" (Subjective perception? If not, what else?) of the entanglement of our minds with the universe and with other minds. So, what is a mind? What is consciousness, in his view? ..."

This is a good point. By "mind" I usually mean self-reflective awareness, preconscious information processing, subliminal and superliminal perception, intention, attention, altered states, and so on. All of these. By "consciousness" I usually mean just self-reflective awareness. I realize that everyone has a different definition of these terms, and I probably should have spent a bit more space defining more clearly what I had in mind (so to speak).

Then, page 219, Radin says "Few of us believe that...we have absolutely no free will." Well, I happen to be one of these "few ones", and I do not think we have any theory (or logical reasoning) for accounting for free will or for choice. What we do have are theories for determinism and for randomness (the latter, with or without bias). Not for choice. Not yet.

True. And yet, this implies that Mr. Barros felt he had no choice in writing his review, or in thinking of the words in his review, or in getting up out of bed in the morning. In other words, while it's true that philosophers and neuroscientists continue to argue over theories pro and con, in practice we behave as though we had free will. As I mention in the book, most legal systems insist upon this assumption.

Linked to it, on page 257, we get the feeling that classical physics cannot account for consciuousness and that quantum mechanics (Stapp) accounts for it. Again IMHO, quantum mechanics is just as feeble as classical physics in trying to account for this mystery (qualia). I disagree, too, with the concept that psi may not involve information transfer. Page 264: "Maybe psi is purely relational and manifests only as correlations." With this, Radin sidestepped a needed in-depth discussion about what is correlation, what is causation, and how can two things be correlated via psi without transfering information.

I agree that so far nothing adequately resolves the "hard problem" of consciousness, not classical or quantum physical theory, or anything else. As for how two things can be correlated without transferring information, this too is an unresolved question underlying the very concepts of entanglement and nonlocality. What I propose is that spooky action at a distance provides a different way of thinking about psi, and in particular that the type of holism it implies suggests a new set of questions we can ask about these experiences. Sometimes when difficult problems are tackled for a long time without resolution it suggests that the questions we've been asking are wrong.

Doesn't like the bent spoon

Review of Entangled Minds by "Glass hand" on My comments in blue.

"This book is utter nonsense. Spoon bending? The author, Dean Radin, fell for spoon bending??? (see endnote 1 on page 331). Sorry, but given that, his credibility is zero or less. Just as bad, Radin can only offer lame excuses (page 290) for not pursuing some of the many prizes that are being offered for a valid, definitive demonstration of psi. (If the evidence is as strong as Radin claims, he should have already walked home with several of these prizes.)"

It's always interesting to see what pushes each individual over the edge. For this fellow, it's bent spoons.

The spoon in question can be seen here. The fact is, as I say in the cited footnote, that I bent this spoon. So I know that the bend did not occur by ordinary force. I have spoons of the same type and have had to work hard to bend the bowl with the assistance of two industrial strength pliers. And then the resulting bent portion looks discolored and fractured around the bend, quite different from the smooth, shiny surface of the one I bent without force. As I wrote in the book, I was very skeptical of claims of this type of phenomenon before it happened to me. Afterwards to deny that it happened given that I still have the spoon, and it's still quite bent, would be dishonest. I sympathize with others' skepticism, but that doesn't change the observable facts.

As for the prizes for such claims, master skeptic Ray Hyman agreed that no scientist would ever accept a single demonstration as evidence for psi. Such prizes might be good for skeptical PR, but they are not science and not what my colleagues and I do. I mention in the book that even should someone try to win the prize, it would realistically cost over a million dollars to produce sufficiently strong statistical evidence (of the type discussed in the book) under conditions that would satisfy any skeptic, and thus the prizes are literally not worth the effort.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Entangled artists

Graphic artist Teka Luttrell sent me the following curious coincidence:

"About 10 days ago ... around May 11th (2006) ... all members of IONS received your book and the intro DVD to "Down the Rabbit Hole" ...which largely was about Entangled Minds. I shared the DVD with a small meditation group, too, and we all thought that your research is very cool.

"On the Saturday that followed -- May 13th -- I created a very unusual piece of art for a project I'm developing. (As shown, an iris with stars inside the pupil.)

"Then, last Friday, I received the new Shift magazine from IONS. I instantly noticed that the central piece of art on the cover was very similar to the artwork that I had created 6 days earlier. Of course, the magazine cover was artistically developed a couple months before it was printed. But the point is that I developed my piece without any knowledge of the Shift cover ... and these two "seemingly" separate pieces came together ... they crossed paths in time and we are now conscious of their behind-the-scenes entanglement."

You can visit Teka's website here

Friday, May 19, 2006

A poignant psychic experience

A fascinating story from a reader who gave permission to use his real name.

- - - -

Dear Dr. Radin,

I have had a psychic experience of my own which involves your book, which I think you will find interesting.

My wife had been ill with cancer for about a year and was confined to bed. I had bought the book and left it on the living room table hoping to read it when I had the time.

Freda died and in my grief I tried to contact her, simply by holding the belief that this was indeed possible and visualising her while asking questions. I started to get very relevant answers and I was very intrigued.

I realised that the answers might be products of my imagination so I asked Freda to give me some proof that I really was in contact with her. After a while an inner voice said "Page 4". I replied "Page 4"of what?. The voice eventually came back "Entangled Minds". So (this was in the middle of the night) I got up and went downstairs to retrieve the book and turned to page 4 with anticipation. The page - as you know - contains only this poem, accompanied by an illustration:

All things by immortal power; Near and Far Hiddenly; To each other linked are; That thou canst not stir a flower; Without troubling of a star.

Remember, in life Freda had never even seen or known of the book - and I had never read it. Page 4 does not bear the number 4 so it is not possible that I have had peripheral or unconscious vision of the poem and page number while handling the book. Every other page in the book is dense with text that would have been difficult to yield a meaningful response to my question. I knew then with certainty and joy that I was indeed communicating with her.

Ross Hendry
The Book Shop, 14 South Street, Bridport DT6 3NQ, England. Visit our web site at

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Psychic/Spiritual Assistance

People often write or call me seeking advice in how to deal psychic or spiritual awakenings, or other transformative experiences.

I'm not a counselor, so I cannot offer such advice. I recommend visiting the Center for Psychological & Spiritual Health for assistance.

For those who are interested in learning more about their transformational experiences, I recommend a survey project that IONS is running at

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Response to a critique on Amazon reviews

A reviewer named "Short Dog" provides a two-star review of Entangled Minds. I'll intersperse my responses in blue; the review is in black:

"I hate to rain on the party of previous reviewers who gave positive comments but I do not recommend this book. For starters, the book falls under the same spell that trapped a long list of other, prior books that attempted (unsuccesfully, mind you) to make a connection between quantum mechanics and parapsychology. Talk about moth to the flame. There's nothing really new here. The mistake they make is to use one mystery, quantum mechanics, to explain another, ie, psi."

I address this in the book's Introduction: "Some may object that linking the elegance of quantum theory to the spookiness of psychic phenomena is illegitimate, that it’s a mistake to claim a connection exists simply because these two domains are permeated with uncanny effects. This objection is certainly understandable. Quantum theory is a mathematically precise and exquisitely well-tested description of the observable world. Psychic phenomena are slippery, subjective events with a checkered past. But as it turns out, the fabric of reality suggested by quantum theory and the observations associated with psychic phenomena bear striking resemblances. They are eerily weird in precisely the right way to suggest a meaningful relationship."

Later I add: "... the connection proposed here is not trivial. As physicist Henry Stapp explains, 'Quantum approaches to consciousness are sometimes said to be motivated simply by the idea that quantum theory is a mystery and consciousness is a mystery, so perhaps the two are related. That opinion betrays a profound misunderstanding of the nature of quantum mechanics, which consists fundamentally of a pragmatic scientific solution to the problem of the connection between mind and matter.' "

Why isn't this fallacy obvious? No one has been able to account for QM in nearly 100 years other than to offer various interpretations and say "It works." Well, it does. And thank heavens. But how does the unexplained explain psi? Throw me a lifeline. Between 1932 and 1958 Jung and Pauli went down this path and if anybody could do it, they were the ones. But nothing productive came from such a collaboration.

That's not entirely true. Jung's concept of synchronicity came out of their collaboration. In addition, it's useful to keep in mind that when Pauli and Jung were discussing this topic, the concept of nonlocality was an abstract mathematical curiosity. No one even knew if the idea was testable. Today we know that nonlocal effects like entanglement are indeed real, which leads to a radically new ontological view of reality. That new ontology is the lifeline, as I discuss in the "New Reality" chapter. This isn't a concept that is easily graspable. It takes time to seriously ponder what it means to live in a holistic reality.

Secondly, Entangled Minds does not say how to go from micro-scale QM to psi which operates, seemingly, on the macro-scale. This objection is so well known and has been repeated so often, it hardly barely mentioning. Koestler pointed out this problem 34 years ago in his little book, The Roots of Conicidence. In fact, many of the same points in Extangled Minds are covered by Koestler except the latter said what he had to say in 150 pages instead of 350 pages.

This is a common mistake. Entanglement is not limited to the microscale. Photons 50 km apart can show nonlocal connections, clearly demonstrating macroscale effects. I discuss others examples of macroscopic entanglement in the Introduction chapter. Also, how big is human experience? As I discuss in the Theory chapter, there are several proposals being floated about the mind-QM link. Most of these proposals assume that quantum-level tweaks in the brain are sufficient to influence cascades of neural activity that correspond to subjective experience. Thus elementary QM effects might be sufficient to account for psi experiments. Such ideas were purely speculative in Koestler's day. Today there are theoretical descriptions that are fleshing out models that make past speculations physically plausible.

Which brings up another problem: the middle third of Entangled Minds throws in all these data and charts and statistics and whatnot. Who is the audience? What are we trying to prove? Koestler noted this is the main challenge for the entire field of parapsychology: it keeps trying to convince us that psi is real, or rather the study of it is legitimate. Yet the data clearly shows the public at large is with psi. We accept it. Even mainstream science has grudgingly admitted there's something there. See Broughton's Parapsychology: The Controversial Science.

I wish it were true that psi is accepted by the scientific mainstream. It isn't. If it were, there'd be more than a few handfuls of doctorate-level researchers working in this field. Yes, many scientists who are aware of the data have become favorably inclined to accept that the effects are what they appear to be, and this trend is likely to continue because of books like Entangled Minds. I expect that the audience is also non-scientists interested in learning that their experiences have been verified in scientific experiments, and that rational ways of explaining them are slowly evolving.

Finally, the last section of Entangled Minds, the section I was most interested in, doesn't really say clearly what is an "entangled mind." It doesn't give predictions or testable claims. All he offers are a lot of speculations that leave me feeling, well, entangled.

All I can say is that the reviewer should read Chapter 13 again, more slowly. That chapter goes into detail about the meaning of "entangled minds," and it does provide both predictions and testable claims. Anticipating such generic complaints, I wrote: "The implications of all this for understanding psi are sufficiently remote from engrained ways of thinking that the first reaction will be confidence that it’s wrong. The second will be horror that it might be right. The third will be boredom because it’s obvious." This reader has apparently not advanced to stage two yet.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Careers in psi research

I'm often asked about how one pursues a career in psi research, meaning how does one earn a living doing this sort of research. Here's how one person asked this question (I've changed a few minor details to maintain the writer's anonymity):

- - - - - - - -

"I'm writing for your advice and opinion regarding a career in this type of research. I've been casually interested in the study of consciousness and extrasensory research for many years, but would like to pursue this path full-time. I have a BS in engineering and have worked in technical research for 5 years. I was able to learn and contribute to my field, publish a few manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, etc. but have decided that I need to focus my energy on something that I have a sincere interest and passion for."

"I'd also like to work with researchers such as yourself who are taking a scientific approach to consciousness, ESP, etc. I think the results of this research are important, but it also provides legitimacy to the field, rather than the entertainment/sideshow viewpoint that many in the general public have... I'd like to apply my research background, but as you probably know, there aren't many jobs in extrasensory research. Do you have any suggestion or advice in terms of getting into this type of research? Specifically, do you feel that an advanced degree is required?"

- - - - - - - -

My response:

Given the nonexistent career track in this realm, this is a risky decision that would only appeal to a very small percentage of fledgling scientists and scholars. My advice for students is to (1) earn a PhD in a traditional scientific or scholarly discipline from an accredited, recognized university, and then become successful in that discipline. This step might take 6 to 8 years after an undergraduate degree. (2) Attend the annual conventions of the Parapsychological Association ( to meet professionals who have worked in the field for many years. You can start this immediately, at any age. (3) Read the relevant journals and start doing your own experiments or scholarly work. (4) Start publishing and presenting papers in journals interested in these topics. (5) Make it known to the people you've met that you're interested in any jobs that may arise. And (6) be prepared to move, perhaps multiple times, to where the jobs are. Demonstrated interest, competence and persistence are prime attractors in all realms of life, including this one.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Synchronicities redux

Here's a nice synchronicity that happened to me recently. I'll preface this by saying that while I study these experiences for a living, my daily life is as mundane as anyone else's, and I tend not to be permeated by wildly improbable psychic events. (Except in the lab sometimes.)

My wife and I tend to work on our PCs at night while watching TV. Most TV is so banal that it takes 1% of our attention to track a show. The other 99% is devoted to email and other PC-related work (and the dogs, and each other). Our PCs are setup in such a way that we can't see each other's screens.

So I'm scanning through dozens of emails, and I see one from a colleague who says he's updating a book he's written on deja vu, and he's calling it Deja Vu Revisited. I'm thinking that's a clever title when suddenly my wife says out loud, "I'm having the strongest deja vu." I laugh in amusement at this beautifully recursive moment. A synchronicity about a deja vu. My wife is delighted too.

I don't recall any previous time, under any circumstance, when my wife spontaneously reported a deja vu; nor does she recall one. Was this a mere coincidence? Sure didn't feel like it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Wall

Friends often ask, how is your new book doing? They're asking about sales, as though there's a magical courier that whispers hourly updates in my ear. I don't believe in magic of the supernatural type (psi is not that sort of magic), but we do have a modern version of a quasi-magical courier -- the sales ratings on

On that front I see a nice trend developing. I requested that Entangled Minds be cross-listed as both a Science book and as a Religion-Spirituality book. The first category is appropriate because this book is ultimately about science. The second category is necessary because topics like psi are historically associated with the occult, so in existing book categories there's nowhere else to place it.

Within these two categories, as of this posting the book is rated #2 among Science/General books, and #2 in Religion-Spirituality/Occult. I'm pleased to see this, because the wall between science and the occult is a vestige of old prejudices that, like the Berlin Wall, has prevented meaningful communication between two ways of viewing the world, and as such it's a barrier that's ripe for demolition. So perhaps this is a good sign.

(From a more mundane perspective, the correlated ratings are partially driven by cross-listing, although there aren't many books in these two categories that are cross-listed.)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Psi experiences

I often receive emails from readers about their psi experiences. Here's one I received today from Paul H:

- - -

Let me relate some interesting things that have happened to me in my 46 years. On at least two occasions I had a dream of a plane crash, every last detail, airline, city, etc. Two days before the crash I told my friends at work (I work in aviation ...) about the details. Sure enough it happened exactly as I described it.

Or when I was in the Air Force ..., I showed the guys a trick that freaked them out so badly I actually LOST friends. What I did was have myself and a friend sit facing each other with his left middle fingertip touching my right. Then I told him to shuffle a deck of cards. Then I told him to set it down and just think of the card. I got all 52 correct. It was NOT a trick, I could SEE the card in my mind like it was on a TV screen! Those guys never treated me the same.

Or, I had premonitions all four times when my grandparents died. I told my wife ahead of time.... Sure enough the phone rings and they tell me the one I had had the premonition about had died. Or how about this neat trick I used to show the guys at work ALL the time. I would have several of us climb up to the top of the tail dock which is about 70 feet high. Then I would tell them to point out a random guy working way down below. Then I would stare at him for several seconds and almost immediately he would instantly look up exactly into my eyes. The guys couldn't believe it. HOW does one feel the weight of another's stare?

I have had many more events like this. When I was a boy I would dream or predict things and I would tell my mother and when they came true she would beat me mercilessly. There's one last thing which I cannot tell you because you would think I was nuts so I'll let it go. If you are genuinely interested let me know and I will relate it to you.

Paul H.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


A sharp-eyed reader found a mistake in a figure caption in Entangled Minds. The caption for Figure 3-1 had the genders reversed. The caption should read: "Average responses to questions about belief in unusual experiences, for women (black squares) and men (white diamonds), with error bars indicating the likely range of the 'true' average value."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Library gremlin and Entangled Minds

I received an interesting email from a reader. I've heard many similar stories over the years about the "Library Angel" (also referred to as a gremlin, demon or fairy, depending on your prediliction). This Trickster-like gremlin causes books to fall out of shelves in front of you, or on top of you, apparently to force you to pay attention to something that you are seeking but keep overlooking.

The reader writes: "You and I were introduced in a most unusual way today. I was in Barnes and Nobles today in San Diego. I was standing in front of the shelves of books in the new age section. I saw a couple of books fall from the shelf and in very quick automatic response I held my right hand out to catch them.

"You can imagine my surprise when I realized there were no books falling. I was left with a feeling of where the heck are these books. I KNOW I saw it fall.

"I studied this event for a few minutes trying to figure out what happened. I traced my arm movements and zoomed in on the spot from where the books fell. I pulled a book from the shelf that looked like the books that I saw falling.

"It was Entangled Minds.

"I sat down and read thru the book with great interest. There were several other events shortly after that that I felt were related because of similarities"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Entangled Minds is available

Entangled Minds is available now via online bookstores and can be ordered by brick and mortar stores. It will show up in Borders, Barnes & Noble etc. over the next month or so. I plan to use this blog to respond to questions that may arise by people who are reading the book, and to respond to valid critiques and questions that may arise in published reviews.

Monday, April 10, 2006

They can dish it out, but they can't take it

Kirkus Reviews has offered a review of a prerelease version of Entangled Minds. Overall it's not a bad review. But there are a few remarks I'd like to respond to. My responses are in blue text.

"An attempt to enlist quantum mechanics to explain ESP phenomena. Radin (Institute of Noetic Sciences) begins by describing quantum entanglement, in which subatomic particles separated by large distances appear to exchange information about their physical states almost instantly. He then detours into an attack on ESP debunkers."

The last sentence apparently refers to a chapter about who believes in psi, and why. It focuses on differences between what mainstream science believes vs. what the public believes. It has nothing to do with debunkers. When I see defensive phrases like "an attack on ESP debunkers," I know that the person writing regards him or herself as the attackee.

"A history of psychic research follows (neglecting to mention that some of the pioneers later admitted faking their results)."

This is a cheap shot. I could just as easily say that the reviewer neglects to mention that the history of psychical research also includes Nobel Laureates and the surprising origins of modern scientific methods. Yes, there are indeed a few cases of known or suspected faking that took place a century ago, and a few cases in the 20th century. But the fact is that occasional cases of fraud occur in all areas of science, including several notorious cases recently in physics and medicine.

"Radin then presents a summary of ESP experiments he feels meet the strictest standards of repeatability, careful design and high reliability. The experiments include attempts to send images to dreaming subjects, to influence the roll of dice and to predict future events; Radin describes the experiments and gives detailed summaries of the results. This is the most impressive section of the book; while some results can undoubtedly be explained away, many are not easy to dismiss. Radin then steps back to examine the theoretical basis for ESP, granting that the evident factuality of certain results does not justify the assumption that all psychic phenomena are therefore true. A brief history of physics leads up to Bell's theorem, a 1964 proof that quantum paradoxes cannot be explained by any "higher logic," as Einstein had long hoped. Here, Radin pins his hopes for the eventual vindication of ESP: If distant objects are related by quantum effects, then psychics may be tapping into the quantum realm to gain their insights. A final chapter reiterates the claim that ESP has been proven to a degree of certainty that no fair-minded person can deny; attempts to refute the skeptics; and predicts that, in the future, ESP will be the subject of university/scientific studies. A good summary of current ESP research, though the writer's defensiveness detracts from his core of thought-provoking data. Take it with several grains of salt."

This reviewer is disturbed that I take skeptics to task. The "defensiveness" comment refers to a section in which I discuss skeptical myths about parapsychology. These are false or misleading statements made so often that they take on an aura of truth through sheer repetition. Such statements are bunk and deserve to be forcefully debunked. Skeptics can dish out criticism, but many can't stomach it in return.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Junk Skepticism

In a March 14, 2006 essay in the New York Times science section, Dennis Overbye, the Deputy Science Editor at the Times, explains why he thinks the message about quantum observation effects, as portrayed in the movie, What the Bleep do we Know, is wrong. At one point in the essay he bolsters his point with the off-hand statement, "The parapsychologists were booted from the American Association for the Advancement of Science 30 years ago."


In 20 seconds of web searching Overbye could have discovered that the Parapsychological Association (PA) has been an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1969, and it remains to this day a member society in good standing. I know because I've served as President of the PA for four terms, including this year, and I've been a member of the AAAS for over 20 years. You can verify the PA's status at the AAAS affiliates webpage.

This is an example of what happens when something that "everyone knows to be true" turns out to be false. I call this junk skepticism because it's the worst sort of pseudoskepticism -- mistaken ideas that are easily disproven, but no one bothers to check.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Confirmation bias

From a recent reader review of The Conscious Universe. This review provides a nice demonstration of the confirmation bias: If you believe that psi does not exist, but then you encounter evidence indicating that psi does exist, the confirmation bias will cause you to find reasons to reject the positive evidence, which in turn will make you more convinced -- and hence confirms -- that your original hypothesis was correct. Because this bias is rife throughout science, I discuss it and other biases in The Conscious Universe.

Incidentally, I doubt that the reviewer read the book carefully, because I never, ever use the term PSI. The correct word is psi. The reviewer writes (excerpt):

The main reason why I found this book unconvincing is that if PSI existed it would be easy to demonstrate. No meta-analysis of a huge number of studies is needed, one good experiment suffices.

This argument might seem appealing, except for one very important problem: Human performance is highly variable, even among those with world-class talent. E.g., some people claim to be able to hit baseballs thrown at them at 90 miles/hour. If that obviously ridiculous claim is true (because human reaction time is far too slow to hit such a fast-moving object), then it would be easy to demonstrate. We shouldn't need fancy baseball statistics. One good swing of a bat ought to prove the claim once and for all.

Back to the real world, we know that the best baseball players in the world get a hit only about once every three times at bat. If our skeptic happened to look at the plate only when the batter missed the ball, which was the majority of the time, he'd conclude that the baseball claim is false. Especially if he distrusted statistics.

The fact is that many excellent, highly significant experiments have been published, but "one good experiment" isn't convincing (and shouldn't be) because the results might have been due to an undiscovered flaw. This is why independent repeatability is important in science, but also why we always need a way to measure replication rates. Thus the need for meta-analysis. There's no way to escape this because all measurements contain error.

The test I found most impressive is also the simplest one: to have subjects mentally affect the result of random number generators. This experiment is easy and cheap to set up, is so simple that errors can easily be removed, and is easy to reproduce (the book claims that all subjects were successful in nudging the RNG outside of its operational parameters). If it works it would prove that PSI is real.

The book absolutely does not claim that all subjects are successful in these tests, nor does it claim that this is an easily reproducible effect. But the fact remains that some individual RNG experiments have provided extremely strong evidence in favor of psi, and yet as noted above skeptics dismiss those studies.

The fact that PSI believers instead of concentrating on one simple experiment are instead all over the place describing results of disparate, old, and complex studies is a bad sign.

This assumes that all researchers are clones and interested in exactly the same thing. Well, cancer is a very important health problem, but does that mean all biologists should be working exclusively on cancer research? Of course not. Researchers decide what they wish to focus on for dozens of reasons. Discomfort about "disparate, old, and complex" studies indicates a disinterest in history, avoidance of published experiments with strong results, and inability or unwillingness to understand experimental details that provide confidence that results are what they appear to be.

Another way to easily prove the existence of PSI would by using casino statistics. If there is one place where PSI should be present it is there. The author got some daily data about the money dropped and money won at different games such as roulette. If he had only gotten data about the number of roulette plays he could have easily demonstrated that the money won was more than expected thus demonstrating PSI. In the book he claims that casinos are reluctant to share such data, but I wonder why.

Do you know of any business that freely shares its detailed profit/loss details with anyone who asks? I don't. Casinos in particular are extremely tight-fisted about their data because they deal in cash. Public lottery information is another matter. For that data a few large studies have been conducted, as I describe in the book, and in fact they do provide evidence for psi.

So in conclusion, even this book did educate me about the arguments in favor of PSI and made me wonder and think about this issue, the net effect has been to strengthen my belief that PSI does not exist.

Lo! The confirmation bias at work.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Turkish translation

This is the cover of the Turkish translation of The Conscious Universe, published in 2005. Someone must have forgotten to inform me that this edition was out, as I discovered it by accident. I ran across the book jacket image while surfing, and thought it looked familiar. Then I looked more closely and saw that my name was on the cover!

New Down the Rabbit Hole poster

This is the new marquee poster for the Bleep movie, emphasizing that it's an extended director's cut, and not -- as some people apparently thought -- an entirely new movie.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Who should see "Down the Rabbit Hole"

Certain kinds of people shouldn't see the movie, What the Bleep: Down the Rabbit Hole. If you have no interest in questions like "Who am I," "What is consciousness," or "What is the nature of reality," then don't waste your time seeing this film. If you think meditation and yoga are New Age nonsense, then don't waste your money. If you are devoted to a traditional religious doctrine, then don't even think about seeing this film. If you are a scientist who believes that the current scientific picture of the universe is essentially complete, then avoid this film as it will make you angry. If you believe that psychic and mystical experiences are completely explanable as the delusions of the ignorant, don't waste your time. In short, if you are a devotee of orthodoxy, do not see this film.

On the other hand, if you are interested in the big philosophical questions, practice meditation or yoga, are naturally intuitive, do not believe that science completely explains everything worth understanding, or are interested in heterodoxy, then you would probably enjoy this film.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

ESP for kids

Here's a children's book on ESP that I was a consultant for, published in January 2006. Click on the image to jump to it at Barnes and Noble.

What the bleep

I attended the San Francisco premier of Down the Rabbit Hole last night. The theater was at maximum capacity (about 400 people). The movie itself is long (2 hours 40 minutes) and is essentially an extended version of the original What the Bleep, with some very good new animation and nearly all new interviews. Those expecting an entirely new film will be disappointed, but if you're looking for a more in-depth version of the first film you'll be satisfied. For those who still can't get enough, a 5 hour DVD version is in the works.

Realistically you're not going to learn quantum mechanics from watching this film, or for that matter the biochemistry of addiction, or the mystical foundations of religion, or the ontological implications of living in a holistic universe. But it's an entertaining introduction to very some complex and fascinating topics.

After the show, Mark Vincente (the director), Fred Alan Wolf and I did a Q&A with the audience for about an hour. This film has clearly touched some people very deeply, and if nothing else it gets people thinking seriously about some of the "big questions." I don't recall the last time I've seen a movie that encouraged an audience to think. Feel, sure. That's the bread and butter of Hollywood.

But think? That's unusual, and this movie accomplishes that goal.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On skepticism

Open-minded skepticism is the foundation on which science rests. But just as there are pseudoscientists who profess ideas as though they are grounded in empiricism (but aren't), there are also pseudoskeptics who present critiques as though they are grounded in knowledge (and aren't).

After 25 years of investigating psychic phenomena, much of it in university and industrial research settings, I've heard every criticism imaginable leveled at this topic, from rants about how telepathy supposedly violates unspecified "laws of physics," to scientists claiming that this is the work of the devil (I'm not kidding).

Some critiques are valid, and as such they've been extremely valuable in helping to advance the research. But the majority of so-called skepticism is more accurately regarded as pseudoskepticism. Such critiques are outdated, illegitmate double-standards, distortions of actual research, or flat out wrong. Pseudoskepticism is easy to sustain because it's based on opinion and hearsay. By contrast, true skepticism requires doing one's homework, and it's not easy. No wonder there's so little of it.

A few books I've found useful on the sociological challenges faced in pre-theoretical science include: Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method, Fatal Attractions: The Troubles With Science , Science Or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, And Other Heterodoxies, all by Henry Bauer, former Dean of Arts and Sciences at Virginia Tech.

One society I belong to that provides a forum in which scientists can openly discuss anomalies is the Society for Scientific Exploration. I'm also President (in 2006) of the Parapsychological Association, an international scientific society interested in psychic phenomena, with the distinction that it is also an elected affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Still life

Here's a still from the new What the Bleep movie, subtitled "Down the Rabbit Hole." I was interviewed for what seemed like forever (probably about 4 hours). I don't recall the details of what I said, which will make watching the movie more interesting for me.

So far, I've done about 30 interviews for television shows. This was my second movie-related appearance. The first was for a mini-feature on remote viewing, which can be found on the DVD of the movie Suspect Zero.

Fun with philosophy

I appear in the sequel to the highly successful independent film, "What the Bleep Do We Know," appearing in theaters soon. Who would have thought that a film that tackles difficult epistemological issues would be a hit? I suppose clever animation and a good sound track can make even fundamental questions in philosophy fun again.