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No. 56: Mar-Apr 1988

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Nudging Probability

The premiere issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, published by the Society for Scientific Exploration, contains an excellent summary of the ESP research conducted at Princeton over the past several years. R.G. Jahn, the leader of the Princeton group, terms the research "Engineering Anomalies Research." This title is apparently more palatable to mainstream science than "Mental Influence on Electronic Devices" or "Affecting Cascading Spheres with Thought Waves." Nevertheless, most of the experimental work is in these two areas. As parapsychological research goes, the Princeton work is of the highest scientific quality.

In the first category, subjects (called operators in the report) were asked to influence the pulses produced by a Random Event Generator (REG). The REG was actually an electronic noise source coupled with circuits that created random positive and negative pulses. The operator mentally tried to increase or decrease the number of counts, or generate baseline data for experiment control. After 33 different operators and over 250,000 trials, there appeared a small but statistically significant indication that the operators were actually able to influence the equipment. Also interesting is the fact that each operator had a private "signature"; that is, individual cumulative deviation graphs (like the one shown) had typical shapes for each operator.

Related experiments were carried out with a Random Mechanical Cascade (RMC). In this device 9,000 3/4-inch polystyrene spheres cascaded down through an array of 330 nylon pegs into 19 bins. According to chance a Gaussian distribution of spheres should be found in the bins. The operators were asked to mentally try and skew the distribution to the right or left, or construct a baseline, as with the REG. Once again, there was statistically significant evidence of a mental influence.

Jahn's group also engaged in remoteviewing experiments, in which subjective factors were suppressed as far as possible. An excerpt from the report's Abstract summarizes this phase of the work nicely:

"Quantitative analysis of a large data base of remote perception experiments reveals similar departures from chance expectation of the degree of target information acquired by anomalous means. Digital scoring techniques based on a spectrum of 30 binary descriptors, applied to all targets and perceptions in the experimental pool, consistently indicate acquisition of substantial topical and impressionistic information about remote geographical locations inaccessible by known sensory channels."

In some trials, the percipient was asked to describe the remote scene even before the location was selected or visited! (Jahn, R.C., et al; "Engineering Anomalies Research," Journal of Scientific Exploration, 1:21, 1987.)

Cumulative deviations from chance Cumulative deviations from chance for higher numbers of counts (PK+), lower numbers (PK-), and baseline (BL). The low probabilities obtained from more than 250,000 trials are very significant. Each operator had curves with distinctive shapes, or "signatures".

From Science Frontiers #56, MAR-APR 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987