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No. 139: Jan-Feb 2002

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And The Machines Wept For Man

Philosophers have always wondered if humans and life in general are really completely detached from the material world of non-life. Might there be unrecognized influences humans (and possibly other animals) exert knowingly or unknowingly upon inert matter? Many have been the experiments in which humans attempt to affect the swinging of a pendulum, the throws of dice, or the output of a random-number generator. The parapsychologists declare that, YES, humans can exert tiny but statistically significant influences on such devices.

But other scientists and the man-in-the-street would really like to see a robust physical effect, not just a bunch of statistics. An ambitious endeavor called the Global Consciousness Project just might be able to produce a more satisfying mind-over-matter effect.

This Project is conducted by a group of scientists who maintain a dispersed network of random-number generators (RNGs). A total of 38 RNG stations are presently "listening" for global perturbations in whatever medium carries the supposed human-to-matter influences.

The analogy to global weather and seismological stations is appropriate here.

On September 9, 2001, the Global Consciousness Project network of RNGs did indeed detect a sort of groaning in the consciousness of the planet's human cargo. The dispersed RNGs produced strings of numbers that were rather far from random, as indicated on the accompanying graph. For three days the RNGs defied probability, with stark non-randomness obvious at 10:12 AM Eastern Daylight Time on September 11. One can hypothesize that collective humanity recoiled at the TV images of the World Trade Center catastrophe.

Improbable outputs of a distributed network of RNGs around September 11, 2001.

But there are skeptical interpretations. For example, the sharp rise in global communications and radar activity might have somehow perturbed the RNGs. (Bishop, Bill; "Is It Global Consciousness or Mere Coincidence?" Austin American Statesman, October 23, 2001. Cr. D. Phelps.)

Comment. Recognizing Nature's frequent symmetry, might not material entities (e.g., RNGs) influence humans in some subtle ways?

From Science Frontiers #139, Jan-Feb 2002. 2001 William R. Corliss

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