Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Quantum observation experiment

The following paper has been accepted for publication in Explore. It will appear later this year.


Testing nonlocal observation as a source of intuitive knowledge

This study explored the hypothesis that in some cases intuitive knowledge arises from perceptions that are not mediated through the ordinary senses. The possibility of detecting such “nonlocal observation” was investigated in a pilot test based on the effects of observation on a quantum system.

Participants were asked to imagine that they could intuitively perceive a low intensity laser beam in a distant Michelson interferometer. If such observation were possible, it would theoretically perturb the photons’ quantum wave-functions and change the pattern of light produced by the interferometer. The optical apparatus was located inside a light-tight, double steel-walled shielded chamber. Participants sat quietly outside the chamber with eyes closed. The light patterns were recorded by a cooled CCD camera once per second, and average illumination levels of these images were compared in counterbalanced “mental blocking” vs. non-blocking conditions. Interference would produce a lower overall level of illumination, which was predicted to occur during the blocking condition.

Based on a series of planned experimental sessions, the outcome was in accordance with the prediction (z = -2.82, p = 0.002). This result was primarily due to nine sessions involving experienced meditators (combined z = -4.28, p = 9.4 × 10-6); the other nine sessions with non- meditators were not significant (combined z = 0.29, p = 0.61). The same experimental protocol run immediately after 15 of these test sessions, but with no one present, revealed no hardware or protocol artifacts that might have accounted for these results (combined control z = 1.50, p = 0.93). Conventional explanations for these results were considered and judged to be implausible. This pilot study suggests the presence of a nonlocal perturbation effect which is consistent with traditional concepts of intuition as a direct means of gaining knowledge about the world, and with the predicted effects of observation on a quantum system.

20 comments:

Dave Smith said...

Who were the meditators? Any particular kind of meditation?

Tor said...

This is great science Dean!

There should be enough experimental data now to show that our minds are deeply involved in the quantum realm.

On the theoretical side I've just finished reading through The Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer by Henry Stapp.

It's on his webpage in a draft version. I thought I'd read the introduction and wait for the hardcopy but ended up reading the whole thing. It'll end up in my book shelf when published.

I believe he is close to something real when it comes to the mind-body connection. He bases it all on physics, but is sure to point out that we are not talking about billiard ball(Newtonian) physics anymore, but quantum physics. And the true nature of quantum physics is psychophysical (as he convincingly explains why).
To quote Stapp himself:

both sides of the quantum duality are conceptually more like “ideas” than like “rocks”

Dean Radin said...

Dave Smith asked... Who were the meditators?

Among the most experienced I was fortunate to work with were Swami Veda Bharati (swamiveda.org), Zorigtbaatar Banzar (idol.on.mn), and Baba Harihar Ramji (sonomaashram.org).

I did not select specific types of meditative practice. I was more interested in the participant's mental stability, which is a predictable characteristic of long term meditators.

I am interested in studying whether some meditative practices may be better suited for this type of task than others. But that will have to wait for a future experiment.

Tor said...

Dean, how did the meditators themselves view this experiment? Did they predict beforehand that it would show an effect, and if so did they explain by which mechanism they believe it works?

Since some meditation schools don't preach a certain philosophy,but emphasize the need to practice to gain any real understanding of oneself and the universe at large, I'd expect the more exerienced to have some (at least) basic understanding of how the act of observation works.

On the other hand, if you ask such questions (especially if your a student of meditation), you often get an answer that is so cryptic that you have do the meditation yourself to figure out what it means.

Dave Smith said...

A sceptical argument I come across quite often is the claim that experiments have not found a way to enhance psi effects in any way, therefore the effects are most likely artifactual etc. This latest experiment provides good evidence against that argument.

I was wondering if someone could provide any references to psi experiments that found a similar difference between meditator and non-meditator groups?

Dean Radin said...

"How did the meditators themselves view this experiment?"

Most of the advanced meditators took it for granted that this experiment would work because they view the physical world as being composed of "mind stuff."

In the article describing this study I cite an earlier paper (by Honorton) that analyzed psi experiments comparing meditators with nonmeditators. The difference is strongly significant. That line of research has not been systematically followed up in recent years, I suspect due to the lack of active researchers in this domain.

Tor said...

Dean, do you know of plans to use experienced meditators (or people trained in similar techniques) in future psi experiments? I'm not just thinking about your work, but also that of others in the field.

Apart from your studies, the only recent work I've found that have used skilled subjects is the Achterberg et al "entangled minds" type study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in December 2005.

Since such studies seem to give more robust effects, I'd hope to see more of them.

David Bailey said...

Do I take it that you can't publish the complete paper here on the website while it is awaiting formal publication?

You said the measurements were made one per second. What percentage of these measurements were influenced by the meditators - I mean do they seem to be exerting their effect at frequent intervals?

Have you tried some sort of feedback to your meditators - it is awfully hard to learn to do something if you can't see the outcome. On second thoughts, perhaps this would disturb the meditation itself!

Dean Radin said...

> plans to use experienced meditators ... in future psi experiments?

I have plans for upcoming experiments, but I don't know if my colleagues do.

> Do I take it that you can't publish the complete paper here on the website while it is awaiting formal publication?

I won't even publish it here after it hits the press, because this journal doesn't allow free public access to all of its current articles. After the paper appears I will send a copy to anyone who privately requests one (I figure that honors the long-standing tradition of sending reprints to colleagues). I'd like to post all my articles online, as I'm as much a fan of free access of information as anyone, but journals have employees who need to eat too.

> What percentage of these measurements were influenced by the meditators - I mean do they seem to be exerting their effect at frequent intervals?

The protocol provided for counterbalanced periods of 30 seconds influence and 30 seconds control. One session lasted less than 15 minutes, about half of which was in the intentional influence condition. Sustaining highly focused intention during these short periods was easy for the meditators. Not so easy for non-meditators. Without practice in sustaining attention, focusing on practically anything (inside your head, i.e. not external stimulation) for 30 seconds is surprisingly difficult.

> Have you tried some sort of feedback to your meditators... On second thoughts, perhaps this would disturb the meditation itself!

The advanced meditators didn't need feedback. Indeed, they didn't want it for the reasons you mention. For the sake of uniformity, none of the participants were provided with feedback.

Remo said...

Dear Dean
I'm really interested in the article of your study "Quantum observation experiment". Could you please send me a copy of this article as soon as it is published.
Tank you very much.
Remo

Eric Teal said...

Anyone notice the inconsistencies?

As reported:

"Participants were asked to imagine that they could intuitively perceive a low intensity laser beam in a distant Michelson interferometer. If such observation were possible, it would theoretically perturb the photons’ quantum wave-functions and change the pattern of light produced by the interferometer. The optical apparatus was located inside a light-tight, double steel-walled shielded chamber. Participants sat quietly outside the chamber with eyes closed."
(Italics added)

Umm, sitting "outside the chamber" is "distant"?

Interesting definition of "distant"!

And more significantly:

"If such observation were possible, it would theoretically perturb the photons’ quantum wave-functions and change the pattern of light produced by the interferometer."

How would it do that? Quantum mechanics says that observation collapses the various possibilities to give just one outcome ("collapses the superposition to produce one actuality" in the jargon.)

Therefore ALL possible patterns of light are already INCLUDED in the pre-observation "superposition".

In fact, light at the quantum level consists not of either particles or waves but is both, at the same time. So strange as it may seem, if you mount a detector for particles you find particles; and if you mount a detector for particles you find particles.

This simple point is completely missed by the claim that the meditators might "perturb the photons’ quantum wave-functions" since it wrongly implies (assumes?) that photons only behave like "waves" regardless of the detector involved.

Likewise the term "observation" seems to have been taken over literally, as in "seen by a person with their eyes". In fact the term relates to any form of observation which collapses a superposition, even if it's by a CCD camera.

Either way, I submit that there is no evidence in this account, as it stands, that anything out-of-the-ordinary has occurred.

Dean Radin said...

Eric's reaction is probably due to both the length limitations of the abstract and because I was writing for non-physicists (and was thus advised to avoid physics jargon). I cannot post the entire paper here because of journal copyright restrictions, but I can attempt to clarify a few points.

First, distant in this case means isolated from all known means of interaction. In particular, this refers to perception not mediated through the ordinary senses.

Second, this study asked whether gaining which-path information from a distance (in the present context) would collapse the wave function similarly to how direct observation would produce such a collapse, whether by the eye or a camera.

The results showed that distant observation did affect the wavefunction, and in a way that is consistent with what one would expect if which-path information had been gained.

Atheistic Mystic said...

Dean I was just wondering how the replication is coming along?

Dean Radin said...

Good.

Atheistic Mystic said...

Dean I have some comments to pass along. Are they just nit-picking?

1. The interferometer was not mounted on a vibration isolation table, it was bolted to wood with a pice of rubber. Interferometes are very senstive to small pertebations in the optical path length.

2. The wavelength and power stability of the laser is not specifeid. Commercial intererometers will often use a feedback system to level power and wavelength of the laser. The use of narrowband red filter in front of the camera may be susceptible to short term drift in the laser. With a dark room the filter in front of the camera is more of noise source than anything else, noise being anything that adds uncertainty to the experiment.

3. The signal to noise ratio of the camera as it is set up to make the measuremenst is unknown.

4. The focal lengths of the laser coliimater and the camera lens is not specifed, or if a camera lens is not used the number of pixels coverd by the collimated laser beam needs to be specified.

5. The min/max power incident on the camera from full to blocked using an opaque object needs to be specified in conjunction with camera sensitvuty and signal to noise ratio.

6. As with the telphone telepathy paper, the procdure was changed during the experiments which to me makes the quality of the test suspect.

7. It looks like they used only one line of pixels on the camera, a fast optical power meter would give more believable results. There is n o descrition of what was read from the camera and any post processing.

8. Possible sources of error are expained away

http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=278956

Atheistic Mystic said...

Further, from that thread -

"I'd call this experment an ad-hoc test thrown together for an initial look-see at something.

If I were running the experiments and reached those conclusions the first thng I'd do is get a variety of techncial/scientific independemt obsevers to look at the set up and witness the test.

I would have had an independent electrical and optical engineer dervive a sensitivity and signal/noise ratio analysis followed by a verifictaion process. Using inteferograms was rejeced and I have to wonder if they did so because it provided a null result.

And finaly as with the telephone telepathy paper it is all too neat. When all o the data is not shown and mostly just a conclusion I am always suspicous.

This exeriment is of a kind Id throw togtether in a lab when there is no need to present it for any review.

I'd repeat the expeiment usiing a commercial interferometer such as a Zygo. Photomultiplier tubes may be more sensitive for this experiment as a sensor.

Overall, not ready for prime time. If they did a repeat I'd go to several universities and have the tests and set up reviewed along with witnessing the tests.

In past years when I've run tests and it went as I wanted, the first thing I'd do is get a witness to sign my notebook.

I expect all those references you suggest we skeptics read are on the order of the two papers you provided. I am not suggesting you stop believing, but it is still not science.

Considering people in academia are always looking for new ideas, if there was anything to it experimentaly , people would be jumping on grant proposals."

Dean is this guy full of it or does he have something constructive to say?

Dean Radin said...

The comments are not unreasonable. But it's not as though I'm unaware of the issues raised. The paper describes the study as a pilot test, and I discussed some of the changes needed to tighten future studies.

I am following up with a much more stable system based on a double slit design. That study is in progress and is scheduled to continue for another year or two.

I value thoughtful critiques because they help to sharpen future work. However, for controversial topics one or two papers will not (and should not) convince anyone of anything. So I publish my experiments not with an expectation of persuading skeptics (that is so close to impossible that it's a waste of time), but to archive results obtained so far.

Isaac said...

I just read your paper. Oh. My. God. That's all I can say. How are the replication efforts going as of now?

Preverb said...

As this post has not been updated confirming replication of the results, does this mean replication has failed so far?

I am not a debunker by the way, but I am mulling a proto-theory for physics of psi effects which implies that psi effects should work less well on inanimate objects than between organisms and effects on inanimate objects should depend on the subject having access to feedback of the effect (although this feedback might be effective even if delivered after the experiment is finished).

Dean Radin said...

The double slit replication is working, and is still under way. I presented initial results at a conference last year. I do not expect to publish anything on the full study for at least another year.