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Random Number Generator That Sees Into the Future 1216

Posted by Zonk
from the could-be-hooey dept.
hackajar writes "Red Nova news has an interesting article about a random number generating black box that may be able to see into the future. From the article: "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"."
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Random Number Generator That Sees Into the Future

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  • by DJ Haruko (798333) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:46AM (#11657103) Homepage
    If it can sense future events, that would make it less random, right? To me, that almost sounds like pre-determined events (how far into the future this pre-determination is good for, you decide), so it really isn't "random".
  • Farked (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:47AM (#11657111)
    I like the new Slashdot that picks up stories off of Fark.
  • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:47AM (#11657112) Journal
    /. needs a "trivially debunked hogwash" category. This belongs with the "battery stickers" story from a few weeks ago.

    -jcr
  • _ right..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RootsLINUX (854452) <rootslinux@nOspam.gmail.com> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:50AM (#11657129) Homepage
    This just seems ridiculous. A normal random number generator predicting the future? Maybe Jesus was reborn into the form of a microprocessor. (Holy crap, that would be friggin' awesome!!!)

    Seriously though, every single day somewhere something "amazing" happens and I don't see the black box picking up that. What about the day George Bush was re-elected? Or the day Saddam Hussein was found? Or the day I finally figured out how to make good macaroni and cheese? I think these scientists are just over-excited about an odd coincidence. So the numbers shot up a few hours before the events happen. What if they shot up a few days before? A few months before? Would they still make these claims? No, I see nothing interesting in this article no matter how hard I look. Maybe someone can convince me otherwise.
  • don't give your editor password to crazy Uncle Larry who spent all last Christmas and Thanksgiving trying to sell family members stock in an Atlantis expeditionary company and lost all of his retirement funds to the parents of a nine year old girl whom they claimed could pick winning stocks with the powers of ESP
  • Re:I predict! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:54AM (#11657157)
    I predict you'll soon get modded down as overrated... :)
  • by mtrisk (770081) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:54AM (#11657158) Journal
    I also thought slashdot was fooled again, or at least this was a humor article.

    It's not.

    Red Nova appears to be a valid news site, and the Princeton University link at the bottom is the real thing, describing just what the article talked about.

    You know, we all like to laugh at so called "psychic phenomena" or pseudoscience. I know, I do it too. But this is rather stunning...it's a Princeton University project, run by a group of scientists who respect the scientific method, who are trying to do their best at sounding humble while making extraordinary claims. The only question is if they actually have the data to back it up (some graphs would be nice).

    Progress in science means shattering accepted theories. If this is what it seems to be, then the possibility of a scientific revolution, at the very least a whole new field of science, seems to be at hand.
  • Lovely (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:56AM (#11657172)
    So they have these big curves on days with major events... do they have the curves on days without major events? Are there many days without major events? Come on people, I've heard more stringent scientific methods applied on the Art Bell show than this article. Doesn't even say how the stupid random number generators work, for all we know flipping the light on in the room where the subjects are screws them up. Maybe they measure traffic at cnn.com (or ham radios back in the 70's and 80's).

    And this right after the article where it's okay if you try to allocate memory at address -8134957, because a little uncertainty can be good.

    Is Zonk taking his name too literally? Is this now "News for like... you know, dudes... and wow, look at the pretty colors... I can see relativity man..."
  • by reporter (666905) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:57AM (#11657173) Homepage
    Claims like black boxes predicting the future are the perfect candidates for debunking by The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal [csicop.org] (CSICOP). CSICOP has been instrumental in fighting quacks like Benny Hinn and in standing up to creationists.

    Join me in sending an e-mail to CSICOP and requesting that it investigate this supposed black box predicting the future.

    Believing in superstitious quackery like this black box has serious ramifications. If enough people believed in this nonsense, then we would end up in setting national policy based on this block box. How would you like the USA to be guided by witches and warlocks?

  • by Wavicle (181176) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:57AM (#11657174)
    Here let me do some debunking for you:

    A series of bernoulli events with probability of success 0.5 will FREQUENTLY be on either the positive or negative side of "even". Unusual "spikes" are EXPECTED to happen.

    Now comes the phenomenon of "selective inclusion". If no spike happens and a major world event occurs, nobody notices. If a spike happens a major world event occurs, suddenly this is "proof".

    Now comes the phenomenon of "distortion of temporal significance". If a spike happens an hour before a major world event, it's noted as having been predicted. If a spike happens four hours before a major world event, it's noted. If a spike happens a day before an event, it's noted with the same significance.

    So what's the expected frequency of "spikes" and what's the frequency of "major world events", and how long before an event is a "spike" considered significant?

    Add it all up and you'll find that just by chance, this machine is EXPECTED to have major spikes before world events.
  • by patniemeyer (444913) * <pat@pat.net> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:02AM (#11657199) Homepage
    A Princeton professor doesn't need a million dollars?

    Really smart people have been fooled before by turning the scientific method on its head and looking for causes that fit selected outcomes... Unless you can make a prediction before something happens you really don't have much to talk about.

    Pat
  • by PornMaster (749461) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:03AM (#11657209) Homepage
    Well, if it predicted events, it would tend towards being proof that nothing is really random, that everything in the universe is interconnected in some ways, and that this box is just "tuned" in such a way to pick these things up.

    Personally, I think it's a bunch of hooey.

    Something like activity right before a tsunami could possibly be explained by something we don't understand, but which is a viable scientifically-provable process like some kind of microtremors in the planet's crust or something of that sort.

    "Knowing" that 19 guys are going to hijack planes, however, isn't really something that should make "random" number generators generate sequences any differently.
  • by kenthorvath (225950) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:03AM (#11657211)
    It's funny that the correlation between the machine reading a certain state at time t and some major world event at t* where t* is greater than t is perceived as the event at t* causing the machine state at t, rather than the other way around. Correlation does not indicate causation, and in this case, it would appear more likely that the machine could somehow cause major events, though how that could occur, I have no idea, but it still seems infinitely more plausible than a case of genuine backwards causation, which is what everyone else seems to think is the case.
  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:09AM (#11657264) Journal
    "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. "

    Just because something sounds crazy, doesn't mean it is. People from 100 years ago, if told about MRIs, CAT scans, GeoSyncSats, GPS, Sat Phones, Computers, the Internet, and Microwave ovens would say you are crazy and such things would never be possible.

    Perhaps the article should be read before people spend a whole 5 minutes trying to prove it to be a fraud.
  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:11AM (#11657270) Homepage
    How would you like the USA to be guided by witches and warlocks?

    Was that supposed to be a hypothetical?

    -
  • by Baldur_of_Asgard (854321) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:12AM (#11657279)
    The USA guided by witches and warlocks at least wouldn't be much worse.

    Baldur
  • I doubt they'll be collecting it.

    Randi has a million dollar reason to debunk anyone who claims to have prescient abilities. Tell me again what makes him an honest source?

  • by stuffisgood (666330) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:17AM (#11657309)
    Well to be honest, it'd probably be better than the current administration...
  • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:23AM (#11657330) Homepage Journal
    Believing in superstitious quackery like this black box has serious ramifications.

    Perhaps you've heard of the scientific method?

    It sounds like quakery, but so did flight and travel to the moon 150 years ago.

    The appropriate stance is "I'll believe it when they prove it", not "that can't be true." Rabid atheism is no more scientific than wicca.
  • by Maestro4k (707634) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:24AM (#11657333) Journal
    "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."

    No, the laws of chance do not say any such thing. In fact, the laws of chance say exactly the opposite. If you have two choices chosen at random over a series (a 1 and a 0; or heads and tails on a coin), there is a high probability that one of the choices will be chosen a significantly higher number of times than the other. Over time, the percentage disparity will decrease to near zero, but the total numerical disparity is likely to increase.

    • Except that statistics does show that over enough time the series will converge into equal numbers. It may take a million times, or ten million, but eventually you'll end up with almost exactly equal number of ones and zeros.
    • That aside, you didn't read far enough, shame on you for commenting without reading the whole article. Apparently the REGs (also called EGGs) do produce straight lines normally, or nearly straight lines. They've seen it deviate only in controlled experiments (repeatedly), and before major world events (again repeatedly). We're also not talking just one REG here, the project curently has dozens of them located worldwide, and they are seeing these spikes occur before major events in tandem -- on every device.

      Besides all the scientists they spoke to in the article all said basically the same thing -- they couldn't believe it when they saw these things occur, and kept repeating the experiments and getting the same results, over and over and over. It's more than just the REG boxes, it talks about studies that have examined the brain's responses of people shown a sequence of provacative cartoons, and they'll start seeing the brain react the same before the cartoon's ever shown to them. Again, they repeated the experiments multiple times, with different people, same results.

      The article also points out a true oddity, nothing in the laws of physics say it's impossible to predict the future. In fact time may not be a constant, studies have shown it can flow backwards as well as forwards. So all this could be a weird sort of subconscious tapping into that, we're remembering things that haven't happened yet. Since we understand almost nothing about the brain (in terms of how it does what it does, we're not even sure _where_ or _how_ it really stores memories) I don't see this as anything that's impossible. Frankly it may be happening, we don't know enough yet to know either way what's really going on.

      But if we don't read the full article and write things off by a few paragraphs, I can guarantee you we'll never know. You know this has happened multiple times in history, how many people thought it was impossible to make an airplane to fly in they sky? How many people thought the earth was the center of the universe? If we're unwilling to read, listen and be open minded about things one day we will end up proved wrong and made to look stupid in the process. Frankly I'm willing to give this the benefit of the doubt, since I read the whole article I can tell they're being very careful to say that they don't know what's causing this, only that something is happening. They also said it's not terribly useful for predictions as it is, they can tell you something will happen when they see these spikes, but they don't know what, when or where.

  • by Starji (578920) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:24AM (#11657336)
    Consider for a moment that there exists a god. He (she or it, whatever) is basically our caretaker, maybe even our creator. Here's the deal though, nobody really knows anything about him, and I'd wager to say anyone who thinks they know anything is pretty fscking arrogant. What if (yes, this is just a theory), god doesn't really have great influential power in the universe (i.e. can't make the moon fall out of the sky in one night, or hurl the earth at the sun, etc), but can only subtly manipulate it through chaotic interactions. If this were true, wouldn't that mean patterns in chaos could very well be the face of god? It might even make fortune telling by random chance (tarot, rune casting, coin flipping, etc) legitimate. Assuming it were true and provable to be true, really it's just an interesting idea. Something like this story though, assuming it's true, makes it a bit more plausible.

    One thing that would be interesting to see is if location affects these Eggs. The article mentioned the Eggs notice global events. I wonder if you put an Egg in a small town whether or not it would detect something like a murder or a natural disaster local to the town. Might be something for these guys to try.
  • Re:bullshit... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by MrP- (45616) <rob@elCOBOLitemrp.net minus language> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:29AM (#11657360) Homepage
    ye swhat an isngjuhtuk; amd informative reposnse that was

    dumbasses

    if that was indsyightful/interestying then this drunkn posat must be Score +1000 ,Genius
  • by patniemeyer (444913) * <pat@pat.net> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:37AM (#11657407) Homepage
    The article mentions things that they claim have been reproduced... Specifically, having people "think about" and influence the outcome of the random number generators. That's something you could test... Do a double blind experiment.

    Pat
  • by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:38AM (#11657413)
    My god! They have a link at the bottom of the article that says HREF="http://www.princeton.edu">! It must be real!

    Ok, they DO have a legitimate page at princeton, but it doesn't say what the article claims it does.

  • by null etc. (524767) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:42AM (#11657427)
    Because it's pseudo-science that's trying to be serious. Which can be a dangerous thing, although probably isn't in this case.

    Red Nova usually has good articles, but every once in awhile, one shows up that belies evidence of lack of scientific rigour. This is the case here.

    An example (from the article:)

    It was a preposterous idea at the time. The results, however, were stunning and have never been satisfactorily explained.

    This sentence is prejudicial because it biases the results as being "stunning", without describing who finds the results stunning.

    "Never satisfactorily explained" also presumes that someone finds it worthy of needing explanation.

    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'.

    "Proved"? Pretty strong words with no supporting detail. Once I read sentences like this, I discount an article as being scientifically unfounded.

    In response to the parent post:

    No, the laws of chance do not say any such thing. In fact, the laws of chance say exactly the opposite.

    I believe you're misinterpreting the laws of chance.

    If you have two choices chosen at random over a series (a 1 and a 0; or heads and tails on a coin), there is a high probability that one of the choices will be chosen a significantly higher number of times than the other.

    Significant as a percentage? Unlikely.

    Over time, the percentage disparity will decrease to near zero, but the total numerical disparity is likely to increase.

    This is a trivial statement. If n flips has m total disparities, n+x flips will have between m and m+x disparities. It is therefore impossible for the total number of disparities to decrease, and almost guaranteed that it will increase.

    The only significant measure of disparity is that of percentile disparity. And if you measure percentile disparity on a scale equivalent to the number of events being measured, it will in fact appear to be a nearly flat line on the graph.

    The thing that bothers me about this "experiment" is that it presumes to assert that people can control a machine that generates random events, without describing the algorithm by which those random events are produced. Trying to simulate true randomness (indeed, what is random?) is a huge topic within math, statistics, and computer science; yet, it's not mentioned once within the article.

  • by Wavicle (181176) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:44AM (#11657435)
    I think this entry from their FAQ pretty well sums up the response to that entry in their FAQ:

    The September 11 graphs suggest a precursor effect, as has been seen in a few prior cases. Could this be used as a warning?

    The best guess is we cannot use the EGG data for such practical applications. One major reason is the statistical nature of our measures. Nobody has yet come up with anything more direct, and this means that there will be, by definition, both false positives and negatives. Moreover, the effect size is so tiny that we almost always require repeated measures, or measures over a long time to detect any anomalies. To see precursors we have to look back across that time from a post facto perspective. Unique point events have little chance of being seen, at least by our current methods.


    In other words, they look at the data after something has happened searching for a "spike" that will almost certainly be there.
  • WEAK CORRELATION (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:52AM (#11657465) Journal
    Classic case of weak correlation.

    Worse, the correlation suggests the causation post-facto. Nobody even guesses there will be a correlation until there's an effect. And if there's no effect, nobody discounts the box's output.

    Sad. Innumerate. Stupid.
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:52AM (#11657473)
    The only question is if they actually have the data to back it up (some graphs would be nice).

    I would like detailed instructions on how to construct a stream of random numbers with behaviors that correlate to outside events as they describe, so that I can repeat their experiments myself and see if I can reproduce the same effect. Tabletop reproduction isn't always possible in science (e.g. historical sciences like archaeology, paleontology, cosmology- remember that, you creationists) but in this case reproduction of results should be easy. (If this were real.)
    At the very least I want to know how to generate a stream of random numbers that reproduces this effect, how to recognize a prediction when it arrives in the stream, and how to assign a P-value for associations between random stream events and real world events. Unless we move past the sort of ex post facto "predictions" of past events, there is nothing new here. It looks like a repetition of work already done by Nostradamus.
  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:54AM (#11657485) Journal
    Try reading the papers of the people running the damn research program. They do have several websites on it.

    You are passing judgement on their work only on the basis of a PopSCI level article written for a 9th grade audiance.

    Most, if not all, of your issues are addresed on the project sites.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:56AM (#11657496) Journal
    Because this story is about on par with what I'd expect to see on the cover of that rag when I'm waiting in line at the supermarket.
  • by yasth (203461) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:05AM (#11657530) Homepage Journal
    Whenever something mentions Diana as something that could be predicted as an event of the same importance as 9/11 I sort of tune out.

    It is I think a paranormal defense mechanism employed to prevent bloodshed.
  • by msaulters (130992) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:10AM (#11657546) Homepage
    Perhaps you've never heard of quantum mechanics? I believe it was Einstein who coined the phrase 'spooky action at a distance' to describe quantum entanglement of particles.

    Someone should seriously consider modding your post as flamebait. It's a FAR stretch from investigating a non-trivial co-incidence of recorded data and historic events to make the jump to witches and warlocks running the US (though they might do a better job than the current High Priest of Crawford)

    While organizations like CSICOP can be valuable in verifying or debunking claims that seem unbelievable, it seems foolish (if one has RTFA) to insist right off that it is superstitious quackery fit for debunking.

    A true scientist would remain open the possibility until it is proven or disproven. That is what we call a 'theory'. By insistently persecuting anything we don't yet understand, one lowers oneself to the level of certain residents of 17th Century Salem.
  • by michaelggreer (612022) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:16AM (#11657570)

    Well, one could argue that Occam's razor favors atheism, since it favors the fewest suppositions. Postulating God to explain complex events inserts an equally complex entity into the explanation. So, the argument goes, the scientific view would favor atheism. This reasoning would not favor Wiccan beliefs.

  • Re:Uh huh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pyite (140350) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:19AM (#11657585)
    They don't have a theory as to this can happen, but let's ignore that.

    It's really sad how people can ignore the roots of science. To use a simple example, man KNEW about gravity before he had a theory about how it works. That's how science operates. You draw conclusions based on experimental results.

    I'm not sure what causes people to be so immediately defensive. Maybe it's fright that everything people think they know could be turned upside down. I'm reminded of a wonderful quote from Donald Knuth that kind of encapsulates this whole discussion: "The fact is that everything we learn reveals more things that we do not understand."
  • Re:Moronic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pyite (140350) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:26AM (#11657615)
    Princeton is a country club. Apologies to their graduate math program... but come ON.

    I may not like Princeton [scarletknights.com], but I respect them.

    If a random number generator is not behaving perfectly randomly, it isn't a random number generator, now is it?

    And what is causing this decided non-randomness? Hmm? That's the question here. They're looking for an answer. It's called science. Just because it sounds strange doesn't mean it's wrong. Don't think I'm saying the inverse of that either, that just because it sounds strange, it's right. I'm not. I'm merely saying give respected and credible researchers credit for trying to explain this behavior in a scientific manner.
  • by clymere (605769) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:27AM (#11657617) Homepage
    what does this prove, other than that they just didn't build a very good random number generator?
  • by yasth (203461) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:30AM (#11657630) Homepage Journal
    Except they shouldn't be straight lines at all. They should take random directions all the time. Sometimes even very big ones. A flat line is one of the least random things produced in the world. If GC existed according to how REGs worked, atomic clocks would randomly lose percision around major events.

    I mean a scientist is quoted as saying "Our data shows clearly that the chances of getting these results by fluke are one million to one against." I would actually place the chance much much lower, I mean a million to one is nothing really. The odds of 30 coin flips in any order is a million to one. The real problem is prediction. The question is whether the model can predict into the future what events will cause blips and the magnitude of the event.
  • by lgftsa (617184) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:36AM (#11657654)
    At the very least I want to know how to generate a stream of random numbers that reproduces this effect

    Any stream of random numbers will work. If a *special* stream is required, then it's not random...
  • by Viking Coder (102287) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:00AM (#11657724)
    Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

    No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary.

    A few people are doing some junk science...

    Or global human consciousness is affecting random number generators in a measurable way, before events actually occur.

    You tell me.

    The grand-parent is correct - chosing to believe in quakery has serious ramifications. I will doubt it, until it is plain to my face. Why do you believe it, before it has been shown to your face?

    And actually the first hot air balloon was launched in 1783. And Johannes Kepler's Somnium was written in 1634.

    It's good to dream. It's bad to wear the mantle of science and tell people that delusions are real. (epitome of bad: What the #$*! Do We Know!? (2004))

    I'm embarrassed for Princeton, getting involved in this junk.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:03AM (#11657735)
    *shrug* she helped a lot of people all over the world and september 11 2001 affected many people, to me both events are just news neither affected my life at all. it's all just a matter of perspective.
  • by jmv (93421) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:07AM (#11657751) Homepage
    Actually, you forgot the possibility that an event at time t-T caused both the event at time t and the prediction at time t*. Not that I really believe in that anyway...
  • I'll wait for the inevitable analysis, and most likely, debunking of this to pass final judgement, but this has the smell of a deliberate hoax, possibly perpetrated as part of a psychological study or by some sort of sketpical group to study the persistence of popular myths.

    Two things that give it a bad smell: the mention of Diana (psychics love bringing up predictions about Diana; if James Randi were to stage this, he'd throw that in as a joke,) and the post hoc ergo prompter hoc nature of the 'predictions.' Note that the prediction concerning Diana was about her funeral, not her death, though the immediate reaction to her death would have been much stronger than the reaction to the funeral. All researchers into the paranormal claim to be able to control for this sort of second guessing. If this projects interpretations stand up to scrutiny, it will be the first time for a project of this nature.

    The other oddity is that probability does not say that the ones and zeroes will even out over a period of time, but that they will tend to even out over time. There will, however, be periods where this averaging will not occur, with no other explanation necessary beyond pure random chance. Given enough time, even the most improbable thing will happen. Low probability is not zero probability. I suspect that if this is not a deliberate hoax, it is a mathematical error motivated by wishful thinking.
  • by bitingduck (810730) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:23AM (#11657830) Homepage
    Just because something sounds crazy, doesn't mean it is. People from 100 years ago, if told about MRIs, CAT scans, GeoSyncSats, GPS, Sat Phones, Computers, the Internet, and Microwave ovens would say you are crazy and such things would never be possible.

    Nobody plopped an MRI machine into a barber shop 100 years ago and said it would give a picture of your insides. X-rays did exist 100 years ago, were subjected to some high quality scientific inquiry and rapidly yielded their secrets (and some Nobel prizes). The same for those other devices - none of them came into existence before the physical principles they're based on were understood-- they're all products of engineering (application of known principles to produce something of use) and were developed well after the physical principles they depend on were discovered and explained.

    I spend/have spent a fair bit of time surfing the crackpot line (that's where the fun is) and I'm pretty skeptical of this one. Sure, it deserves a good poking with a sharp stick (the foundation of good experimental science), but I doubt this will stand up to it.
  • by RWerp (798951) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:35AM (#11657885)
    I'd like to see how many "special" sequences they had which were NOT followed by an event they deemed special.
  • by Tyrell Hawthorne (13562) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:55AM (#11657960) Homepage
    How would you like the USA to be guided by witches and warlocks?

    Ronald Reagan consulted with his astrologer before making any important decisions. Your current president believes he has been sent by God. The president isn't the whole country, but he is quite important. I feel really sorry for you guys.
  • by cowbutt (21077) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:56AM (#11657964) Journal
    For reasons connected with my personal beliefs, I would really like this to be a genuine phenomenon.

    But, like you, I think it's hooey too.

    If they want to convince me, then they need to start making concrete predictions (e.g. "there will be an earthquake at X on hh:mm dd:mn:yy"). They also need to start coming up with falsifiable hypotheses to explain the devices' behaviour and start testing those hypotheses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:57AM (#11657966)
    I think the name of the "Global Consiousness Project" says it all.

    These guys are full obviously full of shit. It's not called the "Random Number Generator Observation Project". They've already assumed that a "global conciousness" is responsible for the unusual behaviour.

    A real scientist wouldn't jump to that kind of conclusion, but consider other possibilities, like disruptions in the fabric of time, or aliens.
  • by j_w_d (114171) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:07AM (#11658002)
    No, the laws of chance do not say any such thing. In fact, the laws of chance say exactly the opposite. If you have two choices chosen at random over a series (a 1 and a 0; or heads and tails on a coin), there is a high probability that one of the choices will be chosen a significantly higher number of times than the other. Over time, the percentage disparity will decrease to near zero, but the total numerical disparity is likely to increase.

    The article may very well be about pseudo-science. However trying to counter it with pseudo-reasoning and confusing distinct, well-defined statistical properties doesn't advance the cause of science. In fact it looks not only bad but desperate.

    My professor in statisitics would probably have pitched an eraser at you for suggesting what amounts to an oxymoronic "high probability of the improbable." If the probability is 1:1,000,000, then in one million experiments there is a finite probability (1:1,000,000) that you may see the event once, and a lesser finite probability you would see it more than once. If something improbable turns up "significantly" as you phrase it then you check to see if the dice are honest.

    In fact, the mean value of a normally distributed series of random numbers should trend toward a constant value. In the case of runs of 0s and 1s, it should trend toward 0.5 and approximate it more closely as the experiment runs.

    The variance should tend to increase as less probable values fill the wings of the bell curve. The longer the series of random values the more nearly normal that trend should be and the greater the potential variance may be, since with a longer experiment you can actually acquire less probable runs that simply could not occur earlier. For instance you need to toss a coin a minimum of 20 times to have even the possibility of achieving 1:1,000,000 odds (1:1048576, actually 2^20). You would need to toss a good many more times than that before you could legitmately begin to worry of a 1:1,000,000 occurence did not show up.

    That's how Los Vegas makes a living. The rubes always hope that the improbable will kiss them on the neck. In fact nothing you say actually contradicts the quote you are trying to criticize. They are discussing the mean results while you are talking about the variance.

    The simplest explanation for their "correlation" is simply coincidence of highly improbable runs temporarily skewed the data. Remember that the experiment has been running for years so some really improbable runs are possible. They need a lot more disasters before they can actually test an argument based on a statistical improbability.

  • by nathanh (1214) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:15AM (#11658033) Homepage
    The use of Occam's razor in scientific analysis is based on the completely unwarranted assumption that the universe should behave simply. And, partly, because it is simply more pragmatic to not have to deal with arbitrarily many redundant theories explaining the same thing.

    Well, no. Occam's razor does not assume that the universe behaves simply.

    Occam's razor states that you should not needlessly multiply entities. What does this mean? It means if you have a theory that "things move when you hit them", and you have another theory that needlessly states "things moves when you hit them and the moon is waning", and both theories are supported by experimental evidence, then you should throw away the needlessly complex version involving the moon. The extra complexity adds nothing to the value of the theory.

    You cannot use Occam's razor to dismiss a complex theory. There is no assumption by Occam that complex theories are wrong, or that simpler theories are right. That's not what it means and anybody who attempts to use it that way is simply wrong.

  • Huh??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Selanit (192811) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:18AM (#11658043)
    Does anyone else find it surreal that Pat Niemeyer (Slashdot ID #444913) posted the original note in this thread, then disagreed with his own post in another post, and got modded up for it both times??

    ~.^
  • Atoms (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BlackHawk-666 (560896) <ivan.hawkes@gmail.com> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:41AM (#11658104) Homepage
    I used to believe in the indivisability of atoms, until some smart bugger split them. People used to think flight was impossible, the world was flat, that the sun rotated around the world, that there is an ether, and all sorts of other stuff that has simply been shown to be wrong. Even stuff that everyone takes for granted now is only theoretical e.g. the theory of relativity is exactly that, a theory! Now, even with quarks, quantum physics and all sorts of other strange phenomena that was previously thought to be bunk or not thought of at all we still get some people trotting out the old idea that science knows all and is infallible.

    All we need to see if this experiment is valid is the experimental data and that can be checked against various statistical methods (like chi-squared maybe) and correlated against the mangitude of the event. Perhaps even geographical factors come into play. If it's science, it can be proven with science - and there's no real reason to believe it isn't science just because our present understanding is so limited.

  • by rmdyer (267137) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:46AM (#11658118)
    "It sounds like quakery, but so did flight and travel to the moon 150 years ago."

    I can always tell we've not evolved as a species and are still thinking at the baboon level when I hear comments like this.

    Flight was not regarded as quakery by those who understood some simple science. It was regarded as quakery by the lay person who doesn't understand much of anything. It was obvious that if birds could fly then there must have been some method by which we could construct a machine to also do so. Birds don't fly by some strange unseen spiritual energy that we'll never figure out. No, flight was merely an engineering problem as are most all other things that science has "figured out". In the real world, if you can solve it, using logic and deductive reasoning, then you can do it. It will take work, in the form of many hours of labor and thought, something the common idiot seems not inclined to do, but can lead us places that we've never been before. It still amazes me to this day that many pseudo science freaks don't understand what energy is. They speak of this thing or that thing as having energy but are completely oblivious to the fact that energy is a "difference" between to opposites. They can't seem to name what those opposites are when they say something like "she seems to have much spiritual energy". You might as well say the sky is blue.

    Going to the moon was also an engineering problem. There were material solutions to every problem encountered on our quest to fulfill that dream. If you understand how things work, then that knowledge is "enabling". The knowledge allows you to progress into the future. It gives you wings to fly with. Ordinary folk don't get it, so they continue to "believe" in fairy tails and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. To be constructive you must do work. You must work to generate order, be constructive, in the face of entropy, the disorder that flows and pushes you down stream. Don't let the stream carry you. It is harder to create, than it is to destroy, or go with the flow. Being lazy is a sign of the devil so to speak. Belief is lazyness because you aren't using your mind to figure things out, you are just accepting something that someone has told you is true. Only you can decide whether things are true or not based on your own experiences.
    Be skeptical when people tell you things that you haven't a clue about. Go to school. Read science and engineering books.

    Honestly, the line that spoke volumes to me was the line that Carl Sagan used in Cosmos... "We... accept the products of science, but reject its methods". If we could just make people who believe in crap live in the old world without science for a few years, I'm sure they would change their tune. Alas, hypocrisy is rampant these days. I'm sure I'll die before our species grows beyond such thinking.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:52AM (#11658136)
    But they are top Western tourist destinations.

    As opposed to say, the earthquakes in Iran which killed tens of thousands... I guess that didn't really matter because nobody from the West goes there anyway.

    (Seriously - look at the difference in coverage between most disasters worldwide, and compare how important they are to the West in terms of trade, tourism or location... not really surprising, but disappointing all the same).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:56AM (#11658149)
    But, although commonly misstated, it is a useful postulate of logic which forms the basis of the reductionist principles of science.

    I really don't understand your objection.
  • Re:Atoms (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @06:07AM (#11658179)
    As interesting as this all is, realworld events are not typically enumerable. There are many people in the world for whom 9-11 holds little to no significance, and the tsunami did not affect. Likewise, there are many other events that don't impact the western world that never the less have a large impact elsewhere. Finally, if the numbers correlate to ANYTHING they aren't random.
  • by karstux (681641) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @06:08AM (#11658182) Homepage
    From http://www.princeton.edu/~rdnelson/:
    The PEAR program has used three generations of random event generators, with different primary sources of white noise, but important common features of design. The original "benchmark" experiment used a commercial random source developed by Elgenco, Inc., the core of which is proprietary. Elgenco's engineering staff describe the proprietary module as "solid state junctions with precision pre-amplifiers," implying processes that rely on quantum tunneling to produce an unpredictable, broad-spectrum white noise in the form of low-amplitude voltage fluctuations. The PEAR Portable REG uses Johnson noise in resistors, which is so-called "thermal noise" and is also a quantum level phenomenon that produces a well-behaved broad-spectrum fluctuation. The PEAR Micro-REG uses a field effect transistor (FET) for the primary noise source, again relying on quantum tunneling, and providing completely uncorrelated fundamental events that compound to an unpredictable voltage fluctuation.
    At least it doesn't sound like a pseudo-random generator.
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @06:15AM (#11658202)


    > In other words, they look at the data after something has happened searching for a "spike" that will almost certainly be there.

    To give an illustration of one aspect of the problem you mention:

    At the EGG Story page [princeton.edu], scroll down and look at the plots labeled "Cumulative Deviation (Random Walk)", "New Years, 1998", "Pope in Holy Land". In these plots the smooth curve represents the 95% confidence bound on how far the deviation can be expected to go by pure chance. (I'm assuming their calculations are correct.)

    Notice that in all cases the curve and the data plot both start at t=0, y=0, which I will call the "zero point" for the plot. Now consider the effect of the specific choice of t=0. Look at the first plot mentioned above, the "Cumulative Deviation (Random Walk)" plot, and notice that the data drops down to y=0 just a bit before t=300. Suppose you scrolled the data leftward until your zero point was at that point just before t=300; I pick this point because it has the same y as the original zero point, so nothing changes on the y axis: the boundary curve doesn't change at all, but the data is shifted leftward.

    Hey! This random walk now has a sudden upward trend at t=0 (formerly t=~300), and the deviation rides above the boundary line for about 100 time steps. But wait - there's more! We can do the same think if we pick the plot's original t=700 or so, though with a slightly less impressive jump above the boundary line. Or we can get a really nice peak if we move our zero point to t=600 or so, and re-zero the data on the y axis so that the new zero point has x=0, y=0.

    I can create three "significant" indicators in their example 10-minute random walk simply by cherry-picking the starting point.

    How many do you think I could create if I had a free rein to pick anwhere in the previous four days of data?
    The "significance" of the result critically depends on where you put your t=0 in the data stream. So go back and look at the other two plots, for the papal visit and the New Year's celebration. What if you used t=3 for your zero point on the New Year's analysis?

    Re the papal visit, you might think the Pope's schedule [ewtn.com] pins down the time of interest so that we don't have any option on where to place the zero point. Well, be that as it may, whoever generated the plot did cherrypick the zero point. The schedule linked right above shows that it was actually a seven day trip; they didn't count the day the Pope left Italy and started his visit to Jordan. But what would the plot look like if they had started 24 hours earlier? (Not a rhetorical question: we don't have the data.) What's the "right" time to pick for this plot's zero point? When the Pope left Italy? When he arrived in Jordan? When he arrived in Israel? When the media coverage ramped up? Should it start a a particular how of the day? What time zone?

    This is data cherrypicking of the crassest sort. The 75 scientists should be ashamed of themselves.

  • by jbischof (139557) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @06:19AM (#11658210) Journal
    Atheism *is* more scientific than wicca. If there is no evidence of X then we assume X doesn't exist until evidence proves us otherwise.

    That is, unless you think a giant Mr. Potato Head constantly floating just out of sight, is a valid scientific belief.

    Our knowledge should be based on what we can repeatedly experience.
  • Re:4-1-2005 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @06:42AM (#11658257)

    > I must be getting old or something...

    Actually, you must be getting American, 'cause for my part, I read your date as meaning ``4 January 2005''...

  • by Berzelius (558040) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:10AM (#11658322)
    > "Of course RF activity changes during 'significant > world events'."

    You suggest that RF waves change after the event has happened. The story claims that RF waves change even before the event has happened. Which is a different story.
  • Random Numbers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NPN_Transistor (844657) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:14AM (#11658335)
    "Random Number Generator". That is a very dubious statement. You see, computers can never be truly random. Whenever a computer generates anything random, it isn't truly random but pseudorandom. When a computer generates a sequence of random numbers, it is based on a random seed, which goes through several math processes. Eventually, this sequence will repeat itself. Even the most advanced so-called random number generators repeat themselves after millions of digits. Computer randomness is never true randomness, and that's why chaotic systems and quantum randomness is so applealing to computer security: Because these things are much more "truly" random. Example: LavaRnd (http://www.lavarnd.org/what/index.html [lavarnd.org]) Considering that the article says that the machine 's chip is "no more complex than the ones found in modern pocket calculators", I find it hard to beleive that this machine is actually random, so even if you don't consider all the other evidence for why this is a hoax, you see that there is a fundemental flaw with this whole theory in the first place.
  • by gibson_81 (135261) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:28AM (#11658366)
    Yeah, and why do you think western media was saying so much about it? Because many westerners were spending their Christmas in Thailand. Otherwise, it would have been a small item on page 10 ...
  • Suppose (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Creator (4611) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:31AM (#11658372) Homepage Journal
    I have an infinite number of random strings, and i then choose the one with exactly the properties i'm looking for. Is it still a random string?


    Suppose t still shows some tendencies to predict H_n, are you going to construct new ones until it doesn't?

  • by Bugmaster (227959) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:31AM (#11658375) Homepage
    Yes, but does that sata show that when people are not focusing on some global event, then the eggs are not "less random" ?

    In other words, are these eggs any better at predicting the future than a big painted sign on the wall that says "something big is gonna happen !" ?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:33AM (#11658381)
    I read somewhere, several news picked it up, that before the dec '26 Tsunami all the animals legged it inland. They knew somehow and scarped to a position of safety.

    Lots of people report feeling 'uneasy' before major disasters - maybe there is more to this then at first glance.
  • by golgotha007 (62687) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:39AM (#11658396)
    At the very least I want to know how to generate a stream of random numbers that reproduces this effect

    That's really the problem, isn't it? To generate a true random stream of numbers is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. How are all these "eggs" creating random numbers? If they're using the same method of creating random numbers, of course they will find similar conclusions.

    Once all these "eggs" discover a flucuation pattern, one need only read the newspapers and 'select the data' that these flucuations are responding to. They're simply selecting their data.

    This isn't just bad science, this is stupid science.
  • by Skynyrd (25155) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @07:45AM (#11658409) Homepage
    Whenever something mentions Diana as something that could be predicted as an event of the same importance as 9/11 I sort of tune out.

    In terms of how people reacted to the event, they are quite similar. In both cases here was an outpourng of grief - internationally, even by people who weren't affected in any way at all.

    In a greater view, the tsunami had far more effect, as it killed 100,000 more people than her accident. It'll change the economy of a few countries and more, but still, people are very moved by both events.
  • by HeghmoH (13204) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @08:40AM (#11658539) Homepage Journal
    The need for irrefutable evidence is on the side of the people making the incredible claims. If somebody has a box that they say can predict the future, when every piece of science we currently understand says that this is impossible, I can say that it's crap without any evidence. They are the ones that have to prove themselves right. This is not to say that they're automatically wrong, but you can't go around saying, "prove me wrong, prove me wrong!" for something like this.
  • by Thomas Miconi (85282) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @08:43AM (#11658545)
    What he meant is that these "predictors" seem to have a preference for events that have a mediatic impact on the West.

    Did they "foresee" the earthquakes in Turkey, or in Bam (Iran), which killed many more people than the 09/11 attacks ? Also it seems that they were unable to predict the death of Diana, but for some reason "reacted" when her funerals were shown on TV. Hm. When the definition for "important event" is loose enough, any random number generator can be said predict "significant events" of some kind.

    We're right into "Bible code" land.

    Besides, the Red Nova article is simply ridiculous. The fact that some people have a spike in neural activity or stress a few seconds before being presented with items by the experimenter is presented as evidence of "seeing into the future" !

    On the other hand, maybe these "eggs" are so efficient that they actually brought us an April's fool in February ?...

    Thomas-
  • by danila (69889) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @08:59AM (#11658596) Homepage
    5 parts in 10000 is nothing. The probability theory guarantees that there are many experiements where such results are randomly produced. It's the same as with stock market. Many people use various insane trading schemes. Some of these randomly get rich. Those that consistently get rich claim that their schemes work, which is, of course, bogus.

    Technical analysis is the same. 250 people go to a seminar, half of them decide to get an account, buy books and software and start trading on FOREX or commodity markets. After a year 64 of them are still in the black. After two years 30 of them have profits for two years. After six years there probably will still be 2 guys, with BMWs, Rolexes and stuff. Wait one more year - one of them will lose anything, but the lucky one will decide to give seminars on technical analysis or write 100$ books on trading.

    Those guys in Princeton are idiots. They are wasting their time and university's money. Their claims are ridiculous and they deserve to be fired and sent to work in the trash sorting plant. That way we can put their skills in finding valuable stuff in random shit to good use.
  • by danila (69889) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @09:20AM (#11658656) Homepage
    Perhaps you've heard of the scientific method?

    Perhaps you've heard that you are a moron?

    If not, then here it is: You are a moron. A fucking dimwit, to be more precise.

    Flight and travel to the moon never sounded like quakery. They sounded like impossible or improbable dreams. Nobody claimed to be able to fly "while noone is looking and I am interpreting the results".

    Rabid (or militant) atheism is the only rational worldview. And you can go stick your psionics beliefs in your ass and go fuck yourself. Stop playing those games, they are rotting your brain.
  • by RichardX (457979) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @09:27AM (#11658682) Homepage
    So what? Anybody can do bad science.
    Argument from authority is a fallacy. An oft used case is "Einstein said/thought X" therefore by extension X must be true.
    The reason Einstein's work was respected was for the thorough scientific work he did. It's valid to say "Einstein showed X to be true by providing proof Y gained from experiment Z", but when it comes down to baseless opinions Einstein carries as much weight as my granny.
  • by pe1rxq (141710) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:03AM (#11658824) Homepage Journal
    Lots of animals can hear a lot better than us, it is not unlikely they simply heard the waves comming.
    As for the uneasyness it is not impossible for low frequency sounds to do some strange things with your stomach.

    It might be curious, but you have to be a special kind of crackpot to drag in a global conscience.

    Jeroen
  • Oh come off it ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CmdrGravy (645153) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:25AM (#11658894) Homepage
    So they look for a major event.

    Then they look on their graph for a spike at that time.

    If there is a spike but not at the time the event took place then it is evidence that the machine is predicting the future.

    If there is a spike and it is at the right time then the machine has detected a global conciousness

    If there is no spike anywhere near the event then the machine must just not have registered that event.

    I don't see how you can lose with a process like that.

  • future IS random ! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pH03n1X (859019) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:37AM (#11658952)
    the number of states the generator can be in is finite and we do have an infinity of world events ... so we have established that there cannot be a one to one correspondance between the states of the generator and future .... which implies that even if we can "predict" an event of world importance is to occour, we will never be able to pin point what event ... which bring us to square one and tells us "future is random" which is in agreement with chaos theory ....
  • by Dever (564514) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @10:48AM (#11659011) Journal
    until it was old news.

    and things become old VERY fast around here (american news).

    the recovery, the continual crisis and tragedy, body counts still rising. it's all but a reflection of what people domestically care about, and for how long.

    sorry to say, but most people just don't give a shit about the disaster (or other things) as much as they care to know which bachelor has been voted off some stupid show this week.

    we haven't evolved in this country to care about other peoples tragedies that much, if they don't particularly affect us.

  • by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhocking@ ... m minus caffeine> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:32AM (#11659245) Homepage Journal
    how we can compare the World Trade Center destruction to the tsunami disaster. After all, around 2,000 people died at the World Trade Center. Indonesia alone [bakutoday.net] is reporting 241,687 dead and missing. Sri Lanka [napanews.com] is reporting "more than 30,000" dead. India [wsws.org] is reporting "over 14,000" dead, although this is from an old article and is most certainly out of date. A rough estimate, I would guess, is that approximately a third of million people died in the tsunami, making the death (and other devastation) from it have the same proportion to the WTC as the WTC has to Princess Diana's death. This does not in any way lessen the significance of the WTC, nor of the Princess Di's death.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @11:44AM (#11659333)
    What?!?
    The guy is complaining that Randi dismissed some guys who claimed they could live only on water and "absorbing energy from the air and space".

    Randi doesn't need to check that. It'd just get people killed and he'd be the one responsible.

    Seriously! Surviving only on water? It's biologically impossible. Try it: you'll die and the world will be just a little bit better.
  • by Viking Coder (102287) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @12:10PM (#11659513)
    Well, first - the AC who responded to your post was brilliant. You should read what they wrote again.

    Second, this article is flamebait. Propping it up with "keep an open mind" is playing along with their silly game. Hell, everyone responding to this article is falling prey to the trolling effect. We should all just walk away and stop feeding the troll.

    I did RTFA and I did read a large chunk of their FWWW. See the AC's post again for my opinion on their writing.

    propose your own alternate theory

    Okay. Bad science is being done. They're either outright faking their numbers, someone is secretly tweaking their numbers, or they're doing the standard bad science practice of throwing away the majority of the false positives that they don't like.

    Oh, wait... you're not interested in being constructive, only in 'debunking' those things with which you irrationally disagree.

    You are absolutely right. I am not interested in constructing ludicrous theories. I am only interesting in disproving things. After I've disproven everything false, what I am left with must be true. That is the heart of rationality, and the scientific mind.

    As for me having 'bought it', I didn't express a position for or against their conclusions. Only suggested it's more scientific to keep an open mind and see what analyses of the data reveal.

    The best thing all of us can do is to scream two words: "PEER REVIEW!" I suspect that very, very few of us are equipped to be able to properly debunk this.

    Now, see, you went and got all pissy again when I said "debunk this," didn't you?

    You can only trust something, when people who are properly equipped to debunk it can't debunk it. And that might even take years in some cases, because people haven't figured out yet how to disprove something. But I don't think that's going to be the case here.

    Oh, and when I want to accomplish anything in life, I keep my mind open to ALL possibilities.

    That is simply not true, and if you didn't learn with the blue monkey example, then I'll have to try again.

    Look up cargo cult science.

    When you try to accomplish balancing your checkbook, do you keep your mind open to the possibility that aliens are changing your memory of what you've spent?

    When you are doing your taxes, do you keep your mind open to the possibility that you have multiple personality disorder and don't realize it, and that your other personalities might have jobs and incomes that you should report?

    When you are dating a woman, do you consider the possibility that she's a man - and maybe that makes you gay, because you enjoy kissing him so much - and maybe that makes your whole life into a lie?

    When you are driving down the road, do you consider the possibility that you live in a simulated universe, created to study you personally, because you are the last human alive - and all the other drivers, and all the other people in the world are simulations, just to perpetuate your belief that you live around other humans?

    When you eat chinese food do you consider the possibility that between your mouth and your stomach, someone has installed a matter transporter to steal your sweet and sour chicken, and that's why you get hungry again in a half hour?

    When you solve a rubik's cube, do you consider the possibility that the faces of the cube have remained fix, but that you've fundamentally twisted the entire rest of reality with your hands, slaughtering billions of intelligent life forms throughout the universe?

    Of course not. These are all ridiculous. You don't give "more weight" to the more probable ones, you don't consider the bullshit ones at all. Maybe that's a mistake - but it's a hueristic that keeps you well and bloody alive.

    You go with the more probable solutions, until it becomes apparent that they're not working.

    Your memory is probably fine, you probably don't have multiple pe
  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @12:18PM (#11659562) Homepage
    They *are* getting statistically signficant result. And these results are hard to refute scientifically (easy to ridicule though). I'm not thinking of the current "predict the future" effect, which I believe is hard to formulate scientifically, but the other similar experiment at PEAR.

    However, all of these results live the same place, namely in what I call the borderland of statistics. Very small effects that get significant by huge numbers. Rather than making me believe in a huge future-pedicting global consciuesness, it makes me doubt these areas of statistics. We see a lot of such results from especially medicine. Like eating walnuts is bad for you. Based on a very small effect and a huge population. I tend to ignore these, and only go listen to those things that has a big effect. Like smoking is very unhealthy, you can see that effect with rather small samples.

    I'd like to see them make a fortune on the stock market (stock prices should be subject to these effects) or some other practical application before I believe it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:16PM (#11660041)
    This is a trivial statement. If n flips has m total disparities, n+x flips will have between m and m+x disparities. It is therefore impossible for the total number of disparities to decrease, and almost guaranteed that it will increase.

    Few things are as embarrassing as people deeming something "trivial" but justifies their belief in it with a completely retarded argument.

    Think about what you just wrote for a second and you'll see why it's obviously wrong. Hint: another poster already told you.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:19PM (#11660058) Homepage
    Carl Jung wrote about a collective unconscious. Was he a crack pot?

    No, but people who think Jung was espousing some new-age cosmic oneness are. Jung wasn't talking about a psychic link, he was saying that (to quote wikipedia) "Symbols have a certain similarity and fall into similar patterns in different places and times, simply because all human minds are basically similar." Essentially, we have a tendency to think basically alike for the same reason we all tend to look basically alike. The "collective unconcious" has more to do with genetics than parapsychology.

  • by Anonymous Cowdog (154277) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:21PM (#11660084) Journal
    One of their pages [princeton.edu] says:

    "...and the complete database at the end of 2001 occupies approximately 3 gigabytes of storage in a highly compressed form."

    I'd love to get my hands on the compression algorithm they use to highly compress those random numbers.

  • by Eminence (225397) <akbrandt@gmaiPASCALl.com minus language> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:34PM (#11660201) Homepage

    5 parts in 10000 is nothing. The probability theory guarantees that there are many experiements where such results are randomly produced.

    It is not the scale of the deviation but its repeatability that counts here.

    In other words if conscious concentration affects a random number generator then by how much the results differ could be viewed as the force of the effect. However, if the deviations repeatedly occur while a test subject concentrates on the generator but don't occur when no one does then that is a valid observation despite the effect observed being weak.

  • by mr_luc (413048) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:46PM (#11660792)
    Cellular Automata can be used to generate almost perfectly random numbers (much more random than even some of the most tried-and-true methods), but that technique was not being used in the 70's, when this supposedly started.

    My guess is that since they describe RNG's as "black boxes", they are using hardware RNG's, which use the fluctuations derived from an apparently random 'natural' process, like electric (resistor noise, by far the most common) and radioactive decay.

    But I find it interesting and ironic that each of the events they have talked about predicting in many cases have associated electrical phenomenon!

    They even mentioned it in the article. A billion people watching Princess Di's funeral, or 9/11 -- ok, so a billion tv sets around the world turn on, and if your RNG is plugged into the wall . . . is it going to affect it? I dunno, but if it's a resistor-based RNG . . . the OJ Simpson trial, ditto. People are gonna start tuning in before the verdict; this produces, at the very least, an ELECTRICAL EVENT that is likely detectable anywhere on the power grid.

    With showing the person slides of pictures, and the random number fluctuations happening prior to the person seeing the picture . . . um . . . is there any electrical machinery plugged into the wall that takes an action to ready/display the next slide? Wouldn't that be funny, now . . .

    And, of course, a tsunami produces measurable electrical phenomena as well. I don't know if it produces electrical phenomena in advance, of course, and it would seem that if that was the case we would be able to use it to predict seismic events

    I don't know anything about whether fluctuations in resistor/semiconductor-based RNG's can happen as a result of electrical phenomenon, but I think that the fact that the article makes no mention of attempts to screen for electrical interference, to detect correlating electrical/field events, or to isolate the RNG's in some way is a good indicator that these guys aren't trying very hard to play devil's advocate.
  • by JQuick (411434) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:40PM (#11661743)
    Carl Jung wrote about a collective unconscious. Was he a crack pot?


    It depends on how you wish to interpret his works.

    Jung, unlike Freud and his followers, was concerned about scientific rigor, and his work appears to be valuable both pragmatically and theoretically. Many perform a naive unscientific reading, and attempt to use his works to support the rankest forms of BS. I find these interpretation both distasteful and unfounded.

    When Jung began his study, the majority of clinical observation produced data on abnormal patients, not healthy individuals. The richest source of data on normal psychology came from literature and mythology. Clearly, familiar plots and psychological patterns appear as themes in the worlds fables, religions, and written works.

    Jung fits right in, when read alongside the most recent works in evolutionary psychology and related disciplines. Those in the related disciplines of Neurology, Evolutionary psychology, etc. currently explore subsystems of our brain and how their structure and functions map to our behaviors. These modern scientists alternately describe observed behavior and attempt to discover their underlying causes in our physical and genetic systems. Jung attempted find common threads in myth, religion, and literature and discover their underlying ground in the human mind.

    When Jung began his career the vast majority of psychological was directed at abnormal or industrial psychology. Most discussion of normal psychology was philosophical. As a result Jung looked at archetypal themes which recurred throughout myth and literature, and still resonated with individuals of his day. By his reasoning, these archetypal themes owe their power and endurance to the psychological makeup of individuals.

    These themes are both popular and powerful because people are moved by them, relate to them, or understand them intuitively without requiring reflection or study. Since they are basic and independent of rational focus, he termed them unconscious. Since they appeared shared by all people he called it "collective unconscious".

    People are inclined to behave similarly to one another in certain circumstances and interpret the world in similar ways. It is logical to conclude that one reason we tend to do so could because our brains are so similar to one another. Jung wrote of mind and psychological tendency, a higher level of abstraction. These are no incommensurable.

    In my reading of Jung (direct English translations, since I don't know German) I find no mystical or unscientific connotations. Unfortunately, many readers misread the term collective unconscious. They jump to the conclusion that it has mystical connotations and dismiss the work as unscientific. Alternatively they are unscientifically minded and eagerly attempt to use his work to justify pseudo-scientific or mystical hogwash.

    I am not saying his work is all correct, just that a number of his theories and observations are both consistent with the latest scientific theories and informative.
  • by azav (469988) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:50PM (#11662183) Homepage Journal
    I'd give you a + 5 on that observation.

    The only question I'd like to pose is that allegedly, and according to the article, many of the changes would happen before the actual event. Your point that people observe and then tune in would fall short in explaining this.

    It does does raise the common similarity between all "major world happenings recorded", that people all tuned in to watch them and they did so on their TV's.

    Nice.

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