A Brief Introduction to Retro-PK
I’ve contacted a guy, Bryan Williams, who publishes great parapsychology articles on a yahoo group named Psi Society. He allowed me to post his articles on this site as well, verbatim. I only allow myself to reformat them a bit for the site. I believe you’ll enjoy them. The first three articles I’ll post will be on retroactive psychokinesis, also called Retro-PK. So, without further due:
A Brief Introduction to Retro-PK
An interesting study was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Parapsychology that reports a possible lunar modulation effect on retroactive psychokinesis effects. Before I attempt to describe the results of that study in a post, I thought I would provide a little background on retroactive psychokinesis for those in this group unfamiliar with the concept so that it a bit more clear as to what I am talking about in the post:
Precognition is often considered to be most perplexing form of ESP because it appears to be retrocausal; that is, it seems to involve a “backwards acting in time” process in which an effect appears to precede it cause, counter to our usual assumptions that cause leads to effect. It turns out that psychokinesis (PK, or “mind over matter”) occurring on the microscopic (i.e., subatomic) scale also appears to be capable of producing a “backwards acting in time” effect of its own, and this effect is called retroactive psychokinesis, or “retro-PK,” for short.
One of the first to report statistical evidence for retro-PK effects was physicist Helmut Schmidt (1976), then of the Mind Science Foundation in Texas, who was also the one to introduce the random number generator (RNG) to parapsychology as a useful apparatus for testing microscopic PK. In a regular PK test conducted in real-time, a subject attempts to mentally influence the electronic “coin-flips” of a binary RNG as the RNG is producing them. What Dr. Schmidt did differently in his study is that he had the RNG produce the “coin-flips” before the subject even attempts to influence them (how much time before ranged from hours to even days), recording the results on magnetic tape without anyone looking at what they were. Later on, during the actual test, Dr. Schmidt would play back the tape with the recorded RNG data to the subject, at which time the subject would try to influence them. But wait a minute…if the RNG data are already recorded on tape, and are thus already assumed to be “set in stone,” how can the subject possibly influence them by PK? This is where the “backwards acting in time” assumption comes in. Since the RNG data are already recorded, it would seem that in order to influence the data by PK, the subject would have to direct his or her PK influence backwards in time to the moment that the data were being recorded1.
As impossible as it may sound, all three of Dr. Schmidt’s (1976) initial experiments did indeed produce results supportive of an ostensibly backwards-acting PK effect, with the results having statistical odds ranging from twenty to one, to nearly a thousand to one, against chance occurrence. When he then compared these retro-PK results with regular PK results, he found little difference between them, suggesting that both worked nearly the same. Nearly two decades later, Dr. Schmidt (1993) had repeated these experiments under the close, watchful eyes of five outside witnesses (who were psychologists, physicists, or other parapsychologists), producing a combined retro-PK effect that had odds of about 8,000 to 1 of not being due to chance alone.
Since Dr. Schmidt reported his first retro-PK study in 1976, many other parapsychologists have attempted to reproduce his work by conducting retro-PK studies of their own, and by the time that Dr. Schmidt had reported the second study in 1993, 16 other studies by eight different researchers had also been reported. Dr. Dick Bierman (1998) of the University of Amsterdam carried out a meta-analysis of all of the retro-PK studies conducted by Schmidt and others between 1975 and 1993 to see how robust the effect really was, finding that together they produced evidence for a positive retro-PK effect that had statistical odds of around 18 million to 1 against chance.
Stimulated by these retro-PK results, Matthew Watkins and John Walker founded the RetroPsychoKinesis Project, a long-term, Internet-based retro-PK experiment that is hosted on Walker’s Fourmilab website (http://www.fourmilab.ch/rpkp/). Since 1996, the project has been running individual retro-PK experiments using data recorded and saved beforehand from an RNG that uses radioactive decay as its source of randomness, and the results are updated in a daily summary. The project is ongoing, so it is possible for anyone on the Internet to participate in the retro-PK experiments (if you want to learn more or even participate in the experiments, go to the Web address above). It is the data collected as part of the Fourmilab RetroPsychoKinesis Project since 1997 that was used in the study of a possible lunar modulation effect on retro-PK, which I will discuss in a post to follow.
1 There is actually an alternative approach to retro-PK that sidesteps the “backwards acting in time” assumption, but since this approach requires knowledge of certain concepts of quantum physics that many in this group may not have and would require me to make this post much longer than it already is to explain them in simpler terms, I won’t get into it here.
Schmidt, H. (1976). PK effect on pre-recorded targets. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 70(3), July. pp. 267 – 271.
Schmidt, H. (1993). Observation of a psychokinetic effect under highly controlled conditions. Journal of Parapsychology 57(4), December. pp. 351 – 372.
Bierman, D. J. (1998). Do psi phenomena suggest radical dualism? In S. R. Hameroff, A. W. Kazniak, & A. C. Scott (Eds.) Toward a Science of Consciousness II: The Second TUSCON Discussions and Debates (pp. 709 – 713). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford.