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February 13, 2005 2:34 AM   Subscribe

The Global Consciousness Project at Princeton (which may be remembered from this MeFi Post, and this one) has apparently claimed a detected prediction (or statistical anomaly) for the recent tsunami catastrophe. See the Registry of Formal Specifications for Global Events at the main project site. (The tsunami event is listed near the bottom.) For further random statistical anomaly reading, see Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research, which has a more local focus. Or attempt to bend some digital forks in the not-quite-real-time Egg Basket Observer (Java). Find your nearest egg if you prefer shorter distances.
posted by loquacious (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"...created a world of the mind, of the intimate imagination, which is as real in its way as any actual country on the map. Sir Karl Popper, in one of his most important papers, calls it ‘the third world,’ or ‘world three.’ The first world is the objective world of things. The second world is my inner, subjective world. But, says Popper, there’s a third world, the world of objective contents of thoughts. Teilhard de Chardin calls this third world the noosphere, that is, the world of the mind."

- Sampled from an unknown source by The Orb, u.f.orb:“o.o.b.e”, CA 1992

"Someday after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire."

- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
posted by loquacious at 2:35 AM on February 13, 2005

Sorry, the third link should be this one.
posted by loquacious at 2:38 AM on February 13, 2005

Wow, interesting. I thought I'd been-there, done-that with all X-files-esque phenomena, but I've never heard of this project before. Will have to post soon my current fascination with the year 2012.
posted by zardoz at 2:53 AM on February 13, 2005

It's bad enough that I have to share a President with the Red Staters. Now I have to share a consciousness too?
posted by orthogonality at 2:58 AM on February 13, 2005

The bottom of that Rednova article - the fourth link - will stand out to anyone in the UK:

Source: Daily Mail; London (UK)

This is the newspaper that brings you as many horroscope specials as it can muster, serialises books like The Bible Code and asks questions like 'The Da Vinci Code: is it for real?'.
posted by tapeguy at 4:45 AM on February 13, 2005

Gosh zardoz that link is just bizarre!
posted by johnnyfive at 5:53 AM on February 13, 2005

Someone give me a call when they start issuing "alerts" before significant events occur.
posted by quirked at 6:19 AM on February 13, 2005

The problem with the "prediction" is that its retroactive. In other words, a statistical anomaly is observed and then a corresponding anomaly is looked for in the world. A better test, and one that would make me sit up and take notice, would be to have a prediction that some major event x would have a statistical impact of y. For example, a death of world-reknown person creates a blip of such and such proportions. Then when a famous person meeting that criteria dies, you can go back and look at the data to see if it was consistently predicted.
If the device can consistently predict events, that is indeed interesting, but if its only predicting random major events then that's actually what I would expect with a random generator.
posted by forforf at 6:24 AM on February 13, 2005

The sample from The Orb (first comment by loquacious) appears to be a quote from the book New Pathways in Psychology (Mentor, 1979 ) by Colin Wilson. The book deals with the work of Abraham Maslow. Found in MANAS Reprint vol. XXXIII no. 11.

Hmmm... I wonder who read it (for the Orb track)?
posted by mondo dentro at 6:26 AM on February 13, 2005

Three red flags in the first 5 paragraphs of the "claimed a detected prediction" article:

"according to a growing band of top scientists"
"The machine apparently sensed the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre four hours before they happened - but in the fevered mood of conspiracy theories of the time, the claims were swiftly knocked back by sceptics."
"Now, even the doubters are acknowledging that here is a small box with apparently inexplicable powers."

Time to stop reading it.
posted by Bort at 6:47 AM on February 13, 2005

More like "even the doubters among us at the Global Consciousness Project."

If it's such a serious scientific project, why the dopey name? Couldn't they better secure grant money if they called themselves the physics department?
posted by inksyndicate at 7:26 AM on February 13, 2005

This is ridiculous. Outside of the obvious flaws, they consistently jump to the most outlandish conclusions they can. Not that I buy the alterations in the RNG's *at all* (they are statistically NORMAL, just like flipping 100 heads in a row occasionally would be if you tossed a coin a million times), but for example, they claim that the disturbance in the force caused by Princess Diana's funeral was caused by the collective angst of a billion people people watching it... If an electrical/quantum effect actually was noted (which I do not believe), I'd be far more inclined it was caused by turning on a billion TVs all at once.
posted by glider at 7:54 AM on February 13, 2005

agreed, glider. wishful thinking, this, at best.
posted by blendor at 9:09 AM on February 13, 2005

From the first link, the home page of the group's site at Princeton: the goal is to see interconnection as real & creative mind as magical.

posted by nicwolff at 9:21 AM on February 13, 2005

glider: Of course it's normal, but the anomalies tend to move in sync with one another, is the scary part. This is how I understand it: It's a bunch of RNGs that should each tend toward a straight line, and most of them tending away from it at more or less the same times. It happens at times with no particular global event, too, which makes it more depressing still that they have to start so feveredly with a specific premise, detecting global consciousness instead of just neutrally trying to analyze the synchronious behavior (are the EGGs nuclear decay-based RNGs? If so, maybe they're detecting slight synchronicity in semi-chaotic molecular decay!) .
posted by abcde at 9:54 AM on February 13, 2005

forforf: See link #5. They are indeed making predictions and then seeing if any statistical anomalies result. Still not enough to make me a believer, but intereting nonetheless.
posted by greatgefilte at 10:11 AM on February 13, 2005

abcde - First of all, RNGs are not suppoosed to be a straight line. That's just not the way true random numbers work. More importantly, sometimes the "spikes" happen before the event they're "linked" to, sometimes they happen after, sometimes they happen at the same time, and more often than not, they're not linked to anything at all.

PEAR is notorious for bad science, and this is one of many examples.
posted by glider at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2005

From the discussion over at Slashdot:

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.

Imagine continuously flipping a coin, where one side of the coin is "(catastrophic) event predicted" and the other side of the coin is "no (catastrophic) event predicted". It doesn't even have to be a fair coin.

You will invariably "predict" one catastrophic event or another even before the actual event occurs, because of the coin will give you that prediction independent of the causality of the event.

What the researchers cannot do is correlate the prediction with the event, other than in a sense that means as much as the coin-flipping experiment above.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:43 PM on February 13, 2005

Confirmation bias.
Or "how to believe in hooey."
What? Don't know what that is? Ask Shermer, he's good at explaining it.
posted by nofundy at 12:47 PM on February 13, 2005

Neon Genesis Evangelion anyone?
posted by mercurysm2 at 2:14 PM on February 13, 2005

So the interpretation that these things are reacting to/predicting major events seems like bad science, agreed? Yes, there's confirmation bias and post-hoc analysis and all that. What I don't get is this: why would 50-odd random number generators all have significant deviations at the same time? They seem to be protected from outside EM interference...
posted by greatgefilte at 2:14 PM on February 13, 2005

Wow, this takes grasping at straws to a whole new level of technology. They have events on the list from Pierre Elliott Trudeau's funeral (which, I must say, was pretty emotional for a number of Canadians, including me) to .. uh.. Miss World 2000? "WorldPuja Webcast"? Earth Day 2001! My god. Beijing gets 2008 Olympics. Oprah Winfrey in Africa. The Democratic Convention.

If these are the greatest impacts on the collective unconscious, I'm moving to Mars.
posted by blacklite at 2:18 PM on February 13, 2005

What I don't get is this: why would 50-odd random number generators all have significant deviations at the same time?

Why wouldn't they?

OK; it's not that simple, and the PEAR people aren't idiots....

There's going to be some probability of simultaneous significant deviations in n perfectly random devices; this probability will grow smaller as n gets bigger, but it also depends on your exact definitions of "simultaneous" and "significant", right? Given these parameters, you'd have to figure out exactly how often you would expect simultaneous deviations if everything is purely random.

There's a way to handle this rigorously, and say "look, we're measuring a higher rate of simultaneous deviations than would be expected for a set of random systems." That's what the Global Consciousness Project people are saying, I think, and if it's true, it's interesting. Unfortunately, my knowledge of statistics and the level of information given on those web pages are both insufficient for me to say whether or not their analysis is valid.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:02 PM on February 13, 2005

Maybe this explains this
posted by miniape at 2:40 PM on February 14, 2005

You mean this box reads minds and sees into the future?

Now this is where America should be investing its Social Security money.
posted by pracowity at 1:21 AM on February 15, 2005

I find it curious that they have a box in Juno Beach, Florida but that it didn't pick up two hurricanes who's eyes made landfall there. I was there. It was more than a little bit collectively stressful.
posted by trinarian at 12:11 PM on February 16, 2005

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