More On Randomness

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Ehhh...I would say "Deep in the basement..." is about as good a starting line for an article about science as "It was a dark and stormy night..." is for horror.

Nonetheless, this was at least an entertaining article about a number of black boxes generating random numbers that some claim to predict some not-so-random events:

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. But last December, it also appeared to forewarn of the Asian tsunami just before the deep sea earthquake that precipitated the epic tragedy.

Now, even the doubters are acknowledging that here is a small box with apparently inexplicable powers.

'It's Earth-shattering stuff,' says Dr Roger Nelson, emeritus researcher at Princeton University in the United States, who is heading the research project behind the 'black box' phenomenon.

And, for balance, here's something from a dissenting opinion:

September 11th: A study in wishful thinking.

It was obvious that the terror attacks of that day should make a pretty good case for Global Consciousness (GC). On the surface, it did. There seemed to be a very pronounced effect on that day and in the time right after.

There were, however, several problems. The most obvious was that the changes began at 6:40am ET, when the attacks hadn't started yet. It can of course be argued when the attacks "started", but if the theory is based on a lot of people "focusing" on the same thing, the theory falls flat - at 6:40am, only the attackers knew about the upcoming event. Not even the CIA knew. Hardly enough to justify a "global" consciousness.

Perhaps this is an uneducation question, but wouldn't 30 years of continually generating random numbers result in plenty of oddly large/sustained deviations away from the expected 50/50 distribution of 1s and 0s?

2 TrackBacks

You know, I'm begining to wonder if perhaps humans, generally speaking, are hard wired to believe dipshit theories. Here we have scores of scientist who think that black boxes with a pocket calculator microchips that some scientists are starting to bel... Read More

More On Randomness from People and World on May 2, 2006 3:01 PM

More On Randomness By Ian Ehhh...I would say "Deep in the basement..." is about as good a starting line for... Read More


Here's my suggestion: Have them come up with a detailed set of criteria for determining whether any deviation is "significant," and set up an alert system that will post on the internet whenever a significant deviation occurs -- maybe even send an e-mail alert to anyone interested.

Won't take long to determine if it works or not. My money would be on "not."

This kind of stuff, black box predicting 9/11, sounds alot like what the intelligent design creationist William Dembski does. Namely:

1. It is specified--that is, whatever it is it has a function I recognize.
2. It is "complex"--that is, really low probability.
3. It is information.

Thus, design. In Dembski's case it is the fingerprint of God. In this case, it is a machine that tells the future, indicates a super-secret nefarious plot, or something other than coincidental random gibberish.

The problem with this approach is that one can see they haven't examined previous experiments and searched for patterns.

All kinds of semi random tools (eg. tarot cards, i ching ...) have reportedly picked up on various things though they unlike this also involve systems of classification.

If one doesn't discount these reports then one feature becomes clear. The "intelligence" (quantum mind/computational device, spirit, whatever...) looks back and plays trick. things are not reliably repeated especially in front of skeptics, aliens reveal all sorts of things but never land in front of the white house, legend is filled with "magic" that in one way or another turned on it's users.

Changing the tools will not change this. The system avoids "proof" and seems to do so in ways that indicate it's watching us as much as we're watching it.

Another intriguing set of claims won't change this. Trying to fathom it's patterns by looking at past examples is interesting, but I have observed most "researchers" refuse to admit this possibility. To them it is something passive that can be some how measured and controlled.

Since *if* one believes there is some validity to the long list of intriguing claims, then the nature of the information system becomes clear and attempts to treat it as a controllable tool as a 16 year old girl might treat astrology indicates that it is programming it's advocates. They are continually looking for a holy grail that reliably predicts and whose predictions can be proved beyond doubt. Yet in reality (if claims are accurate) such systems demonstrate themselves to a small circle and then fail for a larger group, they may work consistently for a while then pull some flip, but they don't behave in Newtonian style, but in a more quantam manner where observation effects the system, though in this case the system has a perverse humor.

This understanding should be the first requirement for "paranormal research."


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