Remote Viewing and Local Sidereal Time
Embargoed until June 23, 1997
CONTACT: Marsha Sims, Executive Editor, Journal of Scientific Exploration
phone: 415-593-8581, fax: 415-595-4466
or: James Spottiswoode, phone: 213-549-5025, fax: 415-322-7960
A Possible Discovery Regarding ESP
Stanford, CA, June 23, 1997 --- In 1931 Karl Jansky of the Bell Telephone Laboratories was carrying out experiments with an advanced radio antenna to track down all the noise sources causing problems for the newly developed shortwave radiotelephone systems. One perplexing source of radio static could not be explained... until Jansky made a key observation. The static would steadily peak four minutes earlier day after day. The unknown radio source was keeping perfect time not with some daily occurrence on Earth, but with the passage of the stars overhead, reaching a maximum every 23 hours 56 minutes, once every sidereal day. What Jansky was measuring turned out not to be coming from the Earth; it was radio emission from the center of the Milky Way galaxy passing overhead every 23 hours and 56 minutes. His observation of a precise correlation between sidereal (star) time and his mystery source gave birth to radio astronomy.
History may be repeating itself, but with a strange twist. A mysterious correlation has now been found between the "effect size" in 2500 laboratory ESP experiments and sidereal time. If it holds up, this could turn into a key discovery in the controversial field of claimed human psychic abilities. James Spottiswoode of the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory in Palo Alto, California reports on this in the current issue (Vol. 11, No.2) of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, a scholarly journal which publishes scientific investigations of topics that lie on the borders of mainstream science.
The existence of some limited form of ESP is close to being scientifically respectable. In "The Demon Haunted World" the late Carl Sagan, a prominent skeptic, listed several ESP claims which, in his view, deserved further study.
Among researchers a more pedantic name for ESP is anomalous cognition. Thousands of laboratory experiments have measured "something" but whatever it is, anomalous cognition apparently does not decrease with distance like a respectable force should, such as gravity. And some anomalous cognition even appears to be precognitive, picking up information about the future. If polls are to be believed, tens of millions of people have experienced a significant precognition event at least once. Is there any variable that influences anomalous cognition?
Spottiswoode, a trained physicist, took an empirical approach. Rather than worry about what the experiments were measuring, he merely examined whether there was any significant correlation. He gathered data on 1468 published trials, and to his surprise found that, whatever the effect being measured was, it more than tripled when the local sidereal time (LST) was near 13:30.
Could it be a fluke? Spottiswoode went back to the drawing board: he tested his finding by collecting another 1015 trials from different experiments, i. e. a validation set. The peak of his validation set occurred at the same time. Putting the two together, the data seem to tell us that anomalous cognition is more than four times as effective in a rather narrow window that rises and falls near 13:30 LST.
If there happens to be a coincidental correlation between the Dow Jones index and the rainfall in Calcutta no scientist is going to take this seriously. But, as with Jansky's discovery, a correlation involving sidereal time is not so easily dismissed.
"If I had found a 24-hour correlation, I would chalk it up to circadian rhythms or office hours," says Spottiswoode. "But I've checked my data carefully and those kinds of effects could not mimic the sidereal correlation I found. Don't ask me what it is, but it's real."
Prof. Peter Sturrock, a plasma physicist at Stanford University and president of the Society for Scientific Exploration which publishes the Journal is taking a cautious position saying, "I am going to reserve judgement about this claim. In my work on similar problems, I have found that patterns can either fade away or change into something else. What looks like a sidereal-time effect may be due to something quite different, perhaps involving multiple periodicities. But Spottiswoode has made an opening gambit, and it is now up to his colleagues and critics to respond."
"This article makes such a potentially significant claim that we had it refereed by two experienced professors, a statistician and an astronomer," reports the editor of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Dr. Bernhard Haisch, who is himself an astronomer. "Even though they have no idea how this could be real they found the study worthy of publication."
The Cognitive Science Laboratory in Palo Alto, California is a descendant of the 24-year long government-sponsored remote viewing program that ended in 1995. (For five reports on that formerly classified program, see Vol. 10, No. 1 of the Journal of Scientific Exploration.)
The Journal of Scientific Exploration is the quarterly peer-reviewed research journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration, an interdisciplinary organization of scholars formed to support unbiased investigation of claimed anomalous phenomena.