RPKP Update No.6

July 17th, 1996
This was originally sent out to members of the RPKP mailing list. If you would like to receive future updates, please e-mail

New Features

Klaus Scharff, a German enthusiast with an extensive knowledge of unorthodox theories of time, has contributed a fourteen-page bibliography of serious academic articles related to backwards-time phenomena. This has now been posted at the website, and is gradually being added to. The articles are drawn from journals of physics, philosophy, psychology, cybernetics, parapsychology, etc. and include such intruiging titles as "Acausal phenomena in physics and biology", "Tachyons, backwards causation and freedom", and "Should physicists say that the past really happened?". This is a very helpful step forward in the initiation of serious inter-disciplinary discussions of acausal and retrocausal systems and phenomena.

Topher Cooper has contributed a lucid explanation of the significance of Dick Bierman's (recently added) RPK database. This is quite accessible to non-statisticians. Although it has been revised a couple of times since first appearing, it seems that Cooper's final word on the matter is that the odds are roughly one in 630 thousand million that the distribution of Z-scores which appear in the database arose by chance! Due to the nature of meta-analytical methods, any of the nine major experimenters included could be removed without reducing this to a significantly less outrageous figure.

Finally, York Dobyns of PEARlab has summarised his recent Journal of Scientific Exploration article on selection vs. influence. This is part of the ongoing debate over the validity of May, et.al.'s decision augmentation theory (DAT). Dobyns argues against DAT by introducing the method of "rank frequencies". We hope to have a more detailed description of his argument before too long.

New Concerns

Jack Sarfatti has been in communication with us over his interpretation of DAT and Dick Bierman's recent suggestion that the existence of "influence" (contrary to DAT) could be demonstrated using repeated viewing of the random data in the experimental protocol. According to Bierman, if DAT is correct, and the apparent "retrocausal influence" is an entirely precognitive mechanism, then repeatedly displaying the data to a sequence subjects should not affect the results. Consequently, some correlation between repeated viewing and improved results would suggest that DAT is somehow incorrect (or incomplete). Sarfatti has been questioning the defintion of the term "biased sample" which May, et.al. use, and has argued that if DAT is correct, repeated viewing could improve results (in accord with his "back-action" theory of consciousness). The confusion over DAT has lead us to believe that it might be better to work towards a demonstration of "retropsychokinesis" without worrying about whether it is due to "selection" or an "influence". As May has pointed out, whatever the mechanism is, it involves an (acausal) "flow of information from future to past". We can't help thinking that the selection/influence distinction might have more to do with our own misunderstanding of time and consciousness than anything which is actually "happening". Therefore, we believe, a reliable and publically verifiable demonstration of the effect, without the inclusion of DAT-tests, might be sufficient to force a much needed debate in the academic community about the nature of time, consciousness and objective reality.

We've started to get some feedback about the RPK experiment programs which are now available via anonymous FTP. As it takes quite a few sessions (in the appropriate setting and psychological state) to discern any effect, most of this has been to do with personal preferences for certain programs (there are six available). If you have not yet looked at these programs you please do - they are available as DOS executables, easily downloaded and run.

We will begin remote monitoring of formal RPK experiments once these programs have been converted into Java applets (this is still our major obstacle). A moment of false hope occured a few days ago when someone brought to our attention the "c2j" C++ to Java conversion program, available free via WWW. Unfortunately, we soon discovered, this can do little with our C++ source code, due to the amount of graphical interfacing involved. One C++ programmer currently learing Java estimated 400 hours work per program, which is discouraging to say the least. On the other hand, John Walker, creator of the HotBits random number server, managed to put together a rough Java applet based on the program SWING (before he'd seen the actual source code) in one evening. He has offered to lend a hand in the near future, so there is hope.

New Ideas

Topher Cooper has suggested the use of PGP encryption in the experiment protocol. This would allow us to post "predictions" of well-publicised random events which are to occur in the future (a single number from the coming week's UK National Lottery, for example). The "predictions" would in fact be randomly generated before being encrypted and posted on several widely-read USENET newsgroups (with a plaintext explanation). After the random event in question had been agreed upon (e.g. the lottery draw), we could set up RPK trials with talented subjects attempting to introduce subtle biases into the original random data. If properly coordinated, this would result in the correct number "having been" encrypted in the past. This could bypass the need to introduce high-profile "independent observers", allowing virtually anyone with Internet access to take involve themself in this role. There are certain technical considerations to do with the preservation of indeterminacy in encryption scenarios, but we are fairly close to finding a satisfactory solution to these.

As ever, questions, comments and suggestions are very welcome.

The RetroPsychoKinesis Project (http://www.fourmilab.ch/rpkp/)
Canterbury, UK

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