Is Science Overlooking Paranormal Phenomena


The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory, known as PEAR, has shut down operations, after years of diligently exploring paranormal interactions between mind and matter.

Tucked in a basement workshop on Princeton University’s New Jersey campus, the lab conducted corresponding experimental research on telekinesis and ESP. The studies examined motion generated by human-machine interactions, as well as, remote perception between humans.

Although the PEAR laboratory is closing, similar paranormal research will not be overlooked and will live on guided by a fresh patrol of equally passionate maverick researchers.

The creators of the PEAR Laboratory passed the baton to the International Consciousness Research Laboratories, or ICRL. The ICRL is a non-profit organization established in 1996, according to a press release issued at the PEAR website.

The PEAR initiators, however, plan to remain involved in the ongoing research.

To that end, they will take the endeavor under their wing by maintaining an observant association.

Members of ICRL represent 20 countries and include participants with an expansive range of professional backgrounds. Many had a prior involvement with the PEAR program, and are steadfast about further exploring the role of consciousness in physical reality.

ICRL was conceived in 1990, by the architects of the PEAR program, as a disciplined adjunct to PEAR. It was incorporated in the state of New Jersey in 1996 as a not-for-profit public foundation.

The human-machine research at the PEAR laboratory involved monitoring people as they attempted to use mind power to create movement in a variety of fluid, mechanical, electronic, optical, and acoustical gadgets in synchronization with preformed mental intentions.

Often shrouded by controversy, the unconventional PEAR program spanned 28 years.

PEAR founder, Robert G Jahn, 76, said that controversy did not trigger the decision to pull the plug on the project.

The pronouncement was provoked by a combination of dwindling finances, aging equipment, and a shrinking need to generate more of the same data consistently collected during the labs 28 year mission. The program closed at the end of February 2007, according to a PEAR press release.

The PEAR program’s observed mind-motion tests, involving millions of trials with hundreds of participants, yielded results that were quite small. Overall the data indicated an affect on two to three intended outcomes in ten thousand tries. In totality, however, the numbers demonstrate highly significant statistical deviations from chance expectations, according to the PEAR website.

In the remote perception experiments, one member of a pair visits a predetermined site, describes it in writing with sketches and attempts to project the imagery to another participant in a remote location. The person at the remote locale attempts to perceive the transferred imagery and to describe the surroundings of the sender.

After each experiment, the description is coded and compared to a checklist of thirty items used to define a geographical site for statistical evaluation.

The repercussions from the PEAR data remain unclear, although confirming the mind’s influence on machinery is a captivating nod to the possibility that humans may be able to apply this method to facilitate self-healing or healing of others.

Critics counter that information about implications and practical applications linked to the results are unclear and difficult to extract because of the minuscule changes charted during the long-term studies.

Still the lingering tantalizing inference is that the emotions or attitudes of human equipment operators may resonate with the machines they use thereby potentially influencing subtle changes in the equipment’s function.

In early initial research, Jahn used random event generators, or REGs, of various types. One version was a large imposing machine, consisting of a cluster of round balls that cascaded and bounced around pegs, landing in a row of slots at the bottom.

Jahn, is an emeritus Professor of Aerospace Sciences and Dean of the School of Engineering and applied Science, is a leading expert on jet propulsion, and the founder of Princeton’s Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory.

The first REG that researchers used produced high-frequency random noise. Researchers attached circuitry to the device to translate the noise into ones and nothing. Then, participants, following a prerecorded protocol, attempted to use their mind to command the generator to sequentially spew out more ones, then more zeros, and then do nothing at all.

When I volunteered as an anonymous participant in the PEAR study, in the late 90s, the bulky customized pinball-like generator, evocative of an apparatus that belonged in an amusement park rather than a laboratory, was mainly for exhibit, according to Brenda Dunne, the PEAR manager since its inception. She is also a developmental psychologist, a senior researcher, and co-author of many PEAR study papers.

The clunky iconic machine had by then been replaced by portable generators, computer screens with rolling graph lines, or shifting images, and various engaging contraptions such as a robotic frog, a pendulum, and a fountain. These items all moved about randomly as the study participant attempted to influence their action.

Shifting the research participant’s attention among a variety of research tools was a way to keep their minds freshly focused on the process, and to prevent boredom, according to Dunne.

Intriguingly, testing appeared to suggest that research participants could control the machines independent of distance or time.

For instance, the research showed that machine operators located thousands of miles from the laboratory, exerting their efforts many hours before or after the actual operation of the devices, could produce statistically significant results, according to Dunne.

In addition, the research results tended to be “operator specific.” Thus on different machines, each operator’s results produced a distinct revealing signature. There were also obvious performance differences based on gender.

Moreover, tandem operators with emotional bonds such as married couples produced specific types of results, and more results superseding chance.

Furthermore, the researchers believe that the random devices also respond to group activities even when the group was unaware of the presence of the machine. In such cases, results, exceeding chance, seemed to be associated with charismatic events such as concerts, rituals, and intimate gatherings.

In contrast, mundane events such as business meetings or academic conferences had no greater results than those expected by chance.

One interesting affect of the work was that some participants persistently influenced the movement of the machine in a way that was stubbornly opposite to their intent.

With some participants, this effect occurred too consistently to be random. It seemed to be associated with intense mental effort as well as gender. Women tended to produce this opposite effect more often, and in a larger way, while men tended to create results matching their intent, according to Dunne.

The best results seem to come from people who did not muster tremendous mental effort, but concentrated only lightly on influencing the machine. Dunne likened it to the mindset of a person leafing absentmindedly through a catalog while still keeping the “motion-intention” in the periphery of their mind.

If an operator, however, became too engrossed in another activity, the consistency of their control would falter, Dunne explained.

The PEAR lab’s existence at Princeton was always somewhat controversial with a number of internal and external supporters who found the work fascinating, as well as many detractors who insisted that the work embarrassed the esteemed Ivy League University.

Various expert panels throughout the lab’s dominion scrutinized the methods used by the researchers, but none found justification to suspend the program.

Princeton University, housed the lab, and seemed tolerant of the research, but did not support it financially. The project’s funding came mainly from private donors who provided a total of more than $10 million, and included James S. McDonnell, a founder of the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, and philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller.

Interest in the PEAR program’s work was also sustained by people globally who were smitten by paranormal phenomena, as well as, groups like the International Consciousness Research Laboratories.

PEAR was also detailed in Dean Radin’s book called Entangled Minds, a book that primarily probes the far reaches of human consciousness by tackling poorly understood phenomena like intuition, gut feelings, and psi phenomena. Radin holds a degree in electrical engineering and a PhD in Psychology. His bio includes research positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories and at GTE Laboratories.

Jahn and Dunne will maintain a bond with their original research by serving as advisors to Psyleron, a company in Princeton, New Jersey producing a line of state-of-the-art technology designed for use in human-machine studies. They will also advise Ecognosis, an organization in Nashville, Tennessee, researching the effects of sound and color geometry on human consciousness, and serve as officers of the Society for Scientific Exploration.

Psyleron describes itself as the company that “allows you to measure and directly observe the impact that your mind has on physical reality.” They also sell DVD’s detailing the research as well as equipment used in its study.

Psyleron founders were involved with the PEAR programs “intention experiments” as researchers and interns. That background leads them to believe that, “There is more to physical reality than we experience or are aware of in our daily life.”

Specifically, it appears that consciousness and intention engage in a two way dialogue with the physical world. We not only take information in through our physical senses, we also send it out through some kind of undiscovered channel, according to the Psyleron website.

Ecognosis is a research and development organization that is interested in finding beneficial ways to incorporate “nature’s wisdom” into everyday human life by currently studying the physics of living environments including color in the workplace, whole-person healing, and mind-matter entanglement with Geomagnetic fields.

They will use the research data gathered to measure the physiological effects of environmental variables on humans involved in different activities, with a focus on identifying beneficial factors.

“We are currently studying the physical environment and its effect on human consciousness. The information will be used to improve working and living environments and to facilitate human peak performance states,” according to the Ecognosis website.

The Society for Scientific Exploration, or SSE, is a professional organization of scholars committed to the rigorous study of unusual and unexplained phenomena that transcend traditional scientific boundaries and therefore may be ignored or inadequately studied by mainstream science.

The Society was founded in 1982 by fourteen members and now has approximately 800 members in 45 countries. The SSE publishes a peer reviewed journal, the Journal of Scientific Exploration, or the JSE, and holds annual scientific meetings in the USA and periodic meetings in Europe.

Jahn and Dunne’s original long-term research at Princeton employed elaborate analytical methods, developed to extract as much interpretive information as possible from all of the test results, and to guarantee their integrity against any experimental or data processing flaws.

Critics, however, dismiss the work as entertainment, and find fault with the research methods.

Stanley Jeffers, a professor of physics at York University in Ontario, attempted to conduct experiments that were similar to PEAR data, but results were similar to chance. Researchers at two German labs, working in cooperation with Pear, also were unable to replicate results using the same equipment that Pear used.

Other antagonists include Robert L. Park, a University of Maryland physicist, and author of the book Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud.

The Pear lab has always been very open with its data but seemed unable to acquire traditional peer review of the work in conventional journals.

The PEAR lab published more than 60 research reports, a majority appearing in the journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration, a peer-reviewed publication that highlights work on the cutting-edge of conservative science.

Old school peer-reviewed research journals declined, however, to accept PEAR reports. One editor, upon considering a paper for publication, is reported to have wisecracked that he would accept it if Jahn could transmit it telepathically.