Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research: A Legacy of Innovation

Nature, The lab that asked the wrong questions

If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas…Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s…Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.
President Barack Obama, 2013 State of the Union

As cutting-edge nanotechnology and quantum computing move into even more delicately poised information processors, protection against such consciousness-related interference could become increasingly relevant, even essential, to the design and operation of these and many other engineering systems of the future.
PEAR: Implications and Applications

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
Clarke’s First Law

Financed through private donation (with supporters including the James S. McDonnell Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the Lifebridge Foundation), the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory ran out of Princeton University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for a quarter century. The university itself didn’t give a dime to the most innovate, methodologically validated study of human consciousness and its mysterious interface with technology since Timothy Leary’s Harvard Psilocybin Project–put to rest in 1962 by Harvard College. Robert Jahn, plasma physicist, aerospace engineer, human consciousness researcher and expert, and former Dean of Engineering at Princeton University, dared to do at Princeton what Leary had earlier done at Harvard, going outside the intellectually stagnant status quo to remain intellectually honest with his science and inner convictions about what is true.

PEAR was no stranger to media attention, attracting wide acclaim–mostly positive, though some negative–for its pioneering work. Although the quasi-mystical implications of PEAR’s research remain strange beyond compare, the deadly sin of sloth–academia’s manifest fear of being wrong or of looking foolish, of conforming to the intellectually stagnant status quo–is what ultimately killed it. Amazingly, PEAR’s main obstacle to success had nothing whatsoever to do with the difficulty in replicating its so-called “anomalistic” phenomena. (The university tried shutting them down on multiple occasions, but they could never find sufficient reason to do so despite their best efforts.) Rather, when PEAR faced the academic establishment itself, no deviation from the mean was shown in the ability of academics to think outside the box.

In its 28 years of data-collection, PEAR obtained vast stores of empirical results on man-machine interactions or “engineering anomalies.” These anomalies are not explicable by the classical physics of Newtonian determinism; similarly, the classical theories of artificial intelligence (neural networks and Turing machines) that have so far failed to produce artificial consciousness (i.e., cognitive computing and cognitive robotics) cannot account for these phenomena. In other words, PEAR purports to have first-hand, empirical evidence of cognition or consciousness operating on the quantum mechanical level–namely in the form of ESP or psi phenomena, the quantum entanglement of minds in a newly atomized, waveform model of consciousness.

It seems this sort of novel thinking scares the oligarchs who run Princeton. Indeed, it invalidates their worldview. PEAR’s outcome, seem strange beyond compare, gives enormous fuel to the underdeveloped, fetal field of quantum psychology, which absolutely nobody seems to be ready for. Robert Park of the University of Maryland certainly doesn’t seem to be happy with what Princeton University did when it gave Jahn and his research a national stage at a top engineering department: “It’s been an embarrassment to science, and I think an embarrassment for Princeton.”

Yeah, right. An embarrassment to everyone in science…except the people at PEAR. And an embarrassment to everyone at Princeton…because they didn’t keep PEAR open for another 100 years under new leadership or encourage PEAR’s work on the frontiers of science at all (certainly not monetarily; it took actual engineers to do that).

Right now, science is embarrassed. We are embarrassed that we have not, in the past 2,000 years of philosophy and empiricism formed any coherent Theory of Mind or of consciousness. Princeton University has no overarching Theory of Mind, the University of Maryland has no overarching Theory of Mind, and we have little indication that we are, through our current avenues of research (that is, without quantum psychology and without PEAR), getting any closer.

Several expert panels examined PEAR’s methods over the years, looking for irregularities, but did not find sufficient reasons to interrupt the work.
The New York Times

Neither the academics at Princeton who refused to fund PEAR nor the laboratory’s detractors have put forward any reasonable explanations for these anomalies. Plenty have scoffed at the research, plenty have dismissed it out of hand, but nobody has gone through it methodically and explained how SO MANY EXPERIMENTS taking SO MANY DIFFERENT FORMS at SO MANY LABS over SO MANY YEARS in SOME MANY PLACES corroborated the same essential set of results. This is the challenge.

Although Princeton University seems very comfortable in its own reality, not looking to extend the margins in other words, this simply lays the challenge on the next generation in its entirety (that is, on scientists outside of Princeton U.): Here are these results. Now find the psychophysical cause.

Rupert Sheldrake, a biochemistry Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, explains this academic close-mindedness to quantum biology and quantum psychology–overbearing, it would seem, at Princeton University and the University of Maryland–as the Science Delusion, “the belief that science already understands the nature of reality in principle, leaving only the details to be filled in.”

Scientific theories serve to facilitate the survey of our observations and experimental findings…It is therefore a small wonder, and by no means to be blamed on the authors of the original paper or of text-books, that after a reasonably coherent theory has been formed, they do not describe the bare facts they have found or wish to convey to the reader, but clothe them in terminology of that theory or theories. This procedure, while very useful for our remembering the facts in a well-ordered pattern, tends to obliterate the distinction between the actual observations and the theory arisen from them. And since the former always are of some sensual quality, theories are easily thought to account for sensual qualities; which, of course, they never do.
Erwin Schrödinger

Although the PEAR lab ran for 28 years, publishing three books and hundreds of articles, its preliminary tests were only the beginning: as scientific methods become more precise, quantum cognition will invariably become studied alongside a treasure trove of other as of yet undiscovered quantum aspects of life–in what will be the golden age of quantum biology:

A watershed book…penetrating effort, scholarship, and insight.
Foundations of Physics on Margins of Reality

The wide range of fields within the purview of this research renders this Ivy-backed laboratory the intellectual oddity: At a major research institution–indeed, one of the top research institutions on the planet–why aren’t researchers and academics willing to think for themselves: to innovate?

The only “spooky” thing about quantum cognition is how much mainstream academics oppose it. Apparently, a “unified theory” of physics and biology–of mind and matter, of psychology and chemistry–isn’t what academics are looking to discover. The psychophysical basis of experience (qualia) is too much for them to handle. But the scientific method of peer review cannot confirm the empirical validity of this important work–cannot allow our current, primitive sciences to progress to their next evolutionary stage–if every tenured, “Ivy-educated” professor is “too busy” puttering around with their own research to have a novel, imaginative idea once in a blue moon. They’re too scared to even try.

Cold fusion was famously flawed. Faster-than-light neutrino’s as well. But we fixed those things and learned something along the way! Physicists and other academics are hell-bent against consciousness studies–particularly quantum consciousness studies–for no reason other than their own ignorance.

Richard Dawkins–a brilliant biologist and a famously ardent (or militant) atheist–writes of the mystical experience:

A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and naturalists. It has no connection to supernatural belief. In my boyhood at least, my chaplain was presumably not aware (nor was I) of the closing lines of The Origin of Species–the famous ‘entangled bank’ passage, ‘with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth’.

Compare to these mystics what other quantum innovators–Wigner, Wheeler, Davies, Penrose, and Hawking–have written about the conscious observer and the Mind of God. An ‘entangled bank’ indeed–perhaps even an ‘entangled bank’ of ‘entangled minds’.

In recent years, Stuart Hameroff M.D. and Roger Penrose Ph.D. (Penrose was the man who shared the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics with Stephen Hawking and wrote a very good introduction to Erwin Schrödinger’s books on quantum biology and psychology, What is Life? and Mind and Matter) have advanced the view that proto-consciousness is related to a quantum process within individual cells.

In other words, consciousness collapses the wave function–Wigner would certainly be happy. But who’s teaches these novel ideas to our current undergrads?

It is a disgrace to science and modern education that the academic consensus at Princeton University is too timid and comfortable with its tenured entitlement to engage in real critical thinking and possibly world-changing research. “I see no evidence for psi phenomena; therefore they are not real.” That’s the whole fucking point–quantum psychology is necessarily a subjective science. The evidence won’t be there until you observer an experiment.

The “Guiding Principles” of Princeton’s campus life:

1) Promote soundness of mind, body and spirit
By ignoring the science of the mind, the science of the spirit, and their relation to the science of the body, Princeton has ignored that “mind” and “spirit” even exist, pretending that we’re all a soulless collection of cells, to be “taught” (read: indoctrinated) by the stagnant and unimaginative.

2) Facilitate individual growth
By ignoring the primacy of Individual Consciousness in constructing reality, the University has degraded the spiritual importance–the religious importance–of the individual to nonexistence, without evidence and for no scientific aim.

3) Balance freedom with responsibility and accountability
What is the nature of free will? What is the nature of the human soul? These are the sort of question the PEAR project could have been directed and funded to answer: Further research in the area–particularly as it would relate to the neural correlates of consciousness–could well improve our moral-spiritual-scientific idea of what is fair. By refusing to support, promote, and fund the ideas and intellectual curiosities of its own Dean Emeritus of Engineering, the University makes itself a scientific mockery for the next generation of innovators.

4) Advance the pursuit of excellence (WordPress marks “pursuit of excellence” as a cliché)
If you’ve failed on 3/4 counts, you’ve failed on 4/4. The message you’re sending to aspiring students and innovators everywhere is one of ineptitude and malice: “If you want to study consciousness, don’t come to Princeton. We don’t want you here, and we’re too scared, timid, and entitled to back your research. We’re too scared to even back our Dean when he decides to do something novel and innovative.”

All good science was once on the fringes. When we are scared to ask, we are scared to learn. When Princeton University is afraid to back and promote the progress of the sciences, it fails as an institution of higher learning–miserably.

Lazily dismissing PEAR’s results and theoretical models as “wishful thinking” is itself delusional thinking–a cargo cult science. And as long as Princeton’s academic culture continues to suffer this infection by philosophical quackery, the faster Stanford and Cal will take top place. The competition is fierce, and the academic attitude at Princeton is stagnant, not innovative. The presumptuous theoreticians who failed to fund this novel research into quantum cognition, ignoring its utility through academic tunnel-vision, will have a hefty price to pay indeed once Silicon Valley eats this stuff up as an information technology.

For those new scientists and engineers of the coming wave, however, for those curious individuals agnostic to the blind dogmatism of their professors–the narrow-minded, unimaginative physicists of old–the future looks bright indeed:

You are not likely to change entrenched opinions, scientific or theological, by reason and logic. They change because new generations come along who have not been so indoctrinated, and are willing to think outside the box.
Robert Jahn, Director of PEAR

Although Princeton remained silent when PEAR finished up its research, Jahn having earlier commented that Princeton University likely “won’t be sorry to see us go”, the institution leaves a legacy. And the more Princeton University distances itself from the legacy of its own Engineering Department, the more the University lags behind its competition and promotes a culture of intellectual laziness and stagnation–of pseudoscience, and scientism.

Richard Feynman, the father of nanotechnology and quantum computing, was perhaps the greatest physicist to ever graduate Princeton. Heed his warning.

He did physics “for the fun of it”.

If we wish to give philosophic expression to the profound connection between thought and action in all fields of human endeavor, particularly in science, we shall undoubtedly have to seek its sources in the unfathomable depths of the human soul. Perhaps philosophers might call it “love” in a very general sense–that force which directs all our actions, which is the source of all our delights and all our pursuits. Indissolubly linked with thought and with action, love is their common mainspring, hence, their common bond. The engineers of the future will have an essential part to play in cementing this bond.
Louis de Broglie, New Perspectives in Physics

You can’t outsmart Nature. There’s a reason the next Steve Jobs won’t be going to the Ivy League. But it seems like Princeton University is hell-bent on making sure the next Richard Feynman, Erwin Schrödinger, or Albert Einstein won’t be going there either.

We have inherited from our forefathers the keen longing for unified, all-embracing knowledge…We feel clearly that we are only now beginning to acquire reliable material for welding together the sum total of all that is known into a whole;…I can see no other escape from this dilemma than that some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them – and at the risk of making fools of ourselves. So much for my apology.
Erwin Schrödinger, Founder of Quantum Biology


This entry was posted in Academia, Bioengineering, Engineering, Engineering Anomalies, Physics, Quantum Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research: A Legacy of Innovation

  1. Pingback: The New York Times: Scientific Disintegrity | Philosophy and Physics

  2. Pingback: Psyleron: The Next Step | Philosophy and Physics

  3. Greg Anderton says:

    Thank You for providing this information.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Stuart Hameroff: Is Consciousness Computeable? | philosophy and physics

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