Seeking for whom the bell tolls: Exploring mind-matter interactions on a global scale

Vibrant Mind

Is there a global mind? Could it be detected quantitatively? In an empirical approach to this question, over the last decade a half-dozen researchers have examined the outputs of electronic noise-based, truly random number generators (RNG) before, during and after highly focused or coherent group events. (See video). The group events studied included intense psychotherapy sessions, captivating theater presentations, religious rituals, popular sports competitions like World Cup Soccer, and high interest television broadcasts like the Academy Awards 1 . Results of over 100 experiments conducted during such events suggest that mind and matter may be entangled in fundamental ways, and in particular that focused mental attention in groups appears to be associated with negentropic fluctuations in streams of truly random data.

Unlike previous laboratory studies of mind-matter interaction involving RNGs, where an individual is asked to Mentally intend the output of an RNG to deviate from chance, these “field consciousness” experiments study effects of groups of minds that are all paying attention to the same external event. RNGs are used as the “matter” side of the equation because methods for detecting statistical order in sequences of random events are well established, techniques for generating and recording truly random bits are well understood, and hundreds of previously reported, independently replicated laboratory studies indicate that under certain conditions mental intention and random events can become significantly correlated 2 .

In 1997, at a meeting with several colleagues interested in this line of research, I proposed that what we needed to significantly expand this line of research would be a source of numerous parallel, continuous streams of truly random bits generated by KNGs located around the world. Princeton University’s Roger Nelson took up the challenge, and about six months later, with heroic assistance by Greg Nelson and John Walker, they implemented what is now called the Internet-based Global Consciousness Project (GCP) 3 . In this project, mass mental coherence is inferred to take place as a result of major news events that attract widespread attention, and it is around these times that negentropic changes are predicted to occur in the RNGs. This hypothesis has been formally tested in the GCP data by examining whether the statistical behavior of the random bit streams deviates from chance expectation from just before an event of widespread interest to a few hours afterwards. As of May 2002, some 104 such events had been formally tested with overall significant results (p < 3 Y 10-7). 4 . With growing support for the GCP mind-matter interaction hypothesis, I decided to examine the GCP random data over longer time periods than had been previously studied, with special interest in seeing how RNG outputs behaved on days with major news events as compared to relatively uneventful days.

A detailed account of the hardware and software that comprises the GCP network can be found in other publications 5 . Briefly, the RNGs are hardware circuits that rely on inherent electronic noise as a source of randomness. They are designed for professional applications requiring highly reliable generation of truly random bits, and each has passed standard tests for randomness as well as extensive calibration tests. Each RNG is attached to a personal computer which collects 200 random bits into one “trial” per second. These trials theoretically follow a binomial or bell-shaped distribution, with mean = 100 and variance = 50. Each computer records its trials into time- stamped files, and all of the computer clocks are synchronized to standard Internet time servers. Packets of random data from each computer are transmitted over the Internet to a central server in Princeton, New Jersey, USA, for archiving. As of May 2002, the network consisted of 50 RNGs located throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The number of RNGs reporting daily fluctuates by one or two occasionally, when the computers hosting the RNG are taken offline or used for other tasks.

The mathematics of these analyses are somewhat daunting for those not conversant with statistics, so I will skip over those details. 6 . Fortunately the methods can be explained by analogy. Each RNG is continually generating numbers that, when collected into a histogram, form the classic bell- shaped curve. I was interested in how the shape of this bell changed over time, and especially in how external events might be associated with those changes. In effect, I was studying the “ringing” of the bell during the course of human events, or seeking, as John Donne had posed poetically, “for whom the bell tolls.”

To demonstrate that over long periods of time the composite RNG outputs are well-behaved, Figure I shows the distribution for all GCP random data generated between January 1, 2001 and November 30, 2001. We expect to see a bell-shaped curve with mean 0 and standard deviation I, and this is what we observe.

To illustrate how this bell “rings” over time, Figure 2 shows a measurement of the dynamically changing width of the bell, between June 16, 2001 and September 20, 2001. The graph indicates that most of the time the bell randomly tinkles, like a set of wind chimes gently wafting in the breeze. But occasionally it makes an especially loud peal.

The ordinate in Figure 2 is in terms of z scores, or standard normal deviates. Z scores between z > +- 2 are principally noise, but values outside this range are statistically more interesting. In particular, notice in Figure 2 that something unusual happened one day in September. On that day the curve deviated beyond z > +-3, the bell tolled suddenly, and sharply. Figure 3 shows this in detail. This curve peaks just before a terrorist hijacked jet hit World Trade Tower #l in New York City at 8:46 AM EDT, September 11, 2001, and the curve drops to its lowest point around 2:30 PM, roughly 8 hours later. A z score change of this magnitude within an 8- hour period, as observed on September 11, is unique throughout the year 2001. By analogy, in 2001 the bell rang the loudest on September 11. Recall that this bell tone reflects a global effect, it is not limited to just one or a few RNGs located in North America or Europe.

In examining this result in more detail, consider that the GCP network of RNGs is analogous to a set of buoys that we scatter across an ocean to detect a tsunami, a colossal singular wave. Continuing with our bell analogy, let’s attach a little bell to each buoy and use a radio to send the sounds of the bells to a central monitoring location. Because buoys are tossed about by local currents and winds, if we listen to their collective sound, most of the time we will hear random jingles. However, on rare occasions the buoys will all chime as one. Such times indicate positive correlations among all the buoy bells, and we would have good reason to believe that a tsunami has occurred.

Likewise, I examined correlations among all possible pairs of GCP RNG outputs to see how they behaved on a daily basis over each in the year 2001. I expected that September 11, 2001 might be the GCP equivalent of a tsunami given the unprecedented degree of world-wide attention precipitated by the events of that day. Skipping the technical details. Figure 4 shows the odds against chance associated with daily mean RNG intercorrelation measures taken between December 1, 2000 and December 31, 2001. The peak daily value occurred on September 11, 2001, confirming that our group of bells, located world-wide, collectively rang loudest, and simultaneously, on that day.

Many questions arise from these results. Could the result on September 11 be a statistical fluke or an analytical mistake? Could these effects be due to environmental influences on RNGs, such as the effects of likely increased cell-phone usage on days with major news events? Could it be due to “shoehorning” the data into preconceived expectations? And what caused the bells to collectively ring loudly on days other than September 11?

My colleagues and I examined these and other questions, and we convinced ourselves that these results were not mistakes, environmental artifacts, or psychological projection. Something anomalous really did happen in the GCP data on September 11, as compared to every other day in year 2001. One implication was that we had observed a mind-matter interaction effect on a global scale.

While this finding was noteworthy, I thought the evidence for a global mind-matter interaction effect would be much more powerful if it turned out that the GCP bell “rang” in proportion to the amount of coherence in global mind as it fluctuated from day to day. To study this question, I took all news events listed in the “Year in Review” feature on the InfoPlease web site, www.infoplease.corn, for all days in year 2001. This web site lists headline news in five categories, it is affiliated with the well-known Reuters news service, and of course its contents are completely independently of the Global Consciousness Project.

For the one-year test period, a total of 394 news events were listed; these took place on 250 days. The global mind-matter hypothesis predicts that these 250 days would have a larger mean intercorrelation value than the remaining 115 non-newsworthy days. This prediction was confirmed with odds against chance of 100 to 1. In other words, on average the GCP bells collectively rang louder on days that Reuters considered to be newsworthy, as compared to days when nothing of great interest occurred.

A more general way to examine this idea was to calculate the relationship between the “amount” of daily news vs. the ringing of the GCP bell (i.e., not just whether there was news or not, but how much news). I had observed in the InfoPlease list of events that the minimum number of news events occurring on a single day, according to the Renter’s news editors, was 0, and the maximum was 5. Each of these events was accompanied by a text description; the number of characters in those descriptions summed over all events per day ranged from 72 to 1,193. I used these text counts as indicators of the amount of news per day because many news events on the same day would lead to larger values. If in fact the GCP bell rang louder on days with more news, then we could predict a positive correlation. As it turned out, the result was indeed significantly positive, with odds against chance of 1000 to I (r = 0.16, t (363 df) = 3.08, p = 0.001).

By analogy, these observations mean that little bells perched on dozens of buoys scattered around the world’s oceans somehow magically ring in coherent harmony not only during events considered to be newsworthy, but in proportion to the amount of news. Because news, by definition, is associated with attention-getting events, we may infer that fluctuations in the global mind’s attention is associated with fluctuations in a measure of global physical coherence. In other words, we appear to be detecting a global form of mind- matter interaction.

For most of the 20th century, quantum theorists found themselves forced to seriously reconsider classical assumptions about the apparent gulf between observer and observed. 8 In the latter half of the 20th century, investigators developed increasingly rigorous methods for explicitly testing postulated mind-matter interactions. 9 As the 21st century dawns, it appears that when we ask, “for whom does the bell toll,” that the response confirms John Donne’s answer in the 16th century: No man is an island. The bell tolls for thee.


1   Bierman, 1996; Blasband, 2000; Nelson, 1995, 1997; Nelson et al, 1996, 1998a, 1998b;
Radin et al, 1996; Radin, 1997; Rowe, 1998; Schwartz et al, 1997; Yoichi et al, 2002.
2   Radin & Nelson, 1989; in press.
3   Nelson, 2001.
4   See the web site and Nelson (2001) for further details.
5   Nelson (2001, in press).
6   For details, see my article on this topic in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (Radin, in press).
7   There is no easy answer for why the peak in this curve occurred before the terrorist attacks;
the observable fact is that it did.
8   Jahn, 1981; Jahn & Dunne, 1987; Stapp, 1999;Wilber, 1984.
9   Radin & Nelson, 1989, in press.


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Dean Radin, Ph.D. is a Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences, and author of ‘The Conscious Universe’.

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