Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Scientists prove that humans can see into the future

with 7 comments

OK, maybe that’s not quite literally what has been discovered, but close enough. A set of careful experiments has shown that the human brain can be influenced by events that haven’t happened yet! Let me repeat that just so it sinks in, scientists have discovered scientific proof that the human brain is somehow influenced by future events. There were a number of experiments, for our purposes here I will describe just one. Experimental subjects were given a list of words to read, without being told anything more. Then the list was taken away and they were given a surprise quiz: to recall as many of the words as they could. With me so far, people being tested on how many words they can recall from a list of words they just read, simple enough, right? Then for each participant, a computer randomly chose a few of the words on the list, and the test subjects were asked to type each of them  several times.

Now, the question here is, will there be any relation between the words the subjects were asked to study after the recall quiz and the words they actually recalled on the test? And the surprising answer is, yes, yes there was. People were slightly more likely to recall words that they had retyped multiple times in the future. The effect was very small, but it was significant. And very small effects are common in science, if they are repeatable, they are real. And if they are real, they need to be explained. In some as yet unknown fashion it appears that people’s brains are somehow primed to more easily recognize words they will study in the future.

Now this wasn’t some whackjob study done in someone’s basement, this was a study by a respected social psychologist, Dr Daryl Bem, at Cornell University. He conducted a number of similar tests, which were basically just a set of well known tests, but changed the chronology of them. IE if one is asked to type a few words multiple times, then shown a  list of words, and then be asked to recall as many of them as they could, test subjects were more likely to recall words they had previously typed. That’s how studying and memory works, and this is one of the ways these are studied.

Now, before getting too excited, yes, we need to wait and see if other researchers will get the same results. And one can be sure that studies trying to replicate these tests results will no doubt be underway soon. The good Dr. Bem may be above reproach, but trickery by lab assistants is not unknown in the realm of science. Nor is people unconsciously massaging the data to get the result they were looking for. Basically there’s a number of possible ways these results may turn out to be, well, non-existent.

If they do turn to to be repeatable, well, that’s going to trigger a lot of new research, that’s for sure. More on point, while to the layman the idea that our brains can somehow see into the future may seem logically impossible, there is a branch of science where such effects are standard fare. This would be quantum physics, the science of the tiniest particles in existence. In the quantum realm, that of photons and electrons, the “blurring” between both time and distance is already well known. IE there are plenty of experiments that show that particles can be influenced by factors that physically or temporally are “impossible.” This is the so called “spooky action at  a distance.” It may not make sense, but it’s very real.

My point here is that while these new experiments are very intriguing, they aren’t as unexpected as one might think. Basically the idea that there is this thing we call “now” that neatly bifurcates reality into “past and “future” is an ideal, not necessarily a reality. It’s a perfectly useful and handy way to understand and view the universe, in fact it’s what makes things like clocks and train schedules so handy. The actual reality appears to be a little fuzzy around the edges, and “now” may be connected to the past and the future in subtle ways that science is just starting to appreciate.

What are the possible consequences of this discovery? It could turn out to be a meaningless quirk with no actual application, just an example of how quantum events can influence the big picture in subtle ways. On the other extreme, it could lead to machines or devices that could peer seconds or minutes into the future. I will let the gentle reader ponder the implications of that. In any case, this is yet another example that shows that reality conforms to its own rules, and is under no obligation to conform to our idea of what “makes sense.” It’s up to humans to understand reality as it really is,  because on some level it will make sense, but maybe not the one we’re used too.

And thinking about this discovery is making me appreciate the difference between fundamentalist religions and science. Science seeks to understand the world as it really is, the fundamentalists try to make their observations fit their preconceptions. I mean there appear to be large numbers of people who literally believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old, and they have even gone so far as to build a “museum” to foster this belief. To me it would be as if millions of grown ups literally believed in Santa Claus. It doesn’t make sense to me, but there must be some powerful sociological or psychological reasons why millions of humans never really grow up and literally believe in Santa Claus all their lives. I’m sure psychologists and sociologists are studying this phenomenon carefully.

More on that tomorrow as I get around to my promised post about “what’s on  the other side?”

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. It’s posted in hundreds of places on line with no attribution, so I have no idea where it originated. It just looked kinda cool and expressed the ideas in the post in a visual way. The source material for this post, and lots of references and links can be found at: Have Scientists Finally Discovered Evidence for Psychic Phenomena?!)


Written by unitedcats

October 21, 2010 at 10:44 am

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Actually, santa claus is real, although his real name was saint nicholas and he’s been dead for about 1700 years. details…


    October 21, 2010 at 5:38 pm

  2. This reminds me of Bill & Ted’s time travel “strategy” for stealing Ted’s dad’s keys:


    October 21, 2010 at 11:40 pm

  3. Neato, here’s an idea, every time something important or life changing happens, write it down several times. This way, you can send a kind of message back to yourself.

    It’s a cool subject, I day dream about the day when we will have such advanced computers that we will be able to map the interactions of individual atoms and also trace out where they have been and where they are going.

    If you think about it its just ungodly amount of calculation, but if that was not a problem, you could predict the path of neurons and all the atoms in someones brain and know what they are thinking, or kinda see into the future or the past by tracing all atoms in an area.

    Hmm, a robot/computer has to calculate the trajectories to simply throw a ball through a hoop, where as we can just estimate and do it with out any exact calculations, just not perfect again and again. Maybe that’s whats happening with this, we are mapping atoms intuitively by estimation, if this is real it would give a cool scientific reason for psychics anyways. Cool post!



    October 22, 2010 at 6:44 am

    • Yes, there are all sorts of ways this could be exploited, and likely probably are exploited unconsciously. Evolution is all about exploiting advantages, however small. It all adds up.

      Last I heard the “trick” people use to catch balls, not to mention falcons intercepting flying prey and a host of other examples, is fairly well understood. And yes, no calculations involved. We may be referring to the same thing. Good blog post some day.


      October 24, 2010 at 7:15 pm

  4. Wow !!
    I wonder if you could have words that don’t appear on the list that the test subject would have to write later, and they “Rembered” those without ever seeing them first ?
    That would REALLY be Mind-Blowing !
    Just saying.


    October 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    • Exactly, there is going to be a LOT of research on this, it is mind blowing. The quantum physicists have been trying to tell us for decades that causality may not be all it’s cracked up to be, I mean this research could have been done decades ago … — Doug


      October 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: