Have you ever experienced a time when the collective enthusiasm of a large event seemed to rise to such a peak that you could almost feel a crackle in the air? Or felt a haunting sense while visiting a place where there was great sadness or suffering of thousands of people? It turns out that there may be something more than imagination behind these feelings.
Provocative, previously published evidence suggests that there are significant departures from chance expectation in the outputs of random number generators (electronic devices that produce truly random bits, or sequences of zeros and ones) during times of collective upheaval, global crises and major celebrations - like Burning Man. This is one pretty reliable way to measure the impact of minds on matter.
Last year, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS, located in Petaluma, CA), along with several collaborators, conducted an exploratory experiment on the Playa and produced really powerful results, showing a predicted correlation between the mass celebration (during the burning of the Man and the Temple burn) and the output of random number generators. These results support the hypothesis that there may be a causal link between changes in collective consciousness and physical events.
We called this the Burning Man Huge Freakin' Laser Random Number Generator art/experiment. The data we obtained provides additional evidence of a link between mind and matter -- a chronically controversial issue within mainstream science, but one supported by a growing body of empirical data.
Roger Nelson, with the Global Consciousness Project, is part of our awesome team, as is Claudia Welss with the Global Coherence Initiative. Maurizio Benazzo, organizer of the bi-annual Science and Non-Duality (SAND) conference, also co-sponsored the project. David Shearer, PhD, board member of Black Rock Solar, also supported our project. James Hanusa and Doc North at Camp Ideate were a huge help, letting us use their camp as the base for last year's experiment. Last, but definitely not least, we owe a lot of thanks to Joey Burnett, intern extraordinaire at IONS, who assisted greatly with on the ground preparation and monitoring.
2012 was our inaugural year conducting this research and while we got great data, supporting the hypothesis that there would be a measurable impact of so many minds focused on the burns, the fun component of our project was less than ideal. We hooked a laser up to our RNG, to show visually the deviation from randomness that was measured during the burning of the Man and the Temple, and to potentially create a positive feedback loop. But our laser last year wasn't as freakin' huge as we'd hoped it would be, and we had technical problems that prevented the laser from being very visible.
This year we're going really freakin' huge by collaborating with the folks at the Control Tower. We're going to share a 30 watt laser - yes, that's huge! - and allow the whole freakin' Playa to see the deviations from randomness during the big Burns. This might result in a positive feedback effect that should enhance the mind on matter effect. Or, if it doesn't, we'll have more data to noodle and we'll revise our hypotheses. We're doing science and art and fun all at once. And we're doing collaborative art in the best spirit of the community experiment that is Burning Man.
We're seeking $10,000 this year, to help pay for the really huge laser we need to make this experiment really successful, and careful analysis of the data collected.
We're doing real science here. Yes, there's a fun component (which is awesome), but we are also exploring foundational, scientifically legitimate questions: What is mind? What is matter? Do mind and matter interact directly? There is already strong evidence for correlations between mass celebrations and the output of random number generators, including our own experiment last year at Burning Man. But given the radical nature of our hypotheses, we need more data to make our arguments even more persuasive. The cliche is true: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Many past experiments have shown a correlation between mass celebrations and the output of random number generators: http://noosphere.princeton.edu/.
Obviously, when we choose to stand, sit, speak, we - our minds - influence the matter of our bodies. But the broader question, which our experiments are exploring, is to what degree this interaction of mind and matter extends beyond our own bodies. By using the collective conscious intention of crowds focused on singular events like the burning of the Man, we have the potential to amplify the impact of individual minds. And we're hoping that the addition of a really intense laser will create a positive feedback loop to make this impact even larger than we've already witnessed.
If we're able to show such a correlation, we'll be closer to scientifically demonstrating that our minds extend beyond the traditional overly narrow notion of self, and are always affecting each other and the world around us -- not just through our decisions and actions, but by their very nature -- a quest that is a strong part of the IONS' legacy.
"Because of the interconnectedness of all minds, affirming a positive vision may be about the most sophisticated action any of us can take." Willis Harman, IONS Guiding Director.
We'll be publishing our results and will share our data with anyone who wants to see it.
Here's our data from last year.