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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics


Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Science News Would Be Far More Interesting If the Dogmas of Materialists Were True

Scrolling through the science news headlines these days you will get many interesting-sounding headlines, although most of the more interesting headlines are clickbait and hype which lead to disappointment when you read the story. Again and again, some unimportant research or dubious claim will be announced with some headline that makes you think some epic breakthrough was made. The progress of science these days is actually fairly slow.  But it would be a totally different situation if the belief dogmas of materialists were true.  In such a case the science news would be many times more interesting than the science news you'll read today.

Let's consider natural history. A belief dogma of materialists is that earthly organisms all arose through gradual Darwinian evolution.  If that were true, there would be millions of transitional fossils all over the place, so many that the discovery of missing links would be announced all the time. It would happen so much you would get sick of hearing about it. Upon reading the seventh story you read this week about a discovery of important missing links in evolution, you might say, "Enough with the missing links already."

Were it true that random mutations can yield important biological innovations, we would read on our science news sites an abundance of headlines telling how some new biological wonder was produced in a laboratory experiment.  If we read the news stories matching the headlines, they might say something like, "Scientists have produced yet another new organismic innovation by exposing some animals to radiation that caused mutations."

If it were true that Darwinian processes of random mutation and survival-of-the-fittest were capable of producing great marvels of innovation,  then software engineers would utilize such a thing to easily produce new computer programs. We would have a constant stream of stories telling about how some marvelous new computer software innovation was produced by some software-generating computer program that used an evolutionary approach to computer programming.

If it were true that brains are the source of human thinking, scientists by now would have discovered some principle by which matter can produce thinking, and would have leveraged such a principle to create super-intelligent computers.  So our science news stories would frequently give us stories like this: "Scientists created a new electronic super-brain with an IQ of 10,000, vastly surpassing their previous best effort, which only had an IQ of 8000."  There would probably also be stories of thinking caps that allowed you to expand your creativity or imagination by a factor of five or ten times.

If it were true that human memories are stored in brains, we would have very many extremely interesting memory-related news stories in our science news feeds.  Scientists would be able to read memories from brains, which would be the source of countless fascinating stories. For example, there might be a story telling how memories were read from the mind of an executed prisoner, to try and find out for sure whether he was really a murderer.  Or there might be a story telling how biographers were working with scientists reading the memories of an important person who recently died, so that the biographers could find additional details about the person's life experiences, by reading the dead person's memories.

If it were true that human memories are stored in brains,  the science news would also have stories of new companies that specialized in surgical removal of unpleasant memories.  There would also be stories of companies providing the service of letting you read all the memories of your parent after that parent died. Our science news sites would also have fascinating stories about how some people were skipping old-fashioned universities, and instead paying for neural knowledge downloads that allowed them to learn much faster. 

If it were true that brains produced ideas and understanding, there would surely be some way to artificially cause humans to produce more ideas and much greater understanding.  So we would probably read our science news sites announcing on a regular basis that some brilliant new idea or some wonderful new insight about nature had come after some scientist had zapped his brain with electricity, or taken some pill that sped up the chemistry of his brain.  

If it were true that our brains store beliefs, scientists would have found exactly how such beliefs were stored, and we would therefore read very interesting news stories about how scientists are changing people's beliefs by erasing beliefs from particular parts of the brain, perhaps with an electrical jolt. People belonging to some religion or political group would be very worried that a person might lose his religion or political affiliation because of some scientist zapping his brain, erasing particular beliefs. 

Were it true that life is mere chemistry, and that minds arise from mere brain activity, it would almost certainly be possible to revive dead people by restarting their hearts. In that case we would have all kinds of fascinating stories in our science news feeds telling about modern day Dr. Frankensteins who were able to revive people who had died hours or days ago. 



In such a case we would also read on our science news sites  interesting stories debating whether the right to be revived after death should be considered a basic human right available to all. 

Were it true that life arose from mere chemical processes, we would read in the science news all kinds of fascinating stories about how scientists had created life from scratch in a laboratory, through some experiment that simulated the early Earth.  If it were true that life can accidentally arise from mere chemicals, and that large organisms and mankind arose merely because of Darwinian processes of random mutation and survival-of-the-fittest, it would almost certainly be true that our galaxy would be filled with intelligent life. For there are billions of solar systems in our galaxy.

In such a case, the science news would be so much more interesting. We would have a constant stream of stories telling about how scientists had detected radio signals from yet another civilization in space. Since it is easy to transmit images by radio using a grid system in which radio blips stand for pixels, every year would bring a bonanza of new images showing extraterrestrials and their strange cities on other planets.

If it were true that elevated emotions such as love were merely the products of brain chemistry, then we would probably read on our science news sites some very interesting stories such as accounts of neuroscientist marriage counselors with the power to fix up broken marriages by merely restoring the brain chemistry of the wife and husband as it existed when they were madly in love.  We would probably also read many science news stories about neuroscientist love potions and love-at-first-sight perfumes, or about politicians or clergymen who produced certain emotions in their audiences by simply sending out particular types of aromas laced with the right type of chemicals to produce some emotional effect. 

But we have no such stories on our science news sites.  Our actual science news sites are relatively boring. You will often read sensational-sounding headlines, but almost always when you click on the headline and read and critically analyze the story, weighing it against the standards of robust observational science, you will find that you have been lured by some clickbait hype, and that there's "not much there there" in the story. 

Our science news feeds would also be so much more interesting if scientists were to allocate their research dollars more intelligently.  For all practical purposes there is pretty much in effect the rule that research dollars should almost all be spent trying to confirm things that scientists believe in. But imagine if scientists paid no attention to their beliefs when allocating research dollars, and instead followed the rule that research dollars should be spent in proportion to how much something has been observed or reported. Then scientists would not waste countless billions of dollars trying to prove hollow boasts and ideas that are not based on observations, but would instead spend a great deal of time investigating phenomena that have often been reported, but which scientists don't care to believe in. Then our science news feeds would be so much more interesting, and would frequently report research results regarding many fascinating spooky things that very few scientists today investigate, because of fear of throwing doubt on their cherished assumptions. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Medical Wrist Band: A Science Fiction Story

Billionaire David Crasson was not one for graceful natural aging. He was trying to use all available medical treatments to slow or stop the aging process, and grant himself a very long life. Twice a week he got blood transfusions from 20-year-old persons who he paid lots of money.  Once a month he got cell implants from other people between the ages of 20 and 25. Crasson took a daily cocktail of biologically engineered drugs which he thought could slow the aging process.  He was also experimenting with nanobot injections designed to keep his arteries as unclogged as they were when he was in his twenties, thirty years ago. 

All of this seemed to be working rather well. Crasson felt more vigorous and healthy than he had felt in years. But he wanted to get some exact way of keeping track of how well his anti-aging efforts were working. So Crasson summoned a group of software developers and medical technologists to one of his seven homes. 

"I want you guys to develop a new hi-tech gadget, one that I can wear like a wrist watch," said Crasson. "I want to be able to glance at my wrist, and know how well I'm doing in my efforts to slow down the aging process."

During the next week the software developers and medical technologists came up with a plan for how to develop the gadget. The device would use sophisticated sensors to track vital signs such as heart rate, breathing and temperature. Instead of merely getting a single number for each of these things, real-time data on these factors would be subjected to continuous analysis searching for minute fluctuations and patterns that could signal signs of declining vitality.  The most sophisticated aspect of the device would be subcutaneous nano-probes that would perform telomere length readings and state-of-the-art analysis of tiny blood particles.  That would occur while the wearer of the device was sleeping, and the wearer would not even notice any pain or itching from his wrist. 

At a meeting with Crasson a week later, the team quoted a price for developing such a gadget, which Crasson thought was too high. Even though the price was trivial for a man of Crasson's wealth, he had a long-held habit of spending money in a miserly manner. Eventually a deal was made for a lower development fee, in exchange for giving the developers the rights to market the device to the public. 

After a few weeks of effort, the team leader Rod Scott returned to Crasson to show him a prototype of the wrist device. He demonstrated how you could use buttons on the device to navigate through different charts and tables that would be displayed on the screen of the little device. 

"That interface is terrible!" said Crasson. "Didn't you ever hear of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid? I don't want to bother with charts and tables, because I'm not a doctor or a scientist."

"Okay, so we can take a totally different route," said Scott. "We'll make it so the little gadget will just display a single number that may change as your health situation changes."

"I like that idea," said Crasson. "Get cracking on it."

A few weeks later Scott returned with the completed device. He told Crasson that all he had to do was strap on the device, and occasionally peek at the number the device would display.

Crasson was pleased. He strapped on the gadget. At first the screen was blank. 

"Give it a few days," said Scott. "Then it will give you a number."

But after five days the wrist gadget displayed only a question mark. Crasson called Scott to complain. 

"Give it a few more days," said Scott. 

After three days, there was a change. Now the device displayed two question marks. 

"You guys blew it!" screamed Crasson after summoning Scott. "This gadget is junk, so I'm not paying you anything."

"We'll see you in court," said Scott, storming off.  He jumped in his self-driving car, and told it to take him home.

Crasson was just about to throw the wrist gadget in a garbage can when he noticed that it suddenly was giving a reading. The gadget now displayed the number 130. 

Crasson showed the wrist device to his wife. 

"The hi-tech medical wrist gadget says 130," said Crasson. "You know what that means, don't you?"

"No," said his wife. "What does it mean?"

"It means that my anti-aging program is working perfectly," said Crasson. "I'm going to live to be 130 years old!"

"Oh, that's wonderful," said his wife, faking a happy response.  Walking into another room, she began to cry. Thirty years younger than Crasson, she had married the unlikable billionaire mainly because she wanted to inherit half of his vast fortune.

For the next two weeks Crasson bragged to everyone in his main mansion that he was going to be the first man to live to be 130. He told people that he was starting to develop a written plan for the next seventy years of his life.  One of his plans was to make movies looking just as if they had been filmed by Hollywood in the late 1940's or 1950's, using its greatest stars of that age, even though all of the actors were really computer generated.  Then there was his plan to create a zero-gravity zoo in outer space, consisting of never-before-seen creatures genetically engineered to be ideal for floating in the weightlessness of space. Then there was his plan to create a rough terrain vehicle that would kind of throw little roads ahead of itself whenever necessary. 

But then one day his wife found him motionless and lifeless in bed. He had died during the night, at the age of only 57.  His aggressive use of experimental medical nanobots had helped bring about his sudden death by cardiac failure. 

His wife was very delighted to discover the dead body of Crasson, for she knew that she would inherit half of his billions. But she did her best to sound like she was sad. "All I can say is that I feel a genuine, authentic and not-at-all-artificial sense of feeling really, truly sad," she said. "In all true sincerity I feel that this outcome is completely and totally...tragic." 

"That stupid medical wrist band of his was such a failure," said Crasson's wife to his son. "It was so wrong, telling him he would live to be 130."

"No, I think that wrist device was precisely accurate," said the son. 

"How do you figure that?" asked the wife.

"They never told him what that number 130 meant," said the son. "He thought it meant the age he would live to. But maybe the number was something totally different. Maybe the number was a prediction of the day of the year he would die."

"So today is January 30," said the wife. "How would you express that as a number?"

"As the number 130," said the son, "with the 1 standing for the month, and the 30 standing for the day of the month."

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Clairvoyance Outside of Hypnosis

In the posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here, I cited very many accounts of clairvoyance in those who were hypnotized,  accounts often written by physicians. Reports of clairvoyance in people in hypnotic trances (sometimes called somnambules) seem to be more common than reports of clairvoyance in those who are not hypnotized. But in the literature of the paranormal, there are reports of people with a "second sight" who seemed to have remarkable clairvoyance, even when they were not hypnotized. 

In a nineteenth century work, we read this quote from the influential scholar and theorist Allan Kardec:

"We know in Paris a lady who possesses permanent second sight, and with whom it is as natural as normal vision. She sees without effort and without concentration, the character, the habits, and the antecedents of those who approach her; she describes disease and prescribes efficacious treatment with greater facility than that of many ordinary somnambulists; it suffices to think of an absent person—she at once sees him and describes him. On one occasion we were with her and we saw someone pass in the street who was connected with us, but whom she had never seen. Without the preliminary of any question being put to her she very exactly depicted his moral character and gave us very sound advice about him.  This lady is not a somnambulist; she speaks of what she sees as she would speak of other things, without interrupting her occupation. Is she a medium ? She does not herself know, for until recently she did not even know the name of spiritualism."

The author of the work (Gabrielle Delanne) cites two similar cases that the author witnessed:

"We can add our testimony to that of Allan Kardec. About twenty years ago we were associated with a Madame Bardeau, who possessed this faculty. She was able to describe exactly people who lived far away in the southern provinces, and whom she had never seen, and was able to give details concerning their characters and circumstances. She made certain predictions which were fulfilled. Nevertheless she was in a normal state, her eyes wide open, and she carried on conversation on other subjects, interrupting herself occasionally to add some trait concerning the face or character of the absent person which rendered the description more complete. At the present time we know a woman, Mme. Renardat, who can see at a distance without being entranced. We have had incontestible proof of this, for she correctly described one of our uncles who lived at Gray, she specified the disease he had (unknown to his medical attendants), and predicted his death, and this without ever having known him."

A nineteenth century work describes the following cases of clairvoyance during "natural somnambulism" that was not brought on by a hypnotist:

  • A girl of twelve was inflicted with convulsions, catalepsy, paroxysms and syncope (fainting).  During such paroxysms, she was able to distinguish all colors presented to her, and recognize the numbers on cards, even though her eyes were firmly closed, and a bandage placed over her eyes. 
  • A rope maker would often fall into some kind of sleep or trance, during which he would move about with great agility, avoiding obstructions and obstacles in front of him, even though his eyes were firmly closed. 
  • A girl aged sixteen would often suffer paroxysms that would involve a "profound sleep." In such a state she would often run around all over the place outdoors, never injuring herself. We are told "During all these hazardous operations her eyes were fast closed and she appeared to be deprived of all her other senses." 
  • A girl aged fifteen would often fall into catalepsy and trances. We read this: "If, as she lay upon the sofa, her eyes firmly closed, I opened a book having pictures in it and sat behind her in a position where it was physically impossible that she could see what I was doing, and I looked at one of the pictures, she forthwith exhibited, in pantomimic action, the posture of each person there depicted."  In such an altered state of consciousness she could also apparently tell what people were doing in other rooms, with such an ability being confirmed in tests run many times. 

In the account below it is hard to tell whether hypnosis was involved. Some school boys completely unfamiliar with hypnosis said that one boy "only seemed to go to sleep when we told him to do so."  We read the following:

"But his eyes alone were shut, for he walked about, and talked, and said he could see things in our boxes. One of our games with him was to place a book upon the floor, throw the blanket over it and then tell him to read any page we named. He always did so quite rightly. But none of as knew what was on that page. We tried this so many times, with so many different books, that it was impossible he could have known beforehand what the page contained. We tested him with pocket-books and letters, and he did the same."

In the nineteenth century, there was once a habit of making walnut-shaped candies containing small strips of paper called mottoes, with there being innumerable variations of such mottoes (which might have between one and four lines of text). These confections were kind of "fortune cookies before there were fortune cookies," since fortune cookies only appeared in the early twentieth century.  In an edition of the journal The Zoist (the 20th Number of the Zoist for April, 1848, 6th vol., p. 96 and thereafter) a Dr. Ashburner records about seven pages of tests of two subjects who could read the paper strips inside walnut-shaped candies before the candies were broken open to reveal what was on the strips inside the candies. He states on page 101 that "both the girls were wide awake," indicating they were not in a hypnotic trance.  

Sometimes clairvoyance seems to occur as a one-shot thing. In the case reported here, a little girl claimed to see her father (stationed far away in India) with "blood running from a big wound."  Her companions denied seeing any such thing. It was later found that her father had been shot and died from the wound, at about the same time the strange vision occurred. 

Some people have demonstrated a dramatic second sight outside of hypnosis, by means of what is called psychometry.  Psychometry occurs when a person seems to display an inexplicable knowledge of someone living or dead, after touching some object associated with that person  Below is a dramatic account of such a thing from the nineteenth century:

"At one time while in Chicago, after I had delivered a discourse on the subject of psychology, a lady by the name of Mrs. Wilson Porter, who lived at Peoria, III., taking hold of my cane (which had been placed upon the piano, with several other canes, hats and umbrellas) without knowing whose it was, and had never seen me before, commenced to read my history, and spoke of some of the leading events in my life, at the same time telling the dates on which the events occurred, also my age at the time these events happened, as well as my age at the time of reading. She then took up the cane of another man, and read his history as accurately as she had done mine, and spoke of what was likely to happen when he would reach the age of forty-two years. And on appealing to the man for testimony, the man said: 'A part of it was true, but he could not vouch for the truth of all that had been said.' When the lady replied : ' I am aware that you cannot vouch for all that has been said, because you have not reached the age of forty-two years ; but in one week from next Tuesday, you will be forty-two years old, and on that day you will be able to testify.' The gentleman arose and stated that on that day he would reach the age of forty-two years, and that, although he had never seen the lady before and (being a travelling man) was a stranger to everyone present, still what she had told him was true. I might give you many more instances of similar experiences, but what I have said is sufficient to give you an idea of what is meant by psychometry."

According to a newspaper account in the Duluth Herald, a young girl named Ethel Gilliam suffered an illness that left her body cold, clammy and apparently dead.  Her body was placed in a coffin. An hour before her funeral was to begin, she awoke, complaining that she wished she had not been brought back. This is a common complaint of those having near-death experiences, who often say they had visited some place where they very much wanted to stay.  The girl said she had visited heaven. 

The girl was now blind. But she seemed to be gifted with "a wonderful power that enabled her to read and see by the sense of touch alone." Such a power has been been reported after 1970 in very many children in China, as you can read about here. We read the following from the newspaper account:

"Although blind, this girl can read by passing her fingers over the printed or written page, and can describe persons whose pictures were handed to her. The latter power was first discovered by ]. B. Cawthorn, a photographer, whose mother lives in Walla Walla. He told the marvellous story to a Sunday-school in Palouse city, and Mr. Gray and wife, hearing it, drove out to the home of the girl to see for themselves. Mr. Gray first handed the sick girl his watch, and she told him it was a gold watch, and the time of day by passing her fingers over the glass.To make sure that her power was genuine a paper was held between her face and a photograph that Mr. Gray handed to her, and she described the picture perfectly as that of an old gentleman with gray whiskers, wearing a dark suit and a cravat. She read from books and papers handed to her, by the use of her fingers. Mr. and Mrs. Gray tell many other wonderful things in relation to this child."

In a nineteenth century work we read the following:

"The Pacific Hotel, in St. Louis, was destroyed by fire, February, 1858. A little brother of Mr. Henry Rochester, living at home with his parents near Avon, N. Y., woke screaming from sleep the night of the fire, and declared that his brother Henry was burning to death in an hotel. Such was the boy's horror and alarm that it was with difficulty he could be pacified. This was about midnight. Twelve hours afterwards the parents received a telegram from St. Louis, confirming the boy's vision in every particular."

The case of Mollie Fancher of Brooklyn is a very-well documented case of clairvoyance outside of hypnotism (although there was often a kind of trance not produced by hypnotism). Mollie's case is probably the most interesting medical case history in the history of New York City. Mollie suffered terrible injuries such as falling from a horse, and being dragged for a block after her skirt got caught in a street car she was trying to exit. She was left bed-bound for decades, suffering from a complex variety of severe physical problems and severe mental afflictions which  included blindness,  nine years in a state rather like a coma (characterized by spasms, trances and catalepsy), and eventually something like split personality.  Her observers claimed to have observed six different personalities appearing from Mollie.  She often claimed to see spirits. In the midst of all of this physical and mental turmoil, she repeatedly displayed dramatic powers of clairvoyance, according to very many reliable witnesses.  She also seemed to survive for incredible lengths of time without eating.  Her story is told in a 300-page 1894 book by Abram Dailey. 

clairvoyant

Below is testimony from a Miss Crosby who long observed Mollie:

"Some of the remarkable things which she, Miss Fancher, has done during her sickness are as follows : She could tell the exact time by simply passing her hand over the crystal of the watch ; also tell the exact time across the room ; she could tell the approach of a thunder storm some hours before it came ; she could also tell the fire bells were going to ring sometimes as much as five- minutes before they really did ring. She has very often told what parties were doing over in New York, and even further away, and has always been correct in her statements. Persons ringing the door bell at the house, she could recognize before they entered the house."

The author of a book describing in great detail the case of Mollie Flancher writes the following (using the word "visited" to describe a kind of "traveling clairvoyance"):

"In this way she has visited the homes of friends, and, as will be related by Mr. Sargent, she has been to him when he has been nearly a thousand miles away, and described his surroundings and the persons present so minutely, in advance of any statement from him, that to doubt her powers would be absurd. Many and severe tests have been made to determine the fact of her clairvoyance, and I am not aware that any person who has made the test, has any doubt that she possesses that very interesting and remarkable gift."

The author describes a test he made, using a double blindfold that was superfluous because of Mollie's blindness or near-blindness:

"I immediately arose, and securely covered her eyes by placing a double handkerchief over them and covering the lower part of her face, as she lay upon her bed. There was not a movement that any of us could make, or a thing which we could do, which she could not distinctly describe to us, with as much readiness as either of us could have done, had the same been done before our eyes. So many rigid tests have been made of Miss Fancher's powers in this direction, that human testimony fails in its purpose, if it is not believed that Miss Fancher is at times more or less clairvoyant. She is much more clairvoyant at some times than at others. When the day is gloomy and dark, or great storms are about approaching, the atmospheric conditions appear to affect her very sensibly, and then her clairvoyant sight is very much impaired. She sees best, and reads the most readily, when the room is so dark that others can scarcely see the print. The most hardened skeptics in these matters have been compelled to succumb when in the presence of Miss Fancher."

The account below is very interesting, and the mention of Mollie  being "strangely transfigured" and with "illuminated" features matches many accounts of people reporting such an illumination in faces just before death:

"I have seen her at times when she was strangely transfigured ; her features were illuminated. She seemed on the very border-land between the seen and the unseen universe. When I have questioned her upon the subject, she has told me that she was conscious of the presence of friends and relations who have died, and particularly of her mother and aunt, whom she sees clairvoyantly."

 A newspaper called the Brooklyn Eagle published an account of Mollie Fancher which stated this: 

"When in the quiet condition of rigidity, the patient is in a trance. Her eyes closed, the ears are dead to sound, the muscles cease to act, respiration is hardly perceptible, and once or twice a state of ecstacy indicative of mental unsteadiness has resulted. These seasons last for four days, or two hours each. When in this condition, she is powerfully clairvoyant in her faculties. She can tell the time by several watches variously set to deceive her, read unopened letters, decipher the contents of a slate, and repeat what 'Mrs. Grundy says,' by serving up the gossip of the neighborhood. She appears to possess the faculty of second sight to a remarkable degree."

A Dr. West testified this about the bed-bound Mollie Fancher after long observing her:

"Her power of clairvoyance, or second sight, is marvelously developed. All places in which she takes any interest are open to her mental vision. Distance interposes no barriers. No retirement, however secluded, but yields to her penetrating gaze. She dictates the contents of sealed letters, which have never been in her hands, without the slightest error. She visits the family circles of her relations and acquaintances in remote places and describes their attire and their occupations. She points out any disorder of dress, however slight, as the basting thread in the sleeve of a sack which to ordinary sight was concealed by the arm. Any article which has been mislaid she sees and tells where it may be found. She discriminates in darkness the most delicate shades of color with an accuracy that never errs. She works in embroidery and wax without patterns. She conceives the most beautiful forms and combinations of forms."

An astronomy professor named Henry M. Parkhurst wrote that he had tried a test of clairvoyance on Mollie that she had passed, correctly identifying words (including "jurisdiction") and numbers in a slip that had been surrounded with papers and put in a sealed envelope.  

The New York Sun reported the following about Mollie Fancher:

"No sooner had Miss Fancher emerged from her first trance, soon after the accident, than she astonished her relatives by an extraordinary description of what she had seen while in that condition. It was unmistakable second sight. As the trances continued the manifestations increased. She watched and related in detail the movements of the family's friends in different parts of the city, and ultimately narrated what was happening to those who were many miles away. She read letters that were enclosed in envelopes and kept in the pockets of those about her. She recognized persons who rang the door bell, while they were still outside the house, and, of course, not visible to her. She read books whose covers were closed, and newspapers that were folded. Every day brought some new and astonishing development of this power."

The same newspaper also describes the following, suggesting an ability of Mollie to see without eyes:

"While Miss Fancher's eyes were absolutely sightless, the eyelids being closed and the eyeballs fixed as though in death, she was able with facility and without seeming effort, to make marvels of fancy work. For her gentlemen friends she embroidered suspenders and worked slippers and watch pockets, and for companions of her girlhood she made needlework of all kinds, pin cushions and wax flowers. Every stitch was in proper place, every shade of colored thread and worsted was correctly drawn. Her handiwork was as near perfection as could be. Some of it was sent to fairs, where its maker being unknown it was pronounced superior to all others of its kind exhibited."

Later we read this astonishing account of the powers of Mollie  Fancher:

"She does all sorts of little things that fill you with astonishment. Sometimes I have carried to her a photograph of some one whom she knew before the accident. She always saw and recognized it before it was taken from my pocket. I know of many instances in which she has read letters while they were in an envelope in the pockets of gentlemen. As for books and newspapers, she reads them readily, no matter what part of the room they are in. When first taken she seemed to read by sense of touch, which, by the way, was for many months the only sense she possessed. Drawing her thumb over the printed lines with great rapidity, she was able to tell for a long time thereafter just what the text was. Her memory of things that happened while she was in that rigid condition was astonishingly accurate. I took her a book one day, and she drew her thumb rapidly over the title page and began to laugh. Of course I asked the cause of her merriment, and she answered that — , mentioning the name of a very dear friend, had two years before given her the same book ; and with that she gave me a running sketch of its contents in a highly intelligent and surprisingly accurate manner. She soon ascertained, however, that it was not necessary to touch the words to understand their meaning, but absorbed the contents of printed or written matter. She knows whenever the newspapers print anything about her before it is read to her."

We have in the case of the blind or nearly-blind and bed-bound Mollie Fancher a subject who was so severerly injured and handicapped and restricted in so many ways that no can explain the reported clairvoyant effects without suggesting some utterly unbelievable conspiracy theory.  The standard device of trying to explain away such reports by appealing to "wily trickery" is unthinkable in this case. 

A declassified document from the files of the CIA makes the following claims about a Chinese person:

"One of the more spectacular examples is Mr. Chao Chey Zboun - previously an ordinary worker at one of Beijing factories. After qigong training he developed mental telepathy and clairvoyance skills as well as ability to diagnose and cure some diseases. He is known to see people's interior 'like on an X-ray picture' and can distinguish in this way malfunctioning body organs from the healthy ones."

The document notes some credible figures involved in research on such topics, stating that, "among the world class scientists who were the first ones to show the courage to attach their reputation to the research of paranormal abilities and phenomena are Dr. Qian Xuesen (graduate of MIT and Caltech, the founder of. China's space and missile technology), Dr. C.Y. Chao (discovery of external e + e- pair production and annihilation processes) , and Dr. G. C. Wang." 

A nineteenth century writer tells how he knew a person who reviewed very skeptically a book on the paranormal, but who confessed that he had a servant in the habit of sleepwaking during the night and in such a state doing all kinds of complex chores, avoiding obstacles, with her eyes closed, as if she were clairvoyant.  The man  was convinced this behavior was no simulation or trick. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

13 Things That Made No Sense in "2001: A Space Odyssey"

 The 1968 science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick was one that I greatly enjoyed when I was a boy. As I teenager I enjoyed it so much that I kept seeing it many times in movie theaters. 

Soundtrack album for the movie, with art by Robert McCall

Casting a strange spell on many a viewer largely because of its quirky directorial flourishes and superb visual design, the movie had quite a few memorable moments, and succeeded greatly in creating a feeling of cosmic wonder and awe. But looking back on the movie today, I now realize that there were many aspects of the movie that made no sense at all. Let me list 13  such things. 

Senseless thing #1: the title "The Dawn of Man" at the movie's beginning.

2001: A Space Odyssey opened with a title sequence that worked when you saw in the theater, as it used a piece of music that sounded fresh and dramatic in 1968, but which now sounds very banal and stale because it has been used in hundreds of TV commercials.  We then saw the title "The Dawn of Man," and a sequence involving ape-like organisms three million years ago. The sequence involved a cinematic depiction of the first tool use by organisms, the use of bones as weapons. But the idea of equating tool use with humanity is a fallacious one. We now know quite a few animals use tools, and it is wrong to think that some ape-like animals would have qualified as humans once they started using bones or rocks as tools. The real defining characteristic of humans is the use of language and symbols.  So it made no sense to use the title "The Dawn of Man" for a depiction of ape-like organisms that had merely started to use bones as tools. 

Senseless thing #2: the depiction of the monolith triggering the first use of tools.

Early in 2001: A Space Odyssey we see some ape-like organisms witness the strange appearance of a black monolith. Then we see one of these organisms ponder some animal bones. The movie cuts to a shot of the black monolith, and then goes back to the ape-like organism pondering the animal bones, who eventually uses one of the bones as a tool. Clearly the implication is that this monolith is somehow causing the ape-like organism to get the idea of using a bone as a tool.  But how could that have happened? In an early draft of the script or its corresponding novelization, the monolith displayed a kind of instructional video, but such a thing does not appear in the movie. We are left with the idea that the monolith has somehow prodded these organisms to start using tools, but the movie gives us no idea how that could have happened.  

Senseless thing #3: Heywood Floyd riding as the sole seated passenger in a spacecraft with many seats.

After the scenes set in Africa millions of years ago,  2001: A Space Odyssey abruptly moves to a depiction of space flight in the year 2001. We see a NASA official named Heywood Floyd riding as the sole seated passenger in a spacecraft with many seats (30 or more).  Space travel is extremely expensive, and it is unrealistic that such a large vehicle would be used to transport a single passenger (who the movie does not depict as doing anything very important). 

Senseless thing #4: the planet Earth depicted as entirely covered with clouds. 

2001: A Space Odyssey failed to correctly depict the way the planet Earth looks from space. Instead of showing a planet only partially covered with clouds, the movie depicted the planet as being entirely bluish-white, covered with clouds.  There is no excuse for this, because from the fact that it is always sunny on at least 30% of the globe, anyone could have figured out in 1960 how our planet would look when seen from space (with plenty of green and brown visible, because only about half of the surface was covered with clouds). 

Senseless thing #5: the monolith radio transmission scene. 

After showing Heywood Floyd reaching a space station with a rather ridiculously roomy interior, 2001: A Space Odyssey then shows Heywood traveling to the moon, again as the sole seated passenger in a very large craft with enough seats for 30 people. He doesn't do anything important when he gets there, other than give a short speech telling a few people  what they already knew. Floyd and some others then visit a site where a mysterious black monolith has previously been discovered.  While viewing this monolith, Heywood Floyd and the others suddenly hear a deafening radio signal. It is the monolith transmitting a signal to Jupiter.  Heywood Floyd and the others (wearing space suits) are picking up this radio transmission in their space suits. But such a transmission would have occurred using any one of a million radio frequences, and it is most unlikely that the space suits of Floyd and his colleagues would be using exactly the same frequency that the monolith used. 

Senseless thing #6: the depiction of a manned mission to Jupiter around the year 2001, with hibernating astronauts. 

2001: A Space Odyssey then cuts to a depiction of a manned mission to Jupiter, occuring 18 months later, which would be in the year 2002 or 2003. This made no sense. It is now the year 2021, and we are nowhere close to even sending astronauts to Mars.  Astronauts will not travel to Jupiter for very many years in the future.  Similarly, it is now the year 2021, and we are nowhere close to developing a technology for human hibernation. 

Senseless thing #7: the depiction of an intelligent computer in a movie set around the year 2001.  

2001: A Space Odyssey was ridiculously over-optimistic about how long it would take humans to construct artificial intelligence smart enough to understand human speech.  The movie depicted such artificial intelligence as being available around the year 2001. It is now the year 2021, and we are nowhere close to creating some computer intelligent enough to understand human speech and engage in meaningful conversations.  There are computer programs called chatbots, but they have no real smarts, and rely on a variety of tricks such as asking questions related to what someone said. 

Senseless thing #8: the depiction of the intelligent computer HAL lip-reading and murdering.  

2001: A Space Odyssey depicts its intelligent computer HAL 9000 as lip-reading (a skill a computer would not have), and also murdering. The movie never gives an explanation of why the computer HAL 9000 engaged in murder. 

Senseless thing #9: the astronaut floating inside the intelligent computer, with an interior consisting of mostly empty space. 

In 2001: A Space Odyssey after the computer HAL 9000 murders one of the astronauts, it tries to murder the second astronaut (David Bowman), who is able to escape danger, and turn off the computer. We see David Bowman enter into the computer's interior. Is it all crammed with circuits and transistors? No, it's mainly just empty space.  How could a computer consisting of mainly empty space be so smart? And why would they use space so wastefully on an interplanetary mission?

Senseless thing #10: the alignment of Jupiter's moons.

Just before astronaut David Bowman goes off on a strange puzzling trip "beyond the infinite," to use a phrase used by an explanatory title appearing in the movie, we see five moons of Jupiter aligned in a stack above Jupiter, and the mysterious monolith floating in a way that lines up with this stack.  This is never explained. The chance of such an alignment happening by chance is less than 1 in 1,000,000,000. We can imagine no reason why the intelligence represented by the monolith would want to cause such an alignment. 

Senseless thing #11: the strange trip of David Bowman. 

After we see David Bowman in a little vehicle outside of his spaceship, he goes on some strange journey that is not explained in the movie. We see him traveling through dazzling planes of light, and we see what looks like landscapes of other planets.  But how did he get to such planets? This is not explained at all in the movie. 

Senseless thing #12: the aging and rebirth of David Bowman in the strange white room.

At the end of the strange trip, David Bowman finds himself in a brilliantly lit room. He finds himself getting older and older. Why does this happen? The movie never explains this. Eventually David (as an old man) encounters the mysterious black monolith in this strange room, and we see David turn into a kind of embryo.  There was a  novel released at the time of the movie, written by Arthur C. Clarke, the co-writer of the screenplay along with Stanley Kubrick.  It tried to depict this scene as some depiction of super-advanced extraterrestrials (abstractly depicted by the monolith) propelling a human (David Bowman) to a new stage of evolution. But how would you get a new stage of evolution by turning a man into an embryo? It all makes no sense. 

Senseless thing #13: the "star child" embryo floating unattached in outer space, near Earth. 

The end of the movie is supposed to be awe-inspiring. We see the embryonic David Bowman floating in space, near Earth. But this is pure craziness, for two reasons. First, David Bowman had traveled to Jupiter, so why are we now seeing him floating close to Earth? Also, the embryo figure is floating by itself in space, which would instantly kill any embryo. Since 1968 we have learned more and more about the abundant dependencies of living things, how they can only exist because of so many surrounding things being just right, such as fine-tuned fundamental constants of nature. In light of such knowledge, a scene of an embryo floating by itself in space seems all the more absurd. 

Before making 2001, Stanley Kubrick was scornful of all previous science fiction movies, and said his goal was to make "the proverbial good science fiction movie." This didn't make sense, because there were several first-rate science fiction movies made long before 2001 appeared in 1968, including The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invaders from Mars, Village of the Damned and Forbidden Planet. Forbidden Planet handled very intelligently the theme of super-advanced extraterrestrials, in a way much more intelligible than the strange confusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie that ends up like some hallucinatory drug trip. 

The "Dawn of Man" depiction in 2001 is the most famous attempt to do a cinematic depiction of Darwinian ideas, and even in this case we do not have a depiction of a natural origin of man (since the mysterious power behind the monolith is intervening in things).  I predict that we will never see in cinema any fictional movie depicting a real natural "dawn of man," which would be a natural origin of language. If you tried to put such a scene in a film, it would never work, and no one would believe it. Creatures that had not previously used a language would never start using a grammar, and if they tried to start talking, they would sound like they had rocks in their mouths (since organisms that had never used speech would never have the right mouth equipment for ungarbled speech).  No organism belonging to a group that had never used speech would ever conceive of the idea of using speech and a language, and if an organism had such an idea, he would never be able to transmit it to his fellow organisms so that a group would start using speech. If there was no language, there would be no way for an organism to start communicating to some other organism an idea such as "let's start using the word 'rocks' to refer to rocks."  Because the origin of language is naturally inexplicable, there would be no way for a filmmaker to credibly depict any such thing as a real natural "dawn of man." 

Postscript: In 1968 Stanley Kubrick made one of the worst predictions ever, stating this: "Within 10 years, in fact, I believe that freezing of the dead will be a major industry in the United States and throughout the world; I would recommend it as a field of investment for imaginative speculators."

Friday, March 12, 2021

Scientific Specialization Spawns Straw-hole Scholars

Many a person overestimates the knowledge of scientists, perhaps thinking, "If you are a scientist, you know all that science stuff." That's not at all true. Most scientists are specialists who concentrate their studies in some narrow field of study.  Science is divided up into several general fields of study, such as psychology, biology, physics, chemistry, and sociology. Within each of those fields of study are many sub-fields of study. Typically when a scientist gets a master's degree and then a PhD, he specializes in one of these sub-fields. The result is that the learning of the scientist may be a very narrow and very limited type of education.  The scientist may end up as a kind of straw-hole scientist, one who spends most of his career examining one very narrow line of evidence. 

For example, someone getting a PhD in the biological sciences may concentrate his studies in any of the following sub-disciplines:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Cytology
  • Biotechnology 
  • Histology
  • Genetics
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Microbiology
  • Virology
  • Bacteriology
  • Protozoology
  • Mycology
  • Botany
  • Bryology
  • Phycology
  • Horticulture
  • Zoology
  • Entomology
  • Parasitology
  • Icthyology
  • Herpetology
  • Ornithology
  • Mammalogy
  • Endocrinology
  • Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Immunopathology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ethology
  • Marine Biology
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Biology
  • Forestry
  • Fisheries Biology
  • Wildlife Biology
  • Aquaculture
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Paleontology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathology 
  • Forensics
  • Toxicology
There are countless other sub-disciplines within physics, chemistry and psychology. 

Once some scientist has entered one of these specialities, he may spend his whole career in it. This may have some benefits, but may also have some severe drawbacks. The first drawback is that the scientist may become a kind of thought prisoner of some ideological enclave where some dubious dogmas have become popular.  In this regard, the scientist may be very much like a seminary school graduate who spends his life spouting whatever narrow ideology he was trained in at such a school.  The second drawback of such specialization is that the scientist's studies may be so concentrated in some area that he may never gain  the broad knowledge he or she needs to voice wise opinions about matters of broad general interest. 

Let us look at an example of one such "straw-hole specialization": an example of a paleontologist. The paleontologist is a person who studies fossils, bones from animals that lived long ago. When someone gets a degree in paleontology, he is taught to believe that by studying old bones, scientists can figure out something about the origin of species.  This is a very strange belief, given that no bone ever tells us anything about the origin of the species that had such a bone. 

A paleontologist has been indoctrinated in the belief that by arranging fossils gathered from different places into chronologically ordered sequences, he can make some deduction that some species that existed at one time accidentally evolved into some species that existed at some other time.  This is a very strange belief that does not arise naturally from any characteristics in a bone. Paleontologists often insinuate that random mutations in the DNA of one species caused its bone structure to gradually change to slowly become (over long ages) the bone structure of some other species. But how could that be, given that DNA does not even specify bone structures or skeletal structures? DNA only specifies low-level chemical information, not high-level anatomical information. 

In his knowledge base of bones that have been discovered and dated to various ages, there are many puzzling things that our paleontologist has difficulty fitting into his conceptual scheme of gradual random evolution. The most mystifying thing is that all of the animal phyla appeared around half a billion years ago, almost all during the Cambrian Explosion about 540 million years ago. This is not at all what we would expect under the assumptions of Darwinist evolutionary theory. Under such a theory, we would expect that the animal phyla (the main anatomical divisions of animals) would have gradually appeared during the past billion years.  (Bryozoans have been called the youngest animal phylum, and appear in the fossil record about 500 million years ago; sponges, phylum Porifera, have been called the oldest animal phylum, and appear in the fossil record about 550 million years ago.)

Our paleontologist has no good story to tell to explain the difficulty of the Cambrian Explosion, this great innovation burst of so many diverse body plans in such a relatively short time. But when he finds unexpected fossils, our paleontologist may come up with imaginative tales to try to get himself out of his difficulties.  For example,  when it was found that New World monkeys from many millions of years ago were just like Old World monkeys, our paleontologists came up with the tale that monkeys million of years ago had somehow rafted across the Atlantic ocean.  And when fossils were unexpectedly found of hadrosaurs in North Africa, from a time when Africa was separated from other continents by 250 miles, some paleontologist started saying that hadrosaurs had somehow crossed that 250 miles of ocean.  This was despite the fact that hadrosaurs could not swim well, and also were way too heavy to have crossed such a distance on any raft of vegetation.  Or, to try to lessen the difficulty when the fossil record suddenly shows some fossil of a dramatically novel organism unlike any earlier-existing organism that left fossils we have found, our paleontologist may make very strange statements such as "lagerpetids are essentially flightless pterosaurs," a statement that tries to persuade us that one-meter-long organisms with no wings, short arms and long legs were like 6-meter-long organisms with huge wings, long wing-related arms, short legs and a very different head appearance.  Or he may try to claim that flying insects evolved from crustaceans, ignoring the many physical differences between the two.  Or he may make some laughable-sounding claim that some fossil of a "deer the size of a cat" shows us an ancestor of a whale. 

In such cases our paleontologist shows us his high imagination, something he often uses.  He may realize that people don't want to hear about old bones dug up; they would rather hear stories. So our paleontologist complies,  dreaming up many a story from the dug-up  bones.  Involving speculations about very poorly understood extinct organisms, their appearance, life styles and ancestry, these stories are often kind of like when a digging archeologist finds a tooth and says, "This tooth belonged to a lady whose smile was so beguiling she had many suitors."

Speaking about fossils between 100,000 years old and several million years old, the language of our paleontologist can be inaccurate or objectionable.  Paleontologists love to use the term "early human" to describe bones much older than 100,000 BC, such as bones that may be 500,000 years old or more than a million years old. Such language is very misleading. The uniquely defining characteristics of humans are the use of language and the use of symbols, and there is no evidence that such things were used before 100,000 BC.  Paleontologists are also often quick to pull out the term "human ancestor" when it suits their purposes. Remarkably there is no evidence standard regarding the use of this very important term, which can be used by the paleontologist whenever it pleases him.  Our paleontologist will tend to dogmatically use the term "human ancestor" in obscure and foggy cases when he should be using the more cautious phrase "possible human ancestor."  Such claims of human ancestry are often based on assumptions that skull size correlates with intelligence, an assumption that is dubious because of a reason I'll mention in a moment. 

If the study of our paleontologist had been much broader, he might not speak in such a way. If our paleontologist had thoroughly studied research into the origin of life, brushing aside the unwarranted hype and seeing how little real progress such research has made in attempting to substantiate claims of an origin of life from mere chemicals, or even an origin of the real building blocks of microscopic life (proteins and information-rich nucleic acids) from mere chemicals, our paleontologist might lose confidence in claims of accidental biological origins. If our paleontologist had made a very broad and very deep study of biochemistry and biological complexity, studying the oceanic depths of organization and fine-tuning and functional complexity in living organisms, their biochemistry, and their intricate systems so full of interlocking "chicken or the egg" cross-dependencies, our paleontologist might think it is silly to suppose that such systems (more complex than humans have ever built) arose from blind accidental processes. If our paleontologist had made a study of neuroscience and its failures to credibly explain such basic mental phenomena as thinking, imagination, creativity, long-term memory preservation and instant memory retrieval,  our paleontologist might realize that he has no credible explanation for the human mind. 

If our paleontologist had made a thorough study of anomalous medical case histories, such as people who think well and remember well with half a brain or very much less, or who retain their memories after half their brain is surgically removed, our paleontologist might be even more doubtful that he has any understanding of the origin of human minds. If our paleontologist had made a thorough study of anomalous mental phenomena such as near-death experiences and psi, and a study of the hundreds of years of written testimony establishing the reality of clairvoyance, and the many decades of experimental evidence establishing the reality of ESP, he might even more doubtful that he has a credible explanation for the human mind.  If our paleontologist had studied certain areas of history and literature and culture very well, he might be troubled that some of his most central assumptions arose as parts of a racist imperialist worldview strongly associated with an oppressive colonialist empire-building program and gigantic human misadventures such as eugenics. If our paleontologist had studied very well the cognitive test performance of some very small-brained animals (such as tiny mouse lemurs who do as well on quite a few cognitive test as apes with brains 200 times larger), he might doubt his confidence in saying some skull belonged to a human ancestor, mainly because of its size, skull size not being a reliable gauge of intelligence. 

If our paleontologist had studied very well certain aspects of biochemistry and mathematics, such as the mathematics of cumulative improbabilities and the binomial theorem shedding light on them, and the interlocking "chicken or the egg" dependencies of protein complexes, he might have thrown away his dogmatic claims after thoroughly pondering the improbabilites of a vast number of enormously organized proteins and protein complexes appearing accidentally. If our palenontologist had studied very thoroughly physics and cosmology, he might have discovered many reasons for suspecting our universe was tailor-made to allow living things to exist, an idea that is inconsistent with his assumption that living species have all appeared by chance natural processes, or at least clashes with such an idea.  If our paleontologist had made a good study of sociology, he might suspect that some of the central claims of his colleagues are just speech customs or unproven dogmas of a conformist overconfident belief community that he belongs to.  

If our paleontologist had made a good study of engineering, he might realize that very complex and extremely organized innovations never arise by some process (like that imagined by Darwinist gradualists) in which each little new part causes an improvement, but arise instead by a process in which many new parts must be arranged in just the right way to produce a particular functional effect.  If our paleontologist had throroughly studied developmental biology, he might have realized that without resorting to myths (such as the myth of an anatomy blueprint in DNA) biologists do not even have a credible account for the physical origin of individual adult mammal organisms and how they arise from speck-sized egg cells, which undermines all claims that the origin of entire species is understood. If our paleontologist had made a very good study of logic and psychology and bias effects, he might no longer think it wise to cherry-pick several fossils out of the collection of millions of fossils that have been studied, and to arrange several of them into some series designed to support some belief of ancestry he is trying to prove (which is rather like someone cherry-picking ten persons of some particular ethnic class to try to prove some "that's how those people act" generalization he wishes to make about such an ethnic class).  If our paleontologist had studied in depth linguistics, and how little progress it has made in explaining the huge mystery of the origin of language, he might have much less confidence that he has any real explanation of the origin of humans. 

But our typical paleontologist has probably not studied half of such things in any great depth.  No one told him he had to study such topics to become a paleontologist.  So he keeps looking through a straw-hole that points mainly just at old bones, paying little attention to a thousand observations that are far more relevant to questions of biological origins, observations that tend to raise doubt that we understand any such questions. When he sees through his straw-hole something he does not want to see, he quickly moves the straw around so that he can peer through the straw-hole to see something he does want to see.  And so it is for so many of our straw-hole scholars. 

scientific specialization

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Chemistry Professors Who Documented the Paranormal

 A critic of claims of the paranormal will sometimes insinuate that claims of paranormal activity are not made by very careful and respectable observers such as scientists.  Any such claim is not at all historically accurate. In my three part series When World Class Scientists Saw Ghosts (here, here, and here), I discuss how some great or famous scientists provided abundant written testimony in favor of the paranormal, including mysterious apparitions, ESP and levitations. Abundant evidence for the paranormal was also provided by twentieth century professors such as Joseph Rhine

Let us look at some cases of chemistry professors who abundantly documented the paranormal. One such professor was William Gregory (1803-1858), a professor of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh (founded in 1582, and the sixth oldest English university).  Gregory (the author of a conventional chemisty textbook) was the author of the long book Letters to a Candid Inquirer, on Animal Magnetism, which you can read online here.  The book is a very fascinating work on hypnosis (the title uses a term for hypnosis which went out of vogue shortly after the book was published, being replaced by the word hypnosis). 

Most of the second half of the 384-page book is a discussion of paranormal effects observed under hypnosis, mainly clairvoyance. Gregory provides very many fascinating accounts of clairvoyance that he personally observed in hypnotized subjects. The reality of clairvoyance under hypnosis had been affirmed by a prestigious French academic committee decades earlier, a five-year committe of the Royal Academy of Medicine. 

On page 271 Professor Gregory gives some very specific numerical details relating to clairvoyance in hypnotic trances (referred to below as "mesmeric sleep"):

"Major Buckley has thus produced conscious clairvoyance in 89 persons, of whom 44 have been able to read mottoes contained in nut-shells, purchased by other parties for the experiment. The longest motto thus read, contained 98 words. Many subjects will read motto after motto without one mistake. In this way, the mottoes contained in 4860 nut-shells have been read, some of them, indeed, by persons in the mesmeric sleep, but most of them by persons in the conscious state, many of whom have never been put to sleep. In boxes, upwards of 36,000 words have been read; in one paper, 371 words. Including those who have read words contained in boxes when in the sleep, 148 persons have thus read. It is to be observed that, in a few cases, the words may have been read by thought-reading, as the persons who put them in the boxes were present; but in most cases, no one who knew the words has been present, and they must therefore have been read by direct clairvoyance. Every precaution has been taken. The nuts, inclosing mottoes, for example, have been purchased of 40 different confectioners, and have been sealed up until read. It may be added, that of the 44 persons who have read mottoes in nuts by waking or conscious clairvoyance, 42 belong to the higher class of society; and the experiments have been 
made in the presence of many other persons. These experiments appear to me admirably contrived, and I can perceive no reason whatever to doubt the entire accuracy of the facts."

On page 272 Professor Gregory discusses two other case histories:

"Case 10. — A lady, one of Major Buckley's waking clair- 
voyantes, read 103 mottoes, contained in nuts, in one day, 
without a pass being made on that occasion. In this, and 
in many other cases, the power of reading in nuts, boxes, 
and envelopes, remained, when once induced, for about a 
month, and then disappeared...
Case 11. — The words, 'Can you see inside?' were written on a narrow slip of paper, which was then laid on a 
quarter sheet, and folded over 11 times. The folded paper 
was placed in a thick envelope, and sealed with three seals, 
in such a way that it could not be opened undetected. It 
was then sent to a clairvoyante, who returned it with the 
seals uninjured, having read the contents in waking clairvoyance." 

Later in the same work Professor Gregory gives many detailed descriptions of clairvoyance under hypnosis, one of which is the account below (which uses the "magnetic sleep" to refer to a hypnotic trance):

 "E., in the magnetic sleep, as I saw more than once, could see perfectly what passed behind her, her eyes being closed ; or any thing placed in such a position, that, had her eyes been open, she could not have seen it ; she could also see very often all that passed outside of the door, and when I was there, told us how many of the servants of the hotel were listening at the door, in hopes of 
hearing wonders ; she would also often tell what was doing in the room above or below her. In short, she frequently exhibited direct clairvoyance in every form, not only in those just mentioned, but also in that of seeing prints or pictures shut up in boxes. Besides seeing various instances of direct clairvoyance, I was able to satisfy myself that Dr. Haddock's experiments were made with the greatest care and judgment ; that he was particularly well acquainted with the various causes of error and confusion, very careful to avoid these, and that in short his accounts of such experiments as I had not seen were entirely trustworthy."

On page 293 we have this account of dramatic clairvoyance witnessed by Professor Gregory (who uses the phrase "the sleep" to refer to a hynotized state):

"Case 29. — 1. Before I had seen E., I sent to Dr. Had- 
dock the writing of a lady, without any details, requesting 
merely to know what E. should say of it. I did not even 
say it was a lady's writing, and, indeed, as the hand is a 
strong bold one, Dr. H. supposed it was that of a man. E. 
took it in her hand, she being in the sleep, and soon said, 
'I see a lady. She is rather below middle height, dark 
complexioned, pale, and looks ill.' She then proceeded to 
describe the house, the drawing-room in which the lady was, 
her dress, and the furniture, all with perfect accuracy as 
far as she went. She said the lady was sitting at a long 
table close to the wall, something like a sideboard, writing 
a letter ; that on this table were several beautiful glasses, 
such as she had never seen. (In fact, this lady writes at a 
long sofa-table at the wall, on which stood then several 
Bohemian glasses.) She further detailed, with strict ac- 
curacy, all the symptoms of the lady's illness, mentioning 
several things, known to the lady alone. She also described 
the treatment which had been followed, and said, among 
other things, that the lady had gone over the water, to a 
place where she drank ' morning waters' for her health ; 
that the waters had a strange taste, but had done her good. 
(The lady had been at a mineral water in Germany, and had 
derived benefit from it. The water was always taken in the 
morning.) I need not enter into all the details ; it is enough 
to state, that not only Dr. H. did not know the lady, nor 
even her name, but that he had had no means of knowing 
any one of the details specified, and indeed rather supposed 
E. was wrong when she spoke of a lady, until he found that 
she was positive on that point. I received his answer, with 
the above and many more details, almost by return of post, 
and, in short, I was perfectly satisfied that E. had seen or 
perceived somehow, from the handwriting, all that she said, 
as I knew she had done in other cases."

On page 303 Professor Gregory states the following:

"I have mentioned, in the first Part of this work, a re- 
markable case, in which this same clairvoyante, with the 
aid of handwriting, traced the progress of a gentleman, Mr. 
W. Willey, then in California, as well as of another person 
who accompanied Mr. W., and whose writing was also 
shown to her. In this case, which was published in the 
newspapers, E. gave a multitude of details in regard to the 
persons, their voyage, their occupations, and various occur- 
rences, the whole of which details were, in so far as con- 
cerned the period subsequent to their embarking at Liverpool, 
entirely unknown to their families, but were afterwards fully 
confirmed in every point by Mr. W. on his return."

On page 313 Professor Gregory describes an experiment done with a young boy, said to be clairvoyant. The boy was hypnotized, and asked to describe the interior of Gregory's house, which he did accurately, although never having visited the house. We then read the following (in which "the sleeper" refers to the hypnotized boy):

"I then requested Dr. Schmitz to go into another room, and there to do whatever he pleased, while we should try whether the boy should see what he did. Dr. S. took with him his son, and when the sleeper was asked to look into the other room, he began to laugh, and 
said that Theodore (Dr. S.'s son) was a funny boy, and was 
gesticulating in a particular way with his arms, while Dr. 
S. stood looking on. He then said that Theodore had left 
the room, and after a while that he had returned; then 
that Theodore was jumping about ; and being asked about 
Dr. S., declined more than once to say, not liking to tell, 
as he said, but at last told us, that he also was jumping 
about. Lastly, he said Dr. S. was beating his son, not 
with a stick, although he saw a stick in the room, but with 
a roll of paper. All this did not occupy more than seven 
or eight minutes, and when Dr. S. returned, I at once gave 
him the above account of his proceedings, which he, much 
astonished, declared to be correct in every particular...I am, 
therefore, perfectly satisfied, that the boy actually saw what 
was done ; for to suppose that he had guessed it, appears 
to me a great deal more wonderful ; besides, his manner 
was entirely that of one describing what he saw."

On page 334 in the same work, Professor Gregory gives this account of "traveling clairvoyance" under hypnotism, in which a person seems to see with a kind of "mind's eye" many details at a distant location:

"We requested her to visit the house of Mrs. P., one of the ladies present. This house was in Greenock, distant from my cottage about a mile and a quarter. She saw her servant in the kitchen, but said that another woman was with her. On being pressed to look earnestly at the woman, she said it was C_____ M______. This, Mrs. P. declared to be true. We then asked her to see if any person was in Mrs. P.'s parlor, when she said that Miss Laing was there, a young lady from Edinburgh, who was boarding with Mrs. P. at the time ; that she was sitting on the sofa ; that she was crying, and that a letter was in her hand. On the party breaking up, I walked into Greenock with the ladies and gentlemen, in order to see if she was right about Miss L. It was true. Miss L. had received a letter by that evening's post from her father in Edinburgh, stating that her mother was not expected to live, and requesting her to come home by the first train in the morning." 

On page 335 Professor Gregory gives this account of clairvoyance (which comes just before an even more impressive account of clairvoyance), in which "visited" refers to a purely mental visit:

"December 25. — J. S., Esq., spending the evening with 
me, was anxious to test her clairvoyance accurately. She 
visited, at his request, his breakfast parlor at home, said 
that his father was reading Blackwood's Magazine, in his 
easy chair by the fire; described the room with perfect 
accuracy, though, I need scarcely say, she had never been 
in it in her life ; described the gaselier, and the number of 
burners lighted, and mentioned what Mrs. Scott was doing. 
Some of these statements, he felt perfectly sure, were incor- 
rect; but, on going home, he found that she had been 
minutely accurate."

On page 351 Professor Gregory gives this account, using the word "magnetized" to mean "hypnotized":

"Case 55. — A young lady in London, being magnetised, 
saw her family in the country, described their occupation, 
and added that her little brother had got the measles. Being 
asked, if her little sister had not also got the measles, she 
said, 'No, but she will have them on Wednesday. Oh ! my 
elder sister will have them too, but not until the Wednesday 
following.' All this proved correct."

Another chemistry professor who investigated the paranormal was Robert Hare, a professor of chemistry at Harvard University. In a lengthy 1856 book, Hare tells how he at first thought that the phenomenon of table tipping (also called table turning), widely reported in his time, could be explained by mere muscular movements, as suggested by the scientist Faraday. Hare says in 1853 he was "utterly incredulous of any cause of the phenomena excepting unconscious muscular action on the part of the persons with whom the phenomena were associated." But he received a letter from Amasa Holcombe saying "I have seen tables move, and heard tunes beat on them, when no person was within several feet of them," and proposing he investigate the matter further. 

After witnessing seemingly impressive manifestations he could not explain, Hare invented various test devices such as a device by which movements of a table might produce corresponding letters of the alphabet. The device is shown below:

spirit communication device

Hare reported getting "copious" intelligible messages from such a device, which should have been impossible from any person manually moving the device from behind it, as such a person would not have been able to see the letter wheel and which letters corresponded to the table positions.  He reported getting answers known only to himself, using one of the letter wheel devices he invented:

"As a test question, I inquired 'What was the name of a partner in business, of my father, who, when he had left the city with the Americans during the Revolutionary war, came out with the British, and took care of the joint property?' The disk revolved successively to letters correctly indicating the name to be Warren. I then inquired the name of the partner of my English grandfather, who died in London more than seventy years ago. The true name was given by the same process."

On this page Hare reports eight beautiful lines of rhyming  poetry mysteriously spelled out using such a device. 

Hare reports seeing these paranormal manifestations:

"I first saw a table continue in motion when every person had withdrawn to about the distance of a foot; so that no one touched it; and while thus agitated on our host saying, 'Move the table toward Dr. Hare,' it moved toward me and back again. At the same premises...the table was violently overset, so as to have its legs uppermost. Yet while thus upside down, it continued to vibrate, a single finger of a medium girl, about twelve years of age, being the sole means of human contact therewith. This I ascertained, with the greatest care..."

In the nineteenth century the type of observations just mentioned were reported countless times by many reliable witnesses who reported tables moving, turning, tipping and often levitating when no one was touching the tables (see here and here and here for some examples). Completely ignoring all such accounts, and acting as if they had spent maybe ten minutes reading up on the nineteenth century phenomena called table turning, modern writers continue to tell us the tale that Faraday successfully explained such phenomena as merely "unconscious muscular action." This story is one of the most groundless of the many legends of scientist lore, where we find many unfounded claims of scientist achievements.  Hare's reports of paranormal effects involving tables were abundantly replicated in a two-volume work on the topic by Count Agenor de Gasparin.

On page 60-80 of his book, Hare quotes at length many observations of paranormal events from outside of the United States, reports dating from about the same time as his experiments. He includes the following astonishing account from Count Agenor de Gasparin, indicating some mysterious invisible power:

"Each of us, in his turn, gave orders to the table, which it promptly obeyed ; and I should succeed with difficulty in explaining to you the strange character of these movements, of blows struck with an exactness, with a solemnity that fairly frightened us. 'Strike three blows ; strike ten blows. Strike with your left foot ; with your right foot ; with your middle foot. Rise on two of your feet ; on only one foot ; remain up ; prevent those on the side raised from returning the table to the floor.'  After each command the table obeyed. It produced movements that no complicity, involuntary or voluntary, could have induced....  Each one of us gave orders with equal success. Children were obeyed as well as grown persons."

Although not actually holding a title of chemistry professor, the German scientist Johann Zollner was a professor of physical astronomy, and did some work in spectroscopy and astrochemistry.  Zollner published a work entitled Transcendental Physics describing his experiments documenting inexplicable  paranormal effects. 

The most remarkable of quite a few paranormal results are shown in the visual below.  Zollner set up a pair of wooden rings (obtained from a G. de Liagre) so that they were tied securely with a very strong cat-gut wire, as shown in the Before part of the visual below (the illustrations are from his book). He states the following:

"The two wooden rings and the above-mentioned (p. 98) entire bladder band were strung on to a piece of catgut one millimetre in thickness, and 1.05 metre in length. The two ends of the catgut were tied together by myself in a knot, and then, as formerly in the case of the string, secured with my own seal by myself."

Zollner then tells us the following, mentioning the medium Henry Slade he was testing:

"After a few minutes had elapsed, and Slade had asserted, as usual during physical manifestations, that he saw lights, a slight smell of burning was apparent in the room — it seemed to come from under the table, and somewhat recalled the smell of sulphuric acid. Shortly afterwards we heard a rattling sound at the small round table opposite, as of pieces of wood knocking together. When I asked whether we should close the sitting, the rattling was repeated three times consecutively. We then left our seats, in order that we might ascertain the cause of the rattling at the round table. To our great astonishment we found the two wooden rings, which about six minutes previously were strung on the catgut, in complete preservation, encircling the leg of the small table."

In the After part of the visual below, we see the results as depicted (here and here) in Zollner's book. 

Zollner paranormal experiment

Here we have two inexplicable effects that you can see by closely inspecting the drawings above. First is that the two wooden rings were inexplicably removed from a tied sealed catgut binding that had not been changed, something that would have taken extensive fiddling that Zollner never observed. The second inexplicable effect is that the wooden rings were now in a position that should have been quite impossible for them to have reached, given the physical construction of the small table on the left.  The tables were furniture in the home of a friend of Zollner's, and could not have been kind of special trick tables prepared by the person being tested. 

Zollner regarded this as being very clear proof of a paranormal effect. He began to speculate whether it was proof of some kind of effect by which solid matter can be passed directly passed through solid matter. 

Such an idea does not seem impossible when we consider the possibility of a fourth dimension. Let us consider a two-dimensional creature, like those depicted in the classic imaginative work Flatland by Edwin Abbott. To such a creature, it would seem very possible for some creature (represented by the circle) to escape from the box on the left of the visual below, by going out the exit area on the left. But to such a creature, it might seem impossible to escape from the box on the right, there being no such exit area. 


But to a three-dimensional being, this "impossibility" vanishes.  For such a being, the ring in the box on the right can be removed by simply lifting it up in the air, and taking it out of the box. Similarly, to a four-dimensional being, moving solid matter through solid matter (what seems like an impossibility to us) may be as easy as lifting a ring out of a box with an open top.  But just as a two-dimensional being could never imagine how a ring could be removed from a box by lifting the ring up, we three-dimensional beings might never be able to imagine how solid matter could be passed through solid matter, by some route conceivable only to four-dimensional beings. 

A professor of chemistry at the University of St. Petersburg, A. Butlerof wrote up an account in which he claimed to have witnessed the most astonishing paranormal phenomena while testing a medium named Williams, while the medium was tied up in a hotel room of Butlerof and a Mr. Aksakof.   Below (dating from 1875) is an excerpt:

"Presently phosphorescent lights were floating in the air, and immediately the form of John King became visible. This apparition is accompanied by a greenish phosphorescent light...The form was outside the cabinet, and near to us. We only saw it for a moment at a time ; the light vanished, and the form retreated into the darkness, but reappeared again as quickly. The voice of John comes from the spot where the figure stands, generally, but not always, while the form is invisible. John asked us what he should do for us. M. Aksakof begged that he would rise to the ceiling and say a few words to us in that position. Accordingly we saw the form appear just over our table, and then gradually rise upwards to the ceiling, which became visible in the light proceeding from the luminous object in the hand of the figure. While up there, John called out to us—' Will that do ?' "

A very similar account was published two years earlier in the Daily Telegraph.