Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Is this little button predicting world events?

Assume you are playing a slot machine in a casino. It might pay off every now and then or it might go a long streak without a payoff. Conversely, because you're "lucky" or the machine is "hot," it might keep paying off again and again for quite a number of pulls. Now, imagine that not only is the machine you are playing paying off again and again but that all of the other slot machines in the casino all start paying off again and again for hours. For that to happen, something would clearly have to be wrong with the laws of probability.

That's essentially the premise behind the Global Consciousness Project -- which goes a step further and says that not only are there times when the laws of probability are distorted but that any such phenomenon is the result of the collective consciousness of the human population of the planet.

Yes, I also thought it was nonsense.

What Global Consciousness researchers have are 65 computers (called "eggs") spread around the world that are, in effect, continuously electronically flipping a two-sided coin. It's a little more complicated than that but the idea is that, on average you should have 50% heads and 50% tails if you toss a coin enough times. Here is a visual representation of the "coin tosses" on the 65 computers/eggs. The red bars represent times when a particular computer has significantly more heads or tails than would be expected due to just chance.

The next step they take is to match major world events to periods of anomaly in the number of heads and tails -- in other words, they match events with what appear to be lapses in the laws of probability. There are two lists: here and here.

There are, of course, always major events going on someplace in the world -- floods, earthquakes, assassinations, etc. The critics say that the Global Consciousness folks are just arbitrarily linking spikes in the number of heads and tails to convenient events. I personally think that argument is very persuasive and was ready to dismiss the whole thing.

I'm not ready to say it's all nonsense, however, for one simple reason: the largest spike in the data, lapse in the laws of probability, anomaly in the number of heads and tails (however you want to put it) occurred on September 11, 2001. Starting about four hours before the first plane crashed into one of the towers, the eggs started producing results significantly different that what you would expect based on probability. In the figure below, the little boxes on the horizontal axis represent, left to right, 1st crash, 2nd crash, Pentagon crash, 1st collapse, 2nd collapse. There are more figures and explanation here. What does it all mean? I don't know. Why is there a spike before the attacks? I don't know. I still have trouble with the basic idea that people collectively can affect the laws of probability. For example, it is difficult to understand how there could be "global consciousness" before the terror attacks. Unless you are a math-whiz, the sites are a little difficult to understand, but they are probably worth a look.

There is a page that contains the button shown in the image at the top of this post. It summarizes the output of all of the eggs, which probability theory predicts should be producing about 50% heads and 50% tails at any point in time. At 50%, the button glows greens. Other colors indicate deviations from what chance alone would predict. If the button glows bright red, you might want to hide under your bed.


Spinster said...

Very cool. Thanks for the links! I put the button on my site too. I wonder what it did during the big Tsunami.
I put the button on my desk top, it's fun to watch it change -- the Indian Ocean Tsunami is 189 on the list --

-- the analysis for the 9/11 terror attacks is based on 15-minute units of time rather than individual seconds -- with so much data pouring in, it will take some time before the researchers learn how best to analyze it --

-- it's interesting, like Bible Codes, but I'm still not convinced that it's a "consciousness" effect

Spinster said...

I was thinking of the Bible Code too!
There is an old saying that if you think the universe is an omlet you go around looking for pieces of egg! That has always been my reaction to the Bible Code, they found what they were looking for but does it have any greater meaning?????

:P fuzzbox said...

Wow, that's all I can say.
there are times when everything seems to go wrong, perfectly wrong, and 9/11 certainly qualifies -- I am willing to accept that at those time the universal rules of probability are somehow askew -- on 9/11, everything that could possibly go wrong did -- the same is true for the night that the Titanic sunk -- out of any two possibilities for any event that night, the worst always happened

The Phoenix said...

Conversely, I wonder how many probability anomalies have occurred without any major castratophe, however.

This is such fascinating stuff!
it really is more a Phoenix-topic than a Jim-topic, but you've been sooooooooo busy with you aliens and psychics :)

My impression is that they find a major event for every spike, which is what the critics complain most about, that there is always a major event someplace.

There is also no indication that they claim that it indicates sign or valence <== that a negative event means there was a negative spike, and a positive event means there was a positive spike