# Quantum Physicist Offers Solution To Global Market Meltdown

I briefly met John Hagelin when I was an undergraduate. At the time he was a Harvard particle theory graduate student, soon to get his degree and start a quite respectable career in the subject. His biography on his web-site claims that:

His scientific contributions in the fields of electroweak unification, grand unification, super-symmetry and cosmology include some of the most cited references in the physical sciences. He is also responsible for the development of a highly successful Grand Unified Field Theory based on the Superstring. Dr. Hagelin is therefore at the pinnacle of achievement among the elite cadre of physicists who have fulfilled Einstein’s dream of a “theory of everything” through their mathematical formulation of the Unified Field—the most advanced scientific knowledge of our time.

Hagelin moved on from doing physics research, first to help run the Maharishi International University (now the Maharishi University of Management) in Fairfield, Iowa, then to run for president as the candidate of the Natural Law Party (it seems that “Joe the Plumber” was a member of this). Nowadays, the Maharishi has passed away, and Hagelin has moved to New York, where he is Executive Director of the Global Financial Capital of New York.

Soon after Hagelin moved to New York, his organization bought an impressive building down near Wall Street (chosen because “It’s one of the very few buildings in all of New York City that’s oriented due east”), with the goal “to inspire financiers to come forth to support the creation of Heaven on Earth”. They also are buying up land near Princeton “where, with the support of the township, a university for 5,000 Yogic Flyers is to be established.” Part of the plan seems to be to raise $3 billion or so from the financial industry, by offering 10% interest on 15 year loans. Last year they held a news conference to explain how the a “surging stock market” was one of the concrete signs of the success of the Invincible America Assembly in Iowa—the largest-ever scientific demonstration project to document the effects of large group meditations on the economic and social trends of the nation, according to Dr. John Hagelin, world-renowned quantum physicist, executive director of the International Center for Invincible Defense, and President of the Global Union of Scientists for Peace, who is leading the Assembly. This year the story is a bit different, with a recent press release entitled Quantum Physicist Offers Solution to Global Market Meltdown explaining that: a group of nearly 2,000 advanced experts is now in place at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. He said the influence of coherence generated by this group is helping to calm the nation in the midst of the global crisis, but a larger, more powerful group of 8,000 experts (the square root of one percent of the world’s population) is needed to neutralize worldwide fears and re-establish confidence in the global markets. The cost to establish this group on a permanent basis, Dr. Hagelin said, would be negligible compared to what has been lost in a single hour during the current financial crisis. In a recent Open Letter to the Yogic Flyers of the Nation, Hagelin, the Raja of Invincible America, urges them on as follows: I am writing you from Wall Street, where I am living and working with members of my national team at the Global Financial Capital of New York, one block from the New York Stock Exchange. We are starting to make remarkably good progress in our efforts to bring Maharishi’s knowledge of enlightenment and invincibility to leaders here whose thinking and actions vitally impact the whole world. However, ultimately, our success is dependent on you. We will be successful when the leaders are receptive to our message. But their openness is 100% dependent upon the numbers in the Domes. Why? Because a rise in national consciousness directly translates into a rise in openness among leaders of business, health, education, defense, government, etc. At this critical time I urge everyone to fly together in large groups Maharishi said we need 2500 experts flying together to guarantee invincibility for America. This requirement is because the turbulence in the collective consciousness of one country can easily spread like a wildfire to create a similar turbulence in another country. And this is why, at this critical time, with the economic stability of the world hanging in the balance, I urge everyone in Iowa and everyone in the country to recommit to fly together in large groups. Update: Today was a beautiful day, and on a bike ride downtown I stopped to take a look at 70 Broad Street, the headquarters of Global Financial Capital of New York. Looking in the windows of the below ground level and the lobby level, the place looked pretty much abandoned. The building has some floors upstairs, maybe there is some activity up there. They did just put out this press release, announcing a press conference to be held in the lobby at 11am on Tuesday and webcast. Hagelin will be announcing a$1 billion plan to fund 1000 experts in New York and 8000 experts in Iowa who will “create coherence for the whole world—the basis of an invincible, prosperous global economy.” No word in the press release about where the $1 billion was going to come from. Update: Video of the press conference is here. The plan is simple: just give Hagelin and his followers$1 billion, and they’ll have this financial crisis all sorted out soon, by means of experts using the unified field.

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### 87 Responses to Quantum Physicist Offers Solution To Global Market Meltdown

1. woit says:

All:

2. Please stop posting content-free comments that do little except tell us what your reaction is to someone else’s comment. If you’re not transmitting some useful information or original idea not otherwise readily available, you’re probably just adding to the noise level here. It doesn’t take much of this to make a comment section useless, and such that only people who have nothing interesting to say will participate in it.

2. Gil says:

The idea that putting together a group of meditators can make things better for the entire society, and even the impressive formula of a squaroot of one percent of the population for the number of required meditators is quite old by now.

Interestingly, this have led to a paper that was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal which describes the spectacular success of an experiment that took place, from all places, in the city of Jerusalem.

The first author of the paper have written many many papers on other rather spectacular (but not as much as this one) good effects of Maharishi meditation.

ORME-JOHNSON, D. W.; ALEXANDER, C. N.; DAVIES, J. L.; CHANDLER, H. M.; and LARIMORE, W. E. International peace project in the Middle East: The effect of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution , 32(4): 776-812, 1988.

A rather small group of meditators seemed to have achieved: “Improved Quality of National Life as Measured by Composite Indices Comprising Data on War Intensity in Lebanon, Newspaper Content Analysis of Israeli National Mood, Tel Aviv Stock Index, Automobile Accident Rate in Jerusalem, Number of Fires in Jerusalem, and Maximum Temperature in Jerusalem; Significant Improvement in Each Variable in the Index (Israel, 1983). Decreased War Deaths (Lebanon, 1983).”

The strong correspondence between the number of Transcendental Meditation-Sidhi program participants in the group in Jerusalem and a composite index of all the variables above can only be described as amazing. The graph can be found here: http://tm.org/charts/chart_51.html.

Dr. Hagelin is not the only Quantum Physicist who upholds the belief of Consciousness-based Evolution for our species . . .
did U somehow miss ‘What-the-Bleep-do-we-know’ ?

4. UF says:

There are alternatives:

http://www.globalorgasm.org/

This also influences the unified field and the zero point energy to achieve a better word.

Please, consider contributing. It’s much more fun than meditation.
You can even contribute alone if you lack a partner (or partners).

The world’s financial system depends on your orgasm.

5. somebody says:

“The strong correspondence between the number of Transcendental Meditation-Sidhi program participants in the group in Jerusalem and a composite index of all the variables above can only be described as amazing.”

Or that they want to sell something. I hope you are kidding, because the index (if at all it was not just made up) is certainly rigged. If you scale/shift/rotate a generic sigmoid or some such curve, you can pretty much find reasonable fits for anything. The real index will only look like noise.

James Randi has gone after and done background checks on some of the claims made by TMers and debunked it. I remember in particular some claims about crime rates in a small town in Iowa where apparently a huge percentage of the population was TM practitioners. All lies.

I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to vedic-medicine from the far east or some such. Who knows, maybe there is some empirical validity for them, even if we don’t understand the details of why some of it works. But TM for world peace? Gimme a break.

6. David H. Miller says:

Kuhn Dog wrote specifically to me:
>Many of the posters on this blog make this heavy judgment and denouncement of Hagelin, but based on what? How do you actually know that he is wrong? (Really, how would you KNOW this? On what epistemological grounds?)
[snip]
>Hagelin’s fundamental assertions seem to be
>1. that there is a unified field (a claim made by many physicists)
>2. that the u.f. is, in essence, a field of consciousness (perhaps a surprise to many, but, not without precedence in Eastern and Western thought)
>3. that the u.f. as a field of consciousness can be subjectively experienced and thereby validated. (again, not without extensive scholarly precedence…)

Let me be blunt: the “scholarly precedence” and the “precedence in Eastern and Western thought” do not matter, not at all. Evidence matters, “precedence” does not.

Honest, intelligent people do not bow down before “precedence.” They bow down before evidence and logical reasoning.

If Hagelin merely suggested this nonsense as vague speculation, well, fine. Consciousness does exist – I, at least, am conscious (though “Covariant” claims he is not, and I accept him at his word). Consciousness has to be explained by something, and, for all any of us know, perhaps it will turn out to be superstrings.

But Hagelin does not merely suggest this stuff as vague speculation. He claims to actually know, based on his position as a physicist, that, in his words:
>“…consciousness isn’t created by the brain…we call it the unified field…this single universal field of intelligence…or superstring field…”

These are not facts that are now established by physics. Hagelin does not in fact know any of this.

To steal the phrase that Peter borrowed from Pauli, this stuff is “not even wrong.” It is so vague that it is hard to see how one could ever test or refute it. But Hagelin throws in enough buzzwords from real physics to make it seem plausible to those who are ignorant of science.

No, I doubt Hagelin is lying in the simple sense: he has probably succeeded in bamboozling himself.

And, I certainly have no desire to question Hagelin’s or anyone’s right to ask the sort of questions with which he opens the YouTube clip: e.g., what is consciousness?

Questions are good. Pretending to have answers when you do not have answers, and using your authority as a physicist to bamboozle unsuspecting members of the public, is not good.

Dave Miller

7. David H. Miller says:

Jeff McGowan wrote:
>why do so many scientists seem to think it is inevitable that scientists will one day “explain” consciousness. I have no doubt that consciousness is a physical phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean that anyone is ever going to explain it (whatever exactly that might mean).

We scientists tend to be optimists about the future of science, and the progress of science in the last five centuries has, so far, confirmed our optimism.

But you might be right. The philosopher Colin McGinn, who is much better informed scientifically than most philosophers, agrees with you: see his book “The Mysterious Flame.”

Time will tell.

Dave Miller

8. At the serious risk of being both off-topic and lowering the S/N ratio, how does one comment on-topic on a post like this?

Perhaps I could say that it has always been my ambition to do formation Yogic flying against global financial panic, but I have had a bit of trouble finding like minded people who can actually get off the ground.

9. Gil says:

The claims about the effect of Yogic flying on world peace and on the stock market and the paper describing a scientific experiment supporting these claims have the value that they can improve our evaluation of other scientific experiments described by Maharishi scientists on remarkable effects of meditation which are a priori not so absurd.

10. Jeff McGowan says:

Dave,

I’m a mathematician, I think that probably makes me one of “we scientists.” 🙂

I tend to go with Stephen Jay Gould on the whole progress thing…

Peace,
Jeff

PS Thanks for the reference, I’ll check it out.

11. anon. says:

Has Dr Hagelin used superstring theory to formulate a scientific theory of how Yogic flying can reduce the turbulence in the collective consciousness of one country, thereby producing economic harmony?

Is the turbulent group consciousness something that is manifested in spatial extra dimensions, and if so, would the success of Dr Hagelin’s approach to achieving world economic harmony by Yogic flying be a good indicator that superstring theory is correct and deserving of yet more funding?

Peter, it’s refreshing that you are taking Dr Hagelin’s claims seriously in this post, instead of your usual hostility and ridicule. Presumably it’s because of your personal contact with him, but it’s a step in the right direction. Have you tried Yogic flying yourself? 😉

12. Amos says:

The sad thing is, the rate of progress in physics is so low right now that entries like this are able to draw in 60+ responses in only a few days. It would be better if physicists were producing more interesting new results so that Peter could post them and we could talking about them instead.

13. somebody says:

“The sad thing is, the rate of progress in physics is so low right now that entries like this are able to draw in 60+ responses in only a few days. It would be better if physicists were producing more interesting new results so that Peter could post them and we could talking about them instead.”

I somehow suspect that the reason why a topic like this draws attention has nothing to do with “rate of progress in physics”. A post about gay marriages, or God, or Obama also would draw a lot of attention. Mind you, I am not suggesting there is anything a-priori wrong with those topics, some of them in fact are very important. But popular vote usually goes for topics in which we can all have strong opinions.

E.g., the possible application of black holes to the understanding of superconductivity is a very interesting development that happened during the last couple of years, but it suffers from the problem that it is not easy to have strong opinions about it without being well-informed.

I suspect that if Peter were to write about technical topics, contrary to (the spitit of) what you suggest, the traffic here would be less, not more. Even during the period when the Standard Model was being invented, I suspect that the blog entries would have to be about flying yogis, not anomaly-free matter content.

14. Peter Woit says:

I agree that the number of comments on a posting correlates not at all with whether there’s something scientifically significant under discussion. So, that has nothing to do with the pace of progress in physics.

That said, I am finding it remarkable how little is going on these days. It’s not just my blog, but the others I follow seem to have very little to say about new physics. I’m busy with other things, so haven’t written about a few things I could have discussed, but still.

As for claims of applications of black holes to condensed matter physics or nuclear physics, my philosophy is that the people to report on those and evaluate their significance should be condensed matter physicists and nuclear physicists.

15. Dave Miller says:

Jeff,

In my experience, mathematicians actually tend to have a substantially different perspective and mindset than natural scientists. I’m not being critical: I think the average mathematician I’ve known probably had a higher IQ than the average theoretical physicist I’ve known (admittedly, this is partly because of a handful of physicists who pulled down the physics mean IQ quite a lot!), and, of course, we physicists certainly need you mathematicians.

And, computer scientists seem to have a different perspective than either mathematicians or physicists.

Anyway, I think you and I and Peter and most of the regular readers of this blog agree on the central point: it is not possible to accurately predict the future of science, and people who think they can do so are fooling themselves. I’m sure that progress in neural science holds lots of surprises for all of us, which, of course, is a big part of the fun of science.

(Somehow, though, I don’t think that successful yogic flying will be one of those surprises.)

Dave

16. Dave Miller says:

Gil,

You wrote:
> The claims about the effect of Yogic flying…[snip] … have the value that they can improve our evaluation of other scientific experiments described by Maharishi scientists…

Yeah, but perhaps not in quite the sense you mean.

Everyone has been bending over backwards to be polite, following the example of our gentle host.

But… a TM Website ( http://www.permanentpeace.org/technology/yogic_flying.html ) claims:
> During the first stage of Yogic Flying, while the practitioner sits in the cross-legged lotus position, the body lifts up and moves forward in short jumps. One branch of the Vedic literature, the Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali, describes this first stage as “hopping,” and further defines a second stage as hovering for a short time, and a third as complete mastery of the sky.

Look, everyone knows that no human has ever gotten beyond the “first stage,” i.e., the funny little lotus hops. The whole thing is a scam. No human has ever reached stage two or stage three.

No one ever will.

I’m being too cynical?

Fine. Let’s have the TM folks get their half dozen best Yogic flyers, and, at a well-known public place announced well in advance, say Central Park or the Capitol Mall, demonstrate second or third stage Yogic flying.

If they choose a New York venue, maybe Peter can even be induced to take some video to convince all us skeptics.

All they need do is hover in the air for a couple minutes – no, even thirty seconds would do – continuously of course, and all of us skeptics will bow our heads in shame.

But we all know that this will never happen.

Gil, they cannot really fly.

To be skeptical of Hagelin’s claims, you do not need to be a dogmatic materialist (I’m not), you do not need to have an opinion on the ultimate nature of consciousness, superstring theory, or anything of the sort.

You need merely note that Hagelin states:
>At this critical time I urge everyone to fly together in large groups…

And then remind yourself – they cannot really fly.

Dave

P.S. Peter, I know the game of this post is to leave it all implicit and let everyone figure it out for himself, just like a good joke – something is lost when you have to explain why the joke is funny. But sometimes, some things ultimately have to be said explicitly.

17. Peter Woit says:

Dave,

Hey, I’ve seen still photos of these people flying. Of course in the photos their hair was kind of standing up, like maybe they were coming down. Fast.

18. somebody says:

Peter: “That said, I am finding it remarkable how little is going on these days.”

The farther zoomed out you are, the less impressive the changes are. Anything short of an actual warp drive is not going to impress a layman, for example. To understand progress you need to understand what are the interesting questions and why. This usually requires getting your hands dirty and wading into the details. If you are looking for applications to agriculture, you will not be impressed, I agree.

Strominger and collaborators recently found a way to compute the entropy of astrophysical black holes. Is this exciting? To be honest, it is not THAT big a deal to the string theorists because we always knew astrophysical black holes are not that different from the idealized (or “unphysical” as the haters call it) black holes. But you should be impressed, because this is a real black hole, one that you can actually see in the sky.

But on the other hand, why would you be? Even Hawking radiation is afterall experimentally unverifiable. As I have said before (and you have denied), you care nothing for understanding, but only for “experiment”. Since experiments are hard, you will always have your moral superiority.

Last couple of years – holographic superconductors were interesting, looking at turbulence through Einstein’s equations was interesting, integrability of gauge theory was interesting, membrane theories were interesting, realistic and more precise black hole entropy computations were interesting. WHY were they interesting? Because they gave us understanding about various things, some of which (relating to condensed matter and nuclear physics) are even accessible to semi-quantitative predictions. But are they ALL immediately going to be seen at the LHC? No.

My point is that when you make the statement that hardly anything is going on, you are in fact passing a judgement, and not stating a fact. This is something that the average reader of this blog will fail to recognize.

Peter: “As for claims of applications of black holes to condensed matter physics or nuclear physics, my philosophy is that the people to report on those and evaluate their significance should be condensed matter physicists and nuclear physicists.”

I am sure you have seen Bill Zajc’s comments at backreaction (if not, google!). That there are at least SOME nuclear physicists who are impressed by black hole predictions and calculationss is not too bad for a theory about the Planck scale.

19. somebody says:

“Strominger and collaborators recently found a way to compute the entropy of astrophysical black holes.”

I should be more precise and say fast-spinning astrophysical black holes.

20. Peter Woit says:

Somebody,

Thanks for the snide anonymous insults. I don’t know who you are, but I do have some idea what the “interesting questions” in fundamental physics are and have spent a long career “getting my hands dirty” trying to understand them. I just happen to be getting my hands dirty in places that are not so popular. I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to understand and learn from what others are doing, and make a point of keeping my mouth shut about things I don’t understand.

String theorists on the other hand, seem to revel in overhyping anything even remotely related to string theory. I’m well aware of the often-pointed to Zajc comments; you might also want to Google “Pinocchio award” and Larry McLerran for another take on this. One thing I have noticed about the string theorists who go on about this is that few if any of them seem to know anything about nuclear physics.

The way you misleadingly characterize the recent Strominger results is just typical. String theorists can’t just accurately explain exactly what some result is, instead they have to overhype it (“Strominger and collaborators recently found a way to compute the entropy of astrophysical black holes”!). You should realize that the whole field now has a huge credibility problem because of this behavior.

There is objective data available about the “no progress” claim from citation counts, and I’ve gone over this elsewhere.

21. Peter Woit says:

As for the reasons for the “no progress” problem, there are several. One is that the remaining problems are hard. Another is that a large and influential component of the community refuses to admit there is a problem, instead attacking the professional competence of anyone who brings up the topic.

22. Jeff McGowan says:

Dave,

I agree we have a different perspective. My old undergraduate advisor has for years taught a course called “Math and the Other Arts” and there is something artistic about many mathematicians approach (to everything). Could just be that I’m married to an artist, and off the top of my head I can think of at least five other mathematicians among my close acquaintances who are also married to artists 🙂 I didn’t take it as a criticism. I can pass you the names of some mathematicians who aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed if you want to even things up…

Also, I agree completely about predicting the future of science. And I have a lot of fun as an interested outsider reading Peter’s blog. Can’t quite believe the vitriol sometimes, you get much less of that in math, unless I’m just completely out of that loop. Oh, and as a practitioner of yoga, gotta say the flying bit is really funny. Actual yoga on the other hand is great.

23. somebody says:

I will try to stay close to the science and try to avoid getting into the vitriol.

Peter says: “I’m well aware of the often-pointed to Zajc comments; you might also want to Google “Pinocchio award” and Larry McLerran for another take on this.”

McLerran’s papers speak differently from his public talks. It always gets laughter to say a few words about string theorists and their 26 or 10 dimensions in talks. I do that too. But in his PRL paper he says (and I quote):

**An amazing theoretical discovery was made by Kovtun, Son and Starinets [9], who showed that certain special field theories, special in the sense that they are dual to black branes in higher space-time dimensions, have the ratio η/s = 1/4pi (we use units with h = kB = c = 1) where η is the shear viscosity and s is the entropy density.**

But I am sure there is perhaps another quote somewhere where he again bashes string theory, because it is no secret that McLerran is not a fan. So instead of hunting for it, I would also look at the specific comments made by Zajc about the science behind McLerran’s Pinocchio remarks. We have alrready established that string theory has many enemies, so McLerran’s like or dislike hardly adds anything new.

The crucial point is NOT that string theory has no enemies (ha-ha!), but that there are some qcd/nuclear physics types who are into strings these days. In particular, it is incorrect to imply that Zajc stands alone. Rajagopal, Weidemann,… have even published many papers on this.

” The way you misleadingly characterize the recent Strominger results is just typical. String theorists can’t just accurately explain exactly what some result is, instead they have to overhype it (”Strominger and collaborators recently found a way to compute the entropy of astrophysical black holes”!). You should realize that the whole field now has a huge credibility problem because of this behavior.”

You make an accusation that I am overhyping Strominger, while NOT making any statements about exactly what he does. I will chew my arm off and show restraint.

Two facts:

1. What Strominger does is to compute the central charge of the Virasoro algebra and the temperature of the dual CFT of an extremal four dimensional uncharged Kerr black hole. With these two you can compute the entropy using the Cardy relation.

2. There are ultra-spinning black holes in the sky. Astronomers have even identified them and given them names.

I will let you draw your own conclusions from these.

24. nbutsomebody says:

somebody said,
1. What Strominger does is to compute the central charge of the Virasoro algebra and the temperature of the dual CFT of an extremal four dimensional uncharged Kerr black hole. With these two you can compute the entropy using the Cardy relation.said,

Well, this is indeed a hyped way to present what he has done. what he has really done is to extend a little already known property of a AdS_3 and its various squashed cousins. It is a pure gravity calculation and there are simple geometric reasons why so called “central charge” is related to the area of the black hole horizon.
It is indeed suggestive of a holographic interpretation. However this was more or less known and there is no microscopic description.

25. Archimedes says:

Coming back to the topic… Is any of the Maharishi followers who happen to be reading this thread able to point out any publication where an experiment concerning the Maharishi effect is described in such a way that would allow one to reproduce it by independent means?

This may be a bit unfair a request, since social sciences are not “hard sciences” in the sense of physics, whose experiments can be reproduced by someone else in another lab, or another time. But it doesn’t hurt to ask, so if someone can point out such an experiment I will be grateful.

If experiments are not of that type, as I expect they aren’t (I haven’t gone through any of the papers already mentioned in this thread) then the only way to check the validity of the conclusions is to really look at the papers carefully, perhaps with the help of someone from a statistics department or such.

Even so, doubts will remain about the validity of the experimental data to begin with. I am not a sceptic, in fact I’d be delighted if the Maharishi effect does exist. But I feel the need to be reassured that the Maharishi effect is not a corollary of the “Sokal effect”…

26. Kevin Dailey says:

The time has come when the science of physics has come to the frontier of the non-physical. It is very inspiring to see such a renowned physicist taking the leap into the spiritual. Whether we like it or not the effect of consciousness on matter is real and now in this modern age it is being scientifically explored and validated.

New frontiers are always scoffed at, doubted, made fun of and then finally widely accepted. You can be ahead of the crowd or follow behind. The choice is ours.

27. anonymous says:

Archimedes,

“allow one to reproduce it by independent means”

Presumably one would have to replicate the extensive training these people have in meditation, etc. (http://www.permanentpeace.org/technology/tm.html) This would be difficult and time-consuming to replicate from scratch.

Regarding the initial post: Reality of the effect (or not) aside, it boggles my mind that nobody questions whether doing this is ethical. If it is a real effect, why do we assume that it’s a GOOD thing and that Hagelin SHOULD inflict it upon us?

28. The idea of a place where both physics and esoteric ideas can be studied is not a bad idea though one can certainly do it incorrectly or be too one sided.

Discussed in the link below are Plato’s Academy, Gurdjieff’s Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, Maharishi International University, Perimeter Institute, and the authors’ Quantum Future Institute.

It’s not favorable to the Maharishi University.

29. Tim May says:

Anonymous writes:

“Presumably one would have to replicate the extensive training these people have in meditation, etc. (http://www.permanentpeace.org/technology/tm.html) This would be difficult and time-consuming to replicate from scratch.’

I’ll be happy to _personally_ fund the second round of experiments, with completely unaffiliated researchers trained at Maharishi University, AFTER at least the first round of experiments–involving video cameras manned by independent observers, checks for wires by independent observers, and other very basic norms of experimental science have given strong weight to “yogic flying.”

Saying that a bit of hearsay about yogic flight cannot be discounted until we have trained independent observers in exactly the same ways is not the way science works.

Early in my career, I discovered an unexpected effect (bits in computer chips flipped by alpha particles from the surrounding package, and at lower levels from cosmic rays). I presented experimental data, proposed mechanisms, and so on. Others followed on the work, presenting their own “independent” experiments.

There was never any suggestion that my work could only be confirmed or invalidated after others had “replicated” my training, etc. Granted, the “yogic flight” is supposed to be based on training, mental state, etc.

But the “reproducing the training” can and should come AFTER apparent “flight” (not ambiguous little “hops” of a few inches) has been established. A yogi flying in through a window of a conference hall and hovering 5 feet above the podium for a few minutes ought to do the trick.

Perhaps Peter will consider this off-topic, but I don’t. Experimental confirmation and “refutation of theories” is not nearly as subjective as some claim. Nearly all physics results in the 1850-1950 period could be duplicated or refuted by many around the world…and they were. After the era of Big Science, of course, it got a lot more expensive to do so. But even in the Age of Accelerators, competing labs can and do try to confirm what other labs are reporting. Further, even in the coming age of the One Big Accelerator, I expect enough internal competition between groups will provide for checks and balances on results claimed.

“Yogic flight” would be vastly more significant that the Higgs Boson, don’t you think? And yet people are debating some phony-looking Polaroids of guys who like they’re being dropped from some height into their (OUCH!) lotus position.

This is, as others here have said, “not even wrong.” Actually, it’s more than not even wrong. (Though a part of me would love to see evidence for yogic flying, or UFOs, etc., strong claims require strong evidence.)

Speaking for myself, not Peter or anyone else, this is not even in the same _game_ as string theory is. Rightly or wrongly, string theory is not yogic flying, crystal healing, or psychokinesis.

(As the joke goes, “All those in favor of psychokinesis, raise my hand.”)

–Tim May

30. Gil says:

The claims that the groups of meditators improve matters regarding the stock market or world peace and the statistically-based “scientific experiments” supporting them are nonsense. But these absurd claims raise the concern that the hundreds of papers by (the same) Maharishi scientists regarding more believable medical effects of meditation are bogus as well.

Trying to figure out if something is wrong and what it is in empirical experiments like those describing some wonderful effects of meditation is not an easy task. When the outcome of an experiment matches the desires of the experimenters but look otherwise suspicious or even absurd, a simple possible explanation is that the outcomes were “tuned” or “rigged”. Useful statistically-based methodologies that will allow to examine tunning effects are not easy to come by.

31. Covariant says:

OK

I was trying to be open minded about all this, and I confess I thought “yogic flying” was some sort of metaphor. Here is a link to a film where they demonstrate “stage one yogic flying”

Hagelin explains why Newton’s Laws are false. What a hoot!

32. Thingumbob says:

Here is the type of empirically verifiable study conducted at MIT which should serve as a model to test the claims of “yogic flying” :
http://zapatopi.net/afdb/

33. anonymous says:

Tim May – Do you really think this is about flying? Actual FLYING? I thought the flying was either 1) a cute (and rare) by-product of the effect, or 2) some kind of metaphor for the target state of mind.

Either way, I doubt that actually physically leaving the ground is necessary to achieve the purported aims of this project. It concerns me more that someone claims to have found a force that can pacify the ‘collective consciousness’ and is willing and able to use it, unrestrained by any ethical considerations, while people sit around arguing about gravity. (Here, watch my right hand while my left hand picks your pocket.)

Forget the flying. Assume it’s a woo-woo diversion to ensure that no one pays close attention to what is really going on. Since when do scientists deploy the results of their research arbitrarily upon mankind without obtaining any kind of consent? Sure, it sounds like a good plan – less fear in the collective consciousness = more stable markets = good economic times for us all – but if ‘less fear’ came in the form of a pill, you would question the person who is telling you ‘trust me, it’s for your own good’. You wouldn’t sit around arguing about the placebo effect.

Even if you don’t think that the Maharishi effects are real (and I don’t mean the flying), Hagelin does, and he appears to direct their deployment according to an unvetted agenda.

34. Vishal says:

Here’s how yogis actually have been levitating in India all along: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etSivpBHUmE

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard Hagelin’s interpretation of Newton’s law of gravitation in the YouTube video provided by Covariant. Unbelievable! The man is clearly duping people.

35. Dave Miller says:

John Gonsowski wrote:
>The idea of a place where both physics and esoteric ideas can be studied is not a bad idea…

No, John, it is a very bad idea, and for a very simple reason: “esoteric ideas” – all esoteric ideas – are nonsense, plain and simple.

I’m not claiming this as an a priori truth, but simply as an empirical fact proven by millennia of experience. We’ve had a very long time to check out all of this “esoteric” nonsense, and, again, to use the phrase Peter borrowed from Pauli, it has proven sometimes to be clearly false, but more often to be “not even wrong.”

I know that numerous people, sometimes even technically trained people, have claimed to acquire deep knowledge into the nature of the universe through esoteric studies, meditation, etc.

But when you probe the details of this deep knowledge, it boils down, at best, to saying that the universe is a really impressive place.

Indeed it is. But I realized that when I managed to understand Bondi’s “Relativity and Common Sense” as a kid. No meditation or esoterica required.

Meditation no doubt helps some people relax and cool down. Great. Singing old Simon and Garfunkel tunes in the shower helps me relax. Whatever.

But, the only road to knowledge ever discovered by human beings is the scientific method broadly construed: tie your ideas down to concrete, easily observed and easily checked evidence; make your conjectures sufficiently clear and explicit that, if they are wrong, they can be refuted; look for little “insignificant” details (such as the anomalous behavior of Mercury’s orbit) that suggest shortcomings in your ideas; assume you may have made mistakes in your reasoning or observations and cross-check them with other humans; etc.

Or, in simple terms, as Feynman put it, try really hard not to fool yourself.

The methods pursued by a mathematician, an experimental physicist, or a serious historian all follow that broad approach, even though their methods differ greatly in detail as fits their different fields of investigation.

“Esoteric ideas” are designed to violate all of the basic canons of the scientific method.

Esoteric ideas are nonsense.

Dave Miller in Sacramento

36. Archimedes says:

As regards scientific studies on meditation, the following newspaper article (dated 2005) provides a rough description:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5008565

The science here is neuroscience, and meditation is mostly buddhist. As far as I know the kind of research alluded to is interesting and serious. It also seems to be the state of the art in the field, and it is concerned with studying what happens in the brain of those who meditate, both in the short and the long run. This looks like a pragmatic and justified research program. What is more, all along neuroscience is still science, and buddhism is still religion/philosophy, no matter how suggestive the links between the two sides may be.

However, the Maharishi type TM, yogic flying and the like (even if the latter is taken only in a metaphoric sense) seem to be a completely different story, namely one whose claims, especially those that get all dressed up in the colors of deep fundamental physics, seem to be non-scientific assertions that mix up science, ancient philosophy, conjecture, intuition, faith and gut-feeling into an inextricable mess. Incidentally, looking at the MUM web pages I also came across something on “vedic mathematics” which seems to suggest that pure math is being garbled in just the same way.

37. Zeuxis says:

Joe the Physics Student asked, “How does this individual’s activities [sic] have anything to do with current physics research? Thanks.”

It doesn’t, but it’s being perpetrated as if it did. That’s the point. (To expose hokum.)

Thanks.