ESP researcher decides to close lab
February 23, 2007
Princeton University announced that the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory will close, according to the New York Times. Since 1979, the PEAR lab has conducted experiments on extrasensory perception and telekinesis.
p. “For 28 years, we’ve done what we wanted to, and there’s no reason to stay and generate more of the same data,” Founder Robert G. Jahn said. “If people don’t believe us after all the results we’ve produced, then they never will.”
p. The lab has been a point of contention at Princeton and between other academics who consider its work to be unscientific. None of Princeton’s 700 professors have aided with its research.
p. Jahn, who graduated from Princeton in 1951, worked at the university since 1962 and became dean of the engineering school in 1971. He is currently considered to be one of the world’s foremost experts on jet propulsion.
p. Rather than relying on university or federal funding, the PEAR lab ran on private donations. The lab has received more than $10 million over the years, of which the first sizable donation came from James S. McDonnell, founder of the McDonnell Douglas Corporation.
p. The Times described a typical experiment consisting of a study subject sitting in front of an electronic box. The box flashed random numbers either just below or above 100. The subject was then told to “think high” or “think low” and monitor the display. After repeating this several thousand times, researchers looked to see if there was a correlation between the machine’s output and the subject’s thoughts.
p. Jahn and the rest of his research team made the conclusion that an individual’s thoughts could alter the machine’s behavior slightly. He found that out of 10,000 flips, two or three were altered.
p. “We have observed very tiny but repeatable effects indicating that the mind can insert some degree of information into random event generators that makes the information not so random,” Jahn told the Daily Princetonian.
p. Jahn said that it was a student who inspired him to start the PEAR lab and that he was surprised by “resistance” of his colleagues to his research.
p. “Good scientific work without making wide claims should be respected as scholarly work,” he told the paper.
p. “Jahn sees possibilities where others won’t,” lab manager Brenda Dunne said.
p. Others, such as Robert Park, a University of Maryland Professor, disagree.
p. “It’s been an embarrassment to science, and I think an embarrassment for Princeton. Science has a substantial amount of credibility, but this is the kind of thing that squanders it.”
p. “If [people] want funds for research they have to go through peer review and the system is going to be very skeptical of ideas that are inconsistent with what is already known,” Harriet Zuckerman, senior vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation said.
p. Jahn’s work has not been extensively peer reviewed since prominent research journals declined to accept papers from PEAR lab.
p. Princeton made no official comment on the lab closing.