"Precog evidence"

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nehpest
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"Precog evidence"

Postby nehpest » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:26 am UTC

I was recently linked to an article in New Scientist about an series of experiments looking for evidence of precognition. The article describes a bunch of "reversed" psychology experiments and claims that the results indicate that people can be influenced by future events. The article includes a link to the preprint of the paper: http://www.dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf

I don't feel qualified to evaluate the paper on its own merits, but isn't this all a lot of hooey? I was under the impression that the standard physical models precluded this kind of phenomena.

Tangential question: is New Scientist generally considered credible? They seemed a little too willing to buy into this, but again, I don't feel qualified to evaluate the science behind this paper.
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Sagekilla
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Sagekilla » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:35 am UTC

I guess that means we can throw causality out the window! In all honesty though, I don't really see the whole "precognition" thing as being viable in any shape or form. If anything, I'd say it's more of a case of the researchers seeing data correlate where it isn't.

It's happened before, and I wouldn't be surprised if this study was affected by it. Especially in the very hand-wavy areas like precognition. The softer and less rigorous your science is, the easier it is to be swayed into thinking there's a pattern where there isn't one.
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nehpest
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby nehpest » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:42 am UTC

Sagekilla wrote:I guess that means we can throw causality out the window! In all honesty though, I don't really see the whole "precognition"
thing as being viable in any shape or form. If anything, I'd say it's more of a case of the researchers seeing data correlate where
it isn't.

It's happened before, and I wouldn't be surprised if this study was affected by it. Especially in the very hand-wavy areas like
precognition. The softer and less rigorous your science is, the easier it is to be swayed into thinking there's a pattern where
there isn't one.


That's essentially what I thought, especially when New Scientist tried to get me to buy into how significant a 53% success rate is. Okay, my faith in science has been reaffirmed.
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Sagekilla » Fri Nov 12, 2010 2:32 pm UTC

Yeah, once you start allowing stuff like precognition, you start saying that
its fine to have future configurations affect current ones. Advanced and
retarded potentials are one good example of this. The former is a big no no,
but there's nothing wrong with the latter.

Go take a look on wikipedia about retarded potentials
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BlackSails
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby BlackSails » Fri Nov 12, 2010 2:43 pm UTC

You can do electrodynamics entirely with advanced and retarded potentials, and make no mention of fields.

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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Velifer » Fri Nov 12, 2010 5:09 pm UTC

Sagekilla wrote:Go take a look on wikipedia about retarded potentials with developmental delays.

You insensitive prick!

A frequentist would expect to find a certain number of trials showing Type I error (significance where none really exists) based on the alpha level. To increase the odds of finding significance, go on a fishing expedition: assume that all the trials are independent and don't bother to correct the alpha to account for this. The paper is an excellent teaching tool for methods of statistical abuse and how to (thinly) disguise validity issues.

There's actually a specific threat to validity from having a computer and the ability to run so many tests so easily.

I've found this site to be interesting and informative: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:09 pm UTC

Velifer wrote:There's actually a specific threat to validity from having a computer and the ability to run so many tests so easily.
Plus the ability to be consistently analyzing results, so in principle you could just run the experiment until, by pure random chance, you end up with the total (calculated) significance level where you want it.
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Technical Ben » Fri Nov 12, 2010 7:08 pm UTC

But if you predict the test will fail does that mean...
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Velifer
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Velifer » Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:13 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:But if you predict the test will fail does that mean...

You have to change the less than to a greater than. :wink:

Like gmalivuk mentioned, lots of research on medical interventions (think: drugs) is set up with people who do this, as well as continuously run tests as results come in. It's called a stopping protocol, but the catch is that the people who do it are entirely separate and blinded from the researchers doing the experiment. There are specific rules set up beforehand about when "significant" is significant enough to stop the clinical trial, either because there is strong evidence of harm, or strong evidence of real benefit that would make it unethical to continue withholding treatment from the control group. These standards are usually pretty high--in large part because of the bias introduced when going on these fishing trips. It's part of the test statistics used on these types of tests.

Precog is interesting to me. Not because I have any (Bayesian) belief in it beyond a negligible degree, but because of all the other little things that go into making "precog" possible. Computer speakers quietly pop before cellphones ring, so I can have my phone in hand before it rings. Woo Like Magic! I find there are all sorts of little things that make this sort of "precog" possible, and figuring out those perceptions and cues are interesting and fun and sometimes useful. It's the same reason I'm intrigued by mentalism in general. Playing numbers games, noticing little Sherlockian/Holmesesque details, and other parlor tricks are... um... fun parlor tricks.

Bad stats are bad though. I've seen worse abuses than these papers, but rarely used to make such outlandish claims.
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Fri Nov 12, 2010 10:29 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:You can do electrodynamics entirely with advanced and retarded potentials, and make no mention of fields.

Didn't Feynman try this, and never quite get it to work out right?
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby DrSir » Fri Nov 12, 2010 10:38 pm UTC

Using my high-school Statistics knowledge, I searched for Chi from Chi-Square and discovered they didn't run one...
Which is making me also believe that there's a chance they need much more data, or 53% isn't statistically significant with what they ran.

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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Sagekilla » Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:00 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:You can do electrodynamics entirely with advanced and retarded potentials, and make no mention of fields.


Oh I'm not knocking potentials at all. They're a wonderful tool. I'm just
saying, you can't just allow future configurations to affect current ones in
an arbitrary way. Then Bad Things Happen.
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby BlackSails » Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:30 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:
BlackSails wrote:You can do electrodynamics entirely with advanced and retarded potentials, and make no mention of fields.

Didn't Feynman try this, and never quite get it to work out right?


No, it works perfectly, he (and Wheeler) were just unable to quantize it.

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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:12 am UTC

DrSir wrote:Using my high-school Statistics knowledge, I searched for Chi from Chi-Square and discovered they didn't run one...
While that might indeed mean they fished around for an analysis that gave them favorable numbers, it could also just be due to the fact that Chi-Square tests aren't really as accurate as introductory statistics might lead one to believe.

What it seems they did run was Stouffer's Test.
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Splad
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Splad » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:34 am UTC

if chlorophyll can do it why can't we?

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nehpest
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby nehpest » Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:14 am UTC

Velifer wrote:
Sagekilla wrote:Go take a look on wikipedia about retarded potentials with developmental delays.

You insensitive prick!

A frequentist would expect to find a certain number of trials showing Type I error (significance where none really exists) based on the alpha level. To increase the odds of finding significance, go on a fishing expedition: assume that all the trials are independent and don't bother to correct the alpha to account for this. The paper is an excellent teaching tool for methods of statistical abuse and how to (thinly) disguise validity issues.

There's actually a specific threat to validity from having a computer and the ability to run so many tests so easily.

I've found this site to be interesting and informative: http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/

@ people talking about advanced and retarded potentials - awesome, thank you. That's interesting stuff, the name of which I vaguely remember from reading You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman! back in the day.

@ Velifer: Interesting site. I don't have a whole lot of statistics background, but I can figure out some of what's there. I'll keep poking around and see what I can learn.

Splad wrote:if chlorophyll can do it why can't we?

Wat.
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Splad » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:08 am UTC

nehpest wrote:
Splad wrote:if chlorophyll can do it why can't we?

Wat.


http://www.physorg.com/news95605211.html

"We have obtained the first direct evidence that remarkably long-lived wavelike electronic quantum coherence plays an important part in energy transfer processes during photosynthesis," said Graham Fleming, the principal investigator for the study. “This wavelike characteristic can explain the extreme efficiency of the energy transfer because it enables the system to simultaneously sample all the potential energy pathways and choose the most efficient one.”

sorry for being cryptic :mrgreen:

Technical Ben
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Technical Ben » Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:26 pm UTC

Simultaneous (parallel) systems do not equal future checking systems. Do they?
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BlackSails
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby BlackSails » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:15 pm UTC

Nope, and either Mr Fleming was misquoted or he doesnt understand basic quantum mechanics.

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Charlie!
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby Charlie! » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:22 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:Nope, and either Mr Fleming was misquoted or he doesnt understand basic quantum mechanics.

Or was trying to describe a complicated reality to a simple general public.

But yeah, quantum mechanics does not violate causality, full stop.
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BlackSails
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Re: "Precog evidence"

Postby BlackSails » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:53 am UTC

I was talking about the chlorophyll "searching out all possible paths" comment. A ball rolling down a hill does that, its nothing special.


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