12 février 2007

ESP lab sees doors close

Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian

A laboratory dedicated to extra-sensory perception and telekinesis at the prestigious Princeton University in New Jersey is to close after nearly 30 years of research.

The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory was set up in 1979 by Richard Jahn, the university's former dean of applied science and engineering, to investigate whether human consciousness could interfere with sensitive computers and machinery, a possibility described as "functionally devastating" for people in aeroplane cockpits, operating theatres and intercontinental ballistic missile silos.

The lab, which raised eyebrows among university staff and drew ridicule from Nobel prizewinners, attracted an estimated $10m (£5m) from philanthropists and is set to transfer to a nearby non-profit organisation called the International Consciousness Research Laboratories. The announcement was posted on the lab's website, for those who had failed to sense that the closure was imminent.

The handful of scientists working there conducted tests with thousands of volunteers to assess whether people could control, even slightly, computers and other devices placed in front of them. Some tests required participants to try to influence numbers being churned out by a computer at random. Researchers claim their studies revealed a small but statistically significant effect in experiments.

Richard Wiseman, a former magician and professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire said the lab's work was interesting but ultimately difficult to make practical use of.

Encore un établissement 'prestigieux' de la parapsychologie qui disparaît. Vu le manque total de résultats, personne n'aura beaucoup de regrets sauf peut-être les généreux mais crédules donateurs. Ce 'laboratoire' était issu d'une résurgence des recherches de parapsychologie de la guerre froide, recherches qui avaient été réduites à néant notamment grâce au projet Alpha de l'illusionniste James Randi.