THE VARIAN HALL OF PHYSICS, STANFORD UNIVERSITY
6 JUNE 1972
In a book I later published in 1975, entitled To Kiss Earth Goodbye, I gave a version of what happened during the evening of 6 June 1972. That book was not really under my editorial control, however, and much was chopped out of it.
In any event, it is now twenty-five years after the fact, and I've found that those involved don't remember the same things.
So, the best I can do herein is present what I remember.
But I'll first explain that my memory is quite
good in this case -- because I got rather angry in that Puthoff DID NOT
alert me to the fact that this would be a different kind of experiment.
I was being asked to try to influence yet another magnetometer. And all such pieces of equipment were of a size that could sit on a table. So I naturally thought that was what the experiment would consist of. Anger has a way of deeply etching memory traces.
The Stanford University campus was about a fifteen
minute drive from Stanford Research Institute.
The sun was nearing the western horizon when Puthoff and I finally arrived at the Varian Hall of Physics. The early evening was already bathed in a delicious pink atmosphere and the darkening palm trees of the campus looked like something Hollywood could design for a movie.
I am very partial to great sunsets. But I was somewhat worried -- because I didn't think the magnetometer experiments earlier in the day had succeeded very well. I felt like I was about to step into another failure, this time under the watchful eyes of Puthoff and the physicist in the Varian Hall.
As we made our way into the building, Puthoff explained
that the equipment was in the basement. So we descended to that level and
found our way first along some gray corridors, then into a big room.
The most notable image of this big room was that it contained a number of huge, round structural supports for the floors above built to withstand earthquakes. The pilasters were all painted a bright ORANGE. There was also a confusion of all kinds of pipes everywhere.
We proceeded to a slightly better lit area where
I was introduced to Dr. Arthur Hebbard. A Dr. Marshal Lee was also present.
Puthoff managed to whisper to me that Lee was a noted and extremely important
physicist from China. Also present were six doctoral candidates,
students of Hebbard.
I didn't think that witnesses were appropriate, but there was nothing I could do about it. So I shook hands all round, but noticed everyone was a little uptight, including little me.
There was a somewhat elaborate chart recorder in
operation, and its pen was slowly, very slowly tracing out a wavy line,
up and down in graceful curves. This, I was told, was monitoring the magnetic
stability of the magnetometer and had been doing so for some weeks without
any change in the rhythmic fluctuations.
However, the magnetometer itself was nowhere to
be seen. And so I asked where it was.
Puthoff replied: "You're standing on top of it."
Now was explained to me the nature of the "magnetometer."
As of 1972, the existence of a strange cosmic sub-particle was suspected. It was small and fast enough to go right through the planet as if the planet was composed of empty space. The suspected particle had been dubbed a "quark."
A slight explanation is needed here. Back in 1972,
physicists had theorized that the proton is composed of three sub-particles
called quarks. The actual existence of these were not identified until some
Thus, the "magnetometer" at Stanford
was actually a quark detector, the first of its kind, still unique in 1972,
and had been constructed at very great expense and with copious work in
an effort to capture the passage through it of one of those sub-particles.
The whole of this contraption was encased in an aluminum container and insulating copper canister. As well, it was in a supercooled, hence superconducting shield.
The centerpiece inside the detector was a Josephson junction and which would "detect" any variation magnetic flux in the supercooled equipment.
The whole of this was buried in solid concrete
some five feet down in the floor beneath our feet.
The horrible implications of all this dawned on
me without much difficulty. I was being asked to "poke around"
with a "target" I could not see, or even know exactly where it
was in the ground beneath.
In retrospect, I don't know why I got angry. But my eyes narrowed upon Puthoff -- because he and I had already discussed the desirability of a subject being completely informed regarding the experiment he or she was to undertake.
We had also discussed the matter of observers and
witnesses. In order to give the subject the best chance possible, why should
the experimental task be made more difficult by the presence of unneeded
witnesses who would make the subject nervous. Subjects could easily be affected
in many ways by the presence of other people.
An experiment, after all, was not a stage performance for the enjoyment of others.
In this case, there were no less than nine
people in the area -- and some of whom were smirking with certainty
that nothing would come of this.
But I lost sight of all of them except Puthoff. Even my humble self ceased to be a body, becoming a yellow haze with eyes in it.
Those eyes focused on Puthoff, whom I asked: "How the fuck am I supposed to influence something I can't see???"
But Puthoff was ready for me. "Now, Ingo,"
he began, "you wanted an experiment that has no loopholes in it. Well,
here it is." And he then went on to explain.
And I now explain here. First of all, since the
equipment was buried in concrete, no one could say that anyone could have
an opportunity to fool around with it.
The quark detector, the magnetometer inside it,
had been subjected to tests with large electromagnets, and no signals had
been induced in the shielded portion.
Prior to our arrival, a decaying magnetic field had been set up inside the shielded chamber. Its steady, slow decay with time provided a background calibration signal that registered as a sine wave output on an x-y recorder, the frequency of the sine wave corresponding to the decay rate of the calibration field.
Further, this system had been running for something
on the order of an hour before our arrival with no "noise" showing
up in the sine wave. The quark-detecting function of this instrument was
not in operation, and so the experiment would pertain only to the operating
magnetometer housed deep within the various shieldings.
Puthoff explained that if I were to affect the
magnetic field in the magnetometer, evidence of the effect would show up
as a change in the output sine wave recording. This would be seen as some
kind of variation in the sine wave -- which was slowly moving up and down
in a wavy line with an obvious equal rhythm.
I was angry -- but not stupid. If I walked out
on this one there would be no less than eight witnesses.
And this was not parapsychology where experiments and results are messed about all the time.
THIS was SCIENCE, and THIS had witnesses, and THIS
was the first time, in my case at least, there had ever been any witnesses
except those necessary for an experiment.
I had always been willing to try parapsychology
experiments. I had never said I COULD DO anything except to try.
In such experiments, one has a fifty-fifty chance of some kind of success -- and so there was no real reason not to try. You see, even if one failed, one could always try again.
In the case of THIS magnetometer, though, failure
was THE END -- most certainly because SCIENCE didn't want parapsychology
or Psi stuff in the first place.
I could walk out -- and never know if I would fail or succeed.
I suppose I should say, in retrospect, that this
was a challenge. And it certainly was -- an awful one. One of those "damned
if you do and fail," and "damned if you don't try."
Far worse (and very much more dramatic) "challenges"
were to come in the years ahead. And in retrospect, I'm glad I decided more
or less to look death in the face, for the experience at the Varian Hall
gave me some familiarity along those lines.
Puthoff is not an unkind man. But he had put me
between a rock and a hard place -- deliberately so, because he too needed
to find out things.
So I asked Dr. Hebbard: "Do you know exactly where the magnetometer is?" The answer was no. It was down there, but exactly where no one knew.
So, as in Cleve Backster's lab, I started "probing"
-- whatever that means.
Shortly, I felt I could sense some metallic differences, and I tried to affect them, explaining what I was doing as I went along.
All eyes were glued not on me, though, but upon the sine wave.
I tried "affecting" the equipment several
NOTHING! Zap, Zero.
Except for Puthoff and little me, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Two of the doctoral candidates even smiled a little.
"Well," I said, "I can sure as shit
see something down there. Let me try to sketch it out, and that might help
me focus a little better."
But there was no paper anywhere. So Puthoff suggested I draw directly onto the chart paper.
So I sketched a this, and then a that: "Is
this the Josephson junction?" I asked. "If so, I think I can see
it quite well."
With that comment, the inked pen which was slowly
tracing out the mathematically perfect wavy line gave the smallest jerk.
Then it STOPPED for a brief second.
And then it began LIFTING up above its previous pattern. And somewhat above this it wobbled along for no less than about TEN SECONDS -- long enough for two wavy line intervals to have occurred.
As we watched, I heard someone mumble "Jesus
"Is that an effect?" I asked.
No one answered. Puthoff and Dr. Lee were whispering.
I think Dr. Hebbard was somewhat pale.
Puthoff asked: "Can you do that again."
"Give me a moment or so, and I'll try -- if that's what you want.
Now, let me explain. When the distortion in the
sine wave line took place I was NOT trying to effect the equipment. I was
simply trying to sketch what I could "see."
In other words, I didn't DO anything except just sketch. But maybe drawing it set up some kind of connection.
"Is that an effect?" I asked again.
Puthoff looked at Dr. Hebbard for the answer -- and he and Puthoff began muttering in inaudible tones.
Now, I noticed that the doctoral candidates were
unobtrusively evacuating the room. The last two turned and virtually ran,
one of them crashing directly into one of the big, and totally visible,
orange structural supports.
"Gosh," I said. "I hope he didn't hurt himself."
"Who?" Puthoff asked.
"The guy that collided with that pillar," I replied.
The SECOND perturbation was not quite as dramatic
as the first one, and didn't last as long.
But from the looks on the three remaining faces, I knew I had done something. I then said I was tired, and which I was.
Puthoff now asked Drs. Lee and Hebbard if they
would sign their names as witnesses directly on the chart paper. Both agreed,
and did so.
The next thing I remember about all this was Puthoff
and I getting into his car in front of the Varian Hall of Physics. It was
dark, and I could see stars. They were very beautiful. And I, well I think
its fair for the purposes of this archive to say that my head was in the
process of swelling up with smugness.
Puthoff said something like "Jesus, Swann . . . you want to have dinner or something?"
We might have had dinner, but the next thing I remember was that we went to Puthoff's favorite ice cream place. He and his soon-to-be wife, Adrienne, were ice-cream freaks.
I don't eat much of it. But in this instance I had, first, a chocolate milk shake, the a strawberry one, and then a Sunday (minus banana) with five types of ice cream.
Puthoff and I talked, of course. He was in Seventh
Heaven. But all I could think of was that I had DONE IT. I could now go
back to New York -- and totally forget about all this parapsychology Mierda
Puthoff was waxing very enthusiastically. But I said that Science would have to debunk this. There was no way Science would let it stand as a true PK effect. They will HAVE to say there is "some other RATIONAL explanation."
I could not have known it then, but the sine wave
page became one of the most frequently xeroxed pages in the history of the
phenomena. The quark detector set-up was left running for hours afterward
-- with no additional perturbations showing up.
In preparation for this chapter, by telephone I
reviewed the entire episode with Puthoff. Through the years, he had presented
the magnetometer data at many scientific conferences. He said that there
had of course been occasional flack, but that positive interest and curiosity
had been the main thing.
Puthoff mentioned that Dr., Hebbard had had many official and unofficial opportunities to explain the effects as something else, but that to his knowledge Hebbard had never done so.
So? Was this PK or not?
I can only consider things via my own understanding.
In the first instance, I don't see why we have to get locked into, and stay locked into, the term "Psychokinesis (PK)."
As the next few years passed, and this "poking around" experiment became the Big Deal it did, I began to note that people focused on the so-called PK squiggle. And in this light, I've heard of at least one skeptic who said the squiggle has a more "rational explanation."
But on the SAME piece of paper is another factor
-- my quick sketch. This turned out to be a fair diagram of an actual Josephson
junction device, and at SRI I asked to see one the next day. Puthoff, I,
and several others compared the sketch to the real thing. I had never heard
of a Josephson junction before, much less seen one.
The effect took place as I did the sketch, but it is the sketch that most people avoid mentioning since.
For my part, I have consistently said that I was
NOT trying to affect the equipment when the effect occurred.
GET IT? I WAS NOT TRYING TO AFFECT THE EQUIPMENT.
Thus, if PK is defined as an intention by a subject
to affect whatever, then this experiment was not a PK experiment. So SOMETHING
ELSE must have been going on.
My own guesstimate as to what this MAY have been is as follows.
What is loosely referred to as the Observer Theory
in quantum mechanics clearly stipulates that it is not possible to observe
reality without changing it.
If, for example, one observes a certain particle collision experiment, or wave experiment, or light which can be either particle or wave, the activity OBSERVED is affected by the observer(s) watching it.
The Observer Theory holds that the structure of the observer's consciousness interacts with the structure of whatever is being observed. And all quantum physicists are familiar with this.
Since the sketch did turn out as corresponding
with the actual design of the Josephson junction, then it could be said
that I was observing the one in the buried magnetometer in order to be able
to sketch it.
Of course, if the Observer Theory is absolutely correct, then all of us interact all the time with whatever we observe -- or perhaps with whatever we think about.
No one will notice the "squiggles" -- with the possible exception of high-stage "psychics." The reason for not noticing is that the dynamics of the activity and other surrounding activity are so gross as to cover the minute squiggles. And so, here is the signal-to-noise ratio.
But in the Varian Hall experiment, the Josephson
junction was buried in a super-shielded environment, and was itself supercooled.
This could mean that it was shielded from all other gross activity, even that of electromagnets placed to test its sensitivity.
If, then, nothing else could get through the superconductive
environment, my little probing CONSCIOUSNESS may have in order to see the
different parts of the Josephson junction and sketch them out.
The meaning here is that the squiggle on the x-y
recorder paper might better refer to a demonstration of the Observer Theory
rather than to PK as THAT is understood as intentional mind-over-matter.
In the usual sense of things, this interacting activity must be so small as to get buried in larger signals. But the quark detector was designed to eliminate all larger signals.