As I write, I'm staring at an LED vase that's pink, wait, red. No, violet. Def pale blue. Errr...yellow. Constructed from blown glass, the Mind Lamp is more than an attractive, color-changing accessory. It's a challenge. Known informally as "consciousness-related" tech, the lamp comes stocked with what's known as a quantum measurement device, or REG. Find out what that is, and my attempts to influence the color of the lamp with nothing but... my mind.
An REG or random event generator is what Mind Lamp manufacturer Psyleron calls an "electronic coin flipper." In the case of the lamp, a microprocessor scans the algorithms looping constantly from the REG to find any statistical patterns which then help create color changes up to a dozen times per second. Some quantum mechanics researchers argue the unpredictability of REG's are hogwash, that there are in fact predictable statistical distributions and patterns underlying why you would see red after trying to see red. The folks at Psyleron and Princeton's Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research* believe probabilistic physical events are not entirely independent of the consciousness that observes the results. And they're collecting data to try to prove it's possible for the human mind to alter them without any electromagnetic fields or anything physical getting in the way. In fact, the lab says they use magnetic shielding and digital processing to guarantee the REG's output is not compromised by known physical effects. (it's ok to be skeptical.)
Using some of the research from PEAR, Psyleron started to experiment with hardware circa 2005. Inside the Mind Lamp is a miniaturized version of the REG-1, a $245+ kit that lets you export and analyze REG data. Although Psyleron is amassing plenty of data on the Mind Lamp, the invention itself is less about seeing or collecting 0's and 1's from a user-perspective. The impetus for the lamp was to strip away all the "cognitive hang-ups" that typical REGs (like the REG-1) bring to the table. The lamp, they thought, is an REG you would not only use, but enjoy having on display in your home. So they arrived at an attractive vase that's geared towards party games like Tug of War and Sea Change, in which a group of people work together to concentrate on one color. Of course, you don't need to be in a group setting to enjoy partying with the lamp.
As one rep from the lab told me: "It's a sneaky process that may teach you something about yourself." Anything pertaining to personal growth is best done alone in my book.
So I go for it solo. I plug it in. The LED powers on blue in a matter of seconds. I sit, I stare, I point my finger and scream "Red!" (with my mind). Nada. I come back later and try again, this time "Green!" Nothing. Fine, I tell the lamp, I will study the basics** like a good Jedi...
Note: "grounded," "meditative," "harmony," "connected," "deep breath," "body relaxed, mind awake."
I then learn the lamp cannot typically be made to change from blue to red (ah ha). Instead, it tends to cycle around the color wheel to get from one color to your "desired" shade. So I try again, more relaxed, and I set my goal a little more realistic: orange to red. I wait. I stare. I breath. I wait some more. My eyes lose focus. It changes a little. I think. I get excited. Did I make it change? DUDE! I lose focus. I try again, but nothing concrete.
I decide to test out "background" mode, meaning you let the lamp run and change without directly trying to influence it. I am very good at this mode. I think I notice that when I'm working scattered, jumping between multiple windows or tabs, the lamp changes color more rapidly. Whereas when I'm focused on the task at hand, as I am right now, the lamp tends to remain one color for more extended periods of time. I look over at the lamp and it's already changing color. Stop screwing with my mind, lamp! *fist in air*
At one point my lamp turns back to white. Holy moly, did I break it? It's still glowing, but not changing color. Wait, am I Neo? I read that if it's white, you're either in complete control of the lamp (nirvana!) or the REG is generating "strongly imbalanced" data (more likely, in my case. Bummer).
I begin to wonder how any of my underlying or resulting psychology might be affecting my experience. Is my initial skepticism still holding me back? Am I trying too hard? When I don't pay enough attention, why does the lamp seem to "know"? Is it weird that I feel I'm actually communicating with the lamp?
I don't know. But feeling compelled to ask these questions is a testament to how fun, cool and different this $150 lamp really is.
*Note: there is some mindblowing research going on via PEAR. The Global Consciousness Project is attempting to see whether it's possible to objectively measure "interconnected consciousness" or Teilhard's noosphere, an all-encompassing biosphere of human thought. Some argue the Internet itself is the biosphere. As the Web grows more ubiquitous, I'm convinced that is.
**Psyleron is working on a full-on training manual that's tentatively scheduled for release later this year.