Review: A few days w/the Mind Lamp [verdict: trippy!]

mind lamp.jpg

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.

Mind Lamp: 60-Minute Time Lapse from Psyleron on Vimeo.

*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.

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33 Responses to Review: A few days w/the Mind Lamp [verdict: trippy!]

  1. Anonymous says:

    From what I can tell, they aren’t arguing that a user can deterministically change the lamp to a given color (or cause a coin to flip heads, Anonymous #1). It seems more just like a fun object to play with (which is what seems to be Steven’s experience).

    The real “yawn” here is that the scientific establishment is–as it has been since the dawn of science–skeptical and defensive about research that potentially challenges the boundaries of scientific knowledge, regardless of the methodological rigor (or lack thereof) of new research. Galileo, anyone? Last month Wired mag reported that “Scientific American dubbed the Wright Brothers ‘the Lying Brothers’ despite test flights witnessed by trainloads of startled onlookers” (http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-05/st_madscientists). While I have no idea about this company, many of the comments here seem kind of knee-jerk. I haven’t read Psyleron’s research, but I am at least willing to withhold judgment until I do.

    And until then, this seems like a fun toy and attractive object at worst, and a psychologically interesting experience at best.

  2. echolocate chocolate says:

    To #12, #16: The onus is not upon the rest of the scientific community to disprove that these phenomena exist, any more than scientists need to disprove the existence of the invisible flying elephant that follows me everywhere.

    #18 gets to the crux of the matter: PEAR’s research is not into a scientific phenomena but something fundamentally belief based. This research is important, because it would have profound implications on society if they found unambiguous, reproducible results.

    The does not gain traction in the scientific community, not because of any great conspiracy, but because scientists must treat everything skeptically. All the great theories in science have either stood the test of time or been replaced with better theories.

    If “attitudes and beliefs” are important we should be able to discover specific circumstances and ultimately mechanisms by which they manifest themselves. If we can’t, if all we can say is “they are important”, then it’s not scientifically useful: We can’t make any accurate predictions, therefore it is unfalsifiable.

    Anyway… It IS a jolly little lamp. Although for $150 it should contain a microprocessor that can change its colour based on something useful like the weather.

  3. Steven Leckart says:

    #6 says, “I like that one of the links he pointed to says ‘The PEAR lab shut down in February 2007 to a yawning scientific community.'”

    How about that?

    #8: remind me to teach you the special “mindshake.”

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have a mind lamp as well as a graduate engineering degree … have any of you ever considered the possibility that these people actually characterize the output of the devices before drawing statistical conclusions about them? For example, maybe, just maybe, the people who are doing this actually thought about it for a minute, figured out how the devices worked by chance, and then based their studies on finding results that manifest in ways that would not be expected by chance?

    In fact, wait a second, the entire research that the company is based on revolves around qualifying the devices, taking baselines, understanding chance, and then seeing if the output due to intention is any different. How do I know? Because I read the published research before I bought it. I also got the book, visited the lab while it was open, and checked for myself to see if it seemed to make sense or not.

    Am I convinced that I can sit around all day making the lamp do what I want when I want? No … but I do happen to know quite a bit about probability and statistics, and there is more than enough interesting stuff happening in the lab’s data to make this stuff worth pursuing. Some of you people need to grow up and get educated on topics like this before knocking people for no reason. It is this very lack of knowledge and immaturity that keeps the world ignorant about these kinds of phenomena and precludes their study, even if they do exist.

    I commend boing-boing for helping to make people more aware of the work!

  5. Anonymous says:

    The researchers consider their work to be science because, like most scientists, they began with a hypothesis, set up a controlled experiment, collected data, and then compared the data in one set of conditions to another using well-defined and established statistical tests.

    They found a certain set of results, they reported on it, and then they went on to conduct additional experiments.

    That sounds like science to me, whether people agree with the results and subject matter or not.

  6. thekinginyellow says:

    i have several of those lamps in my house purchased from ikea for about $10. as a matter of fact i saw an instructable about a year ago for this very thing.

    here:
    http://www.instructables.com/id/Fun-with-IKEA-lamp/

    $149 for a $10 ikea lamp and an oscillating led chip (reduced from $189)…this is a joke, right?

  7. akindle says:

    I think people should be allowed to assess this for themselves without being accused of credulity.

    What the skeptical voices here are reacting to is a preconceived notion that the people studying things outside the boundaries of mainstream science all must be written off as new-agey and pseudoscientific.

    If science never pushed beyond mainstream boundaries, we would still think the earth is the center of the solar system. But when we think about how scientists in the 1600s were persecuted, we mistakenly think of it as a quaint bit of history–we fail to realize how people working outside the scientific mainstream today are also persecuted, with social ostracism and threats of professional failure.

    There are a lot of pseudoscientific mind-matter claims that deserve to be discredited, but the PEAR research is legit (it has often been ignored or denied, but has never been successfully refuted) and these guys originated from PEAR.

    Info on why the PEAR lab closed: http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/press_release_closing.html

  8. Anonymous says:

    You rock Steven!!

  9. strider_mt2k says:

    Well I don’t know about all that fancy shmancy stuff, but 7-color LEDs can be obtained for less than three dollars at Radio Shmack and will run like…forever on a set of AA batteries.

    From there all you need is a momentary switch and somewhere to mount the thing where it’ll give good diffusion and look nice diffusing.

    My first experiment along these lines had me installing one inside a water bottle cap powered by a CR2032 battery.
    The LED itself has a cap from a perfume sampler over it, so the light is really diffused and the momentary switch threaded into the top!

    Something similar could easily be done with some frosted glassware from the odd yard sale or something.

    The only mind influence was making my vision a reality by building it, however. ;)

  10. thekinginyellow says:

    @echolocate chocolate:
    if you want a cool device (for $150) check out “ambient orb”. it is a small spherical glass ball with a multi colored led inside that DOES change with the weather. you can program it (through the orb’s website) to change with stocks fluctuation and other variables.

    http://www.ambientdevices.com/cat/orb/orborder.html

  11. Anonymous says:

    @#21 I have that lamp, although not changed to an oscilating color. All I could think reading this was “That’s my lamp with guts changed to a random colour LED”. I’ve had it for years. I’m tempted to try that instructable to make a trippy lamp.

  12. echolocate chocolate says:

    @thekinginyellow:
    Ah-ha! I knew I’d seen something like that before.

    Presumably you can control that one with your mind as well, right?

  13. Anonymous says:

    True thoughts, but why can we not believe the idea of science may/can evolve? I am new to this whole PEAR/Psyleron thing… Did I question it at first, sure I did; however I became more curious and intrigued by the idea and went out to experience it myself. I have tried the lamp and have found it to actually work. I also have found the lamp to react to the emotional subconsciousness of a person. I was in a car accident a few weeks ago, and while calling my parents, the police, etc., from my apartment I was in the presence of the lamp. Strangely enough, the lamp altered slowly from a bright intense red to bright intense orange during these conversations where I was truly upset, and the lamp maintained those colors for the entire 45 minutes while on the phone… while in day to day activities the lamp will kind of do it’s thing unless I engage with it. What does that mean? Can we call that random?? I think there is something linked with ones consciousness and the lamp.

    Also another line of psyleron products is “Synctxt”, which maybe easier to understand with an open mind. Messages you create are synced with a REG, and are sent to your phone… “randomly”? Most, and I mean 99% of the text messages I have received while using synctxt have been linked that moment that I received the text message. I think these instances occur way to often to call them “coincidental”… something is going on with the REG and my mind. I would check this out too, http://www.synctxt.com/index.aspx (there is a link with stories from users experiences) I think Psyleron is onto something…

  14. Bucket says:

    While the scientific community at large may have generally dismissed PEAR’s experiments, they didn’t go out of their way to respond to external criticism, even constructive criticism.

    One of their biggest experimental flaws was that the experiments weren’t double-blind, the operator recording the results knew what a positive result should be. This has been shown to introduce bias into even totally random systems. Lots of people pointed this out (Bob Parks, for one) and they never took this suggestion seriously.

    Personally, I think they had become so defensive from being picked on that they lost objectivity very early on, and after that even people who genuinely wanted to help them be better were ignored.

    But this light is kind of silly. The whole point of the PEAR stuff was that it needed to be a completely random data source – psuedo-random like what you’d get from an algorithm they describe this lamp using won’t work.

  15. akindle says:

    @bucket (#25):
    This uses a true random source according to http://www.mind-lamp.com/inside-mind-lamp.php

    def. cooler than the force trainer, which is just a crappy EEG:
    http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/2009-01-06-force-trainer-toy_N.htm

  16. ESQ says:

    I have a pet theory that suggests the human mind is capable of quantum states, and that quantum entanglement is directly responsible for the phenomena where you look at someone and they sense your gaze, even turning around to see you or looking immediately back at you from half a block away.

    However, I do not believe in human to non-human entanglement such as the human-lamp connection discussed above. That goes against the laws of nature and, well, me.

  17. JValent says:

    #25 – Regarding the bias, I think you are missing some of the main points regarding the PEAR experiments.

    First, the operators HAD to know what the direction of positive results was, because they were sitting there watching the output of the device and attempting to influence it in a way that corresponded to their intention.

    Secondly, one of the whole premises is that the lab went out of their way to build devices which could not be influenced by any known physical processes. The idea is that participants would affect a device which was designed to otherwise be completely random and unaffectable by physical forces – how could anyone’s knowledge of anything change the output?

    Finally, on the very well known issue of selection bias (e.g. experimenters selecting data) – PEAR kept a massive paper trail and reports of all of the data it ever generated. The fact that the overall database shows significant results really goes against this idea, unless they are hiding a mountain of experiments somewhere.

    So, we can argue that the whole thing is just a big fluke, but it is hard to believe that anyone biased anything. If they did, it would be anomalous in and of itself.

    #2 – The Mind Lamp is not Pseudo-Random, it uses a true REG, like those used at the PEAR lab.

  18. Anonymous says:

    So it constantly and randomly shifts between colours. Then you concentrate on it. If it doesn’t change to your colour that’s a sign that you need more training, patience (or faith?). If it does happen to change to the colour you’re thinking of, that’s clear proof that the device really is linked to your mind!

    I think I’d be a natural at this: I’ve discovered that, if I’m in the right mood and concentrate for long enough, I can force a coin-toss to come down showing heads! As with all these subtle mental arts, practice and patience are key – sometimes it’ll work straight away, but occasionally I’ll need a few attempts. But sometimes I’m just in the zone and can get a run of several heads in a row!!

    On a completely unrelated note, I have in my possession an extremely rare rock that keeps tigers out of my back garden. Please visit my ebay auction and bid for this marvel of applied cause-and-effect!

  19. Anonymous says:

    I read on this on membrana.ru and got one

    “trippy” yes!! also fun and makes you think new ways.

    The led 3w is much much brigher than radio shack led 100mw

  20. Anonymous says:

    Oh god. It’s like “What the bleep do we know” all over again. Please let’s just let them slowly disappear. No more attention.

  21. sasha says:

    I had a theory that the mind, observing and modelling an object, can get quantomly entangled with that object and therefore can get affected by the object or can impact random processes happening in the object.
    Initially the scince rejected the idea that the quantum entanglement state can be observed at anything else but participles, micro objects. But later experiment showed that it is also in evidence in macro obejcts, like in proteins or in the crystal lattice.

    I shared that theory with Pear like 3 years ago and suggested that they could improve their results by changing their REGs from generating highspeed arrays of random data with aggregating on-fly algorythms into lower frequency single-event REGs.

    Mind-Matter interaction effect is not massive. If your REG generates like 10 million random events per second, most likely you will loose the effect in the sea of data, especially when you aggregate 100 Mb/s into 100 b/s. There should be the optimum rate. I don’t know what this rate should be – 1 Hz, 1000 Hz, 10000 Hz? The optimum still to be determined.

    If this optimum rate is very high, then we could switch from experiments with REG to the experiments testing Mind-superfluidity or Mind-supercnductivity effects.
    In that case we could expect to see an impact on in-between state, when superfluidity or supeconductivity state starts or destroys in the object.

  22. Dan says:

    The reason why people are yawning is not because they’re the new Inquisition. It’s because if the PEAR claims are true, it would rewrite science as we know it.

    Rather than selling a $150 color-changing lamp, why not submit a study to a peer-reviewed scientific journal? Or apply for the JREF $1,000,000 prize?

  23. Anonymous says:

    If my knowledge of PEAR is accurate, I think they tried repeatedly to get recognized by mainstream science. They were consistently maligned and ignored, but never disproved. The much-lauded “peer review” process seems to have been the nail in PEAR’s coffin. Peer review only works if peers are willing to review. This company is probably trying to get away from all that. They’re not an academic research org, after all.

  24. Anonymous says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA

    ananymous #1 you nailed it.

    Seriously though, Steven’s credulity is kind of annoying.

  25. echolocate chocolate says:

    Really?

  26. dculberson says:

    So… what mechanism is this thing supposed to use to react to thoughts?

  27. Ambiguity says:

    Rather than selling a $150 color-changing lamp, why not submit a study to a peer-reviewed scientific journal?

    I would like to point out that the folks at PEAR submitted many papers to peer-reviewed journals.

    When PEAR shut down, the announces (in essence) that it wasn’t worth perusing anymore because they felt their data was unambiguous enough that anyone who was willing to look dispassionately would see that they had already demonstrated effects that couldn’t be explained by happenstance and coincidence. They felt they were just repeating themselves.

    Interestingly the skeptical community said the opposite, and that any experiment that demonstrated anomalous effects was methodologically flawed.

    Without taking any side on the issues (I’ve looked at a bit, but not enough to take a side and keep in intellectual integrity intact) I think the dichotomy is interesting. I am a fan of science and don’t buy into the post-structuralist relativism BS, but one has to admit that science is carried out by people, and their biases, cognitive dissonances, and beliefs do color what they do.

    With enough effort truth can be discerned, but I doesn’t seem that this effort has or will be expended on this. The fact that opposite groups can view things so differently is telling. When done right the results of experimentation should be evident, despite one’s biases. Sure, there will always be hold-outs (we are human after all), but it seems to me that the great differences in opinion suggests that we haven’t reached that point yet, despite the claims from both sides.

  28. dculberson says:

    Ahh, Dan talked about it a while ago:

    http://www.dansdata.com/danletters157.htm

    (last letter, search for “random.”)

    I like that one of the links he pointed to says “The PEAR lab shut down in February 2007 to a yawning scientific community.” Pretty amusing.

    Looks like more pseudoscience couched in gross abuse of statistics in mining large amounts of data.

  29. dculberson says:

    “They were consistently maligned and ignored, but never disproved.”

    Yeah, it’s been covered, but it’s not up to other groups to disprove PEAR. It’s up to PEAR to prove PEAR.

    And saying it doesn’t conform to the scientific models means what? It means you shouldn’t call it or treat it as science. You’re basically saying it’s unfalsifiable under the scientific method. So why act shocked when it’s treated as “not science?”

    People do not create operas and then act as though they’ve discovered a new theory of relativity.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’ve seen stuff like this before. You concentrate and concentrate and eventually the light turns green.

    Oh wait, that was a traffic light.

    I have no problem with someone thinking a color changing lamp is fun and if they’re willing to plunk down almost $200 for, well, yay for supply and demand. The problem is with the claims of ‘scientific’. Any such claims have meet a set number of criteria to claim to have scientific validity. Why? Because all the other scientific advancements had to be tested and meet those criteria too.

    It’s like claiming you are a doctor because you think the people around you are healthier.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Another point of contention between the skeptical community and researchers in this field is the issue of whether or not these effects play by the standard rules of science in the first place.

    Skeptics say that any real effect would be completely replicable by any person under all conditions, and then attempt to replicate the results and fail. Proponents of the phenomena claim that attitudes and beliefs may matter and that if even some people can consistently replicate, then that is good enough to demonstrate that something is happening.

    It is out of the realm of conventional ideas in physical science to think about things this way, but it is also rare that any endeavors involving the human creativity lead to straightforward results that anyone can replicate. When was the last time anyone here wrote a classic opera? Invented a totally novel piece of science? Fell in love at will? Human beings don’t just call up and control their deeper emotional and mental processes at will.

    It isn’t like PEAR tried to hide this, either. See the “Change the Rules” paper on their web site. They’ve talked about these issues plenty of times, their work just defies conventional wisdom too much to be taken seriously at first glance, and people rarely dig into it.

    (See “Entangled Minds” by Dean Radin for a general overview of the field and these issues from the perspective of a researcher in it.)

  32. aynsavoy says:

    I can’t find it on the website right now, but I totally bought that lamp at Ikea for a lot less than $150. It doesn’t change colors, but neither does it have any pretensions.

  33. Rob Beschizza says:

    You all shut your whore mouths while Steven is quantum thinking.

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