Thursday, 7 July 2016

Ingo Swann’s remote viewing of Jupiter

With Juno in orbit around the planet Jupiter, I felt like going back and looking at another space probe that visited Jupiter, only this time, it was the mind of a psychic that travelled, not a piece of high-tech equipment.

By the Spring of 1973 the SRI research into remote viewing, funded by the CIA and lead by physicists Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ, had been going for around half a year.

Ingo Swann, a psychic who worked extensively on the project, was tired of Earth-bound co-ordinates and wanted to see if it were possible to remote view extra-terrestrial locations. With that in mind, Ingo arranged with another psychic, Harold Sherman, to remote view Jupiter and then compare their findings to the data from the probe Pioneer 10 which would fly by that planet in November/December of that year.

Although it wasn’t part of the CIA-funded work, Targ and Puthoff agreed to carry out the session with Swann according to SRI protocols. Sherman carried out his session in Arkansas, many hundreds of miles from SRI in California. The sessions took place simultaneously at 6.00pm PST on 27 April 1973.

This session has been reported as a great success for Ingo Swann as he saw a rock of rings circling the planet: something that no one had even imagined at that time. As far as astronomy was concerned, Saturn was the only planet with a ring system.

There are many different versions of this story. Most get confused between Pioneer 10 (which did not detect Jupiter's ring in 1973) and Voyager 1 (which was the first to detect them, but that wouldn't happen for another six years, in 1979). Also, some versions of events specifically state that Ingo describes a ring of rocks, and that after the session was over they took this information to astronomers who all dismissed it as nonsense.

The original transcript is available online at this site linked to in this sentence. Although this is dated 1995, the section containing the transcript is very close to the version given in Mind Reach (1977) by Targ and Puthoff, and is also broadly similar to the version as told in Swann's book To Kiss Earth Good-bye (1975), so I think that part is pretty reliable.

EDIT 29/01/17: this contemporary transcript is now available on the CIA site (links to a pdf).

The passage that is usually quoted with reference to rings around Jupiter is:

"Very high in the atmosphere there are crystals... they glitter. Maybe the stripes are like bands of crystals, maybe like rings of Saturn, though not far out like that. Very close within the atmosphere."

This phrase “maybe like rings of Saturn” together with a sketch of a ringed planet, is considered evidence that Ingo Swann saw Jupiter's rings before they were scientifically detected.

However, this is not a “ring of rocks” as some versions state. It's a band of crystals. And this raises the question if this “band of crystals” was actually recognised as a ring of rocks at the time, or if that interpretation was only arrived at after the data from Voyager 1 was known in 1979.

It is instructive to look for reports on Swann's remote viewing session before 1979, to see if it mentions Jupiter's ring system.

The first I found was an article in the National Enquirer, 9 September 1975. In the paragraph where it talks about Swann's findings, it reads:

“Swann said Jupiter possessed a poisonous “bitter cold” atmosphere “of myriad colors – yellow, red, violet, some greens, like a giant fireworks display.” He said that he saw what looked like a “tornado” and also observed “winds of terrific velocity”. He detected “powerful magnetic forces.”

No mention of any rings around Jupiter, even though the story claims that science later confirmed all of his findings.

The next one I found was from the San Fransisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle for 10 April 1977. It read:

“Each [ie, Swann and Sherman] spoke of glittering ice crystals, winds of terrific velocity, great mountain ranges and powerful magnetic forces.”

Again, no mention of any rings.

Also in 1977, Targ and Puthoof's book “Mind Reach” was published. This described some of their (non-classified) work into remote viewing. One of the episodes they wrote about was Swann's mission to Jupiter, but they don't mention any ring system, either. In fact, quite the opposite. They wrote:

“The descriptions sounded reasonable; nothing was particularly at variance with any known facts.”

I doubt they'd say that if Swann had just told them that Jupiter had a ring system. So this source, too, doesn't include Swann's prediction.

Swann wrote about this session himself in 1975 in his book To Kiss Earth Goodbye. His version of the famous sentence comparing Jupiter to Saturn reads: "maybe the stripes of Jupiter are like bands of crystals, like rings of Saturn" which doesn't sound like a description of a ring system.

It's difficult to find an exact point where the claim begins to be made. The best I can make is in 1982-83. In 1982 James Randi wrote about Swann and Sharmer's session in his book Flim-Flam, but there is no mention of any rings. Meanwhile, in 1984 in the Skeptical Inquirer, we find a quote:

“Earlier, they had discovered the rings around Jupiter years before their existence was scientifically established by satellite photographs.”

This sentence is referenced to the November 1984 issue of a sci-fi magazine named Analog. This appears to be the earliest I can find of the claim. Unfortunately, SI is only in snippet view on Google Books, and I can't find Analog magazine for 1984 at all, so I can't check out their references.

I think this inability at recognising Ingo's “band of crystals” as a “rings of rocks” tells us that this is an example of a bit of creative interpretation. Also, it's worth mentioning that later in the transcript from 1973 Ingo Swann talks about “those cloud layers, those crystal layers” so I think it's safe to assume the “bands of crystals” were referring to the bands of colours already seen across Jupiter's visible surface from Earth and had nothing to do with any as-yet-undiscovered ring system.

Jupiter, from a 1961 illustration (From Astronomy by Patrick Moore)

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Ersby’s Triangle: An Update

A few weeks ago, I decided to revisit my post about Ersby’s Triangle – a semi-serious look at the multiples of square numbers needed to create Pascal’s Triangle.

I wanted to see if there were any formulae to describe the numbers along a particular diagonal. At first, I tried my original method of pen and paper and simply messing around with sequences of different powers of numbers, but nothing seemed to work. I put it to one side and forgot about it.

Then today I discovered The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. So I typed in a few of the diagonals (from top left to bottom right) from Ersby’s Triangle.

I soon came up with some interesting results as the first two diagonals I looked at (after the diagonal with 1, 2, 3...) both linked to the largest number of pieces you could get from a shape with each cut. The first diagonal referred to two-dimensional shapes and the next one referred to three-dimensional shapes.

So I was excited to see if that continued, and if the next diagonal referred to four-dimensional shapes.

It didn’t. But, undeterred, I kept searching.

Then I noticed that a particular paper kept being cited in the search results I was getting. I followed the link to Catalan Triangle Numbers and Binomial Coefficients by Kyu-Hwan Lee and Se-Jin Oh from the University of Connecticut. And there, tucked away on page 14, was the closest I’ve ever come to being referenced in a mathematics paper.

Amazing. If only I knew what the paper actually meant.


Lee, K.H., Oh, S.J., (2016) "Catalan Triangle Numbers and Binomial Coefficients," arXiv:1601.06685v

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Fewer train reservations before disasters

In 1956, E.W. Cox wrote an article for the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in which he looked for evidence of precognition of fatal train crashes (10 fatalities or more) in the numbers of reservations bought for that particular train, with the hypothesis that any form of precognition would be visible in a drop in reservations for that train on that day.

I do not have a copy of the original paper by E.W.Cox, but I did find a page on the internet which had his data, as well as an examination of his methods. The page is currently (25th Aug '15) unavailable, but I have put a link at the bottom of this article.

He examined the data in two ways: one was to look at the data day by day. In this, he compared the reservations for the crash day with the previous seven days. The second way was to compare the crash day reservations with the same day on the previous four weeks.

His measure of success was if the number of reservations was the lowest of all the other days. This he called a hit, and its chances of success are calculated as 1 in 8 for the daily data and 1 in 5 for the weekly data.

He did this for 28 crashes.

For the monthly data, he found ten days when the lowest number of reservations fell on the day of the crash. In other words, ten hits out of twenty-eight trials, with a 1/5 chance of success. This is statistically significant at p=0.04, z=1.76 (one-tailed) or odds of 1 in 25.

For the daily data, there are nine hits for the twenty-eight days, with a 1/8 success rate. This gives use p=0.005, z=2.54 (one-tailed) or odds of 1 in 185.

The data are as follows:

(It's worth noting that Cox could not get all the data he needed, so when he had a gap, he inserted the average number for that set of data. I've highlighted those figures in brown. Figures in yellow are the lowest figures for that particular journey.)

However, as the psuedo-scepticisme article points out, the data sample is too small to support a binomial distribution. Taking the rule of thumb that np>=5 (n=number of trials, p=probability of success) there aren't enough data points to justify a binomial sample. In the case of the daily data np equals 28 * 0.125 = 3.5. Additionally, Cox allowed tied hits to stand, suggesting to me that the binomial method wasn't the right one to use.

I decided to take a look at the data myself, but this time I looked at whether the reservations for a particular day were significantly above or below the average for that set of weeks or days. I thought that this would be a more sensitive measure of success, especially given that some of the hits were by a margin of three or less reservations in difference.

I found that for the daily data, the day of the crash was significantly below the average (ie, fewer sales) seven times. This is the highest figure for this category, which supports the idea that precognition lead people to make fewer reservations on that day. However, there were also three occasions where the sales of reservations was significantly above the average. This makes it comparable to D-4 when there were five below average and one above.

On the weekly data, the day of the crash had seven occasions when it was significantly below average and four times above. This is actually worse than D-28 which also had seven below average but only two occasions when it was above. In fact, using Cox's original method, D-28 has ten hits out of twenty-eight, just like the day of the crash does.

I'm no statistician, so I encourage anyone to look at the spreadsheet I used, and perhaps suggest improvements. This can be downloaded here.


Cox, W. E. (1956). "Precognition: An analysis. II. Subliminal precognition." Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 50, 99–109. as cited in the article “Pr├ęcognition subliminale lors d’accidents de train : relecture critique d’une recherche de W.E. Cox”

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Sunday, 29 March 2015

An older version of the Earth

Today I found this old world map dating from the early 1600s.

See the Wikipedia page for more details, and a far bigger version.

And I decided to see what it would look like mapped onto an actual globe. Since the free astronomy program Celestia allows you to do that quite easily. I spent a little time in photoshop to get the image to the right size and shape, and pasted it in. I was very pleased how well it turned out, even if some of the edges didn't quite match up. I felt like I was seeing the Earth as it would have been imagined by someone in the 1600s.

Europe and Africa...

The USA and Central America...

The Far East...

And India...

The ISS, heading towards the Nile Delta...

An old Earth at night...