Dr Hal Puthoff
From SRI to ZPE
Dr Hal Puthoff has been conducting serious
scientific research at the frontiers of knowledge
for over a quarter of a century.
Text: Mark Pilkington
/ Images: Mark Bennett May 2005
In 1972, he and colleague Russell Targ, while researching
lasers at the Stanford Research Institute, were
asked by Edgar Mitchell to test the alleged psychic
abilities of Uri Geller. Their paper caused something
of a storm when it was published in the science
journal Nature. The paper and relevant articles
are linked to the bottom of this page.
Subsequently Puthoff was instrumental
in setting up and running the US Government's controversial
Remote Viewing programme, which would continue for
over 20 years beofre being made public in 1995.
Today Puthoff is investigating
Zero Point Energy, a possibly limitless, pollution-free
energy source that could just change the our lives
on earth and propell humankind into deep space.
Could you describe,
in layman's terms, your own current research into
Zero Point Energy.
Physicists universally recognize
that so-called empty space, even the vacuum of outer
space, is not truly empty, but is the seat of energetic
field processes, sort of the electromagnetic equivalent
of froth at the base of a waterfall. (The term "zero-point"
simply means that if the universe were cooled down
to absolute zero where all thermal agitation effects
would be frozen out, this energy would still remain.)
What is not as well known, however, even among practicing
physicists, are all the implications that derive
from this known aspect o quantum physics. However,
there are a group of physicists - - myself and colleagues
at several research labs and universities - - who
are examining the details, We ask such questions
as whether it might be possible to "mine"
this reservoir of energy for use as an alternative
energy source, or whether this background energy
field might be responsible for inertia and gravity.
These questions are of interest because it is known
that this energy can be manipulated, and therefore
there is the possibility that the control of this
energy, and possibly inertia and gravity, might
yield to engineering solutions. Some progress has
been made in a subcategory of this field (cavity
quantum electrodynamics) with regard to controlling
the emission rates of excited atoms and molecules,
of interest in laser research and elsewhere.
How close do you think
you might be, in your own research, to some kind
Predicting when a breakthrough
in a scientific field will occur is like throwing
darts to choose your stocks! The only thing that
can be said with any certainty is that it probably
won't occur if you don't work on the problem. That
said, one hopes that within a decade or two some
significant progress will be made, even if only
Other than space travel,
what kinds of applications do you imagine your own
work might be used in?
With regard to the potential
tapping of zero-point energy, if it were found that
significant energy could be generated, then application
to earthbound problems would be foremost. Because
of the increasing possibility of water shortages
in various parts of the world, if ZPE energy generation
were competitive with current resources, I would
see water desalinization as being a major application.
The possibility of the use of ZPE to reduce fossil
fuel pollution for transportation would also be
attractive, again, if economical.
Have you had any response
from fossil fuels companies about your work? Are
they doing any research in this area?
I had an opportunity to brief
the Presidents and Research Directors of several
of the major oil companies on the potential promise
of zero-point energy as an alternative energy resource.
Contrary to the "urban myth," they said
they would welcome such a breakthrough because the
use of fossil fuels for cars and heating had a very
low profit margin as compared to its use for manufacturing
plastics, pharmaceuticals, etc. They likened it
to heating your house by burning Picassos and van
Remote Viewing (RV)
& The Stanford Research Institute (SRI)
Your career has seen you move
from cutting edge research (so cutting edge that
some might consider it fringe science) in ESP, clairvoyance/remote
viewing and other parapsychological areas while
at SRI, to your current work in another area at
the edges of knowledge. Why, do you think, are you
particularly drawn to such subjects? Do you think
they require a different approach and outlook to
I guess you would have to say
that I am the ultimate explorer personality. Once
I've digested what's known in a field, I like to
check out the frontiers to see what's new. Contrary
to those skeptics who claim that such avant garde
interests are misbegotten, I would say that most
skeptics are not skeptical enough - - they tend
to accept the given wisdom without questioning it.
I question everything, look into every nook and
cranny to see if anything's been overlooked that
might be of interest or utility. It's surprising
what you find with this attitude.
Are you still involved
in any RV/psi research?
No, I'm not. Too involved with
my present research into energy, gravitation, and
Did you draw any conclusions
from your findings in these areas? Do you think
RV and psi faculties can be developed in anybody,
or is it something that some people are just born
Overall, our findings indicated
that such abilities are widely distributed, more
or less like musical ability. You have the equivalent
of virtuosos at one end of the scale, and the tone
deaf at the other, but most people can carry a tune
to some degree. Our modern western society just
doesn't happen to encourage people to develop this
What kind of encouragement
do you think somebody would need to maximise any
latent psychic potential?
Simply reducing the negative
cultural bias against it, generating a receptive
attitude towards exploration.
Why did you decide
to move on?
I felt that other people could
carry on that work, while the potential in the physics
areas of my present interests were not being followed
up as aggressively as they might. With the potential
payoff in the physics area being so significant
for our society if we could make substantial progress,
I thought it would be worthwhile attempting to contribute
something of value in this new arena.
Do you still think
there are potential applications for RV in either
intelligence/military work, or other areas?
Yes, especially as more is
learned about the details of the factors affecting
performance. In the last few years, for example,
data has apparently emerged indicating a correlation
between performance and sidereal time, a potentially
very significant finding.
Are you referring to
James Spottiswoode's findings (see link at bottom
Yes, I am referring to Spottiswoode's
findings, that successful performance seems to correlate
with a certain orientation relative to the rest
of the cosmos. Why this should be is not at all
clear at this point, but constitutes an intriguing
avenue for further study.
How do you know what
the US (or other) governments are doing in the RV
sphere at the moment? Do they still take an interest?
I only follow it from afar
these days. There continue to be various studies
of its efficacy from time to time, and occasionally
I am interviewed for them because of my earlier
Did it ever concern
you that your research into such remarkable human
faculties might ultimately be used to do harm others?
Once some wag joked that if
anyone were to invent a drop of water, there would
always be someone who wanted to figure out how to
drown somebody with it. However, I never ran into
any program or sponsor who wished to turn these
faculties to harmful purposes. Furthermore, to the
degree that someone exhibits these faculties, they
are on the basis of becoming in some sense integrated
with a larger reality and there is not the desire
to "poison one's own drinking water."
How much larger is
this reality?! Were you ever frightened at the thought
of what you might uncover?
If one accepts the claims of
the mystics, the larger reality that can be perceived
may well be essentially without limit, at least
as far as our capabilities to process can be engaged.
Although at the start I was open-minded intellectually
about the possibility of psi, confronting the findings
on a daily basis caused me to integrate this possibility
at a deeper level than just intellectually, i.e.,
holistically or organically. Becoming more grounded
in reality seemed to lessen fear rather than promoting
Some writers have suggested
that the SRI tests on Uri Geller were deliberately
botched in a cover up operation by the CIA.
Pure urban myth. We did our
best, found evidence for remote viewing but not
psychokinesis, and fairly reported what we found.
What was your impression
of Geller at the time? Are you still in touch?
We were always ambivalent,
always concerned about possible trickery, but (despite
the detractors) were able to carry out experimentation
under conditions sufficiently controlled that we
have yet to hear of any loopholes that actually
applied, even after all these years. Rarely in touch,
since my interests have diverged from that field.
How do you feel about
the breakup of the US military's RV programme and
the resulting fallout between RVers such as Ed Dames,
Joeseph McMoneagle, David Moorhouse etc? Some of
them seem to have done an "RV too far"
and come out with some highly unlikely-sounding
material. Might RV be bad for your mental health?
Certainly, some of the material
generated under what we as experimenters would consider
less than optimum conditions, has been flawed. But
of course it was never anywhere near perfect, just
could provide a statistical edge under usual conditions,
occasionally dramatic results under rare conditions.
I have no evidence that RV is likely to be bad for
mental health more than other "mental"
activities, such as meditating or going for a PhD!
Are there any books
on the Remote Viewing programme that you would particularly
Well, for the gov program I
would recommend Schnabel's book Remote Viewers,
which you link to an excerpt from below. For an
informative personal view from an Army Intell RVer
I think I would recommend Joe McMoneagle's first
book Mind Trek. For a view from the standpoint of
the DIA contract monitor there's Dale Graff's 2nd
book River Dreams.
Has your research into
psi or Zero Point Energies ever touched on the UFO
mystery? Have you done any other research into this
area? If so, what were your findings?
Not directly. If the possibility
of ZPE constituting a novel energy source, or the
perturbation of the spacetime metric be verified
under good lab conditions, then perhaps one could
reasonably speculate about a connection with regard
to such craft, or for the occurrence of natural
anomalous atmospheric conditions that might mimic
Do you think that science,
can, or will, ultimately explain all the mysteries
that surround us?
Never totally, I suspect, but
as the venue of science is extrapolated into new
areas, I expect to see a continued growth of scientific
explanations of things known but not understood
today; but I also see the equally fascinating prospect
of discovering new things that will still invite
us to continue to stretch our wings.
If you weren't looking
into ZPE right now, what other topic would you most
like to focus on?
Beyond my current physics research
I'm interested in exploring just what is humankind's
destiny, its biological and spiritual developmental
future, whether we are alone in the Universe or
part of a Cosmic tapestry of Life.