Chapter 16

Structural phenomena

The emphasis of my studies of paranormal metal-bending has been on the investigation of dynamic strain effects, and a little has also been said about permanent structural or morphological changes in the metal specimens.
We now have reasonably good evidence for structural changes in the metal after paranormal metal-bending, but it takes a ‘strong’ subject to produce them in an easily detected form. Perhaps we should search for evidence for structural effects not only in metals, but in other solids and in biomolecular systems.

In chapter 13 we briefly noted a ferrous metal structural change investigated by the French researchers. Stainless steels can exist in two quite different structural forms, of which one is metastable, so that interconversion is possible. They are known as austenite and martensite. Conversion of the former to the latter can be brought about normally by heating to a high (600-700° C) and also by ‘shot-peening’ hammering with hard spherical shot. Conversion does not normally take place at room temperature, but Dr Crussard has reported that exposure to ‘mental concentration’ and gentle manual stroking by Jean-Pierre Girard has produced conversion of quite large areas; these are clearly seen in the scanning electron micrographs reproduced in his publication.(32)

More recently, structural examination of an abnormal plane bend produced by Willie G. has been made by student metallurgist Paul Mycock. Straight strips of alpha-brass (70% Cu. 30% Zn) were annealed in a furnace and offered to Willie, who succeeded in producing sufficient action to form an abnormal plane bend of some 30°. When the surface of the brass was microscopically examined, small regions of beta-brass structure (60% Cu. 40% Zn) were noticed. The brass specimens were polished, etched and then photographed at one hundred times magnification. The regions are easy to recognize as dark areas against the light of the alpha regions. Of course this observation does not imply that the overall stoichometric composition of the alloy had changed; rather, a ‘displacive’ transformation occurred, in which a different crystal structure was formed. This experiment is as yet unconfirmed, but represents an example of continuing work.

I myself have attempted relatively little in the way of systematic investigations of morphological changes paranormally produced in metals, since I have not the facilities of a metallurgical laboratory; also it seems likely that only the strongest subjects produce appreciable paranormal structural effects. However, there appears to be no reason why metals should be unique in showing such behaviour; they are not unique in being subject to paranormal dynamic strains or bending. Moreover there are other phenomena, such as faith healing (contact healing by the laying on of hands), which might possibly involve similar effects: therefore I felt that the best course open to me was to devise ‘exposure’ experiments on solid specimens whose physical properties are very sensitive to small changes in atomic structure or to the entry of impurities. Semiconductors are obviously suitable specimens, and so are single big-organisms. The electrical characteristics of semiconductors are very sensitive to impurities and are readily susceptible to accurate measurement. The growth rates of simple big-organisms are also sensitive to small structural changes and to impurities, and there are standard techniques for measuring these rates.
The real test of the suitability of specimens for exposure is whether psychic subjects take to them and feel confident of changing them. Some ‘healers’ are willing to attempt action on big-organisms under laboratory conditions. But no psychic of my acquaintance seemed confident that he could modify a transistor; I had to introduce my subjects gently to the idea.

There is an interesting reason why it is important to know whether it is possible for a subject to affect the electrical properties of a transistor. Experiments on extra-sensory perception, and especially some modern experiments on psychokinesis,(42) are now conducted with electronic apparatus containing transistors and other components. In such experiments electronic random number generators are affected by psychic subjects, so that they no longer operate randomly; their departure from randomness is suitably displayed on an array of lights which the subject is asked to ‘affect’. Often there is a clock-face circle of lights, and under complete randomness the illuminated light does not wander far in either direction from twelve o’clock. But if there is a departure from randomness, the light moves round the circle, either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Strong psychics are able to achieve impressive movements.

The question arises: Do the laws of physics break down in some way that we do not understand, or is some component in the electronic equipment affected by the psychic? Alternatively, is the effect similar to the electric charge production discussed in the last chapter? Effects produced on various electronic components – resistors and capacitors – have been studied elsewhere; in my own experiments I have exposed Zener diodes and field effect transistors to the action of subjects.

The ‘characteristic’ of a Zener diode is the dependence of current I which it passes upon the voltage V applied to it the function l(V). In a certain voltage range there is normally a fairly sudden increase in current with increasing voltage. This is sensitive to the level of impurity atoms in the depletion layer of the crystal, so that there is a good physical basis for the electrical detection of crystallographic change. On the other hand, it could be that a change in the l(V) characteristic was attributable to a change in one or the other junction.

A minicomputer (Digico Micro l6) has been used to generate a 1024 bit staircase voltage lasting a period of seconds. This is applied to a Zener diode in series with a stabiised resistor, the voltage across which is monitored and the information stored in the computer. Both digital-to-analogue and analogue-to-digital converters are used. A characteristic (A) is shown on a visual display unit and if necessary recorded on chart or on punched paper tape. A second characteristic (B) is measured after an interval of 4 minutes, without any exposure to the psychic. Within the computer, B is subtracted from A; since they should be identical, the result B – A is a horizontal line, I = 0 at all V. However, there is some noise in the measurement system, which is manifested as a series of spikes along this line. The number of these can be made a small fraction of the total bit number 1024. Each spike is l0 mV in magnitude. The number or number density of spikes is measured.

After this preparation a 4-minute exposure of the Zener diode to the psychic is made. Only the Zener diode is shown to the subject; the stabiised resistor is screened from view so that any effect on it should be minimized. The computer is not operating during the exposure. The Zener diode is temperature-stabiised by immersion within a transparent plastic bag in ice water 0° C. In similar experiments on a held effect transistor this was found to be unnecessary, since the sensitivity of the characteristic to temperature variation is apparently smaller.

After the 4-minute exposure a new characteristic (C) is measured and the difference C – B displayed. If the exposure has given rise to any variation of the characteristic, then instead of the horizontal line there will be a step or a series of steps. We do not expect a smooth curve because the instrumentation is incapable of recording any change smaller than l0 mV (except in terms of frequency of spikes); the effects we have found have only been of the order of tens of millivolts. The exposure of Zener diodes and later of field effect transistors to Willie G. and to adult healer Dr Melvin Cann has produced some small but possibly real effects. Table 16.1 summarises the conclusions of the experiments.
The importance of these experiments lies not in the very small and probably not significant success achieved, but in their potential for the future. Here is something for psychics to perform, with very small possibility of fraud, with maximum simplicity of exposed apparatus, and yet very close to the atoms themselves; the characteristic is sensitive to small atomic disturbances. It does not necessarily follow that all these things are advantages, but if they are, then this surely is an experiment with potential. It does not follow that many psychics will find this an easy effect to produce, but if we are entitled to believe that a very small mass transfer is easier to produce than a large mass transfer, this is likely to prove a successful experiment. Our experience with teleportation (chapter 19) suggests that minimizing the mass transfer leads to success. Another advantage of this method of experimentation is its adaptability to standard microprocessor technique. It is good training in modern methods of experimentation.
Possible physical bases for the modification of a junction characteristic by the addition of atoms or molecules are not difficult to find. For example, the experiments of Lambe and Jaklevic(43) led to a new method of deriving molecular absorption spectra from the structures in barrier junctions. Perhaps there is scope for applying these techniques to psychic research.

Biological growth rate experiments are also likely candidates for structural research, because it is possible that they will be popular with psychic healers.
I am not a professional biologist, although my interests have ranged as wide as biomolecular research. I have been impressed by the experiments of Dr Bernard Grad(44) and of Sister Justa Smith(45) on the abilities of healers to alter growth rates of bacteria and enzymes. I think it is important that specialists make as many experimental studies as possible with healers, and it is important for healers to recognize the significance of such studies.

Since I am no specialist I must leave most of this work to more competent people, but I can at least follow the ideas and instructions they give me. In Birkbeck College there is a long-standing tradition of mycology research, at present kept alive by Dr Brian Plunkett. He drew my attention to the simplicity of experiments on the growth rates of fungi. A fungus is a very simple form of life, often without cellular structure; ‘strings of linked peptide-containing helices’ might describe its form. A previous set of growth-rate experiments has been conducted by parapsychologist Dr Barry(46) in Bordeaux. Mucors such as Mucor hiemalis can be grown in Petri dishes containing a layer of nutrient jelly. Under sterile conditions the centre of the jelly is inoculated by placing thereon a small disc of mucor on jelly from a previous strain; a cork-borer of 1/4 in. is used for this operation; eight such dishes are covered and allowed to grow in a sterile environment (the interior of a glass dome in a selected laboratory). After 24 hours the radial growth is well established and the mean diameters of the fungi are measured. The dishes are randomly divided into two equal groups, of which one is exposed to the action of the subject for a few minutes, under observation, while the other is kept in another room without the knowledge of the psychic. It is unnecessary to remove the plastic covers of the Petri dishes during exposure. After exposure both batches of dishes are replaced together under their dome.
After a further twenty-four hours the mean diameter of all fungi are again measured, and this is repeated at further 24-hour intervals until each entire dish is filled with fungus. The experiment is carried out ‘double-blind’; that is, the dishes are marked in code in such a way that the measurer does not know whether he is measuring an exposed or an unexposed fungus.

I carried out a preliminary series often such exposure experiments with Melvin Cann and Willie G. It appeared that exposures were sometimes associated with small changes of growth-rate, almost always inhibitions.
I therefore undertook a more extensive series of experiments, with Matthew Manning as subject, and these are in course of publication by the Society for Psychical Research.(47) My conclusions were as follows:
We may claim that whilst a consistent effect on growth-rate has not been produced by the subject, there has been one exceptional exposure after which an extremely unlikely retardation of growth rate occurred. We are unable to fault the experimentation for this exposure, but are of course aware that it would be unwise to claim the capture of an effect on the basis of a single anomalous batch.

Table 16.1
Session no. Subject Conclusions
1 Melvin Cann Inconclusive. Unexposed diodes show 1 positive effect in 4 experiments.
Exposed diodes show 4 positive effects in 11 experiments. More stability required.
2 Melvin Cann Stabilization of resistance greatly improves sensitivity
1 negative experiment
1 strongly positive experiment
Total extent of change in characteristic, deltaV = 50 mV
3 Melvin Cann Signal averaging installed
1 negative experiment
4 Melvin Cann 2 positive experiments, deltaV = 10 mV, 10 mV
5 Melvin Cann 2 marginally positive experiments, deltaV = 4 mV, 5mV
2 negative experiments
2 marginally positive experiments, deltaV = 5 mV, 5 mV
6 Willie G. 2 negative experiments
7 Willie G. 2 negative experiments

Of course we must address ourselves to the question of whether any generalization can be made about the physical mechanism by which, in general, structural molecular effects might take place. In metal-bending I already incline to the view that displacements of atoms are the most frequently found primary mechanism, and it would seem that such displacements could also bring about changes in growth rate in other materials. The psychic is, however, not concerned with understanding mechanisms; his action is goal-oriented.

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