Paranormal electrical effects
Psychoenergetic Systems 1981, Vol. 4. pp. 159-187
© Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. Inc., 1981
Printed in the United Kingdom
Paranormal electrical effects
J.B. HASTED AND D. ROBERTSON
Birkbeck College, University of London
Metal electrodes exposed in an electrically screened room in the neighbourhood of Stephen North and other “metal-bending” psychic subjects are found to receive electrical transients claimed to be paranormal in origin. These are of either sign, and there is separation of the charge when the metal electrodes are electrically biassed. Analysis is made in terms of the diffusion of electrical carriers in the atmospheric region between pairs of electrodes of opposite polarity. The origin of these carriers cannot be determined unequivocally, but of course could be the physical body of the subject. A 10 kHz signal within the screened room was fed capacitatively to the subject’s body, and this modulation was found to be reproduced within the transients. Since this would not be possible if the conduction path involved diffusion in the atmosphere we cannot characterize the phenomenon as “paranormal production of electrical charge,” but instead as a temporary paranormal production of an admittance path which may subtend or include the detection electrodes. Evaporation of both positive and negative ion clusters from perspiration and from aqueous surfaces has also been detected and an account is being published elsewhere.
In this paper we address ourselves to the question of whether the alleged “psychokinetic effects,” physical effects produced spontaneously in the neighbourhood of psychic subjects, can in some cases be electrical in character.
There have been accounts in the psychical research literature of poltergeist cases in which electrical phenomena played a large part (Bender, 1969; Karger and Zicha, 1968). Again, it has been reported (Sudre, 1960) that charged gold leaf electroscopes in the neighbourhood of the physical medium Eusapia Palladino became discharged in an unaccountable fashion – what we would now call “paranormally.” The action occurred in short bursts, and the medium was at a distance of several feet from the electroscope. The experiments were monitored by some of the leading French experimental physicists of the day, Langevin, Marie Curie and d’Arsonval.
The classic experiments of Crawford (1921) on the Goligher circle included an attempt to observe paranormal electrical conduction, but negative results were reported.
In the table-lifting experiments of Batcheldor (1966) and Brookes-Smith (1970; 1975), paranormal electrical effects were reported which could be described as temporary electrical conduction paths on the surface of the table.
It is unwise for experimental scientists to go looking for a specific paranormal effect without having personal observational experience which leads them to suspect its existence. To ignore such a precept would be to invite exposure to the risk of finding an effect where none exists. We did not just look for paranormal electrical effects deliberately, simply as a result of studying previous reports. But in 1978 we happened to connect a low impedance amplifier (Hasted and Robertson, 1980a) direct to the metal specimens used in no-touch strain gauge metal-bending experiments (Hasted, 1976a; 1977; 1979). This was for the purpose of electrical touch detection. Unexpectedly, electrical transients were recorded when the metal-bending subject Stephen North’s hands were clearly seen to be stationary and nowhere nearer than six inches from the metal specimen. The strongest of these transients were reported to be accompanied by a tingling sensation in the subject’s fingers. Transients are of course a normal feature occurring during the development of electronic equipment; they arise either from electrical faults or from atmospheric disturbances. Their elimination or avoidance is routine procedure. We therefore satisfied ourselves that our system was completely quiet in the absence of Stephen North; but the transients continued in his presence. We decided that the effect should be treated as paranormal, in that no normal explanation could be found for it; systematic investigations were undertaken, using small exposed metal electrodes, each connected (in the manner of an antenna) to its earthed low input impedance amplifier circuit (Hasted and Robertson, 1980a); the transients were recorded with relatively slow response, on a paper chart recorder.
Experimental sessions were transferred to an electrically screened room with metal floor and furniture. The subject was in shirt-sleeves in some sessions, and great care was taken to watch for triboelectrically generated electrical transients, synchronous with body movements of the subject, who sat alone in the screened room, watched through a metal grid by observers outside; at times video pictures were taken, and on occasions an earthed wristband was worn by the subject, although this appeared to have no effect on the experiment.
For purposes which will become clear in subsequent sections, dry batteries enabled the metal electrodes to be held at electrical potentials with respect to earth. In some experiments the specimens carried resistive strain gauges, to monitor paranormal dynamic strains. A typical series of supposedly paranormal electrical transients is illustrated in Figure 1.
FIGURE 1 Some signals recorded in session G, demonstrating their polarities appropriate to the electrode bias
2. ELECTRICAL SIGNALS AND RESISTIVE STRAIN GAUGE SIGNALS
A proportion of events occurred in which paranormal dynamic strain signals were synchronous with electrical signals. We decided to investigate these synchronous signals in a series of sessions in which two 10 cm X 1 cm X 1 mm aluminium specimens A and B were mounted radially to the subject Stephen North. Radial mounting affords some protection to the outer electrode against manual touch, inadvertent or deliberate. Each was connected to its own amplifier and each carried its own resistive strain gauge, bridge and amplifier. There was no instrumental protection against touch in these sessions, only visual monitoring by at least two observers. For this reason radially mounted specimens were used; the hand was held close to the first specimen, and was thus nearly 40 cm from the second specimen. A proportion of signals was observed on both specimens simultaneously; this is itself some indication of the absence of touch. The numbers N of signals recorded during these sessions are tabulated in Table 1; they are classified in terms of their synchronism.
The table Shows that the overall proportion S of paranormal strain-only signals in the sessions was 0.24, and the overall proportion E of electrical-only signals 0.44. The proportion ES of synchronous strain and electrical signals was 0.32; this significantly non-zero value presumably indicates some connection, psychological, physical, or both, between the electrical and the dynamic strain phenomena. Possibly, even, in some of these particular events, the apparent dynamic strain signals were actually paranormal electrical events recorded at the strain gauge itself, or even within the screened leads. We cannot be completely certain whether or not this was the case, but since the area of the strain gauge is very much smaller than the area of the metal specimen, it is presumably much less likely. Furthermore, the dynamic strain signals which were not synchronized to electrical transients are almost certain to be mechanical in nature.
Although it is not apparent from Table 1, the distribution of the two phenomena during sessions and during the entire period of study is instructive. No instructions were given to the subject as to which type of phenomenon was preferred, or on which he was to concentrate. But inevitably he realized that the electrical phenomenon, because of its novelty, was of especial interest, and it is significant that the proportions S + ES decreases systematically in successive sessions W through B2 (0.81, 0.79, 0.66, 0.33, 0.38, 0.14), whilst the proportion E + ES, after a poor start in session W, remains very high in sessions Y to B2 (lettering appears to be not consecutive, since some sessions were actually devoted to other experiments). Session Q was held several months later, after other electrical experiments, in an attempt to restore to the subject his metal-bending ability, apparently diminished by lack of practice; he was asked deliberately to attempt dynamic strain signals and not to worry about the presence of electrical signals. As is usual in our sessions, Stephen was seated in front of the electrodes, and sometimes holding out his hand and pointing at the nearest. In a relaxed atmosphere, conversation between Stephen, the investigators and any other observers, was stimulated. Stephen’s body was not held motionless and rigid during the sessions. The proportion of strain signals, S + ES, was once again high, whilst the proportion of electrical signals, E + ES = 0.52, was much lower than before. The role of practice seems to be important.
During the early individual sessions, there was a tendency for the experiment to start with a number of isolated electrical signals; only after this initial period did dynamic strain signals arrive. At this time we regarded the electrical phenomenon as a kind of “failed metal-bending ”
3. NATURE OF PARANORMAL ELECTRICAL SIGNALS
When a signal is recorded by an amplifier whose input is connected to an electrode, it implies that electric charges have arrived at or left this electrode. They could be real charged particles, or the charge could have been induced capacitatively by the sudden appearance of potential at a region or regions in the neighbourhood of the electrode. Such a region could only be on or within the body of the subject, since in the screened room all other potentials were under our control. If one such region on the surface of the body were to move suddenly, then a capacitatively induced transient would result; however, bodily movements were not observed to occur at the moments of recording of signal. Moreover, electromyographic potentials which are measurable at the skin when muscular tension occurs are in fact very much too small to be responsible for the effects observed here. Alternatively a real charge might suddenly start to travel along the surface of the body and thereby induce a transient signal; however the physical mechanism by which this situation could arise is most unclear; in itself it would probably constitute a paranormal phenomenon. We must therefore at least consider the possibility that real charged particles are involved.
The production of micro-discharges by triboelectric means is well-known, for example in the sliding of man-made fibres over the skin or over other fibres, or in the unwrapping of plastic from confectionery packets. Such actions were carefully avoided in experiments of this type. Attention was paid to the material of the subject’s shirt.
A typical ‘paranormal” signal at the input of the low impedance amplifier would peak at about ± 10^-8A, and would last for a period of about a hundred milliseconds. If this is taken to represent a charge of ~ 10^-10 C, one must remember that this represents a total of ~ 10^9 electrons or singly charged positive ions.
Free charge might be initiated in the metal electrode or elsewhere, either at the body of the subject, at another solid surface, or in the atmosphere itself. If the free charge has to travel to the metal electrode, one must consider the mechanism of transport, which would be a collisional diffusion process, possibly assisted by the presence of an electric field. This transport or drift process has the effect of distributing the charge more widely both in time and in space. Thus if a sudden burst of charge, of rise time of order 10 ms, has to travel a distance of 20 cm, diffusion will lengthen the rise time to several seconds, even in the presence of an electric field.
Three possibilities must be considered:
(i) That the charge is “formed” at or within the surface of the metal electrode.
(ii) That charge is “formed” at some unknown point or region in the air -a burst of atmospheric ionization; it is then transported by normal physical processes to the electrode.
(iii) That existing charge is transported either from the human body or the physical surroundings to the electrode.
If normal charge transport by drift (Townsend, 1908; Huxley, 1940) can be shown to lead to different effects, then the event can only be characterized as a temporary paranormal conduction.
Experiments can be devised that enable us to distinguish between the three possibilities. In order to distinguish between possibility (i) and the other two we can either search for effects due to the conduction path, or attempt to observe changes in the phenomena when physical changes are made to the path.
A-magnetic field is associated with an electrical conduction path, and a transient magnetic field can be recorded independently of the electrical event. Such a transient was recorded during the experiment in which paranormal effects on a Geiger counter were produced by Uri Geller (Hasted, 1976b). It was this record which induced me to characterise those events as “paranormal electrical.” When Stephen North first “produced” paranormal electrical effects for us, we determined to search for the synchronous magnetic transients. A ferrite ring (Hasted and Robertson, 1980a) was placed between the hand and the target electrode, and on it was wound a toroidal coil, which was connected to an amplifier and chart-recorder. Signals synchronous with the electrical transients were recorded, but very few were obtained when electrical screening of the toroidal coil was added. It was this inhibition which caused us to doubt that alternative (i), which implies an absence of conduction path could be eliminated. The screening should have had no effect, and we regarded these experiments, described earlier (Hasted and Robertson, 1980a) as inconclusive.
We therefore pursued the course of making physical changes to the surroundings of the target electrode and recording any corresponding changes in the signals. The simplest such change would be the application of an electric field.
It was first necessary to know whether paranormal electrical signals could be obtained simultaneously on two target electrodes, each with a separate recording channel. However, success had already been achieved in the experiments with Stephen North, conducted simultaneously with strain gauge experiments. It therefore became possible to experiment with two target electrodes maintained at different electric potentials with respect to each other and to earth (the screened room and subject’s body were considered to be at earth potential). The signs, magnitudes and synchronism of the signals would then yield information consistent with, or contradictory to, possibility (i) (production of charge at or within the electrode).
If a burst of atmospheric ionization occurs, the positive and negative carriers can be separated by the application of such a field, within distances of the order of a Debye length (Debye, 1954); beyond this distance the field does not penetrate, and the diffusion of the plasma is ambipolar. For certain sizes, positions and charge densities of a burst of plasma, therefore, negative transients will be observed at the positively biassed member of a pair of electrodes, with positive transients at the negatively biassed member.
If, on the other hand, charge is produced at or within the surface of the electrodes, then its sign will presumably be independent of the atmospheric field.
In each of the Stephen North sessions F – M two aluminium electrodes 10 cm X 1 cm X 1 mm were mounted radially to the subject, with the broad faces mounted vertically, mutually parallel, the distance between them, d, being unique to the session. Each electrode, mounted rigidly at a high resistance to earth, was connected through a battery to the input of the low impedance amplifier. At regularTau = 11 s intervals each battery was reversed by a relay, whose resistance path to earth, including that of the timing circuit which operated it, was much larger than the amplifier input impedance. Thus the potential of each electrode was alternately 9 V positive and 9 V negative to the earthed electrically screened room in which the experiment took place. The reversal was recorded directly on the chart-recorder trace, since the admittance through the battery to earth was deliberately allowed to be sufficiently large for this to happen. A regular 11 s waveform appears, as in Figure 1.
Of the sum over n = 1323 signals recorded in sessions F-M (Table 2), only q= 65, or 49%, were of sign inappropriate to the hypothesis of atmospheric ionization bursts. In the sample of signals in Figure 1, all are in the appropriate direction for interpretation as the collection of atmospheric negative ions at the positive electrode, and vice versa. In most, but not all cases, therefore, the event is consistent with alternative (ii), a burst of ionization of atmospheric gases: normally this would be followed by electron attachment and by ion interchange and clustering processes during the separation of charges, and by drift to the electrodes. But in a small proportion of the events the “action” appears to take place at the metal electrode itself, producing signals of inappropriate sign. In subsequent sessions with other subjects the proportion of such events was higher.
However, the data are also consistent with possibility (iii), the formation of a temporary conduction path between the electrodes.
In sessions F – M, each pair of signals was unbalanced, in that it was unusual for the two members of the pair to be equal in magnitude; this might imply that unequal quantities of positive and negative charge were formed in each burst; but on the other hand, if the point of collection is closer to one electrode than to the other, then the unequal efficiencies of collection could be responsible for the difference. In each session the mean -/+ ratio is within a standard deviation of unity, so that the hypothesis of ionization bursts with equal number of positive and negative species produced is not obviously inconsistent with the data. The mobilities of “secondary” clustered atmospheric ions are of the order K = 0.1 cm^2/volt see (Hasted, 1972), so that they would arrive at the electrode in rather less than a second.
On the assumption of atmospheric ionization bursts, the data of sessions F – M can be analysed in order to obtain an estimate of the distance from the electrode surface of the region of origin of the ionization burst. During the drift to the electrodes the positive and negative ions spread out by radial diffusion, so that many will arrive much later in time, or even become lost by collection elsewhere or by recombination. Thus not all of the observed signal pulses will be synchronous at both electrodes; some will be observed at one electrode only, the corresponding signals at the other electrode being too small and diffuse in time for a measurable response to be obtained from the system. It is seen from Figure 1 that this is in fact the case, so that the proportion of synchronous signals can be regarded as a significant observable, expected to depend on interelectrode distance d and potential V. The dependence upon d can be derived from Table II and is represented graphically in Figure 2.
The diffusion of charged particles of number density n, drifting at velocity vd under the action of electric field E in the direction z is governed by the equation
D*del squared(n) +Dl*the second partial derivative of n along z axis minus the drift velocity times the first partial derivative along the z axis = 0
where D and Dl are respectively the axial and longitudinal diffusion coefficients.
The longditudinal diffusion is responsible for the broadening of the signals and will be neglected in our analysis of their peak values. It is then possible (Kaneko, Megill and Hasted, 1960) to work in the drifting frame of reference of the ions, considering the diffusion to take place radially in a plane of the moving frame. Under these conditions the number density n(r, t) of ions is given by
partial derivative of n wrt time = D/r * partial derivative of n wrt r + D*second partial derivative of n wrt r …..(2)
A solution of this equation exists in which the shape of the ionization source is a radial Gaussian, which retains this form throughout the drift:
where deltazero is the initial (t = 0) Gaussian width. The axial (r = 0) ion density n(0, t) is then
n zero=N/(4*pi*D*t+pi*deltazero^2)….. (5)
N=integral from 0 to infinity of 2*pi*n*r wrt r
is the total number of particles in a moving plane.
FIGURE 2 Proportion P of synchronous signals as a function of interelectrode distance d.
In the limit of low reduced field (E/p, ratio of field strength to gas pressure), the drift velocity of either electrons or ions reduces to the Nernst-Einstein value
vd=KE, E=V/d, D/K=kT/e (7)
where K is the mobility, k the Boltzmann constant, e the electronic charge, d and V respectively the interelectrode distance and potential. At T = 300K, 4*pi*k*T/e = C = 0.3V.
Suppose that the ionization burst occurs at a distance d’ from one electrode, and that the electrode width is sufficiently small for the collected ion signal to be approximately proportional to the axial density n0. The ratio R of currents to the two electrodes is then
When this ratio is less than a certain small value, say 0.05, a signal will appear in one channel only, being within the limits of noise on the other channel. On the assumption of constant d’, small compared with d, we see that the proportion P = s/n of synchronous signals is inversely dependent on d, provided that pi*deltazero squared is sufficiently small.
Although in the limit of large d, P should be inversely proportional to d, in the limit of small d, R = 1 (constant) and P should tend to unity. This is precisely the behaviour which has been found from the analysis of sessions F – M summarized in Table 2 and illustrated in Figure 2.
It also follows from equation (8) that in the limit of large d, P will be independent of V. We have undertaken two sessions in which sawtooth wave-forms of period T = 22 s were applied, symmetrically to earth potential, to the electrodes. The phase t of each signal is then proportional to V.
Figure 3 shows a histogram of values of phase t (0 < t < T) of both synchronous and non-synchronous signals in the most productive session K1. The means and standard deviations of t (in units of 0.2 s) for both single electrode saw-tooth sessions are as follows:
|54.98 (X 0.2 s)
It will be seen that the means t bar are close to T/2 (=55 X 0.2s) and well within the very large standard deviations. Against intuitive expectations, but in accordance with equation (8), no dependence of P on V is found. One might at first expect high potential to be efficient in encouraging more efficient charge collection at both electrodes, thereby increasing P. But this argument would not apply for d’ << d.
It should be possible to deduce the axial distribution of ionization bursts from the magnitude ratios of the signals IL and IR to the left and right electrodes, when paired in synchronism. The asymmetry A of each signal pair is:
A=|IL-IR|/|IL+IR| ….. (9)
The mean value A (bar) throughout a session is calculated, and should show some sensitivity to the axial distribution. For example, if this is assumed to be uniform between the electrodes then we would expect
A=2/d times the integral from zero to d/2 of d’/(d-d’) wrt d’=0.386
The data of Table 3 show that, apart from session J2, this interpretation (a uniform distribution of axial positions) is not unrealistic. However, the assumption of d’ < d in the deduction of P(d) from equation (8) is rendered less valid by this approach.
FIGURE 3 Distribution of synchronous (S) and non-synchronous (NS) signals within phase t of sawtooth potential.
The preliminary sessions from which the data of Table 2 were obtained were conducted merely with two strip electrodes mounted radially from the subject. This is unsatisfactory on two counts. The interelectrode field is non-uniform except on the interaxial plane, so that the ion transport is complicated, and several of the assumptions in our treatment are invalidated. A more advanced electrode system is discussed below.
But it must also be said that these experiments are equally consistent with possibility (iii). Suppose that by some mechanism at present not understood (paranormally) a region of conduction appears temporarily. If the target electrodes fall within this region, then equal signals of opposite sign will be recorded at them. We have seen that in nearly all cases the signs are correct, but equal magnitudes (A = 0) are not observed. The conduction path must therefore subtend also some other source of charge, such as the body of the subject. On the assumption that the conduction regions are all of approximately identical size, the inverse dependence of P upon d is readily understood. Moreover if the conductance does not vary very much with time, then the magnitude of the. signals will be proportional to electrode potential. In sessions such as J. during which the potentials were varied in a sawtooth fashion, the dependence of signal magnitude on potential is clearly seen; typical data are displayed in Figure 4.
An experiment must be designed which is capable of deciding between possibilities (ii) and (iii) i.e., whether atmospheric ionization is produced and travels by drift and diffusion to the target; or whether the target signal arises from normal electric charge conducted to it along a temporary “paranormal conduction” path whose origin has yet to be explained.
Such an experiment would be to study the structure of the signals in time, with resolution faster than the times of drift and diffusion, which may be taken as 0.1 s. For this purpose coherent rapidly time-varying electric potentials must be maintained on the subject’s body. It is required to be known whether under these circumstances bursts of similar rapidly time-varying signal will be registered, without touch, at the target.
FIGURE 4 Some signals recorded in session J. showing the dependence of signal magnitude on interelectrode potential V.
In this experiment, a 150 X 150 cm metal plate was mounted as an antenna within the screened room. It was connected to a 10 kHz oscillator, and entirely covered with wood so that it could not be touched or even seen. When the subject was seated next to it his body picked up a substantial signal, and a no-touch electrode system was exposed to his “action.” This electrode system, which had been used in some previous sessions, was designed with partial electrical screening, so that it was impossible for fingers to approach within about 2 cm of the electrodes. Touch of the screening, however, produces no signals. The system will be discussed further in the next section.
The electrodes were connected to a low impedance wide-band amplifier system and thence to a storage oscilloscope.
Under normal conditions, in the presence or absence of the subject’s body, the electromagnetic coupling between the antenna and the electrode system was much too small for signals to be recorded. But if the electrode system was touched by a piece of wire held in the hand, a transient 10 kHz signal was recorded. The usual tests for absence of signals were carried out with other, apparently non-psychic subjects, both stationary and moving, and the tests were negative.
FIGURE 5 Photograph of chart record of typical 1 kHz signal recorded at drift tube electrode, with the subject exposed to electromagnetic radiation. Scale of centre chart is one tenth as sensitive as that of the lowest chart, and the potential V-touch that would be induced by touching the electrode with a length of wire is shown on the centre chart.
With Stephen North as subject, however, 10 (to 40 later) kHz transients were recorded; a typical example (from one of the early sessions with a storage oscilloscope ;OCR editor DR) is illustrated in Figure 5. This experiment is an effective disproof of the atmospheric ionization hypothesis (alternative (ii)), since coherent 13 kHz signals would not be obtained after collection of an atmospheric ionization burst, because of the effects of diffusion and drift.
The nature of the signals recorded was as follows: each was about 100 – 200 ms in length, which contrasts strongly with signals obtained by human touch, which are not shorter than 100 ms. The signal-noise ratio was low, about 5 :1, smaller by about a factor of rive than that of a touch signal. The envelope of the 10 kHz peaks in each paranormal signal was less uniform in time than that of a touch signal, whose 10 kHz peaks are all of approximately the same magnitude.
Similar signals have been recorded in the electromagnetic mode, through the electrically screened ferrite ring mentioned above. (These were at 40 kHz using a specially constructed filter and phase sensitive detector with output to chart recorder: OCR editor DR)
4. THE CYLINDRICALLY SCREENED ELECTRODE SYSTEM
The more recent sessions with psychic subjects have all been held using the electrode system illustrated in Figure 6. This was originally introduced because it was more suitable for the study of drifting of atmospheric ionization bursts than the simple two-strip electrodes. It is essentially a two-ended Townsend-Huxley drift chamber (Townsend, 1908; Huxley, 1940), and for axial and even non-axial (Frescura, 1980) bursts the prediction of signal magnitude at all six electrodes is possible, with the aid of equations (1) – (8). Experiment with the cylindrically screened system soon slowed, however, when it was realised that the signals could not be interpreted in terms of point bursts, and indeed the 10 kHz experiments showed us that atmospheric ionization bursts was an untenable hypothesis.
In sessions with Stephen North the following numbers of signals were recorded:
|Synchronous at both ends
|not known (fault)
|not known (fault)
The overall value of P for these sessions was 0.17, which is in good accord with the data of Figure 2. Sawtooth potential waveforms of + 5 V, of period 22 s, were used in all sessions except N, in which ±9 V batteries were used.
FIGURE 6 Photograph of drift tube, showing three of the six target electrodes T, electrical connections E, metal screens S and guard rungs G. Outside diameter 6 cm, length 8.5 cm.
The cylindrically screened electrode system leas one great advantage over two-strip electrodes, namely that physical touch of the targets by fingers alone without the aid of a tool (such as a short length of wire) is not possible. The need to study diffusion could be represented as a “scientific” reason for adopting cylindrical screening, which concealed the fraud-protection aspect from the subject.
Systematic tests were made with the cylindrically screened system for normal electrical signal generation by touch, movement of arms, and so on. These were carried out not only with the investigators as subjects, but with the assistance of another psychic subject, Matthew Manning; Matthew was asked to produce signals by any method he wished. Although he found it possible to produce transients by rapid hand movement within a few millimetres of a bare electrode (by capacitative coupling), this was not possible with the screened system.
When he touched screening cylinders, there was of course no signal, but when he grasped the cylinder firmly for longer periods, of about 30 s, slow electrical drifts were manifest. Since there was a small potential between the electrodes concerned, the equal drifts in opposing directions were interpreted as a conduction current passing through the polymethylmethacrylate insulation between the electrodes. The conduction could have arisen by the condensation of moisture on the insulation, but the effect was found to be sensitive to the potential at which the electrode system was held. Most subjects tested could produce this effect, unless the hands were coated with petroleum jelly, or covered with a thin plastic film.
We considered it appropriate to investigate the possibility that ions, with clustered water molecules, are normally emitted in very small quantities from water, human perspiration, and from aqueous solution surfaces. This has been a separate research programme using two different types of experiment and the results will be published elsewhere (Hasted and Robertson, 1980b). The slow drifts are very easily distinguished from the rapid paranormal signals.
Now that several psychic subjects have accustomed themselves to the cylindrically screened electrode system, its advantages, especially the impossibility of human touch, will be apparent to students of physical psychic phenomena; as far as the present authors are concerned, the intention is to confine future work to screened rather than bare electrodes.
It appears from the experiments described that, in addition to normal capacitative and triboelectric effects, two types of electrical charge can be produced in the proximity of the human body:
(i) evaporation of both positive and negative clustered ions from perspiration, a phenomenon whose investigation will be described elsewhere (Hasted and Robertson, 1980b),
(ii) bursts of transient charge produced remotely only by certain “psychic subjects” at moments linked with certain psychological states, at points within about one metre from the body. Since we are unable to offer a normal physical interpretation of this effect, we insist on its categorisation as “paranormal”; and we characterise it as the temporary paranormal production of an admittance path which may subtend or include the detection electrodes.
We gratefully acknowledge the participation of Pat Fara in several of the sessions with Stephen North.
One of us, David Robertson, acknowledges the receipt of a maintenance grant from the K.l.B. Foundation.
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