MAGNETIC PATTERN ERASURE: A PROPOSED METHOD OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY
by Ronald S. Hawke, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Livermore, California.
Ronald S. Hawke received a B.S.E.E. degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1961, and did graduate work in electromagnetics and solid state physics. A scientist at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory of the University of California since 1961, he has published more than a dozen articles in several fields, including plasma physics, microwaves, Raman spectroscopy, and high pressure physics. Hawke spent a year on sabbatical leave at the Max Planck Institute. He is currently doing research on metallic hydrogen at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.
Hawke’s paper serves two functions. First, it presents a series of events that occurred during a visit by Geller to the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in late 1974, events that, Hawke says, might be suggestive of paranormal happenings, but cannot be offered as unequivocal proof. In the second part of the paper, Hawke gives a detailed outline of some tightly designed experiments to which he feels Geller should be subjected.
Hawke’s observations presented here involve Geller’s influence on magnetic program cards. Such cards typically contain information that is to be fed to a computer. The information is not printed in ink on each card, but is contained on the surface of the card in the form of certain magnetic patterns; each pattern conveys a different piece of information. A layer of plastic covers all of the patterns on a given card. Rubbing a magnetic program card with one’s fingers, as Geller did, will not alter its pattern. However, an extraneous magnetic field can change a program.
Published for the first time, with the permission of the author.
This paper summarizes a meeting with Uri Geller, during which the magnetic pattern stored in the iron oxide layer of a magnetic program card was erased. In order to determine the mechanism of the erasure, a detailed outline for a possible experiment is given. The method is based on the known properties of iron oxide and would ultimately lead to a fundamental understanding of what is happening, whether it be normal or paranormal.
There has been a considerable amount of effort spent in validating paranormal phenomena,(1) not to mention what has been spent in disproving it. There has been much less work done to determine exactly what happens at a macroscopic, microscopic, molecular, atomic, or nuclear level during a psychokinetic (PK) event. Ultimately, greater understanding would not only reduce the mystery surrounding these events, but also would make it possible to develop useful scientific theories and/or practical applications, as there has been profit from studying seriously other originally mysterious phenomena, such as magnetism, electricity, radioactivity, etc. Basically, unstudied phenomena remain mysterious and debatable, but studied phenomena enhance understanding and usefulness. This paper gives an example of a proposed method for the detailed investigation of a single phenomenon that might or might not be paranormal.
The first part of the paper is a brief summary of a meeting with Uri Geller at which we began to observe a class of possible PK phenomena that seems to be unusually susceptible to quantitative scientific study. We present the results of preliminary tests; then we outline a systematic method that would lead to an understanding of what kind of phenomena causes the particular result of a test without assuming or precluding the existence of a paranormal or anomalous nature.
Nature of the Phenomenon
The particular phenomenon chosen for this discussion results from a meeting of a few colleagues and myself with Uri Geller in late 1974. Additional study is warranted by the following event, which should not be construed as a conclusive demonstration of a paranormal phenomenon, but rather as a suggestion for an interesting area to investigate more thoroughly.
An attempt was made to erase or at least alter the highly ordered magnetic pattern corresponding to a specific routine encoded on a magnetic program card normally used with a Hewlett Packard Model 65 pocket calculator. The cards consist of a .0004-inch-thick layer of iron oxide bonded to a .008-inch-thick plastic base. Plate 35 is a photograph of a typical card and Plate 36 shows the magnetic pattern stored in the iron oxide layer. The magnetic pattern is made visible by a magnetic viewer,(2) which utiises a colloidal suspension of fine iron oxide particles. The stored magnetic field in the card penetrates the colloidal solution and condenses the particles along the lines of force, causing the formation of a dark region, which can be photographed.
During the meeting with Geller, the erasure of three cards and the change of one card were attempted. The first card (Card 1) given to Geller for erasure was sealed in a glass bottle with its plastic top glued in place. The bottle was opened and the card, inspected after the meeting, was found to be unchanged.
The second and third cards (Cards 2 and 3) were directly rubbed by Geller with his fingers. After each attempt the card was inserted into an HP 65 calculator, which will reject the program if the pattern is ambiguous. Both Cards 2 and 3 were accepted prior to Geller’s attempts and rejected afterward. Subsequent inspection with a magnetic viewer after the meeting with Geller revealed that the magnetic patterns had been altered, as shown in Plates 37 and 38. (Of course, mere rubbing normally has no effect on the magnetic pattern.)
The fourth card (Card 4) was lightly touched, but not rubbed, by Geller; his intention was to “change” the program rather than erase it. It remained operable in the calculator and subsequent inspection did not indicate any change had occurred.
The first point to determine is whether the magnetic program cards responded to an applied magnetic field, and/or other applied forms of energy, or if their behavior was anomalous. If it is found that there is a sufficient causal magnetic field present during the cards’ alteration, then the next step is to determine the source of the field. If, on the other hand, a magnetic field of sufficient intensity is not present during an alteration, then the next step is to study other known possible causes. If all known causes are excluded, then research at the molecular and atomic level is indicated. Below is a summary of what is already known about the magnetic, thermal, electric, and ultrasonic properties of the program cards.
Properties of the Magnetic Program Cards(3)
Normally the magnetic field intensity required to erase the magnetic pattern is about 265 oersteds (Oe). A slight altering of the pattern can occur at an intensity as low as 150 Oe. For comparison, the earth’s magnetic field intensity at the surface is of the order of 0.5 Oe. Common permanent magnets have field intensifies of about 1000 to 20,000 Oe at the surface of the poles.
The minimum duration of the applied magnetic field needed to alter the magnetic pattern is about 50 nanoseconds (ns).
Temperatures above the Curie temperature can cause a randomization of the magnetic pattern. For iron oxide the Curie temperature is about 450 degrees C. The base material is plastic, which permanently distorts at about 100 degrees C., much lower than the Curie temperature; hence distortion of the base would accompany a thermally induced erasure.
Ultrasonic waves do not erase or alter the magnetic pattern without eroding the iron oxide layer. Again, inspection of the card would indicate damage.
The cards are fabricated completely of high-resistance materials, so small voltages would not be able to cause sufficient currents to generate magnetic fields intense enough to alter the magnetic pattern.
Electrostatic fields up to the point of breakdown in air (about 10 kV/cm) do not cause any observable changes in the magnetic pattern. If the voltage gradient is high enough for the air to break down, an electric arc will occur. An arc is capable of producing a magnetic field intense enough to alter the magnetic pattern. A sufficiently intense arc would probably be audible and would leave a charred area. A record of electric field intensity, however, would be advisable.
Proposed Experimental Setup
For the purpose of answering the question, “Is the alteration of the magnetic pattern caused by a magnetic field?” the following setup or its equivalent would be suggested.
At least two magnetometers should be placed with their sensitive axes aligned with the plane of the iron oxide layer and orthogonal to each other, as shown in Figure 1. If possible, a third magnetometer should be aligned orthogonally to the plane of the card. The magnetometers should be set at a sensitivity such that they can detect a very concentrated magnetic field at a distance much greater than that at which the magnetic pattern can be altered.(4)
Inductive Pickup Coils
Magnetometers respond slowly, compared to the switching time of the program cards. They alone, therefore, are not adequate. Inductive pickup coils can be used to detect more rapid changes of a magnetic field. Such coils develop a voltage output that is proportional to the number of turns in the coil, the cross-sectional area, and the time rate of change of the magnetic field. Figure 2, shows the frequency regions covered by magnetometers (Hall-type) and two types of coils with few and many turns.(5) The coil with a few turns should have inductance low enough to respond to pulses 50 ns or shorter. The coil with many turns is to provide larger signals at the lower frequencies. The inductive pickup coils should also be more sensitive than the program cards; they can be tested with pulsed magnetic fields produced by a pulsed current, of variable duration, applied to a low-inductance coil. Sensitivity can be established for a variety of pulse lengths and applied field orientations.
Fig. 2. Frequency response of Hall magnetometers and inductive pickup coils
Electrostatic Field Detectors
Two sets of parallel wires along the sides of the card, as shown in Figure 3 (page 130), should be used to detect electrostatic fields and arcs.
One of many possible recording methods is briefly outlined here. The outputs from the magnetometers can be monitored direct with strip chart recorders. The outputs from the magnetic pickup coils and electrostatic field detectors can be amplified and used to trigger threshold detectors, which are preset to levels that correspond to signals from magnetic pulses smaller than those required to alter a program card. The output from the threshold detectors can then be recorded on a multichannel event recorder. Of course, more sophisticated monitoring of all potentially fast signals with video-tape techniques would be an added asset. Naturally, other factors are also necessary, such as continuous video-taping of the region around the magnetic program card, including its inspection before and after its placement in the instrumented region.
A brief description of what might be an unusual erasure of a magnetic program card has been given. On the supposition that an anomalous phenomenon could be the causal mechanism, a possible basic experiment is described: The experiment would ascertain if an erasure is caused by normal mechanisms or not. If known mechanisms are not the cause of erasure, then the anomalous behavior of the magnetic iron oxide film certainly requires further study. If, on the other hand, the erasure is caused by a known mechanism, such as a magnetic field, then its source must be studied.
The same style of pursuit would be scientifically useful in other types of PK study; for example, acoustic emission studies during the bending of metals, and photoelastic analysis during the bending of plastics.
At the time of this writing plans are under discussion for Geller to undergo a series of experiments devised by Ronald Hawke. The first of these tests, if they come about, will be an attempt by Geller to alter or erase information stored on magnetic program cards in the manner outlined in the above paper. If significant results are obtained, then Hawke would like to try two other PK experiments, which he briefly mentions in the closing paragraph of his paper. In one experiment Hawke wants to run sound waves through a metal object Geller is trying to bend. Any deformations in the metal will alter the pattern and intensity of the waves. By studying the differences between the input and output sound waves, Hawke hopes to understand better the mechanism that produces the deformations. He would then like to perform the same general type of experiment while Geller tries to bend plastics; the difference here would be that light waves rather than sound waves would be used as the investigative probe. Geller has consented to participate in such tests, but no definite date has yet been set.
1. A good summary of several areas of PK research with extensive references can be found in Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science, E. D. Mitchell, ed. by John White (New York: G. P. Putnam’s, 1974).
2.Product of 3M Company, St. Paul, Minnesota.
3.”Magnetic Tape Erasure – How Serious Is the Threat?” M-CL-237(322)R (Jan. 1972.), Product Communications, 3M Company, St. Paul, Minnesota.
4.A concentrated magnetic field can be obtained for testing by using a very small chip from a magnet.
5.The exact number of turns in each coil would depend on many factors but a typical number would be about 100 for the few-turn coil and 10,000 for the many-turn coil.
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