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Electronic Dice: The Random Number Generator
Mario Varvoglis, Ph.D.

 
     
  The dice results coming out of Rhine’s lab and elsewhere were highly significant [see Radin, D. & Ferrari, D.C. (1991). Effects of consciousness on the fall of dice: a meta-analysis. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 5, 61-83.]  But not all experiments were equally well-controlled. Dice have to be very carefully constructed to ensure that they are truly balanced -- so that no one side is slightly favored over others. If there’s the slightest bias, this could lead to results which seem to be due to PK, but are, in truth, just artifacts (looks real, but is due to some error in the experiment). Although there are ways for dealing with such problems, (e.g., what’s called “counter-balanced designs” in experimental psychology), it obviously would be better to have a perfectly random system, one which reliably operates according to the laws of chance. A number of possibilities were explored, but the greatest technological innovation came with the creation of a reliable electronic random device. Starting in the late 1960s, the German physicist Helmut Schmidt introduced several Random Number Generators (RNGs) for psi research -- devices which, on the basis of microphysical events (such as radioactive decay, or electronic noise in chips), would produce truly unpredictable, random numbers.

You can think of these hardware RNGs as ‘electronic roulette wheels,’ ‘electronic coin-flippers’ or ‘electronic dice’ -- they can be configured to simulate any kind of random system. For example, if we have a two-position RNG, then it’s like an electronic coin-flipper, and, as with real coins, the person must show that they can shift the outcomes away from the usual 50-50 distribution of outcomes. But of course, in the electronic version, we have some more liberty in the way our ‘coin’ will look. In one of his early RNG models, Schmidt created a device with a number of lights arranged in a clock-like display. Depending on the outcome of the electronic coin-flip, the next bulb lighting up would be the one situated either clockwise or counter-clockwise to the currently lit bulb. So, by chance alone, you’d expect the lights to progress very little in either direction, randomly moving either way about the same number of times. Schmidt found, however, that a few subjects could make the lights follow a specific direction -- say clockwise -- in a rather sustained manner; their statistical results were highly significant.

Eventually, RNGs came to be integrated into computers, rather than being self-standing devices; this permitted us to program the way in which feedback appeared and functioned, rather than having to change the whole circuitry. By the early 1980s the PC-RNG combination became one of the most powerful tools for large scale psi investigations, leading to an explosion of reports from American and European laboratories. By the end of the 80s, a review in a major physics journal showed hundreds of experiments by dozens of experimenters; the cumulative results of this research are astronomically significant. [Radin, D. & Nelson, R. (1989). Evidence for consciousness-related anomalies in random physical systems. Foundations of Physics, 19, 1499-1514]
 
     
     
 

[This article used with permission of the Psi Explorer CD-ROM]

 
     
 

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