London, 06 Sep 2006
By Anna Lewcock
Have you ever heard your mobile beep and just 'known' who's sent you a message? If you have, you're not alone and a brand new series of interactive experiments to investigate this phenomenon were announced by Dr Rupert Sheldrake at the BA Festival of Science being held this week in the city of Norwich.
Dr Sheldrake's new research follows on from his work on telephone telepathy, results from which he presented in the 'Beyond the Brain: Making Science Personal' session at the festival. Around 80 per cent of the people that Sheldrake and his team surveyed had experienced telephone telepathy, either knowing who is on the line before they pick up, or thinking of someone for no apparent reason and them calling soon after. This result was born out by the lecture audience, after a show of hands confirmed that the majority has experienced some form of telephone telepathy.
Sheldrake has become a controversial figure in the scientific community through his support of less 'orthodox' science. He decided to investigate this phenomena further to try and discover whether telephone telepathy could be explained by some kind of self-deception or unconscious psychological trickery, or whether these could be genuine telepathic occurrences.
Through a series of controlled experiments into telephone telepathy, the first of its kind, Sheldrake was able to reveal findings which could give the sceptics pause for thought. Subjects were asked to predict who, out of four possible callers, was on the end of a phone line. By chance, participants would have guessed correctly about 25 per cent of the time, but Sheldrake's experiments revealed a much higher success rate with over 40 per cent of guesses hitting the mark.
"These results are astronomically significant," says Sheldrake "it's not chance coincidence – whatever it is, it's not that."
Sheldrake's experiments were repeated for a Channel 5 television programme, using the Nolan sisters of 80s pop fame as the subjects. Again, the results showed staggeringly high success rates compared to chance.
This does not appear to be the only kind of telepathy involved with modern technology, as Sheldrake discovered when he extended his research to consider telepathy via Email. Again, he was able to achieve very high success rates when participants were asked to guess the sender of an Email, with odds against chance, he claimed, of over 10 billion, billion to one.
"Many people have been having these kinds of experiences for years," remarked Sheldrake "this is the first time it has been put to the test, and the results suggest that for at least some people at least some of the time it may be a real telepathic experience."
The Festival is taking place at the University of East Anglia from 2-9 September. It will bring together over 300 of the UK's top scientists and engineers to discuss the latest scientific developments with the public.
Dr Sheldrake's contribution to the 2006 World Question Center:
A sense of direction involving new scientific principles