A respected US academic is branching out into a different area of study - human "eyebeams".
Colin Ross, the founder and president of the Colin A. Ross Institute for Psychological Trauma in Texas, is an internationally renowned clinician and lecturer in post-traumatic stress and multiple personalities.
Dissociative identity disorder, as the occurrence of multiple personalities is known, is academically controversial but Dr Ross' new venture is likely to raise even more eyebrows. He claims to be able to prove that human beings can shoot electromagnetic energy out of their eyes. Dr Ross is so convinced of his discovery that he has applied to a $1 million (£537,000) competition to prove evidence of the paranormal.
In his application to the James Randi Educational Foundation's "One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge", Dr Ross said that the human eyebeam was one element in his theory of human energy fields. He claims to have made special goggles using tin foil, copper mesh and electrodes that harness energy from his eyes to play a tune on a computer. He told Times Higher Education that "paranormal" was a "sociological not a scientific category".
"Things are categorised as paranormal if they lie outside current science, either because the phenomenon is difficult to demonstrate, the necessary measuring devices do not exist or ... the phenomenon is paradigm threatening," he said.
The claim that pictures of people's bones could be obtained by sending invisible rays through their bodies would have been a "claim of the paranormal" 200 years ago, he said.
Mr Randi seemed unimpressed with the application. After watching a video of the goggles, he sent an email to Dr Ross asking: "Why the strange Star Wars sort of signal sound? Would not a simple tone be acceptable?" He added: "Your 'sensor' could be detecting the contraction of facial muscles."
Dr Ross said: "I'm working on getting more sensitive electrodes so I can move the electrode further away from my eyes and rule out eyeblink artefact as the cause of triggering the tone. However, in the meantime, I have demonstrated that an electromagnetic signal does come out of your eyes and it has different properties from the brainwaves emerging simultaneously through the skull just above the eyebrow. I have submitted a paper to a journal about this."
Christopher French, professor of psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, said he was "extremely surprised" at Dr Ross' claim. "I have followed his work for some time in the area of dissociative identity disorder. While I would profoundly disagree with many of his views in that area, I think it is fair to say that ... he is an internationally acknowledged representative of one pole of an academically respectable controversy. His claim regarding beams of energy from his eyes is a different kettle of fish altogether.
"From the evidence I have seen on this to date, I would be extremely surprised if he even comes close to proving that paranormal forces are involved. I am sure Mr Randi's million dollars are quite, quite safe."
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