Monday, November 20, 2006

I didn't realize Deepak Chopra was that silly...

PZ Myers over at Pharyngula has been picking on Deepak Chopra on and off for the last few days. I didn't know all that much about Chopra other than he was a bit new-agey, but other than that I guessed he was fairly harmless. Then someone in the comments section at Pharyngula linked this page, quoting this section:

[T]here is a replicated study from the engineering department at Princeton in which ordinary people could will a computer to generate a certain pattern of numbers. They did this through thought alone, having no contact with the machine itself.

I beg your pardon? Knowing a little bit about how computers actually work, there is nothing to say about that study (as quoted by Dr. Chopra, anyway) other than it's complete horseshit.

Assuming for a moment that human beings could actually change the state of computer hardware through thought alone (they can't), there's the problem of having to change the state of that hardware in a specific way to achieve the desired result. It's a little more involved than just thinking "print 3 now." You have to know which bits to flip in the correct order to make the computer do what they claim. You have to be intimately familiar with both the hardware and the software controlling it. Expecting any random person to be able to manipulate millions of transistors in a meaningful way, through thought alone no less, is wishful thinking of the highest order.

If they were claiming that people could crash a computer through thought alone, that would be cause for some head scratching. But this? This is rubbish.

Coincidentally, that "engineering department" at Princeton is shutting down after 27 years.

I realize Dr. Chopra is neither a computer scientist nor an electrical engineer, but that level of credulity is disturbing in anyone who calls himself "Dr."


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