James Randi Challenge

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) (www.randi.org) offers a One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. The Foundation will award a prize of $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal ability or phenomenon. Dr. Ross's Challenge was accepted by the JREF and Dr. Ross is waiting for a response to his proposed protocol.

Dr. Ross claims that he can make a tone sound out of a speaker using an energy beam he sends out through his eyes. James Randi accepted this as a claim of the paranormal. The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge rules state that:

Webster's Online Dictionary defines "paranormal" as "not scientifically explainable; supernatural."

Within the Challenge, this means that at the time your application is submitted and approved, your claim will be considered paranormal for the duration. If, after testing, it is decided that your ability is either scientifically explainable or will be someday, you needn't worry. If the JREF has agreed to test you, then your claim is paranormal.

The point of Dr. Ross's challenge is two-fold:

  1. To win the $1 million.

  2. To demonstrate that some things consigned to the category of "paranormal" are actually real and can be demonstrated scientifically. If this is true of one paranormal claim or phenomenon, then it is likely true of others.

The history and details of Dr. Ross's challenge are described below:

Posted February 13, 2009

Dear James Randi,

I would like to revise the proposed protocol I sent you on October 14, 2008. These revisions will minimize if not eliminate false positives and false negatives. In addition to the change in protocol, the left side of the goggles will be open so that you can observe the musculature around my left eye, and the electrode is a very sharp micro-electrode, which clearly would cut my skin or eyeball if physical contact was made.

As stated on October 14, I have obtained and checked out a higher impedance electrode which can detect an EEG signal inside the insulated goggles but far enough away from my eye that neither my eyelashes nor eyelid make contact with it. This electrode picks up a physiologically active signal as demonstrated by simultaneous alpha blocking detected by the eyebeam electrode (Channel 1) and an electrode at Fp2 (a standard position just above the right eyebrow) (Channel 2). The amplitude of alpha waves (8-12 Hz) in microvolts is higher with eyes closed than with eyes open in both channels simultaneously. Hence, alpha is blocked with eyes open, a well-recognized phenomenon in the EEG/neurofeedback literature. This proves that both the eyebeam signal and the signal coming through the skull at Fp2 are physiologically active and vary in the same direction with brain state.

The protocol I propose now involves no opening or closing of the eyes during runs, and all runs being done with eyes open.

There will be a ground electrode clip on my left earlobe and a reference electrode clip on my right earlobe. The active electrode will be inside the right side of the goggles.

Because the background EM levels vary from location to location, I will do a number of assessment runs in the test location to determine the amplitude levels of the signal in microvolts. Once this is completed, I will do several test runs and then will do the test.

I will demonstrate during the preliminary runs that the amplitude of delta (1-3 Hz) is in a certain amplitude range in microvolts. This will be done with the software set in Assessment mode. I will then set the software in Training mode with the duration of the runs set at 3 seconds. I will set the reward threshold at a level to be determined during the preliminary runs - likely about 40 or 50 microvolts. All Training mode runs will be done with eyes open.

I will then run a Training protocol, with the reward threshold set at the value to be determined during the initial phase of the Assessment runs (likely 40 or 50 microvolts). No tone will sound from the speaker. I will then review the session data to demonstrate that the amplitude of delta was below threshold.

I will then run a Training protocol with the reward threshold set below the level for delta determined in the Assessment runs likely at about 10 microvolts. A tone will sound from the speaker. I will then review the session data to demonstrate that the amplitude of delta was above threshold.

The representative of JREF can then ask me to do additional runs with the JREF representative deciding in advance whether the tone should sound or there should be silence. I suggest 8 trials with tone sounding or not sounding selected by the JREF representative. For each run, I will adjust the reward threshold in advance.

There should be 100% success but there could be failures due to fluctuations in delta amplitude - any time a tone fails to sound when it should, reviewing the session data will demonstrate that delta was below threshold. Any time the tone sounds when it should not, the session data will demonstrate that delta was above threshold.

If so desired by JREF, runs with false positives or false negatives can be repeated until 8 successful runs are accumulated.

JREF representatives will be able to look at the goggles in advance and will be able to watch the computer screen as I set the settings for the runs, do the runs and check the session data.

I can dress in gym shorts and a sleeveless top if you would like and be barefoot. I will have one observer and one videographer present.

Please let me know if you would like any modifications to this revised protocol.

Thank you.

Colin Ross

Posted December 20, 2008

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) (www.randi.org) offers a payment of $1 million to anyone who can successfully prove a claim of the paranormal. On June 6, 2008, Dr. Ross submitted a paranormal challenge to the JREF that read:

I have described a general theory of human energy fields: one element of this theory is the reality of the human eyebeam. In modern science, extramission (the theory that an energy beam comes out of the eyes) is not permitted - this is proven by quotations from Schrodinger and Toulmin and papers by Winer, attached. Belief in the eyebeam is regarded as primitive, superstitious and unscientific and no such energy beam is allowed by modern science. The human eyebeam therefore meets criteria for a paranormal phenomenon. According to my theory, the energy that comes out of the eyes has been called many different things, including chi energy in Chinese medicine, the human aura in western writings, and spirit power in some of my writings. I believe that the human eyebeam and these other forms of energy are all the same thing.

I claim that I can send a beam of energy out of my eyes, capture it in a special set of goggles I have built, and then use the energy to make a tone play out of a speaker. I can do this using the equipment I will bring to the challenge and I can do so at any time, in any office or hotel room that is convenient. I can make the tone sound at will and can signal that I will do so with a finger signal or in response to a verbal command from another person, such as "now" or "go." The tone will play briefly when I decide to make it do so using my eyes and will not play at any other time.

After some e-mail correspondence back and forth between the JREF and Dr. Ross, the challenge was accepted by James Randi in an e-mail on August 1, 2008. The challenge then moved into the next phase, which is agreeing on a specific protocol. Dr. Ross submitted an initial protocol on August 5 then on August 9 sent James Randi an e-mail stating that he needed to modify his equipment and protocol in order to eliminate artifact.

On October 14, Dr. Ross submitted a revised protocol. He has not yet heard back from the JREF as to whether this protocol is acceptable or needs to be revised.

According to the JREF Paranormal Challenge Rules, an applicant does not have to define "the paranormal" - for the purposes of the challenge, a claim of the paranormal is any claim that is accepted as such by the JREF. The challenge rules also state that once a challenge has been accepted, the challenge remains valid even if a scientific explanation for the claim is forthcoming after the challenge has been accepted. Dr. Ross' challenge was accepted on August 1, 2008.

Making a tone sound out of a speaker using an energy beam you send out of your eyes is a claim of the paranormal by JREF rules. The reason this is so, is because the emission of any kind of energy beam from the eyes - extramission - is disallowed by modern science, and regarded as scientifically impossible. Since no energy beam comes out of your eyes, it is therefore impossible to use such an energy beam to make a tone sound out of a speaker, according to western science. If a claimant can in fact do that, then the demonstration is "paranormal" and lies outside science.

It is the phenomenon that is paranormal. The mechanism or type of energy involved is irrelevant to the human eyebeam being classified as paranormal by western science. Thus, the JREF is speaking on behalf of western science when it regards Dr. Ross' challenge as a claim of the paranormal.

Condensing 40 years of thinking down into a brief explanation, the steps in logic that lead to Dr. Ross' challenge are:

  1. Brain waves come out through your skull and can be detected with electrodes placed on the scalp.

  2. Brain waves must also come out through the eye, then.

  3. Since the brain waves coming out through the eye do not have to pass through the skull, they should be stronger (have greater amplitude in microvolts) than the brain waves coming through the skull.

  4. It should therefore be possible to detect the human eyebeam by placing electrodes in front of the eye.

  5. The problem is that the brain waves coming out through the eye will be swamped out by general electromagnetic noise in the environment, so won't be detected.

  6. The solution is two-fold: a) put the electrode inside a pair of goggles that is electromagnetically insulated with tin foil, and b) use a sensitive (high-impedance) electrode that can pick up brain waves without physical contact with the body.

  7. Hook the electrode up to a standard neurofeedback system.

  8. After experimenting to find out the differences between the brain waves coming out the eye and those coming through the forehead, set the neurofeedback software so that it makes a tone go off when Dr. Ross' eyes are open but not when they are closed - this is the way standard neurofeedback works, that a reward tone sounds when a certain frequency of brain wave, say delta, goes above a certain level in amplitude. Dr. Ross discovered by experimentation that the amplitude of delta waves (1-3 Hz) is greater with eyes open than eyes closed.

Dr. Ross has proven scientifically that an energy beam does come out of your eyes, and can be captured and analyzed with electrodes. Similarly, researchers at the University of Surrey in England are able to take an electrocardiogram (EKG) with an electrode one meter away from the person.

Study of the human eyebeam is one element in a general theory of human energy fields Dr. Ross describes in detail in his forthcoming book, Human Energy Fields. Dr. Ross' revised protocol submitted to the JREF on October 14, with several typos corrected, is:

Dear James Randi,

I have obtained and checked out a higher impedance electrode which can detect an EEG signal inside the insulated goggles but far enough away from my eye that neither my eyelashes nor eyelid make contact with it. This electrode picks up a physiologically active signal as demonstrated by simultaneous alpha blocking detected by the eyebeam electrode (Channel 1) and an electrode at Fp2 (a standard position just above the right eyebrow) (Channel 2). The amplitude of alpha waves (8-12 Hz) in microvolts is higher with eyes closed than with eyes open in both channels simultaneously. Hence, alpha is blocked with eyes open, a well-recognized phenomenon in the EEG/neurofeedback literature. This proves that both the eyebeam signal and the signal coming through the skull at Fp2 are physiologically active and vary in the same direction with brain state.

The protocol I propose now involves no opening or closing of the eyes during runs.

There will be a ground electrode clip on my left earlobe and a reference electrode clip on my right earlobe. The active electrode will be inside the right side of the goggles.

Because the background EM levels vary from location to location, I will do a number of assessment runs in the test location to determine the amplitude levels of the signal in microvolts. Once this is completed, I will do several test runs and then will do the test.

I will demonstrate during the preliminary runs that the amplitude of delta (1-3 Hz) is higher with eyes open than with eyes closed. This will be done with the software set in Assessment mode. I will then set the software in Training mode with the duration of the runs set at 3 seconds. I will set the reward threshold at a level to be determined during the preliminary runs - likely about 40 microvolts.

I will then run a Training protocol with my eyes closed. With eyes closed, no tone will sound from the speaker. I will then review the session data to demonstrate that the amplitude of delta was below threshold.

I will then run a Training protocol with my eyes open. With eyes open, a tone will sound from the speaker. I will then review the session data to demonstrate that the amplitude of delta was above threshold.

The representative of JREF can then ask me to do additional runs with the JREF representative deciding in advance whether the tone should sound or there should be silence. I suggest 8 trials with tone sounding or not sounding selected by the JREF representative.

There should be 100% success but there could be failures due to fluctuations in delta amplitude - any time a tone fails to sound when it should, reviewing the session data will demonstrate that delta was below threshold. Any time the tone sounds when it should not, the session data will demonstrate that delta was above threshold.

If so desired by JREF, runs with false positives or false negatives can be repeated until 8 successful runs are accumulated.

JREF representatives will be able to look at the goggles in advance and will be able to watch the computer screen as I set the settings for the runs, do the runs and check the session data.

I can dress in gym shorts and a sleeveless top if you would like and be barefoot. I will have one observer and one videographer present.

Please let me know if you would like any modifications to this protocol.

Thanks.

Colin Ross