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I watched a documentary showing that humans could alter the results of an experiment by thinking about it, and the data these people collected supported their hypothesis.

And the reason these people gave was that brain waves were interfering with the experiment.

The experiment involved the tossing of a coin done by computers.

People first registered what do they want to happen more heads or more tails and surprisingly the results of the tossed matched their needs.

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Documentaries will say all sorts of crazy things. I would like to see this question include a link to the published results of that experiment. (Also I'm not even sure this is on topic, but brain waves are a physical phenomenon so I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt for now. It would improve the question to focus more on the "what are brain waves?" part and less on the oddness of this claimed experimental result.) –  David Z Dec 8 '11 at 8:23
Usually these types of statistical anomalies are obtained by having people look at the heads/tails outcome and report whether they wanted heads or tails after seeing the run. The human mind can back-propagate a belief, so that you feel you always had it, even if you arrived at it recently. So after seeing a run with 75 heads and 45 tails, there will be a statistical bias for people reporting that they wanted heads after the fact. These types of experiments, and the documentaries that report on them, are a fraud designed to sell self-help books. –  Ron Maimon Dec 8 '11 at 9:53
I saw this documentary on Discovery Science which means its not so bad either, –  Tomarinator Dec 8 '11 at 18:11
@SauravTomar: That doesn't mean anything at all. Documentaries are produced by filmmakers and journalists, not scientists. They are never scientifically accurate. –  endolith May 11 '12 at 15:30
The Discovery channel has deteriorated a lot. Initially, they actually had good science, though they made understandable mistakes. Now... now they're much worse. Though saying "brain waves" outright is rather reckless of them. –  Manishearth May 12 '12 at 3:08
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closed as off topic by Raskolnikov, David Z May 13 '12 at 19:53

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The kind of brain wave I have heard of is the result of the electrical activity inside a neurons (nervous tissue cells).

When in synergy; neurons produce 6 kinds of waves, called alpha, beta, gamma and delta, mu and theta. They are differentiated by the frequency in them. They also originate from different parts of the brain.

Highest frequency waves represent higher neural activity, while lower freq. waves represent slower or passive activity. Delta waves have lowest freq. and are considered to originate when we are in REM sleep.

Brain waves are recorded using EEG.

But this thing about altering experiment, I have never read. Anyways, it seems to me like a non-proved mystical experiment. There are many similar kind of documentaries being shown in Discovery and Nat Geo.

But I won't give much credibility to these claims, since if it would have been proved then there would have not been unnoticed by the main stream psychologist and physicist.

EDIT1: There's one hypothesis by Penrose, he calls the quantum mind. He argues that human brain has a quantum mechanical component, which makes the computation in the brain both quantum computation and hypercompution (capable of doing infinitely many steps in a finite time). This idea comes from his conviction that we must be more than computers, and the fact that all natural phenomena (with the exception of quantum gravity, since it is not completely understood) are described by Turing computation.

He has explained some of these ideas in his book "The Emperor's New Mind". Penrose does not lend support to the bogus nonsense in this question, and never has.

In a related vein, he also said, regarding other things, that the mind is non-local, and one can influence an external entity by becoming conscious of it. There is nothing particularly strange about either statement, so long as one does not take it to mean nonsense like this experiment.

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Penrose does not support stuff like this, but something else that makes more sense. –  Ron Maimon May 12 '12 at 0:34
Without entering into the content of the discussion I would like to point out dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2125376/… that technology advances show that brain waves are accessible for intelligent use in hardware. –  anna v May 12 '12 at 4:06
@RonMaimon: you are free to update the answer... –  Vineet Menon May 12 '12 at 12:36
@VineetMenon: Ok? –  Ron Maimon May 12 '12 at 16:59
@Ron: I studied computer science (under Minsky), including automata theory, but I was not able to follow Penrose's argument of 1) how a brain could out-do a deterministic automaton, or 2) how the brain could do so by means of quantum computation. –  Mike Dunlavey May 13 '12 at 1:56
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I am adding this as an answer because the audience here tends to be either very theoretically biased or quite naive .

Technology is progressing in the use of brain waves . Though the question verges on metaphysics, real solid physics, electronics and computing is being used to utilize brain waves.

In front of us is a computer screen, displaying an image of a floating cube.

As I think about pushing it, the cube responds by drifting into the distance.


Already the team has used the system to help a patient with locked-in syndrome, whose healthy, active mind became trapped in a motionless body following a stroke.

We linked the headset to the IBM middleware, and when he pushed the cube on the screen, that behaved like a click of the mouse”

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What you are saying here is designed for that, I mean this is a state of the art, human computer interaction, and not hypothetically wrong. I mean the interfacing between computers and humans(read brain) can be made using brain waves. The OP is specific about brain wave altering an event which it is not supposed to... –  Vineet Menon May 13 '12 at 6:52
@VineetMenon Yes, but it is worth stressing that brain waves can control hardware, imo, as a lot of people put in the bag together metaphysical speculations and use of brainwaves. –  anna v May 13 '12 at 7:36
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"Brain waves" are such a gross measurement of overall brain activity that the "waves" thinking about heads vs tails would be totally indistinguishable.

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