Global Conciousness Project...thingy

Behold:

http://noosphere.princeton.edu/bsktobsrv/basketobserver.wall.html

What does anybody make of this?

I make of it that it’s an extremely slow-loading website that tried to tie up my web browser until several seconds after I closed it. Care to summarize?

The display is a series of boxes with colored bars and numbers that change every second or so, and there is a constant thumping sound and an occasional bell ring.

There are also buttons on the bottom to change to different graph types.

I have absolutely no idea what any of it means or what the point is.

It’s a display of data interpreted in different ways from Random Number Generators over the world, the main site has some babble about correlating it to meaningful world events and stuff that I don’t quite understand.

Here’s the “detailed explanation”:
http://noosphere.princeton.edu/

Okay, I think I understand. It seems to be some weird attempt to prove the world has some sort of consciousness by doing things like taking strange correlations in data and comparing them with important world events. I don’t quite understand it, but for some reason it seems to me like saying “omg there were three sevens on election day! This must have something to do with Obama winning!” They claim it’s hard science but… I don’t know, the description seems confusing.

It also seems to be an art project.

Skeptic! http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4049
Wikipedia! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Consciousness_Project
10 pages at the Randi Forum! http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=35352

The first link is probably the most helpful. The Global Consciousness Project apparently has ties to Global Orgasm Day, which will be observed this year on December 21st, 2009.

i visited the Princeton PEAR lab (where the GCP originated. The PEAR lab was at Princeton University, tho the GCP is not), and the links above don’t seem very good to me. The Skiptic! criticism is less informational than polemical, and wikipedia in this case seems to be quoting critics (Jeffers) who don’t seem to understand the experimental protocols. (That quote at least confuses operator baseline data with calibration data.)

So I’d suggest looking for other information sources. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any that aren’t related either fairly directly to the authors or to ideological detractors. The links above seem to fall into the second category to me, so for balance, I’ll offer some others:
www.princeton.edu/~pear/ is the PEAR lab’s website, and i believe the background for the GCP is in papers on “FieldREG”.
These videos also show FieldREG protocols, which GCP is based on:
http://blip.tv/file/2017352/
http://blip.tv/file/2017356/

Now there is something I can get behind…err…support.

Incidentally, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research group closed shop in 2007. From the New York Times article:

And here’s a skeptical take-down of the operation: James Randi's Swift - April 28, 2006

Hmmm. This ‘takedown’ is factually incorrect. The entire database actually does show significant effects, which can be read in many of the PEAR lab’s summary papers written in the past decade or so. Given that, it is reasonable to look for ‘finer scale features’ (sliced and diced data) to develop plausible hypotheses for future experimental design. The finer scale post-experimental analysis does not form the basis for claiming an effect (as Mark claims), rather the formal variables in the experiment do (which is as it should be).

The objection that investigating ‘finer scale features’ as in retrospective data-mining is statistically invalid, is true in some of the PEAR writings. They do frequently discuss operator characteristics that have not always been isolated as an experimental variable. In the damning quotes that Mark cites, however, it actually seems like the PEAR lab is being transparent about what is statistically significant and what is speculation that could be useful for future experimental design.

From the posting, I can’t tell what paper Mark has taken his quotes from, but I recognize the context in which they would be made, and they seem taken out of context. Having studied PEAR’s work, I don’t think Mark has done a very good review here.

also from the NYT article: