ESP Experiment Creating Stir

“Positively fascinating!”

The house edge on a Don’t Pass bet alone is 1.39%. However, once placing the bet you open the door to making an additional true odds bet with no house advantage in an amount anywhere from 2x to 100x your original bet. This is a bet that the next roll will be a seven, and you can actively choose it to be “on” or “off” on every individual roll. If you could, without fail, be correct that the next roll would in fact be a seven 18 times out of a hundred times you made the bet rather than only the 16.67 times predicted by random chance, you would have a substantial advantage.

Also, as to the comment that Blackjack is the only casino game that can have a player advantage due to counting, that’s not entirely true. There is a form of Craps played with cards in California that uses an auto-shuffler does not immediately shuffle already played cards back in. As a result the odds are slightly different from the dice game, and the cards can be counted to the extent that the game provides an actual player advantage if played correctly.

Looking at the actual Bem article, it makes basic statistical errors of 1) assuming that rejecting the null means you can accept the alternative, and 2) pretending that the alternative hypothesis that is being “proved” by rejecting the null is the author’s pet theory, and not the actual alternative hypothesis of “it was anything-but-the-null.”

Mind you, there are thousands of published scientific papers that make these same basic errors. This is just an extreme case that points out the absurdity of it.

The null hypothesis is that the results are due to pure random chance. The alternative is that the results are due to something other than random chance. The experimental results reject the null – i.e. indicate the outcomes were statistically unlikely to be determined by random chance.

So far so good.

But then the author natters on about “psi” and “precognition” and “premonition” without any empirical or theoretical warrant for doing so. There is no support in the experiments for talking about “premonition” and no test the author made involves that concept … remember, the only thing actually being tested is whether the results are identical with those expected from pure chance. Based on the results you can say the evidence doesn’t support chance, but that does not allow you to conclude than undefined, untested concept like “premonition” is responsible instead.

There are plenty of other hypotheses that “explain” the not-random-chance result just as well. One is that the test subjects who did better-than-chance were been touched by the noodly appendages of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and were divinely inspired to find the porn. This may sound silly, but that explanation has just as much support in the experiment as information traveling backward in time (i.e. none at all.)

Another explanation is that the experiment rejected random chance because somewhere under the hood the experiment wasn’t really random to begin with, due to a typo in the source code or a mistake in a calculation or a flaw in the design. This is, of course, the most likely explanation by far. But apart from talking about his random number generator, the author doesn’t try to deconstruct his own procedure.

On the plus side, he does provide materials for replication, so that future generations of undergrads can get their grins by proving him wrong.

It is!

That was maybe the most depressing article I’ve ever read. Not only is there no God, but science is mostly bullshit too. Sigh.

Don’t feel too bad. Steve Novella weighs in.

I don’t know that I buy that. For some, sure. But if I had $200 down on a craps roll and I won a single roll for another $200 (or, hell, $400 on a 2:1 point) it would be exciting, but probably not particularly immediate or visceral. $400 just isn’t -that- much money to me, and I’ll never bet significant amounts that wins -would- be.

Of course, this brings up the possibility that people who experience particularly good luckare those for whom the wins would be particularly visceral and impactful. (Not that I believe this, but in the framework of the stuff being discussed here it’s a valid interpretation).

Well said!

You’re getting into annoying wonk territory, but good point on the don’t pass odds wager, it would work as you say. You’d still be the douche at the table betting wrong, but you would indeed reap a 2.something% advantage with your ESP.


Really, seeing a naughty picture on a computer (you, right now, have access to millions of these with a single search) is more exciting to you than winning $200? Perhaps you should stop working and just surf porn all day as that’s more valuable to you.

Shall we try out the second experiment for kicks? It would be an amusing forum game!

Now the NY Times is on the case.

Stuff is going to hit the shizzit.