Nathan Bar-Fields Challenge

Recently I received the following from Nathan Bar-Fields. To bring some readers up to date, for over 20 years several friends and I have funded a prize, now at $12,000, to anybody who can provide a demonstration of the paranormal. We conduct this activity under the title The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge. First read the e-mail from Nathan, then I will continue:

Date: Wed, 05 Feb 2014 05:10:25 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <e-mail address redacted>
Subject: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: skeptic75287@yahoo.com

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Nathan.  Im a college student who is interested in psi, although Im not 100% convinced it exists.  Ive done quite a bit of self-testing. My experiments involve predicting binary numbers and events, which are generated using various methods (ex. random number generators, dice, etc.). My results are significantly above chance in each trial: 66%-85%, where wed expect them to be 50% on average. I have received and followed advice from various scientifically and skeptically minded people, but I still get the same unusual results, provided the testing adheres to the following protocols:

1) Generously timed conditions (ex. 4 hours for 100 guesses, although I normally only need half that time.)

2) Split-second and direct visual feedback after each guess. That is to say after I guess, I need to see the result almost immediately if not immediately, and I need to see it for myself, not be told about it via a third party.

They suggested that I contact someone who can look at my process in person to see where the flaw in my methodology may be, if there is one. I originally contacted Chip Denman of the JREF, but its been over a month, and he still hasnt been able to find anyone in my local area ( I live somewhere between Harrison County and Galveston County) who can help figure out if there are any methodological flaws in my experiment.  So Ive decided to contact you to take your challenge listed here: http://ntskeptics.org/resources/the-north-texas-skeptics-paranormal-challenge/, since you are closest to me.  If there is some flaw in my method, Im sure youll find itor possibly them if theres more than one thing amissand Ill fail the challenge (but Ill also know what I was doing wrong). But on the off chance you dont find anything awry and I pass, then Ill at least have money for travel to do better testing wherever I have to go to find out whats going on wth me here.

I read all of your statements and requirements.  My responses to them are below.

Claimant must describe the paranormal or psychic ability or power clearly and precisely. Claims must be specific enough to be scientifically testable. Claims must be clearly psychic or paranormal.

Binary presentiment, binary ESP, or binary intuition are the best descriptions for what Im claiming to do.  Pick whichever suits your fancy.  To put it simply, I can sit in front of a computer that is set up to show me either a 1 or a 0 after I guess, and I can predict what the digit will be no less than 66% of the time, where chance would suggest a 50% success rate, provided the feedback is very quick (a second or less), and I see the feedback for myself, rather than through a third party like someone telling me, Sorry, dude, it was a 1.  The digits are randomly or pseudorandomly generated, depending on the RNG in question.  I normally do 100 guesses per testing session, so were talking about 66 out of 100 right (and 80% of the time guess #1 of guesses #1-#100 is right).  If my guess matches the digit (ex. I call out 1 or press the button for 1, and after I do that the number that shows up on the screen is also 1), that is considered a hit.  If it does not (ex. I call out 1 or press the button for 1, and after I do that the number that shows up on the screen is a 0), that is a miss.  The cumulative probablity of getting 66 out of 100 right by chance under these circumstances is around 1-in-1,000.

Ill leave it up to you to decide if this is psychic or paranormal.  Im still on the fence, personally.

Claimant must specifically describe any proposed test procedures which will be used to demonstrate the paranormal or psychic power. Claimant and challengers must agree to the test procedures to be used before any tests are performed.

Proposed Procedure

1) There is a random number generator.  Without question the most undisputable one would be a cesium-based RNG like I used when I was a student at Cal Berkeley.  However, those arent exactly the kind of RNGs one can just carry around.  Ive been mostly, though not exclusively, using RANDOM.ORG which claims, RANDOM.ORG offers true random numbers to anyone on the Internet. The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs, as of late.  However, if RANDOM.ORG is not sufficient for you, Im quite flexible.  If you want to use a cesium-based RNG, were going to have to find a university that stores one.  I believe Univeristy of Houston does.  If youre thinking about another kind of mechanical RNG, thats fine, but please keep in mind it needs to be able to show me a result no more than a second after I submit a guess.

2) The RNG will be hooked to a computer, and will randomly submit either a 0 or a 1 to the screen immediately after I submit a guess of 1 or 0 via a corresponding button or key on the computer.

3) Whatever number the RNG generates will be shown on my screen for immediate (or as close to as immediate as we can possibly get) feedback for me.  Again, were talking a second or a split-second.  No longer than that.

4) The guess will be marked as a hit or miss, depending if my guess and the number generated match or dont match, respectively.

5) Steps 2-4 will be done a total of 100 times to make a test made up of 100 guesses.

5) I have a maximum of four hours to take this test, but it is perfectly fine for me to finish sooner than that.

6) I have the option to do a 15-minute pre-test to get a feel for the RNG if it isnt RANDOM.ORGs, which Im more familiar with.  If it is Random.orgs RNG service, then there will be no need for the pre-test.

7) I must get at least 66 out of 100 right to pass.

8) The presence of an audience is fine, but they must be out of my field.  If there is an audience it would be similar to the testing conditions when taking the Graduate Records Examcameras in the testing room are fine, and people on the other side of a window are fine, but someone sitting right next to me or me doing this on a stage in front of an auditorium of people (as an example) is no bueno. Oh, Im not sure what you may or may not be considering, but Im okay with being searched for any devices on my person, if you think I may have a technology to somehow influence the RNG or the computer electronically. However, Im not paying for a body scan or anything like that if thats where your mind is going.  Ill undergo one, but the bill is yours.

Claimant must describe exactly what test results will constitute success or failure. If success and failure will be described in terms of statistical results, such results must be significantly beyond chance expectation.

A success/hit rate of 66 out of 100 or higher has an expected 1-in-1000 chance.  Id say thats significantly above chance.  If I do this twiceonce as a demonstration, and again for the actual challengewe have something that isnt just improbable, but ridiculous (though, again, Im still not sure its psychic, but at least Ill have money to research if it is).

Claimant and challengers will each be responsible for their respective expenses, such as equipment, travel, accommodations, consultant fees, or other expenses.

Thats fine, but two things. One, it would help to know where this will happen.  Your contact address is in Corrallton, but I went through the earlier emails with earlier challengers and it sounds like at least one of you are in San Antonio and were going to test there.  Where exactly would this all take place?  Of course, it probably would be best to do this at a university if theyre willing to allow us to use their nuclear based RNG.  And alternatively, they may be able to let us use it, but connect it remotely to a computer so we didnt actually have to be on their campus.  In any event, let me know what your thoughts are.

Secondly, to minimize traveling (unless youre coming to me), Id like to do the actual challenge the same day or the next day after the demonstration, assuming I pass it to begin with.

In the event the claimant is successful under the terms and conditions of the protocol, challengers will immediately deliver the challenge prize to claimant or claimant’s designee, in full settlement of all claims.

Works for me.  I have my bank account number memorized.

Claimant and challengers waive all claims, damages, and causes of action against each other arising out of the challenge, for any injuries or damages of every kind, whether to person, property, or reputation.

I cant think of any reason to sue you, or you to sue me.  And the test were doing isnt in any way dangerous as long as the nuclear RNGif we were to use that instead of another kind of RNGwas properly shielded and far enough away from where Im testing.  So agreed, no lawsuits.

All agreements, protocols, correspondence, data, audio or video recordings, photographs or results made or obtained by either party during the challenge or negotiations leading up to the challenge may be used by either party in any way he or she may choose, including publication, and challengers and claimant both waive all exclusive rights to such information.

Agreements, protocols, and written correspondence are fine and good.  However, I want to be able see the final product of any audio or video recordings of me before I agree to them being used. Those type of media can be edited in very misleading ways.  Sorry, but Im a skeptic too.   Im not sure what you mean by data, but my birthdate, social security number, mailing address, and other PII items other than my name certainly cannot be shared with others.  I hope thats not what you meant by data, but if so, Im just making it clear that I will not and do not agree to that.

This offer is made by the challengers personally and not on behalf of The North Texas Skeptics or any other agency or organization, although others may be involved in the examination of claims.

Okay.

After challengers have received claimant’s offer to demonstrate a claimed psychic or paranormal ability or power, challengers will promptly enter into negotiations with claimant and attempt to arrive at a written protocol satisfactory to both parties. Neither claimant nor challengers shall have any right of action or damages against the other for failure to enter into the protocol or for failure to conduct any test or demonstration.

Promptly definitely works for me.  As I mentioned earlier, Id prefer to do the demonstration and the actual test either the same day or on consecutive days, if Im the one expected to travel rather than you guys.  I just cant afford to be traveling back and forth for hours over a period of weeks to do this.

Correspondence sent to NTS regarding the NTS Challenge becomes the property of NTS and will be posted publicly on this web site and elsewhere.

Thats also fine.  I request that you do not publish my email address or my last name, in order to minimize potentially bizarre communications I may get from others. But if you decide to do so anyway, I reluctantly accept that.  I take it this email will not be edited or altered in any way if it shows up on your website.

I found this note from Nathan Bar-Fields to be refreshing in the highest degree. Nathan is articulate, and he is also detailed, to a certain extent. Compare this to some of the other inquiries we have received. Here is an example of what we often get:

Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2007 12:29:41 -0700 (PDT)
From: Francis Jones <e-mail address redacted>
Subject: Re: Challenge
To: skeptic75287@yahoo.com

My claim is this: 1) There is an inherent sixth sense that usually lays dormant in human beings. 2) There co-exist an inseparable, invisible, intelligent reality that has an effect on the material world. 3) From that invisible realm exists a supreme being, namely the God who created the world,the God of the judeo-christian religion. 4) Concluding there is life after death.

It is obvious Nathans approach is more palatable. However, what he has proposed is, as with all the others, absurd. Let me summarize:

He is proposing to predict the outcome of a sequence from an RNG (random number generator) or at least a PRNG (pseudo random number generator). More explanation: There is not much of what we do that is purely random. In a lot of things preconditions determine the outcome in principle if not in practicality. For example, in the case of a football game between the Seahawks and the Broncos we can predict the Seahawks will win every time. There are some things that are purely random. These are events that dont depend on initial conditions. Quantum mechanical events are a good example. A radioactive atomic nucleus will emit an alpha particle with a probability of 50% within the next specified time interval. There is no way of predicting whether the alpha particle will or will not be emitted.

What we do when we want the appearance of randomness is to employ a PRNG. The output of a PRNG is a sequence of numbers that is preset by the coding and the PRNGs initial state, but cannot be readily discerned by even a very careful observer. Computer programmers use a function in the C programming language called rand (). The parentheses are part of the name of the function. The way it works is to first have your program execute a companion function srand (seed), where seed is some number you pick. This sets the initial state of the PRNG. Now, every time your program needs a new random number it invokes rand () to produce the next number in an apparently random sequence.

Suppose that I write the code to compute sequences of 0 and 1. I would do this:

rand () % 2

That will produce 0 for even output of the PRNG and 1 for odd output. I now get a sequences of apparently randome 0 and 1.

If a casual observer were to just watch the output of this program as it produces a 0 or a 1, and if this person were to attempt to predict the next number in the output, then we would expect him to be right about half the time. What Nathan is claiming is that he will be right at least 66% of the time. Nathan gives the odds of scoring 66 out of 100 at 1/1000. I do not know an easy way to do this calculation, but I computed some preliminary numbers, and 1/1000 seems to be a fair estimate.

Heres whats critical. The underwriters of the Challenge will pay off for demonstration of a paranormal ability. Obtaining a score of 66 out of 100 is not a paranormal ability. If we bring in 1000 contestants and let each play the game once, there is a good possibility that somebody will win by luck alone. No paranormal ability is required.

Significantly, what Nathan is claiming is that he has tested himself and has obtained 66 to 85 percent success. A problem with his statement of success is the lack of any detail. He does not describe completely how the test was set up or how it was conducted. If this were a scientific study being prepared for publication, then all results from all tests would be included, and there would be a lot more detail about how the whole business was carried out.

Let me continue with my dialog with Nathan Bar-Fields. I responded:

Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2014 09:08:37 -0800 (PST)Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2014 09:08:37 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,
To test your ability to predict random digits (1 and 0) we would do the following:
1. Write a computer program that generates pseudo random 1 and 0 sequences.
2. The computer program would use a well-known algorithm to simulate random numbers. Sequences are not truly random, but an individual would not have the ability to discern the sequence and predict the next output.
3. Run the program on a computer.
4. The subject would press a key on the keyboard, 1 or 0.
5. The program would immediately display the next random 1 or 0 in the sequence and would record the score, hit or miss.
6. The program would be ready immediately to accept the next input from the subject.
I will write the program, and if you like I will send you a copy. You could run the program on a PC (not a Mac) in a DOS window. You could practice with the program and verify your ability to predict the random sequence. This way you could determine whether you actually have the ability. This would be beneficial to do before you proceed further with this endeavor.
All correspondence related to the North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
Best regards,
John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Sun, 09 Feb 2014 17:35:24 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <Nth@groupmail.com>
Message-ID: <20140209223524.271320@gmx.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Hi John,
This sounds reasonable to me, and in contrast to our phone conversation, it sounds like now you have a better grasp of what I wrote.  Im BCCing some of the critical-thinkers I know to see if this makes sense to them as well.  It doesnt hurt to have a few extra eyes scanning for potential errors.While it seems generally fine, a few things pop out at me:

1) I want to make sure that we agree that I have a generous amount of time.  In the original email, I said at least 4 hours for 100 guesses.  Does that work for you?
2) I think it would be better to use an RNG or PRNG that neither of us has access to or any involvement in its creation.  This is why I suggested getting a local university involved. The University of San Antonio expressed interest, when I sent them an email.
3) Im personally okay with using a PRNG instead of an RNG, but if its psuedorandom, Im not sure if it is really presentiment that is being tested for, if I do unusually well on it.  It could be high-range pattern-recognition that explains the result.  Full disclosure:  As a kid, I was a mental calculator limited to intuiting the nth-terms of sequences and series. I was so good at it, I got the nickname Nth while in the navy as a nuclear tech.  Ive wondered (and still wonder) if its really some calculating part of my mind thats able to approximate the pseudorandom pattern of a PRNG now that I am an adult.   But if youre fine with pseudorandom, Im fine with it too.
4) When would be the earliest youd be ready to do the actual test or preliminary test, rather?  I need  to make preparations for a hotel.
5) Also, Im not sure what your response is to my request that the pre-challenge happens either on the same day as the challenge or the day after.
I trust this reply isnt too long  for you, like you said about my first email.  In the meantime, yes, please send me the program so that I can test myself with it.

Best,

Nathan

Nathan followed up:

Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2014 06:54:38 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

John,

On second thought, I dont want to delay this endeavor any more than I feel its going to be delayed.  Your PRNG program as a self-assessment test works for me.  I suppose one cant do too many of them.  We can address the other things I brought up in the first email and in my first reply email after that.  When can I expect the program to be delivered to me? I happen to know its a program that can be created in less than an hour, so I hope I wont have to wait days for it.  As soon as I get it, Ill do a few sessions, perhaps even record one or two via Skype, and send them back to you in an email.

Regards,

Nathan (Nth).

I responded:

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 13:24:38 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <Nth@groupmail.com>

Nathan,
I have [a] PNRG routine that I have used previously, and I will incorporate that into the demo. I have some errands to run today, but I will possibly be able to send you a copy of the EXE file tomorrow. There may be some difficulty sending the file, because really good mail services typically delete EXE files. No telling what is in the EXE file that can constitute a security risk.
All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
Best regards,
John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:45:11 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hello John,

I have to admit this is taking far longer than I expected. Its been 7 days since I first contacted you, and Im still waiting just to do this demo, in order to do the pre-Challenge, in order to do the Challenge.  But sure, if you think its going to take you a day (or more) to email me this demo,  then well get over that obstacle too.  How about changing the .exe to something else like ._xe, and I can reformat it on my end? Thats usually the workaround for delivering .exes.  I suppose with our luck, its not improbable that well run into another delay.  If that happens, then how about I just pay for the shipping and handling to have you express mail the PRNG to me as a CD?  Youll obviously want my address, which I can provide to you over the phone.    In any event, yes the promptly element of getting all this underway is still as important to me as it is to you according to the content of your Challenge.

For the record, there are plenty of PRNGs (some claiming to be true RNGs) available through various websites that I could use to do this demo for you. Id just record a session and send it to you.    Here are but a few.

Random.org

http://www.randomizer.org/form.htm

http://andrew.hedges.name/experiments/random/

http://graphpad.com/quickcalcs/randomN1.cfm

http://www.randomnumbergenerator.com/

http://www.psychicscience.org/random.aspx

and many, many more to pick from if any strikes your fancy.

Regards,

Nathan

Nathan further suggested the executable code could be sent in a zip file. I responded:

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 19:08:37 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,
Its not going to take me long to send the EXE file. Whats going to take some time is for me to write and test the code.
My best bet is to put the file on a Web site and send you a link. Your browser will ask if you really want to load the file, and it will save it to your computer if you approve.
John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 07:38:45 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hello John,

Thank you for responding.  I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who is willing to do a job thoroughly.  I take pride in being thorough about things I really care about as well.  Parapsychology is one of those things for me, especially how Ive gone about my testing myself in the area of binary presentiment.  HoweverIm just going to be brutally honest here, and I accept I could be far off the markit doesnt feel like youre being thorough, it feels like youre being dilatory.  This is why I say that:

    • First there was no reply to my email, so I had to call you.
    • You couldnt talk over the phone because you were at a store, but you said that youd respond via email.
    • When I didnt get the email, I had to call you again. We then discovered you forgot to respond to the email.
    • However, the email I sent was supposedly too long to read even though it was just a point by point reply to all the articles your Challenge outlines. We had to discuss this over the phone nonetheless because of that. Id have preferred having a written correspondence rather than a phone conversation for obvious reasons, but sure, no problem.
    • Then there was suddenly a need for a demo before doing the Pre-Challenge, even though the website only mentions a pre-Challenge and a Challenge required.  I agreed to that demo, nonetheless.
    • However, I later got an email saying you anticipated that the demo would have trouble being sent via email.  No problem, I mentioned commonly known workarounds for that issue in order to get the show on the road.
    • Now that there is no justifiable delay for the demos delivery, creating the demo itself will take some time even though its just a PRNG (that you already have created according to your earlier email) with a stat counter and a save functionwhich Im thinking we both know takes no time at all to whip up.

But Im still willing to do this Challenge of yours to figure out whats really going on here when I do this kind of test, assuming you are someone who can figure such a thing out.  Its that important to me. The growing amount of intricacies on your end are what they are.  I will be ready on my end whenever you are finally ready.  However, if you would be courteous enough to let me know how long it will take from the time I first signed up for the Challenge on February 5th to actually being in San Antonio to do this Challenge, I would greatly appreciate it.  I am scheduled to travel all of March and some of April, so I need to know if Ill have to cancel or rearrange my plans.  The sooner I know, the more money I can save.

I would also like to know where in San Antonio would the Pre-Challenge and Challenge happen if I were to do satisfactory on the demo.  I should start making hotel reservations this week before my remaining hotel.com points expire.

Sincerely,

Nathan

Nathan has claimed he can obtain 66 or better out of 100 in predicting the output of a PRNG. Since he has not provided any additional detail, I presume he means he can get this kind of result every time. Thats what would amount to a paranormal ability. In in this light I responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 10:40:17 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

Again, thank you for your interest in the NTS Paranormal Challenge. Also I appreciate your thorough critique of my process.

In case this information is of any use to you: Monitoring and responding to the Challenge mail is not a full time job for me. I also write a blog and have family responsibilities. When things get hectic I may not read my mail for several days.

I have concocted a computer program that produces pseudo random sequences of 1 and 0. I produced this under Cygwin on my PC. Apparently this program requires a Cygwin environment to run. Cygwin is free. if you already have it, then you will be run the program immediately. Else you will need to obtain Cygwin from the Internet and install it on your computer. I will send you the program shortly either way.

If you want to skip any at-home self test, then we can schedule a demonstration for the next few days. We can do it at my house in San Antonio. I live at [home address].

The pre-test demonstration is meant to save you and everybody concerned the time and expense of setting up a test that will not be successful.

You have claimed you can always score 66 (or better) out of 100. We will verify this by conducting multiple runs of 100 trials each. If you fail to score 66 or better on any of them it will be determined you are unable to perform as you claim. The number of runs will be agreed in advance.

All correspondence relating to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

Best regards,

John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

I followed up and sent Nathan the executable file:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 10:46:48 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

I am attaching the computer program.

John Blanton

Nathan responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 19:32:16 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hi John,

Youre very welcome for my interest, and I thank you for present/pAll correspondence related to the North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the In/div/divternet. ing the opportunity to get me one step closer to figuring out what I can do is really supernatural, preternatural, natural, or even just plain ol/p Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge/pe delusional.  And you can show your appreciation for my tho lt;skeptic75/emblockquote287@yahoo.comrough critique of your process by offering a thorough critique of mine with regard to this possible binary presentiment ability. Thats something I know youre going to do anyway, so you have my thanks both in return and in advance.

I can empathize with having to juggle many hats.  That seems to be something all of my adult friends have to do.  I include myself in that setwith work, school, family obligations, volunteer work obligations, and this endeavor. Its amazing that any of us ever get any of the things we have to get done accomplished. So yes, you definitely have my sympathy.  But even more than that, you have my gratitude for responding to my last email rather promptly despite all the other things you must handle in life.

You wrote:
You have claimed you can always score 66 (or better) out of 100. We will verify this by conducting multiple runs of 100 trials each. If you fail to score 66 or better on any of them it will be determined you are unable to perform as you claim. The number of runs will be agreed in advance.

Im pretty sure  to see if I have binary presentiment, not if I can score at least 66% on every trial.  IN other words, Im sure you would agree that I could not score 66% on every presentiment test from here to eternity, but presentiment could still be demonstrated.   It would be like a batter with a  .380 career batting average losing his or her claim as an unusully gifted batter because that one time he was 0.200. That doesnt compute.  If Im doing a total of 400 guesses for you and I get 300 right (for example), then I would have averaged 75% accuracy, and the chances of that happening by way of simple chance is greater than 1-in-86 septillion.    But if I got 70%, 70%, 65%, and 91% on the individual 100 trials I would have failed the Challenge despite presenting even statistically stronger proof than in any other cumulative trial set of 400  Ive ever done, *and* despite in each trial of 100 I still managed to achieve something smaller than 00.02% that was a chance occurence in even my worst trial all because I was one percent shy on one of the sub-tests? Not only would I have lost the Challenge, the results wouldnt disprove to anyone with basic to advanced reasoning skills that this is binary presentiment, which is the aim of this Challenge, correct? To disprove paranormal claims.

No, what has just been proposed is not looking to see if I really have binary presentiment or not, it is to test if I get 66% or better every time I test, and that is not the same.   If there is a sound and scientific reason why an average of 66% right on four trials of 100 wouldnt be confirmation that this is binary presentiment, then Id love to hear it.   If there is no reason, then I think you mean if I fail to average 66% then I fail the Challenge, to which I agree.

As for me driving out to do this pre-Challenge and Challenge, I would like to be there next Wednesday, February 19th-20th.  Will that work for you? If so, I will make the reservations as soon as I hear from you.

Best,
Nathan

Once again Nathan has failed to provide complete details of his claimed paranormal ability. My response is to continue to assume his claim is for 66 out of 100 every time. If he wants to cllaim something else he will need to state what that is. He needs to be specific. In this light I responded:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2014 20:32:46 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

Thanks again. Here is some explanation for you.

What you have claimed is that you can score 66% every time. That is what we are going to test. If you want to change your claim and assert that you can score 66% some of the time, then I will devise a different test.

Take special note: This is not a test of mathematical probabilities. If we wanted to test probabilities, then we would just hold a lottery. It would be free for anybody to enter, and the first person to beat the odds would walk away with the prize. What we test is what people claim to be able to do, and we devise tests to eliminate virtually all chances of success by luck alone.

Here is a good time for you to reconsider if you wish. If you want to reformulate your claim, then its best to do that before we schedule any demonstration. In any event I will make myself available either Wednesday or Thursday of next week (19 or 20 February).

Let me know if you received the program and tested yourself with it. Remember, you need to install Cygwin, and you need to run the program in a Cygwin window.

The program has a fixed PRNG seed, so each time you run it you will get the same sequence. What this means for you is that if you are testing yourself there is no point in running more than one test. When I test you for the demonstration I will provide a different seed for each run of 100.

If you agree, then the demonstration will proceed this way:

1. I will run the test on my computer.
2. I will provide a different seed for each run.
3. You will sit at the keyboard and enter a 1 or a 0 each time the computer prompts for one.
4. You will be allowed 10 minutes for each run.
5. There will be 10 runs of 100 trials each.
6. If you fail to obtain 66 out of 100 for any run, the demonstration will stop immediately.
7. If you score 66 or better for all 10 runs you will be invited for a formal test for the Challenge and will be awarded the prize ($12,000) if you are successful.

If you think all of this is too much trouble, then you need to remember that you claim you can do this every time. If you can actually do this every time, then you will wind up making two trips to San Antonio, for which you will be paid $12,000. Thats better wages than most people can get anywhere.

Finally, if you are having difficulty with the program I sent, then I can arrange for you to test yourself without making a trip to San Antonio. I will run the program on my computer here. When prompted, you will send me your entry by e-mail. I will monitor my e-mail and provide prompt responses. Let me know it that will work for you.

All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

Best regards,

John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 02:38:47 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hi John,

Sorry for the typos in my last email to you. Thats very unbecoming of someon like me who is an aspiring science fiction novelist. My brain is not groggy now, so the wording in this email should be copacetic. Okay, so here we go

You wrote:
> What you have claimed is that you can score 66% every time.

My mistake.  I thought my claim being presented was purely binary presentiment, but I definitely see how I worded this in a misleading way.  We can overcome this, though

> This is not a test of mathematical probabilities.
> If we wanted to test probabilities, then we would just hold a lottery.

No, Im pretty sure I described that the feedback needs to be a split-second after I guess, binary, bit by bit, and I have ample time for each guess; or the presentiment wont show up in a measurable way.  In fact, Im almost certain I’ve explained that more than once.  Im unaware of any lottery that works that way, and Ive certainly looked for any that does. The closest I can think of is roulette, but that darn immediate feedback issue happens.  Now, if you know of a lottery that would work, please give me a heads up, and Ill just test if I have binary presentiment from the comfort of my home instead of doing this.

> What we test is what people claim to be able to do,

Cool, because Im still claiming binary presentiment as what Im seemingly able to do.

> and we devise tests to eliminate virtually all chances of success by luck alone

And that works for me.  This is good.  Multiple trials are a great way to do that.

> Here is a good time for you to reconsider if you wish. If you want to reformulate
> your claim, then its best to do that before we schedule any demonstration. In
> any event I will make myself available either Wednesday or Thursday of next
> week (19 or 20 February).

Thank you for the insight and the scientific rigor. I really appreciate that.
I shared this email with a few of my skeptical friends.  One of them—the one who gives me the most frat boy grief about my claiming binary presentiment—was kind enough to play liaison here, translating what youre saying from Skeptic-ese to something Id understand better.  He wrote,

I think they just want to nail you down on a specific claim. You said 66/100, so theyre going with that. To some extent, you can set your own bar (above their bar for being impressed).

Imagine a crazy person who says that they can talk to animals. They start testing that, and then it turns into, oh, I can only talk to birds. So they try to test that, and then its oh, I can only talk to birds about music. Later its I can only hum to birds, and they appear disinterested. So they just want one concrete claim up front that they can test. Thats my sense anyway.

I think hes read you correctly, and I can see where youre coming from now.  You have my sincerest apologies for my part.  I‘ll rectify that now.

To be as specific as I possibly can be, I am interested in finally figuring out if I am demonstrating binary presentiment or not, and would like you to devise a test to do that.  The test will also be the Challenge.  Two birdies, one stone.  I do think your suggestion of multiple runs to definitively test for this possible ability is a good one, but if I were to fail to attain at least 66% on just one of the numerous runs, while doing that well or better on all the other runs in the session, that would not prove that I dont have binary presentiment in my mind; it would prove that now the worst Ive ever performed on a session is under 66%.  My average, however, would be even stronger proof that it actually is binary presentiment, yet Id still have lost the Challenge. No, that wont do.  Well have to come up with something that will work.  Thankfully, you and I are both great critical-thinkers and smart enough to get this done.

I normally reply point-by-point, but I jumped ahead and I see that it looks like the pre-Challenge you are proposing will include a total of 1000 individual guesses.  How many guesses out of 1000 or (Im hoping for times sake) 600 would I have to get correct in order to reasonably suggest binary presentiment and pass onto the Challenge?

> Let me know if you received the program and tested yourself with it.
> Remember, you need to install Cygwin, and you need to run the
> program in a Cygwin window.

Found it in my Spam box.  Itll be one of the first things I do in the morning. Thanks.

> The program has a fixed PRNG seed, so each time you run it you will get the
>  same sequence. What this means for you is that if you are testing yourself
>  there is no point in running more than one test.

Yes, I figured.  Or I could just do a session of 500 guesses, break it into 5 runs, and I would have an average for my personal records of self-testing.

> When I test you for the demonstration I will provide a different
>  seed for each run of 100.

Cool. Sounds like what Ive been doing already.

> If you agree, then the demonstration will proceed this way:

I take it you mean pre-Challenge, because the program you emailed me is supposed to be a demo.  Am I correct here?

> 1. I will run the test on my computer.

Mmmokay.  But wouldnt it be better to use a computer that neither of us had previous access to?  Im thinking we contact a university or community college that is local to you and see if theyd be interested in hosting this pre-Challenge. Regardless if we agree to a minimum for each individual run or for the total session, this sounds like a valid issue to address.
>2. I will provide a different seed for each run.

Im kind of skeptical of the program(s) being yours, and run by you.  Heres the thingyou could program the response to be the opposite of what I guess at or around 50% of the time on one of the PRNGs. This is a realistic possibility.  I absolutely believe you wouldnt do something unbecoming and tricky like that, but I try to separate what I believe from what I know, as Im sure you do.  Would you agree that this is a valid concern on my part?  Im thinking it would be better to have an independent 3rd party construct the PRNG or RNG, as well as to run it, which is why I suggested a local university in the first place. And I’m even cool with a community college.  There are a number of them in San Antonio to choose from.  Id even let you pick the one, but wed both have to agree which.  Does this make as much sense to you as it does to me or more sense?

> 3. You will sit at the keyboard and enter a 1 or a 0 each time the computer prompts for one.

Okay.  Im very good at sitting at a keyboard. I can do this part.

> 4. You will be allowed 10 minutes for each run.

No way! There is absolutely no way I can do 100 guesses in ten minutes.  It sooooo does not work that way, which I clearly wrote out in my first email. In fact, I made sure that was marked as 1) Generously timed conditions (ex. 4 hours for 100 guesses, although I normally only need half that time.).  If you cant find where I wrote that out, I can highlight it, because its definitely there in the first email.  I mean I can do 10 guesses per minute, but Ill almost certainly wind up getting average results on at least one trial, and more likely on all of them.  In other words, if I passed the Pre-Challenge under this circumstance it wouldnt be presentiment at work, it would be a divine miracle!

>5. There will be 10 runs of 100 trials each.

Given my timed average (though Id expect some additional time allotted for a Challenge and pre-Challenge), that would take me 25 hours to accomplishwithout any breaksin a day.  Yes, you’d be testing for binary presentiment, but youd also be testing for fatigue, as well as the magical ability to add one more hour to an Earth day.  I dont see what 10 runs for a Demo/pre-Challenge will accomplish that 4 or 5 runs wont. Or I suppose I could do 3 sessions a day for two consecutive days.  Thats 6 runs of 100 trials each.  Im willing to do that if the actual Challenge is on the same day or the day after (and I know what the Challenge is before I even get out there) the last pre-Challenge day.  I just cant spend a week or so in your city, even though I’m sure the town is wonderful.

>6. If you fail to obtain 66 out of 100 for any
> run, the demonstration will stop immediately.

Drop it from 66 out of 100 to 59 out of 100, then you have yourself a deal if youre sticking to each and every session rather than an average over different sessions and different PRNGs. Again, it was not my intention to test if I will always score at least 66% on every test I ever take from now on. Im just interested in seeing if I have binary presentiment.

> 7. If you score 66 or better for all 10 runs you will
>  be invited for a formal test for the Challenge and
>  will be awarded the prize ($12,000) if you are successful.

If you score 59 or better for all 6 runs you will be invited for a formal test for the Challenge and will be awarded the prize ($12,000) if you are successful. works better for me. How about you?

We also need to discuss what exactly the Challenge is. No offense at all is intended here, but this is starting to feel a wee bit stretched out.  I rather the Challenge be logical than Herculean, but I’ll do Herculean (well, up to a point) if I must.  I am not going to do Sisyphean, though.  I dont want to drive out there to do the pre-Challenge (please tell me thats what you mean by the “Demo”), only to discover the details of the Challenge entail things we cant agree on and I have to drive back empty-handed without even trying.

Regards,
Nathan (Nth)

I responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 08:37:40 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

To sum up:

Before we get serious about testing you, you need to say exactly what is it you claim to be able to do that is paranormal.

Binary presentiment is a term you have been using, but that does not have any meaning as far as the NTS Paranormal Challenge goes.

You need to state your claim in this manner: I have the ability to predict the next output from a PRNG (1 or 0) at least 66 times out of 100.

If that is what you claim, then that is what we will test. Before we set up a formal test you will be required to demonstrate that you can do that. If you fail in the demonstration, then we will conclude that your claim is false, and we will  not be interested in testing you regarding this claim.

If you successfully predict, say, 67 out of 100 trials in a session, then there are two possible explanations:

1. You really can do as you claim.
2. Your success was due to pure luck.

We need to remove all possibilities of success due to pure luck. There are tests that do not require multiple sessions to eliminate luck. Here is an example:

A person visited one of the NTS meetings several years ago, and he claimed he could walk through walls. I proposed to test this claim. We would point out a wall, and he would walk through it. If he could do it the first time we would agree he could do it the second time. He declined to be tested.

In my previous response I did mention 60 successes out of 100. I was ignoring your claim is the ability to obtain 66 out of 100. My apologies.

Yes, its going to be my program on my computer. Those are the rules. Its my money, so I get to make the rules. If you do not agree with this, then we can halt the process at this point.

The term pre-Challenge is not one we use. We require a demonstration before I will get any of the other underwriters involved and set up a test for the prize.

Finally, it appears to me that if you are only interested in determining whether you have the ability you claim, then you can perform your own demonstration. Write a computer program and run it on your computer and see if you can predict the PRNG output as you described. If you determine that you cannot do this, then you will save everybody a lot of wasted time and money (travel expenses and such).

Remember the case of Rosemary Hunter. She claimed she could write on a piece of paper the same word I wrote on another piece of paper. I advised her to carefully verify her ability before she came out to Salt Lake City for a demonstration. She claimed she had verified her ability by testing with some friends. My guess is she did not. She went to great expense to come from Cleveland, Ohio, for a ten-minute demonstration that failed.

Be very sure you verify your ability before proceeding.

All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

Nathan makes the mistake of believing he is being specific. The term consistently is not anyway specific. An experimenter who says he consistently gets a certain result can later point to consistently getting that result every other day, or worse. I responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 11:26:42 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,
Then we are done. I believe you can obtain 66 out of 100 consistently. That is not a paranormal ability. I can do that myself. Come back when you can do it invariably.
All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
Best regards,

John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:09:11 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge

Before we get serious about testing you, you need to say exactly what is it you claim to be able to do that is paranormal.

My claim is that I can consistentlynot invariablyscore at least 66/100 on binary presentiment tests under the conditions I outlined in the first email.  If you dont want to go searching for what those conditions were,  Ill summarize them here.

1) Immediate feedbackno more than a second after I hit 1 or 0
2) Direct feedbackI see the result for myself immediately after each individual guess.
3) Generously timed conditionsAt the very least 2.5 hours per session.  If I finish earlier than that, then cool beans for everyone.

Are we good now?

Best,

Nathan (Nth)
P.S. I did your PRNG demo and got 69/100 (80 minutes). I havent turned it off, and will continue doing it for another 400 guesses so that I can have a total of 5 runs of 100, without starting from the beginning.  If the PRNGs Ill be doing are like this, then Im fine.

Take special note of Nathans P.S. If he did accomplish this, then his feat was remarkable. Why would this not qualify?

  1. We would have to take Nathans word for it.
  2. Given complete control of the program it would not be difficult to reverse engineer it, determine the value of the seed, write a similar program, run that program and learn the expected results.

Nathan sent a follow-up e-mail:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:41:27 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Fine.

Id like to test if I can score 66/100  each and every time.  Either way the information would be useful.  But, I cant do 100 guesses in 10 minutes.  Ive never been able to do that, and I explained that in the very first email.

So are we back on?

Even better regards,

Nathan (Nth)

Nathan followed with this:

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2014 17:41:53 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <Nth@groupmail.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

This may be a repeat email as Im being told the first didnt go through.

You know what, John? We only live once that we can prove.  Im ready to go with the original demo you suggested and the original claim you want to test for.  I have to get at least 66% right on each run?  Okay.

However, we need to:

1. Agree that the PRNGs should be via an independent party rather than yours.
2. Come up with something better the 10 seconds per guess, as that will not work,  which I stated from day 1.
3. That the the pre-Challenge and Challenge are something I can do over no more than a three day period.
4. Discuss what the actual Challenge is.

I look forward to your response.

Cheers,

Nathan (Nth)

So far a lot of talk, but no action. Nathan, as is the case with a number of people vying for the prize, would like to control the test. That is always a mistake. I and the other underwriters insist on complete control before we put our money out. I responded:

Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2014 09:03:24 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

I am still available to see your demonstration. Note:
1. The PRNG will be mine on my computer.
2. Let me know how long you will require for each response. It had better not be a guess, because you are supposed to be knowing the correct response and not guessing. There has to be some reasonable limit on your response time. My time is limited.
3. There is no such thing as a pre-Challenge. If you qualify by your performance in the demonstration, then I will work with the other underwriters to set up a formal test. That will take whatever time it takes and will be more than three days.
4. We can discuss what an actual test will be: There will be a signed contract specifying what is to be done. The contract will include a clause that upon successful completion of the test (your claim is proved) you will be paid the prize by check immediately.
My position is, and what I expect to demonstrate is, that your claim is completely without merit. What you are proposing to demonstrate is known to be impossible. You are claiming to be able to do the impossible. You should not be looking forward to success.
The best advice I can give to you now is for you to demonstrate this to yourself. I believe, despite what you have told me, is that you have not performed this step. You need to do it.
Here is what you need to do before proceeding further:
1. Obtain a device that produces random sequences of 1 and 0.
2. Run the test yourself.
3. Score yourself just as I would when testing you. If you even once fail to correctly predict the correct output 66 times out of 100, then stop. You have disproved your own claim.
4. You really do not need a computer to do this. Flipping a coin produces a random sequences of heads and tails (1 and 0). Is there some reason you think this will not work whereas a computer-generated sequence would? If you believe a computer PRNG is required, please explain why.
What we at the NTS have found in the past is that claimants will play with their idea and try it several times. Then one time the result will come out the way they want, and they believe they have acquired the supposedly magical ability. Then they will stop testing and will come to us with the assertion that they have successfully tested themselves. Do not do this. You should attempt to refute your own hypothesis by all means possible. Before you proceed further I urge you take all possible steps within your ability to refute your own hypothesis. In your next e-mail response to me please tell me if you have or have not done this. If you have performed this procedure, then tell me what you did and what you observed. Be very detailed.
Im looking forward to your response.
All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.
John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

Nathan responded:

Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2014 16:46:49 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Hi John,

Nice to see were tentatively back on.  Per your points:

1.  What proof do I have that my concern about any one of the PRNGs you create and run cant be programmed by you to produce a sub par result regardless of what I guess? I need actual, conclusive proofnot your word that it would be impossible for you to tamper with any of the ten programs to make it result in a score under 66%.  Additionally, Id like to know your reasoning why an independent 3rd party (e.g., the math or computer science department of a college nearest to you) that creates the PRNGs per your specifications and run them instead of one of the people with a vested interest in the outcome (that would be both you and me) doing this is an unacceptable and unreasonable condition. Especially if the department is willing to proctor this for free. If you cant come up with a good reason (Its my money is not a good reason. Thats a similar argument that 3-card Monte hustlers on the street corner use for why they get to shuffle their cards), then we either get that third party or as you put it, the deal is off.

2. From the beginning I mentioned how much time I require for a run of 100 guesses. It was item #1 in the first email, in fact.  Feel free to check to make sure.  This means I told you *before* you said you want me to have only ten seconds per guess.  And I have repeated my requirement to you multiple times since then in our correspondence.  Again, my average is 2.5 hours, but I requested 4 hours just in case. The 4 hours is negotiable, but it has to be at least 2.5 hours per run.

3. Fine. Demonstration. Glad to hear it.

4. Yes, I know we can discuss what an actual test will be. That is a given.  My point is I want to hash that out now, not when I get there to San Antonio. This is for the sake of not wasting my or your time, and other $imple rea$on$. It is totally reasonable for us to have this figured out now, not when I get there, discover we cant even agree on something for the Challenge (which was pretty darn close to being the case just through these emails regarding the Demo), and I come back home with an avoidable loss. As for your question about why dont I just use a coin, if you (again) will just look at my very first email, I pointed out that Ive used dice and other mechanical objects to make a mechanical RNG.  Matter of fact its in the very first paragraph of that very first email. If I hadnt already explored mechanical RNGs (Ive done four nowone nuclear, one coin, a few dice, and one CD), I wouldnt have contacted JREF to help me find someone to establish a better testing protocol to figure out if this is really binary presentiment, and I wouldnt have contacted you when Chip Denman couldnt help.

As for your re-reminding me that you do not believe me when I say Ive done this before, or that Ive done this before under many different conditions to see what does and does not work, Im indifferent. I see no point in recapping my testing history or getting affidavits for you. I say that because even if it is all true (which it is), youre not testing to see if Ive done this before.  Youre testing to see if I can do this now.  Furthermore, we should not be interested in what the other person believes. If we were just going to believe each others claims, then I wouldnt be asking for the PRNGs to be created and ran by an independent 3rd party, and you wouldnt be offering a Challenge to begin with.  No, its all about the empirical data and a protocol that is above scrutiny.

I gt;5. There will be 10 runs of 100 trials eadiv id=yui_3_7_2_1_1392643703867_21593ch./p pdiv id=yui_3_7_2_1_1392643703867_22306am also uninterested in your experiences with previous claimants (which youve already told me over the phone before) f3. Score yourself just as I would when testing you. If you even once fail to correctly predict the /pcorrect output 66 times out of 100, then stop. You have disproved your own claim.or the same reasons youre uninterested in my experiences with previous testers. I see no reason to bring it up again.

However, you do raise a good point. While I have done this test somewhere between 100-200 times over the years, Ive never done 10 tests in a row like were going to hopefully do if we can agree about point #1 above.  In fact, Ive never done more than two in a day.  Ill do three today, four tomorrow, and three on Sunday in order to better assess if that amount of testing in that amount of time lowers my lowest score.  Ill also use a different PRNG for each test to better resemble the Demo.  Thankfully, there are at least a dozen to choose from online.  If I continue to get at least 66% right, then were golden.  If I get less than that, then well have to do an adjustment about what my lowest %-age will be for a series of ten tests  in a row.

Now that I think about it, it looks like Im going to have to schedule this Demo/Challenge over a weekend rather than during the middle of the week.  Its going to be at least three days, and maybe four, depending on what the Challenge entails.  I can take one day off of work/class, but I cannot take off two.

[Pick your favorite closing],

Nathan (Nth)

Nathan sent another note:

Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:12:37 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: I have an idea.
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

John,

You wrote:

The PRNG will be mine on my computer.

I replied:

What proof do I have that my concern about any one of the PRNGs you create and run cant be programmed by you to produce a sub par result regardless of what I guess? I need actual, conclusive proofnot your word that it would be impossible for you to tamper with any of the ten programs to make it result in a score under 66%.  Additionally, Id like to know your reasoning why an independent 3rd party (e.g., the math or computer science department of a college nearest to you) that creates the PRNGs per your specifications and run them instead of one of the people with a vested interest in the outcome (that would be both you and me) doing this is an unacceptable and unreasonable condition. Especially if the department is willing to proctor this for free. If you cant come up with a good reason (Its my money is not a good reason. Thats a similar argument that 3-card Monte hustlers on the street corner use for why they get to shuffle their cards), then we either get that third party or as you put it, the deal is off.

How about this:  You still get to come up with the PRNG is still yours, but the code is tested by a qualified and independent 3rd person from someone in the computer science department of the college nearest youwith you watching them to make sure they do not tamper with the code in any way. We can also arrange things in a way to make sure there is no communication between me and the third party in case you think Im in cahoots with them.  And as soon as I get confirmation that it is not a code programmed to invariably give a result of under 66% independent of what I guess I immediately begin doing that run for that PRNG.  We repeat this procedure for every run.    Again, I just have to make sure there is no tampering on your part, just like you have to make sure there is none on mine.

Just trying to extend an olive branch here without compromising the integrity of the Challenge.

Best,

Nathan (Nth)

Again Nathan is forgetting who is putting up the money for this prize. The conditions should have been clear by now, and those conditions are that we offer the prize, we set the rules. If youre not interested in going along with our rules, then forget about going for the prize, and quit wasting everybodys time.

More from Nathan.

Date: Sat, 15 Feb 2014 15:56:40 -0500
From: Nathan Bar-Fields <>
Subject: Parenthetically
To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>

Concerning your account of your evaluation of your previous performance results, I am quite sure you have never performed an adequate self-evaluation.

It seems like weve been speaking a different language on numerous occasions, almost from the beginning.  For the record, I did not test me at Cal Berkeleys Psychophysiology Lab back in the 1990s.  The lab tested me. This should go without saying, but I dont have personal access to a nuclear RNG like they did.  I also didnt test myself at MITs Corkin Lab.  Again, they tested me (albeit with what I assume was a PRNG).   Yes, I do quite a lot of self-testing, but I also get tested by others.  You seem to be under the impression that Im probably engaging in selective rememberance.  That couldnt be further from the case. I definitely remember the failures (in fact, one of the skeptics Ive been Bccing likes to occasionally bring one up), because they helped me figure out what to eliminate in order to isolate repeatable success.

The reason I know I need immediate feedback is because I did so abysmally on tests where the feedback was delayed. I had to do it multiple times to be sure it wasnt a fluke.   The reason I know I need an adequate amount of time is because under speeded conditions my accuracy dropped in every session like that but one.  The reason I know I need direct feedback is because I did fantastically abysmal on a string of tests that did not employ that but were like the protocol in every other way.  The reason I know it has to be bit-by-bit rather than a string is because I  kept getting chance results over a long enough run when there was more than one digit to guess at a time.   And once it was clear that it didnt seem to matter what the PRNG was in order for me to get the same results, it was suggested to me to try mechanical RNGs, on the suspicion that perhaps Im doing some type of mental calculating.  I tested myself on those, and did well on everything but the dice at first (I tried to guess odd or even).  But when I painted the 3-sides white and 3-sides black, and guessed for that, then suddenly I got the results I usually get.  I then had others test meas with the other tests because I didnt really trust myself.  One of those people is an on again off again member of the JREF.  Once he ran out of ideas of what could possibly be going on he suggested I contact the big boys of the organization, so I did.  That is how I eventually got to you.  I expected this exchange to go much more neutrally and productively than it did; just us focusing on creating an excellent testing protocol that is beyond reproach.  I could have potentially figured out what was really going on right here with this Challenge.  Instead we had this exchange.  That is unfortunate, but at least I now have a taste of what to expect if I choose to approach another sub-section of the Skeptic Society.

Please let me know when our correspondence (including this email) are up on your website, as I will link them to the college I contact as a reference when discussing a testing protocol to definitively figure out whats really going on.

Thanks.

Nathan (Nth)

I concluded with:

Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2014 05:22:59 -0800 (PST)
From: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: John Blanton <skeptic75287@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge
To: Nathan Bar-Fields <>

Nathan,

Thanks again for your interest in the NTS Paranormal Challenge. I am posting the correspondence on the blog today. See the link in my signature block below.

All correspondence related to the NTS Paranormal Challenge will be posted on the Internet.

Best regards,

John Blanton

http://specularphoto.com/blog/

214-335-9248

My conclusion is that Nathan is fooling himself by running inadequately controlled tests, or worse. My reason for saying this is that nobody has the ability to mentally predict the outcome of a random event. Additionally, nobody has the ability to predict the output of a pseudo random number generator by mental processes alone.

I make this statement based on a lot of past history:

  • In a history spanning hundreds of years nobody has ever demonstrated this ability.
  • Such an ability would be equivalent to predicting the outcome of a roll of dice. How come Nathan has not already been barred from all the casinos in Las Vegas?
  • The most prominent (most publicized) tests using random number generators have been at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab. This intensive study has never claimed results approaching what Nathan claims.

Wikipedia has a short write-up on the PEAR project.

PEAR employed random event generators (REGs), to explore the ability of test subjects to use telekinesis to influence the random output distribution of these devices to conform to their pre-recorded intentions to produce higher numbers, lower numbers, or nominal baselines. Most of these experiments utilized a microelectronic REG, but experiments were also conducted with a mechanical device which dropped balls down a peg-covered board. PEAR also conducted exercises involving groups of volunteers which, they claimed, produced more pronounced results. In all cases, the observed effects were very small (about one tenth of one percent), but over extensive databases they compounded to statistically significant deviations from chance behavior. The baseline for chance behavior used did not vary as statistically appropriate (baseline bind). Two PEAR researchers attributed this baseline bind to the motivation of the operators to achieve a good baseline.[9] It has been noted that a single test subject (presumed to be a member of PEAR’s staff) participated in 15% of PEAR’s trials, and was responsible for half of the total observed effect. PEAR’s results have been criticized for deficient reproducibility. In one instance two German organizations failed to reproduce PEAR’s results, while PEAR similarly failed to reproduce their own results. An attempt by York University’s Stan Jeffers also failed to replicate PEAR’s results. PEAR’s activities have also been criticized for their lack of scientific rigor, poor methodology, and misuse of statistics

Particularly telling is a statement by Nathan in the e-mail exchange:

I see no point in recapping my testing history or getting affidavits for you. I say that because even if it is all true (which it is), youre not testing to see if Ive done this before.  Youre testing to see if I can do this now.

That is properly indignant and also properly disingenuous. The real reason Nathan sees no point in recapping my testing history is 1) there is no history, or 2) he would prefer not to discuss the history.

Nathan also employs a tactic I often observe when a debater holds a weak position: He introduces extraneous points. In this case Nathan refers to affidavits, but I have never mentioned, nor do I require an affidavit, that is, a sworn statement. In science sworn statements really are worth the paper they are printed on.

If I hear any more about this from Nathan Bar-Fields I will update this post or else follow up with another post. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Update

4 March 2014

I have received additional correspondence from Nathan Bar-Fields:

Re: The North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge

FROM Nathan Bar-Fields TO You

Finally got around to reading it.
If I hear any more about this from Nathan Bar-Fields I will update this post or else follow up with another post. Keep reading.

Here you go! http://mentathlete.blogspot.com/2014/02/skeptic-paranormal-challenge.html

Nathan (Nth)

Here is what Nathan posted on BlogSpot.com:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Skeptic Paranormal Challenge.

Hey guys,

I know Ive been away from this blog for years, but life sort of happened. However,  I recently had something so interesting to share that Ive decided to resurrect Mentathlete.

Ive only casually mentioned this before, but I was a paid ESP test subject while in college.  I did unusually well on one particular type of experiment called binary ESP (also called binary intuition, binary precognition, and binary presentiment).  I didnt think much of it during the time. It was in the category of my memory banks of weird things I did for money not evidence I may have ESP.  Testing for binary ESP is pretty simple. You have one of two choicesheads or tails, 1 or 0, male or female, etc.and you have to predict which will randomly show up after you guess.  Chance says you should only be right 50% of the time, especially over a very long run of, say, 100 guesses. But during my testing days I always did well above chance, no less than 66% (66/100 guesses) and sometimes as high as 85%.

I mentioned that part of my history to a few of my skeptic friends years ago in a discussion, and it wasnt until they pointed it out (with lots and lots of skepticism) that I had an inkling of how odd my experiences as an ESP test subject were.    My friends of course were all over that one to shred. It had to be impossible, after all. I submitted myself to all of their testing to find outthere was a lot of assumptions about what all I should be able to do, so consequently lots of variations on testing in the beginning.  This was actually good, because I eventually started figuring out what I couldnt do, which resulted in a firmer description.

During this exploratory phase, it went from,
I can score high on binary ESP tests to
I can score high on binary ESP tests if there is immediate feedback to
I can score high on binary ESP tests if there is immediate direct feedback
and so on, until there was nothing else we could identify as a requirement.

After somewhere of the ballpark of 130 runs, it eventually became clear what were the requiring factors to consistently perform so robustly.

1 ) Generous amount of time to guess. I average about 2.5 hours for a run of 100 guesses.
2 ) Immediate feedback.  That is to say after I guess, I need a result in under a second.
3 )  Direct feedback.  I need to see the result for myself, not have a result reported to me by way of a second party.  This is simple if the number (Im usually guessing will it be 1 or 0)  shows up on the computer screen Im sitting in front of after I hit the button.
4 ) Feedback after each bit, not for a sequence.  So guessing for 1, then getting feedback, then 0  and getting feedback, then 1 and getting feedback works, but guessing for 101 will not.

Without these four, my results consistently return to predictable scores.

Given all the controversy over how to test for ESP, what I just described is a surprisingly simple thing to measure for if you use a good random number generator (RNG) or something mechanical like a fair coin. Yet I definitely have always done no worse than 66% on testing in the past and this should not be so unless Im actually remembering the immediate future or there is a design flaw in the protocol that no one has yet found.  So after a lot of nagging by others and a lot of curiosity of my own, I finally mustered up the courage to have more sophisticated testing done to see what was going on, even though I had a good idea of what to expect for coming forward.

I contacted the Skeptic Society nearest to me for assistance to figure out whats really going on here when I do this kind of test after my contacting JREF for assistance proved fruitless.  As it happens, the Skeptic group local to me sponsors a Challenge of their own, and I thought, Hey, why not? I must say I expected the correspondence with the Skeptic point of contacta man by the name of John Blanton to go much more smoothly than it did. A few bumps along the road of communication, sure, but not someone who was almost looking for a fight.   Instead, our correspondence got rather comical and very back-and-forth.*  I guess I was more disappointed than anything else, because Id have rather flat out failed in testing than to not even get to test because my insistence that neither party be in a position where they could tamper with the RNG used was considered unreasonable.  Im even more disappointed in his follow-up write-up because heeither intentionally or unintentionallymisconstrued quite a number of things that need to be cleared up, which Ive done so here.  Its a Google Doc set to be read by the public, but anyone who reads it can edit, unfortunately.

Having said that, his write-up wasnt as bad as I thought it would have been. I can at least give him that.

For the record, Im pretty sure that my results on this test are not paranormal.  Its not because I dont believe in ESP, its because this particular thing doesnt feel psychic to me.  The closest thing I can liken it to is a stimulus-response memory, only the response precedes the stimulus in this case.  Im also pretty suspiciousor perhaps curiouswhy I would be *this* consistent on this test and have such a large effect size.  Its usually one or the other with ESP studies.

In fact, this endeavor has made me even more curious about what is going on here, so Ill continue to do research, both on my own and collaboratively to get a definitive answer.  I swear its the most curious thing

*For whatever reason many of my own emails he posted are mis-formatted, so you can sometimes only read glyphs and hypertext commands where you should be reading what I actually wrote.  Im sure its just an accident, but if anyone wants an un-butchered copy just let me know as well as knowing where to send the emails.
Posted by at 11:50 PM
Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

[Some text removed]

In a follow-up e-mail Nathan sent me a link to a Goggle document:

John,

Thank you for a write-up that was fairer than I expected it to be.  Though, it is not to say I think it was completely fair or accurate.

If people only read one part of what I have to say as a response, it should be this:

I do find it strange that in all these points you brought up, the only one that was the actual deal-breaker—your eventual admission that you are either unwilling or unable to guarantee fair testing— is glaringly absent.  As I said before, whenever you can agree to fair (foolproof) testing, I will pursue the Challenge again. It’s thankfully that simple.
As for the peripherals, and those who don’t mind reading longer replies there are 8 things you mentioned that I’d like to clear up.  In some instances, it’s the third or fourth time doing so, so I’m not entirely sure a fourth or fifth time will do any better.  But it may help any unbiased person who casually comes across your blog entry about me to see a summary.

1. “Significantly, what Nathan is claiming is that he has tested himself and has obtained 66 to 85 percent success. A problem with his statement of success is the lack of any detail. He does not describe completely how the test was set up or how it was conducted. If this were a scientific study being prepared for publication, then all results from all tests would be included, and there would be a lot more detail about how the whole business was carried out.”

That’s not entirely true.  It’s true that I’ve tested myself extensively—and it’s certainly possible I did a poor job doing so, and it’s also possible I didn’t—but I’ve also been tested by others, including (but not only) by UC Berkeley’s Psychophysiology Lab and MIT’s Corkin Lab.  I‘ve mentioned this before, but for whatever reason your follow-up responses indicate it’s not registering when I say that.  In fact all of my initial testing was done by those two labs.  And yes, it’s true that I did not describe completely how the test was set up and conducted, but that had more to do with never being asked by you, and not making my emails any longer than they originally were—since one of the issues brought up over the phone conversations was that my emails were too long to read.

If you had ever asked, I would have obviously had no problem telling you.  As it stands, this is the first I’m hearing that you wanted to know this.  But I’m still not clear if you really do want to know, so I’ll just ask you.  Do you want to know the details, or was that just something to throw out there?

2. “Once again Nathan has failed to provide complete details of his claimed paranormal ability”

We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one, since I’m fairly certain that was outlined pretty clearly in the first email I sent.  I’m not sure if you recall it or not, but I proposed doing it (getting 66/100 or better) twice, which would have been almost 1-in-2 million odds of occurring by chance.  That sounds pretty detailed to me.

3. “Nathan makes the mistake of believing he is being specific. The term “consistently” is not anyway specific. “

Consistency does in fact have a specific meaning in any scientific study reliant on statistics. It is the king of predictive validators, no less.  I do apologize for assuming you knew what consistency meant. But if you had only told me that you didn’t understand I would have linked you to the technical definition.  Instead, you said “anybody can be consistent” the way I am, which didn’t really give me a lot to respond to, since your rejoinder was so over the top.

4. “So far a lot of talk, but no action. Nathan, as is the case with a number of people vying for the prize, would like to control the test. That is always a mistake. I and the other underwriters insist on complete control before we put our money out.”

My suggesting and actively seeking out an independent 3rd party in your area to verify the PRNGs used are legit is definitely *not*what one does to control the test.  It is what one does to make a test as above scrutiny as possible, and to ensure that neither party is in control of the test for obvious reasons.   As for you having complete control over the testing, I wish that was clearer, because when the Challenge says, “challengers will promptly enter into negotiations with claimant and attempt to arrive at a written protocol satisfactory to both parties” I reasonably thought it actually meant both parties negotiate about the protocol until both are satisfied.  If I had known you meant the exact opposite, I would not have wasted your time or mine.

5.  “Again Nathan is forgetting who is putting up the money for this prize. The conditions should have been clear by now, and those conditions are that we offer the prize, we set the rules.”

Actually it’s not very clear at all. In fact, the part of the Challenge I quoted in #4 response makes it sound like anything but.  You may want to reword your Challenge for future challengers, because what you wrote in it and what you are writing here are definitely two different babies.

6. “My conclusion is that Nathan is fooling himself by running inadequately controlled tests, or worse. My reason for saying this is that nobody has the ability to mentally predict the outcome of a random event. Additionally, nobody has the ability to predict the output of a pseudo random number generator by mental processes alone.”

No, that is not indignant.  That was simply factual for the very reasons I outlined. I do apologize if you took it that way, though. As for you claiming to know “the real reason,” without any evidence to support the claim, well, I’ll just let the irony sink in in its own time.

I have *no* problem discussing the history of my testing with you or anyone else. In fact I have discussed it numerous times elsewhere in cyberspace.  As a matter of fact the email exchange we first had had some of the people who’ve tested me Bcc’d.  Mind you, two of them still don’t think it’s ESP, but they do think it’s something and are as interested as I am in figuring out what that something is. The problem was (again) you never asked me this, didn’t really seem interested, and also complained that my emails were too long.  Describing the entire history—which I did for you in a later email anyway—would definitely have been another case of my writing something that was too long for you.  It is starting to sound like no matter what I do, you’ll find a fault.  An exchange is too long.  Fine, I make it shorter.  Aha! Now it’s evidence I’m omitting things!  See what I mean?

“Nathan also employs a tactic I often observe when a debater holds a weak position: He introduces extraneous points. In this case Nathan refers to “affidavits,” but I have never mentioned, nor do I require an affidavit, that is, a sworn statement. In science sworn statements really are worth the paper they are printed on.”

To be fair, you also didn’t ask for my testing history either.   I was just anticipating what all you could likely bring up in the future. It seemed reasonable to me that you’d possibly ask for affidavits.   I was just saying I can get them if you ever ask in the future, but it’s still irrelevant because they’d have no bearing on our proposed testing. So no, this is actually an example of the exact opposite of what you’re seeing into what I wrote.

Which is kind of why I contacted you to begin with! :-D  Believe me, I know enough about statistics and clinical testing to recognize my results are “absurd” as you’ve put it.  That isn’t what I’m questioning.  I’m questioning why they are absurd. You’ve mentioned several times that it’s probably due to me somehow fooling myself as the reason (though that overlooks that it would also have to be sloppy testing by those who tested me and the institutions that tested me as well).  The thing is until your “conclusion” is actually tested and tested properly, it’s not a conclusion, it’s a just a strong belief.  Plus your conclusion relies heavily on fallacious thinking (ecological fallacy, appeal to probability, begging the question…).   So I look at your “conclusion” and think okay, let’s test if it’s an inadequacy issue.   In fact, I’m eager to do just that.  The testing just has to be done fairly, which I’m surprised is even up for debate. One of the big complaints leveled at parapsychologists is that the testing they do is sloppy, after all.  We don’t want to do sloppy testing, do we? We want to do better than that.

7.  “In a history spanning hundreds of years nobody has ever demonstrated this ability.”

Okay.  That sounds like the ecological fallacy again, with a dash of appeal to history.  No one ran a mile in under 4 minutes until Roger Bannister did so.  I couldn’t imagine telling Bannister he couldn’t run a mile in under 4 minutes because no one in a history spanning a hundred years has done so before him.  No, I would just say, Okay, let’s see you run a mile in under 4 minutes. The only thing I can offer to counter fallacious thinking is critical-thinking, but it’s up to you to see it as such or not.

“Such an ability would be equivalent to predicting the outcome of a roll of dice. How come Nathan has not already been barred from all the casinos in Las Vegas?”

Well, again you would just have to ask me. You never did, and this is the first I’m seeing this question from you.  Here is the answer. When I first decided to use dice, I chose to predict if the roll would result in either an odd or even number to make it binary. My results wound up being chance.  So I then painted the odd sides white and the even sides black. It was only then—guessing if the roll would be black or white—that I wound up getting the very high results that I usually get. While impressive, this would not help me at the casino with gambling games that rely on dice.  Roulette is also something people suggest, but the time delay (remember the immediate feedback   requirement) is an issue.  So while what I do in testing is statistically equivalent to the casino scenario, it is not so procedurally.  And again, the binary presentiment only shows up for me under the protocol I outlined in the first email.

“The most prominent (most publicized) tests using random number generators have been at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab. This intensive study has never claimed results approaching what Nathan claims.”

Yes, that is definitely the ecological fallacy at play again, along with that dash of appeal to history we talked about.  I’m not sure what else I can say about that.

8. “Me: I see no point in recapping my testing history or getting affidavits for you. I say that because even if it is all true (which it is), you’re not testing to see if I’ve done this before.  You’re testing to see if I can do this now.

John: That is properly indignant and also properly disingenuous. The real reason Nathan sees “no point in recapping my testing history” is 1) there is no history, or 2) he would prefer not to discuss the history.”

No, that is not indignant.  That was simply factual for the very reasons I outlined. I do apologize if you took it that way, though. As for you claiming to know “the real reason,” without any evidence to support the claim, well, I’ll just let the irony sink in in its own time.

I have *no* problem discussing the history of my testing with you or anyone else. In fact I have discussed it numerous times elsewhere in cyberspace.  As a matter of fact the email exchange we first had had some of the people who’ve tested me Bcc’d.  Mind you, two of them still don’t think it’s ESP, but they do think it’s something and are as interested as I am in figuring out what that something is. The problem was (again) you never asked me this, didn’t really seem interested, and also complained that my emails were too long.  Describing the entire history—which I did for you in a later email anyway—would definitely have been another case of my writing something that was too long for you.  It is starting to sound like no matter what I do, you’ll find a fault.  An exchange is too long.  Fine, I make it shorter.  Aha! Now it’s evidence I’m omitting things!  See what I mean?

“Nathan also employs a tactic I often observe when a debater holds a weak position: He introduces extraneous points. In this case Nathan refers to “affidavits,” but I have never mentioned, nor do I require an affidavit, that is, a sworn statement. In science sworn statements really are worth the paper they are printed on.”

To be fair, you also didn’t ask for my testing history either.   I was just anticipating what all you could likely bring up in the future. It seemed reasonable to me that you’d possibly ask for affidavits.   I was just saying I can get them if you ever ask in the future, but it’s still irrelevant because they’d have no bearing on our proposed testing. So no, this is actually an example of the exact opposite of what you’re seeing into what I wrote.

I will leave it up to readers to analyze the foregoing interchange. If Nathan is available to provide a demonstration that takes less than an hour, then I will be interested in seeing it. If Nathan is willing to provide specifics of successful self tests he has performed, then I will be interested in reviewing these details.

Its up to Nathan: Show me what youve got.

About skeptic

John Blanton is a retired engineer who is fond of writing, photography and his own opinion, not necessarily in that order. You can contact this contributor by e-mail at jf_blanton@yahoo.com
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