Water, Water Everywhere
Aliens Have Landed
New Energy Age
ALAN ALDA I'd like you to meet a new acquaintance of mine. Some
people think he, or she, or it, just recently arrived from
outer space. Others aren't so sure. On this edition of Scientific
American Frontiers, we're going to try to find out what's
real in science, and what's not.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We'll ask if balancing a patient's energy
pattern can lead to healing. We'll challenge dowsers to find
water, and to try our rigorous test. We'll see if, by putting
pen to paper, we give ourselves away. And we'll look for zero
point energy -- is it real, or is it a dream?
ALAN ALDA I'm Alan Alda, join me now as we venture into the realm
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We've asked
DIANNA PAZ to visit a palm reader.
She doesn't know it, but the reader -- who's a University
of Oregon psychology professor -- says palm reading is pure
fiction. And Dianna doesn't believe in it herself. But something
strange is about to happen -- Dianna's going to become a believer.
RAY HYMAN You have a hard time hanging onto money. You have
spaces between your fingers and...
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Ray Hyman gently raises common topics, like
money or career, on the lookout for give-away responses --
a nod here, or a word there.
RAY HYMAN ... let other people
do your income tax.
DIANNA PAZ OK. I do.
RAY HYMAN OK, good.
Your fate line comes very late. Very, very late, out of your
lifeline, and that suggests your career is very, very late
in coming. This is children young. And lots of them are there.
About the children... one, two, three, four, five, six.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) After about twenty minutes, Ray is feeding
back to Dianna what he's gathered she probably wants to hear.
DIANNA PAZ I'd guess I'd better hurry.
ALAN ALDA How accurate was it?
DIANNA PAZ Pretty accurate.
ALAN ALDA Really?
DIANNA PAZ Yeah. The career -- about four years
ago I started selling insurance, and just now decided that
it's really not what I want to do. Kids -- of course, I have
one child, but my mother has five, my sister has five...
ALAN ALDA (Narration) So now Dianna thinks there might be something
DIANNA PAZ ...my brother has three, and I think I
was really meant to have more children, but I never married
young. And then when he said accounting and stuff, he's right.
I am not a bookkeeper. I don't want to be. I let other people
handle my taxes and everything.
RAY HYMAN She and I are working
as a team.
ALAN ALDA Yeah.
RAY HYMAN I call it a symbiotic relationship. She
wants me to be right, because it could help her, and of course
I want to be right because it's an ego trip for me as a reader,
and so we're helping each other.
ALAN ALDA So was there a point during this where you said to yourself,
oh, this guy has some ability?
DIANNA PAZ Yes.
ALAN ALDA What about now? Now that you know that he doesn't believe
in it, that he's just reading what you told him. How do you
feel about the future? How do you feel about the things he
told you about the future?
DIANNA PAZ Well, pretty much the
same, except that I'm going to... it's nice to know that I
have a big strong marriage line there...
ALAN ALDA This is really interesting. You're thinking about the
things that he told you and you're considering them, and you're
reconsidering your life in a way, even though he... it was
like a put-up job!
DIANNA PAZ I think that I was taking the
stuff that I believe, I want to happen, to be true.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Most of us look at the world the same way
as Dianna. We pick the bits of a horoscope we like -- and
read them in the stars. We want to believe we're in touch
with the forces of nature -- through extra sensory perception.
And we believe that beings from outer space visit the earth
-- just to see us humans. It's a thoroughly human way of viewing
the world. But for scientists like Steven Weinberg, a Nobel
Prize-winning physicist at the University of Texas, this kind
of thinking is irrational -- it's not scientific. Weinberg
has an explanation for why people think this way.
I think there's a deep desire for human beings to be at the
center of things; that is, for the laws of nature to give
a special role to human beings. So the fact that I am a Taurus,
boy, that makes me powerful and that's going to affect my
life. I'm not like you ordinary Gemini or Libras, and we're
all -- human nature is built into the cosmos, you know-the
Star Wars movie -- there was a force, and when people die,
it affects the force. Well, you know, that's a very attractive
picture of nature, a picture that puts us front center. But
I don't think we are. The laws of nature, as we've been discovering
them, are pretty impersonal. They have to do with forces,
with particles. We're not built into the laws of nature, as
far as we know, in any central way. Well, maybe -- anything
is possible, you know. I might be a butterfly dreaming that
I'm talking to you. Who knows? But in life, you get up and
you turn on the coffee with the assumption that it's going
to come on, and that you're not going to get champagne, you're
going to get coffee. We all live our lives making assumptions
that things are going to behave in a fairly rational way.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) There's a rational, scientific view of the
world, and an irrational one that's beyond science. It's the
clash between those views that we're going to explore in this
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Paul Sevigny is dowsing for water in the
Vermont mountains. He says his mind can directly sense the
water, hundreds of feet below.
SEVIGNY I'm concentrating on over 25 gallons a minute, good
drinking water. I build all this stuff into my little noggin
so that I get exactly what I'm looking for. Coming up on something.
Here we are.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) He mentally asks the dowsing rod about the
SEVIGNY 342 feet deep.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Next he finds the flow rate a well could
tap into here.
PAUL SEVIGNY It's 26 gallons per minute. We're coming up on
ALAN ALDA (Narration) A nearby ski resort has asked Paul where
to drill a new well.
SEVIGNY There we are. 44 gallons a minute here. 161 feet.
So this is a better yield, and not as deep.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We'll call that last one Site 1. Then a little
further up -- Site 2.
PAUL SEVIGNY OK, got something here.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Site 2's deep -- nearly 500 feet -- but a
good flow rate.
SEVIGNY 48 gallons a minute.
LIZ WALKER Wow.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) With two promising well sites in hand, next
Bannister -- who works with Paul -- continues the process.
Ken uses conventional instruments. This one measures the earth's
magnetic field. Small variations can mean there are fractures
in the bedrock -- which is where water might be. Site 1 has
just such a magnetic feature, and Ken's not surprised.
BANNISTER For several years I did applied geophysics such
as this. A lot of times my clients would say, it's very interesting
that you picked this site, my dowser also picked the same
site. And that happened way too many times to be considered
coincidences as far as I was concerned, so on one of those
jobs, I actually asked the dowser if I could try it myself,
and when I crossed over the features that I'd already found,
the dowsing rod went down. And I became a believer at that
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Finally Ken pinpoints the spot at Site 1
where they'll drill, this summer. Only dowsing can be this
exact, he says.
BANNISTER This would be the location where we would drill
the well, right here.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We'll check back with Ken's well later, but
first meet Jay Todd. He's testing this site in Eugene, Oregon
very carefully. Because we're going to put Jay through a test,
to see if he can find a metal target hidden under one of 10
containers. Jay, who has been dowsing for water, oil or lost
objects for 20 years, is happy to demonstrate his abilities.
ALAN ALDA You picked something up over there, didn't you?
TODD I picked up water over there.
ALAN ALDA Water, huh? So now, that's not going to interfere with
what you're doing here?
JAY TODD Well, I don't think so. I wasn't picking it up here,
so I doubt it, no.
ALAN ALDA I see.
TODD Gee, whiz...you got any smaller?
ALAN ALDA (Narration) This is Ray Hyman.
TODD I don't need anything that big.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) He's the psychology professor who read Dianna's
ALAN ALDA Is that going to get in the way of your work if it's
TODD I don't know whether it'll get in the way, but it don't
have to be that big.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Jay needs an object like the hidden target
to serve as what he calls a receiver. He accepts the large
receiver, and starts the first trial. It looks casual, but
actually we're using a rigorous test procedure. Here's how
it works. Off to the side, a random number is generated electronically.
That's the number of the container under which the target
is to be hidden. To place the target, Barry Beyerstein, a
neuroscientist friend of Ray Hyman's, goes through an elaborate
routine of fake placements -- so the dowser can't get any
hints from flattened grass or shifted containers. We even
filmed this demonstration afterwards, so we couldn't unconsciously
give hints during the test. This is a form of double blind
testing that's essential if the results are to be trusted.
BARRY BEYERSTEIN He's blind by virtue of the way we've set
this up, and all the other people who are around him while
he's being tested are blind too.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Here we are back at the first trial. Jay
gets a possible response...
TODD That's number nine.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Then continues down the line.
JAY TODD Getting absolutely nothing there.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Then there's another response at number ten.
TODD Well it's just a guess I think, but that's the one I'm
picking. It's probably not it. I'm pretty sure it isn't.
RAY HYMAN No.
JAY TODD Try... Which was the other one I was having?
ALAN ALDA Nine, you said.
TODD Nine. Try nine. But I doubt it.
RAY HYMAN No.
JAY TODD How about a different receiver. How about lead.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) So now it's a lead weight that Barry places
during his hiding procedure, while the rest of us wait at
TODD Are you holding it real loose?
ALAN ALDA Yeah.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Jay takes the opportunity to see if I have
the power to dowse.
TODD All right try it in your other hand. Same way, same way,
and you're not in the center. All right, now hold it really
loose. Hot dog, hot dog, I got him, I got him, you can do
ALAN ALDA I can do it?
TODD You can do it.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) And guess what? When I crossed that aquifer
that Jay found earlier, I could find that, too.
TODD If they crossed, did they cross?
ALAN ALDA Oh, they crossed and smacked me in the chest. JAY TODD
OK, that's where the aquifer's at, right where I went.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Learning from others like this is how dowsers
ALAN ALDA They're crossing again.
TODD Yeah, that's the aquifer.
ALAN ALDA I think, when I know where it's supposed to happen, my
hands let it happen.
TODD Well, to a certain degree, you're correct. You are. Your
mind plays a role in it.
Now over a male hand that's going to go back and forth, like
a... There it is, you see.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Here's a simple demonstration of the role
RAY HYMAN thinks the mind plays.
ALAN ALDA Yeah, and I'm not trying to do this at all.
Now if we can get a female hand under here, it would go in
ALAN ALDA Let me try this with Sara.
RAY HYMAN There it goes. OK.
ALAN ALDA Lookit. Right into a circle.
RAY HYMAN Exactly.
ALAN ALDA That's amazing. And I'm not doing anything. I'm not trying
to make it... I'm trying to hold it still!
RAY HYMAN If I
told you the reverse, it would do the reverse, by the way.
ALAN ALDA Tell me the reverse.
RAY HYMAN OK, let's now assume that
this is a male hand, even though it's a female hand, it'll
go back and forth. Very good.
ALAN ALDA Ha, ha. OK, now, lest anybody think that this is real
magic, why is it working?
RAY HYMAN Without realizing it,
we are making this move to fit what we expect it to do. And
we're not aware of it because we're focusing on this and as
a result, we under the right conditions can believe that some
outside force is doing this.
ALAN ALDA Right.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) After years studying dowsers,
RAY HYMAN has
concluded that the dowsing rod reacts to nothing more than
our own unconscious. But dowsers have a response to that.
RAY HYMAN Almost all dowsers agree with my explanation. They
agree that the mind is unconsciously doing it, but then they
say that the unconscious, though, has some connection to the
ethereal world, or whatever.
PAUL SEVIGNY I think it's an ESP experience, and the answer's
coming from up here and these are just indicators. Most of
the dowsers now believe that it's coming from your mind, through
your muscles and causing involuntary action.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) To say dowsing is ESP is truly beyond science
-- science has no way to test such a belief directly. But
what's not beyond science is what we're doing here -- a controlled
test to see if dowsing gets results.
JAY TODD I just don't have a long enough attenuater. But I'm
not going to give up trying on it until I find one.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We're on the second trial, looking for the
JAY TODD I have to go with this one.
RAY HYMAN No.
JAY TODD I didn't figure. I got to get longer attenuation
ALAN ALDA What does that mean?
TODD Got to get a longer antenna. Get the right length. It
might even be that it'll take a shorter one. All I know is
to just go through it. See if I get any kind of response.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) For Trial 3 Jay changes dowsing rods. But
that doesn't help.
TODD I don't get any responses at all.
ALAN ALDA You know, if you get good at this, you could open up
a plumbing supply store with just stuff you dig up from the
TODD Well, I can find pipe under the ground.
ALAN ALDA Yeah, you can? If you can find pipe, why can't you find
TODD Because I'm following it.
ALAN ALDA Oh, well, yeah, so what? What do you mean?
TODD I'm following the motion, basically.
ALAN ALDA Of what's going through the pipe?
TODD Basically, yeah.
ALAN ALDA Oh, I see.
JAY TODD And this thing ain't moving.
ALAN ALDA Yeah. Yeah.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Trial 4 is to be the last. For Jay, he couldn't
come up with the rod with the correct response.
JAY TODD I'm not getting any response at all. I'm really not.
I'm sorry, Ray.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We're back in Vermont, and there's been a
hitch. The preferred drill site, which was supported by magnetic
measurements and dowsing, has been ruled out because it's
close to conservation land. So we're at Site 2. Because there
are nearby power lines, which disrupt magnetic measurements,
only dowsing has identified this site. Nevertheless, Ken is
confident they have a good site to drill, accurately located
BANNISTER The best spot is right here. There's no question,
there's a dowsing reaction at this location. The fellow that
works for Sugarbush, who's also a part-time dowser, came up
and he picked the same site as well, so you've got three dowsers
all picking the same spot.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Drilling starts first thing next morning.
Grinding through Vermont granite is a tedious process -- watched
nervously by Liz Walker from the ski area, which is paying
the bill. But in these mountains they're sure to hit water
somewhere, says Dave Parker, the driller.
PARKER Probably 99% of the time you're going to hit water
no matter where you drill. It's just a question of how deep
you got to go to get it.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Sure enough, at 370 feet there's a trickle
-- about a gallon a minute. The dowsers have promised 48 gallons
a minute at 465 feet. But by 500 it's still only a trickle.
Liz calls up Ken.
WALKER If you say it's worthwhile going any deeper, we'll
go out and we'll get some more sticks and go deeper.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) They keep drilling, and Ken joins Liz at
BANNISTER Kind of disappointing
LIZ WALKER Yeah, I know. I was disappointed over 100, 200
ALAN ALDA (Narration) At 600 feet they call it off, confirming
what Dave thinks of dowsing.
PARKER Personally myself, I don't have much belief in it.
I've proved them wrong too many times.
BANNISTER I've always learned that whenever there's a failure,
it's not that the dowsing didn't work, it's that you didn't
do a good job at it, or sometimes, the actual hole will miss
slightly, and you don't just hit the fracture.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) While our two examples don't disprove all
of dowsing, literally hundreds of scientifically controlled
studies have shown that dowsing can't find things
ALAN ALDA (Narration) At a secret military installation somewhere
in America, two air force pathologists examine the body of
an alien being. A few weeks earlier the alien's space craft
has crash landed in the New Mexico desert, where it is discovered
by a local rancher. All wreckage and alien remains are quickly
impounded. All details are now classified top secret. An air
force cameraman has been called in to document the autopsy
of one of the aliens. It's an event of the utmost importance
-- the first evidence of a visit to Earth of beings from another
world. The alien is clearly advanced -- it no longer needs
large teeth to eat. The size of the skull indicates a highly
developed brain. And the eyes appear to be protected from
space rays by special contact lenses. It is 1947, to avoid
public panic, the government suppressed all word of this historic
event -- but Scientific American Frontiers managed to acquire
a copy of the film. Well, all right -- disregard everything
I just said. Actually we faked the whole thing in a Hollywood
special affects house, run by
STEVE JOHNSON, who played the
other pathologist in the autopsy.
ALAN ALDA Good to get out of that.
STEVE JOHNSON You're telling
me. Got a few new wrinkles on our faces.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) This is the alien autopsy film that we were
mimicking. First shown on TV in the early 90s, it was accompanied
by the same kind of claims we just made for our alien. To
special effects people like Steve it's an obvious hoax, and
not a very good one. It looks more like a tailor's dummy,
with no apparent structure like a skeleton to hold it up.
Somehow the cameraman never manages to get the close-ups in
focus. And whenever there's any interesting action -- like
opening the skull -- a convenient shoulder obscures the view.
STEVE JOHNSON The biggest thing that made the other one false
is that there is absolutely no sense of weight to it. If you
remember, they're kind of pretending to look in the mouth.
They just do this kind of thing. They kind of pretend to examine
the head, as opposed to doing what we've done here, really
being able to see weight and mass. Now, that's one thing that
really makes this much more believable, because you can pick
it up. You can really see how a body would react.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The alien autopsy film fanned the flames
of alien fever that millions of American have caught.. Roswell,
New Mexico is the focus. In 1947 a rancher near here found
what was said to be flying saucer wreckage. 50 years later,
Roswell tourists are still thinking about it.
Something happened, we don't know exactly what it is.
The object was unidentified, and so it has to be something.
If nothing happened, then they probably wouldn't have all
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Aliens are good business for a small town,
but they're taken seriously.
GUIDE When it cracked open, it was still pretty much basically
intact, but it kind of split open at a seam and kind of had
an opening to it, like this, so you could peer inside. There
were three bodies still inside the craft, there was a fourth
one kind of hanging half in and half out of the opening in
the craft, and then the fifth body had either been thrown
out or had crawled out, and was sitting up high...
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We think we have a better account of what
happened in Roswell in 1947. Let us explain.
ANNOUNCER The sky is the stage, the actors flying saucers.
And they're back on the scene with some new twists.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) In the forties and fifties, saucer scares
were all the rage. A pilot on the West Coast seems to have
started it all, when he saw some strange lights. It was June,
1947. At that time, a team from New York University was at
work in Alamagordo, New Mexico. They were developing ways
to lift microphones up into the stratosphere, hoping to pick
up the first Soviet A-bomb tests. Standard weather balloons
were used to fly the microphones, along with radio transmitters,
battery packs, and things looking like foil-covered kites
to act as reflectors for tracking-radar. The first balloon
flight of 1947 was launched from Alamagordo on June 4. It
drifted northeast, tracked by ground radar and by a B-17 to
monitor radio signals. About 70 miles downwind -- just 15
miles from the Foster ranch, and beyond radar range -- the
batteries failed prematurely. With no signals to monitor,
the B-17 turned back. It was the only balloon the project
lost, before or since. 10 days later, a rancher on the Foster
ranch found some mysterious wreckage and pushed it under a
bush. Then came the West Coast flying saucer scare. The rancher
wondered if he'd found a crashed saucer, so he told the sheriff,
who called the local air base -- Roswell Army Air Field. The
intelligence officer, convinced they had a saucer, gave the
local press this dramatic story. The wreckage was flown to
8th Army Air Force headquarters at Fort Worth, where these
pictures were taken. This is the Roswell intelligence officer.
At Fort Worth, General Ramey brought in his meteorologist,
who immediately recognized the materials as parts of a weather
balloon and a radar reflector. He'd used both in World War
Two. So the general issued another press release saying there
was no saucer, and that was that. At least it was until the
1970s, when a series of popular books reopened the whole Roswell
affair -- this time alleging an elaborate government cover-up
of the truth. So we tracked down one of the scientists from
the original balloon project, Charlie Moore. Here he is working
at Alamagordo in 1947, when he was a graduate
STUDENT. Charlie, now a retired meteorology professor, has
pictures showing the balloons and radar reflectors they were
using that year. They were still using similar equipment in
1953, which is when this reflector dates from. It pretty well
matches what the rancher said he found. The local paper reported
the rancher as saying:
RANCHER VOICE "...the tinfoil, paper, tape and sticks made
a bundle about three feet long..." "...there were some eyelets
in the paper..."
CHARLIE MOORE The rancher who picked up the debris noted
that it contained brass eyelets at the corners of these radar
targets. They were also on the targets we flew.
RANCHER VOICE "...considerable scotch tape and some tape
with flowers printed upon it had been used in the construction."
CHARLIE MOORE The tape had some flowerlike designs, they
looked like little poppies and little rose petals imprinted
on the back. The tape was along these balsa wood sticks to
reinforce the attachment of the panels to the balsa wood.
That turned out to be an emergency fix that the prototype
targets we had, had to have, and the manufacturer happened
to have some tape on hand and put these reinforcements on
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The tape designs are now interpreted as alien
hieroglyphics -- you can even buy this "authentic replica"
in Roswell. The rancher said he had not found a weather balloon,
only rubber that was
RANCHER VOICE "...smoky gray in color."
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Here's the material photographed at Fort
Worth. But Charlie Moore has a simple explanation.
MOORE This is a neoprene balloon similar to the ones we used
in 1947, and they're quite sensitive to light. If the material
is sitting on the ground, the fragments can turn quite black.
Here is some neoprene balloon material that I've exposed to
the sunlight for 2 or 3 weeks.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) In fact the balloon project explanation makes
sense now, as it did in 1947. But many people just won't buy
All we need is for the government to do is release the documents,
and we'll find out yes or no real quick.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) It's said that the flying saucer wreckage
and the aliens were quickly concealed in this hangar at Roswell
Army Air Field, then flown out to Wright-Patterson air base
in Ohio. A massive cover-up was put in place, with Charlie
Moore and his balloons as the official story. Philip Klass
is an engineer and aerospace journalist who has worked to
debunk UFO reports for thirty years. He's found that in secret
intelligence papers from the time -- now declassified -- nobody
had ever heard of flying saucer wreckage. For example, here's
a report from 1948 -- the year after Roswell -- by the head
of intelligence at Wright-Patterson.
PHILIP KLASS He says
we've analyzed 180 UFO sighting reports or incidents. And
he says, some of them are weather balloons, some turn out
to be bright planets or stars, but there's still others that
we are unable to identify. Now he says, "although it is obvious
that some types of flying objects have been sighted, the exact
nature of those objects cannot be established until physical
evidence, such as that which would result from a crash has
been obtained." This document I have personally offered to
a number of TV show producers, it has been available to the
authors of Roswell books, never used, never mentioned, never
cited. This one document alone, if it were not for all the
others, would prove that there was no crash saucer at Roswell.
STEVE JOHNSON This is just as hard to do as it could be in
ALAN ALDA (Narration) In science there's a useful doctrine. It
states that the simplest explanation is probably the right
one. That means the only aliens around come from Hollywood.
ALAN ALDA Now the bone doesn't seem to have any marrow in it, but
that would only be...
STEVE JOHNSON Getting picky, are you?
ALAN ALDA Yeah, well, I'm beginning to believe that this is not
a real alien. What made you make the teeth like this?
STEVE JOHNSON Well, we wanted to have some degree of interest inside
the mouth, so we made teeth that were vestigial.
ALAN ALDA So these people have apparently evolved to the point
where they drink their meals out of a can.
STEVE JOHNSON That's
ALAN ALDA Or they take a pill once a month. This is a boring life.
No wonder they're out exploring other planets. They have nothing
to live for in their own planet.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) We're on West Braker Lane, outside Austin,
Texas. It's Austin's hi-tech highway, lined with a lot of
small outfits with big ideas. And this place may have the
biggest idea of all -- free, unlimited energy for all the
world. Out back is one of the first machines they've been
ALAN ALDA What is this thing?
SCOTT LITTLE This is a supposed free
energy device that was developed in Moldavia.
ALAN ALDA Yeah?
SCOTT LITTLE Yeah -- one of the former Soviet states.
It was widely rumored around the world that this thing produced
about 3 times more heat energy than the mechanical energy
required to pump the water through it.
ALAN ALDA Yeah, well, that sounds like the kind of thing you can't
get a patent for.
SCOTT LITTLE Exactly.
ALAN ALDA It's not going to blow up, is it?
SCOTT LITTLE We only
ALAN ALDA You wish it would
SCOTT LITTLE Yeah, I really do.
HAL PUTHOFF We would welcome that.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Water is pumped into a circular swirl chamber,
which forms thousands of tiny bubbles. As the bubbles collapse
on the way out, they're supposed to tap into what's called
zero point energy. Zero point energy is said to be all around
us. Any small enclosed space -- like a bubble -- is supposed
to create an imbalance in this energy sea, with more energy
outside the bubble than inside. When the bubble collapses,
the energy is released. You have to be a physicist to get
why all this could be true, but right now there are maybe
forty groups around the world exploring the idea. In Austin
they tested the Moldavian device thoroughly. And, yes -- it
did heat up the water, but no more than you'd expect from
the energy it took to run the pump. And that energy came from
the local electric company. Bur maybe they had simply failed
to recreate the original conditions of the discovery.
ALAN ALDA How do you know that you're exactly reproducing those
SCOTT LITTLE It's impossible to know. This is
something that is such a common problem, that I've even coined
a term for it: the experimenter's lament.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) They tried every combination of conditions
they could think of, to no avail. Reluctantly they concluded
the Moldavian device is a dud. But they haven't given up on
ALAN ALDA Actually there are little bubbles in my ears now.
SCOTT LITTLE If you put your finger under the...
ALAN ALDA Oh, no. You put your finger under it.
SCOTT LITTLE It
doesn't hurt but it makes your finger warm, because it's...
ALAN ALDA Yes it does. Really warm.
SCOTT LITTLE Now watch what
it does to the water.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The ultrasound generator creates a huge number
of bubbles. The heat given off will be accurately measured,
to see if there's any extra from zero point energy. Hal Puthoff's
absolutely certain the energy's out there.
HAL PUTHOFF Even
in far out empty space, there's enough energy in the volume
of a coffee cup to, for example, evaporate all the world's
oceans. This energy is already there.
ALAN ALDA This is the part I don't understand. You're talking about
something existing in a vacuum. You're talking about out in
space, where there are no particles. That means it's a vacuum,
HAL PUTHOFF OK, what there are are photons. You know,
if you're out in a space ship and you are in vacuum, you can
still look and see the sun. So what you're seeing is the light
propagating from the sun to you in the form of photons. Well,
the zero point energy is a just a photon sea. It's sort of
like a noise background.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) It sounds kind of fantastic -- but Scott
and Hal seem like careful scientists, not crackpots. I asked
one of our top physicists,
STEVEN WEINBERG, what he thought.
ALAN ALDA What about zero point energy? Does it exist? Is it worth
spending our time trying to exploit zero point energy if it
STEVEN WEINBERG I think the answers to those questions
are yes and no. No doubt there is such a thing as zero point
energy and it turns out to be incredibly small. We measure
it because energy produces gravity -- that's what general
relativity teaches us, that all energy can serve as a source
of gravitation and if there was a lot of energy in empty space,
there's a lot of empty space in the universe, and it would
create very strong gravitational fields which would completely
change the way the universe is evolved. And we would know
that. And based on that sort of argument, you could say that
in a volume of space the size of the earth, the amount of
energy is less than maybe a gallon of gasoline
ALAN ALDA Did you give your mother this clock?
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Other physicists don't agree with Weinberg's
estimate for zero point energy. But in their search for it,
Scott and Hal don't intend to fool themselves. To show how
tricky that is, Scott took me to see his mother's clock.
SCOTT LITTLE Mom, it's your boy. I brought a visitor. Betty
Lou, meet Alan
ALAN ALDA Betty Lou, nice to meet you.
BETTY LOU Nice to meet you.
ALAN ALDA Nice of you to have us in. Thank you.
BETTY LOU Come
in. Got your crew with you?
ALAN ALDA We brought America with us, actually, if that's OK.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Betty Lou's clock illustrates perfectly how
tough it can be to get at the truth. The clock, mysteriously,
runs for ever. In fact the big dome shape inside slowly expands
and contracts with the weather like a barometer, winding the
spring. If you didn't know that, you could be in trouble.
SCOTT LITTLE I could tell you that there was zero point energy
transducer in this housing back here, and you might be tempted
to believe me.
ALAN ALDA People can fool one another fraudulently like this, and
I guess they can fool themselves too, if they don't really
know how it's working.
SCOTT LITTLE You can either just simply
make a mistake and think it's real or you can subconsciously
delude yourself. And particularly if you want terribly bad
for it to be real, then the delusion is much easier then.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Scott and Hal may not be beyond science --
although they are on the fringes. And they're determined to
avoid mistakes or delusions. Take a look at this rig they're
building. It's designed to make very accurate measurements
of heat in a test cell inside. Temperatures are measured using
two independent methods, but a couple of days before we arrived,
the two measurements started to diverge -- with only a dummy
test cell in place. The red line should be down by the blue
one, but instead it's indicating an increased temperature.
ALAN ALDA If this were true, what would that mean?
Well, that would mean that the device in there was making
energy out of some unknown source.
ALAN ALDA So that would be time to call for a party.
ALAN ALDA Before you call the caterer, what do you do?
Assume it's an error. Attack with everything you've got and
try to tear it down. If it resists and stays, then you can
begin to become excited and maybe you've discovered something
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Will Scott and Hal discover something new?
According to Hal, we won't have long to wait before we find
ALAN ALDA You must have thought about how much it would change
the life of everybody on the planet.
HAL PUTHOFF We probably
will call the 20th century the nuclear age in terms of new
energy developments, and for the chauvinists in the field
like ourselves, we think the 21st century could be the zero
point energy age.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Barry Beyerstein, the neuroscientist who
helped run our dowsing test, is an expert on graphology --
ALAN ALDA When graphologists look at my handwriting, what are they
BARRY BEYERSTEIN They believe that your personality
is encoded in things like slant, for instance. So here we
have an example of handwriting that slants predominantly to
the left. Here we have writing that slants predominantly rightward.
ALAN ALDA OK, if it's slanting to the left, what is that supposed
to tell us?
BARRY BEYERSTEIN OK, they use metaphors. So they
say, what does this remind me of? Well, a slant to the left
is a standoffish person. This is somebody who slants away
from people and notice, here's a handwriting analyst's description
-- "people whose writing slopes to the left may be unwilling
to go out and fight the world, they're holding back."
ALAN ALDA Holding back.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) This is one of the larger graphology companies,
called Datagraph. There are tens of thousands of graphologists
across the country. Without knowing it, you may have had your
writing analyzed when you applied for a job or a loan. Jack
Donovan, Datagraph's president, is proud of their methods
which involve careful measurement of hundreds of features
-- like size, roundness, word spacing, letter spacing, straightness
of lines, and so on. He says their results are far superior
to those of other graphologists.
JACK DONOVAN They only normally
use 150 to 200 handwriting features, where we use 420 plus.
So just mathematically, we'd have a better chance of being
more accurate. We say that we're accurate to 90%.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Datagraph does measure accurately, but the
measurements are still interpreted in the traditional way
-- like begets like. Take height of letters, for example.
Large: "...needs attention and admiration ...bold, boastful,
lacks discipline..." Normal height: "...stable, practical,
realistic..." Small: "...introspective, modest ...may feel
inferior ...can mean antisocial behavior..."
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The 420 measurements are combined into a
personality profile, giving the subject's scores on 14 characteristics,
from self-esteem to sales potential.
JACK DONOVAN Handwriting
analysis using our measurement system, we call that a mind
print. You're it, and the odds-on chances of somebody else
being like you is 1 in 6 trillion.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) I had my mindprint done. The company asks
you to write about three specific topics -- hobbies, greatest
success, and greatest challenge. "...I met the challenge through
team work with other escapees and by calling on powers I didn't
know I possessed..." "...I frequently see myself in my mind's
eye hitting a long high one over the fence." We sent in samples
from eight people, all anonymous. This one's mine. I'm having
my slant measured right now.
ANALYST The further right that
it goes, the more impulsive, and this person is impulsive,
ALAN ALDA (Narration) I guess my lines aren't too straight, either.
ANALYST There is some confusion in this person's life. A lack
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Here are the eight finished analyses. Now
BARRY BEYERSTEIN and I are going to see if we can recognize
ALAN ALDA All right, this is not me. Independent, self-reliant,
has good judgment...
BARRY BEYERSTEIN Oh, that was mine. Give
ALAN ALDA OK, but I don't think that's me. I have to say, nothing
here leaps off the page as being me. I don't find myself saying
wow, they really got me.
BARRY BEYERSTEIN ... nailed me, yeah.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) In fact we couldn't pick out our own profiles,
so after being told which one was mine, I counted up how often
it was right.
ALAN ALDA Strong likes and dislikes, that's right. Impulsive, easily
offended, hates bitterly. Emotional brush fire. Oh, sure,
why not -- let's say I'm impulsive. Self esteem is high --
absolutely, they got that right. Verbal discretion is high,
the ability to keep confidences. I won't tell you whether
that's true or not. Vitality is average. No, I have a lot
of vitality, so that's wrong.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Altogether I thought 4 were right and 8 wrong,
with 2 maybes. I was trying to be scientific about my assessment,
although that was hard.
ALAN ALDA You can be influenced by wanting this to be true. If
you want it to be true, you'll say, yeah, there are those
times when I am standoffish, those dominate. But you have
to count up the times you're standoffish and not standoffish
to really know.
BARRY BEYERSTEIN This is why we evolved the
scientific method, to keep track of all the instances so you
have the complete set of data to look at and to do what you
just did, tally it up and count at the end and don't rely
on faulty inferences, on extrapolations, on faulty memory,
to tell you what you think is in there.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Testing graphology scientifically is the
JOHN NEZLEK, a psychologist at William and Mary College.
The idea is to compare graphology with a standard psychological
JOHN NEZLEK There are 187 questions, there are three
choices for each question. What you need to do...
ALAN ALDA (Narration) 40 students are taking part in the study.
This test rates subjects on a series of scales -- from humble
to assertive, for example, or trusting to suspicious.
I can find enough energy to face my difficulties. "A" -- always.
I feel a bit nervous of wild animals, even when they are in
strong cages. "C" -- no, false.
STUDENT I have been let down
by my friends - "B", occasionally. I have some characteristics
in which I feel definitely superior to most people. "A" --
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Personality is a slippery thing, and psychologists
regard these tests as only moderately reliable -- unlike the
claims made by Datagraph.
STUDENT In my spare time I like
to play music.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) All the subjects submitted writing samples
STUDENT ... but when I do, I find it relaxing.
...a balance that allows me to explore my academic interests
and ambitions, but that also allows me freedom to play.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The study showed some intriguing matches
between graphology and the standard test, but the number of
subjects was so small this could have been coincidence. It's
to avoid this problem that standard tests are developed with
thousands of people.
JOHN NEZLEK To validate Datagraph's claims
will take a series of studies, not just one such as this.
So, at this time, it's not appropriate to say whether it confirms
or disconfirms Datagraph's claims, so much as it doesn't have
enough information to do either.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) There is, however, a basic flaw in the procedure
you see here. Graphologists claim the content of the writing
sample is irrelevant. But it's impossible to rule out all
influence on the
ANALYST -- conscious or unconscious.
BARRY BEYERSTEIN I laid a few little traps for them in the way I
answered. So I answered literally true, but I used words that
have conventional expectations and connotations attached to
them that, if they were looking at the content, would lead
them to conclusions that are totally wrong for me.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Barry wrote: Beyerstein voice "Greatest challenge:
Getting over a serious medical condition. My abiding faith
carried me through a very tough time with this illness."
ALAN ALDA (Narration) In fact it was a close relative who was sick,
but getting over it was a challenge for the whole family.
Nevertheless the analysis came back:
ANALYST VOICE "Shows
evidence of medical problems or heavy medication."
ALAN ALDA (Narration) It was one more indication of the problems
BARRY BEYERSTEIN There have been well over
200 studies now done by experts in the field of personality
psychology and psychological measurement, personnel work and
so on, where graphologists have participated knowingly, willingly,
claiming that they were sure they could deliver the goods,
and they've fallen flat on their faces. I mean, the bottom
line, when you look at the whole gamut of research, is that
this is like tea leaf reading, this is like palm reading,
this is like astrology. It's a pseudoscience, it has no scientific
ALAN ALDA (Narration) This is Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in
New York City. It's one of the country's leading medical institutions.
Here patients with serious heart problems are receiving some
surprising treatment. It's called therapeutic touch, although
there's no actual touching involved. Ellen McMahon, a nurse,
is following procedures based on traditional Chinese medicine.
ELLEN McMAHON It's our belief that your body goes beyond your
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Ellen is sensing, and then manipulating,
ELLEN McMAHON Using your hands, you might
want to call them kind of like geiger counters, you just keep
going over it, working with the areas where you feel need,
and then smoothing it. It's our belief that underneath, if
we can make you balanced, that it can help the whole of your
body. And if you're in a state of restfulness, healing will
ALAN ALDA (Narration) They're trying to study whether therapeutic
touch can help heart bypass patients. But they've run into
the well-known placebo effect, whereby about a third of patients
respond favorably to anything that appears to be a treatment.
So for comparison, some patients must receive sham treatment.
Lorissa Klauss is running the study.
LORISSA KLAUSS The sham
therapeutic touch practitioners don't have the training for
one, in therapeutic touch, and they also don't have, hopefully,
the knowledge of what therapeutic touch is.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Some patients get trained practitioners,
some get the sham version, some get nothing. How the three
groups do after surgery will be compared. All three groups
get the same surgical treatment. While the operating room
staff goes about their normal duties, they're regularly joined
by a new team member at the head of the table, working on
the patient's energy balance. That's how the study was supposed
to work. But they've run into problems.
LORISSA KLAUSS The
sham practitioners have come and done their treatment and
then they come back and report to me and they say, well, I
think I felt something. How do you account for that?
ALAN ALDA (Narration) A key component of therapeutic touch is a
conscious intention to heal. If the sham practitioners are
feeling something, maybe they're healing, too. You'll never
know if the trained practitioners are doing any better, or
if it's all just placebo effect. So now they're trying another
approach. This is a lab culture of live cancer cells. Eric
Liu is preparing them for treatment. Frank Huo is an expert
in Yuan Chi, one of the Chinese energy therapies that therapeutic
touch is based on. In his own practice, Frank treats cancer
patients. By having him fight cancer cells, they can directly
measure any effect he has. It's the hospital's attempt to
bring a rigorous approach to a subject that most scientists
would regard as beyond science.
ERIC LIU Left hand up on the
belly button, right hand over the plate. Next one is two hands.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The cell study still requires sham practitioners
for comparison. Here Eric is instructing a medical student.
ERIC LIU While you're holding the poses, I want you to count
back in your mind from 100, down to zero by sevens, and the
reason I'm doing that is because I want to eliminate any intention.
Because with your mind occupied, doing subtraction, you won't
be thinking about the cells, you'll just be thinking about
ALAN ALDA (Narration) Assuming the sham practitioners don't spontaneously
acquire any healing intentions with cells, as they did with
heart patients, then this study stands a better chance of
being accepted as scientifically valid. The first results
show no effect by shams or therapeutic touch practitioners.
But Frank Huo, the Yuan Chi expert, showed a peculiar double
effect -- some cells grew less vigorously, while some grew
more. This could be nothing -- a mistake or a coincidence
-- or it could mean something. It needs more study. The foundation
of therapeutic touch is the practitioner's ability to sense
a patient's supposed energy. This is how practitioners describe
PRACTITIONER There's like a pulsing, or sometimes
there's a temperature change, or sometimes it literally feels
like energy, like if you've ever kind of zapped your hand
when you've turned on a light or something.
just a thickness as I move past an area...
warmth emanating from the person's body in that particular
area, an area of imbalance in the total body.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) In Poudre Valley, near Denver, Linda Rosa,
a nurse, and her husband Larry suggested a terrific science
project for their daughter Emily -- to see if therapeutic
touch practitioners could detect her energy field.
The only way that I could really find out if they really could
feel my energy field is if they couldn't see.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The hands belong to a trained therapeutic
touch practitioner. A coin toss determines where Emily will
position her hand. Then the practitioners have to say where
the hand is.
EMILY ROSA OK.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) To generate reliable statistics, 14 0s each
get 10 trials.
EMILY ROSA OK.
I got 4.1 for an average of correct guesses. Five is chance
and they got below chance.
ALAN ALDA (Narration) The practitioners failed to detect Emily's
supposed energy, so it's hard to see how therapeutic touch
can work. Emily's results may be published in a scientific
journal, but only after the work has been independently reviewed.
Peer review is one way science protects itself from faulty
conclusions. But perhaps science's most important safeguard
is an understanding of human nature itself. It was Ray Hyman,
the Oregon psychology professor, who brought this home to
ALAN ALDA The interesting thing that I'm picking up from you, and
I'm just getting this, I don't know how I'm getting it, is
RAY HYMAN Through telepathy.
ALAN ALDA I'm sure. Is that if we're not really careful, we fool
ourselves by wanting something to be true.
RAY HYMAN Definitely
ALAN ALDA And the most careful people can fool themselves.
HYMAN And as we know, the scientific method was basically
set up to protect people from fooling themselves in special
areas. They learn by experience that you have to set up certain
safeguards within certain areas. That's why different disciplines
have different techniques for doing it. But most of these
techniques were devised to protect us from ourselves.
back to top