Robert G. Jahn
|Robert G. Jahn|
|Born||Robert G. Jahn
1 April 1930
|Residence||United States of America|
|Citizenship||United States of America|
|Institutions||Lehigh University, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University.|
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Known for||Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab, Electrically powered spacecraft propulsion|
|Notable awards||Curtis W. McGraw Research Award, Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Andhra University|
Robert G. Jahn, Ph.D. (born April 1, 1930) is a retired American plasma physicist, Professor of Aerospace Science, and Dean of Engineering at Princeton University. Jahn was also a founder of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR), a parapsychology research program which ran from 1979 to 2007.
Jahn holds a B.S.E. degree in Engineering Physics (1951), a M.A. Degree in Physics (1953), and a Ph.D. degree in Physics (1955), all from Princeton University, and has held faculty positions in Physics Department at Lehigh University, at the California Institute of Technology, and, since 1962, at Princeton.
During his career, Jahn worked on electrically powered spacecraft propulsion and directed several major research programs in advanced aerospace propulsion systems, in cooperation with NASA and the U.S. Air Force. In 1961, he founded the Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton and directed it for more than three decades. He served as Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton from 1971 - 1986.
Jahn also engaged in the study of psychokinesis for many years. With Brenda Dunne, he established the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) in 1979 following an undergraduate project to study purported low-level psychokinetic effects on electronic random event generators. Over the years, Jahn and Dunne claim to have created a wealth of small-physical-scale, statistically significant results that they claim suggested direct causal relationships between subjects' intention and otherwise random results.
Experiments under Jahn's purview also explored remote viewing and other topics in parapsychology. In 1982, at the invitation of the editors of Proceedings of the IEEE, Jahn published a comprehensive review of psychic phenomena from an engineering perspective. Statistical flaws in his work have been proposed by others in the parapsychological community and within the general scientific community. Jahn's PEAR lab closed in 2007.
Honors and Awards
Jahn is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also a chairman of the AIAA Electric Propulsion Technical Committee and a member of the NASA Space Science and Technology Advisory Committee. He is the vice President of the Society for Scientific Exploration. Jahn received a Doctor of Science degree from Andhra University.
He has written the book Margins of Reality: The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World (with B. J. Dunne) and Physics of Electric Propulsion, as well publications in various technical fields. Many of Jahn's papers on parapsychology appear in the Journal of Scientific Exploration and similar publications that focus primarily upon fringe science.
The psychokinesis experiments of Jahn which involved "random machines" produced "a very small effect" not large enough to be observed over a brief experiment but over a large number of trials was able to produce a tiny statistical deviation from chance. The physicist Robert L. Park wrote it was not clear if any of the machines used were random and there are no truly random machines, therefore it was possible that the lack of randomness only began to show up after many trials.
Park questioned if mind really could influence matter then it would be easy for parapsychologists to measure such a phenomena by using the alleged psychokinetic power to deflect a microbalance which would not require any dubious statistics but "the reason, of course, is that the microbalance stubbornly refuses to budge." Park has suggested the reason statistical studies such as Jahn's are so popular in parapsychology is because they introduce opportunities for uncertainty and error which are used to support the biases of the experimenter. Park wrote "no proof of psychic phenomena is ever found. In spite of all the tests devised by parapsychologists like Jahn and Radin, and huge amounts of data collected over a period of many years, the results are no more convincing today than when they began their experiments."
According to Massimo Pigliucci the results from PEAR can be explained without invoking the paranormal because of two problems with the experiment "the difficulty of designing machines capable of generating truly random events and the fact that statistical "significance" is not at all a good measure of the importance or genuineness of a phenomenon." Pigluicci has written the statistical analysis used by the Jahn and the PEAR group relied on a quantity called a "p-value" but a problem with p-values is that if the sample size (number of trials) is very large like PEAR then one is guaranteed to find artificially low p-values indicating a statistical "significant" result even though nothing was occurring other than small biases in the experimental apparatus.
Two German independent scientific groups have failed to replicate the PEAR results. Pigliucci has written this was "yet another indication that the simplest hypothesis is likely to be true: there was nothing to replicate." The physicist Milton Rothman wrote most of the faculty at Princeton considered the work of PEAR an embarrassment. Robert L. Park said of PEAR, "It’s been an embarrassment to science, and I think an embarrassment for Princeton".
- The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World (1981)
- Consciousness and the Source of Reality: The PEAR Odyssey (2011)
- Physics of Electric Propulsion (2012)
- Quirks of the Quantum Mind (2012)
- Jahn, R.G.; B.J. Dunne (1986). "On the Quantum Mechanics of Consciousness with Application to Anomalous Phenomena". Foundations of Physics 18 (6): 721–772.
- Robert G. Jahn. (1982). The Persistent Paradox of Psychic Phenomena: An Engineering Perspective. Proceedings of the IEEE. Volume 70: 136-170.
- George P. Hansen, Jessica Utts, Betty Markwick. (1992). Critique of the Pear Remote-Viewing Experiments. Journal of Parapsychology. Volume 56, No. 2. pp. 97-113.
- Benedict Carey (2007). "A Princeton Lab on ESP Plans to Close Its Doors". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
- Robert Jahn at Princeton University
- Robert L. Park. (2000). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Oxford University Press. pp. 198-200. ISBN 0-19-860443-2
- Massimo Pigliucci. (2010). Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. University of Chicago Press. pp. 77-80. ISBN 978-0-226-66786-7
- Milton Rothman. (1994). "Tachyons and Other Nonentities". Skeptical Inquirer.