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A plausible method for telepathy (honest)

  1. Aug 9, 2012 #1
    Let me begin by saying I don't believe in telepathy but this explanation as to how it might work left me slack jawed.

    I was talking to a friend one day and he mentioned something that would involve telepathy, I said its not possible and that any signals generated by the brain are far too weak to travel any distance.

    Without missing a heartbeat he instantly replied, what if its carried as heterodyne.

    I was stunned, for the first time in my life I actually believed it might be possible.

    So what is heterodyne?

    If you've ever used a CB radio and your talking to somebody with a very weak signal and some idiot close by keys their microphone to block them out it often has the opposite effect, suddenly you can hear that distant signal very clearly (although it usually sounds a little squeaky) or when you tune a radio and weak station can often be heard clearly when you tune to a stronger station close by.

    So his explanation is that the feeble signals produced by the brain take a piggy back ride on the much stronger signals produced by the earth and are greatly amplified.

    I still don't believe in telepathy but if it was real that's how it would work :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2012 #2


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    Two important points you seem to have missed:

    - The brain does not produce radiowaves
    - The brain cannot sense nor interpret radiowaves

    EDIT: Third important point:

    - Decades and decades of study both technologically simple and complex have failed to show any evidence that telepathy exists. Proposing mechanisms for a phenomenon that there is no good reason to think exists is irrational. One might as well try to work out the force carrying particle of magic.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2012
  4. Aug 9, 2012 #3
    Well as far as I understand it the brain is capable of generating enough electric current to power a flashlight (I could easily be wrong), but if its generating any electricity at all then its creating RF waves.

    This isn't something I'm going to lose any sleep over and as mentioned I don't believe in telepathy, its just an interesting idea.
  5. Aug 9, 2012 #4
    "The universe being fine tuned for life makes about as much sense as proposing the desert is fine tuned for the cactus"

    This may be true but when reversed its plainly obvious that the cactus is fine tuned to live in the desert :)
  6. Aug 9, 2012 #5


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    Accepting for a moment that the brain's normal activity generates RF waves as a byproduct that doesn't that mental states can be matched to that (there are other techniques like EEG and TMS that can read mental states and thought identification is a progressing area of research).
    Indeed that's the message, it's a criticism of the strong anthropic pinciple.
  7. Aug 9, 2012 #6
    I agree with you 100% but I'm just pointing out a viable way to use the known laws of physics to make telepathy possible, I'm sure that if silent communication were essential to the survival of a species then evolution would make use of it.

    I never worry about the sharp knife edge the universe balances on I just use it to butter my bread :D
  8. Aug 9, 2012 #7
    I don't know much at all about radio. What would it mean for someone to "key their microphone to block them out?" It sounds like there has to be a deliberate effort to mask the weak signal for this heterodyne effect to occur. What RF does the earth produce and what would cause it to select any particular weak signal to try to block?
  9. Aug 11, 2012 #8
    Yes you would be correct that the attempt to block the signal is deliberate, in the world of radio its known as button pushing. I.E to simply key a microphone and send out an unmodulated carrier wave (hopefully that's the right description)

    Imagine two people both with walkie talkie radio's each with a 5 mile radius but the users are 15 miles apart, there is no way for them to communicate. If another radio with a stronger signal passes by both users their weak signal can end up being mixed into the stronger one allowing a conversation to take place that would under normal circumstances be impossible. I have experienced this many many times using radio's and to the best of my knowledge its called heterodyne, something that radio users would actually consider interference and try to filter out.

    As far as I know most planets or stars with a magnetic core generate radio waves, hence radio astronomy.

    I'm not saying that it takes place in nature I'm just making a suggestion that would make it possible using well understood laws of physics. I have no interest in telepathy, until that conversation I always considered it an impossibility that lay outside the laws of physics, now I have a slightly more open mind on the idea :)
  10. Aug 11, 2012 #9


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    Don't you think that many aspects of what you are proposing here are based as suppositions? I don't see a shred of valid references to back any claims you have made (brain waves can power a flashlight? C'mon now).

    When designing an experiment, one just doesn't design thing qualitatively, one also has to design it QUANTITATIVELY. It means that one has to come up with ballpark numbers that will determine if an effect can be measured, and using what type of instrumentation. This is something that is missing here, beside proper references to justify all of the assertion made.

    Since you kept on trying to argue that this should be physically possible, then the same requirement as any other criteria in designing a physics experiment should also apply if it is to be taken seriously. So far, I haven't seen it yet.

  11. Aug 11, 2012 #10
    What you are claiming about the radio signal processing technique called heterodyning is not true. This process mixes two frequencies to produce two new frequencies, a sum frequency and a difference frequency. Heterodyning itself does not amplify the signal. However, in radio it is many times beneficial to use a mixer to move (heterodyne) a modulated signal to a different frequency that is more suitable for the amplification process. But they are two different processes.

    I don't know what you experienced, but it was not the result of heterodyning alone. If what you said were true we would not need repeaters. All we would need is a transmitter on a hill transmitting a steady carrier wave.
  12. Aug 11, 2012 #11
    I have read many times that accumulatively all the cells in the brain generate enough current to light a flashlight and anything that generates a current produces RF waves. I have always argued that the energy in those RF waves is far too weak to propagate any reasonable distance, heterodyne on the other hand is a perfectly natural way for any weak RF signal to be amplified and carried to much greater distances than it could achieve on its own.

    Again I neither believe nor care that telepathy does or does not exist I just thought some people might be interested in an idea that allows minute signals produced in the brain to propagate large distances. I thought this area of the forum was just for some light hearted conversations, wow was I wrong :D
  13. Aug 11, 2012 #12
    I will ask my friend to explain this idea again as he has a deep understanding of antennas and the way that various wavelengths propagate. Essentially as I understand it a frequency with a very short range can modulate another frequency that has a much greater range.
  14. Aug 12, 2012 #13
    Lets say any weak signal can modify any stronger signal. What is the stronger signal that the brainwaves are modifying? I'm not aware the earth produces any RF.
  15. Aug 12, 2012 #14


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    What you had wrong was the expectation that no challenges were presented on your idea. Were you expecting that we all sit back and rejoice at all of this?

    What continues to be missing is any kind of solid evidence to justify many of the stuff that you have written. For example ".... I have read many times that... " just doesn't cut it. If you want the suggestion to be taken serious, you have got to produce valid citations! After all, you were the one who thought that it "... make it possible using well understood laws of physics... ". To be able to do that for the rest of us, we need to look at the physics, both qualitatively AND quantitatively.

    I work at a particle accelerator facility. We amply RF signals all the time to feed the accelerating structures. I also have done research work that required that I measured minute tunneling current through very, very small tunnel junctions, and that required amplification of such signals. So I know fully well the circumstances surrounding signal amplifications. You simply cannot say that I want to amplify such-and-such signal without knowing A LOT about not only the nature of that signal, but also what ballpark strength we are dealing with. This is even discounting the fact that such a signal that you are talking about hasn't been shown to exist (how do you amplify an non-existing signal?).

    While this is the S&D forum, half-baked ideas still will not pass unscathed. You may pass this on to your friend as well.

  16. Aug 12, 2012 #15
    Apparently the brain consumes about 15 watts of energy:


    How much "electricity" it produces is a different matter, but I find a flashlight battery here

    that consumes only .264 watts (2nd one down) so the claim the brain generates enough current to power a flashlight is probably not outlandish. There are probably enough ions in motion at any given time to equal .264 watts.

    Like Ryan said, though, the brain doesn't produce RF:


    "Brain waves" are created by the average activity of large populations of neurons and are extremely slow compared to what individual neurons are doing. The notion that anything that generates current produces RF waves is erroneous because Radio Frequency refers to frequencies in a specific range:


    I think what you are referring to in saying "anything that generates a current produces RF waves" is the fact that any current automatically has a magnetic field around it and any fluctuation in that current will be reflected in the strength or polarity of the field. Generally speaking that's electro-magnetic radiation, not RF (RF is a specific subset of EM). A neuron does, in fact, produce EM at 10-100 hertz, and the brain in general produces "waves", but they are normally 40hz tops and often very much less. Bottom line to qualify as radio waves seems to be 3000 hz.

    Brainwaves are tiny in strength but still strong enough to be artificially amplified by man made devices, the EEG being the prime example. Even though it's not RF there is a signal there to be amplified. I don't see where any other conditions for 'natural' amplification exist here, though.

    The wiki article on heterodyne echos what turtlemeister said, meaning this is not a means of amplifying signals.


    Strictly speaking, they probably already propagate large distances, but they're so weak so fast that there's nothing sensitive enough to detect them.
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