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Beyond a shadow of a doubt

  1. Mar 20, 2005 #1
    How powerfull is the human mind, especially the sub-conscious? Getting up, out of ones chair and walking over to the fridge to get something to eat and returning (if only to read something, slightly less interesting than food,) takes a great deal of physics, spontainious calculation, timing etc... Yet we do this all without thinking about it, munch. If the human brain can do all of this, then we ought to be able to toss an object, spinning rapidly through the air and determen how it is going to land in advance, easy! Well, I tried it on myself and I couldn't do it, munch. Fifty percent of the time the coin would land on tails. I "know" that there is a fifty/fifty chance.
    So, I wondered what would happen if I tried an experiment on someome else.
    -------MY EXPERIMENT------------
    I told an individual that I had two weighted dice (they weren't) that always landed on three. They didn't really believe me, so I sugested that they role them to see for themselves (to prove me wrong.) They roled the dice and as I suspected... a pair of threes.
    I tried this experiment on a different individual another day, munch, the same result.
    I went to the MATH forum to check out my results in the forum "what are the odds" Could someone try to duplicate this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2005 #2


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    This isn't really a philosophy topic-- more like cognitive science. There isn't really a clearcut, obvious place where this thread should go; I'm moving it to Social Sciences, as 'psychology' seems to be the discipline closest to this topic.

    Not really. The circumstances are radically different. Activities such as walking around involve rich resources of data, such as propioceptors located throughout the body and information about balance coming from the inner ear, in addition to visual information. In the case of predicting a coin flip, all we have is visual information, and making things even more difficult is the chaotic nature of how coin flips turn out. If we had some sort of neural connection from a coin giving us information about its orientation in space and so on during its trajectory in the air, and this information were fed in properly to brain regions responsible for encoding and manipulating spatial movement and trajectories and the like-- i.e., if we had similar informational and computational resources available for predicting coin flips as we did for organizing bodily movement-- I imagine we'd be much better at predicting the outcome.
  4. Mar 20, 2005 #3
    There is much more than just visual data. The dice is in your hands (you know their mass). You throw them (you know the trajectory). You put the spin on them (you know the rotational velocity) and from experience you may even know the properties of the surface they will land on. This should be more than enough information for a computer to plan the outcome of the toss. I think people are still smarter than computers (though many believe they are not.) Have you tried this experiment? The odds are one in thirty-six that it will work. The mind must be more powerful then we can imagine or it wouldn't work. Please post your results.
  5. Mar 20, 2005 #4


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    Maybe that's enough for a computer that's been programmed properly, but it's not enough for our brains, given the way they work. We do not take in some set of initial conditions and then predict their outcome for some extended amount of time later. We are constantly monitoring information and making dynamic, online adjustments based on that information when doing things like walking or catching a ball. For instance, try walking in a straight line with your eyes closed, or after spinning around for a while to upset the fluids in your inner ear, or after cutting off blood circulation to your feet for a short time to numb them. Even if you take very careful stock of your initial conditions before shutting off or distorting these senses, you won't be able to do these tasks very fluidly, because you won't have completely continuous, online monitoring of what is going on.
  6. Mar 20, 2005 #5


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    Also, we should not underestimate the complexity of the event in question. Coin flips and dice tosses would be hard for any computer to predict accurately, since they are so sensitive to initial conditions. Humans can do things like throw a ball at a target-- essentially a sort of prediction of where the ball will go after being thrown-- very accurately. But this is just a sort of gross calculation of trajectories. If you ask a person to throw a ball overhand at a wall and predict what side of the ball will make contact with the wall, which would be a sort of analogue to predicting what face of a coin will turn up, I doubt the success rate would exceed chance.
  7. Mar 20, 2005 #6
    That's an excellent experiment. Did you think of it? Or did you read about it somewhere? I will try it for sure.
  8. Mar 20, 2005 #7
    hypnagogue wrote, "Also, we should not underestimate the complexity of the event in question. Coin flips and dice tosses would be hard for any computer to predict accurately, since they are so sensitive to initial conditions."

    (sorry, I still haven't figuring out how to quote and post links, yet.)

    by the way, what do you mean by "hard for any computer" It may be hard for a person to play a game of chess with a computer but I really don't see how it could/would be hard for the computer.

    I copied this next part from a link its in {} Here is an example of a computer used on the roulette wheel.

    {Amazing technology

    The scanner measured the speed of the ball as it was released by the croupier, identified where it fell and measured the declining orbit of the wheel.

    The data was beamed to the micro-computer, which calculated on which section of numbers the ball would land.

    This information was then flashed on to the screen of the mobile just before the wheel made its third spin, by which time all bets must be placed.

    Having reduced their odds of winning from 37-1 to 6-1, the trio placed bets on all six numbers in the section where the ball would definitely end up.
    On the first night they won more than $180,000, returning the next night to win $2 million.

    Scot free

    After the casino's security experts later examined closed-circuit television footage, officers from Scotland Yard's gaming squad arrested the trio at a nearby hotel on suspicion of obtaining their winnings by deception.

    They were given bail but have now been told they are free to
    leave Britain.

    Legal sources said the gamblers were let off because it was deemed they had not violated any law, since the scanner did not interfere with the ball or wheel, The Sunday Times reported.}

    Yes, Telos this is my own idea and experiment. All I'm asking is to just try this experiment on someone and post your results here. Remember to be convincing.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2005
  9. Mar 25, 2005 #8
    Notes on "my experiment."
    Find somebody to role dice. It is important to instill a more than passive interest about the dice, for instance, have a board game, on the table, that requires dice, like monopoly or snakes+ladders, when you tell them, "These dice are weighted and always land threes." This is so that they doubt that the dice are rigged. Then say in an offhand way, "Go ahead, role them." If executed convincingly, this will cause them to have "a shadow of a doubt" about the dice NOT being weighted and trigger their sub-conscious to "cause" the dice, (both?), to land on three.
  10. Mar 26, 2005 #9


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    I haven't tried this experiment out yet, but in your own experiences, how many times did you ask the person to roll the die? It might have been impressive if the first roll came up 3s, but that's not a statistically significant sample. You'd have to observe a number of rolls to come to any conclusions. In particular, the smaller the observed effect, the more trials you'll need to achieve statistical significance.
  11. Mar 26, 2005 #10
    I know this sounds incredible but the first person rolled two threes on his first and only role and the second person tossed two threes on her first role, two days later. I didn't try this on any one else in between. I have tried similar versions of this experiment on other people since then with the same results. I have had some failures, but this only seemed to happen if I wasn't convincing enough.
    Remember when you were first learning to ride a bicycle, and although the road may have been paved and flat, no matter what you did, you somehow couldn't avoid that single rock far ahead of you? This is sort of akin to that, I think.
  12. Apr 4, 2005 #11
    Over 108 people have viewed this thread and if they all tried "my experiment" the odds are that 3 of them would have come up with a positive result, yet, I see no posts.
    If you got a positive result, relax, I realize now, that in the field of science, reputation is very important to ones' current standing and future career(s) and any response other than skepticism, could be unwise. I think the only way to get results for "my experiment" is from an anonymous pole and I don't know how to do that, at this point, in this thread. Thank you.
  13. Apr 4, 2005 #12


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    How many people rolling a die even know the orientation of the die in their hand?

    Your example of the roulette wheel is a good one - the computer could not pinpoint exactly where the ball would land, just which sixth of the wheel it would probably land. Predicting what dice are going to do is significantly more difficult.
  14. Apr 4, 2005 #13
    Most, maybe all, but they are unaware that they know.

    What they are aware of is that there's a very slim chance of a six sided cube to role with one particular side up unless there is a reasonable explanation for it to. ie. it's weighted.

    You hit the nail on the head. This is what "my experiment" is all about.

    I could have used a "special-magnetic-coin-that-always-lands-on-tails-but-only-on-metal-surfaces" approach for the same experiment but the odds are only 1 in 2, and the story is not as convincing.
  15. Apr 27, 2005 #14
    In a separate experiment, John-Dylan Haynes and Geraint Rees of University College, London showed volunteers two images in quick succession, the first flashing so quickly that the subjects couldn't clearly identify it. By analysing their brain activity, the scientists successfully identified which image had been shown, even when the subjects themselves didn't remember seeing it.

    Together, the results elucidate how the brain reacts to stimuli, even when they are "invisible".

    If scientists could gain a true understanding of the neural basis of subjective experience, it might one day allow for reliable prediction of a person's mental state based solely on brain scan measurements.

    The technique has so far only been used to identify visual patterns a subject can see or has chosen to focus on. But researchers hypothesize it might be extended to probe a person's awareness, focus of attention, memory and intention of movement. }

    It looks like the brain works faster than you can remember!
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