Aug 20, 2006
Can you sense when someone's staring at you? Do you think about someone you've not thought about for a while only to have them ring you on the phone? Coincidence or telepathy? Ex-Cambridge grad, Dr Rupert Sheldrake is investigating...
We caught up with Dr Sheldrake when he was first appointed last year to the Perrott-Warrick Scholarship...
Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author. He's a former Research Fellow of the Royal Society, former Cambridge and Harvard graduate (to name but some of his busy academic life) and was appointed to the Perrott-Warwick Scholarship, administered by Trinity College, Cambridge last year. "The Perrick Warrick fund was set up in the 1930's for psychical research or research on unexplained human abilities and this endowment (£100,000 over three years) is used to appoint someone to do research" explained Dr Sheldrake.
"One of the things that I'm doing research on is whether or not animals can detect when they're being stared at. I've already done a lot of research that shows that many people can tell when they're being looked at from behind and this is a common, everyday experience for a lot of people. People have experienced turning round to find someone staring at them or staring at somebody and finding that the person then turns around. So, I think that it's already quite well established that this occurs in the human realm.
|Who's on the phone?|
"There's a lot of evidence to suggest that it happens with animals too and what I'm investigating at the moment are claims that some pet owners make out that they can wake up their sleeping animal; a dog or a cat, for example, by staring at it. So, I'm trying to find people who've noticed this with their pets and then, in cases where it happens fairly reliably, I'm setting up tests where we videotape the sleeping animal and then at random times have the owner stare at it to see if it does indeed wake up or not. I'd love to hear from people if they've had this kind of experience - they can contact me through my website."
Another area of research that he'll be undertaking is into the realms of telepathy where he'll be conducting a series of real-time telephone experiments and some online ones too. "I've done a whole series of surveys to find out which kinds of telepathy occur most often in the modern world and the commonest situation is in the connection with phone calls. What happens is people think of someone that they haven't thought of in a while, then the phone rings a minute or two later and it's that person on the phone. And they say 'that's amazing, I was just thinking about you' - it's a very common experience and about 80% of the population have had that kind of experience with phone calls."
"What I've done is set up tests where we can find out if telepathy is really happening… [one of] the experiments involves having two people that you know well, registering your name and their names in a group, then logging on to the website to do the test together. It takes about 10 minutes and people do 12 trials where they pre-guess who is going to email them before they receive an email from one of those contacts." To take part, go to his website and follow the instructions on 'How telepathic are you?'.
So, finally, what's the point? If telepathy can be scientifically monitored and established and our sixth sense elevated to the same status as the rest of our senses (in the eyes of the medical / scientific world) over the three years, what's beyond that proof? "I think that if it's possible to prove in a way that's widely accepted that telepathy exists (and I think that repeatable experiments are a key to this), then the next question is; how do we explain it? At the moment, it doesn’t fit into our present understanding of physics, chemistry and biology. If it happens, it implies there's something we haven’t yet recognized or taken on board and I think that there would be a lot more curiosity and active research in the scientific world about it if it were generally agreed that it happens. Then this would become one of the big outstanding problems of science. So, that would be the next problem, to try and understand how it's working, what's going on. But, the main priority at the moment is not theoretical speculation but experimental research".