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Retropsychokinesis (RPK) refers to the possibility of someone in the present affecting an event that occurred in the past. The study of possible RPK events grew out of the studies on psychokinesis (mind over matter) conducted by J. B. Rhine at Duke University. Rhine explored the possibility that human subjects could affect the roll of dice or the toss of coins. Rhine's experiments raised a variety of methodological issues involving assumptions about, for example, the behavior of a pair of dice tossed numerous times under "normal" conditions and what might constitute paranormal alteration of those conditions. They also raised questions about the nature of probability. More recently, Helmut Schmidt conducted similar experiments using an electronic random number generator, which ensured the randomness of the events being altered. The use of the random number generator greatly increased the sophistication of the experiments, and while laying to rest some of the questions concerning the Rhine experiments, it raised others, especially about the nature of time.

In the case of the random number generator, a series of numbers were generated and recorded, and the experiment was actually run at a later time. Subjects were then asked to force the choice which the random generation had already selected. After a series of experiments, and a variety of philosophical discussions about the nature of reality, causation, and the contemporary state of quantum theory, Schmidt concluded that his subjects seemed to be able to influence selected events in the past.

In the later 1990s, Matthew R. Watkins and Peter Moore of Cambridge University launched the RetroPsychoKinesis Project with the idea of continuing the work that Schmidt, now retired, had initiated. It is their understanding that the existence of the Internet has created a new possibility for testing Schmidt's assertions that developed out of his two decades of work. It is Watkins' belief that the use of the Internet can overcome a host of problems previously inherent in laboratory-based research and can eliminate many of the charges brought against parapsychology by the skeptics.

The use of the computer will allow a large number of subjects to be tested and untalented ones to be screened out. By having the computer handle the numbers, the opportunity for fraud will largely disappear. A major problem will, however, be the distinguishing of RPK from precognition, the most obvious alternative explanation for any positive results once fraud is eliminated. It is yet to be seen if the project can produce any positive results and deal satisfactorily with the multitudinous methodological problems. Those wishing to participate in the experiments may contact the project at its Internet site at http://www.fourmilab.c/rpkp/.


Schmidt, Helmut. "A PK Test with Electronic Equipment." Journal of Parapsychology 34 (1970): 175-81.

. "PK Tests with a High Speed Random Number Generator." Journal of Parapsychology 37 (1973): 105-18.

. "Precognition of a Quantum Process." Journal of Parapsychology 33 (1969): 99-108.

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