Outputs from the Metaphase Typewriter stream live onto this site between 5 February - 16 February 2014
You are invited to affect the output of words using pure consciousness.
Random quantum events are being converted into random number generation that in turn generates words and sentences in English based on frequency of occurrence.
The random source for the MTRP is radioactive decay (thorium) detected by a Geiger counter attached via USB interface. This device uses the random period between decay events from the radioactive source to generate a random string of bits. The random bits are aggregated into random numbers as needed.
The MTRP selects words based on word frequency. A word list with frequency information has been compiled by Professor Mark Davies at Brigham Young University, and made available at www.wordfrequency.info.
The word list contains approximately 500,000 word forms and part of speech, which appear at least four times in the 410 million words Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA).
COCA is the only large and balanced corpus of American English and it is the largest freely-accessible corpus on the web. It contains 20 million words each year from 1990 to the present, and is divided (each year, and therefore overall as well) into five equally-sized sections: spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. The version of the corpus used for this word list is the version from January 2011, which contains texts up through June 2010.
Professor Davies consented to the use of his word list and a modified version of this word list is used.
The MTRP also employs some primitive sentence structure patterns. When words are selected from the word list, we have the part of speech for that particular word corresponding to the usage, and the part of speech is used in an attempt to distill some semblance of intelligibility.
If you are psychic you probably have some idea how to interact with the machine - but here is a suggestion:
In a "participatory universe"*, consciousness collapses the quantum superposition of all possibilities and brings the material world into existence.
Through conscious will, you can select specific material outcomes (i.e. specific words) defeating more probable outcomes (randomly generated words).
Some physicists and other scientists have raised the possibility that our brain is in a quantum pre-material state of superposition where all possibilities exist. We might be able to consciously probe this quantum state and through exercise of will, select material outcomes from all possibilities. Such exercise of conscious will would defeat more probable outcomes (ie where it appeared you had no control over outcomes).*coined by physicist John Wheeler
Some physicists have considered the possibility that exercise of choice does not need to occur in close proximity to the outcome. This is based on the idea that quanta inside our brains are entangled with quanta existing elsewhere (even at vast distances) through quantum non-locality and therefore that it is possible to remotely exercise control via the brain over the other entangled particles.
The biggest unsolved problem in quantum theory is: how do events happen? How, when and why does a quantum world of pure possibility (represented by the quantum wavefunction) turn into actual facts? One possibility (associated with scientists John von Neumann, Eugene Wigner, Pascual Jordan, E. H. Walker and Henry Stapp) is that consciousness "collapses the wavefunction" and brings the world into existence. In their view, human consciousness collapses possible events in the brain and other types of consciousness are responsible for the rest of the world. On this view, every quantum event is the external act of some invisible conscious being.
Taking seriously John Wheeler"s idea of a "participatory universe" that consciousness collapses the wavefunction and brings the world into material existence, in the 1970s, physicist Nick Herbert created the "Metaphase Typewriter". For his quantum system, Herbert used a radioactive source (thallium 204) that produced events in a Geiger counter in turn connected to a computer and a fast-printing tele-type machine. He created a program based on converting the Geiger counter's record of the time intervals between successive decays of the thallium into letters of the English alphabet. If the time interval was close to the average, the typewriter would produce a frequently occurring letter of the alphabet and if the delay departed from the average, a less frequent letter. In one notable experiment Herbert hacked into a UC Medical School computer in San Francisco in an attempt to contact the spirit of magician Harry Houdini on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Herbert's original Metaphase Typewriter recalled the late 19th century serious scientific investigation into spirits, mediums and the extrasensory.
Herbert invited psychics to try to influence the output of letters through metaphysical means. Although Herbert recorded little success, nevertheless, the Metaphase Typewriter represents the serious endeavours some physicists have made to experimentally access the paranormal, the realm of consciousness and the metaphysical that, arguably, stands outside our material world.
The Metaphase Typewriter Revival Project, 2012, created by Lynden Stone in collaboration with Nick Herbert and programmer Mervyn Ulrich Shrooms, seeks to re-enliven Herbert's project using contemporary technology.
Through this site psychics of the world are invited, once more, to interact with a metaphase typewriter.
The Metaphase Typewriter Revival Project, 2012, was created by Brisbane artist Lynden Stone in collaboration with programmer Mervyn Ulrich Shrooms and US physicist Nick Herbert.
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