DR HAL PUTHOFF: From SRI to ZPE
Dr Hal Puthoff has been conducting serious scientific research at the frontiers of knowledge for over a quarter of a century.
In 1972, he and colleague Russell Targ, while researching lasers at the Stanford Research Institute, were asked by Edgar Mitchell to test the alleged psychic abilities of Uri Geller. Their paper caused something of a storm when it was published in the science journal Nature. The paper and relevant articles are linked to the bottom of this page.
Subsequently Puthoff was instrumental in setting up and running the US Government’s controversial Remote Viewing programme, which would continue for over 20 years beofre being made public in 1995.
Today Puthoff is investigating Zero Point Energy, a possibly limitless, pollution-free energy source that could just change the our lives on earth and propell humankind into deep space.
Could you describe, in layman’s terms, your own current research into Zero Point Energy.
Physicists universally recognize that so-called empty space, even the vacuum of outer space, is not truly empty, but is the seat of energetic field processes, sort of the electromagnetic equivalent of froth at the base of a waterfall. (The term “zero-point” simply means that if the universe were cooled down to absolute zero where all thermal agitation effects would be frozen out, this energy would still remain.) What is not as well known, however, even among practicing physicists, are all the implications that derive from this known aspect o quantum physics. However, there are a group of physicists – – myself and colleagues at several research labs and universities – – who are examining the details, We ask such questions as whether it might be possible to “mine” this reservoir of energy for use as an alternative energy source, or whether this background energy field might be responsible for inertia and gravity. These questions are of interest because it is known that this energy can be manipulated, and therefore there is the possibility that the control of this energy, and possibly inertia and gravity, might yield to engineering solutions. Some progress has been made in a subcategory of this field (cavity quantum electrodynamics) with regard to controlling the emission rates of excited atoms and molecules, of interest in laser research and elsewhere.
How close do you think you might be, in your own research, to some kind of breakthrough?
Predicting when a breakthrough in a scientific field will occur is like throwing darts to choose your stocks! The only thing that can be said with any certainty is that it probably won’t occur if you don’t work on the problem. That said, one hopes that within a decade or two some significant progress will be made, even if only incrementally.
Other than space travel, what kinds of applications do you imagine your own work might be used in?
With regard to the potential tapping of zero-point energy, if it were found that significant energy could be generated, then application to earthbound problems would be foremost. Because of the increasing possibility of water shortages in various parts of the world, if ZPE energy generation were competitive with current resources, I would see water desalinization as being a major application. The possibility of the use of ZPE to reduce fossil fuel pollution for transportation would also be attractive, again, if economical.
Have you had any response from fossil fuels companies about your work? Are they doing any research in this area?
I had an opportunity to brief the Presidents and Research Directors of several of the major oil companies on the potential promise of zero-point energy as an alternative energy resource. Contrary to the “urban myth,” they said they would welcome such a breakthrough because the use of fossil fuels for cars and heating had a very low profit margin as compared to its use for manufacturing plastics, pharmaceuticals, etc. They likened it to heating your house by burning Picassos and van Goghs.
Remote Viewing (RV) & The Stanford Research Institute (SRI)
Your career has seen you move from cutting edge research (so cutting edge that some might consider it fringe science) in ESP, clairvoyance/remote viewing and other parapsychological areas while at SRI, to your current work in another area at the edges of knowledge. Why, do you think, are you particularly drawn to such subjects? Do you think they require a different approach and outlook to “conventional” science?
I guess you would have to say that I am the ultimate explorer personality. Once I’ve digested what’s known in a field, I like to check out the frontiers to see what’s new. Contrary to those skeptics who claim that such avant garde interests are misbegotten, I would say that most skeptics are not skeptical enough – – they tend to accept the given wisdom without questioning it. I question everything, look into every nook and cranny to see if anything’s been overlooked that might be of interest or utility. It’s surprising what you find with this attitude.
Are you still involved in any RV/psi research?
No, I’m not. Too involved with my present research into energy, gravitation, and inertia.
Did you draw any conclusions from your findings in these areas? Do you think RV and psi faculties can be developed in anybody, or is it something that some people are just born with?
Overall, our findings indicated that such abilities are widely distributed, more or less like musical ability. You have the equivalent of virtuosos at one end of the scale, and the tone deaf at the other, but most people can carry a tune to some degree. Our modern western society just doesn’t happen to encourage people to develop this particular talent.
What kind of encouragement do you think somebody would need to maximise any latent psychic potential?
Simply reducing the negative cultural bias against it, generating a receptive attitude towards exploration.
Why did you decide to move on?
I felt that other people could carry on that work, while the potential in the physics areas of my present interests were not being followed up as aggressively as they might. With the potential payoff in the physics area being so significant for our society if we could make substantial progress, I thought it would be worthwhile attempting to contribute something of value in this new arena.
Do you still think there are potential applications for RV in either intelligence/military work, or other areas?
Yes, especially as more is learned about the details of the factors affecting performance. In the last few years, for example, data has apparently emerged indicating a correlation between performance and sidereal time, a potentially very significant finding.
Are you referring to James Spottiswoode’s findings (see link at bottom of page)?
Yes, I am referring to Spottiswoode’s findings, that successful performance seems to correlate with a certain orientation relative to the rest of the cosmos. Why this should be is not at all clear at this point, but constitutes an intriguing avenue for further study.
How do you know what the US (or other) governments are doing in the RV sphere at the moment? Do they still take an interest?
I only follow it from afar these days. There continue to be various studies of its efficacy from time to time, and occasionally I am interviewed for them because of my earlier involvement.
Did it ever concern you that your research into such remarkable human faculties might ultimately be used to do harm others?
Once some wag joked that if anyone were to invent a drop of water, there would always be someone who wanted to figure out how to drown somebody with it. However, I never ran into any program or sponsor who wished to turn these faculties to harmful purposes. Furthermore, to the degree that someone exhibits these faculties, they are on the basis of becoming in some sense integrated with a larger reality and there is not the desire to “poison one’s own drinking water.”
How much larger is this reality?! Were you ever frightened at the thought of what you might uncover?
If one accepts the claims of the mystics, the larger reality that can be perceived may well be essentially without limit, at least as far as our capabilities to process can be engaged. Although at the start I was open-minded intellectually about the possibility of psi, confronting the findings on a daily basis caused me to integrate this possibility at a deeper level than just intellectually, i.e., holistically or organically. Becoming more grounded in reality seemed to lessen fear rather than promoting it.
Some writers have suggested that the SRI tests on Uri Geller were deliberately botched in a cover up operation by the CIA.
Pure urban myth. We did our best, found evidence for remote viewing but not psychokinesis, and fairly reported what we found.
What was your impression of Geller at the time? Are you still in touch?
We were always ambivalent, always concerned about possible trickery, but (despite the detractors) were able to carry out experimentation under conditions sufficiently controlled that we have yet to hear of any loopholes that actually applied, even after all these years. Rarely in touch, since my interests have diverged from that field.
How do you feel about the breakup of the US military’s RV programme and the resulting fallout between RVers such as Ed Dames, Joeseph McMoneagle, David Moorhouse etc? Some of them seem to have done an “RV too far” and come out with some highly unlikely-sounding material. Might RV be bad for your mental health?
Certainly, some of the material generated under what we as experimenters would consider less than optimum conditions, has been flawed. But of course it was never anywhere near perfect, just could provide a statistical edge under usual conditions, occasionally dramatic results under rare conditions. I have no evidence that RV is likely to be bad for mental health more than other “mental” activities, such as meditating or going for a PhD!
Are there any books on the Remote Viewing programme that you would particularly recommend?
Well, for the gov program I would recommend Schnabel’s book Remote Viewers, which you link to an excerpt from below. For an informative personal view from an Army Intell RVer I think I would recommend Joe McMoneagle’s first book Mind Trek. For a view from the standpoint of the DIA contract monitor there’s Dale Graff’s 2nd book River Dreams.
Has your research into psi or Zero Point Energies ever touched on the UFO mystery? Have you done any other research into this area? If so, what were your findings?
Not directly. If the possibility of ZPE constituting a novel energy source, or the perturbation of the spacetime metric be verified under good lab conditions, then perhaps one could reasonably speculate about a connection with regard to such craft, or for the occurrence of natural anomalous atmospheric conditions that might mimic such.
Do you think that science, can, or will, ultimately explain all the mysteries that surround us?
Never totally, I suspect, but as the venue of science is extrapolated into new areas, I expect to see a continued growth of scientific explanations of things known but not understood today; but I also see the equally fascinating prospect of discovering new things that will still invite us to continue to stretch our wings.
If you weren’t looking into ZPE right now, what other topic would you most like to focus on?
Beyond my current physics research I’m interested in exploring just what is humankind’s destiny, its biological and spiritual developmental future, whether we are alone in the Universe or part of a Cosmic tapestry of Life.