Have you ever experienced a time when the collective enthusiasm of a large event seemed to rise to such a peak that you could almost feel a crackle in the air? Or felt a haunting sense in the air while visiting a place that caused sadness or suffering for thousands of people?
Provocative evidence suggests that there are significant departures from chance expectation in the outputs of random number generators (electronic devices that produce truly random bits, or sequences of zeros and ones) during times of collective upheaval, global crises and major celebrations.
This year, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, along with several collaborators, conducted an exploratory experiment at Black Rock City, the temporary city created each year in the Nevada desert for the festival known as Burning Man. Burning Man is a week-long event that attracts upwards of 50,000 people. It is unique in its concentrated intensity, isolation, and collective intention, culminating with the burning of a large man-shaped effigy at the center of Black Rock City on Saturday night. See this article in the Atlantic magazine to get a feeling for the event, or these pictures in Rolling Stone magazine.