Friday, July 27, 2012

Goodpsi to all that

I am in the process of gently tearing myself loose from the cold gray institutional embrace of my current employer, for the more exciting and remunerative arms of a startup. We are both trying to make it amicable, but in any breakup, it is inevitable that feelings will be hurt and old wounds re-opened.

So I thought I'd reopen one that was from way before my time, just because the episode is so bizarre and it fits in with some other historical reading I'm doing at the moment:
[in 1973] Sarfatti happened to read a story in the San Francisco Examiner about research under way at the Stanford Research Institute, or SRI. SRI, much like defense-oriented laboratories at MIT and elsewhere, had been a flashpoint of student and faculty protest just a few years earlier…Stanford's trustees, eager to quell the protests, spun off SRI as a private research enterprise and divested the university's ties to it…the lean years brought new opportunities for some, including laser physicist and former Stanford lecturer Harold Puthoff. Puthoff … joined SRI in 1969 and left the university the following year, when SRI was spun off; in short order his laser-research government contracts began to deflate. With time on his hands, he asked his SRI supervisor for permission to begin conducting a different set of experiments: tests of parapsychological effects. Puthoff was a devotee of Scientology at the time…He had also dabbled in early rumblings of the California New Age scene during the 1960s, including workshops on gestalt therapy and consciousness expansion…he courted another laser physicist from Sylvania's research laboratory, Russell Targ…Together, they jumped into the psi business.

Their big break came in September 1972, when the Israeli performer Uri Geller visited SRI to conduct laboratory tests of his psychic abilities…
       -- from How the Hippies Saved Physics, David Kaiser, pp 69-70. 
Same place, way different eras. "Consciousness expansion" is right out, for one thing, and apparently for good reason.

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