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10 November 2012

Have you ever experienced this: you’re watching a game show on telly, and one of the contestants are to be randomly chosen to take part in a special question round or something. Just as they’re about to announce who it is, you get this premonition of who it’s going to be. And a second later they say the exact name you were thinking of.

It seems to happen a lot to me, and it’s a little unsettling – like an ahead-of-time echo or a déjà vu or something. It’s also annoying, as it only seem to work if I couldn’t care less (I don’t like game shows).

Now. I would like to make something perfectly clear: I do not believe in paranormal premonitions. If what I experience actually does happen and is not just my brain playing tricks on me, there must be some kind of logical (or at least quantum mechanical) explanation for the phenomenon.

Time echoes

Yes. That’s exactly what time echoes look like.

So what is this thing? Is it even theoretically possible to experience things that haven’t happened yet? Well, yes. Sort of. Time is the fourth dimension after all, and as such it has a reach beyond the ‘here’-point, both ‘backwards’ and ‘forwards’ in time. Just as an apple still exists even if we’re not at its location in space, it also exists when we’re not in the same location in time. In theory at least, we could potentially sense the apple from a different place in time as well as space.


An additional threat to causality of events (i.e. the notion that what I do now will have effects in the future but not the past) is the concept of quantum entanglement. It states that if atomic particles have been in physical contact with each other they become entangled, and whatever happens to one is immediately reflected in the other – even if they would happen to be light years apart. In a way, they are transmitting information across not just space but also time.

The concept of entanglement is of limited use in trying to explain the phenomenon of time echoes, though, as I can’t see how any atoms in my brain would have become physically entangled with any of the game show contestants’ atoms.

Mind reading

Alas. No army of kill-bots just yet. Ah well. Some day.

Or perhaps there are no time echoes at all. Perhaps I just predict what the game show host is about to say. Perhaps it’s just old-fashioned human mind reading?

I’m not so sure. If I was that good at predicting what people were about to say, surely I’d have a career as a powerful and successful politician by now? Believe me, if I had that sort of capability, I’d taken over the world and you’d all be my subjects kept in check by my army of kill-bots. But you aren’t and I haven’t so I’m not.

The illusion of consciousness

In my example above, watching the game show, I suddenly just ‘know’ what will happen within the next second. So is this a time echo? Am I sensing what will happen before it actually does happen?

Perhaps not. Ignoring the whole ‘time is relative’ and ‘what is now, anyway?’ maze, it could instead be related to the illusion of our conscious minds. “Illusion?” I hear you say. “Didn’t you write a post on the origin of consciousness a little while ago? Surely consciousness really exists.” Yes, it does. We are conscious and we express free will, but there seem to be a slight lag in our brains from when the sensory information is processed to when we become aware of them. In other words, it takes a few hundred milliseconds for us to realise we’ve seen or heard something, even though the brain has received the information from our eyes and ears.

Could I be suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy? Perhaps not.

This delay could be the explanation to the time echo we sometimes experience. If we were to accidentally tap into the received information before we become aware of having acquired it, it could then feel like déjà vu when we do become aware of it, a fraction of a second later. “Woah! I already knew that!” our conscious mind would say. “That’s so weird!”

In fact, there are several medical conditions that can lead to experiences similar to déjà vu. So perhaps I should really go see a doctor and have a brain scan?

Retroactive influences

But I don’t know. It doesn’t really feel like déjà vu. It’s not like I – on hearing the results – suddenly realise I already knew them. It’s more like I just know, with absolute certainty, what the results are going to be. Sometimes I even get the chance to say it out loud, if the premonition happens several seconds in advance.

Surely it can’t be actual supernatural premonition though? Not only don’t I believe in that, but I also know for a fact that I don’t have any superpowers. I’m no medium in contact with the ‘other worlds’.

What goes on in our wondrous minds, really?

A while back I came across a study called Feeling the future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect. Now, I would generally discard studies that don’t seem scientific, but this one I found on the New Scientist web site and the web article linking to it incredulously stated – even if cautiously – that they couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The results seemed to stand.

So what were the results? Well, in a comprehensive study of some 1,000 students, Dr Bem conducted standardised psychological tests (like Avoidance or Priming) but with a twist: he ran them backwards. So instead of letting the students learn that clicking on the left part of the screen will probably produce negative imagery, he measured the effects of the students knowing in advance which half of the screen would produce negative imagery.

And the tests showed a statistically significant result with a mean effect size of 0.22. It’s small but important, because if it can be verified (by replication of the results), it would hint at a tendency for us humans to be able to predict future outcomes ahead-of-time.

Evolutionary advantage

How this could possibly work from a physical point of view I don’t know, but the evolutionary advantage of being able to sense negative (or erotic) stimuli in advance would obviously be immense. It doesn’t seem to work for more than a second or two ahead-of-time, but even that would be a major advantage and could mean the difference between life and death. It’s the proverbial ‘spider-sense’.

So even if I can’t really find an explanation to this phenomenon, I can’t ignore it. I do experience something, even though it’s of limited practical use to me. I’ll just have to continue knowing in advance who’s gonna win whatever inane game show I happen to watch on telly by mistake, and live with the fact that I’m a weirdo.

Oddly enough, I’m sort of ok with that.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 November 2012 15:24

    This is VERY sciency. I like the term “quantum entanglement.”

    So I would assume this is something along the lines of, you’re thinking of a song, and it happens to come on the radio? Or, you’re thinking of someone, and they email you? Something like that?

    Hmm. OK, well, sure, it COULD be science.

    But you know what I think it is, right?

    That’s right.


    Shh. Let me have my magic. There’s so LITTLE of it in the world.

    (FINE, it’s SCIENCE. But I’m going to PRETEND it’s magic. As I do with most things I can’t explain, brain-wise.)


    • 10 November 2012 17:24

      I always feel like I should apologise when you say that. But then I remember that you sort of like sciency stuff.

      And no, not exactly. It’s more like I know what someone’s going to choose or say a second or two before they actually do it. Especially on telly, and almost exclusively only if I don’t care about the results. I haven’t experienced any of the things you described, at least not yet.

      Ok, fine: call it magic if you want. I certainly have no explanation for it so far. I still believe there IS an explanation for it though.


      • 11 November 2012 02:13

        Never apologize for being sciency, Andreas. It’s one of the many things that I love about you.

        Hmm. OK, so if what happens happens just as you describe…I think YOU might have a magic brain. How can we harness this to our advantage, I wonder?

        MAGIC IS THE EXPLANATION!!! Isn’t that good enough? No? Dammit.


        • 11 November 2012 06:13

          Harvest my brain? No, don’t harvest it – I’m going to need it, I’m sure!

          *re-reads comment*

          Oh: ‘harness’. Yes, that’s a little less worrying. But still, my brain works best when allowed to roam free. And anyway, this phenomenon only occurs when I don’t care about the situation, and even though I’m old and cynical, I’m not quite old and cynical enough to not care about potential success and taking over the world (we’re talking about taking over the world, right? To make it do our evil bidding? Right?)


          • 11 November 2012 13:50

            I like your brain where it is. No harvesting. Well, unless I have the option of your brain (still inside your body, still very much alive) being closer to me, of course, then I choose that option, because I have the uncanny capability of finding the world’s best people, only they’re SO FAR AWAY, dammit.

            And, yes. We’re absolutely talking about taking over the world. But not for EVIL purposes. To make it BETTER, Andreas. I mean, it’s not like we could make it worse, right? We’re awesome.


            • 11 November 2012 21:32

              Shit. I’m gonna have to spend those $30/year on getting custom design in order to sort this comment tree width shrinkage issue, aren’t I?

              You know I’m going to quote Calvin & Hobbes now, right? You know, how the amazing thing about life is that no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse? Because they totally could.

              We ARE awesome though. And that’s probably the reason we live so far away from each other: in the beginning, they had to spread us out to avoid creating a super awesome black hole that would swallow the whole planet.


  2. 12 November 2012 04:26

    There’s no way I can squish my comment into a box that skinny. I CANNOT BE TAMED ANDREAS.

    You’re right. Too much awesomeness in one place = an imbalance. We’d feel terrible if we imbalanced the world. Well, pretty terrible. But also we’d be having a lot of fun hanging out, too. So…only *pretty* terrible.

    I don’t want to think about things getting worse. I think about that way too often as it is. Can I think about something nice, like…rainbows or kittens or nephews or something?

    I listened to more of your CD today. THANK YOU THANK YOU.


    • 12 November 2012 06:45

      Are you still on Autumn, or have you moved on to the next one? You know you’re allowed to listen to them in any order, right? They’re not time-locked to certain seasons or anything.


      • 12 November 2012 07:27

        Nope, just finishing autumn. Have two songs left.

        The PROBLEM is, I keep re-listening to “5 Years Later” over and over and OVER and then my drive to work is almost done. That one is my FAVORITE.

        Next: winter. They have to go in order, Andreas! I am strangely addicted to rules I make up for myself in my head.


        • 12 November 2012 08:04

          Fair enough. Hmm.. You might not like Winter as much as Autumn, though. It’s a little less ‘Amy’.


          • 12 November 2012 08:17

            I bet I still love it. I’m going to write you email about each one as I finish so you know what I thought!

            I love that you know what’s Amy and what isn’t. That makes me grin.


  3. 12 November 2012 17:50

    No wonder I have having so much trouble in life. I have too much quantum entanglement. I am dragging it around with me like old christmas lights.


    • 13 November 2012 00:21

      Yes, entanglement can be most inconvenient. Or it can be a secure way of encrypting data. It depends on your outlook, I guess.


  4. 12 November 2012 17:52

    On the plus side, I think I can develop this time echo/entanglement thing into a productive skill. Once I can predict the future, all I need for my new career as a medium is a shawl and an odd looking cat.


  5. 12 November 2012 17:53

    Psychic mediums charge by the hour, right? About the same rate as massage therapists, I’m guessing.


  6. 12 November 2012 17:57

    One means of solving this is to stop watching reruns of game shows. 😉


  7. 15 November 2012 23:12

    I have a study of my own that I partake on regularly… If my brain hurts when I’m reading something then it has to be clever and completely correct. So, with that in mind… Congratulations! You’re a genius… Not that I was ever in doubt.

    Also, I personally think that you are able to tell the future. The evidence supports it. You look like you could appear in an x-Men movie. Fact.


    • 15 November 2012 23:40

      X-men? Really? *ponders* Well, I guess I look a little like Wolverine, what with the patchy beard and all.

      Sorry I made your head hurt. You better take an aspirin and lie down for a bit. I predict that will help.


      • 16 November 2012 10:21

        Well if you predict it, I really should do it… I’ll lie down as soon as I get to work.


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