Is There a Sixth Sense?

from Through the Wormhole; The human brain is a truly remarkable organ. It contains as many nerve cells as there are stars in the Milky Way. Sights, sounds, smells, anything happening in the world around us triggers waves of activity that ripple through this vast network in our heads. Could this network interact with the world in ways we don't yet understand? We are only just beginning to see what these cells are really capable of. As long as the brain remains a mystery, the sixth sense cannot be written off as superstition. Scientifically, it's entirely possible. I was mostly a good kid. But every once in a while, I stepped out of line. But even with my back turned I knew when I'd been caught. I could just feel her accusing stare. Was this a sixth sense? At Tilburg University in the Netherlands, Beatrice de Gelder is researching how emotions travel from person to person. She studies blind sight a strange phenomenon in which some blind people are able to see emotions in other people's faces. Normally, information from the eyes travels down the optic nerve directly to the visual cortex. But when the eyes are looking at human emotions, the signals diverge from that path and travel to the amygdala, the superior colliculus, and six other structures in the brain. The human visual system consists at least of nine different pathways. Only one of those we begin to understand, and the eight other ones are completely in the background. So it's only in the case where that one needs to be sidestepped that the alternative pathways have a chance. Beatrice has identified subconscious mental pathways that allow us not to see emotional stimuli but to sense them. We all have these pathways, even though they are normally overwhelmed by our primary sense of sight. It's the first scientific evidence of a new sense beyond the five we know. One should have a sympathetic ear to those noises about a sixth sense because we don't have a clear view yet of the abilities of the brain. Beatrice's work has shown that our brains can sense things even when we are not aware of them. It implies that any search for a sixth sense depends on understanding the boundary between conscious awareness and subconscious experience. Once a month, an elite group of philosophers meets at a small tavern in Greenwich Village. Greetings, New York. They call themselves the New York Consciousness Collective. I act like you act I do what you do At the helm of this jam session is David Chalmers. He may never fill Madison Square Garden, but his research is earning him a growing fan base in academia. He's trying to understand the nature and limits of consciousness. Science is objective. Consciousness is subjective. It's just in the last couple of decades, really, that scientists have started coming back to consciousness as a problem in its own right. David believes the way to understand consciousness is to think of it in layers, layers constructed from the data our senses are gathering. Some things are in the background of your consciousness, way out in the distance. Some things are flickering through your consciousness that grab your attention for a moment, then they move on. What is a thought? Neuroscientists would say it's just a pattern of electrical activity inside our brains. But if I scowl or smile, my thoughts can cross a room. In fact, they're reaching out to touch you right now. Some scientists believe this is how the sixth sense works, that human thoughts merge into a collective consciousness that spans the globe. Roger Nelson has spent the past 30 years looking for evidence of a global mind. Consciousness lives in the real world. By the late 1990s, Roger had persuaded several colleagues across the globe to collect random-number data in their labs. The Global Consciousness Project was born. This is a map that shows where the Global Consciousness Project has installations all around the world. That's Hawaii there, Australia, New Zealand, lots of them in Europe. Roger's data suggests there is some form of global consciousness. But how might it actually work? Biologist Rupert Sheldrake believes the answer lies in a hidden field generated by all living things. He calls it a morphic field. He has even run a series of experiments to try to prove that this sense is real. What I'm suggesting is that our minds work through extended fields that stretch out far beyond our heads into the world around us, linking us to other people and to our environment. Our world is wrapped in a magnetic field. For many creatures on Earth, life would be impossible without it. Birds, sea turtles, and fish rely on this global magnetism to navigate. Could our minds be using it, too? And is it, perhaps, the root of the sixth sense? Michael Persinger runs the Neuroscience Research Group at Laurentian University in Canada. The powerful effect of Earth's magnetic field on animals inspired him to investigate whether it could also influence us. Animals can use the three-dimensional magnetic field of the Earth as a kind of navigation or homing device. There's very good evidence for it. The connection Michael suggests could exist between Earth's magnetic field and human brains is much more controversial. The sixth sense is effectively the ability to detect information at a distance, that's one of the definitions, through mechanisms not known to date. Human thoughts are physical units of action potentials from the nerve itself. Can they be transmitted across space? Under certain conditions, absolutely, and there's evidence for it. If we have seven billion human brains all immersed in the magnetic field, which they are, then a change in one, if it's connected, and we are 'cause the magnetic flux lines go right through us, right through our brains, then a change in one could influence everyone. Michael Persinger believes he has evidence for a primitive form of sixth sense, an ability to share simple sensations with people who are far away from us. But our senses may not just be able to travel across space. They may be able to reach out across time and feel the future. Science is full of ideas that seem hard to believe. Take quantum mechanics. In this strange world of subatomic physics, a particle can be in two places at once until we look at it. Most physicists will tell you where the particle ends up is just a roll of the dice. But there's another theory. My conscious mind could be controlling this subatomic world. And the sixth sense could be what makes the Universe tick. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist. As a pioneer of string theory, which proposes the world is actually nine-dimensional, he believes scientists need to keep an open mind about the sixth sense, no matter how strange it may sound. We physicists are conservative revolutionaries in the sense that we have to be open to all sorts of crazy, bizarre phenomenon. Who would have thought that there's something called radioactivity? Who would have thought that we would have quantum forces? So we have to be open to these things. The most successful physical theory of all time is called quantum mechanics, the theory of the atom, because it's based on the idea of probabilities, that you don't really know where an electron is. And electrons can exist, in some sense, in multiple states at the same time. The fuzzy nature of subatomic particles might just provide a way to explain the sixth sense. Erwin Schrodinger, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, designed a thought experiment to drive home the strange rules of his theory. Another pioneer of quantum mechanics, Eugene Wigner, believed it could teach us something else about the working of the Universe, that consciousness controls everything. Is it a global consciousness that we can sort of imagine but we can't perceive directly? Is it a global consciousness having a premonition? And we honestly cannot say what of those things it could be. Is this the first evidence of cosmic consciousness? Something that's part of the very fabric of the Universe? This man believes it is. He claims he has evidence that each one of us has an extraordinary mental power to predict the future. The future is always out there just beyond our reach. The question is, can we ever perceive it before it becomes the present? We've all had gut feelings that something is about to happen. Now researchers claim to have proof that those feelings are more than superstition. They could be coming from your sixth sense. Dean Radin, a senior scientist at the lnstitute for Noetic Science, is a leading voice in the study of the sixth sense. Most people at one time or another have an experience that they might call an intuitive hunch or a gut feeling. A prototypical case is driving down the road and you're coming to an intersection, and you just get a bad feeling, so you slow down. Something feels spooky. And a truck goes through the red light and would've hit you broadside if you had not slowed down. But what is that? Sometimes it's coincidence. Sometimes people make up things. The presentiment experiment is a way of seeing whether or not, in principle, that sometimes it's actually because you're getting your future, your future experience. In modern physics, now we at least have a plausibility

The eyes only see because they are connected to the brain
The eyes only see because they are connected to the brain

The sixth sense is the ability to detect information at a distance through mechanisms not known to date
The sixth sense is the ability to detect information at a distance through mechanisms not known to date

Looking for evidence of a global mind
Looking for evidence of a global mind

Brains electrical activity can passing from one person to another
Brains electrical activity can passing from one person to another
  argument, where we can no longer say that the physical world makes it impossible. We know that it is possible. So the challenge now is to say, "Well, how do we connect this missing gap?" Advances in theoretical physics are one way. But there is another, more evidence. This researcher could be the man who finally convinces the world that the sixth sense is real. Scientists have been searching for evidence of the sixth sense for well over a century. If it exists, it can't be as strong as the other five senses. Otherwise, we wouldn't still be arguing about it. But if we can prove that the sixth sense is real, it won't matter how weak it is. It would turn modern science on its head. Daryl Bem has had a long and successful career as a professor of psychology at Cornell University. Now he, too, has turned his focus to the sixth sense. I wanted to do work on precognition or premonition because it just boggles the mind to think that the future can affect the past. Daryl has spent the last eight years testing this very question. Daryl believes this ability to sense erotic opportunities in the future has developed over millions of years. It was shaped by evolution to give individuals an edge in finding mates. Evolution rides on reproductive advantage, the ability to seek out and have sexual opportunities. So it makes sense evolutionarily to think that precognition or something like it would certainly serve reproductive advantage and survival advantage. If he's right, Daryl has revealed a completely unexpected aspect of human nature.     Time may not flow neatly in one direction. And humans, being evolutionary survivors, have learned to use that to their advantage. I call it "feeling the future" because it tries to get in the fact that the future is able to affect both your thoughts, cognition, and your emotions. When it was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Daryl's article caught worldwide attention. Sixth-sense research, long on the fringes of science, is moving ever closer to the mainstream. There's more sixth-sense stuff around than we are maybe willing to acknowledge because we are processing much more information on a continuous basis than we are aware of. lt's clearly physical, it's tied to small amounts of energy, and it tells us that there's a connection between us and our world around us that we haven't previously fathomed. We're at the point where we can show that we have anomalous findings. And what do we mean by anomalous? It means it doesn't fit into the current structure of how we conceptualize physical reality. We're looking at the edge of what's known. I think we can say with high confidence that in the realm of psychic phenomena, something interesting is happening. Is there a sixth sense? That's not even the right question to ask anymore. Mainstream brain research has already uncovered previously unknown sensory pathways. But whether our thoughts can join a global mind or whether we can sense the future, we only have fragments of evidence so far. In the end, we will find the answers because they're all right here.
List with pictures of the scientists, in order of their appearance in Through the Wormhole Is There a Sixth Sense? documentary, who share us their knowledges:
Beatrice de Gelder
Beatrice de Gelder (professor at Tilburg University)
  David Chalmers
David Chalmers (New York Consciousness Collective)
  Roger Nelson
Roger Nelson (Global Consciousness Project, Princeton)
  Rupert Sheldrake
Rupert Sheldrake (biologist, lab in Sudbury, Ontario)
  Michael Persinger
Michael Persinger (neuroscientist, Laurentian University)
  Michio Kaku
Michio Kaku (theoretical physicist)
  Dean Radin
Dean Radin (scientist, Institute for Noetic Science)
  Daryl Bem
Daryl Bem (professor of psychology, Cornell University)