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The Almighty Buck Government

Soviet Union Spent $1 Billion On "Psychotronic" Arms Race With the US 230

Posted by samzenpus
from the scan-me dept.
KentuckyFC writes "During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union battled on many fronts to demonstrate their superior technical and scientific achievements. While the race to put a human in space and then on the Moon is famous, a much less well-known battlefront was the unconventional science of parapsychology, or psychotronics as the Soviets called it. Now a new review of unconventional research in the Soviet Union reveals the scale of this work for the first time and the cost: as much as $1 billion. The Soviets had programs studying how "human energy" could influence other objects and how this energy could be generated independently of humans using a device called 'cerpan'. The Soviets also had a mind control program similar to the CIA's infamous MKULTRA project. Interestingly, the Soviets included non-local physics in this work, such as the Aharonov-Bohm effect in which an electromagnetic field can influence a particle confined to region where the field strength is zero. And they built a number of devices that exploited the effect, although research in this area appears to have ended in 2003."
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Soviet Union Spent $1 Billion On "Psychotronic" Arms Race With the US

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  • by MRe_nl (306212) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:09AM (#45669551)

    When man stare at goat man have heart attack.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:54AM (#45669807)

      But in Soviet Russia, goats stare at you.

    • "Psychic" phenonema are just statistical errors which cause feedback in our cognitive biases. In other words:

      In Soviet Russia, behaviour of objects controls psychic's mind!

      In fact, the more effort goes into researching psychic powers, the more evidence we have in favour of mind control; ie. many respected scientists, despite always finding results to the contrary, can be convinced to keep looking for psychic powers!

      Of course, in the West we do the majority of our mind control research under the term "market

    • by Guy Harris (3803)

      When man stare at goat man have heart attack.

      Are you sure they didn't stare at something the name of which begins with "goat"?

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:16AM (#45669585)
    I guess this goes to show you don't need religion to believe in nutty pseudoscience.
    • by bunratty (545641) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:12AM (#45669939)
      How do you know it's nutty pseudoscience before you perform the experiments? It seems to me that performing the experiments and testing hypotheses is science, but dismissing an idea as nutty without performing an experiment is pseudoscience. It's belief without evidence that makes something pseudoscience, even if it's believing an idea is nutty.
      • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:32AM (#45670095)
        Well said. Many people seem to think that everything has been discovered.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yes, well, we've learned a lot about neurology, biochemistry, and physics that suggests none of these psychic phenomena could have a first principles explanation without invoking some kind of unmeasurable "energy" production, transmission, and reception, controlled in some invisible but nevertheless conscious manner. Yes, something we can't measure and can't explain may nevertheless be real, but with our improved understanding of the basic principles, it's moved so far off into the realm of unlikely that it

          • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:42PM (#45672167)
            Good points. But I would counter that we don't understand what consciousness really is. And we know that simply observing an experiment can change the outcome. We don't know why that is either, AFAIK. Further, we know that one's mental state can affect one's health and/or physiology. So it seems that consciousness and attention can have effects in the physical world, the mechanism of which we cannot explain.
            • by kermidge (2221646)

              Yup. We don't know what consciousness is (although we putter with operational definitions) nor how it arises. For that matter we don't exactly have a great handle on un-consciousness, either - talk to an anesthesiologist sometime. The phenomenon of hypnosis is an odd one, too.

              Don't know means don't know. That some phenomena exist or are said to exist outside of what we know, and know well enough to explain, can be an interesting grey area ripe for exploration. When over the course of millenia there is

              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                Many millenia of observations shows that the earth is generally flat.

                Similarly, many millenia of observations also show that there may be such things as extrasensory perception, ability to affect the physical world with the mind, and so forth.

                The difference between those two example is not that one was disproven while the other remains an open question. Both are based on observations by humans, who as a species are prone to bias, self deception, and credulity. How is a personal experience where you can't

            • by Soldrinero (789891) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @04:46PM (#45674189)

              we know that simply observing an experiment can change the outcome. We don't know why that is either, AFAIK ... So it seems that consciousness and attention can have effects in the physical world, the mechanism of which we cannot explain.

              We most certainly *do* know why observation affects an experiment. It's the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in action - if you make a measurement of the state of a system, that variable is known to some degree of precision. Its conjugate variable [wikipedia.org] is thus made uncertain to a degree prescribed by the uncertainty principle. This has nothing to do with consciousness or a living observer.

              A simple double-slit experiment [wikipedia.org] works because of the uncertainty in the position of the particle. The wavefunction interferes with itself as it comes out of both slits and affects the possible positions it can be observed at on the detector. If you measure whether the particle passes through one of the slits, it's position is no longer uncertain, the wavefunction changes, and the experiment reflects that. This is well-understood quantum mechanics, although the popular press likes to pretend we don't know anything about it. And yes, IAAP (I am a physicist).

            • So it seems that consciousness and attention can have effects in the physical world

              Of course it can, what do you think is controlling my arms as I scratch my arse? It has other names, spirit, soul, mind, etc. There's a reason scientists and philosophers alike call consciousness "The hard problem", it all boils down to the fact that you can never fully understand yourself. You are not separate from the rest of the universe, you and the universe are one (or as Sagan put it) "We are the part of the universe that observes itself", and by extension that implies we can never fully understand t

          • by sjames (1099)

            Suggesting that such research is too much of a long shot to fund is fair enough. The problem is the derision heaped upon even the suggestion of such research.

            Of course, the various psycho-ceramics misusing scientific terminology in frankly odd ways treating all of this as if it was already proven don't help.

      • by buddyglass (925859) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:37AM (#45670787)
        You're right. NASA should totally fund an expedition to disprove the existence of the magical pink unicorn that many people have theorized lives on the dark side of the moon. Point being: yes, experiment, but sometimes even the decision to pursue a particular avenue of investigation is questionable.
      • by teslabox (2790587) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:56AM (#45671001) Homepage

        Ingo Swann [biomindsuperpowers.com] has a nice little website about his involvement with the US Remote Viewing program. I saw the man speak in Las Vegas twice - 2004 and 2006 (I think I personally drove him into retirement - he is now deceased). The first time was just a Q&A, the second he had prepared some remarks. The program was started as a threat analysis - "the soviets are spending all this money on psychic spying, tee hee har har what a bunch of fucking idiots. BUT WHAT IF IT WORKS?" So they had to create a program to evaluate the possibility that information can be obtained bioinformatically - through the aether, so to speak.

        Mr. Swann said that he did not do public remote viewing "demonstrations", and only ever worked with scientists.

        It seems to me that performing the experiments and testing hypotheses is science, but dismissing an idea as nutty without performing an experiment is pseudoscience. It's belief without evidence that makes something pseudoscience, even if it's believing an idea is nutty.

        Mr. Swann said that because the spooks hated the remote viewing program, they had to get positive results right from the start. It lasted for over 20 years, and was killed as soon as possible when the Soviet Union broke up.

      • So what you are saying is; "We aren't JUST burning the witch, first we burn her and THEN see if she floats using the best equipment, scales to determine specific gravity, and measuring the water mass lost from the container, thus proving she is either a dead witch, or unfortunate collateral damage from our 'war on terror'. We aren't monsters after all, this is for science."

      • Hi soviet budget committee,

        We've spent a $100,000,000 so far on extensive experiments and still failed to discover an invisible, undetectable, force that no one's ever seen before. Why don't you invest 10x more in this theory? We can't do these experiments for any less, this force is reeeeaaaaallly hard to find: it has never been observed, has no basis in anything we know about reality or existing science and has failed to show up despite extensive testing worldwide.

        What else are you going to do with $900,0

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:19AM (#45669605) Journal
    We cannot permit an imaginary weapons gap!
    • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:30AM (#45669667) Journal
      What if the entire MKULTRA project was a scam meant to cause the USSR to waste resources to close this imaginary weapons gap? A few "top secret" documents leaked here; a few rumours there; Common sense says no, but there's always a nagging little doubt in the back of the mind to drive the necessary paranoia. It's perfect.
      • It wouldn't be the only programme with that objective. Makes sense to me.
      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:36AM (#45669701) Homepage

        The big risk of a diversion campaign like that is if the imaginary technology turns out to be real... then we've just inspired our enemies to perfect it, while we've wasted our time.

        • The big risk of a diversion campaign like that is if the imaginary technology turns out to be real... then we've just inspired our enemies to perfect it, while we've wasted our time.

          Like I said: "Common sense says no, but there's always a nagging little doubt in the back of the mind to drive the necessary paranoia."

      • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:16AM (#45669973)

        MKULTRA wasn't about imaginary weapons, but about real methods to manipulate behaviour through (for example) chemical agents. It's well documented and scientifically grounded; it's hard to imagine how it would inspire anyone to perform psi research.

      • That could make sense but that's not what happened, or the declassified papers would detail what they were doing to make the Soviets think they were running these experiments, rather than experiment reports on their attempts to kill goats by staring at them. There is some precedent here (See: Area 51 dummy planes).

        If anything it would have had to work the other way - I remember from a documentary that the Americans only got into all this woo-woo stuff because they found out that the Russians were doing it.

      • Did you ever wonder why we never hear about Seal Teams 1-5? Why do we only ever hear about Seal Team 6's exploits?

        Turns out it's exactly the sort of thing you're talking about: a ploy to make the Soviets think the Americans had more going on than they did by skipping straight to 6.

        • While I've gotten modded as Funny, the strange thing is, I actually wasn't kidding, and what I said was factual. At the time that the team was created, there was only one other team. The commander jumped straight to six in order to confuse the Soviets regarding how many teams the Americans had.

          • Sorry, brain fart, there were two other teams at the time that six was created, so it was technically the third team.

        • Did you ever wonder why we never hear about Seal Teams 1-5? Why do we only ever hear about Seal Team 6's exploits?

          Turns out it's exactly the sort of thing you're talking about: a ploy to make the Soviets think the Americans had more going on than they did by skipping straight to 6.

          Why not attribute the exploits to all "six" teams, rather than having a conspicuous gap from 1 to 5?

          • Because then the exploits of the 'other teams' are hidden, furthering the illusion.
          • I think the idea was that the Soviets would become aware of the team and its name during its initial six-month training time, so they didn't have any exploits to attribute to other teams at the time.

            Also, I misspoke earlier: there were actually two other teams at the time (east and west coast, though they're considered "regular" SEAL teams, which I guess aren't as special?).

        • by kermidge (2221646)

          "Did you ever wonder why we never hear about Seal Teams 1-5?"

          No. I was reading about them thirty and more years ago. For that matter, a friend I met in late '60s served in the teams in mid-'60s in Vietnam. It was 6 that for years was the quiet one, with portions of its funding, tasking, and operations off the books.

          If your knowledge of things comes from what you casually come across on TV and don't bother to look up, then maybe that explains your question. If for some strange reason you don't think the

          • I corrected myself almost immediately after making that comment. Just look back a few comments.

      • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:41AM (#45670841) Homepage

        What if the entire MKULTRA project was a scam meant to cause the USSR to waste resources to close this imaginary weapons gap? A few "top secret" documents leaked here; a few rumours there; Common sense says no, but there's always a nagging little doubt in the back of the mind to drive the necessary paranoia. It's perfect.

        That's actually what Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program was. It drove them nuts and we didn't even have to build anything.

      • by Agent0013 (828350)
        Actually I did hear the "Star Wars" project relating to satellites that can shoot down enemy ICBMs was an imaginary project. The US even had sci-fi authors come up with ideas and then made it seem to the US public as well as the USSR that we were working on those. It helped to bankrupt the USSR as they were spending money on these futuristic weapon systems while we were not.
        • by kermidge (2221646)

          Not imaginary. Look stuff up, maybe. Read. Inform yourself past "Actually I did hear..." The Sovs had their own various programs contemporaneous with "Star Wars" as well, don't forget. There's also the crude rubric: you can break trail and give their spies something to do; you can stay abreast and hope for a balance of offense and defense; or you can learn from the other's mistakes, save time and money, give our spies something to do, and hope the other guy doesn't steal a march on you.

          There was a boa

      • by kermidge (2221646)

        MKULTRA (an umbrella term anyway) encompassed a whole lot more that the woo-woo stuff. There were experiments done with various mind-affecting chemicals on both witting and un-witting test subjects, for instance. The full (well, as full as they're likely to have been - I don't recall if there's still stuff in the pipeline awaiting future declass) disclosures, starting with the Church committee hearings, make for some fascinating reading. I think there've been a couple rounds of materials released since t

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:24AM (#45669631)

    The program sounds like it had a nutty origin (like the analogous U.S. programs), but from this part:

    Interestingly, the Soviets included non-local physics in this work, such as the Aharonov-Bohm effect in which an electromagnetic field can influence a particle confined to region where the field strength is zero. And they built a number of devices that exploited the effect, although research in this area appears to have ended in 2003.

    That sounds like legitimate physics research. Research into the principle of locality [wikipedia.org] is unlikely to produce a mind-controlled teleportation beam, but it has yielded a better understanding of quantum mechanics.

  • Old News. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:29AM (#45669659)

    That commercial you watched last night where the screen changed so often your eyes couldn't focus on it, the deep voice talking with music playing at the same beats per minute as the desired heart rate the advertiser wants, displayed on a screen at 30hz, usually starting off with either a motherly women or a crowd of people looking at you.

    MKUltra started that research. Want to learn mind control, go get a masters in motion video or advertising; what they teach is textbook psychological warfare with a domestic application.

    Funny thing; once you know it's going on, it doesn't work anymore.

    • Re:Old News. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sarten-X (1102295) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @09:46AM (#45669765) Homepage

      Funny thing; once you know it's going on, it doesn't work anymore.

      Heh... sure...

      Even if you're aware of a particularly obvious technique, the more subtle ones will still usually get you while you're focused on the big one. You'll notice the flashing video or the music beats, but you won't notice the smiling background or the distorted echo. You'll probably even be so proud of yourself for recognizing the manipulation that you'll let your guard down for the other techniques.

    • Don't forget the black and white picture and the 20Hz tone (lowsy attempt to instill fear via infrasound) when showing how horrible the alternatives to the product are.

      • by kermidge (2221646)

        Ah, jeez, guys, I didn't need to be reminded of this stuff. Does it count that I haven't had a TV in seven years?

  • I always wonder why articles like this are posted on slashdot. I mean, it's simply not reasonable to convey this ideology on a tech-savvy website just to have everyone point out that it's silly pseudoscience.

    The general population of this type of website is going to bash anyone that agrees that spending a billion dollars on pseudoscience is "worth it", regardless of what the government has concluded. I seriously doubt that they started off like, "Ok guys, we're going to try this silly stuff out. Let's
    • Re:Slashdot affect (Score:4, Informative)

      by MrLizard (95131) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @11:21AM (#45670591)

      "Surely spending that kind of money on such a project had some merit, or it wouldn't have cost so much"

      You've never studied history or held a job at a corporation, have you? Spending millions, billions, trillions on meritless projects is what any entity large enough to have that kind of money *does*. Constantly. Continuously. All the time.

      The division I work(ed) for was just bought by another company, because they wanted to integrate our software and acquired expertise. The buyer, having spent this money, announced all employees would need to re-apply for their existing jobs, which is only a little silly, and also all relocate, which is a LOT silly, since all of us worked remotely, and many of us couldn't relocate even if we wanted to. So, pretty much, they just lost all the accumulated knowledge they just paid for, and what they've got is tens of thousands of lines of mostly undocumented code that's virtually impossible to maintain or understand without spending months stepping through it. (It was developed over a decade by dozens of transient programmers, and in-line documentation varies from "sparse" to "actually false".)

      Multiply that little bit of stupidity by tens of thousands of corporations and hundreds of world governments, and you have the world we live in.

      • by Junta (36770)

        While there are scenarios like you describe where decent business acumen would have been able to foresee a likely erosion of value, I think the basic point is you don't always know it's going to be a failure until the money is spent.

        Here, USSR had very little in-house scientific data to go on to be *sure* this was a dead end. If it had turned out not to be a dead end, that would have been very much worth the investment. This is actually what people should be embracing in scientific disciplines, willingnes

  • This should set the tinfoil hat brigade off screeching like demented howler monkeys.
  • .... early research on Quantum Physics.... before it was labeled such.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:05AM (#45669891) Journal

    One to indicate whether the dollar amount is inflation adjusted or not. I Imagine a $ with an arrow hat on the | So it's an up arrow and an S. That will work for talking about historical figures in current day.

    There is another problem though that is wanting to work backward, either by date or rate. So I would suggest the arrowed $, number and a divisor $14.7m/3.5 this would indicate to divide 14.7 by 3.5 to get the original dollar amount.

  • by Simulant (528590) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @10:43AM (#45670203) Journal
    ... the wisdom of putting our most paranoid citizens into our intelligence & defense agencies.
  • That the research has ended? Maybe that's what they've made you believe using a late-model cerpan? Cue Twilight Zone music etc. etc. etc.
  • So, "unconventional science" is how you say "farkin' bullshit" in Russian. Got it.

    It would not surprise me if these "studies" were due to CIA influence to trick the Soviets into wasting their money and effort.

    • If they keep testing ideas and don't falsify results it is still science, even if everything proves false or the ideas are crazy. There are an infinite number of things to test and while it saves a lot of resources to make educated guesses on what to test, sometimes the crazy stuff yields results... which is likely the main excuse to waste time in fringe areas that don't get attention because 'it's crazy.'

      Of course, if the topic being explored is idiotic they are only going to have negative test results an

  • We do it with the media
  • However we are current pursuing efforts at mind reading and using minds to control devices using a feedback device which measures activity in regions of the brain. 50 years ago, this would have been considered bunk, so there obviously has been some progress.
  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:20PM (#45671893)

    .. in telekinesis, please raise my hand.

    • How do you raise your own hand ? How does a thought move an arm ? Or does some other force raise your arm ?
  • I was given the power to move objects with my mind, and then some agency remotely removed my memory and ability from a bunker deep in the ground. They left me a broken man with only a vague notion of my manufactured past and a vivid imagination, but no ability to write a script that the ScyFy would carry -- when clearly, I can improve upon the "Fire-breathing Snake, but not a Dragon you NOOB!" and "Golem from a Simpson's Plot"

  • What baffles me is that while the existence of an arms race between the USSR and the United States during the cold war is common knowledge a lot of people seem to think the 'race' is now over and that intelligence agencies such as the C.I.A don't continue their infamous work.

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