Interview with Professor Mark Alford – Quantum Physics and the Paranormal

On Sunday 6/5/11 I was privileged to speak with Professor Mark Alford about quantum physics and the paranormal. If you’re like us, you’ve heard weird, spooky sounding connections between ghosts, psychic powers, and even consciousness itself all tied to the behavior of subatomic particles. Not only is the evidence for any of the perceived paranormal phenomenon lacking, but the supposed relation to quantum realities is irresponsible.  Mark Alford, professor of physics at Washington University at St. Louis whose main research topic is in high density quark matter. You can find out more information by checking out:

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Conversation with a Friend

So I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine today.  It started off with us bsing around and somehow evolved into a talk on the paranormal, which most of my conversations develop into some way or another. 

Anyway as we dove into the realm of the paranormal certain topics came up in our discussion.  First we were talking about psychics.  My friend made a statement saying “you and I have our differences on our beliefs.  But I do think this guy is a sham.” (I am sorry I have no idea who the psychic was he was talking about)  As I read this, I found it a bit puzzling; did he think that I thought all psychics were shams?  Certainly I have never made that claim, so I explained my exact stance on this subject.

It isn’t that I think all psychics are shams, there may indeed be a legit psychic out there somewhere in the world…I don’t know.  However, there is no positive evidence to support the legitimacy of someone who claims to have psychic powers.  That is what I rely on, positive evidence.  If a person with legitimate psychic abilities could perform their skill under scientific observation in a controlled setting and show positive results; that would be enough for me to say “there is something to this.”  But I would just like say again; I have never said psychic abilities do not exist, as James Randi often says “I can’t afford to make that type of claim.”

Next we jumped into one of my favorite paranormal subjects, the ghost box.  I wrote an article on a few tests I have done on the legitimacy of this specific device which can be read here but again I hold the same stance on this as I did with psychics.  There is no positive evidence that this device can really provide any contact with spirits or entities; however that doesn’t mean that this box (broken radio) can’t transmit the voices and words of the deceased.  I believe that there are many reasons why this ghost box device fails any type of positive testing and I personally think there is nothing to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work…I could be the one who is wrong.  Again I rely on scientific evidence, but that isn’t to say that one day I won’t hear something that may convince me personally, that could happen.  For example if I were to record a conversation with my dead grandfather and he was telling me information that no one on earth could know, I may say “alright, I believe,” or I would at least think it is possible that this device is in some way a telephone to the dead.  However that has never happened and I doubt it ever will.  But that brings us to another point, which for some reason is hard for a lot of people to grasp.  What is proof?

Proof is defined as evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.  By this definition, nothing in the realm of the paranormal has been established as truth.  I have had many conversations with people who say something to the effect of “I have had personal proof that the paranormal is real.”  Ok, fine, however personal proof that can’t provide sufficient evidence to establish it as something true, it isn’t proof.  I guess what I am trying to say is, though a personal experience may “prove” that the paranormal exists to you, doesn’t mean it exists or that it is proof positive.  For example, someone may have an amazing experience where they see a full torso apparition walking throughout the house and it disappears into the wall; that might be enough to convince someone that ghosts exist, but that doesn’t mean that they do.  So there is a huge difference between personal “proof” and proof.   

This was actually the meat and potatoes of the conversation with my good friend.  He made a comment that he doesn’t believe I would accept that the ghost box is ever legitimate and I said I might if I had the experience I mentioned above about speaking with my grandfather.  He then proceeded to ask me about a specific situation where I didn’t accept and or admit that the ghost box was saying something that in his opinion was obviously saying.  Well if people don’t know, I am co-host on Strange Frequencies Radio ( and was talking about show episode 134, hour 2.  We interviewed Steve Hill, a man who claims to be an electronic medium and ghost box enthusiast.  He sent in a few of his samples which he found to be amazing and crystal clear.  My friend thought I was being closed to the possibility that the box was actually giving a direct and correct response to Steve’s question.  He also argued many people in the chat room and even my co-hosts heard what the answer was.  Ok, fine, the reason why I didn’t want to make a comment on the particular audio sample was because I was already primed to hear the response because the response was the name of the file that was sent.  So I didn’t think it was fair to me or my sense to say I heard something after I knew what to look for.  I would also like to speak on behalf of my co-hosts and say that they may have said ok that’s what it sounds like, doesn’t mean they give the ghost box credit or even conclusively agree that the ghost box was really saying anything.

However even if I wasn’t primed, and I heard the one syllable word that the box was claimed to have said, that still wouldn’t be enough for me to say that there is something to the ghost box, I mean not even close.  There are also other factors we have to consider, how long was Steve trying to get a response?  How many times did Steve ask the question before he got what he thought was a response?  What if I took the audio, played it for 50 people (like I have done with Steve’s audio before, I have to mention it has always been different answers than what Steve thought the box to be saying) and 40 people heard the same thing but it was different then what Steve thought it was saying, but 10 people heard what Steve said the box was saying…are the 40 other people lying?  My point is, a one syllable word isn’t extraordinary evidence to this extraordinary claim.

Thank you for reading.