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Last week I conducted the first scientific study to be carried out using the instant-messaging service Twitter, continuing a long tradition of using new communications technology to conduct mass-participation experiments.
The experiment examined remote viewing – the alleged psychic ability to "see" distant locations. From the 1970s to the 1990s, the US government spent millions of dollars researching this phenomenon, and some have claimed that the results supported its existence
When I analysed believers and sceptics separately, the results were the same, with no difference between the groups. So what did we learn? Well, the study didn't support the existence of remote viewing and suggests that those who believe in the paranormal are simply good at finding illusory correspondences between their thoughts and a target – which is, maybe, why they believe in the first place. No surprises there. So perhaps the most important outcome was to demonstrate that thousands of people are happy to take part in an instant Twitter study. Now it is up to scientists to find other interesting ways of harnessing this new research tool.