August may be the most intense month of summer for high school students, since the halfway point between school years is past and the sense that vacation is over looms larger every day. Whether they enjoy swimming, unicycling, camping, or avoiding doing anything at all, most kids are going to work harder at it in August. For one New Paltz student, August has been marked by an internship with Princeton academics studying the nature of human consciousness.
Forrest Kerr began his internship at Psyleron at the beginning of the month, where he is learning and working at the side of researchers who began studying the “connection between the mind and the physical world” in connection with Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research lab (PEAR for short). Kerr is intrigued by the possible connection between science and spirituality, he says. “Science is a way for me to prove my philosophy,” he said.
The PEAR lab research needed to rigorously control for factors that could influence a seemingly random event, such as a coin flip. Computers can produce “random-like” numbers which are fine for everyday purposes, but fell short of the researchers' needs. Psyleron produces products based on the random event generator, a “quantum mechanical device” which is “fundamentally random.”
They include curiosities such as the Mind Lamp, which changes colors at random intervals; an individual or group can attempt to make the lamp change to a specific color. There's also offers a texting service: participants select a list of predetermined text messages, and the Psyleron computers pick one to send periodically throughout the day. The service can lead “to messages that may be sent at opportune times or triggered by the user's own emotional or mental states.”
Kerr hopes to use this underlying research to explore his own hypotheses about life, the universe, and everything. He expects his time at Psyleron will help him focus his efforts as he prepares for life beyond graduation.