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The Military Technology

DARPA Celebrates 50 Years of Pushing the Envelope 83

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the big-envelopes dept.
holy_calamity writes "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was founded in 1958 after the Soviets shocked the world by launching Sputnik. New Scientist recounts the history of the agency charged with protecting the US from 'technological surprise' and lists some of its most spectacular successes and failures."
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DARPA Celebrates 50 Years of Pushing the Envelope

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  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:13PM (#23437428) Journal
    FTA:

    The mechanical elephant: Frustrated by a lack of decent tarmac in the jungle, DARPA sought to create a "mechanical elephant" during the Vietnam war. Its vision of high-tech Hannibal's piloting them through the forest never came true. It is alleged that when the director heard of the plan he scrapped the "damn fool" project immediately in the hope no one would hear about it.
    Subsequent to the pulling of funding for the mechanical elephant, the head of the project suggested, "What if we build a large metal badger...?"

    Seriously, tohugh, sounds to me like someone wanted to build an AT-AT.

    Sweet.
  • by Hankapobe (1290722) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:19PM (#23437542)
    FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.

    I really wanted to see if it would work - grotesque or not. It intrigued me that a "market" could be formed for things that aren't being bought and sold. And I wanted to see if the market could predict things.

    • by TheRedSeven (1234758) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:29PM (#23437702) Homepage
      Mod parent up.

      This is another example of how politicians screw up what could otherwise be a good idea.

      One could introduce an idea of how a terrorist might attack the country. If others think it's viable/vulnerable/highly possible, they buy the 'share'. As the share price goes up, it gets more attention (and hopefully response). When the response negates the risk, the viability/vulnerability/etc. goes down and people start to want to sell.

      Seems a good way to use market forces to address real issues. Politicians saying, "Gosh! You're going to be proactive and creative in addressing terrorism rather than using the politically expedient FUD?! We can't have that!"

      Freakin' politicians!

      • I don't know if I would mod this up or not. Here [iwar.org.uk] is a little more info on the program. There are a lot of obvious holes. For one, gaming national security is always a downside, and markets can be gamed. Another is the fact that government intelligence agencies would have great sway over which way the market went. With that in mind, think about how often cronyism and nepotism crop up in government. There would be huge risks in such an investment. In the end, it may be a unique idea, but I don't think it would have worked.

        The important point in all of this though is that, for all the pork and excess, DARPA does foster innovation. Bringing new ideas to important problems is a good thing. If only we could create a DARPA project to lead to a solution for cutting government wastefulness.
        • by dbIII (701233)

          With that in mind, think about how often cronyism and nepotism crop up in government

          With that in mind it is worth mentioning that Poindexter was right in the middle of this one without adult supervision. Whisteblowing about corruption costs you the chance of ever having a Federal Government job. Being the heart of the corruption apparently does not.

      • by geekoid (135745)
        While it wasn't canceled for this reason, terrorist could game the system, or at the very least, wait until it was at a low point and then hit.
        • by maxume (22995)
          It was for internal use by people involved in the intelligence community.
      • You are forgetting that once a remotely decent system for predicting terrorist attacks exists, there are about 400 congressional districs that have a velk's chance in a supernova of getting homeland security money. Mmmmmmm, bacon
      • Yeah, sounds like an interesting project. With a bit of work, I bet it would work at least as well as the futures banking & investment markets!

        Um...

        I mean, really, the bad guys would never think of trying to game the system, like buying shares towards a specific scenario, and divert security efforts from their real target!

    • Some stuff is just unspeakably evil, or unspeakably dumb.
      A market for medical knowledge gained unethically, for example.
      This is one of those can/should discussions: the fact that an action is possible doesn't make it a bright idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qs-ATG1AP3E [youtube.com]
      • by Hankapobe (1290722) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:56PM (#23438186)

        Some stuff is just unspeakably evil, or unspeakably dumb. A market for medical knowledge gained unethically, for example. This is one of those can/should discussions: the fact that an action is possible doesn't make it a bright idea:...

        Who would get hurt if there was a market of this type? If anything, it would save lives. I don't see anything unethical about it. If there was anything that was unethical it was the politicians killing this for political points.

        There's a huge industry that bets on when people will die. Is it unethical? It's kept many families from becoming destitute after the death of the bread winner. I'm talking about life insurance.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          Sometimes people are killed for their life insurance [rivkinradler.com].
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by MikTheUser (761482)

          A market for medical knowledge gained unethically, for example.

          Who would get hurt if there was a market of this type? If anything, it would save lives.

          Right! Actually, Dr Mengele was saving lives when he took Auschwitz inmates and subjected them to the most outrageously inhuman procedures for medical insight (and a bit of sick pleasure, no doubt). Nothing bad could come of a system that would allow such people to even make a profit out of such practices!

          And don't you try and tell me such things could only happen in a dictatorship. I'd bet you anything that somewhere out there is a CIA agent that enjoys waterboarding so much he'd be more than willing

      • by rts008 (812749)
        My faith in the future of mankind just dropped a few points after watching that!

        That's just incredibly Darwin Award-like. Wow!

        Hopefully he has not passed his genetics along yet, and hopefully never does.
        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by megaditto (982598)
          Guess what, you and I are probably paying for his truck right now with our insurance premiums. Probably paying for his medical bills and welfare checks as well.

          Now you see why idiots love socialism?
          • by rts008 (812749)
            I just can't seem to come up with any valid, rational, or reasonable arguments against anything you said.

            Hmmmm.....Nope!

            P.S. I had to show that video to my 17 year old stepdaughter.
            She sat there silent for a moment, then remarked:"Somehow I feel mentally violated by that. It makes me almost ashamed to be part of THAT human race."

          • Yes, because auto insurance is a tool of socialism. And where do you live that has socialized medicine?

            If you must post off-topic trolls, at least *attempt* to make an argument of some sort.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)
      Apparently other people are also interested in weather markets can predict things:

      http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/iem/ [uiowa.edu]
      http://www.intrade.com/ [intrade.com]
      http://www.google.com/search?q=political+markets [google.com]

      Notice at Google that major media outlets are running them now. UIowa was pretty early if they weren't the first.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by maxume (22995)
        Make that "whether". Stupid homophones.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bjourne (1034822)

      FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.

      I really wanted to see if it would work - grotesque or not. It intrigued me that a "market" could be formed for things that aren't being bought and sold. And I wanted to see if the market could predict things.

      Um.. or maybe the idea didn't sell because there is absolutely no logic to it? If share prices go up for "terrorist incident in country X" does that mean that it becomes more likely that a terrorist incident occurs in said country? No. It just means that the share price went up. If Al-Qaeida says that they are planning to blow up something in country Y and that causes the share price to sky rocket, then yeah, the "market" worked. But you don't need a bloody stock exchange for that!

      Plus, you would need th

    • by SinGunner (911891)
      Just look at horse racing.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      I really wanted to see if it would work - grotesque or not. It intrigued me that a "market" could be formed for things that aren't being bought and sold. And I wanted to see if the market could predict things.

      Same here. It's really interesting to see the slashdot discussion from 2003 [slashdot.org] about the project, with plenty of commenters freaking out about it with various knee-jerk reactions.

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.

      Robin Hanson (one of the pioneers for using futures markets to predict this sort of activity) has a really interesting post-mortem analysis of the project and the media reaction to it:

      http://hanson.gmu.edu/innovations.pdf [gmu.edu]

      Here's an excerpt:

      The past few years have seen an explosion of interest in prediction markets. We
      have long had speculative markets in gold, currency, pigs, and other commodities,
      which as a side effect do a remarkable job of aggregating information. Prediction
      markets turn this side effect into the main effect: if you want to know more on a
      topic, create and subsidize betting markets on that topic to elicit more accurate
      estimates. I have long been interested in how prediction markets can be used to
      improve decisions in the public arena. From 2001 to 2003 I had the opportunity to
      guide research on such markets that was sponsored by the U.S. government. The
      project, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), showed
      that general acceptance is still a long way off.Yet the academic support for the concept
      of prediction markets is old. In addition to the large literature on the information
      efficiency of financial markets (see Text Box 1), for several decades economists
      have been creating markets in the laboratory, showing since 1988 that markets
      with just a few traders trading for a few minutes can aggregate trader-held
      information.1 Also since 1988, researchers at the University of Iowa have used a
      special legal exemption (which no one else has obtained) to run a series of real
      money betting markets on U.S. elections. Although these were far from the first
      election betting markets,2 the added researcher-control they allow has led to new
      insights and academic attention. ...

      On July 30, seventy-eight media articles on PAM appeared, even more negative.
      Newspapers reported that Poindexter resigned that day, and two months later
      all IAO research was ended. Over the following days, weeks, months, and years,
      more than 600 more media articles have mentioned PAM, many at first, and then
      gradually fading in frequency. Interestingly, the coverage gradually became more
      positive, and the most recent fifty articles on average give readers a positive impression
      of PAM.
      In a statistical analysis, eleven indicators of how informative an article is--
      including time from the events until the article was published, citing someone with
      firsthand knowledge, article length, a news or an editorial style, author anonymity,
      and the awards, circulation, frequency, and topic specialties of the periodical--
      individually predict that more informed articles give readers a more favorable
      impression of PAM. In a multiple regression model using six additional control
      variables, including media types, political leaning, and the author's gender, all six
      of the statistically significant variables predict that more informed articles favor
      PAM more.14 The more informed articles were more favorable, and eventually the
      average article was favorable, but the political decision to cancel PAM seems
      unlikely to be reversed anytime soon.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      It was John Poindexter's sinecure - I don't think it was ever designed to work and was most likely just a second scam. I really do not understand how anyone could put him in a position of responsibility again after embezzlement, destruction of evidence, dealing arms to Iran and most likely treason.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:24PM (#23437618) Homepage Journal
    Successful projects: The internet, GPS, speech translation, stealth planes, gallium arsenide
    Failed projects: Hafnium bombs, the mechanical elephant, telepathic spies, FutureMap futures market for terrorism, Orion nuclear-bomb-propelled spacecraft

    Conspicuously missing:
    Successful Projects: Slashdot
    Failed Projects: CowboyNeal Dating Service
    • You left out one of their failures-- Metal Gear.
      • by Jaqenn (996058) on Friday May 16, 2008 @04:53PM (#23439830)
        (Adapted from an awesome post from many years ago on Gamespy.com)

        STOP BUILDING THE METAL GEAR
        By Solid Snake

        Hello. My name is Snake. You probably know me from the first time I destroyed Metal Gear. Or, you may remember me from the second time I destroyed Metal Gear. Or, the third and fourth times I destroyed Metal Gear. Perhaps, instead, you may be familiar with me as we eagerly await the fifth time I'm going to destroy Metal Gear, due for release in June 2008.

        Sometimes people ask me -- a renowned Soldier of Fortune and virtually invisible stealth operative -- how we can best keep the increasingly global threat of terrorism at bay. Time and time again the united governments find themselves at the mercy of elite squads of terrorists who, often during sweeps week, hijack indestructible robots armed with nuclear strike capability and -- for reasons that even I can't fathom -- one lone operative (me) always has to stop them against all odds. Well, I have an answer to your little terrorist problem, Mr. four-star general and united world government military advisers.

        STOP BUILDING THE METAL GEAR!

        For heaven's sake, it seems like every couple of years some pathetic spongecakes in suits are sitting around a conference table and one of them says, "Hey, let's build the Metal Gear again." Then they say, "Certainly those pesky terrorists won't attempt to hijack the Metal Gear this time." Then when all the hell and the hurting happens, they're not the ones strapped to a table getting electrocuted by some pony-tailed punk who looks like Colonel Sanders.

        I mean it. Certainly we can figure out something else to do with giant robots aside from using them as mobile platforms for 20 megaton nuclear warheads, although offhand I can't think of anything. Why do we need giant robots at all? Why can't we all just raise dogs, like I do when I'm not silently killing people from behind? I like dogs. Dogs are always happy to see you. They jump up and lick your face. Rarely do they don invisible Predator-esque stealth outfits and gang up on you in an elevator. Hardly ever have I seen a group of dogs pre-meditate a global holocaust by assaulting a giant robot stronghold. Primarily they spend their time smelling one anothers' butts.

        In Conclusion, I cannot stress enough the problems associated with giant robots. One minute they're secure on a military compound quietly protecting the free world, the next thing you know there's a floating bald dude in a gasmask convincing your girlfriend to blow her own brains out. I'm drawing the line! Next time you jackholes build the stupid Metal Gear, I'm not going to save your asses. I'm gonna hang out in Alaska, munchin' cheetos on a bearskin rug while some husky licks my face.

        You hear that, DARPA chief? The next time you build a Metal Gear, you, your advisors, and your giant robot can collectively suck my stealthy ass. Just try to find me! Hah hah!

        Thank you for your time.

        -Snake, Solid.
    • by Mastadex (576985)
      Whoa whoa whoa.......whoa.

      This is so bogus! Everyone knows Al Gore invented the internet.

      And, without the internet, we wouldn't have Slashdot. Therefore, Al Gore also invented Slashdot.
  • by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@NOsPam.Gmail.com> on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:34PM (#23437792) Homepage Journal
    When I hear arguments for cutting DARPA's budget, or for eliminating it completely because "the Cold War's over, and China won't be a threat for 30 years", I think of how long the agencies successes took to come to fruition... GPS, the Internet, etc. It took decades of work. Its not like we could shut DARPA down, re-open it in 20 years, and then just magically start churning out big results again.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
      It'd be a waste to shut it down anyway. The DARPA budget is tiny compared to the military budget as a whole, and new technology has a better chance of making a difference than another couple of fighter planes.
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:34PM (#23437806)
    "The mechanical elephant: Frustrated by a lack of decent tarmac in the jungle, DARPA sought to create a "mechanical elephant" during the Vietnam war. Its vision of high-tech Hannibal's piloting them through the forest never came true. It is alleged that when the director heard of the plan he scrapped the "damn fool" project immediately in the hope no one would hear about it." So we could be 30 years ahead in robotics instead of 10 years behind. Thanks, asshole.

    "FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians." Politicians. No further comment required.

    "Orion: Set in motion shortly after DARPA was created, Project Orion aimed to drive an interplanetary spacecraft by periodically dropping nuclear bombs out of its rear end. The entire craft was designed like a giant shock absorber with the back covered in thick shielding to protect human passengers. Concerns about nuclear fallout and the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty ended the project in the early 1960s." Fallout - OK. Test ban treaty? More like political cover for killing a program disliked by the No Nukes folks.

    3 of 5 were not technical failures, but political ones. Another, the "telepathic spies" project, is listed as a failure even though it did produce something important - evidence that telepathy is bullshit. The Halfnium bomb is another one. So it didn't work - BFD. are they saying that NO important research data was gained?
    • hear hear (Score:4, Interesting)

      by WinPimp2K (301497) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:53PM (#23438132)
      Really, just calling them failures shows a considerable failure on the part of the folks compiling the list. Lack of political will is not the same as lack of technical ability. And demonstration of negative results is also good for when the matter comes up again. The telepathic spies WILL come up again within 20 years as we get more and more unthinking morons in positions of budgetary power.(and the current crop of "consensus scientists" will need to find another scam when they hit middle age)

      And calling the exoskeleton a "current" project? There has been ongoing research into this before RAH ever dreamed of the Mobile Infantry.
      • Re:hear hear (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jank1887 (815982) on Friday May 16, 2008 @03:32PM (#23438686)
        "current" project = project with "current" funding. It didn't say 'hot new project ideas'. The Army has a current project to develop Silicon Carbide power electronic devices. It's a decade or so old now. Significant progress has been made. There's still more to come. The idea is old. The project is current. See?
      • by rlp (11898)
        And calling the exoskeleton a "current" project? There has been ongoing research into this before RAH ever dreamed of the Mobile Infantry.

        May not be a success for DARPA yet, but it's been huge for Marvel Entertainment. Not to mention various manga artists.
      • by rts008 (812749)
        "And demonstration of negative results is also good for when the matter comes up again."

        Excellent point.
        Is'nt this a basic keystone of Good Science (tm) and research.
        Every time you fail to get your expected results, then investigate why/how/what the causes, you learn something about it.

        'Hmmm....can't get there from here like that-well,back to the drawing board!'
        Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Sooner or later you narrow it down to what works, then test and refine. Or maybe you get lucky because your SWAG (Scientific
    • by Intron (870560) on Friday May 16, 2008 @03:28PM (#23438618)
      Orion overlapped a non-DARPA project called SNPO [atomicinsights.com] (pronounced "Snow-Poe") which was concerned with practical nuclear-powered space vehicles. For some reason, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere became unpopular and the project was shelved, but not until working engines had been built and tested.
      • by rxmd (205533)

        Orion overlapped a non-DARPA project called SNPO [atomicinsights.com] (pronounced "Snow-Poe") which was concerned with practical nuclear-powered space vehicles. For some reason, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere became unpopular and the project was shelved, but not until working engines had been built and tested.

        They definitely picked some idiotic names for their project. Snow Poo is just one of them, another is from the article you linked:

        The reactors were tested in Nevada at Jackass Flats.

        I know it's probably the public anti-nuclear sentiment that stopped them from getting off the ground, but their name choices were really unlucky.

  • by RandoX (828285)
    Postal Service has been doing it for longer.

    Newman out.
  • by DanWS6 (1248650) on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:37PM (#23437874)

    The top cruise velocity that can be achieved by a thermonuclear Orion starship is about 8% to 10% of the speed of light (0.08â"0.1c). An atomic (fission) Orion can achieve perhaps 3%â"5% of the speed of light.[citation needed] A nuclear pulse drive starship powered by matter-antimatter pulse units would be theoretically capable of obtaining a velocity between 50% to 80% of the speed of light.[citation needed] Missions that were designed for an Orion vehicle in the original project included single stage (i.e., directly from Earth's surface) to Mars and back, and a trip to one of the moons of Saturn. One possible modern mission for this near-term technology would be to deflect an asteroid that could collide with Earth. The extremely high performance would permit even a late launch to succeed, and the vehicle could effectively transfer a large amount of kinetic energy to the asteroid by simple impact. Also, an automated mission would eliminate the most problematic issues of the design: the shock absorbers.
    Interesting. I'm not sure about the efficiency claims but interesting nonetheless. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Dripdry (1062282)
      This topic seem sto get a lot of play here on Slashdot. Basically, the limits of chemical propellants have been reached. The next step up could be "Nuclear Pulse" engines such as the one developed for Orion. They would allow MUCH larger payloads to be put into orbit, and my understanding is that the number of "bombs" needed do not correlate linearly to the mass of the payload as it increases, allowing for a very efficient, by today's standards, method of travel.
    • Lot of space geeks are enamoured of the Orion.

      Politically, though, we can't even use breeder reactors to reduce our nuclear waste stockpiles, more less start trying to launch satellites full of nukes. The inevitable EMP would cause problems near earth as well.
    • by Jaysyn (203771)
      Someone has been reading too much Vernor Vinge. Don't they know you have to be able to create bobbles first.
  • by tcopeland (32225) <<tom> <at> <thomasleecopeland.com>> on Friday May 16, 2008 @02:50PM (#23438064) Homepage
    When I worked on the DARPA COUGAAR distributed agent project [cougaar.org] they used lots of open source code and had no problems with donating code back. The whole PMD [sf.net] source code analysis tool started there and has lived on long after the sponsoring program ended... good stuff.
  • That research and progress can come from goverment spending. a democratic-socialist signing out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)
      A massive number of people in the US just completely misunderstood what you said.
      • by Deus.1.01 (946808)
        It's my revenge against them for shattering my sanity with their insane political enviroment, which for some reasons i can't take my eyes off.
  • by porcupine8 (816071) on Friday May 16, 2008 @03:39PM (#23438792) Journal
    I don't like the fact that they call several of the failed projects "mistakes" or "blunders." Their entire mission is to push the envelope farther than what they can imagine other people going. They're not going to come up with crazy-ass successes like the internet and stealth planes without also coming up with some crazy-ass ideas that wind up not working, like a spaceship that uses nuclear bombs for propulsion and psychic spies. Those things did fail, but that doesn't make those things mistakes - they're a natural byproduct of a process aiming for both high creativity and high productivity.
    • by lekikui (1000144)
      Interestingly, the spaceship one did actually work. They built chemical propellant models that flew successfully.

      The main issue, as noted, is something to do with the fallout and the like. For some reason it was considered unfriendly.

      Go have a read of Freeman Dyson's book "Disturbing the Universe" which, among other things, contains some accounts of his work on the project.
    • by dbIII (701233)

      Their entire mission is to push the envelope farther than what they can imagine other people going

      Personally I think the problem with the futures exchange is that it would push the envelope into Poindexter's wallet. Where you have rewards for failure you will see a lot of failures.

    • I don't like the fact that they call several of the failed projects "mistakes" or "blunders."
      It's so New Scientist's readers can feel superior.

      (I must admit pro-DARPA bias, our contract monitor once bought me a really nice hamburger!)
  • by InlawBiker (1124825) on Friday May 16, 2008 @04:06PM (#23439180)
    I don't care what anybody says. I'm still impressed that the DARPA Initiative was able to slow time down on that Island and create that cool underground bunker where those scientists had to enter the code every 108 minutes.
  • As to "telepathic spies," the Army's remote viewing program (a.k.a. STARGATE) shouldn't be regarded as a failure. It's an interesting topic, difficult to research due to an abundance of pseudo-science, but there are valid academic [ucdavis.edu] studies [nytimes.com] which conclude that the phenomenon is real. Oddly, remote-viewing success seems to be related to local sidereal time (pdf). [jsasoc.com] The Telepathy episode [nationalgeographic.com] of National Geographic's Naked Science examines some of the program's achievements and features Joe McMoneagle, who was agent
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      As to "telepathic spies," the Army's remote viewing program (a.k.a. STARGATE) shouldn't be regarded as a failure. It's an interesting topic, difficult to research due to an abundance of pseudo-science, but there are valid academic [ucdavis.edu] studies [nytimes.com] which conclude that the phenomenon is real.

      Heh. Right. And there are "academic studies" which supposedly disprove evolution. The thing is, as soon as you start to examine these studies you generally find that either the researchers involved

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ZonkerWilliam (953437) *
        I knew you were going to say that!
    • by AdamHaun (43173)
      Your first link is based on cherry-picking the results of a post-hoc meta-analysis -- a double bias. The second (about PEAR) isn't any better [skepdic.com]. Also, note that those two articles contradict each other -- PEAR claims evidence of psychokinesis, while the SRI/SAIC analysis of the same claims a null result.

      • by dfedfe (980539)
        Yes. People forget that experiments can produce results showing an effect that seems real even if the effect is not real, just through dumb luck, basically. Then only those successes are reported and all of a sudden it looks like there is a real effect where there is none. Whenever this comes up I direct people to the file drawer problem [wikipedia.org].
  • FutureMap: This program hoped to use a kind of terrorism futures market to predict key developments and even attacks. It was thought market valuations of possible future events could reflect the probability of their occurring. However, FutureMap was scrapped in 2003 after the notion of betting on terrorist atrocities was called "ridiculous and grotesque" by US politicians.
    $50 says that this project still exists, albeit underground
    • by dbIII (701233)

      $50 says that this project still exists, albeit underground

      It couldn't because it relied on a lot of people making bets so would need a lot of suckers for the bank to get a decent cut. To make the situation even more bizzare - John Poindexter of embezzlement and Iran/Conta fame was behind it.

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