24 Hours at Burning Man: Part II

mark dayIn 2012 Mark Day went to Burning Man for only 24 hours and filmed the journey, squashing the experience down into 23 minutes. Last year was Project number two, and he went back for 5 days. He’s condensed his trip down from 120 hours total, to a movie-length 1 hour and 20 minutes. The first 6 minutes is mostly being in the line getting into the event – an authentic look, then. Stuff you don’t see so much of in “Spark“. Surprisingly, about 100,000 people have watched it. The Spark Trailer only has 10,000 views.

I love the Tuber comment “if they made a homosexual version of Mad Max, this is what it would look like”!

Healing Late-Capitalist Cultural Trauma

The new Burning Man web site sounds like it will do a much better job of communicating exactly what it is that we Burners are doing to help the world, by spreading the Ten Principles, when we buy scarves donate money to the Burning Man Project.

Jon Mitchell is one of the better writers at the official Burning Man blog. After volunteering for them as a writer for three years, he was rewarded with a short-term contract to revamp the site through his company, Ablaze Interactions. A recent posting at his personal blog sheds some insight into the coming “Burning Man 2.0” culture that is to be revealed to the world “soon”.

jon mitchellIn February, I started a multi-month contract with Burning Man as a content strategist. It’s my first all-in gig with Ablaze Interactions, which is a great feeling, and it’ll keep a roof over my head while I work on my book. But even better, after volunteering on the Burning Blog for three years, this is my first chance to pour a big chunk of time and effort into Burning Man, which is one of my favorite things in the world.

I first attended Burning Man in 2008, and it totally rearranged my priorities. It helped me grow up. It turned me into a journalist. I’ve been writing about Burning Man ever since, as I’ve found Burning Man stories to be a strikingly clear lens into the wealth and poverty, the growth and decay of American culture at large.

Not long after my first public post on the topic in 2010, Burning Man HQ asked me to write from the official platform. In addition to my posts on the Burning Blog, I’ve done plenty of extracurricular Burning Man writing. Icovered the event at my former day job, and I collaborated with my friend Sarah on a long-form gonzo story (and accompanying reader-contributed blog) about staying at the Temple at Burning Man 2012 for 24 straight hours. In 2013, I started editing the Burning Blog’s Tales From The Playa section, which lets me work with hundreds of Burners eager to tell their stories of what happened out there.

You’ve probably noticed that I have a thing for portals. That’s Burning Man’s fault, too.

Now my friends at the Org — as the Burning Man organization is often called in a mixture of jocularity and suspicion (and what an eminently Burnerly mixture that is) — have given me a chance to help them tell the redefining story of Burning Man as its fourth decade approaches.

This month, Burning Man announced its transition to non-profit status, which marks the beginning of a transformation of what Burning Man is. For the time being, the annual festival in the desert will continue operating more or less as it has been. But the organization that supports Burning Man is reconstituting itself around the mission of stimulating the year-round, worldwide growth of the kind of culture Burners create. You’ll notice at the bottom of the announcement a mention of a “new website this summer.” That’s what I’m working on.

Without going into too much detail right now, I’d like to share a few things about the job.

  1. As a five-time Burner who dove face-first into the language and stories of Burning Man culture, I’d say I’m on the skeptical/critical end of the spectrum. While I certainly credit Burning Man for helping me transform, I’m far from sure that it’s changing the world for the better. And all that said, after a month of work, meetings, and conversations about the new direction for the Org, I am beyond stoked.
  2. I promise you that the new Burning Man is not taking itself too seriously.
  3. And yet, every person with whom I’m working genuinely feels and has carefully considered the Org’s stated desire to provide art, tools, and practices for healing late-capitalist cultural trauma.
  4. The Ten Principles are an awesome frame for ethical and inspiring action — especially when we have to deal with how they conflict with each other — and they’re the design mission we’re on for launching this new thing.

I’ll keep you posted about how this work is going as things shape up. I promise to be an accountable man on the inside.

XOR This: Burning Man Used to Scientifically Prove Magic

Yesterday I visited the Institute of Noetic Sciences at their splendid Earthrise campus in Petaluma, California. If you’ve ever read (or seen) The Da Vinci Code, you have heard of IONS. The Institute was started by Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who was inspired to found it after he had a religious experience in space.

On the trip home Dr. Mitchell sat in the window seat of the cramped cabin of the space capsule. As he saw Earth floating freely in the vastness of space, Dr. Mitchell was engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness—an epiphany. In Dr. Mitchell’s own words: “The presence of divinity became almost palpable, and I knew that life in the universe was not just an accident based on random processes . . . The knowledge came to me direAstronaut Edgar Mitchellctly.”

The experience that came to Dr. Mitchell in space led him to a startling hypothesis: Perhaps reality is more complex, subtle, and inexorably mysterious than conventional science had led him to believe. Perhaps a deeper understanding of consciousness (inner space) could lead to a new and expanded view of reality in which objective and subjective, outer and inner, are understood as coequal aspects of the miracle and mystery of being.

photo by Trey Ratcliff

photo by Trey Ratcliff

In 2008 Mitchell told the world that UFOs are real.

IONS is dedicated to examining consciousness scientifically. They believe that the soul exists, the heart exists, and so do things that humanity has documented across many cultures for thousands of years like intuition, pre-c0gnition, and telepathy. IONS was created to prove these things scientifically and reproduce them consistently in experiments.

Burner Dr Dean Radin from IONS (left)

Burner Dr Dean Radin from IONS (left)

One such experiment features Burning Man. In 2012, they came out to the Playa with a Random Number Generator. Their goal was to study the stream of randomness, using mathematical models to detect variations. They wanted to add to an earlier experiment, which had been measuring Burning Man’s randomness deviation with RNG’s all around the world since 1999. In short: did reality change?

And the answer was a clear: YES. When the Man burned, the Random Number Generator showed a demonstrable deviation from the norm. The event built up and peaked.

supernormalOur experiment tested the prediction that a random number generator (RNG) placed on the playa would demonstrate significant deviation from randomness during the period of highest collective intensity, i.e., during the burning of the man. In addition, the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) made a prediction that their global network of random number generators would also show a deviation from randomness. That prediction was based in part on a previously successful exploratory analysis that examined the average of eight years of global RNG data at the time of Burning Man (1999 – 2006).

They also brought out a laser that they hooked up to one of the RNGs. We promoted it and supported it, they raised their Indiegogo goal, but sadly, the Playa ate their laser. A common problem. The dusty conditions made this one a bit of a fizzer…maybe next time.

laser burst

To add an artistic element to the 2012 IONS Burning Man experiment, the same computer that was collecting the data from the playa RNG was also used to control a multicolor laser. The laser beam pattern was designed to become more stable and coherent when the RNG output departed from random and less coherent when the output was closer to random. Unfortunately, conditions on the playa made it difficult to protect the laser from the ever-present dust and wind, so the artistic aspect of the experiment was fully functional only for one night. During that night the laser functioned as planned, but it was not powerful enough to be seen by most attendees, nor was it widely known that the laser was being controlled by an RNG.

The next year, IONS went back with 6 Random Number Generators. Some of them used radioactive material. The event was measured again, and the result was statistically significant again.

figure 1

Figure 1. The Burning Man 2013 event began at 9 PM (21 hours) with the raising of the man’s arms; the man was ignited at 9:30 PM (21.5 hours). The peak deviation across all 6 RNGs occurred within minutes of the peak collective attention of the 65,000 minds at Burning Man.

This year, for Caravansary, Dr Dean Radin from IONS, who describes himself as a psycho-physicist, will be bringing 50 Random Number Generators, and distributing them around the Playa so they can measure not only the un-randomness occuring, but the actual chaos field.

ions paintingThese next-generation RNGs will be using different logic in their chips, too. The previous incarnation used XOR boolean logic filters, which combine random data into a single output that is very close to perfectly random. These could not be reverse-engineered (followed backwards). The new chip technology can be read backwards, so that what was going on in the microprocessor itself at the exact moment the deviation started can be replicated.

The maths and the logic is a little outside my field, but I get that: Burning Man moves the needle at the peak moment of the party. In a measurable and somewhat predictable way. There is magic at this party, and this magic is now scientifically proven to be real.

Here’s a TEDx talk that IONS researcher Dr Cassandra Vieten gave at Play)A(Skool , Black Rock City in 2012. TED distanced themselves from this science, refusing to believe what they weren’t taught in school, even in the face of years of evidence:

Note from TED: We’ve flagged this talk, which was filmed at an independent TEDx event, because it appears to fall outside TED’s curatorial guidelines. For example, its suggestion that random number generators can be affected by human thought would not be accepted by most scientists. The guidelines we give our TEDx organizers are described in more detail here:


The Global Consciousness project is directed by Roger Nelson from his home office in Princeton. IONS provides a logistical home for the project as it is not an official project of Princeton University.

The Global Consciousness Project 
Meaningful Correlations in Random Data

Map of egg locations around the world
The behavior of our network of random sources is correlated with interconnected human consciousness on a global scale.

Coherent consciousness creates order in the world 
Subtle interactions link us with each other and the Earth

When human consciousness becomes coherent, the behavior of random systems may change. Random number generators (RNGs) based on quantum tunneling produce completely unpredictable sequences of zeroes and ones. But when a great event synchronizes the feelings of millions of people, our network of RNGs becomes subtly structured. We calculate one in a trillion odds that the effect is due to chance. The evidence suggests an emerging noosphere or the unifying field of consciousness described by sages in all cultures.

The Global Consciousness Project is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists and engineers. We collect data continuously from a global network of physical random number generators located in up to 70 host sites around the world at any given time. The data are transmitted to a central archive which now contains more than 15 years of random data in parallel sequences of synchronized 200-bit trials generated every second.

Our purpose is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. We hypothesize that there will be structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events that engage our minds and hearts.

Subtle but real effects of consciousness are important scientifically, but their real power is more immediate. They encourage us to make essential, healthy changes in the great systems that dominate our world. Large scale group consciousness has effects in the physical world. Knowing this, we can intentionally work toward a brighter, more conscious future.