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Experimental levitation bed, England, 1978-1980

Psychology, Psychiatry & Anthropometry


Experimental bed for continuous weight measurement during psychic experiments. Used by Professor J.B. Hasted of the Physics Department at Birkbeck College in his research on human levitation. Hasted was an accomplished physicist who accepted of the reality of psychic phenomena such as levitation and metal-bending based on his own personal experience. He set out to prove their reality using orthodox instruments of physics, aware that this would tarnish his scientific reputation. He hoped his work would contribute to a new interpretation of quantum theory and to a softening of the positions of hard-line skeptics and hard-line parapsychologists. Hasted's research on levitation built on the ideas of writer Arthur Koestler, and on previous attempts to measure weight changes during human levitation. Earlier work used a type of weighing machine that did not give a continuous readout. This bed, constructed by an engineer in Hasted's lab, used a rubber mattress outfitted with various pressure and temperature sensors to give a continuous electrical trace of the downward pressure exerted by the subject's body. It was an adaptation of a balistocardiograph, an instrument invented around the 1930s to measure minute heart-rate and blood-pressure changes in a subject lying on a bed. Hafsted recorded changes in his subjects' mass of up to 200 grams, which he attributed to the subjects' state of mind.