When the experimenter wants to believe
The universe is deeply, fundamentally weird. At the quantum level, all kinds of non-intuitive effects are the building blocks of, well everything. So what if not just observing, but believing in a particular outcome could influence the actual outcome of an experiment?
Something like that could explain a lot: many of the claims of perpetual motion machines, cold fusion a la Stanley and Pons, the placebo effect, Steorn Orbo technology (previous discussion), and numerous similar endeavors. Who’s to say that some aspect of what we call consciousness doesn’t involve some kind of probability manipulation?
The conventional scientific method would be at a loss to deal with such a situation. True Believers would proclaim miraculous results from their experiments, but Skeptics would be unable to reproduce the results. Strong skeptics would set up million dollar rewards to prove crackpottish claims under “controlled conditions”, and nobody would ever collect.
Such a conceit is the basis for a story I’m working on. The first drafts were written 18 months ago, as part of NaNoWriMo 2007. I may be ready for some early reviewers by the summer. Interested? -m