Fate November 1962 Vol. 15, No. 11
by David M. Dressler
AMONG THE weirdest machines possible to devise is one that outdoes any gadget ever dreamed up by cartoonist Rube Goldberg. It is a machine that consists entirely of ink-on-paper schematic diagrams -yet it works. This is equivalent to obtaining broadcast music from an ink-drawn schematic diagram of a radio receiver.
Several years ago I discovered such a machine. It produces tactile sensations (such as tingling or heat) in the hands of human test subjects when its prism-dial is adjusted to certain settings. I emphasize the fact that people report detecting these sensations only at certain dial settings.
I call this device the Hieronymus Machine, Symbolic Type III. Originally it was constructed for the purpose of detecting and analyzing elements in ore samples. Through experimentation and happenstance, however, the archetype was modified and applied in a variety of ways, so that today the Hieronymus Machine numbers among its possible functions the prediction of future events.
In a 1949 patent granted him by the United States Patent Office Thomas G. Hieronymus stated: “The primary aim of this invention is the provision of a method and apparatus for detecting the presence of any element or combination of elements that may be in the substance under observation and to determine the intensity or quantity thereof.
“This invention has for a still further object to provide a method and means for detecting the presence of and analyzing and measuring the quantity or intensity of elements or combinations of elements in the substance under observation through the capture and analysis of radiations emanating from the said elements, whether the said radiations be of electrical or optical characteristics, or both.” According to Hieronymus’ theory then each element (such as silver or gold, carbon or chlorine) emits its own unique radiation which, he maintained, could be detected and amplified by the circuitry of his machine. Briefly, the circuitry consisted of a detecting section involving a movable prism or lens which refracted the theoretical radiations emanating from the elements and passed these radiations into the amplifying sections of the machine. In these sections electrical transformers increased the intensity of the emanations, much the same manner as the transformers and tubes in a radio receiver amplify incoming radio Signals. The amplified emanations then were passed through an eclectically-conductive plate at the output end of the machine. When the operator of the machine placed his hand on this plate and stroked it he reportedly experienced tactile sensations in his palm or fingertips. In other words, the postulated emanations from ore samples were transformed into palpable sensations experienced in the hand of the person operating the machine. The position of the prism-or-lens adjusting dial when these tactile sensations occurred determined the “presence: of and…the quantity or quantity of elements or combinations of elements in the substance under observation…”
In the June, 1956, issue of Astounding Science Fiction (currently renamed Analog Science Fact and Fiction), Editor John W. Campbell, Jr. published an article, “Psionic Machine—Type One,” describing his own work with the Hieronymus Machine. Campbell reported having found that he could substitute radio tubes for the transformers which Hieronymus had used for amplifiers in his circuit. This discovery was perhaps not so remarkable in itself, but some other claims Campbell made certainly were more than startling. He asserted he had discovered that the machine functioned properly when its source of electrical power (the A.C. house line) was removed from the circuit by unplugging it from the wall socket.
Moreover, Campbell maintained, if one of the tubes was removed from its socket, or if a burned-out tube was substituted for one that worked, the machine would not operate.
I must explain that the original Hieronymus Machine, as described in the 1949 patent, used transformers rather than radio tubes. Therefore, in terms of standard radio theory, no outside source of electrical power (such as A.C. house lines) was, or should have been, required for proper operation of the machine. Campbell’s modification of the original circuit, however, substituted tubes for transformers. Therefore, according to conventional radio theory, some supply of electricity should have been required to operate the tubes and make the machine function. Apparently, however, the Hieronymus Machine could operate independently of electrical power but would not function at all if its principle components (in this case electron tubes) were in any way disturbed.
THE DISCOVERIEs continued to come. One year later, in an article, titled “Unprovable Speculation,” in the February, 1957 issue of Astounding, Campbell introduced his readers to Hieronymus Machine, Type II. This version of the machine departed radically from its electronic predecessors. It contained no electrical components, but consisted almost exclusively of ink-lines drawn on ordinary paper! Through experimentation, Campbell had determined that a purely symbolic representation of the electronic circuitry would serve the purpose of actual tubes and wires.
Campbell printed detailed instructions for the construction and operation of the new machines Machine, Symbolic Type II. As I painstakingly attempted to follow his directions, I unwittingly stumbled onto a discovery of my own—the discovery which happily produced Hieronymus Machine, Symbolic Type III.
My own version of the machine differs from previous models in that it utilizes no ore samples—in fact, uses no known input of any kind whatever. In other words, Hieronymus Machine, Symbolic Type III, is not an element-analyzer. The machine operator or test subject merely places his hand on the sensor coil or sensor plate (a metal sheet laid over the sensor coil) and tunes the prism-dial. At certain definite positions of the dial—and at no other points—the subject will, if he. Is sensitive to the machine, experience subtle sensations which he may describe as heat, tingling, vibrations, or the like. The most remarkable early discovery—indeed, the only single finding which could have roused me out of my initial lethargy—was that the people I tested, although few in number seemed to respond very consistently only at certain dial settings and that these settings quite often were the same for different persons. In other words, the fact that several persons (none of whom could observe the prism-dial) responded at the 90 degree reading of the dial and never at any other point suggested to me that the reports of “tingling in the fingers” and “heat in the palm of the hand” might be caused by something other than auto-suggestion, random guessing, or just plain sleepy fingertips.
Possessing healthy scientific skepticism, I determined to perform a systematic experiment to see if the test subjects were in fact responding to some kind of non-random phenomenon. As I set out on my investigation in 1958 I felt although I were stepping out into a kind of twilight corridor; the eerie feeling pervading my early days of experimentation cannot readily be described. The data which emerged originally were reported in 1959, and are reproduced now in the pages of Fate.
In my experiment I selected, at random, 100 persons (52 males, 48 females) as test subjects for the machine. No information was given them about the nature or purpose of the investigation. During the experiment, no subject was permitted to see the machine’s circuitry or to observe the position of the tuning dial. No subject was informed beforehand as to what sensations he might experience; but it was considered advantageous to request each person to report anything he might experience in his hand or fingers, no matter how slight the sensation. Admittedly, this technique of requesting each subject to report any sensation he might feel probably predisposed some subjects to look for, or even to imagine, the presence of some kind of stimulation in their hands. But earlier work has indicated that often, when no one had alerted the subjects to the possibility of feeling something, they would ignore the subtle sensations and later, after the test was completed, would exclaim that they had felt something but had thought it only imaginary. And since there were a newer of ways to discriminate between subjects who were, presumably, imagining the presence of stimulation, and those who were, presumably, responding in a non-random way to the machine, it was decided that there was a little danger and much advantage in informing the subjects beforehand to be alert for any sensation. Each test consisted of six revolutions of the prism-dial, three times for each of the subjects’ hands, which were placed one at a time, palm down, on the sensor plate. The immediate testing environment was not especially conducive to concentration, unfortunately, and later it was supposed that the results of the experiment might have been even more positive than they were, had the surroundings been more nearly ideal. This was not wishful thinking; subsequent rechecking of several previously negative subjects indicated that they were, apparently, positive. (These rechecked subjects’ reports were not, of course, compounded with the data from the experiment itself.) The attached tables show the results. All data are based on 100 persons, 52 males and 48 females.
FROM THE DATA obtained in this limited experiment, it is evident that 25 per cent of the 100 persons tested were positive. (This is a conservative figure.) Of them, eight per cent were male, 17 percent female. The remaining 75 percent were negative or doubtful.
This seems a significant number of positive results. There appears to be little probability that they were produced by chance or by auto-suggestion.
The majority of persons who tested positive responded at only one point on the prism-dial. Most of these subjects reported sensations at the same dial-point, the 90-degree position of the prism-dial.
The predominant report was of a kind of electrical tingling in the palm of the hand or in the fingers. Some subjects reported sensations in only one hand.
As to how the machine may operate, I offer the following discoveries—not as facts but rather as the barest clues. These discoveries were, in general, made during experiments prior to the 1958 FATE investigation. I list them in descending order of likelihood. That is, the discoveries I discuss first seem, in the light of supporting evidence, to be the most probable, the most nearly accurate descriptions of the way in which the Hieronymus Machine operates.
Evidence indicates that, when the symbolic capacitor in the “output” circuit of the machine is “short-circuited” with a metallic object such as a screwdriver, the subject immediately reports cessation of sensation in the hand being stimulated on the sensor plate. This is precisely the way one would expect the machine to behave if it were electronic in nature. Likewise, when the output leads (the strings or threads connecting the machine to the sensor coil) are twisted together, the output appears to stop abruptly, just as though there were a short-circuit in the system. But if the bare output leads are replaced with insulated wires, and if they are twisted together over their protected portions, the subject continues to report sensations, just as though the output had not been interrupted—which is exactly what one would expect if the machine were electrical in nature.
The sensor plate, which is placed on top of the sensor coil, seems to represent an important variable. I have discovered that subjects usually respond better using a metallic plate (preferably steel) rather than one of plastic, wood, masonite, etc. Also it is desirable to use a metal plate instead of no plate at all on top of the sensor coil. In general, varying the overall dimensions of the circuit does not seem to affect the output in any way. A machine no larger than a playing card will perform as well as one drawn to the dimensions of typewriter paper. The only critical component seems to be the printed capacitor: if its size is increased out of proportion to the rest of the circuit, the level of output seems to rise, that is, sensations seem to become stronger.
There also seems reason to believe that the length of the leads connecting the machine to the coil has a direct effect upon how long it will take for a subject to perceive a sensation. For example, when strings of more than 10 feet in length are attached to the output, there seems to be a delay of less than a second between the time when the dial is set at a predetermined resonance point and the moment when the subject responds. And, if thousands of feet of interconnecting wire are attached between the output and the coil (as was actually done by hooking the machine into the telephone lines and “transmitting” the output several miles away to the sensor coil), the time lag will be as long as 10 seconds! This disconcerting discovery tends to suggest that the machine is not electrical in nature, or at least not electrical in any obvious sense.
There is some suggestion, too, that if the components of the circuit are left connected in the proper way, but if they are physically rearranged in their relative position to one another, that the circuit as a whole ceases to function. There seems to be no patent explanation for this phenomenon! It is possible that telepathy exerts some effect upon the operation of the machine. On one or two occasions, supposedly unknown to the subject, I mentally envisioned the prism reset at the zero mark (it was actually pointing to the 90 degree resonance spot), and instantly the subject replied that the sensation he had been experiencing had vanished! Conversely, on several occasions, when the prism was actually set at 0 degree, I mentally pictured it pointing at 90 degrees, and the subject promptly responded that now he was feeling a sensation in his hand.
As I have suggested, then, these preliminary discoveries rank under the category of evidence only; much more research must be carried out before it can be ascertained whether or not this body of evidence constitutes a factual description of the way in which the Hieronymus Machine operates. It is, therefore, my hope that these discoveries—together with the still more remarkable one which I will mention later—will whet the appetites of Fate readers and will move them to build their own machines, perform their own investigations, and perhaps provide the solutions to the mystery which currently surrounds the Hieronymus phenomenon. Why does it work?
NOTE: This is the first installment of a two-part article. The concluding installment will describe the author’s discovery that the Hieronymus Machine may be used to foretell the future; and will give research-minded readers full Instructions for building their own Type III Model, along with suggestions for new experiments.