This is a kind of "X files" thread.
Post experiences which spooked you, which made you doubt reality, mathematical or physical laws, your sanity, memory or perception. The more improbable the better, but no second-hand legends please, share only what you personally experienced. If you had the event later explained rationally please use rot13 to avoid spoilers.
A few years back, I had an incredibly vivid dream that seemed to be real. One of the characters in the dream informed me that my whole life had been a dream, and I didn't believe her. We got in an argument, where I pointed out how vivid and detailed my surroundings were, how vivid and detailed my memories of growing up in California were, and how unlikely it was that a character in my own dream would disagree with me. The character challenged me to try to open my eyes, and I did, confident that they were already open. I opened my eyes, and it was 3:00 in the morning in my little apartment in Texas. I have never even been to California. My entire life had been a dream, and a small fragment of my subconscious had known it was a dream when I had not. I was a solipsist for the rest of the week.
It was pretty easy, once I thought about it a little. First of all, within the context of the dream I had, there had been a way to test whether I was in the dream- I just tried really hard to open my eyes. Granted, it wasn't a very good test. It's not always easy to wake yourself from a dream, and there's not much one can try if this fails, but it had worked.
Ultimately, I just told myself how useless solipsism is in a real-world context. We might all be trapped in the matrix, but if there's a way to test whether we're in the matrix and get out, then there's a way to define and test reality, and if there isn't a way to test if we're in the matrix and get out, then there's no reason to call what we're in anything but reality and accept the parameters of our shared experiences. In the latter context, saying that we might all be in the matrix doesn't predict anything or help us accomplish anything.
The most useful part of my experience was also what I found the most disturbing- that a piece of my subconscious knew something that my stream-of-consciousness self did not. It's a little humbling to be shown how much is going on in my brain that I'm not in on or aware of. I'm a lot less likely to trust my own perceptions, now.
(Repost of an old message I sent to SL4 in 2003.)
Usually, like everyone, I forget my dreams. When I'm suddenly woken up, for example, by an alarm clock or by my cellphone ringing, it seems - I'm not quite sure if this is what is happening, but it's the explanation that seems most likely - it seems as if the last fifteen seconds of mental imagery are still "in my loop" when I wake up, so I remember them too, just as if they were lucid.
So the memory I actually have is of waking up, and then five seconds or fifteen seconds later, the phone rings. With an experience like that, it's easy to see why anyone less than a dedicated rationalist would assume psychic powers; "Oh, look, I become lucid fifteen seconds before the phone rings, I must be psychic".
Sometimes I'll even apparently remember that I have a dream in which an alarm goes off in my dream, which wakes me up, and then five seconds later the alarm goes off.
One needs to have done quite a lot of reading in cognitive science before one looks at that and says, "Timing fault in memory formation - yes, the brain really is that fragile", and not "I had a precognitive dream."
This ... (read more)
I once dreamed I was performing the quantum suicide experiment. It was discomfiting. But everything turned out fine. I woke up safe in bed...
Just what QTI would have predicted!
Make your measure small enough and you'll probably continue by waking up in bed.
When I was about seven years old I was playing an imagination game which gradually became unusually vivid and complex. In the fantasy I was delivering some kind of technical presentation depicting what looked like electron microscope images of small tube structures and I kept using the word 'microhydraulics' in my speech.
After a long time I snapped out of the fantasy and just sort of stood transfixed, introspecting on what I had just experienced. I realized it was far more immersive than my typical fantasies, even at the time, and I had the distinct sense that a lot of time had passed since I was actually aware of my surroundings. Further, I did not typically fantasize about giving technical presentations, I didn't know what the word 'microhydraulics' meant and I probably had never seen an image from an electron microscope..
Decades later I have earned my PhD in a topic concerning modeling of fluid flow through micro- and nanoscopic media. I have given many technical presentations on the topic. Many of these technical presentations have included SEM images of such microscale flow features. Occasionally I will use the word "microhydraulics" in these talks, even though... (read more)
It's well known that we're all a lot stupider and a lot more ready to believe things when we first wake up. So here's my story.
I woke up a bit before my 7:00am alarm in the spring when the sun was rising not long before I got I up. It was just barely starting to lighten outside a little and I didn't feel like sleeping anymore, so I sat up and looked out the window as I had the nicest view from that apartment that I will likely ever have. I could see across the valley and just over the next set of hills there was the rising sun, a brilliant flat orange but not so strong that I couldn't simply look, at enjoying its color. The sky around still had most of the darkness of night, none of the reddening of sunrise which made the sun look all that brighter in contrast to such a subdued background. A single dark cloud cut a narrow horizontal line across the sun just over the midpoint.
I thought it was the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen and decided to take a picture of it even though I knew that my poor phone camera would do an abysmal rendition of it. It took me a bit to get the phone into camera mode as I really hardly used it. But then I looked back out at the sunrise to snap a pi... (read more)
I had a large file to copy from my laptop to a friend. We were on a break between lectures - no external drive, wifi way too slow - so we used cable. The copy was taking a while so eventually we started making jokes about data flowing down the cable faster because of, you know, gravity. It didn't take long before we placed the receiving machine on the floor and... the speed increased. Not radically, but definitely more than what you'd expect from random fluctuations. We replicated the experiment three or four times, in both directions. Every time when the receiving machine was physically below the source the transfer was better. To this day I can't explain it and to me this is a proof of how a relatively simple and well understood system can be unpredictable.
Both these computers were using hard drives, as in, rotating magnetic disks?
If so, then gura V oryvrir lbh jrer zreryl bofreivat gur vasyhrapr bs ivoengvbaf ba uneq qevir fcrrq. Orpnhfr uneq qevirf ebgngr fb snfg naq gur ernq-urnqf ner culfvpnyyl fb pybfr gb gur zntargvp zrqvn, ivoengvbaf pna pnhfr vffhrf be va rkgerzr pvephzfgnaprf yvxr 'qebccvat', qnzntr gur zrqvn. Fb uneq qevirf guebggyr onpx fcrrq. Gur qvssreraprf nera'g arprffnevyl uhtr ng beqvanel ivoengvba yriryf, ohg fgvyy erny: uggc://tvmzbqb.pbz/5535177/ivoengvba-vf-xvyyvat-uneq-qevir-fcrrqf
Jul qvq lbh bofreir n qvssrerapr orgjrra bar orvat hc naq gur bgure pbzchgre orvat qbar? Creuncf orpnhfr bar jnf nssrpgrq zber ol ivoengvba guna gur bgure; fb jura gur jrnx bar jnf cynprq ba gur fgheqvre sybbe, vg orarsvgrq, ohg gur fgebat bar jbhyqa'g.
This has never occurred to me! Yes, this would be quite likely. On the same note: Shouting at hard drives
No, I was never able to repeat that experiment. However:
Zl fgebatrfg ulcbgurfvf vf gung gur pnoyr unq n gval culfvpny qrsrpg, juvpu pnhfrq ovg reebef zber bsgra jura orag "whfg gur evtug jnl". Vg pbhyq or grfgrq ol ybbxvat ng gur engr bs GPC/VC ergenafzvffvbaf pnhfrq ol vainyvq cnpxrg purpxfhzf, juvpu jr qvqa'g gubhtug bs ng gur gvzr. Guvf vf fgvyy ener rabhtu gung V qba'g rkcrpg gb frr vg ntnva, rira vs V unq gur rknpg fnzr pnoyr gb rkcrevzrag jvgu. Guhf gur gehr pnhfr erznvaf haxabja.
Edit: phase of the moon bug
Since high school I've been involved in conworlding - collaborative development of fictional worlds and societies, then setting stories or games in them.
Around 2005, I and some friends set a story in a culture with a goddess named Per married to a god named Elith. The religion gets called "Perelithve".
Skip to 2008. Neil Stephenson publishes Anathem, One throwaway reference mentions two of the avout, a woman named Per who marries a man named Elith. The marriage rite they invent gets called "Perelithian"
If names can have between 3 and 8 letters, and always alternate vowels and consonants, and ''th' counts as one sound, I calculate that the chances of someone who needs two names coming up with "Per" and "Elith" is on the order of one in a billion. The similarity in stories maybe adds another two or three bits of unlikelihood. If I've read 1000 novels, each of which has 100 minor characters, and my conworlds contain 1000 characters, then the odds aren't really that bad, maybe as high as 1%
Still freaks me out, though.
Unless you were both influenced by Perelandra, in which case the odds are much higher.
A long time ago, when I was very young (I don't know how young, early elementary school I believe), I did something wrong. It wasn't something that anyone knew about, or something that was irreparable. In point of fact, I broke one of my own toys while playing outside.
I became terrified that an adult would demand to know what had happened to this toy. (This would never actually happen, this hunk of plastic was, to the eyes of an adult, utterly indistinguishable from the rest of my Battle Beasts.)
I quickly resolved that I needed a scapegoat. This couldn't be my fault, so I'd have to lie about who was at fault. Then I wouldn't get BLAME. I decided that a monster had broken it.
Simple, efficient. The Midnight Monster (as I dubbed it) wasn't real and couldn't be sad that it was blamed. No one could prove that I hadn't seen it (I set it up as a Dragon In The Garage sort of scenario. I'd seen it on the roof of the garage when no one else was around.)
I implemented this brilliant strategy and was dismayed to note that all of the adults didn't believe me about the Midnight Monster. They didn't care about the toy, but they insisted that I hadn't seen any monster on the ceiling of th... (read more)
I have a recurring memory glitch that tells me I used to be able to levitate or fly. According to this memory, I used to be able to float a few feet off the ground simply by jumping up and holding there, choosing not to come down. There's a specific sensation memory associated with this, a tugging or lifting feeling in my abdomen.
The inference that follows, since I can't do it now, is that I forgot how to do it, or lost the ability somehow. This is moderately disappointing until I tell myself that it's just a memory glitch and humans can't levitate.
I have a few hypotheses about this:
I suspect my dad prevented this glitch from forming in my young mind. When I was a child, one of his favorite ways to tease me was to stand over me, and demand that I float in the air. He'd raise his hands over my head and pull them up, all the while saying "float! float in the air!" Of course I'd laugh, and I knew it was impossible, but I'd still try I'd strain, and rise up on my toes, and jump up and down, but I couldn't do it. Then he'd shake his head, and admonish that I'd better learn soon, because it would be too difficult to learn when I was "old and fat" like him.
The part of my brain that knew it was impossible would laugh, but a part of my brain would still try with all it's might to float, and quickly learned that it's impossible. Flying dreams are pretty difficult for me, now. I still find myself straining the way I did when my Dad commanded me to float.
Martial arts training camp. Average sleep time was around 4 hours per day, also, guard shifts round the day, so sometimes it ended up being 2. So towards the end of the week I was quite... sleepy. And this seems to have an interesting effect on visual pattern recognition.
One day, me and another guy were standing guard, around 4 in the morning, the sun was just about to come up. Making circles around the countryside weekend house we were staying in, I noticed that some people appeared with a truck and started to pick grapes from the nearby field. I promptly went and reported it to the other guy, so I was pretty sure of this observation, until I went back, and...
the truck and the people somehow turned into grapes and new people appeared to pick them.
Later that week I actually made up a rule saying "the guy standing in front of the house is, regardless of how much he seems to move around, a tree". Since I actually went there once and checked previously. Science over unreliable visual cortices...
I was playing a card game with about 6 people in an AP calc class. One component of the game involved guessing: some of the cards were "good' and some were "evil". You had the option to either pick up a card or pass it on to the next player, and the objective was to pick up the "good" cards and pass on the "evil" ones.
Prior to guessing, I would look in my opponents eyes, and ask them: "Is it good or is it evil?". If it was good, I'd get this mischievous, friendly vibe from them. If it was evil, I'd get a sort of adversarial or guilty vibe.
I must have guessed between 60-120 times throughout the game. I got every single guess correct. It was creeping me out.
After the game was over, we tried having the professor draw some cards and pass it to me, and I was supposed to guess whether it was good or evil. My professors face was like a stone, and I was guessing at chance. (Note, however, that this wasn't a real game so there was no winning-losing at stake - that might have made it easier to avoid micro-expressions.)
This sort of thing had never happened to me before and has never happened to me since. I attributed it to luck and temporarily ... (read more)
One evening, when I was in my mid-teens, my parents had gone out and were due back very late. For story-unrelated reasons there was a lot of tension, nervousness and worry in the household at that time. My younger brothers went to bed, and I stayed up a bit watching the film Cat's Eye, a mild horror film written by Stephen King.
In the final part of the film, a girl is threatened by a vicious troll, a short, ugly, nasty creature with a dagger. It repeatedly creeps in to her bedroom in the night, first slaughtering her pet parrot, and then trying to kill her by sucking her breath out. She's defended by a stray cat, but unfortunately when her parents come in, there's no sign of the troll, only the cat, so the parents don't believe her and blame the luckless animal for the mayhem.
While I was watching this, one of my brothers came in from his bedroom, clearly upset. He'd heard something creeping in to his bedroom, first opening the door, then walking across the floor. He was scared. I instantly thought of the vicious troll from the film, but with my rational brain knew it couldn't possibly be that. I also knew he hadn't seen the film. So I tried to reassure him, and talked about how the... (read more)
I was looking for a wallet that had fallen onto a very cluttered floor. When casual inspection failed, I started clearing the clutter-- then found the wallet in the middle of a cleared space. The most plausible explanation is some sort of attention failure, but it wasn't a small wallet.
One of the few times I have doubted my sanity and/or memory: http://www.gwern.net/Notes#true-dreams
Man, I hate false awakenings. I would not infrequently have them in middle school and high school: I would dream about waking up ridiculously early, going to school, doing all the tests, suffering through the classes I didn't like, spending literally hours on the bus going to and from, and then I would wake up shortly before the bus came at 6:30AM and think to myself oh come onnnn...
How about this one?
A few months back, I was half asleep and thinking about a certain person. For a moment I wondered whether the NSA now knew who I was thinking about, since thinking about someone obviously requires going online and retrieving the concept of that person from a central server.
I suddenly remembered what was my surreal story, perfect for rationalist creepiness :)
It was I think 1999 or so, and one afternoon it began to rain strange, white filaments from the clear sky. It seemed like cobweb, only that they were a lot thicker and the threads were about two feet long. I was in a large parking lot of a supermarket, and the rain covered it completely. It went on for some minutes, and I was utterly amazed: the strangest thing though was that nobody paid attention to the strands rain. I was running around trying to collect sample of that substance, but as soon as you touched it, it shrinked to almost nothing. A fistful of that sticky thing, if kept in one hand, would reduce to almost a black grain of sand.
I finally managed to collect a sample by wrapping the substance around a thick pen. I kept it in the fridge for about a week, unchanged. But I didn't know anyone who could perform an analysis, so in the end I threw it away.
I still don't have any explanation for the phoenomenon, it has never happened before and I've never witnessed it after.
When I was maybe 12 or 13, I woke up after having a nightmare and just sat in bed for a while, trying to remember what the dream was about. I was sitting up in bed, and for some reason I drew back the curtains to look outside. My back yard was filled with floating balls of light, which seemed to be larger than a softball. Occasionally the lights would flare up and glow even brighter. I just stared transfixed for a while, I couldn't believe I was awake.
The next day I was walking home in the early evening hours and saw fireflies floating near my house, and I realized that was what I had been seeing. I think my pupils were so sensitive from being in my pitch-black room that I could actually see the fireflies' bioluminescence in between light flashes.
Scattering caused by mist could have made them look bigger, or perhaps you were myopic?
I'd bought some apples from a store on campus and was carrying them in a plastic bag while waiting in line to pay at a different store. I heard a thud, and looked down, and there was an apple on the ground. I picked it up, and then felt the bag for holes. I didn't find any. I also counted the number of apples in the bag, and the number of apples I remembered buying were still in there. I knew that it was very, very unlikely that the apple had just appeared there, but I did assign a very small probability that I'd just seen something that didn't fit with known physics. A couple minutes later, the same thing happened again - another thud, another apple appearing on the floor. It only happened twice, though. Orpnhfr nsgre gung, n olfgnaqre cbvagrq bhg gb zr gung gurer jnf n grne va gur fvqr bs gur ont gung jnf arkg gb zl obql, juvpu unq znqr vg uneq gb qrgrpg ol whfg srryvat gur bhgfvqr naq obggbz bs gur ont.
BadBIOS: sounds awfully spooky. Worse than Cylons. I estimate the odds of an indestructible multi-platform virus that can jump air gaps being a real thing at less than 1%, but I wasn't overly Bayesian in my estimate. See also the relevant discussion on Reddit. What would be your estimate of such a spooky thing being real?
I think you misinterpreted the article. The virus can't infect a healthy machine "through the air" (microphone). It can bridge air gaps in the sense that two already infected machines can setup network over microphone, which is orders of magnitude more likely than the former. BIOS infections have been done before, so ...
When I was about 14 there was supposed to be a meteor shower and my family went out to into the country to watch it. It was beautiful and wonderful, until one of the meteors made a noise. Exactly the sort of noise you would expect a shooting star to make, starting when it appeared and stopping when it fizzled. No one else thought this was strange, but I was intensely confused: how could we hear a meteor? It's so far away! And perfectly synchronized? Even airplanes are far enough away that their visual and auditory positions don't match.
Jura V tbg byq... (read more)
Duke Nukem Forever was released.
In 1998 I was working at an agency in Portland, Oregon that served homeless teenagers. Also in1998 I made my first trip to London, England. I hadn't told the clients where I was going, and my ability to navigate (plan ahead) in London was poor. One afternoon I was riding in the tubeway. I decided to get off at random to see where I was. The door opened, and standing in front of me waiting to get on was a homeless teenager from Portland Oregon that I'd seen days earlier. A strong double-double take. I got off, she got on, and that's what happened. A pleasant surprise.
From a blog post I wrote back in 2006, after spending the whole weekend in an RPG convention:
So, the bit about too little sleep and too much caffeine? Well, I probably stayed up for something close to ~60 hours in a row, getting only something like a total of one hour of sleep during it. I also ingested about 600-900 milligrams of caffeine during the last 24 hours, when my bottle of caffeine pills suggests a maximum of 200-300 a day. I thought it wouldn't be a problem, since I've had 300-400 before with no problems, plus I drink a lot of tea anyway, so I... (read more)
I think the moment I got most spoked was when a doctor told me with full certainity that it's Monday when the last day I remembered was going to bed at Tuesday afternoon.
Jrqarfqnl zbeavat V unq na bcrengvba naq fcrag svir qnlf va negvsvpvny pbzn. V qvq arj gung gur bcrengvba jnf cynaarq sbe Jrqarfqnl naq gurer jnf n punapr sbe negvsvpvny pbzn ohg vg fgvyy jnf irel punyyratvat gb npprcg gung zl zrzbel unq n tnc naq pbhyqa'g or gehfgrq.
Vagrerfgvatyl rira gur gvzr qverpgyl orsber gur bcrengvba jnfa'g erpbeqrq va zl zrzbel fb V nffhzr fyrrc vf va fbzr sbez arprffnel sbe zrzbel pbafbyvqngvba.
I have... a variety of problems I don't want to go into. This causes me to have all sorts of glitches fairly regularly to the point where I'm used to bizarre qualia in almost full generality. However there is one that has happened once or twice, a kind of perfect storm, that I particularly remember.
Basically, it starts with my brain getting stuck on some particular proposition, and any alternative becoming literally unthinkable. That far happens fairly commonly and it passes in a few hours. It's fairly common among humans to have this I think, it's just no... (read more)
I have two modes of dreaming. One is first-person, and may not be obvious as being a dream at all, even in retrospect; the other is third-person. Sort of. There dream will have a character, who is usually not quite myself, and I'm simultaneously aware of the character's thought processes and my own; the character, however, is not. Usually. Sometimes the fourth wall breaks.
This is background information. Now, then...
I first read about the simulation argument when I was, oh, twelve years old or so. Shortly afterwards I had a new type of dream, where the thir... (read more)
Oh, I have. Since I was 6 or 7, most all of my dreams have been lucid. During college, I would regularly dream recursively. I would fall asleep once in the real world, dream for a bit, then fall asleep again in a dream, then again in the dream within the dream, etc. It's confusing, but I dreamt lucidly enough to be aware of the recursion and keep track of the dream depth. If I fell asleep three times but only woke up twice, I'd know that next time I would wake up to the real world.
Or at least that's what my dreaming mind believed. In case it is not immediately obvious, dreaming "recursively" is just dreaming. You can "fall asleep" 3 times and "wake up" 7 times and still be dreaming.
As a child in Texas, I loved watching anime and reading manga. After being repeatedly bullied at school over these hobbies, I bitterly decided to quit so that I could make friends.
Fast-forward about 7 years and I'm in high school, living in Toronto, Canada. I'd seen a post online somewhere strongly recommending Ghost in the Shell, and after some inner turmoil, I finally gave in and acquired copies of the original movie and first season. I started watching on Thursday, and finished some time a few days later around 7 AM on Saturday morning. The series was s... (read more)
Reading that ZFC has countable models spooked me. How can uncountable sets exist and an axiomatization of set-theory have a countable model? For a fraction of a second it made me doubt mathematics was real. For a few seconds after that I was thinking of giving up on understanding maths, or at least logic. Then I realized that there had to be a trick about it that made everything make sense again.
This happened at uni ca. 2001. I had recently learnt Python, so I was sitting in the computer club lab messing about with a silly little script that I had written, that generated droll poetry by walking randomly through a tree of phrase structure rules. At that point I was pretty pleased with the results, so I did the up-arrow, enter, up-arrow, enter thing at the bash prompt and just looked at the results.
Until... I got the same output twice in a row.
Now this was very strange, I thought. I looked over the two algorithmic poems word by word and determined t... (read more)
I had an experience while meditating under the influence of a hallucinogen and a dissociative in which an entity was showing me different emotional dimensions in my life over time (anger v. time, etc.). The thing that was odd was that the graphs all extended a ways beyond the current date and when we got to the "suffering v. time" graph, there was a large spike 4-6 months in the future. I rejected the idea that I would undergo intense suffering like that (prior to this I had mostly been trying to maintain equanimity about the different graphs). T... (read more)
At first I thought this would be suggesting horror stories that are particularly horrifying to rationalists, such as the one Eliezer mentioned on the HP:MoR author's notes about the Friendship is Optimal fanfiction.
The most anomalous experience I can recall was when I was 14 or maybe 15. My workplace was a makeshift walk-down below ground level, in which the restroom was constructed from plywood with a bare electric light bulb hanging over it IIRC. At the time of this incident, I was being frequently harassed by a co-worker about the same age as myself. While using the restroom on one occasion, it seemed for an instant that I was spraying blood into the toilet, yet in the next instant there was no sign of blood anywhere and the water in the bowl seemed perfectly clea... (read more)
I've got no cool stories of my own but a thread about a game of Risk some four years back still creeps me out.
Well, there was that time me and some friends crawled under the fence around the backyard ditch and went up and down our street peering into people's yards.
While gunshot noises and screams came from around us, which nobody else had heard.
It was near Halloween and obviously you can convince yourself to hallucinate, but overall it was still a kinda messed-up experience.
I have nothing as interesting as the stories here, though there have been a couple instances of my dreams sabotaging my attempts at lucidity by throwing lots of rapid-fire realistic events at me.
The more disturbing one, and more recent, involved all my priors actually making sense, except the one I wanted to test: a dead relative had come over and was acting completely normal. As soon as I tried to do a reality-check, she came to talk to me. She gave me a card that I was ready to put to the "changing text" test, but was distracted again before I ... (read more)
A year ago, I was going to the local Institute of Mathematics (I live in Bucharest) to attend a short talk on mathematical logic. The talk was scheduled at noon. Given that I had spent the night before at my girlfriend's and we were going somewhere together in the afternoon, I took her with me. While walking towards the Institute, I said to her that I don't remember the name of the speaker. She said that maybe it's a guy that we had met at a conference two months before (that conference was on a completely different area of math, namely algebraic combinato... (read more)
I experienced this striking coincidence between what I was reading and what I was doing: http://understandinguncertainty.org/user-submitted-coincidences/fictionalreal-location