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Journal of the Society for Psychical Research - Vol. 53   No. 803 - 1986 - pp. 336-7


To the Editor,

In view of the use of the memory metal Nitinol, an alloy of nickel and titanium capable of recovering a prior shape after warming, by various workers over the past decade or so {1} ' {2} ' {3} , some of your readers may be interested in my own experience with this material, since certain of its characteristics may be misunderstood.

 The background is that during research for the BBC Radio 4 series FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, broadcast in the summer of 1985,1 was able to obtain two samples, about 3 inches long, of Nitinol wire from the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus with the help of the Institute's operations manager in London, Ms. Renate Seebrasse, with a view to confirming those characteristics which would appear to make it a particularly suitable experimental material for parapsychologists investigating metal-bending. The results of my study could not be included in the series due to time restrictions.

 In a letter to me, Ms. Seebrasse warned: 'Do not deform the wire more than about 6 per cent in tension or in bending (outer fibre strain).' and Wagner and Jackson {4} similarly comment 'You can use your little piece of wire at parties from now till doomsday—if you don't bend it sharply.' In fact it was quite difficult to bend the sample wires sharply, since the material becomes hard and springy under such tension, but I found that by forming a closed loop in the wire and keeping the loop flat against a firm surface with an index finger a sharp kink could be induced by pulling on both ends using thumbs and forefingers. This kink, which produced bends of 90 to 120 degrees, was permanent.

 Gardner {6} and others claim to have produced permanent shape changes in Nitinol by clamping it with pliers or special 'gimmicks' and subjecting it to fairly moderate heat. I found that a permanent loop could be put in the wire by tying it in a knot and applying a cigarette lighter to it until the wire ceased to exhibit movement. This loop is permanent.

 In both cases the new shapes were all but impossible to remove and in all other ways were apparently identical to those observed by parapsychologists.

 From the foregoing, it is clear that the extreme conditions referred to by Byrd and Randall and Davis and Wagner and Jackson {5} are not required in order to induce a permanent shape change. Nor is it safe to assume that the apparent rarity of Nitinol can act as a control since it has been quite easily available at various times.

 This does not invalidate the research carried out using Nitinol to date, but does offer opportunities to confirm previous research with fairly innocuous controls—workers can physically characterize samples by applying the above techniques to guard against the exchange of experimental material. Since it is so difficult to remove a bend or loop from the wire, it may be worth asking a subject to remove a kink or loop rather than produce one.



  • 1. Randall, J. L. and Davis, C. P. 'Paranormal Deformation of Nitinol Wire: A Confirmatory Experiment', JSPR, 1982, 51, 368-373.
  • 2. Byrd, E. 'Uri Geller's Influence on the Metal Alloy Nitinol'. The Geller Papers (ed. Charles Panati), Houghton Mimin Company, Boston, USA, 1976.
  • 3. Hasted, J. B. The Metal Benders. Routledge and Regan Paul, 1981.
  • 4. Wagner, H. J. and Jackson, C. M. 'What you can do with that "memory" alloy', Materials Engineering, October 1979.
  • 5. Wagner, J. H. and Jackson, C. M. 'Nitinol Doesn't Forget', Battelle Outlook, 2, 1, 1970.
  • 6. Gardner, M. 'Geller, Gulls and Nitinol', The Humanist, May/June, 1977.

    © The Society for Psychical Research

    Reproduced with permission

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