Not to be outdone by US military research that inspired men to stare at goats, the Soviets also seem to have poured a nice chunk of change into investigating telekinesis and mind control. A new survey of Soviet "unconventional" research on the server ArXiv has the details.
Based on Russian publications and recently declassified documents, Serge Kernbach at the Research Center of Advanced Robotics and Environmental Science in Germany paints a portrait of unconventional research from 1917 to 2003, twelve years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The government funded research into the paranormal fell in and out of favour, but ultimately might have cost up to a £604 million.
Psychotronics, the Soviet term for parapsychology, was an active area of inquiry. As the ArXiv blog explains, "The work built on a long standing idea in Soviet science that the human brain could receive and transmit a certain kind of high frequency electromagnetic radiation and that this could influence other objects too." For example, Soviet researchers reported, electromagnetic radiation could stimulate the immune systems of plants and humans. Psychotronic weapons were also tested for their ability to alter people's minds.
According to Kernbach, Soviet funding for the research mostly dried up in the 21st century—but that doesn't mean psychotronics still doesn't rear its strange head every once in a while. In 2007, for example, Wired reported that the Department of Homeland Security was interested in working with a contractor connected to Igor Smirnov, a Rasputin-like character dubbed the "father of psychotronic weapons." Nothing's been reported on the deal since, which means it didn't happen or... you know... [Physics ArXiv Blog]
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