Can a person make things float?

What is telekinesis?

Books float around, spoons bend, lamps go on and off - everything is controlled solely with the power of thought. But is telekinesis really possible, and if so, can you learn the skill?

Master Yoda measures 66 centimeters. But "size doesn't mean anything," he explains to his student Luke Skywalker. No wonder, because he has a special gift. Immediately afterwards, only with the power of his thoughts, he lifts an X-Wing fighter plane out of the swamps. What Yoda can do, all Yedis in the "Star Wars" blockbusters can do: The ability is part of their "power".

For many people this is a fascinating idea: objects can be transported from one place to another by means of mental powers alone. This is sometimes called psychokinesis, but mostly telekinesis. The term is made up of the ancient Greek words for "far" and "movement".

But there are also related phenomena, such as pyrokinesis and cyrokinesis, i.e. the ability to ignite a fire through thought or to freeze water into ice. Macropsychokinesis is also known, in which objects can be deformed from a distance. Most of the time, however, the same word is used for everyone, telekinesis.

The haunted house of Rosenheim and bent spoons

But is that possible in real life? As is so often the case with phenomena in the field of parapsychology, esotericists and scientists do not agree on this. Some alleged cases made headlines: In the 1970s and 1980s, the Swiss Uri Geller stunned millions of TV viewers: he bent cutlery with the power of his thoughts - and showed it in countless shows. He says he was struck by lightning as a child and has since managed to knock spoons out of shape.

In 1967 newspapers described the possible telekinetic abilities of 19-year-old Annemarie S as "Spuk von Rosenheim". In a Bavarian law firm, the fluorescent tubes inexplicably went out. They were mounted 2.50 meters high on the ceiling and apparently turned out of the bracket without leaving any trace. The time announcement was called several times from the office connection without anyone having operated one of the four telephones. A liquid suddenly splashed out of a copier.

The lawyers were temporarily unable to work and the police were puzzled. Later on, drawers and a cupboard moved without anyone driving him crazy. Even pictures were spinning on the wall. More than 40 witnesses watched the strange apparitions, including police officers and doctors.

Dizziness or supernatural abilities?

Parapsychologists found that the phenomena only occurred when the trainee Annemarie S. was around. When she quit the firm in 1968, the specter suddenly stopped. Strange things were also rumored to be happening at the new employer. But the young woman repeatedly stated that she had no supernatural abilities.

Or was it all just a hoax? A magician later discovered wafer-thin strings on the very objects that supposedly had moved through the power of thought.

Cube experiments on telekinesis

Scientists are certain: telekinesis is not possible. At least no evidence of the ability has yet been produced. Alleged cases could never be repeated under laboratory conditions. The physicist Helmut Schmidt researched the phenomenon in the 1970s: He built a random generator on which lights sometimes glowed green and sometimes red. The test subjects were asked to influence the lamps with their thoughts in such a way that a color appeared more frequently. Amazingly, there were indeed discrepancies, but they weren't enough as evidence.

Space engineer Robert Jahn also tried to demonstrate telekinesis in an experiment. Test subjects were supposed to get a dice machine to roll as many sixes as possible. The researcher said there was an effect that was minor but significant. However, other scientists questioned the result. In 2006, researchers evaluated 380 studies on telekinesis. They concluded that the phenomenon cannot be proven.

Many people still hold on to the belief that the psychic gift exists. In a survey of 1,720 Americans, 28 percent of men and 31 percent of women answered yes to the following question: "It is possible to manipulate the world just by thinking."

How to learn telekinesis - maybe

Do people just need to train their thoughts and concentration to master telekinesis? Instructions can be found on countless websites: How to take a dice and concentrate intensively on a number. Next you roll 40 times. If the correct number is shown at least 15 times, "you can assume that you have at least a little bit of psychokinesis," it says on one of the pages.

In another experiment, a ball rolling on a slightly inclined surface is supposed to be steered in a different direction with the help of one's thoughts. However, anyone who wants to let objects float or fly has to belong to the "master class".

Fascinating topic in literature and films

In the imagination of writers and filmmakers, this master class is easy to achieve. Not only Master Yoda moves things from afar. Stephen King's "Carrie" is about a student who has telekinetic skills. In the TV series "My Uncle from Mars", an alien only has to point his finger at an object to make it float. Other characters from the science fiction genre can do that too, for example the "Doctor" from the cult TV series "Doctor Who" or Jean Gray in the "X-Men".

If someone could master telekinesis in real life, he could get rich: The American "James Randi Educational Foundation" has announced a prize of one million dollars. The sum is paid to those who can convincingly demonstrate a paranormal ability - for example, by moving objects with the power of thought. So far, however, nobody has picked up the money.