Some people seem to carry a computer curse, frustrated by a plague of viruses, hard-drive failures, power surges and software conflicts that appear and disappear without rational explanation.

They blame their machines and suffer the scorn of others who accuse them of doing something wrong. But researchers at Princeton University may have an explanation: these computer users, it seems, could be sending out bad vibes.

“There are some people who seem to have a natural rapport with computers and other complex machines, and there are other people who seem to manage to break everything even without touching it,” said York Dobyns, analytical co-ordinator at Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR).

The laboratory has for 26 years studied a phenomenon that just might have something to do with it.

Through countless experiments, the researchers have tested whether people, through their consciousness alone, can somehow affect the output of various devices.

The devices – including mechanical and electronic gadgets – produce random outputs when there are no humans around.

The experiments appear to demonstrate a small, but statistically significant, anomaly: study subjects seem to be able to change the output of the machines merely by thinking about them.

“Viewed collectively across all of the experiments, the odds that this is all just a statistical fluctuation are ridiculously small,” said Dobyns. “One in a trillion would be the right general ballpark.”

The researchers believe the effect might not just be limited to these simple machines. In fact, part of the initial funding that launched the program – founded in 1979 by Robert Jahn, then dean of engineering and applied science at the school – came from a major American aerospace manufacturer trying to protect sensitive equipment from this phenomenon, should it exist at all.

More here.