Monday, 27 August 2018

Ron Pearson’s Yellowstone Supervolcano Experiment


I am hoping to undertake an experiment based on an idea by the late Ron Pearson, for which I welcome responses.  This will only take a few moments, so I hope readers will participate.  Details are given below.

Recently I reread an article by Pearson in the Winter 2015 issue of the Society for Psychical Research's magazine Paranormal Review (PR) in which he invites readers to guess when the Yellowstone supervolcano in Wyoming, United States, will experience its next ‘super eruption’.  The last occurred some 650,000 years ago and research has indicated that such events happen every 600-700,000 years.  Pearson proposed an experiment based on the notion of the ‘wisdom of crowds’ to try to predict the year of the next large-scale eruption.

Harnessing the wisdom of crowds

In his book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations (2004), James Surowiecki argues that aggregating data results in much more accurate information than any single individual would be able to provide.  The classic example is Sir Francis Galton finding that the average of the guesses by a crowd at a county fair trying to estimate the weight of an ox once it was butchered was extremely accurate, even though many of the individual guesses were wildly off.  The crucial point is that the guesses should be made independently to ensure guessers are not influenced by others, as that would skew the results.  Pearson wanted to see if the same principle could be applied to the Yellowstone supervolano.

Carrying out Ron Pearson’s idea

Pearson wrote a similar article to his one in PR, requesting predictions of the year of the next Yellowstone eruption, for the Internationalist Survivalist Society (ISS) website, in which he said he would publish the results in Psychic News in a few weeks’ time.  The article is not dated but probably preceded the one in PR as respondents were required to write in, and it is likely few people did so.  Unfortunately it sounds as if the experiment as described in PR also came to nothing as there were problems with the website set up to collect data, and it is no longer operational.

Pearson died last year, and in honour of his memory I thought it would be nice to resurrect the idea and see if it is possible to get enough responses to arrive at a possible year for the eruption of the volcano.  Clearly this is of a different order to guessing the weight of a dead ox or the number of jellybeans in a jar as there is a precognitive aspect to it.  That is what makes it an interesting project, one which can be carried out with little effort by participants.

In his ISS article, Pearson included a form to record responses amplifying the year supplied, presumably to see, after the eruption, which method proved most successful (assuming enough data points).  I’ve adapted the items because the originals as set out are confusing.


Please give a year for the next ‘super eruption’ of the Yellowstone caldera.  In addition, please note which of the following applies:

* I just made a guess on my own.

* I meditated and arrived at the date.

* I used remote viewing.

* I pendulum-dowsed a map at 1110W 440N.

* The year came to me as the result of a dream.

* I am a medium.

* I am a healer.

* I used another method (state method).

Number of responses required

Pearson was relaxed about the number of responses he considered necessary to give the experiment validity – in the ISS article he says 100, in the PR article he increases it to 200.  I’d like to go for the latter as a minimum, but really with something like this, the sky, or the inevitability of running out of people willing to take a moment to send in a guess, is the limit.  Galton had 787 guesses for his ox, which seems a little ambitious, but then who knows how many he might have obtained had he been working in the age of social media.

Assessing the result

Obviously another limiting factor is the volcano erupting, but I am hopeful the data will be collected before that event.  I am aware the conclusion of the experiment is possibly some way off.  Pearson thought it could be a model for a kind of psychic early warning system; unfortunately we will only know how good it is if/when the volcano actually erupts and we, or our descendants, can see how close we got.  I shall publish the averaged date once sufficient numbers are in, assuming they reach critical mass as it were.

Send predictions to me at tom.ruffles[at]  Only one attempt per person please, and I repeat guesses must be private and not made after discussion with anybody else.

The data protection bit: I shall delete all email addresses as soon as I have recorded the guess, and promise not to use information received for any purpose other than this experiment.  Individuals will not be identified.


Pearson, Ron. ‘Crowds and Catastrophes: Can the Wisdom of Crowds Predict When the Yellowstone Supervolcano Will Erupt? A New Experiment Aims to Find Out’, Paranormal Review, issue 73, Winter 2015, pp. 22-23.

Pearson, Ron. ‘An Extraordinary Psychic Experiment’, The International Survivalist Society, n.d.

Surowiecki,  James. The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, Doubleday, 2004.

Revised 28 August 2018