A fix for the gushing oil well a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico has so far eluded scientists and engineers armed with technical know-how and high-tech robotic submarines.

So one Boulder man is calling upon people from around the world to try a different, simpler tack: meditation.

"The basic concept is to try and get as many people to visualize that the valve is actually functioning and is working and closing," said Carl Fuermann, a staff member in the University of Colorado's Registrar Office.

The Coast Guard estimates that 200,000 gallons of oil a day has been streaming into the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank after it was rocked by an explosion April 20. A safety valve designed to stop the flow of oil, called a blowout preventer, did not activate as it was designed to after the explosion. Efforts to activate the valve using robots have not worked.

Boulder resident Carl Fuermann, posing for a portrait Tuesday, wants people to help try to fix the Gulf of Mexico oil leak through meditation.
Boulder resident Carl Fuermann, posing for a portrait Tuesday, wants people to help try to fix the Gulf of Mexico oil leak through meditation. ( Stephen Swofford )

Fuermann said his desire to use meditation to activate the blowout preventer -- and his belief that visualization could actually work -- is rooted in his own life experiences and in a global movement called the Intention Experiment.

"I'm very known for fixing things and making things work," Fuermann said, adding that he believes his meditation helped fix a friend's Flip video camera. "I visualize things working and hold the belief that they actually work."

Lynne McTaggart, who started the Intention Experiment, has organized more than a half dozen mind-over-matter experiments -- most recently to try to improve the water quality in Lake Biwa, Japan -- that involve people focusing their thoughts on something in the physical world to make change. She claims to have scientific evidence that it works.

Fuermann and some of the people who have joined his visualization campaign say they know that many may doubt their methods.

"I completely understand that most people would have a healthy skepticism about these things," said Jahnavi Stenflo, also of Boulder, in an e-mail. "To all those skeptics, I would simply ask them to participate in the exercise if they would like to try. ... Ultimately, there is nothing to lose in trying to visualize the valve shutting off. It either will help or it will not."

Dwayne Bourgoyne, a deep-water mining expert at the Colorado School of Mines, said Tuesday that he has "never heard of such an attempt to stop an oil spill or any other kind of mechanical failure." But he also conceded that while he is familiar with the known law of physics he is "unfamiliar with the telekinetic potential of meditation."

Bourgoyne did have a piece of advice for the meditators, however, and that is to focus their visualization efforts on a process called "sanding out," which can happen when the unconstrained flow of oil weakens the rock around the well bore. The rock can break apart and enter the well as sand, which eventually blocks the oil leak.

"If the meditators are seeking a common image upon which to focus," he said. "I suggest they visualize tiny cracks spreading in the rock."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Laura Snider at 303-473-1327 or sniderl@dailycamera.com.