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JREF News & Updates for September 2012 PDF Print E-mail
Latest JREF News
Written by JREF Staff   

Photo of D.J. Grothe


It has been a busy past month for the JREF crew. Along with scores of other notable skeptics, Randi and Brian Thompson appeared at Dragon*Con, where Randi had an on-stage reunion with his old friend Alice Cooper. We are gearing up for our upcoming Amaz!ng Adventure 2012 (Hint: It’s Not The End Of The World!), as well as speaking tours for Randi in India and Australia. We announced some academic scholarship opportunities, as well as existing JREF grants for teachers and skeptic groups.

We’ve posted a great number of challenging and thought-provoking videos on skeptical topics from TAM 2012 on JREF’s popular YouTube channel, including talks by Stuart Firestein, Dierdre Barrett, Tim Farley, Eugenie Scott, Ben Radford and many, many more. One of the most popular videos posted from TAM 2012 is the recording of our Live Million Dollar Challenge, where Banachek, Jamy Ian Swiss, Chip Denman, Richard Saunders, and Baxter, along with over a dozen other JREF volunteers, tested the claims of the inventor of the Dynactiv SR wristband, a gizmo purported to improve the wearer’s strength, stamina, energy and balance, as well as help regulate sleep and increase focus and concentration. To me, the video of our live test is a breathtaking example of both the seriousness and thoroughness with which such claims must be treated and the ideal posture — a combination of humility and open-mindedness — required when examining such paranormal or pseudoscientific claims.

Earlier this week, Randi and I were in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, where among other things, he was featured at an event for the internationally renowned Barrow Neurological Institute. The special event was “Magic and the Brain,” and also featured prominent Vegas magician Mac King, along with the neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde (authors of Sleights of Mind), and it explored the intersection of magic, science, skepticism and deception. While we were in town, Randi and I also gave lectures on skepticism, science and magic at the University of Arizona. 



When we travel, we invariably meet people who talk about how the work of the JREF has made a difference in their lives. Not only does this encourage us, “charging our batteries,” so to speak, but it motivates us to redouble our efforts knowing that the work of skepticism is never done. (In my hotel room Sunday night I saw a number of episodes of Long Island Medium in their entirety. I think Theresa Caputo’s gross, manipulative act hurts grieving, if gullible, people, and might just merit some additional attention from the JREF.)

As ever, thank you for your continued support of the JREF’s important work. We couldn’t continue educating the public about the paranormal and pushing back against the brazen fakers lining their pockets by taking advantage of believers without it.

Sincerely,

 

 

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D.J. Grothe
President, James Randi Educational Foundation


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Reserve Your Space on the Amazing Adventure 2012!

 

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Join James Randi and a crew of skeptical seafarers for a TAM-at-Sea! On this luxurious 7-day cruise, we will explore 2012 doomsday prophecies as we travel to the Mayan Riviera, home of the ancient Mayan civilization.

Step Into History

 

Our journey from Tampa, Florida to the heart of Mayan civilization will stop in the Rotan Bay Islands, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico; and Cozumel, Mexico. Between guided tours and talks about prophecies of impending doom and other skeptical topics, you’ll have ample time to scuba, snorkel, enjoy the beach and the jungle, and see some of the most beautiful Mayan ruins. 


Each day at these breathtaking stops will be filled with opportunities for educational excursions and on-shore programming . From touring the Mayan ruins to enjoying talks from some of your favorite skeptical speakers like James Randi, Jennifer Michael Hecht and Ben Radford, it will be an experience like no other. View the entire itinerary here.

Book your reservation now!



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Save the Date for TAM 2013! 

Hrab TAM 2012

When: July 11 - 14, 2013
What: A four day vacation from unreason, a celebration of science and skepticism with some amaz!ng people!
Where: South Point Hotel Casino and Spa, Las Vegas, Nevada
Who: James Randi, skeptical thinkers from around the world, and you!
RSVP: Registration details available in the coming months at amazingmeeting.com 


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Upcoming Events



Think 2012 and Randi Speaking Tour | November 2-8 | Goa, Mumbai and Other Cities, India 
James Randi offers a keynote presentation at this eclectic, thought-provoking and egalitarian platform for ideas from across the globe. Learn about Randi’s decades of work catching con-artists and fighting fakers. Register for free here. Randi will also be touring other cities in India. Full itinerary to be announced in the weeks ahead.

2012 Australian Skeptics Convention and Randi Speaking Tour | November 30-December 2 | Melbourne, Australia
The Australian Skeptics bring back their inspiring conference, with this year’s theme of Active Skepticism – changing for the better. Featured speakers include James “The Amazing” Randi, JREF president D.J. Grothe, and JREF outreach coordinator Brian Thompson. Purchase tickets here.

The Amaz!ng Adventure 2012 | December 9 - 16 | Mayan Riviera
On this TAM-at-Sea, join James Randi and a team of seafaring skeptics for a journey to the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization. Along the way, enjoy talks by some of your favorite skeptical speakers, including James Randi and Benjamin Radford. Reserve your spot here

The Amaz!ng Meeting 2013 | July 11 - 14 | Las Vegas
Join us for the largest science and skepticism conference in the world, featuring exciting speakers, engaging panels and workshops, and some of the best (or at least most skeptical) evening entertainment in Vegas. More information at amazingmeeting.com in the coming months.


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The Amaz!ng Meeting 2012: More Unforgettable Talks


Anyone who joined us for TAM 2012 knows that it was one of the best TAMs yet, with talks, panels and workshops that challenged us, made us laugh, and inspired us to do more to fight unfounded claims. If you missed this year’s event, you can catch videos of the talks at our YouTube channel.

We are delighted to share with you some videos of standout talks. Dr. Stuart Firestein of Columbia University discusses the value of "thoroughly conscious ignorance" in propelling scientific advancement; and Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education discusses the tactics employed by creationists in denying the science behind evolution. Watch these great presentations by clicking below.

 

Firestein TAM 2012Eugenie Scott TAM 2012

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JREF Welcomes New Education Consultant


Barbara DrescherWe are very happy to announce that Barbara Drescher has joined our team, serving as the organization’s Consultant for Educational Programs. Ms. Drescher has been involved with the JREF for many years, speaking and leading teacher workshops at The Amaz!ng Meeting, JREF’s annual conference, and advising on the JREF in the Classroom program. In addition to skeptical activism, Ms. Drescher teaches research methods, statistics, and cognitive psychology at California State University, Northridge, where she has focused her research on perception, attention, learning, and reasoning. On her critical thinking website, ICBSEverywhere.com, she evaluates claims and research, discusses education, and promotes science and skepticism.

“I strongly believe that what the JREF does makes the world a better place,” says Drescher. “I have been proud of my contributions to the JREF's educational efforts over the past few years and I am excited about the opportunity to make a much larger and more lasting contribution in this new role."

Read more here.


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eBay Prohibits Selling of Psychic and Other Paranormal Services


psychic windowAfter a long history of selling spells, curses, prayers and potions, web giant eBay has finally prohibited the sale of these unproven “psychic services.”

But, as JREF president D.J. Grothe points out in his recent Huffington Post article, magic crystals and dowsing rods are still fair game. Read Grothe’s complete article here.

 

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Call for Scholarship Applications



Monique scholarshipThe James Randi Educational Foundation is proud to provide a number of resources that skeptics need to promote critical thinking in their communities and the wider public. We are equally committed to making sure the next generation of skeptics is equipped to carry on this important work for years to come. This is why the JREF is proud to regularly provide grants and scholarships to educators, students, and community activists who share our mission of inoculating the public against pseudoscience, superstition, and unproven claims.

Over the years, tens of thousands of dollars in JREF scholarships have been awarded to both undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate a commitment to applying critical thinking and rational skepticism to their chosen fields. Some of our awardees have gone on to careers in psychology,
mathematics, science education, philosophy, literature, biology, and computer and cognitive sciences.

Narine ScholarshipWe believe in fostering skepticism across many fields of study, and we are proud to put our resources behind that conviction.

If you are planning a skeptical event or project, we encourage you to apply for a JREF grant. Simply send your name, the name of your organization, a description of your project, and a proposed budget to JREF Outreach Coordinator Brian Thompson at outreach@randi.org.

Read more here. To apply for a JREF academic scholarship, click here

 

Top to Bottom: Graduate scholarship winner Monique Marinakos, a law student seeking to write legislation that integrates a balanced, respectful relationship between scientists and lawmakers; Undergraduate scholarship winner Narine E. Wandrey, a science and critical thinking activist at the University of Dallas.  

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 JREF in the Media


Tired of seeing ghost hunters and psychics filling the headlines? Here’s how your favorite skeptics have been representing the rational viewpoint in the media.

The Honor System | Esquire Magazine
"It's so beautiful, I have tears in my eyes when he's finished, I really do. The hush in the audience... nobody breathes. I swear they're turning blue. You hardly blink. That's what makes it a very brave trick." - James Randi

Can the Godless Market Evolve Beyond Bumper Stickers? | Bloomberg Businessweek
“The largest such conference is the Amaz!ng Meeting, hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation, a nonprofit founded by magician and debunker James Randi in 1996. It hosts conferences around the world; its annual Las Vegas gathering drew about 1,200 in early July, along with 20 nonprofit and for-profit vendors.”

Hunts Charlatans, Criticizes Former Magician John of God: 100 Year Old Tricks | Terra
Originally in Portuguese
“These charlatans cost people millions of dollars every year, robbing emotional security, disappointing, cheating and lying to those who believe in them... unmasking them is the right thing to do.” - James Randi

Alice Cooper reminisces at Dragon-Con | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“The friendship between Cooper and James Randi, his ‘executioner’ on that tour, was obvious.”

Chasing the Dragon | Creative Loafing Atlanta
"Randi has an open-ended challenge to pay $1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal abilities... but the psychics all claim that they can't do it when he's around because skeptics, like him, generate 'bad vibrations' that interfere with their abilities. Whatever."

Rockin' New libsyn Podcasts: Consequence | Libsyn.com
“Thousands and thousands of people all over the world have been harmed financially, emotionally, or even physically by believing in superstition, pseudoscience, or paranormal phenomena that turned out not to be true. On Consequence, the James Randi Educational Foundation provides a forum for those people to share their stories.” - Brian Thompson, host of the JREF’s Consequence

An Interview with Carrie Poppy | The Skeptic Zone
“We want to share this outlook where we question everything. It’s not about proving anybody wrong.” - Carrie Poppy, JREF Director of Communications


An Interview with D.J. Grothe | The Skeptic Zone
“At TAM we offer practical skepticism... How to roll up your sleeves and combat the nonsense.” - D.J. Grothe, JREF President

An Interview with D.J. Grothe | Skeptikerpodden
Interview begins at 26:26. 
"Skepticism is a life-affirming and positive way of approaching questions... an intellectual self-defense." - D.J. Grothe, JREF President



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Recently on Randi.org

Teaching the History of Pseudoscience | Brian Regal    
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1843-teaching-the-history-of-pseudoscience.html

The Cult of Ramtha and More on Consequence | JREF Staff
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/1836-the-cult-of-ramtha-and-more-on-qconsequenceq.html

Video: "Why Skepticism Matters" at Dragon*Con 2012 | JREF Staff
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/1833-video-qwhy-skepticism-mattersq-at-dragoncon-2012.html

San Antonio's "Haunted" Railroad Tracks | Dr. Karen Stollznow
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1829-san-antonios-haunted-railroad-tracks-.html

What You Can Do to Fight Woo: Magic bracelets, mediums and immunity denialism | Carrie Poppy
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1834-carrie-poppy.html


This Week in Doubtful News | Sharon Hill
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1842-this-week-in-doubtful-news.html

JREF Offers a Number of Scholarships and Grants for Students, Educators and Local Skeptic Groups | JREF Staff
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/1840-jref-offers-a-number-of-scholarships-and-grants-for-students-educators-and-local-skeptic-groups.html

New Videos from The Amazing Meeting 2012: Jennifer Michael Hecht and Stuart Firestein | JREF Staff
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/1838-new-videos-from-the-amazng-meeting-2012-jennifer-michael-hecht-and-stuart-firestein.html

Last Week at Science-Based Medicine | Dr. Harriet Hall
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1830-last-week-at-science-based-medicine.html

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Join Us in Fighting the Fakers


Be a part of the James Randi Educational Foundation’s work to fight charlatans and promote criticalTEAMRANDIold.png thinking by becoming a JREF member. Your $100 membership is a critical part of our efforts to:

  • Fight fake psychics, mediums, pseudoscience merchants, and others who we believe manipulate victims at their most vulnerable.
  • Provide educational resources for instructors, to teach critical thinking skills and the scientific method in the classroom.
  • Promote skepticism in the media and to the public at large.
  • Support grassroots skeptical activism around the country and around the world.
  • Help build community groups and hold conferences like The Amaz!ng Meeting, so skeptics can meet like-minded friends in order to fight the good fight together.

Join the JREF now and receive a pewter Pigasus pin and a Team Randi shirt!