The Amazing Meeting 2014

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JREF Swift Blog
Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the JREF's daily blog, featuring content from James Randi, the JREF staff, and other featured authors.

Some Minor Science News PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Today, we learn that IBM has a new product. It's no big deal... just an MRI that has 100 million times the resolution of the ones we use today. Wait... let me type that out completley... 100,000,000 times the resolution. That a 4 nanometer resolution, which is more than enough to see a single virus particle.

The IBM MRFM uses a magnetic sensor tip which picks up on the minute magnetic forces of hydrogen atoms in the sample, called a resonant slice. The slice sits beneath a tiny silicon cantilever which vibrates in the presence of minute magnetic fields. Vibrations are tracked by a laser interferometer, recording 3D details of whatever's at that location. Image courtesy of IBM.

 
Striking a Happy Medium PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

While making the rounds of the news sources, I came across this straightforward article from the Trinidad & Tobago Express. Tony Deyal, a Caribbean journalist, discusses perhaps the most famous "hit" in all of psychic prophecy:

Parade magazine in 1956 quoted Dixon as predicting: "As for the 1960 election Mrs. Dixon thinks it will be dominated by labour and won by a Democrat. But he will be assassinated or die in office though not necessarily in his first term."

What was not said is that Dixon actually predicted that John F. Kennedy would fail to win the presidency and that Richard Nixon would be victorious.

 
WOO IN REVIEW: Criminal Profiling Contest Results PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

WOO IN REVIEW: Criminal Profiling Contest Results


The Criminal Profiling Contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated. It was interesting to write the contest, and interesting to read your analyses.

I'll let everyone know who the winners are momentarily, but first I wanted to take another look at criminal profiling, and also some of the comments to the contest.tedbundy4

Firstly, I would no more “stop promoting” criminal profiling (even if it was totally false) than I would “stop promoting” ghost hunters, psychics, or mediums – because the only way I could possibly take a call to stop promoting such a thing would be to not mention the thing at all. And, as a critical thinker, that concept seems silly to me. If you are a critical thinker, it should seem silly to you, too.

For the record, I do not have enough information to make an informed decision on whether or not criminal profiling is an effective tool in investigations. I have a single set of statistics from the early 1990's and nothing more. If someone has another study, or anything beyond isolated information, I'd be happy to read it and become more informed on the topic. Please feel free to either leave a link in the comments or e-mail one to me at alison@randi.org.

 
Roger Ebert Weighs In On Expelled PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Bruce Meinsen writes:

Dear Randi:

As a big fan of you and the JREF, it was with some interest that I looked for Ebert's review of Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed", but the movie was released (April 18, 2008) without a peep from Ebert - which I thought quite strange for a movie that had such inflammatory material. It turns out that he waited until almost 8 months later to write/publish his review - and you can certainly see why if you read it. I didn't see any mention of it on your website and though it's somewhat belated, I thought it's important enough to point out to your readers. Here's the link if you're interested.

 
WOO IN REVIEW: Criminal Profiling Contest PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

WOO IN REVIEW: Criminal Profiling Contest

After reviewing the television show Criminal Minds, I was surprised to discover how many people do not believe that criminal profiling has a value to criminal investigation better than, say, psychic detectives.

According to research conducted in the early 1990's, out of 192 cases where profilers had been called in as investigation support, only 88 were ever solved, and only 17% of that number were cases where criminal profiling was deemed a helpful element of the investigation.profiler1

It's important to remember, when examining that statistic, that criminal profilers aren't called in often, and only are when other investigation methods (such as forensics) have failed. The crimes investigated are hard to solve – harder than most.

There is also a misconception that profiles are intended to be used as evidence, or to directly lead to an arrest.

This isn't the case. Criminal profiling can be used, however, to eliminate suspects from a pool. And in order to review criminal profiling on the whole, I've designed a case of serial murder for you to participate in.

 
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