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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.

Heavy Event! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Our friend Scot Morris refers to numerology as “the one true pseudoscience,” and alerts us that Mr. Jerry Slocum – prefacing it with “I had a deep feeling that you just needed to know this” – has discovered that at 5 minutes and 6 seconds after 4 a.m., on the 8th of July, this year, the time and date will be:  04:05:06 07-08-09! This will not happen again until the year 3009!

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Celebrity Science PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

tamyspeakerharhallThe current issue of Reader’s Digest has an article on “The Trouble with Celebrity Science.”  “What happens when stars weigh in on medical topics?...Celebrities may be perfectly qualified to evaluate sneakers, but that doesn’t mean you want to learn biochemistry from them.”

They mention Tom Cruise’s sweeping condemnation of modern psychiatry, then focus on…

 

Are you ready for this?....

  1. Woo-promoter extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey

  2. Anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy (the one whose victims are listed on the Jenny McCarthy Body Count, and

  3. Gluten-free advocate Elisabeth Hasselbeck!!!

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Graphology: Write but Wrong PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Karen Stollznow   

A few days ago I happened to see the article: Is Our Personality Written in Our Handwriting? listed as a “Featured” news item on the Yahoo homepage. This wasn’t a critical examination of graphology, as the title suggests. The article was written with the assumption that graphology works, and that it employs a scientific methodology.

Graphology, in the most common usage of the word, is the practice of handwriting analysis to identify a subject’s personality traits. Some graphologists further claim that they can read the subject’s past and present, forecast the future, and even diagnose illness. Some proponents claim graphology (or graphotherapy) is a treatment, and assert that if people change their handwriting style, they can break bad behaviors, alter their attitude and character, and even heal themselves.

We have to be mindful, as I type away on my keyboard, that few of us have much writing practice anymore, aside from our signatures.

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The Pain of Reflexive Skepticism PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by George Hrab   

tamyspeakerhrabYou see a lot, doctor. But can you point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don't you – why don't you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you're afraid to.”

 

Agent Clarice Starling, as played by Jodie Foster, delivered this memorable line in the most subtle musical of all time: The Silence of the Lambs.

(Sorry to so quickly interrupt myself preterpluparenthetically, but I find that with all good science-based essays, an early reference to homicidal, cannibalistic serial killers tends to put readers’ minds at ease, thereby allowing the general thesis to go down one’s mental gullet as if accompanied by a nice Chianti. Enjoy.)

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Patricia Putt MDC Test: Protocol Failure? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

puttsubjectPatricia Putt, a woman from the United Kingdom who believes she is psychic, was recently tested for the JREF One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge by Professor Richard Wiseman and Professor Christopher French at Goldsmiths University.

For the test, Putt was presented with ten volunteers - all Caucasian females aged 18-30 - and asked to write page-long psychic readings about each of them.  The volunteers were asked, after all the readings were completed, to identify the one that applied best to them. The concept for the protocol was sent to Putt on 18 July 2008.On 6 May 2009, the test was conducted.

As previously agreed upon by the JREF and Putt, a successful demonstration would contstitute a minimum of five of the ten volunteers choosing their own profiles. After the test, though, none of the volunteers picked their own reading. Putt’s score was zero out of ten.

I contacted Putt to find out why she believed she had failed the preliminary test, and what she had thought of the Challenge in practice.

"I'm not in the least disappointed that the results did not go my way.  I was stunned at first but when normal thought re-entered my head I realised that I was never going to win the barriers presented in the protocol were too much even for me to surmount," Putt said in an e-mail on 8 May 2009.

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