The Dynamics of Machina Dynamica, The Return of Yahweh, Old Tricks, Un Grand Bou-Bou Homeopathique, Back to Superstition, Officially Silly, Respect for Ethnic Mythology, Ron Rambles, New Party in Australia, Astrology, Fuzzy Stuff, Share Our Problems.
See randi.org/121/#i7 to refresh your memory of a major silly scam being used to extract cash from naïve audio fans. As I’ve told readers before, I often get involved in trying to establish a correspondence with the scammers, and that sometimes results in protracted exchanges. With that in mind, read the following e–mails between reader Matt Schaffner and Geoff Kait, the genius behind this whole Machina Dynamica farce. Matt wrote me:
See randi.org/joom/content/view/121/#i7 to refresh your memory of a major silly scam being used to extract cash from naïve audio fans. As I’ve told readers before, I often get involved in trying to establish a correspondence with the scammers, and that sometimes results in protracted exchanges. With that in mind, read the following e–mails between reader Matt Schaffner and Geoff Kait, the genius behind this whole Machina Dynamica farce. Matt wrote me:
I teach music technology at an accredited university in Louisville, Kentucky. When I read your blurb on the inventions at Machina Dynamica, I was stunned at their awesome claims. Knowing full well that they are a total fraud, I’ve been baiting the company’s creator with e–mails. All of the classic signs of woo–woo are here: no reputable references, no outside testing, devices work by mysteriously harnessing the laws of quantum mechanics, etc. I thought you might be interested in our ongoing e–mail exchange. This man is stealing people’s money. Please let me know if I can donate to your cause by helping to expose this man.
The e–mail exchange follows. First, Matt approached the Machina Dynamica CEO:
Geoff, I teach classes on music technology at an accredited university. I would like to test some of your products and publish materials on them. I am very excited about the possibility of seeing and hearing some of your devices. Is there any way we might discuss this further?
A prompt response followed from Geoff Kait:
Hello, Matt, thanks for your interest in Machina Dynamica. I respectfully decline to submit any of our products for testing.
Persisting, Matt wrote back:
Do you have any published materials on the testing and performance of your products?
Geoff countered with a desperate alibi:
Matt – All testing information is proprietary. Performance data is also proprietary. All information that we deem relevant is published on Machina Dynamica’s web site.
Translated: “No.” Matt, ever–patient, asked:
Ok, I understand. I wanted to perform an in–class comparison of your goods with other well–known audio products. Additionally, I was going to publish some materials concerning comparisons between high–end sound technologies. How can I get information on your data? Have there been any reviews of your products in magazines or online?
In a somewhat ominous tone, Machina Dynamica answered:
I don’t think you realize what you’re getting yourself into. There is so much information available on–line you won’t have enough time in a year or two to thoroughly examine it all, much less come to conclusions on the effectiveness of these products or how they compare to other products.
Despite the mass of data contained in these references, our only interest at the JREF is: does the thing work? Similarly, Matt assured Geoff that he was undeterred:
I have students that can filter through much of this information. Also, reading things like this is what I do for a living. I have plenty of time to read, and if I only spend a single year doing research then I’m happy. Any additional material you have would be helpful. Do you have any other websites?
Thanks, the pages on your site helped. None of the writing seems to describe the mechanisms of your inventions. Do you have the patent number for these devices so that I might see how exactly they work? I am very interested in the Intelligent Box and Card. I’m not seeing exactly what these do, and especially how they might work. I’m curious as to what exactly is changed on a CD to enhance its sound, as a CD contains data in the form of a dye. Do you change the dye somehow?
Thanks for all your help!
Then this salvo was fired off by Geoff:
Patents too expensive, furthermore I don’t wish to reveal certain information so I don’t go that route. Ironically, much safer not to have patent in these cases.
The Intelligent Box/Intelligent Card is the evolution of the Intelligent Chip, which does the same thing as the Box. The box replicates the CD player laser and gets the active material very close to the CD, one thing the Intelligent Chip did not do – the Chip was placed on top of the player chassis while the CD played for 2 seconds. But the effects of the Chip and the Box are the same. The explanation of the Box is the same as for the Chip – quantum mechanics – photon interaction with the CD material. It’s all explained in excruciating detail in my paper on the Intelligent Chip.
This is just blather, with no science factor at all, only buzz–words and fakery. And, obviously, a patent on such devices would not be too expensive, at all – if they worked.. The USPTO [United States Patent and Trademark Office] tends to award patents to just about any devices mentioned to them, whether they actually exist or not, and whether they work at all. However, I find two things here with which I – and Matt Schaffner – can enthusiastically agree. First, I’m sure, as Geoff Kait wrote, that the “effects of the Chip and the Box are the same.” The Intelligent Chip does exactly the same thing that the Intelligent Box does – exactly nothing. Second, yes, I’m sure that there is “excruciating detail” in that learned “paper.”
Ah, but as we “go to press,” Matt reports:
Here’s the latest from Geoff Kait at Machina Dynamics. Apparently he has now created a CD cleaner using "fake" atoms – name brand atoms are so expensive. This is his response to my e–mail:
The Box has a dedicated laser in it (so the box simulates the CD player "box" and laser). The advantage of the Intelligent Box is that the active material in the card is inserted into the interior of the Box so the active ingredient is very close to the laser and the CD, which is placed on top of the Intelligent Box when treating it. The top of the Box is clear so the CD is exposed to the photons of the laser and the photons emitted by the card when the laser strikes it. The active ingredient is contained in a thin layer spread out in the card’s interior, like a sandwich. The simultaneous interaction of the laser photons and the Card photons with the polycarbonate layer of the CD improves the transparency of the layer so that when the CD is played the CD player laser "reads" the embedded data more accurately.
The active ingredient in the Card – as for the Chip – is actually artificial atoms! Pretty innovative for an audio product, wouldn’t you say?
Seer of Yahweh, Master UFO Caller was blessed to discover the lost, ancient art of summoning UFOs and spaceships. Prophet Yahweh is available for interviews so he can explain how he summons UFOs, who these supernatural space beings are, where they are from, and why they are here.
Gee, I can’t wait. I have to give him credit for a rather new technique, though. Sending up various balloons downwind in time for notified–and–assembled media to see them float by upwind, is somewhat clever. And apparently a new balloon is now being readied for launch next month:
Prophet predicts that, in the month of November 2007, the Angels of YAHWEH will land in a spectacular spaceship, in the Mojave Desert, for him to film and place on his YouTube broadcast channel for the world to view, download, and/or put on their websites.
Yahweh – his legal name, by the way – reminds us that he’s been seeing UFOs since 1979, and in case we’re not capable of the calculation, he tells us that this is “over a quarter century ago.” Not wishing to ignore the possibility that some befuddled naifs might actually believe him about the coming manifestations, Prophet Yahweh, Master UFO Caller, will happily take their money:
In response to inquiries I’ve received, here’s a run–down of Uri Geller’s repertoire, which I’ve mentioned frequently. As you’ll see, it’s very limited…
In March of 2006, the BBC – apparently making the error of connecting Uri Geller with real science –performed a “test” of his purported powers – designed by Geller himself, of course – during the annual Wrexham Science Festival. And guess what, folks! Geller ran the expected old choose–an–ESP–symbol demo, the very same one that he used on the recent “Phenomenon” show, except that he substituted a triangle for the “wavy lines” symbol! It’s one of the handful of tricks he does. Shown here is the set of drawings he made, from which participants were to choose. Does it look familiar to you?
So just how much research did NBC–TV actually do on Geller and his very limited repertoire before they contracted him to sit and make inane remarks on this prime–time American show? I’ll bet they did none at all, because all of this data is easily available via Google – or by calling the JREF. Back in 2006, for example, the BBC reported, re that “test”:
People who took part in our fun ESP test with paranormal guru Uri Geller correctly guessed what he was thinking – the shape of a star. Uri had hand–drawn five shapes and told people to "tune in" to his thoughts using their power of concentration. Amazingly, 53% of people correctly guessed the answer with 15% each for the square and triangle.
The key, Uri said, was to get people to focus their thoughts at the same time of day. So at 11.11am and 11.11pm daily over Wrexham Science Festival week, Uri "transmitted" his thoughts. Uri says there is no scientific basis as to why people correctly guess the shape in this and other similar tests, but he has his own theory. Uri believes an invisible thread exists between all people along which information such as thoughts and emotions can be transmitted.
Umm, no. There is a perfectly sound reason, Uri, and you know it. Forget the invisible thread…
[Geller] said: "I conduct these experiments every week. Every time I choose a different shape, people get it. I have no scientific explanation for it, but spiritually I do. I believe we are connected to each other by an invisible thread through which we can transmit information to each other. Our brains may transmit a wave or energy form that can travel to others."
Again, umm, no. Geller does not choose different shapes. He always chooses the same shape – the star – in the same position, every time he does this stunt! Ah, but perhaps the strain of sitting in a chair on NBC–TV once a week and coming up with his profound observations, has put a strain on his memory?
Uri said he believed that the test worked because people had taken part at the allotted time and had "logged on" to Uri’s mind.
No, Uri, they – and NBC – just fell for the same trick that you’ve done all over the world…
As I mentioned, Geller’s repertoire is small. It consists of:
1. Spoon– or key–bending and/or breaking. 2. Duplicating a “secret” drawing. 3. Moving a magnetic compass indicator. 4. Changing the time on a watch. 5. The choose–an–ESP–Card trick, just mentioned above.
All of these five have been thoroughly exposed as simple tricks.
In former times, Geller performed other mentalism tricks, some taken straight from the writings of Ted Annemann (1907–1942), at least one from “Abracadabra,” a mailed–out subscription magazine from the UK, and some done at labs such as the Stanford Research Institute – now known as Stanford Research International. These included:
1. The classic Blindfold Drive – which he offered to do for the SRI geniuses Targ and Puthoff, until they told him they already knew that one.
2. The object–in–a–film–can trick, which he did at SRI and tried to do on the Johnny Carson/Tonight Show but failed due to some high–level interference. I may have been involved…
3. The die–in–a–box demo, which he did at SRI.
4. Helping football teams to win by sending them good thoughts and by “pep talks” – not a success, but a fiasco, judging from the results.
UN GRAND BOU–BOU HOMEOPATHIQUE?
Incredible! Dr. David Colquhoun, a frequent visitor to our site, points us to a stop–the–presses story from the AFSSAPS [Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé] the French agency responsible for ensuring the effectiveness, quality and proper use of all healthcare products intended for human use. They are recalling two homeopathic preparations which have been mislabeled, though – as we’d expect – with no potentially dangerous repercussions. The mislabeling was between a batch of “mother tincture of Gingko biloba” and “mother tincture of Equisetum arvense.” The Society of Homeopaths had this to say at a select committee examination of this matter:
Question from Lord Broers: I have a simple, technical question about homeopathy and drugs. Is it possible to distinguish between homeopathic drugs after they have been diluted? Is there any means of distinguishing one from the other?
Answer from Ms. Chatfield: Only by the label.
There must have been a lot of smiles around the room when that response was heard…
Laboratoires Boiron – the agency responsible for this grievous error, has asked pharmacists who stock these homeopathic medicaments to report the inversion of labeling to any doctors who may have prescribed these items in their neighborhood. The Equisetum arvense water is supposed to solve bladder problems, while the Gingko biloba is used for memory lapses. I can’t resist expressing two possibilities that flashed through my evil mind: First, “Equisetum arvense” sounded to me – with my abysmal ignorance of Latin – like another part of a horse, while it actually refers to “horse’s tail” – a botanical. Second, mixing up these two treatments might result in a victim forgetting if he got a piece of Equisetum arvense…
It’s been suggested that the AFSSAPS is – properly – just following the rules. This shows the absurdities that can occur when the “regulation” of witchcraft becomes official. One observer, an MD, commented:
Sorry, no pithy response to this, too busy alternately banging my head on the desk and rolling on the floor cackling with helpless laughter. To quote a popular journalistic cliché: you couldn’t make it up.
Zut alors! Vraiment touché!
BACK TO SUPERSTITION
Reader James Vinton tells us that the state of Georgia’s Governor Sonny Perdue, alarmed at a serious drought there, has ordered water restrictions, launched a legal battle, and asked President Bush for help. But Tuesday, the governor called on a Higher Power, joining lawmakers and ministers on the steps of the state Capitol to pray for rain. In the Bible Belt, turning to the heavens for help is common and sometimes even politically expedient, as we see.
We remember – see randi.org/jr/2007–06/061507.html#i2 – when Australian Prime Minister John Howard asked churchgoers to pray for rain in hopes of snapping a drought that had devastated crops and bankrupted farmers Down Under. The results of that effort were somewhat mixed…
Ah, but it did rain the day after the prayer was offered up, but not only had that event been predicted by meteorology before the prayer was delivered, but the precipitation wasn’t sufficient to make any difference, anyway. You see, Sonny, this was God’s little joke…
Asks Jim Vinton:
How about an Indian Rain Dance? Or a human sacrifice?
If the latter, Jim, I suggest we start with the politicians…
I can’t show you any more eloquently just how silly people are who have these strange delusions, than to send you to youtube.com/watch?v=iEwCsBWO_1o. This guy is serious, folks. What he’s trying to do or to prove, involving qi gong, escapes me, I admit, but just try playing this video with the audio off, and you’ll have a laughter fit…
Be sure to read his comment below the video regarding the sounds he makes – even when he’s sleeping, yet!
RESPECT FOR ETHNIC MYTHOLOGY
Reader Jonathan King informs us:
A shameful story is coming to light in New Zealand at the moment, after a woman died what must have been an horrific death at the hands of a family group trying to cleanse her of harmful “spirits.” A 14–year–old girl is in hospital after the same “ceremony.”
One of the more horrifying things about the story is the sensitivity and respect that the media in New Zealand pays to traditional Maori practices and the number of people – quoted in the stories linked here – who endorse these practices if they’re done “correctly.”
Well, Jonathan, we in the USA can hardly claim to be any more enlightened. Here, we have religious zealots refusing their children blood transfusions and vaccinations, all in the name of superstition. And the children die… Jonathan sends us to stuff.co.nz/4269877a8153.html and stuff.co.nz/4271124a8153.html.
You just can’t make Scientology look sillier than it already is. To prove that contention, I ask you to read the following seven sentences written by L. Ron Hubbard, excerpted from his “Route to Infinity” lectures – which title, alone, shows the inanity of the man and his words. I opened a Hubbard book at random just to show an inquirer at the JREF that none of Hubbard made any sense, and got this:
In interpersonal relations, you will notice that when you have a person agreeing on a decision, you will get action.1 If a person agrees on a decision, you will get action if it’s an action decision, and if it’s a "not to be" or an inaction decision, you will also get the inaction.2 In other words, you get what you want by bringing to pass an agreement.3 This is very, very important in interpersonal relations and is actually the one problem of interpersonal relations.4 You’ll find all arguments are based upon an inability to agree.5 You will find that all friction which occurs between an individual and a group, an individual and another individual or a group and a group is simply on this basis of disagreement.6 And this disagreement comes about because of a divergence of decision.7
A simple analysis, by the numbers:
1. Well, maybe. But hardly surprising. 2. Yep, that’s so very true, but I believe you just said that... 3. Also very true, but you also just said that… 4. You mean there’s only one problem in interpersonal relations? Now, that’s real news! 5. Seems to me that I also already knew that. 6. Also, maybe. 7. Well! I knew we’d arrive at a momentous conclusion, after all!
(As an aside, I think that in this text and what follows, L. Ron really meant to say, “relationships,” rather than “relations” – but he was the writer, not I.)
Folks, though this seems a very juvenile technique, it’s very effective. The evangelists discovered this very basic system, long ago: Tell people things that are perfectly obvious, things with which they’ll certainly agree, tell them the same thing more than once, and then when you present them with your concluding point, it appears to have been arrived at from building on the previous statements, while in actuality it has no more status or import than the inane points made in leading up to it. Hubbard’s next paragraph, even more obscure than the last one just quoted, reads:
Now, a decision is very difficult, sometime [sic], to reach. But this is one of these hidden things, actually, in an argument. You are arguing with somebody. If you will isolate out of the argument the decisions for action or inaction – you see, a decision can be for action or a decision can be for inaction – and if you have selected out the action and inaction decisions which you want effected, the argumentation will be minimal because you have clarified the problem of interpersonal relations before you have tried to practice interpersonal relations on this problem. You’ve clarified the problem. "Exactly what do I want this person to do?" or "Exactly what do I want this person not to do?" And from there you base your arguments....
This is typical of what you’ll find in Hubbard’s ramblings, almost incoherent platitudes that give a superficial appearance of profundity, but are excellent examples of what Shakespeare described in Macbeth:
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
NEW PARTY IN AUSTRALIA
Aussie reader and Senate Candidate Ian Bryce writes that there’s now a new political party in Australia, the “Secular Party – freedom from religion" (not related to Skeptics) which can be seen at secular.org.au. Ian believes this is one of the first political parties worldwide, based on this position. They are contesting the election coming on November 24th, having fielded two candidates in each State, a total of twelve candidates. He leads New South Wales, the biggest Australian state.
Ian also has a lecture called "Morals without God," which is attracting some attention. He reports no problems so far, and many positive responses to the new entity.
It will be interesting indeed to see how this brave foray into religion–infested territories will fare. Perhaps we in the USA are ready to try such a move…? Well, not with the present faith–based initiatives going, no.
From Australia to Austria in one bound, we hear from reader Michael Gruberbauer:
First off, please let me thank you for being an inspiration. It is very comforting to know that there are people out there that see how quacks are gaining momentum. I am a graduate student and student representative at the University of Vienna, Department of Astronomy, and I wanted to inform you about our recent effort to raise the public awareness of the abomination that is astrology.
See, here in Austria we have a semi–private, semi–academic institution called the WIFI, which is offering courses (mainly in the field of economics) for the public – either resulting in an academic degree, or, in most cases, a certificate for successfully passing the final exam (i.e. to show at job interviews).
This year, 2007, the WIFI has made its greatest effort to date – there have been multiple courses covering esoteric topics like Feng Shui etc. – of venturing into the field of quackery, by offering an astrology course, which actually is advertised to give its attendants a full practical education in order to open their own astrology business. The course is scheduled to be held for about 5 months, covering topics such as "astro medicine," "process–oriented conversation," "rhetoric," and a lot of stupid, nonsensical astrology lingo such as, "karmic houses," "elements," and "Saturn, the master of time". The course fee is – you need to sit down for this – €1,980 (US$2,900).
Now, the "heavy" part is that the WIFI is actually supported and financed by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce – so there is public money going into supporting these courses. Also, people interested in this course can even apply for money at the "Public Employment Service Austria."
This is why we organized a public protest, prepared in co–operation with the "Austrian Society for Astronomy and Astrophysics" (ÖGAA) and public observatories, which took place recently, and despite the bad weather, there were ~50 people at the scene, mostly academia. It was covered by the Austrian public television and some newspapers. Also, a European correspondent of "Science" was present, with whom we are preparing an article for that journal.
We can already report a small success: the WIFI website (www.wifi.at) has taken off any content linked to the astrology course.
Since announcement of the protest has already been covered on the front webpages of most of the larger newspapers in Austria, we hope that the protest itself will generate much public interest, too. We also intend to keep pushing by offering lectures describing the problems with astrology, held by students at public observatories. Also, representing the Department of Astronomy, essays for newspapers and public discussions are currently in the stage of planning.
Therefore, even though – statistically – Europeans seem to be in favor of homeopathy, dowsing and astrology, our case shows that it is still possible to get academia and critical thinkers in general to take a stand for their principles.
That’s encouraging, Michael. Now, if you could organize a crew of Austrians to visit the USA, India, and South Africa, we’d be most grateful…!
If you have a little less than six minutes while waiting for the lasagna, or whatever, you can take a look at this vapid example of YouTube wishful thinking on “orbs” and a variety of rocks. In particular, read the comments that follow, particularly the one from “GRIDKEEPER,” who has the solution right in front of him/her, but misses it entirely. This gem is at youtube.com/watch?v=LOfstUtvGbs
SHARE OUR PROBLEM
From time to time, I’ll be running examples of just how difficult life can be at the JREF offices. Most of this sort of material shows up on my computer screen, and I feel that I should handle it. However, sometimes the task is more formidable than I can easily handle. Consider the following, sent to me by a person who can only be described as a multiple loser. Of course the real villains are the vultures like Browne who pick the bones of these unfortunates, but we must recognize that some victims come already skinned, dissected, and ready for the marinade… Here it is, exactly as received:
This e–mail is regarding the million doller liar producer who scams people around the world with her lectures and decives people. The reason why she didn’t take your million doller challenge is because she make one million for inviting 100 people for her spirtual salon every month. every months she has a spirtual salon in Campball California and she invites around 50 people in a room and talk alot of shit then she allows people to ask 3 question and we get 3 lie back from her. I was in her salon last year and I paid $100 to sit in that room and listen to her bullshit. I did ask her my 3 questions and basically she told my my spirt guides name and the that I will have 2 kids and find a husband in the near future and she told me his name as well. well to make my story short I did find a guy from the internet with the firt intitial that she told me but unfortuantly the guys was from overseas and he kept asking me for money since I was living in America and he was living in a poor country, eventually I ended up sending this guy $1000 and later I found out that he was married and he was useing me to send him money. Well, I was heart broken, not only did sylvia browne lie to me and charged me $1000 from her lie and in addition to that I got decived by a thief from the internet thinking that Syliva Browne is a great pyshic and this guy has to be my husband. Well, Sylvia Browne make a couple of million dollers from her spirtual salon in Campbell California only. Not to mention that she makes thousand on her lectures and crusies and personal one on one reading. Also Sylvia Cliams and Recommend her son as the best and most accurate Psychic after him. And his son charges $450 phone reading for 20 minutes of lieing. I am just worried that this will go on and on even when Syliva die her son will take over deceiving the public. If Sylvia is so spirtual then why does she charge $1000 per person for her spirtual salon, why doesn’t she spread her gift and spirtaulity for less money. Some one need to bring Sylvia and Montel to justice. Montel is deciving the American people by bringing a liar into her show. Montel’s show needs to get cancelled. I am really mad that I wasted $2000 because of Sylvia Browne, $1000 for her spirtual salon and $1000 for that guy that I sent money to overseas according Syliva ’s advice. I e–mailed the Montel show and asked him for my $1000 refund because he is responsible for bringing that woman to his show and we innocent people watch the show and believe it at firt until we get screwed then we find out the truth. I am really disappointed. So to make my story short Syliva Browne didn’t take your million doller question because she makes millions of dollers just for her spirtual salon that she charges $1000 per person and this is every month and every month she has about 40 people in her class 40 people means 40 thousand dollers, I wonder if she is paying tax for all this money.
No – to forestall an expected deluge of scolding letters – I’m not in any sense making fun of this unfortunate woman because of her spelling or her grammar; that, I can handle, and often do. I’m pointing out that her lack of education in matters of reality has led her to general acceptance of woo–woo and has blunted her ability to discern what is so very obvious to most others: people like Sylvia Browne are merciless, predatory, and untouchable under our present system of justice. No politician dares to move against such persons because they constantly invoke religious beliefs and thus appeal to many more of the public than secular agencies – such as the JREF – can ever hope to attain.
This woman – the correspondent – is precisely the sort of victim the psychics, spiritualists, fortune–tellers, astrologers, and other scam–artists seek out. They can ignore rational people, and attack only the naïve, from whom they can and will extract large amounts of cash.
Our friend Robert Lancaster, who runs the powerful stopsylviabrowne.com website, commented on this unfortunate writer:
This kind of person is Browne’s bread and butter... At least she finally woke up and smelled the coffee. Many do not.
Those of you attending the upcoming Amaz!ng Meeting 5.5 here in Fort Lauderdale at the end of January/08, will hear Bob enlarge on this subject, and authoritatively respond to your questions and your comments. See details at: TAM 5.5