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SWIFT January 4, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

A Few Thoughts at Year’s End, It Seems that Everybody’s Doing It, More Denial of Death, The JREF Million-Dollar Challenge, More Geller, A Frantic Question, Pseudoscience In Full Bloom, I Learn Something New Every Day, A Simplified Art, Yet More Creationist Boo-Boos, From Israel, Another Conversion, A New Level of Nonsense Has Been Reached, How Exciting Can Science Get?, and In Conclusion…

book

On Xmas morning, the NBC-TV “Today Show” featured the Washington Performing Arts Society singing a rather upbeat version of the Hallelujah Chorus. It was just great, though Handel might have had an attack of the vapors on hearing it. Then the show took off on a religious treatment of the whole holiday scene, though some of this was encouraging, I must admit. Last week I pontificated on a presidential candidate’s religious attitudes being important rather than only peripheral to his/her qualifications, as so many have opined. Now “Today” has informed us that a survey says 70% of American voters want a religious presidential candidate… Man the barricades!

Table of Contents
  1. A Few Thoughts at Year’s End

  2. It Seems that Everybody’s Doing It

  3. More Denial of Death

  4. The JREF Million-Dollar Challenge

  5. More Geller

  6. A Frantic Question

  7. Pseudoscience In Full Bloom

  8. I Learn Something New Every Day

  9. A Simplified Art

  10. Yet More Creationist Boo-Boos

  11. From Israel

  12. Another Conversion

  13. A New Level of Nonsense Has Been Reached

  14. How Exciting Can Science Get?

  15. In Closing…



A FEW THOUGHTS AT YEAR’S END

book

On Xmas morning, the NBC-TV “Today Show” featured the Washington Performing Arts Society singing a rather upbeat version of the Hallelujah Chorus. It was just great, though Handel might have had an attack of the vapors on hearing it. Then the show took off on a religious treatment of the whole holiday scene, though some of this was encouraging, I must admit. Last week I pontificated on a presidential candidate’s religious attitudes being important rather than only peripheral to his/her qualifications, as so many have opined. Now “Today” has informed us that a survey says 70% of American voters want a religious presidential candidate… Man the barricades!

One item on that show dealt with the increasing interest and profile of atheism in the USA. Three books: “The End of Faith,” “God Is Not Great,” and “The God Delusion,” – by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, in that order – were shown, and the discussion that accompanied this gave me a few quotes I found interesting. A gentleman who was objecting to such subjects declared:

Faith is a trust that good will eventually work out.

We have here a real need for some definition of “good,” I’d say, and if that’s a valid explanation of “faith,” experience of the real world most certainly does not support it. The assumption implied here is that there is a deity, and that deity is a loving one who cares. I see little evidence of that; puppy dogs and fields of waving corn are far less evident than loose tigers who kill bystanders, or assassinated politicians, or bombed-out marketplaces…

One participant in the broadcast asked:

Is the world really fundamentally absurd and random and crazy, or is it not?

No, sir, the world is no more absurd than you make it to be, it most certainly is not random, and it’s only crazy when fanatics guide airplanes into skyscrapers or poison neighborhood dogs – acts which can be, and often are, inspired by religious notions of “good.” The speaker added, “Doubt is terrible,” as if “certainty” were the only solution to that problem. That’s not the way things work, sir, even though Mom might have given you other expectations…

The past 18 months have been critical in my life, both survival- and security-wise. In all that time, I never once even thought to turn to such a narcotic as religion or fantasy. The literally hundreds of cards and calls I received from well-wishers, the day-to-day caring attention I had from my close friends Jose, Vladimir, Linda & Karl, and the skilled medical workers who kept me alive and fighting, all reminded me of the reality of the world around me in which I wanted to continue to participate. I prevailed due to those who cared, not because of a mythical spirit invented in earlier times to try making existence less of a puzzle and/or a profound mystery.

I’m so very glad to still be here…




IT SEEMS THAT EVERYBODY’S DOING IT

We now know that Uri Geller, though the “Phenomenon” show on NBC-TV here in the USA invoked yawns rather than cheers, will be repeating his appearances on similar shows in Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Cyprus. (See up ahead, under “More Geller”) Jumping on the woo-woo bandwagon, Russian TNT-TV has of course decided to copy this format, as reader Aleksandr Vishnevskiytells us. In fact, they’re already in their third season, though Geller is not involved. Alex writes:

I have been watching a Russian show that is called “Psychic challenge” or “Bitva extrasensov” in Russian. The winner was to come to America, meet you and take your $1M challenge. Judging from the show, the “psychics” are doing really amazing things, and if it was not a setup – which I think it is, just to make the program more interesting – it is hard to deny the existence of psychics. The show finished its third season and I really wanted to know if anyone from TNT – which is the Russian channel – or from the “psychic challenge” program on TNT, contacted you to prove their abilities. If they did contact you, did they prove their abilities?

Randi comments: I wrote to Alex by e-mail:

You ask, "If they did contact you, did they prove their abilities?" I don't understand your question. If anyone had proven psychic powers, the million-dollar prize would have been awarded...! Why do you ask? Maybe you should ask whether a meteorite hit New York City, but it wasn't reported in the media...!

Alex continues:

The names of the two winners (one for each season):

First season: Natalia Vorotnikova
Second season: I am not sure
Third season: Mehdi Ebragimi-Vafa – I am not sure how to spell the name because it is of Iranian origin.

On the program they say that a scholar/doctor and the TV show itself would sign a paper stating that they witnessed the psychic abilities, which I think is one of the requirements to take your challenge. I don’t know if this would be helpful, but below are the links to the TV website and the shows themselves.

TV website www.tnt-tv.ru/programs/Extrasense/

Links to all episodes of the third season. Even though they are in Russian, sometimes you can guess what the challenge is.

webteleradio.com/media22/bitva301.htm
webteleradio.com/media22/bitva303.htm
webteleradio.com/media22/bitva305.htm
webteleradio.com/media22/bitva307.htm
webteleradio.com/media22/bitva309.htm
webteleradio.com/media22/bitva311.htm

Thank you very much for the work you are doing.

Well, first of all, I’d not known that such a series was taking place, and certainly no one there has contacted us at the JREF to inform us of our possible involvement. It’s all news to us…

In any case, I chose the second of these programs to run through – #303. Though I didn’t understand a single word, I gathered that the first test was to identify which of six human subjects owned a certain piece of simple jewelry, a neck chain. It was evident, from the very amateur approach I saw there, that the producers/experimenters had fumbled badly. The first contestant simply failed, and the correct owner of the artifact was then identified to the crew and thus to everyone there, including the home audience. From that point on, as we’ve discovered in test procedures that we’ve previously conducted, the director – who then knew full well what the correct choice was – tended to have a cameraman zoom in on that person whenever he was approached by the “psychic,” in order not to miss what the director anticipated would be the Moment of Truth.

Bad protocol. All the guesses should have been made first, without the object or the correct target being identified to anyone, then revealed only at the end of the sequence of tests. In support of my objection on how loose the controls were, note that the second “psychic” guessed correctly – with the very distinct possibility that he’d simply been tipped off by the failed contestant…!

Ideally, none of the six subjects should have known what the selected object was; it should have been identified only to the contestant. Also, each contestant should have secretly entered his or her guess onto a concealed list. I think you can see how secure this could have been, in comparison to what was done here.

Being unable to solve what the other tests were in a cursory run-through, I did not care to watch the rest of the shows, but since I’ve never been contacted by anyone there about my possible subsequent involvement in the procedure, I’ll await that event, though not with much expectation; I think that the producers would prefer to go along in this amateur manner, to turn out a much more audience-pleasing result and keep their patronage…

I send you to tinyurl.com/2xjtfs, where you’ll see a much more thorough description of this series made at the end of August, which somehow escaped my attention. The flaws in protocol described there are evident, though not at all unexpected. There were no pros involved.




MORE DENIAL OF DEATH

jwn

Reader and frequent contributor Jan Willem Nienhuys writes:

In Utrecht, the Netherlands, there is a University for Humanistics – UvH. Radical Humanists think that there is too much woo-woo going on there, for example the UvH features physicist-parapsychologist Dick J. Bierman as a professor. But Ilja Maso beats them all. He now has written a booklet titled Onsterfelijkheid – “Immortality.”

  He starts off by saying that he can't bear the idea of death. Slightly paraphrasing: nothing in the world would make sense if he – Ilja Maso – were a mere mortal. He then sums up the arguments against immortality as given in another book titled “Immortality” (1991) by Paul Edwards. A major argument against all supernaturalism is of course that immaterial forces or substances can't interact with our world, at least not on a regular and predictable basis. If they could, they would take their places among gravity and electromagnetism and the nuclear forces. If there are any unknown forces, they must be extremely weak and only detectable with very large and very special machines.

So our perceptions, feelings and thoughts all happen in our brain, and when that is gone, there's nothing left. Maso thinks otherwise. He promotesmaso the occult idea of the brain as a kind of TV-set that receives the signals of the soul – one's own or that of selected dead people – in some higher dimension or vibrational level, a variation on the ideas of Descartes.

I think this is silly, because “TV-waves” are a completely material phenomenon. How 100,000 million nerves, each with an average of 3,000 synapses can make us tick, is a puzzle of course. Maso has replaced this puzzle with the much harder one of how all this ticking is controlled by “immaterial” signals from and to an “immaterial” soul. Making a single nerve fire requires an energy that should be easily detectable in the lab, let alone if billions of nerves are externally controlled. Incidentally, this soul must be even much more complicated than the human brain, at least if you think the brain is far too simple to sustain thoughts such as those of Maso.

In the chapter about science, Maso marshals four examples of people that must have received their information from an immaterial soul: Pearl Curran (alias Patience Worth), Jagdish Chandra Sahay (alias Jai Gopal), Laurel Dilmen (alias Antonia Ruiz de Prado), and the medium Christine Holohan, who is said to have informed the police about murder victim Jacqueline Poole. These cases were gleaned from books by Stephen E. Braude, Richard S. Broughton, Linda Tarazi and the last case is from an article by Guy Lyon Playfair and the notorious Montague Keen. More details about these cases can be found on the Internet.

Randi comments: Typically, this author has merely selected from the woo-woo literature whatever pleases him, to “prove” his points. Using these methods, anyone can write a book, to prove anything! Back to Jan:

So science provides quite a lot of certainty about immortality. But science of course can't be totally sure, says Maso. He wants more certainty. He finds this in near-death experiences and reports from mediums who speak with the dead. By reading enough of this stuff, he finally derives the subjective certainty that there is a “hereafter,” at least he says so. This hereafter is like a lucid dream, where you get anything you want, so when you are still alive you should practice wanting nice things.

The truly amazing thing is that a one hundred percent occultist has been made Professor of Theory of Science in a University of Humanistics. He has already been criticized of course, but he call his critics names like “atheistic fundamentalists.” Summarizing, we Dutch have now our own Victor Zammit.

pic

Jan refers here to Victor Zammit, a somewhat frenetic man in Australia who rather than merely accepting the JREF million-dollar challenge, chose to issue his own challenge to us, though we make no claims that we have any point to prove! As you might expect, he requires that we prove a negative, thus easily escaping the task of proving any point he himself would like to make… We’ve discussed Zammit a few times, for example at www.randi.org/jr/030504newsweek.html#7.




THE JREF MILLION-DOLLAR CHALLENGE

All this brings us to the Subject of the Week here on SWIFT.

pic

It was March 6th, 1998, when the JREF Million-Dollar Challenge first came into existence. That’s almost ten years ago. It’s always been a simple, direct, matter: do what you claim you can do of a paranormal nature, and walk away with the prize. Our expectations at first were that we’d attract major personalities by this means, but they’ve avoided having to take the test by simply not applying; those who have actually applied are generally honestly self-deluded persons who have difficulty stating what they can do, which can be understood if they really don’t know what they’re experiencing; we at JREF have gone through involved procedures to help them recognize their problems. Usually, they have indicated that they don’t know what real scientific rules are, when it comes down to their actually being properly tested.

All this is obvious to anyone who has followed the action over the last decade. Now, while the JREF earns a certain income from having the prize money very conservatively invested, that sum could certainly be used more productively if it were made freely available to us.

As of March 6th, 2010 – twelve years after the challenge was first offered – it will be.

The James Randi Educational Foundation Million-Dollar Challenge will be discontinued 24 months from this coming March 6th, and those prize funds will then be available to generally add to our flexibility. This move will free us to do many more projects, which will be announced at that time.

This means that all those wishing to be claimants are required to get their applications in before the deadline, properly filled out and notarized as described in the published rules.

Now, we’re sure that there will be those who will offer all kinds of objections to this decision – though they could have simply applied and won the prize. There will be accusations that the JREF is concerned about the safety of the prize money – which was never any sort of concern, I can assure you – and there will be more claims that the money was never there in the first place. I can see the professionals out there sighing in relief that they no longer have to answer questions about why they won’t take the prize, and they’ll just wait out the remaining period that the prize is available. All that’s to be expected.

Ten years is long enough to wait. The hundreds of poorly-constructed applications, and the endless hours of phone, e-mail, and in-person discussions we’ve had to suffer through, will be things of the past, for us at the JREF.

Those who believe they have mystic powers now have two full years to apply… Let’s see what happens.




MORE GELLER

From reader Niobe Vorenus in the Netherlands:

It seems the Netherlands has become a trash bin for washed-up has-been psychics! A translation of the press release for your convenience:

SBS6 is starting a spectacular live show on January 26th called "The New Uri Geller." In this show the channel exclusively searches for a Dutch successor to the international phenomenon. In his homeland Israel, the Successor was the most-watched show ever.

In The New Uri Geller, ten contestants will compete to see who can become the new Uri Geller. The man himself will perform a big and special task in this, and will attend the show every week. The viewers decide who has it in them to become the ultimate mentalist.

Uri Geller gained world fame with his performances that showed his special gifts, from bending spoons to starting broken watches. His telepathy is also renowned: In 1997 he stopped the Big Ben from ticking. He also made seeds grow into sprouts within seconds. Before the show SBS6 will show the documentary "The Phenomenon Uri Geller."

 

Interesting indeed! Geller will be able to sit back and watch old footage of his heyday, and he won’t have to perform his tricks again! You can’t catch a trickster when he’s already confident of what’s in the video! Back to Niobe:

There is somebody high in the chain-of-command of these commercial stations who's either massively woo-woo or a callous moneymaker. RTL4 gave us Char [Margolis], Robbert van den Broeke, and Derek Ogilvie. The public channel that broadcast "The Sixth Sense" – whose contestants vied to see who was the best paranormalist – refrained from doing another season. Obviously, RTL4 bought the rights and is picking it up. But what is most depressing is that in searching a good Dutch source for this story, the first page of Google is nothing but a copied-&-pasted press release without a critical note in sight.

How about a massively woo-woo callous money-maker…?




A FRANTIC QUESTION

Hello Mr. Randi, my name is Brett, I'm a twenty-one-year old Iowa guy who has an opportunity to fly to New York City to be on the Montel Williams show and speak with Sylvia Browne for the second time about my "past lives.” I'm sure you already know this, but the show pays for everything. I've actually already been flown to the show to speak with Sylvia Browne around this time last year, but the show was canceled because Sylvia was sick. When I arrived home I found out that the show was canceled on the same day the missing boy from Missouri was found, the one Sylvia Browne obviously made a false prediction about. I sometimes think that was why the show really was canceled but I guess I'll never know.

Anyway, listening to you talk about Sylvia makes me not want to go anymore. Need I say more? I just really am starting to think differently about all of this. I've read Sylvia Browne books in the past and that is probably what led me to be getting a shot at meeting her in the first place, but it’s all starting not to matter anymore. Don't get me wrong, I want to believe everything Sylvia says, just because it makes you want to believe in something, but I'm really having second thoughts, I guess you could say.

Well, this is not very clear, Brett. I’ve had to straighten out a lot of your message, putting in punctuation and changing spelling, but I don’t think I’ve altered what you wanted to say. Still, it’s not at all clear. Since you’ve read what I’ve written about Browne, and I’m sure you’ve been to Robert Lancaster’s site at stopsylviabrowne.com, I fail to understand why you’d have any belief in her, at all, if you understand what’s being revealed to you.

Brett continues:

I think about Sylvia Browne every day. She's not fun to have in your head. Some days I believe her, some I don't. I tell myself, who cares if it’s not real, you’re getting another free trip to New York City and it’s all just for fun. But then there is the other side of me that kind of believes everything she says or at least I want to. I don't know what I am going to do but maybe you could give me some advice? If you even get this.

Brett, you sent this message to me on e-mail at my address. Why would you think I wouldn’t “get” it? I have no doubt that you’ll “get” this message… And let me disabuse you of one naïve notion you have: a trip to see Browne is nowhere nearly “all just for fun.” This is a deadly serious matter, a vicious attack on vulnerable and grieving people who seek a product she offers and sells – for a very high price – a product that is never delivered. There’s no “fun” here at all, except for Browne when she fills out her deposit slips for the bank…

And Montel Williams continues to smirk…




PSEUDOSCIENCE IN FULL BLOOM

pic

A reader in Australia named Trond Zaphirax – now there’s a name for you! – writes:

This has been one of the most far-fetching claims that I have ever seen, to be read at: tassiethetahealers.tripod.com/. A clip from the page, wording intact:

How Thetahealing Works

Thetahealing works by you mentally reaching the Theta State (ie. Theta brain wave becomes dominant as can be shown on an EEG machine) and doing a set of communication protocols to the Creator for the work to be carried out on the recipient. (Those of you who practice self-hypnosis or deep meditation regularly, will recognize the feeling and will know that you are in the Theta State - your sense of awareness is heightened.) You then help to anchor in the healing energy by witnessing the work carried out by the Creator. Effectively, the work is a trinity of cooperation between you, the Creator and the recipient.

This healing is so powerful and effective that you need to ask for permission from the recipient of the healing. The Creator loves us so much that our free will is never interfered with. We still can decide on whether or not we want to be healed!

Quantum Physics can explain Thetahealing. Newtonian physics assumes that there is an external world that exists apart from us and that we can observe, measure and speculate about without changing it. However, on the sub-atomic level, Newtonian physics fails. This led to the new physics, Quantum Mechanics, to explain the phenomenon observed in sub-atomic levels. Light is explained by Quantum Mechanics in two ways.

When experiments were done on light, contradictory results were observed. In one experiment, light was found to behave as a particle, and in another to behave as a wave. This was explained by the use of Quantum Mechanics, which accepts that the observer influences the observation. In other words, we create our own reality. This, in a way, is how Thetahealing works. You are the observer that influences the healing result! After all, Einsteins famous equation: E = MC2 shows energy ties in with mass and light!

That’s E=MC2, but we understand… But this is such total nonsense, philosophically and scientifically, that it renews my ongoing fear that juveniles with keyboards should not be set loose on the world…! I had no idea that a potential healee should expect to receive a request for him/her to be healed, and had to agree to accept the process! Of course, the highly-favored and ever-expected retreat to “quantum physics” mysteries is pursued here as well, resulting in a quite unrealistic conclusion that “In other words, we create our own reality.” Total woo-woo, but I’m sure it’s a money-maker!

Thank you, Trond!




I LEARN SOMETHING EVERY DAY

We enjoyed the company of some 20 folks at our last-Wednesday-of-the-month Open House in December, and one guest, Professor of Chemistry Jeanette Madea, was quick to correct me on my idea about the density of gold, since I mentioned that in the movies, actors throw gold ingots around as if they were made of clay. I opined that gold was twice as dense as lead… Well, these are the facts:

METAL DENSITY
Lead11.3
Gold19.3
Platinum21.4
Osmium22.5

Now, I admit that I’ve never hoisted a brick of osmium – or even platinum – but I have handled gold, and that’s really something to remember; you actually think it’s screwed down to the surface from which you try to lift it! And gold just feels so good…!




A SIMPLIFIED ART

banachek

The state of the art of spoon-bending – so beautifully demonstrated by our buddy Banachek and by Israeli magician Guy Bavli, among others – has progressed far beyond what Uri Geller first showed the media back in the 1970s. However, I now note that it’s begun to take on a cheap and amateurish slant. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V-JrPqjgcc and you’ll see one of several examples of a literally self-bending spoon that is currently being used by amateurs all over the world.

This spoon – as were some forks earlier on – is a specially-made and rather expensive magician’s prop formed from nitinol, the “memory” alloy that assumes a previously-impressed shape when the spoon either cools down or warms up. In the video example, the spoon’s impressed shape at room temperature is bent. The operator has to keep the straight-format spoon in a very cold or insulated environment – an ice-pack in the pocket will do – and as soon as it warms up, it assumes the bent shape, at which point it can be handled by the spectator because it’s not cold any more. Another nitinol spoon example can be seen at grand-illusions.com/acatalog/info_81.html, but with this one, the normal room-temperature shape is flat, and it bends when heated – as when it’s placed into a hot liquid.

While we have at least one example of Geller using this trick – with a fork – he wisely does not use it in stage shows, having other and much easier techniques to employ.




YET MORE CREATIONIST BOOBOOS

Just in case you didn’t see it at the end of last week’s SWIFT – in the increasingly interesting “Comments” appended at the end of each weeks offering – “bigjohn756” called our attention to some startling items in the course descriptions of The Institute for Creation Research which certainly support my contention that they’re offering a blatantly pseudoscientific course that certainly should not be considered by the Texas Educational Agency for inclusion in their science curriculum. Here are a few of these howlers:

In the ASTRO/GEOPHYSICS curriculum, AG 505 GEOCHRONOLOGY:

"...that together indicate that nuclear decay was grossly accelerated during a recent catastrophic event in earth history and that the earth is therefore young."

 

AG 507 PALEOCLIMATOLOGY:

"Climates before and after the Genesis Flood."

AG 513 CREATION AND COSMOLOGY:

“...the basics of cosmology, outlines the big-bang theory, and contrasts it with several creationist cosmologies."

 

In the BIOLOGY curriculum, BI 504 ADVANCED COMPARATIVE ANATOMY/LAB:

“...identifying the similarities and differences of gross anatomical structures of representative vertebrate animals and their relevance in the Creation/Evolution controversy."

 

In the GEOLOGY curriculum, GE 502 GEOLOGY OF THE GLOBAL FLOOD:

"...the primary geological and geophysical evidences for a global flood."

 

It goes on and on in much the same way. See for yourself, if you think you can stand it, at: www.icr.edu/index.html.

These inclusions are blatantly religious – not in any way scientific – claims, and should grossly offend the Texas Educational Agency. There just is no “creationist cosmology,” planet Earth is not “young,” there never was any “global flood” – in fact that would be literally impossible – and creationist ideas are merely juvenile notions designed to fit a book – the Bible – that has been shown repeatedly to be wrong and mendacious. Would this agency also debate the wisdom of having the Tooth Fairy as a viable subject for the Texas educational curriculum…?

But let’s see what the Agency decides…




FROM ISRAEL

Correspondent Yonatan Gat informs me that the chief editor of the well-known Israeli "People" magazine – not connected to the US magazine of the same name – has told him that from time to time in the past he’d taken the astrology page and purposely published it all turned around, playing with the text and switching the predictions from sign to sign randomly. The result? None of his readers noticed, reporting to him that the predictions and the analyses were very good. Even the writer of the astrology column didn't notice, and though the editor asked him about it a few times, he said that he was very pleased with the results!

This magazine ceased publication a few weeks ago, so all can now be revealed.




ANOTHER CONVERSION

A reader – who will remain mercifully anonymous here – has written to me:

I've wanted to say this for a while, but never without some other cause to write you. Now I have one.

About ten years ago I began reading tarot, working with magic, and psi and all sorts of things– even working as a reader professionally. In the course of my life I drifted away from all of that to pursue music full-time. Sadly, I was in a terrible car accident many months ago which left me without a source of income. An opportunity arose to give readings over the phone and return to my roots, as it were. However, at the same time that one person was trying to convince me to do this, I found your videos on YouTube and came to terms with someone of the things that had been eating at me since day one of my tarot reading.

You and your work helped me to make my final break from woo-woo, and I cannot thank you enough. While I can't undo what I did to others by offering my "guidance," I do look forward to the day when I can generously donate to the JREF.

Anyway, I wanted to get that off of my chest. On to my question:

Before we get to the question, I must say that I’m pleased and flattered that we were able to bring about this change, and the many letters and calls I get with essentially the same message, are very rewarding indeed. However, what follows brings up a bit of a nuisance that shows itself some 15 to 20 times a week. The SWIFT archives hold some few hundred thousand words on literally hundreds of subjects we’ve handled since our inception. The search engine that we’ve incorporated will bring up copious references to previous subjects and discussions. Dear readers, please refer to the SWIFT archives before asking already-answered questions. Thank you.

Now, back to the reader’s question:

As a musician, I bury my head in notes and as a former woo woo-artist (who fully believed it) I have to fight my desire to see what follows as some sort of proof. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6UTGkC73GE. I'm really only referring to the hot-handed segment, since I used to do a similar trick when I was really little myself. Obviously, it's being done in the "Dr's" office which would give him an advantage, but how do you beat a guy with a thermal imaging cam?

I know you're a busy man, but if you have time to take a look at this, and can explain how it's done, it would help put the supernatural side of my mind to rest.

I pointed out to this reader – after scolding him! – that the text references in the video to “white hot heat” and “boiling point” are presumptuous and simply wrong. No such temperatures are achieved by this trick, though the thermal imaging camera can provide a “white” image when properly calibrated to do so. In any case, this is a frequently-asked question. And I’ll add, that following this broadcast I wrote repeatedly to Dr. Michael Upsher – the medical doctor called in as an “expert” – but I never received any sort of reply…

It was ever thus…




A NEW LEVEL OF NONSENSE HAS BEEN REACHED!

bell

Under www.pyradyne.com/fred.shtml you’ll find what must surely be the silliest site to which we’ve ever been directed – and that’s a lot of silly sites…! Just read this text describing advertised jewelry pendants:

The Projector. ...consider the Receptor and the Projector. They have form. They have divine mathematical projections that occupy space within time. Both have protrusions within this veil of illusion we call the third dimension. ...Receptors-Projectors (a new dimension) was now possible: that of the fourth …the doorway to time itself!

Here is the original Nuclear Receptor, (shown on the left), and the new Nuclear Receptor shown on the right. Here is the original and new Nuclear RECEPTOR. The older model shown here was Dr. Bell's personal Receptor, now offered for sale. It has seen the inside of Space Ships, and traveled all over the world! It is truly a collectors piece!! Call for price…

Of course, my amusement comes from the fact that the inventor/vendor is referred to all through this mass of text, even in the extensive 1,400-word bio entry, as , “Dr. Fred Bell,” but at no point do we see even a suggestion of how he obtained this august title… That always stirs my discontent…




HOW EXCITING CAN SCIENCE GET?

In sharp contrast to the foregoing, here’s a really exciting science book that will get your attention.

Parchment – the hide of a sheep or goat which has been carefully prepared to be written upon – was used before paper was in relatively common supply for recording events, data, and literature. It was both expensive and durable, and thousands of books on parchment survive today to remind us of the genius and the insanity of our ancestors. This process, which Alfred Korzybski cleverly dubbed, “time-binding,” is one of the features that sets our species apart from any and all others.

A palimpsest is a document written on parchment that has been scraped, washed, and abraded to erase the original markings, so that the material can be re-used; the number of valuable thoughts and facts that have passed into obscurity by this means can never be known. I will tell you here of a mass of such knowledge that has been rescued from that fate and is presently being revealed to us today as a major victory of perseverance, diligence, and ingenuity.

Adventure should be a part of everyone’s life, I believe. My life has not lacked a full supply of excitement and delight in many varied forms. I’ve experienced the satisfying “clunk” of a jail-cell door yielding to my efforts as an escape-artist, I’ve stood alone atop the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán at sunset, slept in the ruins of Huayna Picchu which looms over Machu Picchu, and walked the Great Wall of China – among other great moments, but nothing has ever compared to being admitted to the back rooms of the fabulous Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and seeing – up close – a few of the moldy, decaying, aged, fire- and water-damaged parchment pages of the Archimedes Palimpsest, a hymn book that had been written on a scraped-clean former book that had obviously lost the interest of the owner.

In that rarest of experiences, I met the dedicated, skilled conservationists who are using incredible scientific tools to extract from the deep fibers of the animal skin the miniscule traces of Greek lettering that are revealing the previously only suspected depths of knowledge that Archimedes of Syracuse actually reached. These aspects are now revealed in a new book, which I highly recommend to all of you as a rare and exciting adventure.

bell

I will send you to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archimedes_Palimpsest to read – in a very short summation – about the most remarkable scientific project to which I have ever had access. And look at randi.org/jr/02-09-2001.html and the other few references here in SWIFT. I recently visited the person who made this treasure available to the world, and discovered that the story of this wonderful endeavor has now been published as “The Archimedes Codex” – surely the most mundane title for a most exciting book. The editions I’ve seen so far are in Dutch, Chinese, English (UK), English (US), Hebrew, Italian, German, Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish. The impact of this project is evident…

There are two authors. They are: Reviel Netz, a professor of Ancient Science at Stanford University, and William Noel, Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at the Walters Art Museum at Baltimore. Dr. Noel is also the Director of the Archimedes Palimpsest Project. Much more can be seen at archimedespalimpsest.org. If you have any interest in a true scientific adventure, a perfect example of the conquest of time and decay, get this book. It’s available now at bookstores, published by Da Capo Press (November 2007) and we will be stocking it at the JREF, so it will be available from us at TAM5.5 and TAM6…!

This book is an adventure, I assure you.




IN CLOSING…

Looking back on this last year, I see quite a few bits of unfinished business. For example, I was referred to Yahoo’s “10 Worst Tech Products of 2007.” Guess who made it! Their entry reads:

Pear Audio "Anjou" speaker cables: I'm sure this pair of 12-foot speaker cables sounds just fine – but the $7,250 price tag puts it in contention for tech rip-off of the year.

The Gizmodo site, which has been following this particularly interesting drama for the audio/video crowd, also noted this:

Voted one of the 10 worst tech products of 2007 were Pear Audio "Anjou" speaker cables, those pieces of wire that cost US$7,250 and that one reviewer inexplicably called "danceable." Yahoo referred to our report earlier this year that moved James Randi to offer $1 million to anyone who can tell the difference in a double-blind test between those cables and some run-of-the-mill Monster cables. Alas, while there was lots of talk and bluster, it turned out that Pear Cable wouldn't offer its cables for testing, and nobody was fool enough to spend the $7250. Certainly not us.

Our point? Please note that we’ve heard nothing more from those once-noisy chaps who in 2007 wanted so eagerly to try for the JREF prize in regard to the Pear cables! I have to wonder why, but I think we all know.

And I’ve been looking for a chance to pop that overdose of homeopathic sleeping pills, the demo for which Jack Myers offered the JREF $1,000 in 2007; the opportunity to do that will arise on May 12th of 2008, when I’ll be speaking for the New York Skeptics. Mr. Myers will of course be invited to be present to see that all is done in accordance with his challenge.

In Reeves, Louisiana, as we leave the year 2007, the City Hall has bowed to superstition. The 666 prefix for telephone numbers in the Allen Parish community will change so that residents who claim that the 666 prefix conflicts with their religious beliefs will now be able to use 749. However, my research has revealed that the number 749 can be expressed as 74x9, which equals 666. Oops! For the next ninety days, residents of Allen will have the option of changing their phone numbers without charge, but after that period, there will be a charge. I’ll hope to learn how many residents will opt for not changing their numbers…

bell

And, so that we won’t lose contact with advanced quackery as we slide into 2008, here’s a new product that will satisfy our need for useless acupressure. This system uses a little button applied to the ear – as shown – to quell the craving for nicotine. This is at the official acupressure point designated SI-13, which is allotted to “sciatic,” rather incongruously… Note that you only need to purchase one of these buttons, and it will last a lifetime! I’m sure that it works just as well as any other acupressure/acupuncture method, which is to say that it’s imaginary…

But it’s not all bad news and complaints, as you’ll now see. Readers have appropriately scolded me for not mentioning some recent positive media contributions. Joseph Albietz says:

Well Mr. Randi, though they are several months behind the times, CNN has dedicated front page space to the debunking of the "New Mexico Courthouse Ghost." It's a rare event in my experience for the news media to print not only what amounts to a retraction, but to show a bit of skepticism, and to give a nod to Skeptical Inquirer. Let's hope it's the beginning of a trend.

Agreed, Joseph. And reader Jeffrey Lindblom suggests:

I think people should know when a TV broadcaster gets a show about the paranormal right. I was pleasantly surprised at PBS' “Supernatural Science: Reincarnation.” The show was truly balanced, not just showing a skeptic saying "That's not true," but showing experiments demonstrating alternative explanations. Although one can take issue with whether the show should even be balanced (as opposed to leaning towards the science), I thought it was great to counter each reincarnation claim with scientific inquiries that cast doubt. I'd highly recommend watching the show.

Also agreed, Jeffrey. Mea culpa…

But I’ve had my share of obscure communications in 2007. Many of these are the results of a computer-program translation into English, which I highly suspect was used here when reader Csaba Németh wrote me thus:

Dear Fellowmen!

It seems the 1990' in time premiers weeping obscurant Uri Geller to come back. On the hungarian television screen! The commercial television in Hungary, the TV2 (http://tv2.hu/)2008 in the spring of magus show inducement schemes, whose his host Uri Geller. :( Help Randi, help! :)

Umm, okay, I guess, though the Hungarian skeptics have not responded to my offer of videoing complete exposures of the Geller material that I’m sure will be used on that series, much to my disappointment...

And finally, Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s exorcist-in-chief, reports that the Pope has ordered his bishops to set up exorcism squads to tackle the rise of “the most extreme form of Godlessness: Satanism.” Each bishop will be told to get ready a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession. Benedict also wants to restore a protection-against-evil prayer to Archangel St. Michael that was dropped by Pope John XXIII in the 1960s.

Will next year be any saner…? In any case, we wish a happy and prosperous New Year 2008 to all our readers.

We're ready to accept applications for the 2008 JREF Scholarship program. This year, the indefatigable Ray Hall will be heading up the program as Hal Bidlack is on sabbatical. For more information, please visit the scholarship page


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"Quantum Nonsenese"
written by skeptheist, February 21, 2010
I'd not heard of 'thetahealing' before, but wow! The woo! I have an episode of my tube cast that deals with "Quantum Nonsense"-

I discuss four pieces of nonsense, listed here humorously mutated:

1. What the #&@! do THEY know?
2. The Secretion
3. What the #&@! the sequel - down the garden path
4. Dee-ply Choked-up

Check it out, oh do so check it out.
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