Reading the day's headlines often feels like stepping into a vortex of unfounded claims. A psychic who bilked someone out of their savings here, an aura reader who prevented a cancer victim from seeking treatment there.
Every day, the James Randi Educational Foundation scours the media for these kinds of stories, so we can step in and help any way we can. But we can't do it all on our own. We need you.
This week is thick with woo, but here's what you can do to fight it. And some of these won't take you longer than a commercial break.
Magic Athletic Bracelets Still Don't Work
The Problem: When I was in eight grade, my P.E. teacher wore a very unattractive gold magnet bracelet to class. I asked him once what it was for. "It gives you balance," he said. "You know how magnets even stuff out? Like poles? Well, your body needs evening out too." I don't know what that meant, but it sounded pretty right on (hey, I was fourteen), and it distracted him long enough not to notice I couldn't do thirty sit-ups.
Today, there are countless versions of my P.E. teacher's overpriced golden magical magnetic body equalizer. Power Balance is the most famous, both for its ubiquitous usage among athletes, and its notorious failure to produce any quantifiable benefits under controlled conditions. This week, the Merseyside Skeptics in the United Kingdom brought us news of their new investigation of the Shuzi band, a similar device "whose Nano Vibrational Technology claims to relieve the detrimental effects of your sluggish, uncommunicative, clumpy blood." Watch the Merseyside Skeptics perform a rudimentary test to examine this claim.
The "Long Island Medium" Might be Visiting Your City
The Problem: Teresa Caputo, who won the JREF's Pigasus award this year for unethical trickery in her performances, is going on tour and she might just be landing in your city. Caputo's readings for grieving family members look suspiciously like "cold reading" and other tircks mentalists use to pretend to have paranormal abilities. If Ms. Caputo isn't all she claims to be, she is preying on grieving families and keeping them from finding true closure.
What You Can Do: If Ms. Caputo is coming to your area, plan a demonstration, letting people know that her powers look exactly like the tricks mentalists have been using for years. You can e-mail us for help getting started.
Private School Kids are More Likely to be Denied Immunizations by their Parents
The Problem: The Associated Press analyzed data from the California State education system and found that children who attended private school were twice as likely to be denied protective vaccines by their parents, exposing them to potentially fatal illnesses.
What You Can Do: Share information on why vaccines are important with your loved ones, especially those who are starting families. This information sheet is brief and covers the major concerns many parents have about immunity. Share it on social networking sites or print it out to bring to your child's school.