But Wait! There's More! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Wednesday, 27 May 2009 00:00

vince4You've seen your share of informercials: over-the-top claims, annoying announcers, and products that seem miraculous. Why do I know the name "Billy Mays"? Do I care who's pitching this stuff?

Anyway... what if skepticism was sold the same way? What if you turned on the History Channel at 4am, and found a pitchman selling critical thinking, science, and skepticism?

No, I don't think it will ever happen either, but the folks at Action Skeptic decided to play with the idea in their 111th Skeptics Circle.

Magic From Russia - How'd He Do That? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 00:00

We received an inquiry on the forum from Dmitry:

Looks like circus magic to me. Can you have your staff take a look at it and drop me a short message as to how it's done?

In this video from Russia, we see a man waving his claw-like hand, chanting, and burning things with no obvious explanation.

Why not turn this into a group activity? Watch the video (which is over 30 minutes long - well suited to fast forwarding) and consider how this man might be accomplishing this feat. I do not speak Russian, so I don't know what he's saying, but as I imagine what he's saying is misdirection, this is actually to my advantage.

Illusion/Delusion PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Randi   
Monday, 25 May 2009 00:00

I recently attended a rather special conference at which was held the 2009 Best Illusion of the Year contest. There, I met Dr. Shen Lin, a mathematician, who soon solved one of my mentalism tricks, after some head-scratching and deep thought! At dinner that night, I also met Professor Thomas V. Papathomas, Director of the Laboratory of Vision Research with Rutgers University Department of Biomedical Engineering. He forwarded me an excellent illusion, to be viewed at YouTube. Take a look, and be amused and amazed!

Skeptic's Toolbox: Enlightenment in Eugene PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Sunday, 24 May 2009 00:00

skepticstoolboxIn 2004, I attended my first Amaz!ng Meeting at the Tuscany Hotel in Las Vegas. It was an event that changed my life. Hungry for more, I subscribed to Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, and it was there that I found an advertisement for something called "The Skeptic's Toolbox."

This event has been held for the last twenty years at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Led by skeptic, scholar and magician Ray Hyman, The Skeptic's Toolbox is an intense weekend devoted to a single aspect of skepticism. This year's topic: "The Scientific Method." August 6-9 is going to be an interesting weekend in Eugene.

From the site:

Skeptics believe that unusual claims should be backed by evidence which is supported by sound scientific method. However the status of science and the existence of scientific method are currently highly controversial issues. Cynics argue that scientific method does not, and cannot, yield objective outcomes. Indeed, they argue that all scientific knowledge is relative to a given culture or social group.

Don't Read My Lips PDF Print E-mail
Written by Karen Stollznow   
Saturday, 23 May 2009 00:00


“When you run your hands through your hair like that it makes me think you’re flirting with me,” a colleague said recently.

I replied, “Maybe I’m not flirting, but I’m getting my hair out of my eyes, or detangling my hair, or it’s a nervous habit, or I have dandruff, or I’m readjusting my wig.”

Someone’s been reading those self-help books about so-called “Body Language”…

Linguistics, kinesics and semiotics are among the disciplines that attempt to observe and describe gesture and other forms of non-verbal communication.

On the other hand (excuse the pun), Body Language “experts” claim they can “read” posture, facial expressions, and other body movements. But people try to conceal their thoughts and emotions, and our own bodies reveal too much. It’s a conspiracy.

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