March 16, 2001

Sylvia's Clock, Los Angeles in Ruins (?), More on that Larry King Show, Astronaut Glenn on UFOs (?), a useful "Top Ten" List, and from Triangles to Candles.....

You'll see here next week "Sylvia's Clock," put up so that we can count the days since "psychic" Sylvia Browne has agreed to be tested by the JREF for the million-dollar prize. I do hope the clock doesn't wear out waiting..... As soon as any response is received, you'll find out right here. As the clock goes up, it will already have been 17 days. You'll read more about this exciting acceptance up ahead....

FLASH! The following letter was received from Australia, after the writer made a frenzied phone call to the JREF to warn of an upcoming disaster. What you read here is unfortunately typical of the sort of material we receive at JREF. Prominent professionals - like Sylvia Browne (hello, Sylvia!) - don't contact us. I've dropped my comments into the letter....

Dear Mr. Randi: I understand that you are looking for genuine people to prove to you and other sceptics that some people have supernatural powers or have visitations from Angels from Heaven, etc....

No, not quite. We're not "looking" for anyone to "prove" anything. We're merely challenging claimants to provide evidence for their claims, that's all. We don't care one way or the other; we are only looking for the facts. And we don't care where the "Angels" come from.

Well, I have seen supernatural signs from Heaven, I believe. I have used my mind or voice to communicate with these Angels since the 27th of December 1985. If these Angels from Heaven are willing to back me up, by proving to you that I'm seeing and communicating with Angels from Heaven then ...

Hold on. Here we have what we very often find in these responses to the challenge: the "if" factor. This guy can't be wrong. Should his prediction fail, it will be because his "Angel" friends decided not to perform for him. And we all know how fickle supernatural beings, are, don't we?

... I will ask these Angels to send an earthquake to the downtown area of Los Angeles at 3:27 am, Tuesday the 27th of March, 2001 (California time). I have chosen the first earthquake to be 2.7 on the richter [sic] scale followed by 7.2 on the richter [sic] scale. Thank you.

Now that's something that we're sure to notice, especially in Los Angeles. I have published this here, well in advance of the predicted event, so that you may follow the progress of such a procedure. We have responded to the writer, who does not have fax or e-mail, telling him that should his prediction be fulfilled, he will have passed the preliminary procedure for the JREF million-dollar prize. Had he made a far less precise prediction, that would probably have served as well, but it was his choice to make.

I predict one of the following outcomes:

1. The earthquake will take place essentially as predicted, and this man's powers - either of prophecy or of Angel co-operation - will be on the way to validation.

2. The earthquake will not take place as predicted, and

2a. We will never again hear from the applicant

2b. We will receive a note or phone call from him explaining that the Angels were not co-operative on this occasion.

2c. He will decide that he does not have the power of prophecy.

Numbers 1 and 2c are equally likely to not happen.

Immediately following each Saturday-night radio show that we do out of Florida, a good response comes in on e-mail, since many folks tune us in on the Internet. Unfortunately, we can't take out-of-area phone calls or e-mail inquiries on that station, and because the majority of our audience is spread across the country - and the globe - we feel that the best way to do a most efficient show is by broadcasting exclusively on the Internet. Also, we're currently looking to expand The James Randi Radio Show to a two-hour format. If anybody on this list has some expertise in this area (Net broadcasting) or is a service provider in this medium, drop us a line. E-mail Andrew at

Since bandwidth costs are the most prohibitive aspect of this venture, any ideas or offers to keep the costs down would be appreciated. Thank you!

And, we're expanding our newsletter SWIFT quite a bit, so we're soliciting articles from those of you who feel they've something interesting and informative to say. If you'd like your work to be considered, please submit it via e-mail -

This item, taken from ABC-TV News, speaks for itself....

[Michael] Jackson brings his "Heal The Kids" program to England's Oxford University with two unlikely friends - Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has become an international talk show celebrity by expounding upon the virtues of kosher sex, and Uri Geller, a self-proclaimed psychic who claims he can bend spoons with his mind.

A reader asks, re the agreement of one of the "psychics" from the Larry King Live show that we discussed here last week:

When should we expect Sylvia Brown to sit for your test? Should I check the weather reports in Hell first to see how the snowballs are doing?

One of the guests on that show was the FBI's former chief hostage negotiator, Clint Van Zandt. Though he described himself as being open to the possibility of psychic powers, he commented about what he'd observed in his dealings with them:

One of the first things a psychic asks a law enforcement officer to do is, "take your reason and logic and set it aside." ... I've seen law enforcement try [to involve a psychic] a lot of times. When I've seen [a psychic try to] participate in the solution of a crime, my experience and the experience of my colleagues is that it's usually been some type of vague information, like a kidnap victim was kidnaped somewhere up along the Great Lakes and we've been told, "You'll find the victim buried near a body of water." Well, we understand the Great Lakes are a body of water! I know there are people who will say, "Well, I've been a consultant to the FBI." But as far as seeing a case solved or a kidnap victim recovered - either dead or alive - based solely on the information of a psychic, no.

Getting very incensed over the way King and Leon Jaroff had pressed him for real answers, and chafing at his failure to do a successful reading on the show, James Van Praagh whined:

I just want to say that it's interesting that these people here are in the business to destroy and destruct, while we are here to heal people and to help people grow. And these people, you have to look very carefully at what these people, their jobs, are. They are here to destroy.... They're just here to destroy people. They're not here to encourage people, to enlighten people. They're here to destroy people.

Don't get me started.....

Skeptic Magazine publisher/editor Michael Shermer (SKEPTICMAG@AOL.COM) sends us this text of a disclaimer that appears for one and one-half seconds on the "Crossing Over" Show:

The Producer has relied heavily on the contributions of John Edward and other third parties in the creation of this program, which has been produced for entertainment purposes only. The materials and opinions presented in this program by John Edward and other third parties, including statements, predictions, documents, photos and video footage, come solely from their respective third party sources and are not the views, opinions and responsibility of the Producer and are not meant or intended to be a form of advice, instruction, suggestions, counsel or factual statement in any way whatsoever.

Adds Michael Shermer:

If you can read that in 1.5 seconds then you should be tested by Dr. Gary Schwartz because your living human energy electromagnetic universal morphic resonant fields must be powerful.

Well, it took me 25 seconds to read. In that obviously lawyer-written statement from the producer, do we sense that an escape-hatch has been provided here in case the ship sinks? Perhaps we'll be hearing surprised expressions of, "Who knew?" or "Why, I had no idea!"

Richard Hoagland is one of the promoters of such nonsense as the "Face on Mars" and other fanciful fare. On his web page, he now celebrates what he presents as an admission by astronaut John Glenn that there are "strange things" out there in the void. Under "Sen. Glenn's Amazing Statement On 'Fraser'" we find what I'm sure the UFO community will snap up as official validation of their notions. Reader James Oberg ( a prominent explainer - to those who will listen - of UFO miracles, provided this commentary:

Well, some UFO nuts just don't get the joke. The following items describe a sequence on Thursday (March 8/01) night's FRASER TV sitcom, although if you see the words on Richard Hoagland's site, he neglects to mention it was from a scripted TV comedy. Verbatim Transcript of Senator John Glenn on "Fraser" Tuesday, March 6, 2001:

"Back in those glory days, I was very uncomfortable when they asked us to say things we didn't want to say and deny other things. Some people asked, you know, were you alone out there? We never gave the real answer, and yet we see things out there, strange things, but we know what we saw out there. And we couldn't really say anything. The bosses were really afraid of this, they were afraid of the War of the Worlds type stuff, and about panic in the streets. So, we had to keep quiet. And now we only see these things in our nightmares or maybe in the movies, and some of them are pretty close to being the truth."

The entire plot of the show was designed to support John Glenn's appearance. The story-line was that Fraser was jealous of John Glenn and felt competitive about sharing airtime on the radio. In the pivotal scene, Fraser and a female character were arguing with each other inside of an isolated sound room while Glenn faced the camera directly and delivered the above soliloquy. The entire scene had a very strange, non-comedic feeling and seemed to have nothing to do with what the rest of the show was about.

In the Fraser show, after Glenn finished delivering the speech, he returned to the control room where Fraser and the woman were arguing. At this point he realized that he was being taped and said that he needed to take the tape; he had been unaware that he was being recorded and this information "can't get out to the public."

Thus, it appears that public comedy - things the common people are relating to - is one of the main vehicles through which the disclosure [of the reality of UFOs] is finally being realized.

Thanks, Jim. But we can't hope that your clarification of this matter will do much to quell the enthusiasm of the UFO community. "They let Glenn do it this way so we could know the truth, you know!" will be their response....

From England, a reader comments:

I'd like to applaud the Sky News web site for consistently referred to [Uri] Geller as "the spoonbending magician," and at the same time lament the BBC for continually referring to him as "the psychic." I thought the BBC were more sceptical than this. They should be ashamed of themselves.

I was sent this amusing Top Ten list, which may or may not be based on real scientific research. No guarantees.

You can suspect your favorite psychic is a fake if he:

10. Keeps shaking a black "crystal ball" then says, "Ask again later."

9. Tells you you're going to die but doesn't exactly know when or how.

8. Looks suspiciously like that guy who fixed your muffler last week.

7. Has a Wedgie board instead of a Oujia board.

6. Does spoon bending using two hands.

5. Asks if you want to "hit" or "stand" during a Tarot-card reading.

4. Insists that your astrological sign is "The Armadillo."

3. Is rated in "Psychic Magazine" just below fortune cookies, just above your mom..

2. Shakes his crystal ball, then predicts a large snowstorm.

And the Number 1 Sign Your Psychic Is a Phony is if he...

1. Thinks that an "out-of-body experience" involves whipped cream and women's clothing.

No comment.....

Last week's puzzle, solved first by Steve Pagano, has turned out to be a major one. The infuriating thing, to me, is that there are so many relationships to be found here, but applying them isn't all that easy. Many correct solutions were sent in, some much more complicated and wordy than others. Neal Tucker provided us with one, which I've changed slightly by setting each side of the square to equal 1, thus simplifying it even further - I think. I also arranged the line designations alphabetically, that is, SP became PS.

Let d be the segment PS
Let e be the segment QV

(These are marked in red on the diagram. The others were more difficult to mark....)

Let h be the segment BS
Let H be the segment SY
Let g be the segment AV
Let G be the segment VX

We want to prove H=G

Since ST is parallel to AV
1/d = g/(1+d)
g = 1+d/d [1]

Since SY is parallel to AV,
g/e = H/(1+e)
H = g(1+e)/e [2]

Combining [1] and [2]:
H = (1+d)(1+e)/de [3]

Since UV is parallel to BS,
1/e = h/(1+e)
h = 1+e/e [4]

Since BS is parallel to VX
h/d = G/(1+d)
G = h(1+d)/d [5]

combining [4] and [5]:
G = (1+d)(1+e)/de [6]

Comparing [3] and [6], H=G

XY is parallel to TU.


Simply drawing in the diagonals of the rectangle and of the square (red lines) then joining the intersections of each set of diagonals (green line) we bisect side TU.

Being so rushed this week - again! - I'll have to give you a very minor puzzle to work on. Note the configuration of birthday-cake candles shown here. Move only two of these candles to form the word "FUN." No breaking candles. No spelling in Spanish. You will note that the powerful Sri Lankan god Whosit is waiting for your move.... We got very few requests for Jerry Andrus' "Paradox Box" kit, much to my surprise. This is a jim-dandy illusion, and it's still available.