April 4, 2000

Fourth Annual Pigasus Awards

Announcing the Fourth Annual Pigasus Awards from the James Randi Educational Foundation.

On April 1st of each year, we award the coveted Pigasus awards in four categories, for accomplishments in the year previous. The awards are of course announced via telepathy, the winners are allowed to predict their winning, and the Flying Pig trophies are sent via psychokinesis. We send; if they don't receive, that's probably due to their lack of paranormal talent.

This year, 2000, the prizes go to:

Category #1, to the scientist who said or did the silliest thing related to the supernatural, paranormal or occult, goes this year not to a specific scientist, nor to a scientific body. We generously award it to Linda Holloway and the entire Kansas Board of Education for their decision to forbid evolution to take place in the State of Kansas. In August, the Board ruled that the teaching of evolution must be removed from the state's educational agenda. "In voting to downgrade and discourage the teaching of evolution, the board is moving schools in Kansas backward toward ignorance and obscurantism," scolded the Los Angeles Times. While this may appear to the casual observer to be a move with no redeeming qualities, we at the JREF differ with this assessment. Consider the potential boon to future generations of anthropologists that this can provide; two thousand years from now, groups of students can be taken to Kansas to observe "in vivo" how humans lived twenty centuries earlier. Kansas can be a living museum, culturally and intellectually.

Category #2, to the funding organization that supported the most useless study of a supernatural, paranormal or occult claim, goes to the Human Resources Administration of the City of New York, who via their Business Link division finds and trains workers from welfare rolls and puts them in touch with businesses needing employees. A company called Psychic Network, one of the 1-900 networks, hired 15 of the city's unemployed, those with"a caring and compassionate personality" and the ability "to read, write and speak English," to take phone calls from troubled callers who paid $4.99 a minute to have their problems psychically solved. Ruth Reinecke, a spokeswoman for the HRA, said that applicants were trained to read tarot cards at the city's Business Link office by a Psychic Network representative. Efforts to locate and contact the Psychic Network were unsuccessful, we're told, since their telephone number was disconnected last July. On January 28th of this year, the city reacted to unfavorable publicity on this matter, and pulled plug on the operation. But they probably saw it coming.

Category #3, to the media outlet that reported as fact the most outrageous supernatural, paranormal or occult claim,the prize goes to the host of the "Politically Incorrect" TV show, Bill Maher. Despite an Ivy League education and an obviously quick and perceptive mind, Mr. Maher has for some reason cast common sense aside and endorsed a series of "psychics," most of whom say they speak to dead folks. His own experience of the supernatural, he says, includes a "haunted house" and he tells us that only ghosts could account for what he observed there. This widely-watched program satirizes politics, Hollywood, the media, and generally popular subjects -- but apparently takes seriously any hare-brained claim that will catch the public fancy. Mr. Maher squeaked to a win over the Roseanne Show this year; her gushing acceptance of a "flying" demonstration by Transcendental Meditators almost landed her the prize.

Category #4, to the "psychic" performer who fooled the greatest number of people with the least talent, is given this year posthumously to Michel de Notredame, Nostradamus, the 16th-century French prophet who predicted back in 1558 that the world would suffer a major catastrophe in July of 1999, if not the end of the world as we know it. While major panic reigned and timorous but not-too-bright folks worldwide laid in stores of water, food, and arms, when the time came and went, the reaction was the same as always, "Ah, but wait till next time!" Meanwhile, in Salon de Provence, where the great prophets bones lie in a vault at a small church, reports of disembodied chuckling from behind the wall have been noted.

Copyright 2000. May be reproduced and quoted, provided that appropriate credit is given.

We had just two readers solve the "UFO" photo from last week. The "spindle" shape is often found on amateur photos, but only when there is a bright light at one side of the frame. Though you don't always know that the entire film frame has been printed on the view you see, if you draw diagonals on a full print, they will intersect at the optical center of the lens field. Then draw a straight line connecting the spindle-shape and the bright light, and you will find (a) that this line will pass through the optical center, too, and (b) the bright light source and the spindle-shape will be equidistant from the center. It's alens flare, not a UFO, and these can even be seen through the viewfinder of a single-lens-reflex (SLR) camera. The photo accompanying here shows one from a UFO article, and it satisfies the requirements nicely.

The April 1st debut of my radio show went well. Andrew Harter accompanied me, and contributed nicely. Folks in South Florida can tune in to 940 AM to hear it, and everyone else can hear it on the Internet by looking in on www.supertalk940.com and following the instructions. It's on every Saturday night from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

Thanks to those who sent in suggestions for topics. This coming Saturday (the 8th) we'll be handling "dowsing" as the major subject. Tune in!

We offered a prize for the farthest-away listener, and it goes this week to Mr. Paul Mundy, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, which is 4152 miles (6681 km) away via the Internet! Paul will receive an autographed copy of one of my books. And who will win next week.....? We're open for predictions.

PUZZLE-OF-THE-WEEK: Here's an illustration of the new two-pound coin that is in circulation in England. It's a bi-metallic job, honoring British Industry. The obverse -- shown -- bears a configuration of nineteen cogged wheels around the center, each wheel engaging those on either side of it. What's the problem here....?

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