October 10, 2003
Oregon No-Vortex, Lincoln Embellished, Yellow Bamboo Continues, Free Energy in Sweden, Tarot Cards in Norwegian Courtroom, More Weird "Transfer" Language, Bearden's Back, Alistair Cook Scores, Readers' Letters, and Best Wishes to Roy...
I note that the site of the famous "Oregon Vortex" is up for sale for 3.5 million. I've had a number of calls from the media asking how the mysterious gravitational and magnetic forces exhibited there can be explained. That's a little like asking me to explain how witches fly on brooms over the telephone.
Looking at the ridiculous promotional material offered by the site owners, you can see just how an interesting but hardly incredible phenomenon can be misrepresented. One blurb tells us, "No matter your education or profession you will find a challenge to all your accepted theories." Really? And, under the heading "Scientific Information," we read:
The Oregon Vortex is a spherical field of force, half above the ground and half below the ground. The word "vortex" simply means a whirpool [sic] of force, like a whirling mass of water, especially one in which a force of suction operates, such as a whirlpool or a whirling mass of air, especially one in the form of a visible column or spiral, such as a tornado.
What drivel! This would earn a high school student an "F" in any test. Several earnest attempts to explain the observed phenomena by means of the "Ponzo Effect" and other text-book scenarios, have only added to the confusion, which I hope to clear up here. In any case, there's nothing at all "unexplainable" about the phenomena seen near the town of Gold Hill, Oregon. This particular combination of geographical singularities, applied hype, and invented crackpot notions the same set of factors that have given birth to dozens of such sites all over the globe was first unveiled to the public in 1930. The usual parade of scholars came by to expound on the "miracles" advertised; those who solved the puzzles were ignored and not heard from again, while the few who declared themselves mystified, were embraced and quoted.
So just what are these wonders, and why have they been so endlessly repeated and accepted? There are three main claims made here: first, visitors experience a loss of balance and undergo various degrees of disorientation while at the site. Second, ordinary basic phenomena such as rolling balls and pouring water appear to take place in contrary ways, and third, the visitor's perception of size and ratio are seriously altered. To understand these sensory misinterpretations, we must look into a few basics of how our senses work.
Each of us has a unique arrangement of priorities in regard to sensory input. Certain people depend upon one sense more than others to provide important survival information. Since vision is by far the richest of our inputs, in quantity, quality, and variety of signals, most of us allow that sense to override others. Consider: through vision, we obtain color, shape, texture, distance, motion, size, trajectory, and other qualities of our surroundings. Distance is judged by three major means: first, through binocular convergence, second, by occultation of or by other objects, and third by comparative experience with similar objects. Briefly, to give examples of these three methods: for the first of these, our "stereo" visual system works by an automatic convergence of the two individual images left and right that we perceive with our two eyes, and the feedback from the muscles that rotate our eyeballs in order the bring those images into convergence, provides data that tells us how far away the object is. At about ten meters distance, this method provides minimal information to us. Also, at moderate distances, the focusing of the eye relays a distance factor to us. For the second method, we determine that an object of interest blocked out by another object is further from us than the "blocking" object, just as we learn that the object of interest is closer that an object that it occults. Third, our real-life-experience equips us with memories of "standard" objects: a broom can only be between certain limits of size, as with a pencil and a sunflower.
Concerning that last factor, I once created an interesting set of optical illusions for a science center, a show that we called, "As Eye See It." In one exhibit, the viewer came upon a one-inch hole in the wall through which a red Volkswagen could be seen, brightly lit by surrounding floodlights. A few feet further along that wall was a second peep-hole, through which another VW was seen, this one light blue. The question asked was, "What is the major difference between the two cars you have seen?" and spectators were seen to be jumping back and forth between the two peep-holes, trying to decide what the answer might be, wisely suspecting that it was not only the color.... A third peep-hole around the corner of the exhibit revealed all: at that position, both cars could be seen together. The red one was a regular VW "bug", the blue one was a detailed scale model supplied by the Volkswagen distributor, and it was just nine inches in length. The spectators had been denied the use of their binocular vision, so had no ability to bring left-and-right images together to judge distance. The bright lights had closed down their irises and the one eye in use had no need, nor ability, to focus for distance, taking away another size-determinant. And, familiarity with the usual VW size, combined with the manner in which the two cars were illuminated and displayed both just below standing eye-level made a compelling deception.
The Oregon Vortex site is wooded, and it appears that a land-shift has occurred where old-growth trees have been rather uniformly tilted from the vertical. Now, a strong part of our inherited perception of our surroundings tells us that trees grow straight up, drapes hang straight up-and-down, and a chain or flexible rope will come to rest at right-angles to the horizon. Any visual perception of our environment that does not allow us a view of the horizon or of a puddle of water from which we can obtain a strong signal that informs us of what's "level," will default to the balance organs in our ears which are more effective when we're in motion and to this memory/expectation of what's vertical, and thus, what's horizontal. Any slight movement of our body produces a contrary signal from the balance organs, and if we've already made an assumption about what's level, an immediate conflict is experienced, and a feeling of giddiness.
The proprietors of all these "magnetic/haunted/magic" sites install deliberate illusions to amplify that disorientation. Inside one of the "haunted" houses, we find that the entire structure inside an exterior "shell" that is truly vertical and horizontal is inclined a few degrees to one side. To defeat the natural tendency to use peripheral clues to judge what's level, window drapes are stiffened and aligned with the slanted window-frames, chandeliers are supported from welded chains that are inclined off-vertical, and glasses of liquid are actually filled with solid transparent plastic that has a surface similarly sloped. A billiard-ball placed on a table and released, immediately rolls as if on its own into the far corner pocket. A faucet delivers a stream of water into a sink at an angle. That limited world looks very contrary to expectation.
But the mysterious "growing person" phenomenon is the one everyone goes away talking about, because they can carry this one with them in the form of photographs and would the camera lie? Yes. Referring to "Oregon Vortex" sites through Google.com, you'll find a number of photos that show the remains of a wrecked shack in the background, and two persons standing facing one another from the opposite ends of a nine-foot platform, placed at right angles to the line-of-sight of the camera, which is on a fixed tripod. One of these is at the beginning of this week's page. Lo! When these two persons change places, the one of the right of the photo has apparently gained a few inches in height, while the other chap has shrunk a bit! There are problems with obtaining a solution to this mystery, the vortex people tell us, for "whatever instrument you use to measure with while inside the affected area you will always measure to be the same height because the instrument of measurement will change." Drat!
Not being accustomed to balking at obtaining a solution despite significant difficulties offered, I put my massive encephalon to this task. After a bit of experimentation, I was able to replicate the effect using two bottles of spice from my kitchen, a loose-leaf notebook, and a piece of cardboard. See the photos.
Illustration #1 shows the finished product, in which two bottles, identical except for contents and labeling, are placed on a miniature platform. The one on the right appears to be substantially larger than the other, right? This uses the same simple means that the vortex folks use. Photo #2 reveals the ruse. While #1 appears to represent the true horizontal, we see in #2 that the whole setup has been sloped by being placed on a loose-leaf notebook "wedge" labeled "L." Bits of modeling clay, marked "C," were placed under the edges of the bottles to incline them slightly; in the full-size set-up using people, the subjects can stand at a slight angle to appear perpendicular to the platform, while spice bottles cannot. Locating the camera at just the right height, the leading edge and far edge of the platform are parallel to the false horizontal. The two ends of the platform are slanted, as can be seen in photograph #3, taken immediately in front of the miniature set-up, but from about 45 degrees up and above. Photo #4 shows the line-up, though not shown is the elevation of the right side of the platform.
Since the right-hand bottle is closer to the camera, it registers a larger image. That's all there is to it, folks! Return to photo #1 to see how convincing this final product is!
I should mention one or two other facets of the "growing person" illusion. Note, in the published photos that you'll find on Google.com, that though the two persons appear to be looking into one another's eyes, they are actually staring right past each other, over the other person's left shoulder. In the photo at the beginning of this article, you can actually see a huge piece of lumber placed under the right end of the platform to bring it up from the level ground, and of course the photo is rotated slightly to the right so the platform seems to be truly horizontal! Also, the eccentric angles of the tumble-down shack in the background confuse the spectator's orientation and any normal decision on what's level. Not much in this part of Oregon is on the level, I think.
There's no mystery, no magic, no vortex...
The Gettysburg address by Abraham Lincoln, delivered November 19, 1863, is often given as the source of the addition to the Pledge of Allegiance that we often hear, that phrase, "under God." Wrong. The version that we have in our history texts says, in part, ". . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth."
Now take a glance at the original, in Lincoln's own handwriting:
This is from one of the first two original drafts he made. Many months later, he wrote out new copies in which "under God" does appear, and those references have of course been seized upon as "legitimate," while the originals are ignored...
We're still awaiting some technical details from local police authorities here concerning a possible modus that might have been applied in the Yellow Bamboo event in Bali, recently. We've had over 70 authoritative suggestions so far, most supporting what we believe took place there, but I need just a few more details to round out the analysis. That will all appear here, next week.
Here's an interesting and important observation from Olav Westerman re a major problem that could arise from the production of "free" energy, a terrifying idea that hadn't occurred to me...
I'm from Stockholm, Sweden and I found an offer from a company called Energia on http://project-energia.com/ to buy shares in their fantastic power-generator that, of course, produces more energy than it consumes. You probably get dozens of reports like this, but I just thought I would let you know about it. Anyhow I sent them email:
The same old thing... These people are always just about ready to do their world-altering demonstration, but never quite get there. Olav, please keep us informed on just how they avoid doing their promised demo in December....
Reader Ragnar L. Børsheim, just west across the border from Olav, tells us of a new technological discovery that is bringing improved justice to his country:
Here in Norway we have our fair share of flimflam, now even in the Court. Quite embarrassing really.... Polygraph/Lie-detector testing is not useable as evidence, but fortune-tellers are obviously OK as witnesses, according to the Norwegian court.
A year ago, a man named Gamal Hosein was found guilty of murdering his wife, Gry. She vanished suddenly from their hamburger bar one day, and was found floating in the river two months later. She supposedly had a secret affair going with Hosein's younger nephew, who lives in Israel. Hosein claims that he is innocent, and currently has his case scheduled for court again. Hosein has recently been to Sweden to do a polygraph/lie-detector test (which he supposedly passed) since polygraph testing is not legal in Norway. The court ruled that this polygraph test could not be put forward as evidence. Now the prosecution calls a fortune teller (!) named Eva Nyberg to the stand, since the murdered wife supposedly called her three days before she was killed. And, lo and behold, the fortune teller reports that the "death-card" was drawn when Gry asked for her future. Eva also claims that she saw the secret love affair that Gry supposedly had with Hosein's nephew, in her cards. It's a miracle what these magic cards know. And it's also very convincing coming up with this "evidence" after the all the details in the case have been published in the newspapers. This murder case had a huge coverage in the Norwegian press.
Ragnar, we know this situation here in the USA, too, be assured. Again, the media adore such a story because they have zero interest in whether they're serving the public fairly or correctly. Any story is a good story if it sells advertising space...
Back on the August 22/03 page, I gave you a strange message that we received as part of an application for the JREF prize. You might want to take a look at that before continuing. Do a search for "telpathy" [sic]...
Here is the new response I've now received, verbatim:
What could you not under stand:
Again, I don't know what to do. We get some 20 or so of this sort of message every year, and I suspect that the senders have used language-translation software. This is a bump I cannot get over, and I just have to give the sender the same response, that I cannot understand his claim.
Reader Shawn Bishop writes us re "scientist" Tom Bearden, inventor of a free-energy machine that is, for some reason, having a hard time getting off the ground. See our previous pages for the many references to Bearden, who recently wrote Shawn in regard to mind-powers:
There are at least some laboratory experiments by legitimate scientists that would suggest such. I have a personal reason for believing so; one of the few 10-sigma persons on earth in a certain area did in fact build and give me a special defensive shield some years ago, which has played a roll [sic] in my remaining alive for several years now. However, I refuse to discuss the shield or how it works; except to say I am well-satisfied with it. You might notice I stay pretty close to Huntsville, Alabama. That is one very good reason.
Well, as a mere 2-sigma person, I have a difficult time absorbing all this stunning news. I wonder how this "defensive shield" looks on Bearden? Is it an aura, or an aluminum dunce-cap? Maybe just a soft glow in the dark...? Batteries included?
Reader "Peter" in the UK gives us this review:
Channel Five in the UK is not known for its educational programming. What it is known for, is its numerous highly inventive excuses to include nudity on-screen at every possible opportunity. But despite my fear that a Channel Five show which exposes psychics might feature naked pictures of James Van Praagh, I switched on for "Psychics Revealed!" to see if this could be something to redress the balance in UK television which ordinarily favors the supernatural.
Randi comments: see our web page of May 15, 2000, for a reference to this party-stunt.
Psychic performer Alistair Cook then replicated the effect. His results were as impressive as Uri's, with his participants adamant that the person they were lifting really had seemed lighter on the second attempt. But just as I was contemplating how this technique could make me look damned impressive in the gym, a voiceover spoilt it all "Uri suspects this is how they built the pyramids...we think it can be explained by simple physics."
Alistair demonstrated the effect again but this time on a large set of scales. And disappointingly, the weight never changed. It seems it really is possible for four people to lift one person. Who would've thought? Not the most sensational of tricks, but it's an important point that Geller's performance was included. They weren't hiding their opinion behind "some people may claim this trick uses special powers, but it uses nothing of the sort," but very much saying "Uri Geller claims this trick uses special powers, but it uses nothing of the sort."
Kudos to Alistair Cook, Chris French, and Richard Wiseman, who have certainly proven again their contributions to our enlightenment. And thanks to "Peter," as well!
Reader Trish Randall writes:
I just read the last two commentary items in this week's Swift, discussing the influence that the Challenge and web site has on people who were raised as believers in the nonrational.
Made my day, Trish! Thanks... Reader Michael Clear, of Glens Falls, NY, shares a similar experience with us...
In this week's update (posted Friday, Oct. 3, 2003) you printed a couple of letters from people talking about how your work has directly affected them, for the better. You can add my name to the list.
A moment of explanation... I hope there hasn't been too much resentment among readers of this page, at the fact that I seem to be running complimentary letters here every week. We have an obligation to show that the JREF is doing the work that members and sponsors expect of us, and to me these notes from individuals are the most rewarding evidence we have of our success. To know that we've made a difference in someone's view of the world and the sometimes profound changes for which we can take some credit, is what we exist for. Thanks for your patience in reading these accounts.
We've almost reached the break-even point in our registrations for The Amaz!ng Meeting 2, and our goal of 400 attendees looks attainable! Many have opted to attend the "Solved Mysteries" workshop on the Thursday schedule, and we're almost booked up full on the limited-space dinner-with-the-amazing option, as well. Linda and Kelli are working overtime getting mail out, and the place is a-buzz all day, every day. If you intend to be there, and take advantage of the early-bird discounts, hustle along and get your application in!
Closing this week, I must mention the dreadful accident that occurred with magician Roy Horn, of the Siegfried & Roy team. As I'm sure you know, Roy was attacked by one of the tigers used in this highly successful Las Vegas show at the Mirage. He suffered serious injuries, and as we write, he's holding onto life, in critical condition. We're grieved by this event, one that reminds us all of our mortality. This was a brilliant but dangerous act, one that was a premier attraction in Las Vegas. Our thoughts go out to Roy and his colleagues, and we express our wish that he survives this tragedy to return to us again.
Hang in there, Roy.