December 3, 2004

You've Seen It, More Name-Calling & Name-Changing, Alarm Bells in the UK, Dennis Lee's Back — With a Religious Pyramid Club Scam, Death Due to an Angel's Advice, Young Scientists In Italy, Lots of Nothing, More Science-Bashing in Washington, and In Conclusion....

Table of Contents:


An item that I frequently refer to during my lectures is that strange black pen that most of us have seen being pulled out of a cash register drawer when we offer a $50 — or larger — bill in a store or restaurant. It's called the "Smart Money Counterfeit Detector Pen," and it's made by DriMark Products, who also make legitimate items that really work. It proudly bears a US patent number. For years now, cashiers across the United States have used this pen to make a mark on a clear portion of a bill, after which they will — usually — accept it. It says right on the pen, that if the mark made on the bill is amber, that bill "passes the test." If it's black, the bill is "suspect."

With the imprimatur of the US Patent Office, and coming from a major manufacturer, we should expect that the thing works — but it does not. You see, according to the patent papers, the inventor assumed that counterfeiters would use cheap paper to print their product — not very likely! Cheap paper contains starch — as "sizing" so that the paper looks brighter and will be more easily handled by printing machines — and starch turns black in contact with iodine, so a pen filled with tincture of iodine should reveal phony money! Yes, that's what's in the pen — iodine!

The U.S. Secret Service has the awesome responsibility, among other things, of protecting us from counterfeit currency. They tell us that there is more bogus money in circulation now, than at any previous period in history. This is something we should all be concerned about, right? I contacted a U.S. Secret Service inspector and asked his official opinion about this device. "Does it work as advertised?" I asked him. "It is not dependable," he responded, after referring to a handy manual. "Not dependable, like, 100 percent not dependable?" I asked. "You might say that," he said. You see, Federal officials never use "yes" or "no" to answer any question professionally.

Believe me, counterfeit money was never safer than when being tested by the "Smart Money" pen. And, bear in mind, every really phony bill that this device does not detect, goes right back into circulation! So, what to do? You contact your local Secret Service office and ask for their pamphlet "Know Your Money," which will help you decide for yourself about the authenticity of the currency that passes through your hands. This phony pen will never do it....


In a letter to John Atkinson of Stereophile Magazine — see last week's item — Joseph M. Cierniak, Publisher/Editor of "Sound Off" magazine, wrote:

In Art Dudley's November column (Listener) he described James Randi (whose real name is Randall Zwinge) as "a self-described liar and con artist." Amazing! I would bet that since Mr. Zwinge once performed a magic act, the referenced quotation was from his magic act show biz days, a humorous attention-getting comment, and not a quotation from his present vocation of debunking cultists such as Mr. Dudley. Talk about the slimy, yellow journalistic practice of using a partial quote out of context; William Randolph Hearst is smiling up at Mr. Dudley.

No, Joseph, my "real name" is James Randi. I was born Randall Zwinge, but that was legally discarded long ago, and no such person now exists! You're quite right on the attribution of the quotation, however.

Taking Mr. Dudley at his word (?) I notified PBS television that on at least two occasions they have presented shows featuring a con artist. To wit: Mr. Zwinge on PBS debunking those very things that the analog lunatic fringe (read: Mr. Dudley) states as gospel. There was laughter at the other end of the line and then a click as they hung up on me. With impeccable lunatic fringe credentials in the audio area, perhaps Mr. Dudley should ask for equal time! But it doesn't stop there.

Mr. Dudley then writes the following in his column regarding Mr. Zwinge: "Why is it that a tough-minded seeker of the truth finds it necessary to change his name?" Huh? What does a name change (for whatever purpose) have to do with the credibility of the individual who changes his or her name? Do you know that a former US President changed his legal birth name from Leslie Lynch King to Gerald Ford? So what!

To answer why one certain individual at Stereophile might change their name I suggest that Mr. Dudley check with, Sam Tellig (?), one of Stereophile's senior contributing editors; perhaps Mr. Tellig can give a more intimate answer regarding a name change. Mr. Tellig's personal experience regarding his name change would make for interesting reading!

This of course is the same Mr. Tellig who stated some years ago in his Stereophile column that coating CDs with Armor All would improve the sound. The application of Armor All did not improve the sound, but irate readers bombarded the magazine with mail asking who was going to pay for their CDs that were ruined upon application of Armor All!

Strangely, even Mr. Atkinson hasn't asked these people in his office why they so brazenly betrayed their customers and their colleagues by changing their names! Intellectually dishonest, I'd say, but I've heard that phrase before. Bottom line here: as with the psychics who are lying to and deceiving the public, these "audio experts" who openly endorse obviously hare-brained notions and devices are accountable to no one, not even their clients. Atkinson and Dudley must always continue to dodge and obfuscate and Atkinson must defend his columnist Dudley at all costs. So long as Stereophile Magazine continues to get $5.99 a copy and provides some useful information to readers — along with the pseudoscientific crap — Atkinson's employers will relax and count the money. This is no place for honesty or integrity to show its disturbing presence....

With perfect timing, two more ludicrous audio "enhancing" devices have appeared on the market to be peddled to the unwary. First is the "Audiodharma Cable CookerTM" manufactured by "audio excellence az," who proudly tell us about their system of baking conductors in an oven of sorts by running various signals and current through new cables that have not been "broken in" properly! Audio Excellence az say that they "represent ONLY those designers whose innovations push the musical envelope." Well, there's the proof! As if any more were needed, they feature the fact that this oven is a "STEREOPHILE RECOMMENDED COMPONENT FOR 3 YEARS RUNNING," and assure readers that it "should be readily apparent why results with the CABLE COOKER™ are often quite audible after as little as 24 hours of use." The boxes sell for $649 "standard" model, and $779 "pro."

Next in this lineup is the "Shakti Hallograph Soundfield Optimizer" as reviewed by Wayne Donnelly, who is one of the "experts" who have failed to respond to my open challenge to test the quack items they've endorsed, including the "stones" that Shakti also sells to the deluded audio buyers. You just have to read the way Donnelly gets poetic over the latest "discovery" by Ben Piazza:

As the first notes sounded, that cramped little room metamorphosed into a voluminous space. The soundfield suddenly extended at least to, if not beyond the side and back walls. Reading the expression on my face, Ben chuckled and commented, "Well, you're the fastest so far — one second." . . . The expansive spatial presentation was far too dramatic to be missed, whether by golden or leaden ears. Moreover, as the music continued it seemed not only bigger in scale, but also harmonically fuller — and at once both more dynamic and more relaxed.

We must assume that Mr. Donnelly possesses ears that are sufficiently "golden" to assess this miracle without doing a double-blind test, of course. How fortunate he is!

He then explains to his readers Piazza's theory on this device — which I've yet to describe to you:

Hallographs improve the system/room interface by generating "musically complementary" resonances that somehow override the audibility of reflected sounds coming from the first reflection points and other room boundaries which confuse the ear by arriving later than the direct output of the drivers. (If this explanation sounds less than crystal clear to you, join the club.) I strongly encourage reading the site for a somewhat more extensive description of how the Hallograph works — although after reading through it several times I still don't quite get it. But there is no way to misinterpret the fervent praise of numerous extremely happy Hallograph users.

Ben Piazza declines to name the exotic light and dark hardwoods that make up the three wavy-shaped vertical pieces of each array, which are the key to the design — at least until his patent is granted.

Now it's time that you learned just what this marvelous invention is. The illustration says it all. That's the left-channel side of a set of of wiggly wooden sticks on pedestals. Put together with a screwdriver. No connections, no electronics, no wiring, they just sit there on the floor like a pair of coat racks, working on magic and faith! But read on as Donnelly gets rhapsodic:

Bass gets quicker and tighter, with better pitch definition. Vocal and instrumental images typically have more dimensionality and lateral stability. Previously unnoticed low-level detail emerges, and the entire presentation takes on a more relaxed and naturally musical quality that is hard to describe, but easy to love (in my case, often deep into the night). . . .

Then he gets in his digs at us rational folks who prefer facts and evidence over poetry:

I love reviewing this kind of product — something that is unconventional and difficult to explain, but works great. I mean, fooling around with these things is big fun, and the audible dividends are so extraordinary that I can't imagine ever again choosing to listen to my system without them. Beyond that, it tickles me to anticipate the inevitable backlash from the "I don't find this in my college engineering/physics/whatever books so it must be a scam" crowd who relentlessly patrol audio web sites to discourage the gullible audiophile from biting on anything too original. Of course there are plenty of gullible audio lovers out there, and no dearth of "snake oil" products. But hey guys (they are always guys), the Hallographs are for real.

Now I am not a scientist or engineer, and I have never even played one on TV. But unless memory fails me, the scientific method is essentially to observe a phenomenon and then work to discover what causes it — not to reject anything that doesn't conform to the present state of knowledge. It seems to me that too many self-appointed "debunkers" have lost sight of that principle — especially those who declare disdainfully that they have not bothered to listen to the item they are attacking.

Memory fails you, Wayne. The first thing a scientific investigator does is to find out if there actually is a phenomenon to be examined! Example: how can a fat guy in a red suit get down a chimney? Whoa! Let's find out is there really is a fat guy, first, before measuring chimneys.... As for my not having tested these ugly wooden sticks myself, I'll leave it to Mr. Donnelly, so he can show us, through a simple double-blind test, that there is a difference when the sticks are in place — and he can win the million-dollar prize, if there is any difference! Ah, but I forgot; I've already made that offer to Wayne Donnelly, as well as to Frank Doris, Clay Swartz, Clark Johnson, David Robinson, Larry Kaye, Bill Brassington, Bascom King, Wes Phillips, Jim Merod, Dick Olsher, Peter Belt, May Belt, and even to Benjamin Piazza, the inventor and manufacturer of these sticks — and they've all chickened out.

Ah, but Mr. Donnelly has only started; he has much more raving to do over these weird wooden sculptures:

Although I am comfortable with the concept that manipulating resonances in the listening environment can affect the sound, I am amazed at the range and degree of improvements attributable to the Hallograph. How the hell did Ben Piazza even come up with this idea? How did he get from the concept to this remarkable result? Although it would be cool to know the why and how of the Hallograph's effects, to me it's not really necessary. The music is the thing.

Wayne, I'll tell you how the hell Ben came up with this idea. He'd found out that there are audio fans out there who will automatically believe reviews written by incompetents, and that no matter how silly the claims are, he's safe from any of this clique daring to ask him to prove the claims. One day, he thought to himself, "I wonder. If they'll buy some stones, will they also buy some ugly sticks?" And he concluded that they probably would, and he was right.

The price? For these two wooden totem-poles, just $999.

Wayne goes on:

In my opinion, the Hallograph ranks with the Bybee Quantum Purifiers as the most significant performance enhancement I have encountered in more than three decades of pursuing great audio. I am hard-pressed to think of anything else one could acquire for a grand that could rival the musical benefits of the Hallograph. What serious audiophile wouldn't want those benefits? I even find myself speculating on questions like "What would sound better, a $2,000 system or a $1,000 system plus Hallographs?" . . . They are so effective that it would be impossible to judge accurately how other system components rate on a numerical scale. I suspect that the Hallographs could turn audio sow's ears into apparent silk purses. Consequently, I am going to have to adjust my review process to include a significant interval of evaluating equipment without the Hallographs. . . . I'll content myself with urging any serious listener who can afford it to just do it — and discover the glories of Ben Piazza's remarkable creation.

The chuckling that you hear in the background is from Mr. Piazza....

If you were wondering about the "Bybee Quantum Purifiers" dropped in for enthusiastic mention above by Mr. Donnelly, the manufacturers say in their advertising that these tiny in-line objects:

...operate on the quantum mechanical level to regulate the flow of electrons that make up the signal (picture a metering light regulating freeway traffic flow). Current flow within the Quantum Purifier is unimpeded and ideal (think of the unencumbered flow of traffic on a lightly traveled expressway). During transit through the Quantum Purifier, quantum noise energy is stripped off the electrons, streamlining their flow through ensuing conductors. Unwanted quantum noise energy dissipates as heat within the Quantum Purifier rather than emerging as a layer of contamination residue over the audio/video information.

The benefits of this process extend beyond the physical length of the Quantum Purifier itself. As electrons speed through the purifier, a "slipstream" effect is formed which facilitates current flow in the surrounding conductors of the playback system. Introducing Bybee Quantum Purification into the electron path enhances noise reduction and signal velocity, resulting in performance improvement beyond what is attainable by any cable alone, no matter how well designed.

I've little comment to make on the probable validity of the "Quantum Purifier" theory as expressed above; I'll leave it up to you to do your own evaluation. But, "quantum noise energy is stripped off the electrons"? Sounds unlikely to me, friends! Just be prepared to lay out $1200 for a pair of these items, if you'd like to try them. I'll just have to muddle along with regular copper loudspeaker cables, no magic stones, and not a wooden tree in sight....

Hopefully bringing this brouhaha to an end, I must tell you that Stereophile editor John Atkinson is aghast at how I've misrepresented his ravings. Says he:

Correctly attributing people with what they say and do is the most basic requirement for anyone involved in publishing commentary of any kind. These are not trivial errors on your part, they reveal a fundamental flaw in your character. As I wrote: "intellectually dishonest." . . . Please note that while I have not held back from expressing my opinion of your activities when asked, I did not write any of the text that you have attributed to me on your website.

I immediately asked him:

You didn't write the piece about dowsing, nor the comments on the JREF challenge? Yes, or no?

He responded:

Mr. Randi, our emails crossed. Yes, I did express my opinion of the $1 million challenge, in the first text you quoted on [last week's] website commentary. My apologies for "pulling a Randi" on that one. (Sorry, couldn't resist the irony.) But no, I have not written one word on the efficacy of dowsing, nor did I receive an email or snailmail from you nor did I find any posting you made on the Audio Asylum in response to anything I wrote. Please note that I did not write the . . . [passage on the reality of dowsing.] Nor did I write [the accusations about the "rigged" tests].

I'd had a problem with the format and protocol of the audio message board to which I'd been directed to see the trash that was being tossed around about the JREF, I spent just an hour or two there, and I confused some of what Dudley and another unknown had been distributing, mistaking quotations for direct comments; I inadvertently ascribed some of that to Atkinson. As I wrote to him when he complained to me, "It's hard to sort out the nuts."

A reader known as "Andkon" also had some exchanges with Atkinson. He wrote me:

I wonder if our friend John Atkinson is getting tired of replying to dozens of those who must have — like me — emailed him. He was rather cocksure for the first few emails, correcting my grammar and such, but after a few rounds of dodging this question: "Can you explain how random rocks or metals improve the sound of anything?" Mr. Atkinson got tired and got angry. He answered:

Why do I have to? And what makes you think the Shakti Stones are "random rocks or metals"? Just because the Amazing Randi tells you? Try thinking for yourself, asshole, and stop wasting my time with petulant emails.

That's an interesting attitude, from the editor of Stereophile Magazine, who also puts opinions and statements in my mouth. A serious question from a persistent inquirer becomes "petulant" when it's too tough to answer?


UK reader Les Rose, of Pharmavision Consulting Ltd., gives us this report on the current incredible situation re "alternative medicine" in that country:

What concerns me the most is that a parliamentary committee appointed by the UK government to report on CAM [Complimentary and Alternative Medicine], and whose report was issued in 2000, classified the available "alternative" practices, and described one group as those "which lack any credible evidence base." Yet these practices continue to be promoted by the National Health Service, and indeed the government has recently announced an expansion in their use. For over 50 years, the NHS has operated five homeopathic hospitals, and is currently spending £18 million on refurbishing the one in London. The year 2000 report also recommended that CAM should be independently appraised for cost-effectiveness, which again the government refuses to commission.

Some JREF forum members believe that government ministers may be in breach of the law, as they are taking decisions which are outside their powers, by promoting the use of treatments for which there is no evidence. In my previous message I referred to my lengthy email exchanges with the chairman of the NHS Trusts Association, an associated body, which sponsors the NHS Directory of Complementary and Alternative Practitioners (see He is a highly qualified and indeed decorated physician, who should know better than to recommend dowsing, crystal therapy, and radionics, to NHS patients, which he is doing via this directory.

I believe that the UK government should be challenged by an organization with some force, such as JREF. Sad to say, there seems to be no equivalent organization in the UK.

Les, our challenge is out there, applicable to anyone, anywhere, any time. We sit patiently waiting to be called on, but we even have a hard time getting our home-based state and federal agencies to respond to our alerts, let alone to our challenges....


Remember the nut case who has been promising a Free Electricity Generator (FEG) for several years now, who we described at several places like and We long ago decided that for sheer nerve and ignorance, Lee was at the top of the "chutzpah" list, and that's a very competitive category, folks! An anonymous reader tells us:

Here is an update on what Dennis Lee is up to. He now has a new Christian ministry that he claims you can donate money to and it will be multiplied because he will be making those FEGs and selling electricity. But he can't demonstrate it until 1,600,000 "witnesses" are ready to see 100 simultaneous demonstrations across the USA at stadiums. Dennis is looking for "sponsors" to pay $10 each to sponsor a witness for the demonstrations and the "sponsor" could get $1000 per year commission from the sale of electricity those 30 KW FEGs make. The witnesses will get free electricity for life, up to 26,000 KWh every year.

He claims he can make Free Electricity from a permanent magnet "Hummingbird motor" that "produces 5 units of mechanical energy output for 1 unit of electrical input." He just has to connect that Hummingbird motor that he "demonstrated" across the country in a 1999 tour, to a Sundance Generator that is 100% efficient, and those will generate 30 KW of electric power without pollution. He also claims he can run engines on water, pickle juice, etc. But the truth is that the lawn mower he shows the believers just runs a minute on the gasoline that floats on top of the water and junk.

Lee is now promoting his new "ministry" — "Kings and Priests" — and asking for donations that will be used to find the witnesses at Christian churches so that they can install those FEG all over to start selling electricity to the grid. He claims he will be the major electric supplier in a few years and it won't pollute, etc. He will donate 100% of the profits to Christian churches. Dennis says you can donate money to Kings and Priests instead of to a local church. When the "witnesses" are found and those FEG are installed, the profit from selling electricity those 30 KW FEGs make will be given to the church you designate or that denomination, so $100 donated to Kings and Priests Ministry could be $50,000 per year that will be given to the church.

Dennis tells stories of how he "found Jesus" and was saved, how he met prophets that say he will revolutionize business and electrical power in the United States etc., how he met televangelist Pat Robertson who invested $100,000 with him, but then went back on the deal, etc.

The latest date Dennis predicts the witnesses will be ready is for shows on July 4, 2005.

If someone else says those are scams, then I'll say: "I have a better chance of getting money from those than from Dennis Lee's free energy machine."

Dennis Lee tells the same stories of how scientists said "heavier than air machines can't fly," even though birds fly and the Wright Brothers were flying for five years before the public wrote to President Theodore Roosevelt and asked him to do a public demonstration at Kitty Hawk. "So scientists are stupid," according to Dennis Lee, when they say you can't get free energy from magnets.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! Since each witness will get free electricity for life — up to 26,000 KWh every year — and they can find nine more friends to sign up for "Free Electricity," that could be $10,000 per year for the sponsor who pays $5 for a video tape or DVD that will be given to witnesses, or just pays $10 for each witness that will be found from all the churches where Dennis Lee is doing his tour for next several months. The church could make $45,000 per year for each witness. That money will be used to promote morality and Christian values in the USA.

Can you see a PYRAMID SCHEME? If only I mail a dollar to the first five names on the list. . .

It must be crowded at his office: 3002 Route 23 North, Newfoundland, NJ 07435. There's Kings and Priests Ministry, United Community Services of America (they distribute products), Better World Technology (they develop new products and technology), International Tesla Electric Company (they will be installing, maintaining and selling electricity from the 30 KW Free Electricity Generators).

WOW! All of those companies in the same office and the SAME OWNER: DENNIS LEE! I wish someone near Newfoundland, NJ, could stop by just to see what those offices and the "research center" look like.

Dennis says skeptic Eric Krieg is the "son of the devil" but he does pray that he can be "saved."

Our correspondent adds, "I want to get on and promise to donate 100% of the profit I make from those foreign lotteries I win and those African bankers who want to send me millions of dollars." Sounds noble, to me.


Reader Andrew Carver of Ottawa, Canada, tells us of another tragedy generated by "alternative" healers. The 68-year-old "Naturopath" Louise Lortie has won an appeal from a conviction for manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death. She was convicted of killing a diabetic girl by convincing her mother, massage therapist Sylvie Fortin, to replace the girl's critical insulin injections with a diet of unrefined cane sugar and homemade herbal potions. Lisanne Manseau, 12 years old, died in March 1994, three days after beginning the treatment. Lortie was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to three years in jail. She appealed the decision based on technicalities.

The frail naturopath, who now uses a wheelchair to get around, said she consulted the Archangel Michael — using a pendulum — to determine which herbal remedies would be best for the girl, whose condition kept getting worse and included severe headaches, kidney problems and depression. Lortie said that Michael told her to stop the administration of insulin in order to "detoxify" the girl's body. "Don't worry," Lortie said, "because Michael has never made a mistake." Fortin was also told that Lortie had treated three other diabetics without any problems. Lortie urged Fortin to continue the regimen even as the girl's health declined and she slipped into a coma.

Andrew tells us that there was "....some bleating at the National Center for Homeopathy site,, where an article on the same page asks "Why are doctors so against alternative medicine?" Hmm, yes, why could that be?"


My recent stay in Europe was made all the more interesting by seeing a "junior scientist" display at CICAP's conference in Venice. One setup that got my rapt attention was run by Niccoló Giuliani and Niccoló Tocazzi, shown here. It appears that colored water poured in at position "A," after much swirling and careening about and transfer of its motion to other differently-colored liquids in the system, gets the final liquid to position "B." Then, via the tube labeled "T," that simply runs down again to position "A," which seems to defy gravity, conservation of energy, and most other major laws of science — including common sense.... Clever device!


From reader James Connor, we learn that the following news item was published on on November 25th:

Australian cyclist Mark French is appealing his ban for possession, use and trafficking of a forbidden substance to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. French was given a two-year ban from cycling as well as a lifetime Olympic Games ban after admitting to using "Testicomp," which contains homeopathic quantities of glucocorticosteroid and is illegal under UCI/WADA rules. However, according to reports in the Australian media, French claims that independent testing of Testicomp at an IOC accredited lab in Malaysia shows no signs of glucocorticosteroid, and therefore it should not be illegal.

Why are we not surprised, dear reader? But there are those dreaded "vibrations" to consider....

French is claiming that the authorities were only relying on what was printed on the Testicomp label ("contains traces of glucocorticosteroid") to sanction him, and this will likely form the basis of his appeal to CAS.

Says Mr. Connor, "I don't know what's dumber, taking the stuff or giving credence to the homeopaths by banning it!"


The U.S. Congress has drastically cut back the budget for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an agency devoted to research in science and technology. In 2002, Congress renewed the legal authority for science programs, and voted to double the budget of the NSF by 2007. The cut came as lawmakers earmarked more money for critical local projects like the Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and the Punxsutawney Weather Museum in Pennsylvania.

The NSF supports the work and training of many mathematicians, physicists, chemists, engineers, computer scientists, biologists and environmental experts. The new budget is $105 million less than it got last year and $272 million less than President Bush requested.

We agree with Representative Vernon J. Ehlers, Republican of Michigan, who is also a former physics professor. He said that the cut was

. . . extremely short-sighted and shows a dangerous disregard for our nation's future. I am astonished that we would make this decision at a time when other nations continue to surpass our students in math and science and consistently increase their funding of basic research. . . . The National Science Foundation supports technological innovation that is crucial to the sustained economic prosperity that America has enjoyed for several decades.

But I'll bet that the "faith-based" projects aren't having budget cuts.


Next week, we'll tell you of the deteriorating rationality situation in Korea, and some really startling and alarming details about our examination of a Sylvia Browne $700-a-pop reading that we're analyzing. Incidentally, we need another couple such tapes, so if you know anyone who has one, please let us know. As always, complete anonymity is guaranteed.

We're closing in on having 400 registrants for The Amaz!ng Meeting 3, and Linda is juggling all sorts of arrangements for participants and registrants. The last of The Slammer tours is going up on eBay, and we're revving up for January....!

Finally, we must tell you that our surprise index was broken last week when we learned that our buddy Penn — the big half of Penn & Teller — has surrendered to matrimony! Go to and do a search on Jillette, then click to see the deed being done....