December 17, 2004

No Sixth Sense, The Columbia University Scandal, Ilchi Lee Revisited, Char Margolis At Her Best, Another Medium Well Done, Uri Lays Another Egg, and In Conclusion....


Table of Contents:


NO SIXTH SENSE

Readers often send me notices of interesting items, as I'm sure all of you are aware. When a claim of a "sixth sense" found by scientists in the UK was recently announced in the news, that certainly got my rapt attention. But, as with most of these "breakthroughs," the claim quickly faded upon closer examination. Here's the process:

As a magician, I'm well aware of the difference between "seeing" something, and "perceiving" it. My spectators frequently "see" the secret of a trick, but aren't aware of it — they don't process what enters their eyes, but ignore it. Try this experiment: look over to your left, and focus on some object there. Next, look over to your right — at least 90 degrees to the right — and focus on another object there. Okay? Now answer this question: Did you see anything in between the two objects you focused on? Yes, you did see the information in between, in that the image scanned across your retina as you switched from target to target, but you didn't actually perceive that information. (The difference here is that to "perceive" means to be aware of, or to identify, while "seeing" something is only having the image hit your retina, while you don't necessarily identify it or analyze the data you received.) This small experiment demonstrates the process whereby a spectator can "see" the modus, but not be aware of it because it looks like natural background or ambient information, and it doesn't get processed. All of which brings me to this item:

I've had several notices about a media report that tells of a 52-year old British man with a peculiar condition. He suffered two strokes which damaged his brain areas that would normally process his visual input, leaving him "blind." However, his eyes and optic nerves are still intact, and what really amazes one here is that though researchers at the University of Wales found that he cannot recognize simple, basic images of shapes such as circles or squares, and has a similar lack of success determining the gender of emotionless male and female faces, he is able to identify and analyze pictures of human faces showing strong emotions such as anger, happiness or fear — to a significant degree of accuracy.

The researchers performed brain scans on the subject, which indicated that when he was shown pictures of faces expressing emotion, it activated the part of his brain called the right amygdala, which is known to recognize and respond to non-verbal emotional signals.

Now, this claim is not at all difficult for me to accept as quite possible. However, the report published on the Aljazeera web site (http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/FBEEE8FB-DAEC-48A8-A0F4-1624F408A063.htm) starts with the very erroneous and presumptuous statement:

A completely blind British man has been shown to possess an apparent sixth sense which lets him recognize emotions on people's faces, British scientists said.

That's not at all what they said. The definition of the term "blind" is paramount here, especially when modified as, "completely blind." Consider: the process of "seeing" starts with the information in the form of light entering the eye, becoming a focused image, and hitting the retina. Next, that data is sent to the brain for processing. If this report about the Brit is true, that's where the interpretation has broken down, allowing only the "severe human facial expressions" function of the brain to accept and process the data.

This is not too far-fetched an idea, at all. We know of well-verified examples (few, but enough) of persons who have lost their ability to recognize a person by seeing their face, an ability that I'm told resides in the "right fusiform gyrus," located in the temporal lobe of the brain. These people function quite normally in other respects, but cannot identify even their close relatives from facial features — though they can sometimes identify them through specific costumes, voice patterns, or even individual odors!

Also, persons who have been blind since birth are occasionally able to obtain their sense of sight later in life — and of course have problems with stereo vision (since they've not learned to converge images from the two eyes) and also find that they have to learn the difference between — for examples — the images of an orange and a banana, by actually touching each object; they cannot relate visual images of shapes or sizes to the actual objects. The portions of their brains that could process that data, have not yet learned to do so.

Considering these findings, and assuming that these tests were well done, I do not doubt that the Brit described here is simply exhibiting the limitations of the brain/retina connection. Fascinating, but certainly not well-described by the term "sixth sense." A better description might be that this man has "partial use of his fifth sense."

In relation to the JREF prize, no cigar.


THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SCANDAL

A remarkable scientific paper asking, "Does Prayer Influence the Success of in Vitro Fertilization-Embryo Transfer: Report of a Masked, Randomized Trial," was published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine (JRM), in 2001. It was written by Dr. Kwang Cha, once head of Columbia University's fertility center, Dr. Rogerio Lobo, professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia, and a lawyer, Daniel Wirth, who has no medical credentials, but has a degree in parapsychology — something that should have been setting off alarms all through academia.

The paper concluded that women in a South Korean hospital who had received in vitro fertilization were twice as likely to conceive if they had been prayed for by Christians who were thousands of miles away, and unknown to the women. This was said to be a properly double-blinded experiment, in that the subjects were kept unaware that these "intercessory prayers" had been made. To further blind the tests, the authors wrote, those saying the prayers had seen only unidentified photos of the women they were praying for!

This, on the face of it, should have attracted much more attention simply because of the shattering effect such a finding — if true — would have on the basic fabric of science. The prayers, considered as a transmitted signal of some bizarre nature, whether they had to go through a deity, or directly affected the reproductive systems of the subjects, would be expected to obey the Law of Inverse Squares, one of the most very fundamental laws of nature that has never in the history of our species been "disobeyed." The expected attenuation, over the distances involved, would have had a parallel in a tourist standing on the Great Wall of China, shouting to his wife in New Jersey, and expecting her to not only hear, but to understand his message. Also, how a subject could be selected out of the billions of humans just by a simple two-dimensional photograph, never came up for questioning. This is just magical thinking. Furthermore, from the biological point of view, how the subjects could possibly have been affected by pleas or wishes so that they would be more receptive to artificial insemination, just boggles the mind. This is a scenario that would even be rejected by a producer for the SciFi TV channel.

The question also arises: Just how did such an experiment arise, unless it was prompted by the desire to prove a religious claim....? And where did the financing come from?

Of course, if the reader of the "scientific" paper published in the JRM were to be a believer in the supernatural, such basic considerations of the real world would be insignificant and ignored. However, we would expect that a very prominent University such as Columbia, presenting a paper through a reputable and internationally read scientific journal, might be alarmed at such absurd conclusions apparently arrived at through proper scientific research.

It behooves us, then, to consider the bona fides of the authors of this paper. Dr. Rogerio Lobo is an authority in his field, and has published widely. When interested persons began asking questions about his involvement in the research, he revealed the startling news that though he'd been originally described in the paper as the "lead author" of the study, he'd only "reviewed and edited" the material, having been called in well after-the-fact, when the research had already been done and evaluated. As for Dr. Kwang Cha, he quickly withdrew to the safety of the nearest Ivory Tower and could not be reached by inquirers. Meanwhile, lawyer Daniel Wirth — the third listed author — who had published other articles claiming miraculous, supernatural healing, had come to the serious attention of federal authorities. He has a 20-year record of fraud, something that should have been available to those who were funding this extensive study, yet he was the one who actually set up and managed the prayer groups in the disputed tests!

Over a period of three years, Columbia University and the JRM firmly refused to respond to criticism leveled by other qualified investigators in the field. Dozens of unanswered letters and phone calls to Columbia and to the JRM from Dr. Bruce Flamm, a University of California professor of gynecology and obstetrics who had reviewed the study and raised the alarm early, finally resulted in Columbia withdrawing the name of Dr. Lobo as the lead scientist of the project. Flamm had found inconsistencies and unsound methodology in the scientific paper, and had cast serious doubt on its authenticity. The posting of the paper occurred on Sept. 25, 2001, and somewhere along the line, about April of 2004, it just disappeared from Columbia's news archives web site. Then it re-appeared, and popped in and out of sight for months, the sponsors not willing to either apologize for, or assert the validity of, the matter.

This Columbia "prayer miracle" study scandal has led to much excitement among the faithful around the world, and they celebrated this apparent evidence of what they had always firmly believed, that unexplained wonders could be brought about through prayer. The case was featured in TIME magazine (online edition), the NY Times, the LA Times, Nature Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other journals and news outlets.

Eventually, without fanfare, both the university and the journal removed the study from their websites, and the JRM, without in any way acknowledging Dr. Flamm's efforts or his success, revealed that at long last it was "investigating" the study. What they actually did was publish a defense of the study by Dr. Cha, without publishing any of the correspondence critical of the study that had been sent in by other doctors over the years — the material that Cha was supposed to be responding to! This is the same as allowing a defendant in a court case to present both sides of his case! And, now the journal has returned the study to its website, without Lobo's name — just as if there had been no real problem, and as if their very minimal response to the widespread criticism has mended the situation!

The third co-author of the intercessory prayer study, Daniel Wirth, has just been sentenced to five years in Federal prison for financial improprieties unrelated to the Columbia study — 13 counts of mail fraud and 12 counts of interstate transportation of stolen money — making the official reactions to this scandal perhaps more understandable; those responsible for allowing Wirth inside are embarrassed, and obviously should have known better.

In any case, the incredible results of this absurd study will remain up on the JRM website, serving as supposedly scientific evidence for the supernatural healing power of prayer. That it should have been treated seriously before adequate investigation was made, is incredible. Consider: this widely-publicized "scientific" study claimed to demonstrate an unbelievable improvement in artificial insemination success rates due the use of supernatural or paranormal forces. In the words of Dr. Bruce Flamm, "the entire study appears to be completely absurd." Researcher Dr. Andrew Skolnick, executive director of the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH), in Amherst, NY, points out that in the transmutations of the item as seen on the official websites, it was "corrected" from time to time:

By "correcting" it, they only meant changing Dr. Rogerio Lobo from "lead author" of the miraculous prayer study to "senior author." Did they think that scientists, science reporters, ethicists, and the public would find it more acceptable to call a physician — who had never even heard of the study until long after it had been completed — its "senior" author rather than its "lead author"?

This is the kind of stalling and denial that has made this matter a cause célèbre to not only the hungry media, but to the supernaturalists, who delight in claiming that the nasty skeptics have been trying to erase this proof of the power of prayer. Dr. Skolnick sums up:

So here we are. The lead/senior author of the Columbia prayer study now claims he was not an author. One of the two remaining authors, Daniel Wirth, is behind bars, serving a 5-year sentence for fraud. Josef Horvath, Wirth's crime partner and some-time co-author, with whom he had committed a multitude of frauds over the past two decades, hanged himself in prison several months ago. The editor of the journal, which published the study, still refuses to publish any criticism of the study. For three years, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine editor has refused to print a single letter containing any criticism of the study. The editor will not even answer what the journal's policy is regarding authorship requirements. I have been trying to get an answer to that question since April, with phone calls, emails, and even a personal visit to the editorial office in May.

Now I must finish gathering documents in reply to a request from that director of a university ethics institute. I am hopeful that he will be able to shed some light on how and why this scandal happened, so that similar scientific misconduct in the future will not go uncorrected for so long.

Dr. Bruce Flamm also wrote to Dr. Lawrence D. Devoe, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine:

Below is a copy of a letter I sent you a week ago. I have not heard back from you. As you recall, my letter addressed issues that Dr. Cha raised in the November issue of JRM. My letter is not critical of you or the JRM. It contains important information that your readers deserve to hear about. Could you please let me know if you plan to publish my letter?

He received this terse "form" response:

Your letter has been received and is being reviewed for possible publication in an upcoming issue.

This, to me, is a classic brush-off. Dr. Devoe is now busy laying up stores in the Ivory Tower, methinks.

Folks, we owe Dr. Bruce Flamm a great kudos for his persistence and courage. This sad episode in scientific flummery will go down as a glaring example of the denial of reality that some scientists can summon up in attempts to make the real world go away....


ILCHI LEE REVISITED

Sheldon W. Helms, Department of Psychology at Ohlone College in Fremont, California, made an inquiry about one of the claims made by scam-artist Ilchi Lee of academic support from Weill Cornell Medical College (see www.randi.org/jr/111904the.html#7) and had this response from Sean Kelliher, of the college Public Affairs department:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. "Brain Respiration" is not associated with Weill Cornell Medical College. After our issuing a verbal "cease and desist" order, they have removed the reference to WC from their website. Again, thanks for your help.

Continuing to check out Lee's claims, we managed to contact Dr. Joseph Ingelfinger - who had also been cited by Lee — to find out if he had, in fact, researched Brain Respiration (BR) and found paranormal effects, as Lee had proudly claimed on his website. While Dr. Ingelfinger had told others that he has not researched BR, nor has he personally seen any research evidence of paranormal effects from BR, when I asked him to verify that this was a true statement, he informed me that he now would rather not have any statement of his published. There has to be a reason other than shyness at work here. How much more of Lee's other claims of validation will be found spurious, and what hold does he have over these people?


CHAR MARGOLIS AT HER BEST

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of The New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He writes a column on NFL.com (Tuesday Morning Quarterback — TMQ) each week during the NFL season. This man has some very definite opinions on matters outside of football, however, as we see when we examine just a very small part of his article and transcript of a Char Margolis session on the Larry King show, in "Wait — I See Calls to My 900 Number!" You'll see Gregg's inserted comments here, along with my own. From that article, part of a "reading" wherein "C" is the "caller" and "M" is the "psychic":

LARRY KING: Chesapeake, Ohio. Hello.
M: Hi. Do you have someone who's an "R" or a "B"?
C: Yes.

Randi: "Have someone"? What does that mean? In the family, in school, in the neighborhood, in your mind, in the room? "Someone" can be anyone! Just think about that: a relative (child, parent, grandparent, sibling, cousin, uncle, aunt), a friend (immediate, childhood, school, professional, associate), any acquaintance (casual, business, personal, co-worker, neighbor), fellow workers (colleague, boss, anyone in the office, other business-associated employees), or an artist (favorite singer, actor, writer, teacher, coach). And this includes both the living and the dead, remember! Or, the person's profession or hobbies can begin with either of those letters "R" or "B": researcher or retired, bride or barber — all will work. This is a very wide spectrum. As you follow along here, ask yourself if you would answer "yes" to most of these guesses. Back to the guessing game:

M: Which letter?
C: Both.
M: Is it a male "R"?
C: No.
M: Or a female "R"?
C: Female.

Randi: Please tell me, what other possibility is there — other than a eunuch? A brilliant guess by the medium!

M: Is it spelled "R-O"?
C: No.
M: Or "R-E" like "Renee"?
C: Rebecca.

Randi: She misses one of five possible guesses here, and then hits on the second one — then the victim tells her the exact name, as she fully expected! Is this an easy scam, or what?

M: Don't say names. Is that family to you?
C: Yes.

Randi: Now watch Margolis miss six guesses in a row....

M: Is that your daughter, or your granddaughter? Who is that?
C: My sister.
M: Oh, it's your sister. Okay, I'm not sure — are you supposed to be seeing her soon?
C: I see her all the time.
M: She lives near you?
C: Yes.

Randi: Duh! No, she lives far away, that's how I get to see her all the time!

M: Okay, which one of you — are you worried about her or you with your health?
C: No.
M: Or is someone else?

Randi: Here's that very wide spectrum, again. See my comments about the popular "someone" ploy, above.

C: Not that I know of.
M: I'm mixed up about this one. I'm so sorry. Who has the bad leg or limps? A bad leg or foot? Is that you or her?
C: No.
M: Okay.

Randi: "Mixed up about this one"? How about, just plain wrong? And note the "Who has...." question. It not only covers another wide spectrum of possibilities — including all pets! — but lots of legs and feet, since any leg or foot will do, including four-legged critters and pet millipedes! But King, seeing that this guessing game is going right down the tubes, tries to re-assign Margolis' guesses to the other half of the "an 'R' or a 'B'" field she opened up at the beginning. Larry seems to be learning this racket!

LARRY KING: Maybe it's the "B".
M: Oh, yes, maybe it is the "B". Is the "B" a male?
C: Yes.
M: Is it "B" with an "R" in it, or "Bill" or "Bob"?
C: Bill.

Randi: A serious question here: Is there any reader who can't identify with a "Bill" or a "Bob"? Or a William or a Robert? And where's the "R" we were fishing for, Char? Oh, I forgot; "Bob" is "Robert," which is another reason it's such a common divine revelation made to psychics.

M: Bill. Does he have a bad leg or foot?
C: No.
M: OK. I'm not sure what I'm getting. See, some psychic you are, you're not helping me here.
LARRY KING: Probably the next call will have a bad foot.

Randi: At this point, even Margolis knows she's bombed out, royally. She tosses in the towel.

M: Okay. Can I just say something, though? Sometimes things like this happen, and like, two weeks later there's a problem with the leg. Or Bill's on the phone with her now saying, "I have a bad leg or foot."

Gregg Easterbrook observes:

So although the incredible psychic was totally wrong about this caller, maybe sometime in the future she'll be right. Just try to prove Bill won't someday have a problem with his leg or foot!

Another caller:

LARRY KING: Birmingham, Alabama. Hello.
M: Is there somebody who's a "K" or "C" connected with you?
C: No.
M: Or an "S" or "C"?
C: No.
M: Okay, think of people living and deceased. No?
C: I'm thinking of one person in particular.

Randi: She's just missed on four guesses, and now opens up the range by assuring her that either live or dead folks will do. But when the victim states that she's looking for one certain person, Margolis doesn't want that situation, friends! She wants her victim to have as wide a selection of possibilities as can be allowed, to keep the batting average up! She now has a chance to scold the victim, pointing out just how limited the victim's imagination is proving to be.

M: No, you've got to be open-minded about everybody. You're trying too hard; you're going to mess me up. You're going to make me look like I don't know what I'm doing.
C: All right, a "K," or a "C"....
M: Let me move on to something else, because your mind's not there.

Randi: Yep, Char, it's movin' on time, alright. And your victim has even forgotten about the "S" that she was supposed to search her memory for, so this is a dry river you're fishing in.

Gregg Easterbrook comments on the entire run of guesses:

"You're going to make me look like I don't know what I'm doing." And note that once again the caller has to tell the psychic the letter she is trying to guess. Through the course of an hour-long show and exchanges with 27 callers, on 17 tries Margolis failed to guess any name after repeatedly tossing out common letters, and on 10 tries did guess a name. Eight of the 10 she did guess were James, John, Joseph, Tom or Mary — the most common names. Try this as a parlor game: Throw out two or three common letters, then see if there's anyone at the party who doesn't know someone with one of the letters in his or her name. Next, declare yourself a psychic.

TMQ's favorite moment of the show was Margolis failing to come even close to guessing another caller's problems. Margolis told King, "I'm much better with the dead than I am with the living." But the dead haven't called in!

Go to Margolis' own website at www.char.net/Pages/MyMission.html, where she declares, "As a child I was able to see spirits, read thoughts and foresee events." She must have lost that gift or she would have foreseen how often she would be wrong on Larry King Live! Go here to arrange a 45-minute personal phone conversation with Char Margolis for just $500. In 45 minutes, she's sure to guess your name, especially if you tell her. TMQ would be glad talk to you on the phone and guess your name for just $400 for 45 minutes — a huge discount compared to the professional psychic. Maybe I should start a price war with her! Wait, I can see something — you watch football, don't you? Yes, you watch football on television. Am I right? You watch with someone named J or L or M or B or T or N or G or D, am I right? When you watch, you drink — is it — you drink beer, don't you? Someone close to you complains when you spend all day watching football and drinking beer. Could it be — your wife?

Mr. Easterbrook, you did very well in seeing through Margolis' methods. But remember that, no matter how many misses there are, those for whom she does this song-and-dance are pleased and happy — and satisfied! — to lay out $500 for 45 minutes, when Sylvia Browne gets $750 for just 25 minutes! Char gets $11 a minute, Sylvia gets $30, and is just as accurate! Such a deal!

You can read the entire transcript of this reading, so you'll see that I haven't selected out particularly bad segments to share with you, by going to http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0407/09/lkl.00.html.

Now, dear reader, just as an exercise in analyzing these matters, and without going back over this limited selection taken from the transcript, just try to guess how many questions Char Margolis asked these two victims. She spoke 270 words, but (a) how many questions did she ask, (b) how many of those got "no" answers, and (c) how many actual facts did she state to the two victims?

I'll answer those three matters at the end of this week's page.... No fair going to the end to peek...


ANOTHER MEDIUM WELL DONE

The widely-touted new TV series, "Medium" is said to have been inspired by the magical abilities of one Allison Dubois, a "medium" I'd never heard of previously — but keeping up with the plethora of "real" mediums is quite difficult, as you know. One of her readers sent Dubois an email message telling her about the JREF million-dollar prize (as if she had never heard of it!) and she shot back this inspired response:

He will never give anyone the money and has never shown proof that it exists. He's been asked to. I know the truth and that's good enough.

I answered to a reader who inquired:

First, the Dubois statement "He will never give anyone the money," is probably correct, because people like Dubois won't step up to answer the challenge!

Second, "[he] has never shown proof that it exists" is a blatant lie, and she knows it. I've shown that proof on national TV, and the evidence is easily available through our web site via a notarized statement — see www.randi.org/research/challenge.html, Rule 8. Several TV networks — CNN, ABC-TV, and RAI-TV, among others — have easily obtained the documentation on that matter. As a matter of fact, Dubois can collect the JREF million-dollar prize merely for showing that either (a) her statement that I've never shown the proof, or (b) that the money doesn't exist, is true! But she'll ignore that offer, of course — because she must. If this "revelation" she's made was done using her wondrous powers, it doesn't indicate that she has any. But we're willing to be shown....! We have academics from MIT, Yale, Harvard, Cambridge, and other centers of learning in countries all over the world, just waiting to be asked to design and conduct tests.

Dubois' assertion: "I know the truth and that's good enough" may be good enough for her, but not for anyone else. This is not "the truth," it's a total and a knowing lie....

We must understand that Allison Dubois rightly fears the JREF challenge. Her TV producers don't care a bit whether she's really got powers, nor whether she will take the JREF challenge; they're making money through her, their sponsors will be selling their products to enraptured viewers of their program, and that's all they care about. Truth is something they can't afford. While people will ask her why she doesn't accept, her only answer has to be a series of lies and obfuscations — that's all she has.

Remember Gary Schwartz, the academic at the University of Arizona? He has of course accepted Char Margolis — see above — and not to your surprise, I'm sure, Dubois has also passed all of his tests, and he's warned her to stay clear of me. Writes Schwartz about me:

Despite his nastiness and pathology, I care for the man....I hypothesize that beneath his sickness lies a genuine concern for truth....

I'm touched by this professional diagnosis and compassion from Dr. Schwartz. He follows this with a remarkable statement:

Virtually all credible scientists stay clear of Mr. Randi....

Gary, that comes as quite a surprise to me, I must say. I've spoken to more than one hundred scientific groups over the past fifty years, internationally, from the American Physical Society to Oxford University, and have received nothing but thanks and kudos from literally thousands of scientists — real scientists — from all over the world. Several Nobel Laureates arranged those lectures, and have been, and are, friends of mine. And none of these are "credible" scientists, Dr. Schwartz? Perhaps you meant to write, "credulous"?

Ah, but Dubois herself had the really heavy comments to make here. This is the kind of person that Schwartz finds acceptable. She writes — some spelling corrections made for intelligibility:

You must be getting senile in your old age.

Umm, Allison, that's very often when senility sets in, I believe. Good assignment! And that "smooth-talker" characteristic of yours is showing! Subtle! But, continuing, she writes:

I don't have to do anything for you. I share my real abilities everyday and have positively impacted thousands.

Oh, I don't doubt that, at all. I believe that "impact" consists of misleading and confusing thousands about the nature of reality and common sense. And you're of course correct about not having to do anything for me; I don't recall that I ever implied that you had to, or should! But, gee, Allison, for a million dollars, you wouldn't trouble yourself to just reach out and take the check...? I guess not. She continues:

Just because you have no real talent or abilities yourself doesn't mean everyone else functions on your low level. You can't say one way or another that I talk to the dead or not [sic] we've never met.

Allison, do give me the delight of meeting you and testing your prodigious psychic talents! There are thousands of the Great Unwashed And Unannointed out here in the real world who would go into ecstasies if you — or Sylvia, or Uri, or Dennis, or John, or any of the vast crowd of miracle-workers out there — would just apply for our prize! How can you deny us this delight....? I can't tell you that it'll be as easy as Gary's protocol, where "psychics" can always have their own way, but give it a shot; you might get lucky! As for my own "talent or abilities" that you so impugn, I can make a really excellent omelette, I do a couple of whiz-bang card tricks, and my extraction of a square root brings tears to the eyes of many! But I interrupted you:

Prove your theory, I have nothing to prove to you.

Umm, again, Allison, I don't follow. I have no "theory" to prove, and never have had a theory to prove. Maybe your sensitive, all-knowing, intuitive psychic wires got crossed here? Should look to that problem, I think. I agree, however, that you "have nothing to prove" to me. I'm surprised that you admit it.

There's nothing "amazing" about you or your associates. Your anger is a reflection of your uncertainty or you wouldn't care what I do. I certainly don't care what you do.

That's not anger, Allison; it's dismay and concern, at the fact that people like you can attract the attention of the public, become accepted as genuine — with the assistance of the media and careless scientists — and they bring in fortunes while regular folks have to work for their income. I don't have much "uncertainty" about you, knowing as I now do that — as expected — you've joined the other "genuine psychics/intuitives/spoonbenders" out there who are busy hiding from the JREF challenge. I care about what you do because I care about people who need to be informed about flummery. But you wouldn't understand that, being a predator.

Watch your anger it might get the best of you. You will definitely know the truth when you die. It's a win win for us.

Guess I'll have to wait, then. Did you ever note that the really successful rackets out there depend on the fact that proof of their claims has to await the questioners decease? How very convenient!


URI LAYS ANOTHER EGG

It appears as if "psychic" Uri Geller hasn't learned much more in the way of cute tricks in the over three decades since he first showed up on TV. His act still consists of bending a fork/spoon/key, reproducing a drawing that was made backstage while he covered his eyes and promised not to peek (!), and telling tall tales of his adventures with celebrities. And, obviously, he's also run out of material for getting into the papers, so he has to repeat himself.

Look at the story at www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2004/12/08/ftgeller08.xml and read the incredible account he offers of his services to the Beatles' late John Lennon — and how Lennon gave him an object that he said was left with him by a team of little bug-men from a UFO that came by and knocked on his apartment door late one night. Geller quotes Lennon, using his photographic memory, obviously:

Something happened. Don't ask me what. Either I've forgotten, blocked it out, or they won't let me remember. But after a while they weren't there and I was just lying on the bed, next to Yoko, only I was on the covers. And she woke up and looked at me and asked what was wrong. I couldn't tell her at first. But I had this thing in my hands. They gave it to me.

Those bugs must have stopped off to visit the MIT gift shop during the time the shop was offering the 3-cm-long brass "Supereggs" for sale. This is technically a "superellipsoid," and the story I did on the object back in May of 2002 can be seen at www.randi.org/jr/051002.html. Someone gave me one of these objects — a regular US citizen, not a Martian — some years ago, and miraculously it appears to be identical to the one that came from the UFO! Though Geller is totally mystified and confounded about the source of these "eggs," I think I have it solved. And I'm not even psychic!


IN CONCLUSION...

In the selection from the Margolis reading, (a) Margolis asked 32 questions, (b) she got 22 "no" answers to them (less than one of three correct) and 7 "yes" ones — including the obvious and inescapable "yes" responses pointed out above, and (c) the number of facts she stated was — are you ready? — Zero. None. Zilch. Nada. Nil. Naught. Zip. She told the victims nothing! Re-read it, and see for yourself.

Registration for TAM3 has passed 420, and we expect to top 450! Are YOU one of those registrants....? If not, this may do it: We've added a very special speaker at The Amaz!ng Meeting 3, a writer, TV personality, and avowed skeptic with a definite charisma that you'll enjoy. Christopher Hitchens has written for Vanity Fair, The Nation, Harper's, The New Yorker, Slate, and The Atlantic Monthly, on a wide variety of subjects that require serious criticism. He turned sour on Islam when his friend Salman Rushdie was attacked, and in the years following he increasingly became concerned by the dangers of radical Islamists who supported the fatwa against Rushdie.

In June, 2004, Hitchens wrote a blistering attack on Michael Moore in a review of his latest film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." He has written a book heavily censuring Mother Teresa — "The Missionary Position," and we can expect him to turn several of the sacred cows that we go after, into well-done brisket. I can't wait to see Richard Dawkins and Hitchens getting their heads together....!

Next week, at last, we'll discuss the Sylvia Browne $750 readings. The tape has arrived, and this is NOT going to please Ms. Browne, but will give you some laughs. And, there'll be some unhappy people out there who have already paid...!

And, we’ll tell you how you can get your very own "alien egg," just like John Lennon gave to Uri Geller!