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May 11, 2007


 "…the chief end I propose to myself in all my labours is to vex the world rather than divert it." - Jonathan Swift

 

  1. Stop What You′re Doing
  2. You Can Miss This One
  3. Magnets & Humans & Pyramids - Oh My
  4. Protect The Undetected
  5. Medical Astrology Tested
  6. A Dowsers "Reasoning"
  7. Audio Treat
  8. It′s A Date
  9. Scot Imperfect
  10. Featured Quackery
  11. FC Is Back
  12. Philly Returns To The Dark Ages
  13. Sinners Beware
  14. A Bargain In Miracles
  15. In Closing
An Evening with DawkinsThe Amaz!ng Meeting 5 DVD Set with Bonus Critical Thinking Workshop
and Sunday Papers

Video documenting the fifth Amaz!ng meeting in Las Vegas. Speakers include: Michael Shermer, Penn and Teller, The MythBusters, John Rennie, Scott Dikkers, Phil Plait, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Neil Gershenfeld, Hal Bidlack, Richard Wiseman, Peter Sagal, Christopher Hitchens, Nick Gillespie and Ron Bailey, Eugenie Scott, Lori Lipman-Brown, Jamy Ian Swiss, James Randi, and many more! Includes all Sunday papers! 6 DVDs total spanning over 17 hours.

Price:
$69.00 (International Price: $76.00)*
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STOP WHAT YOU′RE DOING

No one, but no one, can miss going to tinyurl.com/yoy7yq and enjoying a remarkable performance from our excellent friend, Dr. Richard Wiseman. You′ll be fooled, guaranteed… What′s more important is that you'll learn something very important about your own perception. It'll shake you up…




YOU CAN MISS THIS ONE

Quite different is the material at educate-yourself.org/ct/ This is an incredible example of totally crapiola "science" at its worst. Experience it just to see how poorly some people can use the brain they were born with, to create delusions and nonsense that they actually take seriously…




MAGNETS & HUMANS & PYRAMIDS - OH MY!

We′ve just received the official application from Mr. Douglas Dubin, who says that his Perfect Sommelier – look him and it up in randi.org/jr/2007-04/041307mag.html#i5 – will take the JREF prize. We have only to decide on a date, which has been suggested by him as late in June, since I′ll be in Japan just before that. Can′t wait!

But, strangely, we haven′t heard another peep from Jack Myers, who wanted me to pop the homeopathic pills for him, and even offered me money to do so. You′ll find him in the same article as Mr. Dubin…

And now we hear about the Summerhill Pyramid! What? You don′t know about this? Go to summerhill.bc.ca and be astonished! They tell us:

The 14 year experiment is an overwhelming success! The conclusion… There is a definite and profound effect on liquids placed in sacred geometry! Three years of conclusive taste test comparisons in the 900 ft² pyramid led to the building of our new Pyramid that is a 4 story high 3249 ft² 8% replica of the Great Pyramid.

Every day at 2 o′clock, for three years, we toured the smaller pyramid with the general public. We did taste comparisons of the same wine, bottled on the same day, and served at the same temperature. One was stored in the pyramid for 30-90 days and the other never having being put in the pyramid. The results were overwhelming. The tasters chose the pyramid-aged wine almost unanimously every day as being smoother and having a better aroma! These experiments boosted our convictions that indeed, a precisely constructed pyramid (that was oriented to true north versus magnetic north, and that was constructed without the use of ferrous metals so that it would not be reoriented to magnetic north) becomes a chamber for the "clarification" of liquids. For instance, a bad tasting wine, or juice, would become more foul tasting. The chamber seems to bring out flaws as well as exaggerating the qualities.

We humans are made mostly of liquid and seem to be affected by the chamber as well. We can actually feel our own "life force energy" strengthen within the Pyramid!

This is real, unadulterated, woo-woo, folks. Pure and undiluted. More? Sure!

The Pyramid phenomenon′s [sic] are established; however, the reasons for it [sic] can not be explained scientifically. We offer some, of many theories for your consideration as to why pyramids actually have an effect on liquids.

See? Genuine woo-woo. But all this Summerhill stuff gets down to the claim that they, too, have a magical "wine ager" that they peddle. Mind you, they haven′t applied for the JREF prize, as Mr. Dubin has done, so I guess they′re willing to let him snap it up. I′ll leave you with just one more hilarious bit of "science" that Summerhill offers us:

Origin of life force. Ancient civilizations KNEW the origin of life and "life forces" and were able to build monuments such as geometrically precise pyramids and temples that represent these concepts; the Pyramid being perhaps the ultimate channel or higher attunement with the "ALL". Along with the theory that an ancient civilization built the Great Pyramid, Summerhill likes to relate the word Pyramid to Py-Ra-Mid – fire in the middle. The Pyramid is a monument that is a forever reminder that we are divine – The Fire being a G-d force or a life force energy that is within each of us.

But, don′t you want the million-dollar prize, fellas? You gonna let Douglas Dubin take it from under your noses?

Or maybe not…




PROTECT THE UNDETECTED

Reader Michael Harvey, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is alarmed. He tells us that a Canadian authority is considering a move to deal with Bigfoot. Remember him/it? Says Michael:

A fictional animal, with no scientific proof of existence is going to tie up Government time and resources with discussion and debate. Isn′t there something more important they could be discussing? I guess we should start protecting the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and any other fictional characters that come to mind too. I′m writing [the Canadian authority] to express my dismay at bringing something like this forward.

Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, Yeti, and other exotic names, is the legendary hairy man-like beast said to roam the wildernesses of the world. Well, a Canadian Member of Parliament, Mike Lake, has now called for this critter to be protected under Canada′s species-at-risk-act, which we Americans call the "Endangered Species Act." It includes Blue Whales and Whooping Cranes. Now, we′ve seen many of these whales and cranes, but nary a Bigfoot. That′s a species eagerly looked for by cryptozoologists all over the world, but never found. Still, MP Lake warns that Bigfoot is not shy, merely so rare that it risks extinction and should be protected.

In the petition, Lake wrote:

…the petitioners request the House of Commons to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to affect immediate protection of Bigfoot.

A similar appeal, we′re told, has also been made to the US Congress. Lake was encouraged to submit his petition by Todd Standing, who can be found at www.sylvanic.com, claims to have proof of its existence, and says he fears for its safety. Mr. Standing says he has 12 seconds of video footage of Bigfoot roaming Canada′s western Rocky Mountains, but more sober investigators opine that the video was staged by actors.

My question about Bigfoot/Yeti/Sasquatch has always been: Where do they go when they die, and don′t they ever leave any droppings behind? Evaporation? Teleportation? An animal of that purported size would have to maintain a certain rather large population in order to provide enough genetic variation, and such a crowd of hairy guys and gals could hardly go unnoticed for very long…




MEDICAL ASTROLOGY TESTED

Reader Lenny Hipp:

I didn′t see this in the SWIFT archives: tinyurl.com/2g9agn. It′s a study done in Toronto by their Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. In summary, the study, done in the year 2000, involved data from 10,000,000 residents, and compared people′s ailments to their astrological signs. Their findings?

Each of the 12 astrological signs had at least 2 medical disorders associated with them, thus placing people born under a given sign at increased risk compared to those born under different signs… Virgos have an increased risk of vomiting during pregnancy, Pisces have an increased risk of heart failure, and Libras have an increased risk of fracturing their pelvises.

Hmm. Seems interesting so far, right? At first glance, it appears this 10-million-person study has just proved a connection between the human population, their maladies, and astrology. Ah, but when you read further you discover the truth: This information was based on the first 5 million patients. The same study was done to the second half of the collective. If the results had any merit, we could expect to see the same results, right? Nope. NOT A ONE of the new groups broken down by birth signs matched ANY of the initial group′s maladies for the same birth signs!

And you will no doubt NOT be surprised to learn that some pro-astrology sites have picked up on this news item, claiming it as a win for their side…    whether it′s by quote mining, or simple ignorance and a failure to comprehend what was actually being said in the news release is unclear, but my guess is they wouldn′t care either way! See tinyurl.com/2dpqbv for this phenomenon.

Apparently those people didn′t understand the findings, or they missed this sentence: "The study, which used data from 10,000,000 Ontario residents in 2000, was conducted with tongue firmly in cheek."




A DOWSERS "REASONING"

One of the many dowsers who has been corresponding with us – that group is by far the most claim-hungry for the JREF prize – put it to me that the bark on the forked twigs he uses for finding water, mysteriously comes off when he holds the Y-shaped device. It′s not too mysterious, folks: it comes off because that′s what twigs do when they′re twisted! But this chap adamantly refused to try making dowsing actually work – not much of a surprise to us. He wanted to "reason" about it:

Why would I bother (not for the million) seriously, I have done this countless times and have success with depth as well using an iron bar and compass.  I don′t know why it works but have done several wells up in the north here where drilling thru rock was the only way to go and expensive the deeper you go.

Anytime you like I would show you without doubt that the bark twists off from the rods pull… not from me… not even subconsciously. Open your mind… I would like to meet someone who can explain the WHY.

A. Fisher

Are you beginning to see my frustration, folks? If Mr. Fisher could show me a green twig with bark that would NOT come off when twisted, maybe I′d be interested…




AUDIO TREAT

An interesting series of podcasts can be accessed at littleatoms.com/guests.htm The Little Atoms show that recently featured me is now available to download from their website: littleatoms.com/sounds/jamesrandi.mp3 I′ve been asked if I would put a link up on this website.

Done!




IT′S A DATE

From the folks at rallyforreason.com comes this news:

On May 28 (Memorial Day), a "Rally for Reason" will be held outside the gates of the new "CREATION MUSEUM" which is opening that day in Boone County, Kentucky. The so-called museum has been built by the "Answers in Genesis" organization and promotes the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. There was an article in the local newspaper which showed a photo of an exhibit from this "museum." In it a human sat under a palm tree with a small dinosaur! Teaching this nonsense to children is abominable behavior that must be opposed. At the very least, it encourages uncritical thinking.

The purpose of the rally is to raise awareness through the media that there are people who do not accept the dogma and superstition represented by the belief in an Earth that is only six thousand years old. Local groups (including the secular humanist group, FIG) will be present, not to restrict anyone′s right to believe as they choose, but to stand in opposition to presenting those beliefs as scientific fact. We welcome everyone interested in standing with us to promote rationality. More information can be found at our site, above.




SCOT IMPERFECT…

Oh boy, did Scot Morris ever stir up a fuss with his statement at randi.org/jr/2007-05/050307.html#i11 We received some 70 or so comments! Scot wrote:

At three minutes and four seconds after 2 AM on the 6th of May this year, the time and date will be 02:03:04 05/06/07. This will never happen again.

One among many readers who challenged this, was Patrick O′Farrell, in Ireland. He wrote, quite correctly:

Except, in the non-US world, it′ll happen at precisely three mins, 4 secs after 2am on the 5th of June… Maybe our computers will last another month then before exploding!

The difference between the two country′s forms of writing dates, is responsible for this, you see? Reader Bob Ellison, in the UK, wrote:

Well, the world may end on that date, we won′t know until then but… for us Brits the date will be 5th June 2007. So this email is to let you know our world will last an extra month longer than yours. Another way to look at it is that this "once in a lifetime event" actually happens twice. Woo-woo can be entertaining sometimes.

But, much to my surprise, not quite so many persons spotted an even bigger error in Scot′s statement. Steve Wilcox, of Lakewood, Colorado, was one of the first to find it:

Scot Morris is maybe a bit short sighted and too easily amused. 02:03:04 05/06/07 will happen again (in 2107, 2207, 2307, and on and on), just as it′s happened before (in 1907, 1807, etc.)

Reader Bob Stacy was more conservative:

Am I mistaken, or won′t this happen again in 1000 years? Mainly in 3007?

Also correct, of course. You see, Scot should have specified "This will never happen again in our lifetime," and would have been a little safer, I think. But then we also had a few folks like reader R. Piedmont, who were incensed at our ignorance on quite a different matter:

I am surprised you let this nonsense through in the final section of this week′s (05-05-07) SWIFT: "So don′t drink too much on Cinco de Mayo, which falls on May 5th this year, or you might miss it." Cinco de Mayo MEANS "Fifth of May" in Spanish and falls on May 5th EVERY YEAR. If a new-age person had made such a stupid mistake, you′d be all over him, using it as a further example of how unworthy he was to share the planet with you. But since it′s a friend of yours, you will laugh it off.

Duh. Yes, Mr. Piedmont, I did laugh it off, because it was a joke, you see? A tee-hee? A har-har? A ho-ho-ho? Reader Liam Kidney, I suspect in Ireland, had a deeper observation:

Yes it will, and very shortly after, in fact on the 5th of June in the UK & Ireland and lots of other places that count time using a system with a little more common sense behind it! All these different arbitrary systems of measurement make predicting the Apocalypse using numerology very complicated…

Actually, it will happen again in the 3007, 4007, etc. Assuming humans are still around and still measure dates and times in the same format…




FEATURED QUACKERY

Reader Aaron Murray writes:

I was astounded to see a couple weeks ago that one of my local news stations was going to be doing a health report on T.T. [Therapeutic Touch]. See randi.org/hotline/1998/0022.html, for one of many references. It was one of the most credulous reports I have ever seen, especially in a segment that′s supposed to provide the viewer with cutting-edge health information. To view the report, I direct you to fox23news.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoId=57820.

I have included below the e-mail I sent to the reporter and the station manager about my concerns over the report. No surprise, it′s been almost two weeks and still no reply, not even to provide me with the information I asked for.

Aaron′s letter:

Mrs. Hughes, I′m writing to you to respond to a report that you did during your "Health Alert" segment last night. I found the segment to be quite irresponsible and somewhat dangerous, especially to viewers who will seek this treatment as a cure for whatever medical problem they suffer from.

Your report got off to a very misleading start when John Gray used the phrase "how healing touch really works" to introduce your segment. This implies that what you are about to watch is a fact and that it doesn′t just work, but it REALLY works. The report then starts by showing a woman with leukemia having "therapeutic touch" done to her by a nurse. Although not stated in your report, people WILL seek this treatment as a cure for illness, not just as pain relief. Though your chances of having someone in a hospital claim that this will cure them, is very slim, people who practice this technique privately often claim that it will cure them and people do seek this treatment instead of real medical help. This is a very, very, dangerous thing for people to do!

Therapeutic Touch is in no way scientifically proven to have any more than a placebo effect, at best, on patients seeking help. You also made the comparison of T.T. being, "Acupuncture without needles" at the start of your report and acupuncture is also a technique that is not scientifically proven to have any effect. People saying that they feel better or feel something is nothing more than anecdotal evidence and proves nothing. You state that a study shows that T.T. works and I would like to know what study this is and where I can view it because I′m very interested to see exactly what process they used to determine the effectiveness of T.T. If you could provide me with where I can read the study, it would be much appreciated. If not for it being on a News program, during the health segment, I′m sure people would laugh at the idea of healing someone without even touching them and the comedic demonstration of how the technique works through the use of a flashing ball that makes noise, which can be bought in any toy store.

I′d also like to point out that in 1996, a 9-yr-old girl, Emily Rosa from Loveland, Colorado, debunked this technique for a school science fair project. Emily designed an experiment in which she and the healer were separated by a screen. Emily got 21 practitioners of T.T. to sign onto her project. Then Emily decided, by flipping a coin, whether to put her hand over the healer′s left hand or the right hand. The healer was asked to decide where Emily′s hand was hovering. If the healer could detect Emily′s "human energy field," he or she should be able to discern where Emily′s hand was. In 280 tests involving the 21 practitioners, the healers did no better than chance. They identified the correct location of Emily′s hand just 44 percent of the time; if they guessed at random, they would have been right about half the time. In 1998 her findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In closing, I′d just like to say that you should research such things a little bit more in-depth, especially ones concerning health and treatments people might seek out, because most people aren′t going to take the time to research it properly themselves if they see it on the news, since the news is supposed to deliver facts. Also, a contrary opinion, especially in unconventional medical techniques, is certainly required in a report such as this – which you did not supply. In my opinion I believe that unproven, out-of-this-world medical "cures" don′t belong in a health segment of a newscast where people are hoping to receive reliable, solid, health information.

Thank you for your time and I hope you found this e-mail somewhat thought provoking.

Obviously not, Aaron. Ms. Hughes appears to be able to ignore you, very easily. But, if you hear anything besides the usual get-out-of-jail-free ploy of "freedom of speech and opinion, no matter how much harm it does our viewers," let me know…




FC IS BACK

The nonsense known as "Facilitated Communication" seems to live on forever, despite its dismal history of failure. Reader Hank Schlinger:

The link below is to a book review on MSNBC that, once again, touts Facilitated Communication and myths about autism. Go to msnbc.msn.com/id/18476139/site/newsweek/. My letter in response is below.

Hank′s letter:

The story, "Home Is Where the Heart Is," by Even Conant described Facilitated Communication (FC) as "maligned." It is not maligned; it is a sham. Every scientific test has been carried out to demonstrate that it does what its proponents claim, and in every test it has failed. Any other treatment or medicine failing in this manner would be tossed out and forgotten. But not FC. Worse, all the time spent typing for these kids is time wasted in getting them real treatment and education for their debilitating condition. Being in denial about these kids′ problem helps no one but the parents and facilitators who refuse to acknowledge the problem. What a shame for everyone, but especially for the children.

Once again, Newsweek and MSNBC are accomplices in promoting this snake oil.

Go to randi.org/jr/200511/111105derek.html#i7 for only one of the 18 articles I have on this cruel farce.




PHILLY RETURNS TO THE DARK AGES

Reader Brian Kaplan wrote us:

It′s unclear to me why this isn′t fraud, and why they claim that nobody has been taken advantage of.

Brian was referring to a reversal. Unfortunately, our item last week at randi.org/jr/2007-05/050307.html#i6 was prematurely ecstatic. Philadelphia officials have now allowed their giddy "psychics" to return to business as usual without providing any evidence that they′re anything but fakers. See philly.com/philly/news/7307696.html. The city retreated after attorney John Raimondi filed a request last week for a restraining order and preliminary injunction, on grounds that the statute could be invoked only in cases of fraud. But Raimondi also said:

What we said is the law is part of the crimes code. You have to prove that someone has been taken advantage of, and you can′t expect L&I [Licenses & Inspections] to enforce that.

Well, that leaves us a fine opportunity to find someone who has "been taken advantage of," and there are lots of those. With stalwarts like Ray Haupt, Tom Napier, and Eric Krieg heading up the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking, who can be seen at www.phact.org, I think an ad in the newspaper might bring forth a swindled victim…




SINNERS BEWARE

You gotta admire this bunch. Wayne Enterprises Inc., of San Joaquin County, California, is offering its customers "Holy Drinking Water," which it admits is normal, purified water, but each bottle has been blessed by members of the Catholic and Anglican clergy! Wow! Just think of how powerful this H2O is! And, Wayne intends to expand the blessed water to other faiths, as well.

Ah, but the bottle label features a warning to sinners. It says:

If you are a sinner or evil in nature, this product may cause burning, intense heat, sweating, skin irritations, rashes, itchiness, vomiting, bloodshot and watery eyes, pale skin color and oral irritations.

Wayne Enterprises has, they report:

…a priest, churchman, clergyman, cleric, curate, divine, ecclesiastic, elder, father, friar, holy man, lama, monk, padre, pontiff, preacher, rabbi, rector, sky pilot, or vicar

standing by to bless more water, they promise. I only hope they all wash their hands…

Now, this suggests a great test, folks. I just know that this remarkable substance could not possibly fail to affect a really dedicated sinner, a genuine reprobate, a certified, admitted, unrepentant, dark-hearted fiend like me. I′ll even put peanut butter on communion wafers, while gurgling down this "product," and I′ll have no fire extinguisher standing by…

What say? Watch The Amazing go up in flames, fun for the whole family!

But don′t think of throwing Wayne Water on the fire. It goes for two dollars an ounce, blessings and all…




A BARGAIN IN MIRACLES

Reader "Bruce" tells us of an hilarious ad:

Here it is: the Magnetic ESP pill. At tinyurl.com/3cdjsh, Peter Ragnar of "Roaring Lion" is now selling Magneurol6-S for Improved memory – Faster thinking – Clearer thought. It normally sells for $79.95 and now sells for only $49.95. The Magnetic ESP pill contains: Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Folic Acid, Magnetitum Magneurol6-S, DMAE, Inositol, and Choline Bitartrate.

In fact, Magneurol6-S, a Neural Breakthrough, contains the highest quality of Magnetitum available. Magneurol6-S helps: blurred eyesight, brain improvement, convulsions, dizziness, dramatic hearing improvement, ear damage repair, enhanced focus, enhanced touch sensory, eye improvement, fights depression, heart disorders, heightened immune system, insomnia, irritability, kidneys, liver, lungs, more energy, optimized memory, relief of depression, restlessness, stress anxiety, stress reductions, tinnitus, tremors, vertigo, and vision regeneration. And Much More!

There is nothing like it available anywhere! It truly is a unique breakthrough product. Magnetitum may be responsible for magnetically pulling together and reconnecting broken nerve endings! The Secret of Magneurol6-S is that it may contribute to what was once thought impossible: The Rebuilding of Damaged Nerves!

Limited supplies are available due to recent demands. Call now 800-491-7141.

The operating word here is, I think, "may." "Magnetitum," incidentally, is another name for magnetite, FeFe2O4, a very common magnetic iron ore. When you come right down to it, it′s a fancy form of rust…




IN CLOSING…

I′m off to Los Angeles this week, then going to Japan in June to test a bunch of "psychic" claimants…

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