Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

How to Get Conjurer James Randi to Give You $1 Million (Video)

Roblimo posted about a year ago | from the conversations-with-physicists-and-other-delights dept.

Science 219

This is the second of our two-part interview (part one ran yesterday) with Conjurer and Investigator (his words) James Randi, whose organization, the James Randi Education Foundation, has a long-standing offer: prove you have paranormal abilities and they'll give you $1 Million. They say they've recently made this award easier than ever to win. Note that, lower bar or no, Randi claims the last time a conjurer's illusion fooled him was many years ago, when he was very young. It was one done by the famous Chan Canasta -- and Randi claims that in the end he figured it out, anyway. So forget the $1 Million, relax, and enjoy James Randi. He's a great raconteur, so we can all be jealous of interviewer Rob Rozeboom (samzenpus) for having made this great video even as we enjoy watching it.

cancel ×

219 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Jealous of samzenpus? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351235)

"...so we can all be jealous of interviewer Rob Rozeboom (samzenpus) for having made this great video even as we enjoy watching it."

If Slashdot were anthropomorphized to have arms, I would imagine that they'd all be broken by now from patting itself on the back so violently.

Re:Jealous of samzenpus? (4, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43351271)

Damnit, stop anthropomorphizing Slashdot. It hates that.

One of us? (5, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | about a year ago | (#43351267)

So samzenpus has never seen The Sting, nor heard of Richard Feynman?

Re:One of us? (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43351403)

Rozeboom doesn't make a good showing at all I have to say, Randi is talking about how he wants to go while working and oprah drops the "well an interview is kind of work, so there you go, dream come true" clanger. I mean what?

Re:One of us? (1)

click2005 (921437) | about a year ago | (#43351667)

Not an impossible situation (even on slashdot), just very improbable.

Re:One of us? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43352269)

"So samzenpus has never seen The Sting, nor heard of Richard Feynman?"

Apparently no video camera nor microphone worth their name either.

Re:One of us? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43354807)

Yeah, I caught that too. Given finite life hours and the huge number of entertainments I can overlook not seeing the movie but to moderate a geek/nerd site and not know of Feynman, one of the finer physicists of last century, known for working on the atom bomb, cracking safes, playing drums, painting, serving with distinction on the Challenger commission, his highly-regarding filmed lectures series, his Nobel prize, his pithy sayings which have spread, his series of very successful books, comments on education and science, seems.... whacked. There is a lot of world from which to choose to what to take in, or have the chance to be exposed to, highly variable for each person, but still, I was surprised.

Perhaps it's simply that, to me anyway, young'uns don't seem to question much, don't read a whole bunch - and then not very widely, depth unknown, and don't seem to socialize with all that many people outside their own 'peer' group - especially educated people in a disparate variety of fields. They may be smart, there's just a seeming lack sometimes of breadth or depth. But it Rob's case I'm simply wild-ass guessing, and mean entirely no disrespect, nor assumption of facts not in evidence - I gots enough problems without visiting any onto others.

He did come up with a good thing: "Good Chance!" That's a good finish and worth keeping.

An Element of the Divine (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351291)

In the early 80's, I recall seeing "An Element of the Divine" on Arthur C. Clarke's Strange World I think it was called. Randi and Clarke were testing dowsers. Randi predictably declared all the dowsers bogus after a small experiment. Clarke disagreed, saying that there were two experiments, one to find water and the other to find metals. The water dowsers apparently had a much higher rate of success than the metal dowsers. Randi didn't even raise his eyebrows. Not saying he is a fraud or doesn't believe in what he is doing, but his objectivity seems highly suspect to me. His convictions seem to get in the way of his thinking, and I am pretty sure that the money will never be awarded no matter how well the subject matter may be demonstrated.

Re:An Element of the Divine (4, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year ago | (#43351377)

I am also pretty sure the money will never be awarded. But that's because MAGIC ISN'T REAL.
I haven't seen that program you mention, but it is very hard to do Good Science on a television show. It's too boring. That is probably why Randi didn't play along.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351445)

You're right about that, but the show in question was hosted by Arthur Clarke, someone who, unlike Randi, actually had genuine scientific credentials.And although Clarke was unconvinced, it was by using statistics that he noted the discrepancy. It looked Randi's position was based as much on faith/conviction as evidence. The episode is probably available at YouTube, but I doubt if evidence will convince any Randi fans to take a second look. That's not his style. Ironic that Clarke's third law deals with the magic of which you speak.While most paranormal stuff is probably false, digging one's heels in and refusing to look at evidence is hardly what I would call a scientific attitude.

Re:An Element of the Divine (5, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | about a year ago | (#43351733)

Scientific credentials doesn't stop someone from being fooled. Read up on Project Alpha [wikipedia.org] where two mentalists were able (with the assistance of Randi) to con a paranormal research group into thinking they had genuine psychic powers. The con was simply to kick up a fuss until the protocols went their way and bend things when people weren't looking. The scientists were even ready to announce their results to the world when Randi stepped in and revealed the hoax to them. Scientists are not necessarily equipped to spot frauds from occurring whereas magicians and confidence tricksters might well be. They have much to learn from each other especially when paranormal claims are being examined.

Re:An Element of the Divine (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43351869)

You're right about that, but the show in question was hosted by Arthur Clarke, someone who, unlike Randi, actually had genuine scientific credentials.

Randi's credentials are in fooling other people. To me that seems more relevant than "science" for detecting fraudsters.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43352149)

had genuine scientific credentials

Why the emphasis on credentials? How does that make someone better at detecting fraud? And why discount Randi's life experience at detecting the sort of fraud that they were looking for? You need to keep in mind that as the AC described it, Randi could observe the dowsers in action. That seems plenty of evidence right there on which to base a determination. The behavior of people is quite revealing.

Then there's matter that the statistics backed up Randi's judgment. So it might look like to the naive and gullible outside viewer that Randi didn't give them a fair shake, but he ended up right.

It doesn't have to be scientific method to be a good approach. If you're blatantly force-choking someone across the room, Darth Vader-style, Randi will pay out. If your special powers are indistinguishable from faking it, then that's too bad.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

narcc (412956) | about a year ago | (#43352921)

Then there's matter that the statistics backed up Randi's judgment.

Clarke's point was that the statistics did not back-up Randi's judgment.

Don't take Clake's word, or my own, for it -- do the analysis yourself.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43354289)

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. Collecting an endless amount of hopeful, poorly evaluated bad data can provide "statistically valid results" that will overwhelm the most rigorous data and testing by its sheer volume. This happens in medicine all the time: poorly gathered results for exciting new drugs, and for herbal remedies, and for newly patentable treatments, are often gathered with great attention to the patient and close monitoring. But the *attention itself* improves the patient's condition, even with useless treatment, because they see their doctor's more regularly, they take their medication more regularly, they report and deal with issues that might interfere with the main problem, etc.

I've actually seen this happen with experimental drugs, where the exciting new treatment was shown not to give any benefit whatsoever if you paid as much attention to the patients who didn't get it. Double blind work wasn't feasible because the medication had real, detectable effects, but we found a lab that had been giving as much attention as the patents got with the new treatment, and they saw no benefit whatsoever. It killed a pretty lucrative research grant, too.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351721)

I am also pretty sure the money will never be awarded. But that's because MAGIC ISN'T REAL.

Wrong. The money won't be awarded because it's a rigged challenge, anything which can be proven as real is by definition no longer magic and thus excluded from the award.
But as for the guy in question, he isn't a Scientist. A Scientist does not pre-judge the outcome, either in favor or opposed to the claim being valid.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43352343)

A Scientist does not pre-judge the outcome, either in favor or opposed to the claim being valid.

So every time you open a door, you believe there is a 50% chance the door conceals a pagacorn (the rare horned-winged horse). After all, to expect that there isn't is pre-judging the outcome.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43352537)

You aren't supposed to assume that the chance is 50%. However, I believe the chance is greater than 0. Surely some time in future someone will use genetic technology to produce a horse like that. And, as you already used the black swan argument, you are not allowed to play the "no true Scotsman" card anymore.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43352929)

So you think there's a non-zero chance that the people who genetically create the pegacorn will hide it in your closet as the first place the world will see it. I'll play the "you are stupid" card. The chance is close enough to zero that it rounds down, and to act otherwise is silly. But then, I do risk analysis on a daily basis, so I don't expect most regular people to get it. You seem to think the chance to be low, but non zero. And I didn't use the "black swan" argument. Black swans are real, pegacorns are not. I just made them up.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43353059)

Moving the goalpost mark?

"Looking behind a door", and 'looking behind a closet door are not the same thing!

Eg, the GP's analysis would hold if said door was to the "don't go in here! Top secret and unethical genetic experiments room! NO admittance!" Room, and the mad scientist inside had indeed injected somatic cells from a goose embryo and a norwhal embryo into a miniature pony embryo, causing it to develop goose wings and a spiral horn on its head, and gestating the animal to term.

It *IS* possible to do that, so the "pegacorn" can potentially exist. He did an end run around your claiming te transgenic horror isn't a "true" pegacorn, hence the no true scottsman rhetoric.

Your response was to move the goal post, (so, now its somehow specifically a CLOSET door? And not just any old door, like it was before? Interesting...) and verbally abuse him, rather than behave yourself with propr candor.

Good show sir, your wit has been absolutely entertaining.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353071)

The chance is close enough to zero that it rounds down

I don't think you understand 'zero' in the context it's being used.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

angelic upstart (1330279) | about a year ago | (#43352845)

If you could demonstrate true psychic powers within the testing protocols you will be awarded the money. It doesn't require it to be explainable.

Re:An Element of the Divine (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43354157)

Scientists are very easily fooled. This is an old problem where figures of authority are often implicitly trusted by others, enough so that figures of authority often convince themselves that they are more reliable than they really are. The classic one I like is Arthur Conan Doyle, who was often praised for his logical stories of Sherlock Holmes (which when read carefully are amazingly full of plot holes and faulty logic); Doyle later believed the two girls who said that they had taken pictures of fairies in their yard, declaring the photographs to be authentic.

Scientists were also trivially fooled by Uri Geller with what was basically stage magic. Scientists are just not trained to deal well with test subjects who are intent on fooling them. Lab rats and monkeys and aren't devious like fake psychics are. Psychics love scientists because they are dubious, but psychics hate magicians because magicians know the tricks of the trade.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353953)

But that's because MAGIC ISN'T REAL.

Yes, but any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. A modern-day Nikola Tesla who has invented some sort of revolutionary technology might very well be able to spin it as magic.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

overlordofmu (1422163) | about a year ago | (#43354693)

I once felt as you do: magic isn't real. I changed my beliefs only because I eventually had my own direct experience with non-ordinary reality. ("Non-ordinary reality" being a more clinical term for "magic".)

I cannot prove this to you. Only your own direct experience with non-ordinary reality will make you believe in it.

Saying you don't believe in magic makes sense when you have never seen it. When you have seen it it makes sense to believe in it. I really do hope you get to experience magic some day.

It was wonderful (as in truly full of wonder) to realize I was wrong about "reality". To quote Richard Bach: "What a pleasure to be wrong."

Re:An Element of the Divine (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43351481)

More water is likely available.

It will never be awarded because magic is fake. No one has even come close, because magic is fake. If dowsing was real a trained dowser would do better than an untrained one.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351539)

How would you train a dowser? And if you had seen the show (where Clarke was attempting to debunk a number of paranormal beliefs), you would have seen that in that particular experiment, there was a statistical difference between what was observed and what should have occurred. Again, evidence is no match for conviction it seems. Sounds like science has turned into religion.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43351611)

I would assume practice makes you perfect at conning people.

How do you know what should have occurred? You would have to also check to ensure they did not use other methods to increase their odds. Were they blinded while dowsing?

Science is not a religion, not matter how many times you say that.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43351821)

Personally, I think the issue (weather or not the money will be awarded) depends on how one defines "paranormal".

If you mean "paranormal" as in "cannot possibly happen/pure suspension of the real/magic." Then no, it will never be awarded, because nothing unreal exists.

If you mean "paranormal" as in "falls outside the scope of what is considered humanly possible" then it is theoretically awardable.

Example experiment:

Humans can't normally see UV light or UV dyes. So, I paint a sheet of purple paper with UV reflective dyes that respond to UV emissions *WAY* outside human perception. The dyes are aranged on the paper in the form of a very recognizable image. I will pay you to tell me what the images I have printed on my papers are, reliably, consistently, and without any external assistance.

The experiment tests for paranormal vision, where "paranormal" is used in the second sense of the word. Humans with mutant photoreceptor protiens may well be able to meet the qualifications of the test, and would indeed have such paranormal vision.

Same with ESP. Humans lack specialized sensory organs to detect electromagnetism, for instance. Demonstrating an ability to reliably detect such phenomena would be genuine ESP.

Again, if you kneejerk stamp "MAGIC!" On those terms, then science is not and cannot ever deal with them.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year ago | (#43352347)

Except you just explained it and there is no mystery. Mutant photoreceptors.
That doesn't meet the 'paranormal' criteria since that is perfectly normal (well not common or in the least bit likely, but it has a normal explanation).

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year ago | (#43352593)

Again, if you kneejerk stamp "MAGIC!" On those terms, then science is not and cannot ever deal with them.

Except you just explained it and there is no mystery. Mutant photoreceptors. That doesn't meet the 'paranormal' criteria since that is perfectly normal (well not common or in the least bit likely, but it has a normal explanation).

Yet again, if you kneejerk stamp "MAGIC!" On those terms, then science is not and cannot ever deal with them. If Randi takes time to study someone exhibiting telekinesis and determines that their brain is producing some quantum effect, plucking at the stuff of spacetime itself and creating gravitons, then he just explained it and there is no mystery. No $1M.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year ago | (#43353063)

Not quite.

The example above involves no new concepts. UV sensitive photoreceptors sensing photons.
No physics paper could be written about it. Its mild biological curiosity at best.

Now naturally occurring quantum entanglement in brain cells allowing thoughts to be conveyed from one person to another?
You could certainly write a physics paper on that. And you'd also collect your million bucks.

The difference being that telepathy cannot occur using any laws of physics that we know about.
Seeing UV light? That is physics 101, just in a strange form.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#43353217)

Incorrect, determining the mechanism behind the "paranormal" telepathy makes it cease being "paranormal" under the definition you are employing, because it then DOES fall inside the realm of scientific knowledge. In order for it to satisfy that definition, the following would have to be true:

1) there is a multiverse
2) the phenomenon makes use of the physics inside another different universe
3) because of 1 and 2, the full scope of possible interaction and mechanism can never be fully known by the science and physics of THIS universe, only the intial states, and the outputs.

Eg, something akin to:

"Oh look! I can send a superluminal message via (mechanism X) of a W boson! Who knew that you could correlate natural weak force decay of two baryons consistently using the (X mechanism), regardless of the distances between them!?"

"That's fascinting Mr Specious P. Aytchdee! How does it work!?"

"We don't know, and can never know! It somehow just does!"

*THAT* is the goalpost set by the challenge, using the definition of paranormal you are invoking.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year ago | (#43353409)

Yes it does cease being paranormal once you explain it, however you are missing two points:

1. You don't need to explain any of these things. You only need to show them in controlled conditions.
You don't need to know how it works - most of these people give nonsensical answers anyway.

2. You'd still get the million if you opened up a new field of physics out of what has been called paranormal (psychics, telekinesis, etc...).

Randi doesn't keep moving the goal posts. Its just that no one goes to him and does anything he can't explain using current physics.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43354359)

That's now how his challenge works. It doesn't fail just because he can explain it, it fails because it can't be done under the test conditions that both sides agree too. If they do have extra photoreceptors then it's not cheating, and if the test passes according to the conditions then they'll get the money. I don't know how it's done now, but in the past a check was held by a lawyer ready to hand it to either party based on the results.

Currently though, to weed out lots of nuisance challenges and the mentally ill, applicants do need to present press clippings, have a publicly video demonstration, or have a letter from an academic institution. Trivial hurdles for someone with true paranormal abilities though.

Of course the people Randi is targeting are those claiming somewhat traditional paranormal abilities. Psychics detectives, dowsers, mind readers, that sort of thing. Big name psychics who swear up and down that they're the real deal don't take his tests, despite being an easy one million dollars to keep or give to charity.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43354223)

Actually I read somewhere that quite a lot of women can see outside what is considered "normal" vision range. It's nothing special though since they just have more types of cones in their eyes. Not even mutant since it's common enough.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

quenda (644621) | about a year ago | (#43354347)

Humans with mutant photoreceptor protiens may well be able to meet the qualifications of the test,

No, UV is blocked before reaching the retina. What you need is someone who has had cataract surgery, and no replacement UV filter.

http://www.komar.org/faq/colorado-cataract-surgery-crystalens/ultra-violet-color-glow/ [komar.org]

Not quite ESP - maybe super-sensory perception?

Re:An Element of the Divine (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43351847)

How come nobody can demonstrate dowsing under controlled conditions?

All you need is two underground pipes and a valve. Pick the pipe with water in it with better than random results, claim your million bucks.

Why has nobody done it?

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year ago | (#43352369)

I was about to post something similar. Dowsing is always done on random land and chances are you can find water on random land.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43354203)

Statistically relevant? Able to be repeated? A statistical difference is nothing, it happens all the time, and it can happen due to chance. Crunch the numbers and what you get is a likelihood that the differences are significant enough to warrent further investigation.

Dowsing is easy and easy for the dowser to get fooled by it. Especially when finding a place to dig a well, as my grandfather did: but you also know when dowsing where water is most likely to be based on the terrrain, and no one ever goes and digs wells every three feet in a grid to prove that the spot where dowsing said there was water was the best location for getting water. Instead you dowse, you use your intelligence, you dig a well, you find water, and then you decide whether or not it was the dowsing that did the trick versus all the other evidence.

I have seen somewhat intelligent people do stupid things here, like putting down three buckets of water and while knowing exactly which bucket has the water in it they will start dowsing and ta-da dowsing picks out the right bucket. Now if dowsing were real, would you get exactly the same force from a tiny bucket of water versus enough water worth digging a well for? I would think not and yet it's exactly the same force.

But it's a fun trick. Show it to kids, amaze the kids, but afterwords be sure to tell them that it is just a trick and not real.

Re:An Element of the Divine (2)

ravenscar (1662985) | about a year ago | (#43351649)

Thank you. The more abundant something is, the more likely someone is to "discover it." Let's say that I got a large cage. On the bottom of the cage I put a piece of paper that was 60% white, 30% blue, and 10% black. I then found two blind lab rats and said that one could find black and the other could find blue. I noted that the rats would stop moving when they were on the color they were "able" to find. Ruling out external factors such as the black squares being warmer (and, as such, attracting the rats), I think we would all expect the rat that can find the color blue to have the highest success rate.

Judging from a quick google image search of groundwater maps of the US and iron ore maps of the US I think it's likely that a water dowser would be much more successful than a metal dowser.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

DrXym (126579) | about a year ago | (#43351547)

His convictions seem to get in the way of his thinking, and I am pretty sure that the money will never be awarded no matter how well the subject matter may be demonstrated.

You're flat out wrong. The challenge is very straightforward to understand - someone claims they can do something paranormal, they fill out a form to apply, they agree to a protocol that demonstrates this power in a self evident fashion and they do it (or not). If they succeed and they get a cheque for 10,000 dollars on the spot and the remainder within a period of time. The protocol would obviously be designed to prevent cheating or arriving at the result by chance alone but aside from that the important part is it's self evident. No judges, no argumentation, no subjectivity. The person either does or does not pass in an obvious way.

Besides, In the event that someone passed and the money was not forthcoming, their notoriety would go through the roof and they quickly amass a small fortune in book contracts and other deals that would enable them to sue the living daylights out of JREF and utterly ruin it.

Not that it's ever likely to happen of course.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351897)

If I demonstrate my telekinesis, I don't think I
will be able to spend the money from a government dissection laboratory cell. No way in hell is anyone with paranormal ability going to let others know about it. And they aren't likely to need money...

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

DrXym (126579) | about a year ago | (#43352087)

If you could demonstrate genuine telekinesis, the very last thing a government would do is chop you up because a) it wouldn't show up anything worth knowing b) you are an immensely valuable asset to keep alive and throwing millions of dollars at if that's what it takes to keep you happy. And blowjobs.

Besides we may as well apply that lame excuse to explain the non existence of other things. e.g. maybe sentient teapots don't announce their presence for fear of getting dissected in government laboratories.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43354371)

Plus the people Randi is interested in here are those who are already out and about in the public claiming to be the real deal. These are not people hiding in the shadows afraid of government spooks ready to dissect them.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43352225)

someone claims they can do something paranormal, they fill out a form to apply, they agree to a protocol that demonstrates this power in a self evident fashion and they do it (or not).

Wrong. They fill out the form, the foundation decides if they consider the activity to be paranormal enough, as in nothing that they know already can be done or explained. Then they decide whether or not to accept the demonstration, and proceed to set a lot of very un-scientific restrictions on testing. For example, someone who claims to be able to use divination under the full moon to locate naturally occuring wellsprings will be placed inside a man-made facility at noon and told to locate a bottle of water. If you read up on the past examples you can tell that the rules they set forward for a demonstration are geared towards producing a failed experiment, as opposed to creating a neutral and sterile scientific test environment.

Please note that I'm not a believer in any of that hocus-pocus crap, but I've looked at how these guys run their "challenge" and it's not scientific at all.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43352351)

Can you provide a single case backing your assertion? If someone claims to need the full moon, that will be incorporated into the protocol.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

DrXym (126579) | about a year ago | (#43352377)

Utter horseshit. The protocol is agreed upon by both parties. i.e. you propose a test, I make a counter proposal and we negotiate on points until it is agreed upon what you claim, how it should be demonstrated and in what conditions to our mutual satisfaction. It's actually in JREF's interests to accommodate any reasonable demand so that the applicant is entirely satisfied with the test protocol and can't trot out some bullshit excuse afterwards to explain their failure.

I'm pretty sure JREF is well used to applicants pretending that skeptical mindbeams or the position of furniture or the sun through the window somehow interfered their amazing powerz which worked in other, less controlled circumstances.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

j-beda (85386) | about a year ago | (#43354207)

Utter horseshit. The protocol is agreed upon by both parties. i.e. you propose a test, I make a counter proposal and we negotiate on points until it is agreed upon what you claim, how it should be demonstrated and in what conditions to our mutual satisfaction. It's actually in JREF's interests to accommodate any reasonable demand so that the applicant is entirely satisfied with the test protocol and can't trot out some bullshit excuse afterwards to explain their failure.

I'm pretty sure JREF is well used to applicants pretending that skeptical mindbeams or the position of furniture or the sun through the window somehow interfered their amazing powerz which worked in other, less controlled circumstances.

Most of the test that I have been aware of start out with performing the demonstration unblinded so the claimant can be assured that none of test conditions are interfering with their "powerz". So the dowser can walk through the course and with their magic rods and watch them work 100% for each bucket of water or bucket of non-water (or whatever) they claim to be able to detect. Then the test starts by mixing up the buckets and covering them each with a cloth (or whatever double-blinding system that the claimant agreed to), and their ability invariably falls to that dictated by statistics.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43354381)

And what is your special power, for the record?

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43351559)

The water dowsers apparently had a much higher rate of success than the metal dowsers.

Did the water dowsers pass their test? If not, what difference does it make if they did "better" than the metal dowsers?

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351633)

You can see part of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpKazWSmH10 [youtube.com] although the guy talking is stating the results are a bit stronger than they actually were. The "test" was to find where a) water and b) metal were located under some crates. The dowsers looking for metals were "hopeless" according to Clarke, but the water dowsers did twenty times better than chance dictated I do not know of any follow up study but I was interested by the attitudes of the people involved Randi designed the experiment to debunk dowsing and he thought he did. Clarke noticed that his conclusion was premature. It just seemed to me that if you were trying to genuinely test something you would be a bit more careful with your data and a bit more conservative in coming to a conclusion, Maybe it was all bogus, or maybe it deserves further tests. Either way, by the reactions I see here, no one will bother to test it again, regardless of the outcome. I am willing to bet that no one here saying that this is all "magic" actually performed similar experiments despite the simplicity of the experiment. Anyway, U was about ten when I saw the show, and I have never taken Randi seriously since then.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351797)

You seem to think Randi has only ever seen this one test of water dowsing.
In actual fact, water dowsing has been tested thousands of times, both by Randi and by others, both before and after that particular event.
A single experiment with anomalous results, in the face of thousands of non-anomalous results, simply demonstrates the variance of chance.
Please consult http://xkcd.com/882/ for a visual example.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

richlv (778496) | about a year ago | (#43351585)

well.. if there was a solid proof, there is no way the award could not be successfully claimed. if you say "I am pretty sure that the money will never be awarded", you are on the track of thinking that all claimants are either insane, or frauds :)

if something is real and provable, you can convince all skeptics - you might have to work on it and spent some time in repeatable experiments, but those people love facts, and they can change their views - if there are, in fact, facts.

Re:An Element of the Divine (2)

realmolo (574068) | about a year ago | (#43351629)

Dowsing is crap.

You know why the "water dowsers" had higher success? Because in most places on Earth, if you dig a few feet, you will find water.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

LesFerg (452838) | about a year ago | (#43354327)

Dowsing is crap.

Too true. The only real statistical proof would come from getting a dowser to flag an equal number of places that DO have water and DO NOT have water below them. If the statistical anomaly is larger than random for both sets of identified locations, then maybe we would have to start believing in something.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351659)

Wait, what? So you're saying you think dowsing actually works?

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351715)

Rather than any magical powers, it seems likely that a successful dowser could have an intuitive grasp of the contours and geography likely to lead to water being relatively near the surface in a given area. Frank Lloyd Wright figured out where to drill for water in his place outside of Phoenix; he just seems to have had a feel for the shape of the land. A good dowser might be similar - after all, water's not that uncommon.

Re:An Element of the Divine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43354355)

You are right. Our mind have many more senses than the 5 physical ones, these are usually manifested as "gut feelings", however it's very easy to confuse what your mind is sensing with something your mind is just making up, therefore most of us don't trust our gut feelings.

There is no such thing as a "psychic", we all have these extra senses, , we just need to learn how to "listen" to them, otherwise is like walking into a bar in a foreign country: all the conversations around you are background noise unless you learn the language. Individuals that call themselves "psychics" have a natural talent to understand this language the same way singers or pro athletes have natural talents to perform.

There are even courses out there where anybody can learn dousing, remote viewing, etc. the Silva Method among them.

Re:An Element of the Divine (4, Informative)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43351809)

In the early 80's, I recall seeing "An Element of the Divine" on Arthur C. Clarke's Strange World I think it was called. Randi and Clarke were testing dowsers.

This?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqoYrSd94kA [youtube.com]

t his objectivity seems highly suspect to me. His convictions seem to get in the way of his thinking, and I am pretty sure that the money will never be awarded no matter how well the subject matter may be demonstrated.

Rubbish.

The experiments he does are always designed so that the result is obvious to anybody watching. Results are black/white, yes/no. No interpretation or judgment is needed from him.

The participants are asked at every stage if they're happy (mainly so they can't claim afterwards that they weren't...). They get trial runs, things are altered as needed so they're sure they can perform.

Randi couldn't possibly be more fair in what he does, yet the million goes unclaimed...

Re:An Element of the Divine (2)

Arker (91948) | about a year ago | (#43352289)

Randi is a Fundamentalist Materialist. Just about as annoying as the other Fundamentalists, in his own way, though he certainly has a charming side as well. But you are right, objectivity? He has none, he has faith in materialism just as unquestioning as the faith others hold in supernaturalism.

He's been putting out this 'reward' offer for something demonstrably 'paranormal' many years. A counter-offer was also made, many years ago, for something demonstrably 'normal.' Neither reward has been claimed and likely neither ever will be.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about a year ago | (#43353797)

He believes what he sees, and since there isn't so much as a shred of convincing evidence that any supernatural phenomenon exist, I really can't say I blame him. that doesn't make him a fundamentalist anything; it makes him a realist.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

BancBoy (578080) | about a year ago | (#43354287)

He's been putting out this 'reward' offer for something demonstrably 'paranormal' many years. A counter-offer was also made, many years ago, for something demonstrably 'normal.' Neither reward has been claimed and likely neither ever will be.

Wait a minute. I can demonstrate something normal and I'll get a million dollars? I could've retired before lunch today! Dare I ask what the other website is?

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

j-beda (85386) | about a year ago | (#43354293)

Randi is a Fundamentalist Materialist. Just about as annoying as the other Fundamentalists, in his own way, though he certainly has a charming side as well. But you are right, objectivity? He has none, he has faith in materialism just as unquestioning as the faith others hold in supernaturalism.

He's been putting out this 'reward' offer for something demonstrably 'paranormal' many years. A counter-offer was also made, many years ago, for something demonstrably 'normal.' Neither reward has been claimed and likely neither ever will be.

Do you have a link to this "normal" award terms? I have a whole bunch of things that I am confident I can demonstrate under all sorts of controlled conditions. For a $10,000 or larger prize I would even be willing to travel to try to collect it.

I can't conceive of a way of creating a test of "normal" that would be thought of as such by the "general public", that would not be trivially easy to have happen. Almost by definition, "normal" is the expected behaviour, and while there are a lot of things in the universe that might be "unexpected", there are even more that actually do come out the way they are expected to come out, most of the time.

I suppose perhaps that you could demand that the claimant demonstrate some "normal" effect (like the pattern of night following day) for all time, or the acceleration of gravity being about 10m/s^2 for all objects and not being satisfied unless EVERY object is tested or EVERY day unto eternity is experienced. If that is the case it isn't really a "counter-offer" as the JREF challenge is to demonstrate an effect in just one finite series of tests.

In my opinion, one of the great things that the JREF challenge does is to force the claimant to clearly state what it is that they think they can do, and how that can be distinguished from not being able to do that. It forces some clarity into the claim.

Re:An Element of the Divine (1)

dcollins117 (1267462) | about a year ago | (#43352407)

The water dowsers apparently had a much higher rate of success than the metal dowsers. Randi didn't even raise his eyebrows.

I'm not surprised. If you did a hole anywhere, you'll find water. It's called groundwater.

Redirected to mobile site (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351503)

So Slashdot wasn't content with bugging me to use the mobile site over and over again, now they just load up the mobile site for me. If they are TRYING to drive me away, they are doing a good job. Have they even tried using the mobile site?

Discrimination! (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43351507)

I am discriminated against. I do not have paranormal abilities.

Re:Discrimination! (1)

Spectre (1685) | about a year ago | (#43352525)

I think you are discriminated against in this case (and in politics as well) because you are honest.

Richard Feynman (4, Insightful)

damacus (827187) | about a year ago | (#43351555)

Interviewer didn't know who Richard Feynman was? Missing out on that one.... please renew your geek card.

Re:Richard Feynman (2)

Quirkz (1206400) | about a year ago | (#43351749)

Shame. I highly recommend his book, "Surely You're Joking, Mister Feynman." It's interesting and funny, great tales of crazy ideas and safecracking adventures, and good science, too. It convinced me to major in physics, I liked it so much.

Re:Richard Feynman (1)

eclectro (227083) | about a year ago | (#43351833)

please renew your geek card.

Actually more like burn it. Any consistent reader of reader of Slashdot would know about Feynman at this point. Really, nerd cred goes to zero on that one.

Startgate Project (2)

Sabathius (566108) | about a year ago | (#43351569)

They should talk to Joe McMoneagle, the remote viewer who worked for the US government's psychic spying program. I believe it was he who revealed the Soviet's new Typhoon-class submarine (hello Red October!) before anyone else knew it existed. I think Joe would take his money.

Re:Startgate Project (1)

niado (1650369) | about a year ago | (#43351651)

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] : "According to McMoneagle, humans came from creatures somewhat like sea otters rather than primates and were created in a laboratory by creators who "seeded" the earth and then departed."

Sounds like a ringer to me.

Re:Startgate Project (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351849)

"created in a lab and seeded onto earth" has a lot more merit than either evolution or creationism. Both of those are unproven and batshit insane. Creationism? Humans and presumably the animals and plants rose from dust?

Evolution? An entropic universe just magically tends towards order by random chance? Flowering plants evolved from non-flowering plants? Why would a plant that can reproduce just fine evolve advanced sex organs? That provided no benefit rather than consume energy for all those years they evolved? There's not just one "missing link," there are hundreds. The fact you would dismiss an alternative to evolutionary theory, the fact you would accept evolutionary theory as universal fact, is why many people consider scientists to be generally as dogmatic in their beliefs as any religion. Science isn't a religion, but it's a stretch to think most modern day scientists are actually practicing science. They're chasing grants while trying to avoid rocking the boat. This is why all the big advancements happen in top secret government funded labs.

Re:Startgate Project (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43351893)

"created in a lab and seeded onto earth" has a lot more merit than either evolution or creationism.

More merit than evolution????

Uhmmm, you realize that's basically just Intelligent Design, don't you?

Re:Startgate Project (1)

niado (1650369) | about a year ago | (#43352433)

Evolution? An entropic universe just magically tends towards order by random chance? Flowering plants evolved from non-flowering plants? Why would a plant that can reproduce just fine evolve advanced sex organs? That provided no benefit rather than consume energy for all those years they evolved? There's not just one "missing link," there are hundreds.

Entropy isn't the magic bullet that you think it is. The universe has many instances of things becoming other things, whether through natural phenomena or the intervention of various actors. Entropy only holds while there is no stronger force at work. We don't fully understand how life originated or progressed, but it certainly did somehow. Evolution isn't "random", it occurs through various selection pressures [wikipedia.org] . There are actually more like millions of "missing links", though the concept of a "missing link" [wikipedia.org] in regards to evolutionary theory is somewhat flawed.

The fact you would dismiss an alternative to evolutionary theory, the fact you would accept evolutionary theory as universal fact, is why many people consider scientists to be generally as dogmatic in their beliefs as any religion. Science isn't a religion, but it's a stretch to think most modern day scientists are actually practicing science.

By "many people" I assume you mean "many people who don't understand science". While many scientists are certainly dogmatic, this does not make them wrong.

And there is absolutely no evidence that humans were developed in a lab from otters (or any other creatures) and there is no evidence of the intervention of a "seeder" society on our origination on earth, while there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. I enjoy the Known Space books as much as the next guy, but really, Mr. McMoneagle could hardly have come up with a more ridiculous claim.

Re:Startgate Project (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year ago | (#43352505)

"created in a lab and seeded onto earth" has absolutely no evidence to back it up. Ignoring the fact that you don't understand the second law of thermodynamics, flowering plants have the advantage of promoting genetic diversity, which has allowed them to evolve faster and be more adaptable to the conditions in which they're trying to live.

Re:Startgate Project (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#43352397)

I don't have a dog in this fight, but tell me: how do his wacky biological beliefs have anything to do with his alleged psychic abilities?

Re:Startgate Project (1)

niado (1650369) | about a year ago | (#43352573)

He claims that he saw these things actually happen via remote viewing.

Re:Startgate Project (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43351781)

I think Joe has spent way too much time staring at goats.

Re:Startgate Project (1)

tempest69 (572798) | about a year ago | (#43352325)

And how did we make spider goats without psychics? I mean the cover story of genetic work is a good one, but clearly impossible.

Re:Startgate Project (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43352051)

Oh yeah...he's super reliable. After all, he said he made accurate predictions so it must be true that he did. Why would we need independant confirmation when he said he did it. Good enough for me.

Here are some of his recent predictions from the Wiki article about him...

"McMoneagle's future predictions include the passing of a teenager's "Right to Work" Bill,[16] a new religion without the emphasis of Christianity, a science of the soul,[17] a vaccine for AIDS,[18] a movement to eliminate television,[17] and a 'temporary tattoo' craze that would replace the wearing of clothing.,[19] all of which were supposedly to take place between 2002 and 2006."

100% accuracy!!! Oh wait...i that "1" at the beginning of the number was a typo.

Psychics don't exist, water witching is garbage, magic isn't real. Accept the world as it exists, in reality, have and get on with life.

Re:Startgate Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43352977)

You've got that backwards. Joe McMoneagle should talk to them, if he wants a million dollars, and can do what he claims under controlled conditions.

Reading up on him, his remote viewing results are appear vague fragments, subject to many interpretations. The Randi foundation tests don't allow that. Typically, you get two images to study in advance, and you have to say, clearly and unambiguously, which image is in the target room. That way, there's no arguing over "But I said it was something tall!" kind of results.

How did Chan Canasta fool James Randi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351695)

How did Chan Canasta fool him? I am having trouble finding those details on Google

Re:How did Chan Canasta fool James Randi? (1)

niado (1650369) | about a year ago | (#43351753)

He was 14 at the time. It was probably a relatively simple trick.

Long running bet (2)

belthize (990217) | about a year ago | (#43351831)

I met James Randi when he came to my high school in '83 as guest lecturer in our physics course, then met him again as an undergrad in '87 in a paranormal physics course (basically describing the physics, quantum or otherwise, required for certain paranormal activities to be possible).

Both were fascinating visits, in the first he performed a psychic surgery demonstration. Even standing beside him, knowing it was fake, it sure looked real.

The bet was 20+ years old then. The only thing that's changed in 50 years is the value of the bet. Still no takers.

He's a man that will be sorely missed in the much too soon future.

We just need to organize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43351873)

If we get a million people to take the test and give random answers one of us would be bound to get an abnormally high score by pure chance. Bang! one dollar each. We just need to figure out a schedule for the lot of us.

Why reveal yourself to have paranormal abilities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43352197)

If you have paranormal abilities, you can probably get the $1 million without revealing it to the world.

If you reveal it to the world though, "they" will be coming after you.

Re:Why reveal yourself to have paranormal abilitie (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about a year ago | (#43352733)

If you have paranormal abilities, you can probably get the $1 million without revealing it to the world. If you reveal it to the world though, "they" will be coming after you.

The point of the prize is to ensure that the people who claim they are revealing themselves to the public as having paranormal abilities can prove their claim. If the supernatural exists, and you have abilities which you keep secret, Randi doesn't care about you. He cares about the frauds taking money from the gullible by pretending to be capable of healing them, or talking to their dead loved ones, or whatever else.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that's what this is all about.

true psychics laugh at $1M (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43352481)

When they can rake in the real dough using their psychic powers in the stock market, insurance fraud(? is it fraud if you happen to know the future and don't cause the accident?), gambling, et al. And they wouldn't want people knowing they're psychic either.

Re:true psychics laugh at $1M (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about a year ago | (#43352641)

I'd just win the lotto once and invest in real estate.

They found what? Again? Well I'll be damned. So many monies. What will I do with them all?

Re:true psychics laugh at $1M (1)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year ago | (#43354909)

Psychic ability diminishes when used for greedy purposes. Everyone knows this.

Of course, you could just give the award money to charity, but then you'd just be greedy for being so charitable.

Or something.

Anyways it doesn't work when you're being tested.

An insult to skeptics. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353517)

Randi is not a skeptic, but a cynic. The difference is skeptics don't believe in the unnatural, and cynics JUST KNOW you're a liar and a cheat. When he fails to find evidence for, he concludes it's evidence against.

In that case, cynics are just as bad as the believers. They are opposite ends of the spectrum.

I'd invite people to be skeptics. "You make that claim, and I don't really believe. I will believe when I see the research, and until then, I won't be calling anyone liars, cheats, thieves or act dismissively or aggressively. Because these are not logical behaviors; they are emotional responses."

Re:An insult to skeptics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353687)

When you pretend to have psychic powers, and take people's money in exchange for psychic powers, you are a liar, a cheat, and a thief. The good news is that if you really do have psychic powers, there's a million dollars just waiting for you! All you have to do is demonstrate those powers in a controlled environment.

Pro tip (4, Insightful)

Al Al Cool J (234559) | about a year ago | (#43353643)

When a professional magician offers you a chance to win $1 million, you have absolutely no chance to win $1 million.

Re:Pro tip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43353975)

Only if there is "absolutely" no such thing as the paranormal, which I have no opinion on either way. Why do you?

Re:Pro tip (1)

Al Al Cool J (234559) | about a year ago | (#43354081)

I don't. The point is that a professional magician is specifically trained in deception and trickery. When a magician offers you a chance to win some of their money, it is safe to assume that the game is hopelessly rigged in their favour. That is what magicians do.

Re:Pro tip (1)

j-beda (85386) | about a year ago | (#43354349)

I don't. The point is that a professional magician is specifically trained in deception and trickery. When a magician offers you a chance to win some of their money, it is safe to assume that the game is hopelessly rigged in their favour. That is what magicians do.

I don't disagree, but in this case the question is whether it is Randi rigging things in his favour or the universe (or dare I say "God" :-) rigging things? Does Randi run around messing up all the tests of the true dowsers who try to win the challenge (even those tests conducted by other people on the other side of the world?) or is it the universe that messes things up by the simple physical mechanism of dowsing not actually working to find things?

Personally I figure the reason nobody has manage to claim the money is that nobody being tested actually has the ability that they claim to have had rather than Randi managing to rig the tests so that actual effects are being hidden.

thanks for the raconteur link (1)

cathector (972646) | about a year ago | (#43354219)

thanks to the article author for conveniently providing a link to a definition of 'raconteur'.
that was super helpful.
ditto the link to the wikipedia page for Canasta.
both links are totally cogent and i never would have found that info myself.

I don't need his money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43354475)

Any time I run short, I just hit the racetrack or go to the casino. Too easy!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>