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October 6, 2006

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

Table of Contents:
  1. A Case of Evaluation
  2. Polish Science Challenged
  3. Good News from Cincinnati
  4. Welcome News
  5. What Would Jesus Say?
  6. Yet Another Healer
  7. Kudos to the UAE
  8. Q-Ray Still Around
  9. That Chess Brouhaha
  10. Remember Penta Water?
  11. No Predictions nor Warnings
  12. Good Pointers on Swindling
  13. NCAS Renewed
  14. In Conclusion...

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A Case of Evaluation

At you'll find an article — Are Scientists Afraid of Ghosts? by Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer and the author of Ghost Hunters: William James and the Scientific Search for Life After Death. Apparently Ms. Blum has accepted belief in after-death survival, in spite of her previous acuity of thinking as indicated by her Pulitzer Prize. I will briefly quote from this article:

Why do so many people report visions, voices or sensations of friends or relatives at the moment of the other's death? Is it wishful thinking, hallucination, undiagnosed mental illness, a human tendency to stamp meaning onto events, a remarkable pattern of liars, genuine telepathy, a visiting ghost?

In this pair of questions and selection of possibilities we find what may be the crux of Ms. Blum's failure to properly evaluate evidence. Early last year in SWIFT, I related a story that illustrated how we tend to accept and emphasize data that meets our expectations, and ignore "unsatisfactory" items. I'll summarize that tale for you here:

We often hear remarkable accounts of mothers who report sensing that their child was in danger, that an accident has occurred to a loved one, or that someone has died. This is usually seen as a paranormal event. Some years ago, when I lived in New Jersey, a young mime/magician, Steve — with whom I am still in touch — shared my home with me, and attended the local high school. One night at 3 a.m., I was awakened by the phone ringing. Steve's mother was calling from some thirty miles away, apologizing but very alarmed that she "just knew" somehow that her son was ill, and asking me to check him out. I confirmed that her diagnosis was indeed correct, and that Steve was at home for a day or two until he recovered from a 24-hour influenza bug that was going around in New Jersey schools.

"Aha!" said the jubilant mother, "You see, I know when something's wrong with him!" She was a devout believer in paranormal powers, very religious, and we'd had a few discussions about such matters. I couldn't resist reminding her that she'd just recently called me with that same sort of premonition. She thought about that for a moment, and admitted that she'd called two weeks earlier, believing that she sensed Steve was ill in some way — and that time, she'd been wrong. I then reminded her that she'd called several times before that too, equally well convinced that something was wrong with her kid, and had been wrong every time. You see, just the day before this call, there'd been media reports that this influenza bug was present in the local school systems, and many kids were home with the ailment. She'd obviously been thinking about this, and had probably called for that reason.

But this time, she insisted, she'd been much more certain about her alarm, than any time previously. Mind you, she'd previously called at about the same time in the early morning, but had not had her expectations met, so didn't choose to recall those guesses. We tend to notice and remember when a theory is fulfilled, and to forget when it isn't; we're selective that way. Race-track addicts recall every win, but can' give you any details of really heavy hunches of theirs that failed. Naive viewers watching Sylvia Browne on Montel exult over every "hit" she makes, but don't count the much more numerous misses.

It is a mistake to ascribe supernatural causes to events unless we've taken into account the probabilities involved, have thought about other evidence that we've not recorded, or considered the possibility that our account or memory of the matter might be faulty or simply selective. To return to Ms. Blum's first question, quoted above: "Why do so many people report visions, voices or sensations of friends or relatives at the moment of the other's death?" Equally valid questions are, first: "Why don't many people report when they have visions, voices or sensations of friends or relatives that do not coincide with the moment of the other's death?" Why? Because there was no confirmation, no reinforcement, no coincidence, to note. Such failures are not remembered, not repeated. When did you last hear someone tell you that they had a strong feeling that a loved one was in danger, and when they checked on that feeling, there was no basis for it at all? That's just not worth a report, since it didn't "work." And a second, just as important question: "Why do not more than a miniscule fraction of people report visions, voices or sensations of friends or relatives that actually occur at the moment of the other's death?"

Let me give you another example of this phenomenon from my own experience. As a teen, I was often hired by neighbors as a babysitter. I'd take along some books, check that the kid or kids were in bed, and stretch out on a couch to read and/or listen to the radio. I seldom had any sort of situation develop, and I'd often fall asleep. One night, the parents who'd hired me were rather late returning, and shortly before they arrived, I woke to the sound of labored, rather uneven breathing that seemed to fill the living room. Suddenly, it stopped, and everything was silent. I was left wondering, and somewhat disturbed. Not more than ten minutes later, the parents returned and relieved me of my duties. It was about midnight. The next morning, I awoke to find my father looking very sad, and was told that my grandfather — his father — had died the night before, in Montreal, 300 miles away. Of course, my mind flashed back to the phenomenon I'd experienced, and I had to consider the possibility that the old man — with whom I'd had a close relationship — had shared his last moments with me via some unknown modus.

But then I had to think back about the whole picture. My grandfather, we knew at that time, was in a bad way. He was not expected to live much longer, and his demise was really just a matter of time. We'd been ready for the bad news for several weeks. It appeared to me that I'd probably worked the strange sounds I'd heard into a fuller picture that had been suggested by the situation. However, I had to find it remarkable that such a unique phenomenon had occurred at just the time that it might have been expected. Fortunately, a week or so later I was relieved of any such conclusion.

I was again employed as a babysitter at the same home. I settled in as usual, on the couch. Suddenly, I became aware of the same breathing pattern that I'd heard at the same time the week previous. Pulling the couch away from the wall, I found that the hot-air duct for that room was located directly below the position that my head occupied as I reclined on the couch. I quietly made my way upstairs to the baby's bedroom, directly above the living room. The baby's crib was adjacent to the air duct which connected to the duct below in the living room. As it happened, the baby was still rolled over with her face very close to the register grate — I had been hearing the labored breathing of the infant, not of the shade of my grandfather!

It's not very often that solutions to such seemingly strange phenomena present themselves so easily. Perhaps I'm just lucky in that respect. However, I do believe that if we were to search for more ordinary explanations rather than opting to invent or adopt paranormal explanations, we'd have a much better grasp of how the real world works, though professional writers might find their wells of inspiration going dry...

Ms. Blum would do well to re-think her conclusions, in my opinion.

The original SWIFT entry on the Steve episode may be found at Steve (his real name) is referred to there as, "Sammy."

Polish Science Challenged

Reader Przemyslaw Orwat, in Poland, reveals just how far behind his country may be in medical science. For clarity in the language used, he informs us that drugs are called, in Polish law, "therapeutic products." He writes:

As an interesting fact, which may be of use when you will be publishing your report on homeopathy, I attach an excerpt from Polish Pharmaceutical Law. Article 21, paragraph 7, clearly states that: Homeopathic therapeutic products do not require proof of their therapeutic efficacy.

That's a nice oxymoron, by the way. What is more, these substances are subject to the "simplified procedure of registration" — maybe to help homeopathic drug marketers make money, sooner? In Poland homeopathic drugs are sold in pharmacies, and homeopaths use the title of "physician" or "doctor of medicine". Courses on homeopathy are run in universities and medical schools.

To sum up, for an average Polish patient, ignorantia iuris nocet. [Ignorance of the law is harmful.]

Here is the actual law. My comments are in brackets.

Polish Pharmaceutical Law

Article 21

1. Homeopathic therapeutic products, which:

1) are administered orally or for external use only,

2) do not include the indications on administration on the label and in the leaflet, and

3) have adequate degree of dilution, which guarantee the safety of use, that is, they contain not more than 1/10,000 parts of basic solution or not more than 1/100 of the smallest dose of active ingredient included in a prescription therapeutic product,

are subject to the simplified procedure of registration.


4. Veterinary homeopathic therapeutic products are also subject to the simplified procedure of registration if:

1) their label does not include the indications on administration,

2) have adequate degree of dilution, which guarantee the safety of use, that is contain not more than 1/10,000 parts of basic solution or not more than 1/100 of the smallest dose of active ingredient included in a prescription veterinary therapeutic product.


7. Homeopathic therapeutic products described in paragraphs 1 and 4 [note: these are the only two paragraphs in Polish Pharmaceutical Law which refer to homeopathic drugs] do not require the proof of their therapeutic efficacy.

Remind me not to get sick in Poland; it appears that in that country, homeopathic "drugs" aren't regulated, at all, just sort of accepted if they "look" okay! Now, before a crowd of patriotic Poles hits me with e-mails specifying the many discoveries and positive advances given to the world by Polish scientists — a chap named Nicolaus Copernicus comes to mind — I'm not pointing out here anything that is specific only to their country; indeed, most of the civilized world has fallen for the homeopathic nonsense, and a reluctance to test or to regulate that quackery. I'm merely saying that this great country can only be poorly served by pseudoscientific notions that may exist only because of their need and desire to be part of the European community. This is a price they should not be prepared to pay.

Good News from Cincinnati

Reader Mike Roddy reports:

Attached please find a link to a recent article in the Cincinnati Enquirer concerning Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, headquartered in my city — no affiliation with the University of California at Berkeley. This company purveys herbal remedies for a variety of health ailments, but has no scientific evidence of their product efficacy. As we know, "nutraceuticals" sold as "herbal remedies" do not have to pass FDA approval process, freeing the manufacturer to make anecdotal claims. As JREF frequently points out, this endangers the public who are fooled into treating health problems with ineffective remedies.

Randi comments: see the item just above — Polish Science Challenged — for a parallel situation.

The good news is that this week, the FBI, FDA, and IRS teamed up to bring 112 criminal charges against their founder and upper management of Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals. This story has been developing for about a year locally. In a recent full page advertisement in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the company claimed they "create local jobs" and go on to ask rhetorically, "Are our products effective? What better way to find out than to try them yourself?"

Of course, JREF readers know that the answer to the rhetorical question "What better way to find out?" is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study.

I take some satisfaction from knowing the founder of this scam is facing 30 years. He's made multi-millions ripping off people. Oh, but he created jobs, so that's okay.

You can see the Cincinnati Enquirer article at Mr. Roddy, that last claim about jobs has a lot of interest to local politicians. Don't ever undervalue the appeal of anything that brings employment into an area, regardless of the social impact. I wonder: if the Berkeley people also gave lessons in burglary techniques, would they appeal for forgiveness on those grounds, too? After all, many agile young jobless folks could then be employed, and would be paying taxes, and there'd be more police officers and lawyers with jobs, as a result...

Welcome News

Reader Justin Bauer, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, sent me a letter that I just can't resist putting up here for examination. As I've said before, it's encouraging letters like this that keep us at the JREF plugging away at our jobs. It's always good to know that we're getting through to our intended audience, and, inadvertently, often to some of those folks who we haven't specifically targeted. This provides me with a bit of a glow that I swear is probably visible around me for at least a day or two...

I recently graduated from college and to this day I can't forget the first, and so far the only, time I've had the privilege of listening to one of your lectures. It was when I attended Arkansas Governor's School in Conway, Arkansas, at Hendrix College, the summer before my senior year in High School.

Randi comments: see

I was born and raised Catholic and attended a private Catholic school for ten years, although I've never really considered myself religious. Even though there was always a doubt about the accuracy and even existence of the mysticism I was faced with on a day-to-day basis, it was also still hard for me to not believe there was that "something" out there. In other words, I was torn for the longest time about religious beliefs. And then I met you at Arkansas Governor's School. I remember actually feeling depressed afterwards, as I expressed to a close friend, because I realized that this life truly is the only life I have to live. It was that strong desire that my existence will go on for all eternity that had kept me from thinking logically about life, and I then understood why so many people simply cannot give up that wishful thinking. But once I got over the fact that this life, as in my life on Earth, was the only one I had, and it was my responsibility to myself to make the best of it for both myself and those I care about, I felt the burden of my childhood lifted. For the next few years I thought very thoroughly about life and the universe, and about why people believe certain things. I am now an atheist and am enjoying life more than ever before. I visit your site frequently, and when I find permanent housing I plan to subscribe to Skeptic Magazine.

Unfortunately, my current computer lacks a scanner, so I am unable to scan and send you the picture I took of myself with you, plus two playing cards I had autographed by you. But nevertheless, I want to thank you for everything you've done for me, and everything you've done for this world. I heard via Skepticality radio that you had double bypass surgery but that you are recovering well. I'm glad to hear your health hasn't got the best of you yet, and I wish you better health for many, many years to come.

I have to admit to Justin that I didn't remember him specifically, but I certainly do recall my visits to the Arkansas Governor's School. Those events are among the most important in my life, having the opportunity of meeting — and influencing — bright young people who are willing to listen and brave enough to make lifestyle changes if they see fit to do so. I'm happy to see that Skepticality — which can be accessed at — is on Justin's list of places to go. Do make a visit there.

(As a side note, I must admit that I capitalized the word "Earth" in the foregoing quotation. I have a bit of a private campaign going on in which I propose that our Moon, Sun, and home planet — being proper names for specific items — should be capitalized. I can write about "a moon of Jupiter," but Callisto — no, not the nymph! — is one of those specific items. When I write about an ET "visiting Earth," I don't mean an extraterrestrial playing in the mud...)

What Would Jesus Say?

Some 30 or more of our readers — as I'd rather hoped — researched the matter from last week's SWIFT about a quotation attributed by one of our correspondents to Josef Stalin. Frank Pennycook of Salisbury, UK, has it pretty well summed up:

The source of the saying you quoted in [last week's] newsletter was not Stalin but that cryptic sage, Jesus of Nazareth. I expect that you are also an admirer of his well-known conjuring feats.

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." Matthew 12:30 / Luke 11:23 (NIV) Another version also occurs: "whoever is not against you is for you" (Luke 9:50). Of course, if taken literally, the implications are significantly different.

Incidentally, the verse follows on from one of my personal favorite sections — Jesus' advice to housebreakers: "How can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house."

Frank, don't get me started on arguing scriptural meanings, please! That's territory far too fuzzy for me to get involved with. I have a hard enough time just trying to figure out what the "psychics" are babbling about. Mr. Pennycook has another comment:

To continue your recent theme of relics, I've just seen the thoroughly disappointing "Wristbone of St. Paul" in Malta, which I cannot recommend. If you are ever in Budapest, however, I urge you to check out "St. Stephen's Hand" in the Basilica. A complete skeletal wrist and hand, on a velvet cushion, in a jeweled glass case, all illuminated by a spotlight that needs regular feeding with coins. Catholic grandeur at its tackiest.

Thank you, Frank, but I think this is another "wonder" I can pass up. Just seeing the many earnest discussions sent in by readers about another relic — the Holy Prepuce — an object which seems to have been one of the most-traveled items in relic history, and of which many versions are said to exist in different parts of the world — I've decided that I've had about as much of this subject as I need — or want.

Yet Another Healer

Reader Slobodan Blazeski has news for us:

Unfortunately I have bad news from Macedonia. After we got used to the local paranormal miracles, now we have organized tours to Zagreb, capital of Croatia. Buses full of people paying 35 Euros — in a country where the average wage is ~200 Euros and 40% of the population is unemployed — and crossing 500 miles and four borders, are seeking help from the Croatian healer Braco.

None of the doctors have seen any of the ill people getting better, but that's no obstacle for them to visit the healer several times, and buy books and crucifixes starting at 110 Euros, to protect them from evil.

Anyway I found your SWIFT an excellent cure any time I get scared from horror movies and bedtime paranormal stories. I prescribe it all my friends and relatives with the same problems and knowledge of English. The results are spectacular — 80% and climbing — which is almost as good as the "Mask of Nostrodamus," which I gave as a present to a friend of mine; she never bothered me anymore with any other crap about prophecies.

I wonder why nobody cares to translate some of your books into Macedonian. Meanwhile, we get the very latest in Scientology and tarot card reading, and I think I saw a book by Sylvia Browne at the last book fair.

Slobodan, my books are now published in Braille/English, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Punjabi, and Spanish. I'd welcome additional translations...!

Kudos to the UAE

Reader Christopher Head, of the United Arab Emirates University Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, refers us to an article in the Gulf News that details the rejection of the "psychic healer" claims of a Mr. Mohammad Ali Akbari by the UAE Ministry of Health. Akbari is now not allowed to practice in Dubai or the rest of the UAE. That's very encouraging news, and we can only hope that this ruling is not cancelled by some government official who prefers woo-woo ideas in his country. That's happened before...

The article is available at Says Mr. Head:

Mr. Akbari has an interesting website at that prominently shows a scan of his "Doctor of Philosophy in Healing by Power Therapy from UNIVERSITY of CAMBRIDGE." I've sent a message to the University of Cambridge asking about this doctorate, but so far no reply has been received. Mr. Akbari's website also has a link to newspaper articles, but it omits the above Gulf News article.

I, too, have contacted the University of Cambridge, but I've had no response. Surely such a question requires only a simple "yes" or "no" answer?

The Gulf News says that Akbari was "brought in to the UAE by Nili Health and Wellness Centre, an alternative medicine centre," and mentions a few of the claims that Akbari makes about his validation by authorities. For example, he claims that he has been "the subject of more than 9,000 tests by prestigious universities in the United States and France." None of them are named, but Akbari explains that those studies were "kept secret" and "not made public due to jealousy from the medical community and pharmaceutical companies." Curious, the Gulf News reporter volunteered for a healing session. Guess what? The spiel is the same in the UAE as in the rest of the world, a fact that will not surprise our readers. Akbari diagnosed that the reporter "had back pain and some problems with his shoulders." Back pain? That's unusual. But, said the subject of this mumbo-jumbo:

I do not suffer from back pain and other than a tendency to slouch when I sit, I do not have a problem with my shoulders, either... The one illness I had, Akbari failed to detect or heal. I had a headache during the press conference and when I went to sleep that night, I still had it.

Says Mr. Head:

Here in the UAE, there are still plenty of strange beliefs reported in the media with no critical comment — the Gulf News publishes a daily horoscope, for example. There was another interesting article in the same publication yesterday about Reiki. The title was "Miracles do happen," so you can imagine the nature of the content and the lack of any rational commentary, but one line was very revealing about this particular quackery. The Reiki practitioner was explaining how she discovered Reiki when it cured her of some past ailment and stated "I remember when I was sick, my doctors said it seemed to be psychological." There's no suggestion that the Reiki cure could also have been psychological...

We have to celebrate the UAR's decision regarding Mr. Akbari. We'll look forward to hearing more about what he's doing, and perhaps Cambridge will eventually answer Mr. Head or me...

Q-Ray Still Around

Reader Robert J. Higgins, B.Sc., M.Sc., assistant professor of Biology at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake, British Columbia, writes:

It was with considerable pleasure that I read your recent commentary noting that the Q-Ray bracelet has been pulled off of the market by a federal judge in the USA. A victory for sanity, and a relief from having to watch those ridiculous commercials.

However, as a frequent reader of your weekly commentary I am aware that a decision in one jurisdiction does not mean that the product will be removed from all markets. Despite the ruling in the USA that seemed to completely crush the central claim made by the manufacturers of this product, Q-Ray is still alive and well in Canada. Just this morning (Saturday, Sept. 30th) I was catching the news on the Canadian Television Network (CTV) all-news channel and was shocked to see the same Q-Ray commercial that has been playing for years.

One wonders (okay, perhaps one doesn't) about the ethics of a company that has a product scientifically and legally debunked, to the point of being required to provide over 100,000 refunds, and yet continues on as if nothing has happened.

I plan on contacting CTV regarding the airing of this commercial. I'll let you know of I hear anything back.

And our webmaster Jeff Wagg, in forwarding this to me, discovered

As I read this message with gmail, there was an ad for Q-Ray right at the top. --Jeff

That Chess Brouhaha

Reader Andrew Porter comments:

I was prompted to mail you regarding an item on the latest Swift (29 Sep) about the use of a psychic "helper" by Veselin Topalov in the World Chess Championship, which included the following comment:

Apparently this mystic has the same sort of psychic power Uri Geller does: every sportsman they help, no matter how good, immediately starts losing. Now that is a real paranormal phenomenon.

It struck me that this is not so very mysterious, especially in a game as dependent upon brain-power as chess; surely, once a player stops concentrating on winning the game the usual way and wastes their limited time following up the irrelevant advice of psychic helpers, their performance is bound to suffer.

An example of how psychic shortcuts lead to wild goose chases? Laughable in Mr. Topalov's case, but tragic when the victims are the chronically sick giving up on orthodox treatment, or anxious parents desperate to find their abducted child.

Remember Penta Water?

Reader P.T. Quinn of Ann Arbor says:

After reading this quote from Penta Water CEO Bill Holloway after you asked him to consider applying for the prize:

You live on other peoples [sic] money while claming [sic] to fight injustice. Injustice is to make libelous charges without any investigation on your part. Our product is real do your own testing before you shoot off your big mouth. Why don't you get a real job and contribute to society instead of leaching [sic] off of others. Please do not bother me anymore.

I've come to conclusion that Mr. Holloway's product might actually affect the human brain by suggesting that maybe a person using the water can become prosperous in spite of name calling, insolence, illiteracy, and making incorrect charges. Your foundation's test is absolutely fair, and anyone who can demonstrate positively a questionable product or ability would only enhance their claims by proving them true. Plus the prize would serve a charity well, and in many cases would be tax deductible.

Mr. Quinn, we haven't heard back, ever again, from Mr. Holloway. He just doesn't want the million dollars, which he could win in just an hour's work... Strange, isn't it?

No Predictions Nor Warnings

Reader Marcus Lang, Down Under, tells us:

Recently in Australia we have lost two of our most loved people, Steve Irwin and Peter Brock (our greatest racing car driver). Both were preventable accidents but not one prediction of such huge events in our country. Why can't the psychics use their powers for good instead of evil and two great lives would have been saved? I guess the other side only has important things to say like "I don't blame you" and "I am happy now." Shame on them.

Good Pointers on Swindling

Reader Jim Stowe of Swindon, UK, reveals that the secrets of successful prophecy have been explained to Dungeons & Dragons players, long ago! He writes:

I am an avid reader of your weekly newsletter and recently managed to find your Granada "Psychic Investigator" series on the web and watched them all. So many years ago (sorry to remind you of that!) but the scams and delusions are still the same today.

Anyway, I ran across something today that might amuse you. Despite being a father of three and holding a responsible job, I still pander to my boyish fantasies by playing Dungeons and Dragons on a regular basis. While flicking through one the numerous rule books, I ran across a little aside advising the Dungeon master (the man who runs the game and sets out the story) how to create a prophecy. I've reproduced it below, hopefully not breaking any copyright laws. I think you'll particularly like the last sentence.

Making a Prophecy

What's the point in being a prophet if you never get anything right? The trick to creating a prophecy is to bury it in symbols or metaphors that, after the fact, become perfectly obvious. The more specific you are, the more likely it is that you will get something wrong.

Don't use names, use titles. Instead of saying "King Derath of Veronia" say something like "Veronia's Lord" — or better yet, "the lion of Veronia" or even "the lion of the East."

Don't use dates that occur only once; use times of the year, seasons, or celestial events. So instead of saying "March 15th of the year 635," say something like "Beneath the third moon" or "when winter's grip weakens in the fith year."

Use metaphors instead of clear statements. Don't say "dies" or "is killed," say "falls into darkness," "stands before his fathers", or "goes into the night."

Add a random, unconnected remark, such as "the traitor sees it all" or "Now the door stands open to the night."

Here's an example:

When rises the red moon above the North,
The lion of Veronia ceases his roar.
Three times three are slain,
Rose petals fall from the elf maiden's hands.

These images could mean almost anything. The red moon might be a specific season or celestial phenomena, or a metaphor for "war." The lion of Veronia might be its king or a Veronian-born hero. The rose petals could be flowers strewn on a grave, or perhaps drops of blood; so was the elf maiden grieving for the slain or was she actually their murderer? It worked well for Nostradamus, you can make it work for you.

It's sad to think that this advice, which is designed simply to create something for use in a game of imagination, would be equally useful to the many that claim that they really do have prophetic powers. Perhaps we should introduce such people to Dungeons and Dragons to give them a harmless channel for their "talents" instead of spouting nonsense to the gullible? Nah, it'd never work, there's no money in D&D.;

ncas renewed

NCAS — the National Capital Area Skeptics — has recently revamped their Web site, and asked if I'd include in the list of links in our Learning Resources pages. Well, I'll have to think about that... Okay, I'll do it!

We already have a separate link to the NCAS online Condon Report, but I must also draw attention to some of the other items in their online Library, like the full text of the Seybert Commission report on spiritualism:

This is a valuable research resource — visit there.

While we're at it, I'll suggest you also go to and consider signing up for the Center for Inquiry.

in conclusion...

Reader Stewart Scott sends us to, where we find an incredible site chock full of totally crappy science, and appealing only to the ignorant. Great illustrations of Flash Gordon machines that put out "vibrations," so we know they're the real thing. No better example of quackery can be found on the internet. Says Stewart:

My rubbish dial is pretty much pegged.

Well said, Stewart...

The latest version of Skepchick Intl.'s (in)famous calendar is now available at This year, there's also a Skepdude's calendar featuring some very familiar folks.

Go to and find plans for building a marvelous optical illusion that honors the incredible Martin Gardner. Print it out, cut along the dotted lines...

Speaking of Martin, I hope you'll send birthday greetings to him on his 92nd anniversary. A short message or note would be welcome, as well. This man is essentially the living patron saint of skepticism and critical thinking, and getting a bundle of cards on October 21st will mean a lot to him. Mail to:

Martin Gardner
c/o JREF
201 S.E. 12th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316-1815.

Until next week, when we'll discuss another end-of-the-world scare, the cancellation of Limbo by the church, and a victory for rationality in India...

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