Jacob (yak_boy) wrote,
Jacob
yak_boy

The Amazing Randi

I sort of agreed with Maddox's view on the term podcast, in that as far as I could figure it was just streaming or downloadable audio. However, having downloaded a few podcasts to my actual iPod, I'm starting to see the magic; that I can listen to a talk radio program, about topics that interest me, when and where it suits me.

Mostly I have been listening to "popular science" podcasts like Slacker Astronomy and, in particular, Skepticality.

Anyway, one man in particular keeps cropping up in these shows, and that is James Randi aka "The Amazing Randi". He doesn't have that title because he is some kind of super-scientist, that is his stage name; he is a classically trained stage magician.

Which I guess is what lead him to his current vocation of debunker of paranormalists and pseudo-scientists. As a stage magician, Randi immediately recognised a fellow illusionist in Uri Geller, when the latter rose to fame in the 1970s. What incensed Randi, of course, was that Geller claimed that his simple parlour tricks, like the infamous spoon-bending, stemmed from some kind of psychic power.

Anyway, his efforts to debunk Geller lead to the founding of CSICOP and eventually the James Randi Educational Foundation, organisations who aim to to debunk these kinds of claims about paranormal powers and phenomena. The latter organisation offers a million dollar prize to anyone who can demonstrate, under proper scientific observing conditions, that they actually have some kind of supernatural power.

It's very interesting to hear Randi talk about the kind of people that come to try and claim the prize. Basically, it is only ever poor deluded souls who actually think they really do have psychic powers who come for the money, and many of them are actually suprised and dissappointed when, under proper conditions, their powers fail to manifest. Never has Randi had a professional paranormalist like Geller or John Edward come to try and claim the million bucks.

So, yesterday I spent two hours watching a lecture that Randi gave at Princeton University. It was a highly entertaining speech, in which you get to see both facets of the man; the magician and the skeptic. Go here if you want to watch it for yourself, or to see and hear more of The Amazing Randi.
Tags: link, rant, review, skepticism
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