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In this episode, Randi recalls the phenomenon that was "Carlos," and how the media is often responsible for creating phenomena simply by reporting it in a credulous fashion.
Click here to see the original YouTube video and comments.
The official blog of the JREF, here are this week's entries:
Readers of this site, by and large, already accept the idea that applying critical thought is good for you. But can you apply too much?
Consider the purchase of an automobile. You have a long commute, so you want the most fuel-efficient car possible. The dealer in the area has a model that gets 40mpg, and meets all your criteria. He has two of these cars on the lot. One of them is white, and the other is black. Which car do you pick?
Actually, the proper question is: how do you decide which car you'll pick? A skeptic might make a list of pros and cons over the colors. White cars have a higher resale value and hide dirt and blemishes better. Given those facts, it seems the obvious choice is white.
A friend of mine answered this by saying "I'd never buy a white car. I think they're ugly. Only the black one could work for me."
Was she exercising critical thinking in her decision? I may surprise you by saying yes, she was.
Here at the JREF, we believe in UFOs. That is, we believe that there are Flying Objects that for a time can be Unidentified. Most of these sightings have a rational explanation, however some remain unexplained. And then there are cases like this one.
Probably the most well-known UFO incident in the United States is the Roswell Crash, in New Mexico. The common rational explanation is that a secret balloon project crashed there, causing the military to act in a secretive fashion, which in turn gave fodder to the "alien spaceship" theory of so much contemporary lore.
However, at this year's UFO Festival (July 3-5... you can do this and still make TAM 7!), a Christian group plans to expose the "real" explanation for the crash. They found the answer in the Bible.
Let's be clear here: I like chocolate. It's not my intent to have this article bash chocolate in general. Nor is it my intent to suggest that eating chocolate can't make you feel better. However, it is my intent to suggest that the chocolate makers at Intentional Chocolate make dubious claims. What claims you ask? How about this one:
All Our Chocolate is Embedded With This Intention:
"Whoever consumes this chocolate will manifest optimal health and functioning at physical, emotional and mental levels, and in particular will enjoy an increased sense of energy, vigor and well-being for the benefit of all beings."
Wow, I need some of that! Or do I?
I've lost yet another good friend, Earl "Presto" Johnson, a generous, dedicated, magician of rare talent. He was a skinny Afro-American guy who spent a lot of love and effort on the youngsters of Harlem in NYC, helping them to find themselves. He taught a score or more the conjuring trade, and he invented a number of sleight-of-hand effects that were brilliant. He died of a heart attack last month, having had a long history of heart problems. He was an icon in the New York magic world, a legend among his peers, who performed his stage act in his trademark white tail suit with silk top hat – and Bermuda shorts…
Penn Jillette -- the louder, bigger 2/3 of Penn & Teller, friend of the JREF, and perennial TAM speaker -- has made a short video talking about the live preliminary testing of the Million Dollar Challenge we'll be holding at The Amaz!ng Meeting 7 in Vegas; the meeting is from July 9 - 12, with the live test being on Sunday the 12th.
One of my good friends in Switzerland is Michael Bloch, from whom I received this note:
Randi: I regularly receive recommendations from Amazon.com advertising esoteric books. They send these since I have bought books written by you!
Michael attached this recommendation that he'd received:
Dear Amazon.com Customer,
As someone who has purchased or rated "An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural" by James Randi, you might like to know that "Immortality And Our Employments Hereafter With What A Hundred Spirits, Good And Evil, Say Of Their Dwelling Place" is now available. You can order yours for just $29.95 by following the link below.
Michael complained to Amazon.com on May 10th with the following e-mail
The James Randi Educational Foundation (www.randi.org) is a not-for-profit organization that promotes critical thinking, science education, and skeptical inquiry by providing the public and the media with reliable information about paranormal, supernatural, and pseudoscientific claims.