27 December 2009

Uri Geller Bends On

The following is from pages 4-6 of The Geller Papers: Scientific Observations on the Paranormal Powers of Uri Geller, edited by Charles Panati. Geller demonstrated his metal bending ability for physical scientist Eldon Byrd of the Naval Surface Weapons Center, Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1973. He bent samples of the metal nitinol, which was, at the time, very difficult for the public to obtain.

Nitinol wire is composed of approximately 55 percent nickel and 45 percent titanium. It has a physical memory. That is, a piece of nitinol wire actually "remembers" the shape in which it was manufactured. No matter how much it is crumpled or bent, a nitinol wire, when heated, springs vigorously back to its original shape. Byrd is quite familiar with the properties of nitinol. He knows that no simple ordinary force can alter the wire's memory; he wanted to see if Geller could.
      Geller arrived at the Naval Surface Weapons Center in October of 1973. in one test Byrd held a five-inch straight piece of nitinol by its end while Geller "gently stroked" the middle of the wire with his thumb and index finger. After twenty seconds Geller felt a "lump" forming in the wire. He removed his fingers and there was a sharp "kink" at the wire's center. Byrd placed the wire in boiling water, which should have removed the kink. It did not vanish. "Instead of [the wire] snapping back with some force into a straight shape," Byrd writes, "[it] began to form approximately a right angle." Byrd then placed the kink over a flame, but still it did not straighten out.
      In his paper "Uri Geller's influence on the metal nitinol," Byrd states that a crystallographic analysis of the kinked section showed that the crystals that contain the wire's memory had actually increased in size. Such a change requires that the wire be reannealed by being heated to a temperature of about 900o F. "There is absolutely no explanation as to how Geller bent the wire by gently touching it," says Byrd.
      Perhaps not, but the metallurgists at the Naval Surface Weapons Center were intent on removing the kink. They put the wire under tension in a vacuum chamber, and heated it by passing an electric current along its length until the wire was glowing and almost molten; in other words, they reannealed it into a straight shape. When the wire was removed from the chamber and laid on a plate to cool it was indeed straight; it appeared to have regained its original memory. But when the wire cooled to room temperature, the kink spontaneously returned. "The day following the experiment, writes Byrd, "I took another piece of nitinol wire and tried to bend it into as tight a kink as Geller had formed; I used the point of a screwdriver ... It was impossible for me to [do it] without using Bunsen burners and pliers." Byrd also tried various chemicals on pieces of nitinol wires to see if the wires could be temporarily "softened" so that a kink might be formed without extreme heat and sizable force. The nitinol proved impervious to all the chemicals tested.
      But experimentation between Geller and nitinol does not stop there. Byrd realized that anomalous effects can occur in the best of experiments. Perhaps the wires Geller altered (there were several of them) had a structural defect: Is this why Geller had been able to change their memory? Byrd pondered this question for eleven months before he got another chance to test Geller. This time it was not at the Naval Surface Weapons Center, but in an informal setting at the home of a friend of Geller's in Connecticut. Byrd brought with him three pieces of nitinol wire; all had been thoroughly tested at the lab to make sure that on being heated they sprang back to straight configurations. Geller rubbed the wires one at a time, and all three became deformed. Heating would not straighten them out. On later examination, nitinol experts at the lab concluded that the only way "permanent deformation" could have occurred was through the use of intense heat and mechanical stress. "All of the bends that Geller had produced thus far in nitinol wires have been permanent deformation," says Byrd. "The wires can be ... twisted into any shape by hand, but on being heated ... [they always] return to the shape Geller had imposed upon them."
      Could Geller have somehow cheated to achieve the results he did? Because of the unusual nature of nitinol, the scientific controls essential for an unambiguous investigation are, for the most part, built into the testing material. Byrd and his colleagues conclude that Geller would have had to either "palm" a Bunsen burner or substitute his own pieces of nitinol, manufactured to his specifications, if deception is to be the explanation for the events that took place. Geller had to deform the wire, Byrd thinks, by paranormal means.

24 December 2009

The World Benefits from America's Health Care System

When it comes to health insurance reform, California State University, Northridge economist Glen Whitman emphasizes, "We have to make sure we don't just fix the parts that are broken. We also have to make sure we don't actually break the parts that are working very well. And it turns out that one of the areas that America is really great at is innovation."

Reason.tv's Ted Balaker sat down with Whitman to discuss his new Cato Institute policy analysis, coauthored with Raymond Raad, "Bending the Productivity Curve: Why America Leads the World in Medical Innovation."

Whether it's Nobel laureates in medical fields or the most important recent medical innovations, Whitman and Raad find that the U.S. has contributed more than any other nation, and in some cases, more than all nations combined. Whitman cites some key factors that account for America's innovative ways, and warns that if America adopts a more centrally planned health system we may not only innovate less but we might not know what innovations we're missing.

Interview shot by Alex Manning and Hawk Jensen; it was edited by Manning. Approximately 10 minutes.

And some people want to change our system that shoulders the burden of the world and leads it in innovation into something resembling a system that doesn't.

23 December 2009

Uri Geller at SRI

The Stanford Research Institute in California investigates the psychic phenomena associated with Uri Geller in the 1970s (you can tell by the tight pants and poofy hair everyone has). The ESP and remote viewing tests provided the best results (the one test had odds against chance of a trillion to one). Geller also produced a full scale deflection of a magnetometer, altered the reeding of a weight on a scale that was under a glass dome, and dowsed for water, sugar cubes, and ball bearings inside sealed metal tins. The experiment where Geller moved a compass needle was discarded because of bad protocol. Informal demonstrations were conducted of Geller's metal bending ability on a variety of objects with different compositions. The entire series of videos lasts about 30 minutes.


22 December 2009

21 December 2009

Urban Mystic Classics: Summer Spoons

Reprint from 22 August 2008.

In the same vein as an earlier entry this month, "Michael Chriton on PK", I have returned to the world of metal bending. While out eating I took the coffee spoon in my hand almost unknowingly and began the process of bending it. I'm not sure why I did this; perhaps the spoon wanted to be bent or wanted me to bend it. When I felt that it was in the state where it is ready to bend I approached with mild trepidation and decided against anyting spectacular for what I hope would be reasonable and obvious reasons. Anyway, here is the result of that.

Although I had no way of officially measuring it the spoon did seem more bent after an hour or so from the time I had put it down than when I initially bent it. This has been known to happen often. -Dee

20 December 2009

Urban Mystic Classics: Michael Chriton on PK

Michael Chriton talks about his experiences with psychokinesis and metal bending a la Uri Geller. This is a reprint from 11 August 2008, back before The Urban Mystic changed URLs. This will begin the series on Uri Geller and metal bending.

"but other magicians, such a James Randi, claim that spoon bending isn't a psychic phenomenon at all, just a trick.

"But I had bent a spoon, and I knew it wasn't a trick. I looked around the room and saw little children, eight or nine years old, bending large metal bars. They weren't trying to trick anybody. They were just little kids having a good time.

Michael Crichton, world famous best selling author and global warming skeptic explains why the skep-dicks' explanation that spoon bending is just a trick is wrong. You can't deny experience. The experience for what it is, experience, is beyond chriticism.

It's refreshing to see someone as famous as Mr. Crichton is sympathetic toward psi. So just what is the secret to spoon bending?

" The only thing I noticed is that spoon bending seemed to require a focused inattention. You had to try to get it to bend, and then you had to forget about it. Maybe talk to someone else while you rubbed the spoon. Or look around the room. Change your attention. That's when it was likely to bend. If you kept watching the spoon, worrying over it, it was less likely to bend. This inattention took learning, but you could easily do it. "

I can attest to that. My old teacher told me about focused inattention in teaching me spoon bending (it's been a while since I've done it, so am badly out of practice; it can become an expensive endeavor).