18 January 2010

Celebrating Freedom

Dr. King might not have made it to the promised land, but we're moving toward his dream. A time when we all love one another and treat eachother with respect regardless of any petty differences in these physical bodies is approaching. I can't say when, but we are getting there. Here is his "I Have A Dream" speech.

17 January 2010

The Age of The Bible

Yahoo News has put up an article about a piece of pottery discovered last year that includes parts of biblical verses. This finding, which took a year to discipher, indicateds that the Bible dates back to at least the tenth century BC, 400 years earlier than previously thought. It also indicates that the kingdom of Israel existed at least since the tenth century, and is the first clear use of the Hebrew language yet discovered. The text resembles portions of the books of Exodus, Psalms, and Isaiah, which, if they existed at the same time helps to discredit the documentary hypothesis, that say different people wrote the Torah (the five books of Moses which he is supposed to have recieved from God directly on Mt. Sinai) and some priest later put the differend books together and edited them to create a religion (Judaism) to basically make people fall in line.


09 January 2010

The Geller Papers: A Final Assessment

Sorry, but I've been a bit off this year and should have posted this days ago.

What can I say about the paranormal abilities of Uri Geller. Before reading this book I was, in fact, thoroughly convinced that some of the abilities manifested by Geller were genuine. I have personally had experience with ESP and metal bending, so I know they're not fake like Geller's critics claim.

At times The Geller Papers is very involved and makes scientific references to areas in which I am unfamiliar and therefore cannot assess the quality of (there were several pages I barely understood, mostly involving statistical analysis and engineering equations). This should obviously appeal to the scientists who no doubt should read this tome to spark interest in psychical research. Many scientists who wrote for this book came away concluding that science should invest more time, effort, and money (especially money, if you ask me, and I suspect if you ask them too) into psychical research involving psychic all stars like Uri Geller and other people dubbed "mini-Gellers." Don't get me wrong, all this research involving "ordinary mortals" (read: college sophmores) and their performance in Ganzfeld, telephone telepathy, micro-PK, etc., is very good and very important, but you learn far less about basketball by watching gradeschoolers play than you do by watching professionals. Some people are more talented at generating psychic effects as others, just as in every field of human endevor, and it makes a lot of sense to study these psychic super stars so we can learn the limits of these abilities and work toward developing practical technologies to utilize psychic phenomena.

From my own experiments I must concur with J. G. Taylor's findings that length of an object corresponds to the ease of bending that object, with longer objects bending more easily, and also that objects with a regular shape bend easier than others (which explains why I can bend a spoon or fork, but not a key of identical thickness). The metal becomes momentarily plastic when it is ready to bend, then deforms at a point where the least effort is required - the metal's weakest point, where a bend or break would first occurr under mechanical stress.

Uri Geller of the 1970s was phenomenal. Uri Geller of today, seems to have watered himself down. On a television appearance he made promoting his new show with Chris Angel he broke a spoon in half and said something to the effect of "some people say this is magic, others say it is psychic, but I want to leave it a mystery." This is a huge departure from thirty years ago when he went around the world claiming to be psychic and damn the opposition. In no way does this detract from past performance. He has bent metal without touching it; several magicians came away from testing him staking thier reputations that Geller was not using any form of trickery known to magic; he has performed in ESP experiments with odds against chance of a trillion to one, but perhaps in recent years Uri has gotten soft and accustom to the fame, and perhaps now he is under more pressure to perform and employs a degree of trickery to reclaim the audience he had decades ago.

Anyway, I highly recommend the book The Geller Papers: Scientific Observations on the Paranormal Powers of Uri Geller, edited by Charles Panati. This book gives a glimps at what psychical research could be if we employ modern tools and techniques to pro-psychics like Uri Geller.


05 January 2010

The Geller Papers

From the preface to The Geller Papers by Charles Panati.

A growing number of professionals, most notably physical scientists, believe Geller can do these things. They have tested him. They have observed events for which there are no present scientific explanations. Other people, however, among them magicians, see Geller as tremendously talented, lightning-fast in his deceptions, and disarmingly humble over his many failures. They take him to task not because of his talent and theatrics, but because, according to them, he pawns off what he does as "the real thing" – the product of innate paranormal abilities.

    The purpose of this book is to present firsthand observations on the talents of Uri Geller and, in doing so, to bring to light and offer for public scrutiny much material that has either never before appeared in print or has surfaced only piecemeal in the popular press. The book is written – through papers, reports, diary entries, and letters – by the scientists and professionals who, in various ways, have scrutinized Geller's talents, and feel that Geller is an individual who deserves further scientific attention.
    Since 1972, when he first came to worldwide attention, Geller has been tested in seventeen laboratories in eight different countries. The scientists who have worked with him have watched him deform solid steel rods without touching them, cause part of an exotic crystal to vanish from within a sealed container, alter the memory of a rare metal alloy, erase information from computer tapes, set Geiger counters ticking with only his thoughts, and read the thoughts of others while he is sealed in a room that blocks out all types of radio waves. They are men and women of probity, affiliated with major universities and research centers throughout the world. To prevent fraud the scientists have searched Geller for metals that might be hidden under his fingernails and magnets sewn into his clothing, x-rayed his teeth for evidence of minute electronic devices, bound his hands, blindfolded his eyes, all but stripped him naked. Many of the scientists flatly stake their reputation on the genuineness of Geller's paranormal talents.
    But scientists, it is rightfully said, should not be the final arbiters in separating what is psychic from what is magic. And they have not been. Four magicians have worked closely with Geller, applied their own standards to prevent any sleight of hand, and have observed inexplicable events. It is their unanimous opinion that Geller either has paranormal abilities or is acquainted with a form of magic unknown to the entire brotherhood of magicians. Their observations are presented here along with those of the scientists.
    Some of the papers in this book were originally meant for publication in reputable scientific journals – and several were submitted to these journals. In each case it was the scientist's hope that publication of his work with Geller would provide a platform for healthful debate and would generate further and more exhaustive experimentation. To date, however, only one paper has appeared in a major scientific journal. It is not the purpose of this preface to examine the procedures of scientific publishing, lest of all for such a highly unorthodox subject as parapsychology. Suffice it to say that all of those papers appear here. No material in them has been altered; no terminology diluted; the reports contain all the original charts, diagrams, pictures, and references that support the research. Geller's failures as well as his successes are discussed.
    Some of the papers are heavily detailed, giving all the specifics necessary for a scientific investigation. Others are short sketches, informal notes, or personal observations about the hours and days a particular researcher spent with Geller. Fourteen papers are by physicists, mathematicians, and engineers; three by parapsychologists; four by magicians; one by a professional photographer (who witnessed Geller take a "thought photograph"); and one (a letter that appears in the Introduction) by a dentist who x-rayed Geller's mouth for evidence of hidden devices. These men and women who have tested Geller are convinced that he is a phenomenon worthy of, indeed, demanding, the serious attention of science. As the prestigious British technical journal Nature editorialized, Geller "has clearly created a prima facie case for further investigation."
    Who are the professionals who have investigated Geller? What are their credentials? How rigorous or causal were their investigations? Exactly what did they do? And, of course, what did they discover? These questions will be examined, in part, in the Introduction. It should be noted, however, that the Introduction is not meant to be an evaluation of the papers; the papers stand or fall on their own contents. Rather, because of the technical nature of many of the papers and the sheer volume of the material they contain, the Introduction will serve as a general review, for the layman, of the major highlights of the research that has been done with Geller.
    There can be no doubt that this research will affect different people in radically different manners. Geller-advocates who read this collection of firsthand observations may fell confirmed in their present opinion of him. His critics will dissect these papers and will find large loopholes and countless faults with the experiments and descriptions they contain, for all of the evidence presented here is certainly not of equal quality. There is nevertheless a considerable amount of new and impressive information – from responsible scientists and professional magicians alike. Their observations taken as a whole are hard to dismiss on the grounds of simple fraud or mass delusion. But whatever one's opinion of the events described in this book, the thoughtful reader should give these reports a careful review before drawing final conclusions on the phenomena associated with Uri Geller.

04 January 2010

Uri Geller and the Magician

The following is from pages 244-46 of The Geller Papers: Scientific Observations on the Paranormal Powers of Uri Geller, edited by Charles Panati. Leo Leslie – a professional magician from Denmark, was asked to prep the audience of a television show, being filmed in Copenhagen in 1974, before Uri Geller was to come on. He told them what tricks he thought Geller would be performing and instructed the staff how to avoid potential fraud. After the show he met with Geller backstage to investigate Geller's claims personally.

I told Geller I was still skeptical despite what I had seen him do on the television show. He asked what he could do to convince me of the genuineness of his paranormal powers. "Well," I said, "you could either bend one of my keys or attempt, if you can, to read my thoughts." Geller responded enthusiastically. "OK," he said. "Make a drawing." He asked me to sit at one end of the sofa with my back to him while he sat at the opposite end with his back to me. I decided to draw a flower. (From the psychologist who stood near Geller and observed his every move, I later learned that Geller started to draw a flower immediately, even before I set my pencil to the paper. He had finished his drawing before I had even begun mine.) "Are you finished?" Geller asked me. I told him that I was not, and that I was still concentrating on the object I had decided to draw.
    "Then we must start over again," said Uri, "Because I have already received an image and finished my drawing." He thought this attempt had failed.
    Now I drew a flower and took some time putting finishing touches on it. But apparently Geller was receiving nothing. "I don't thik I can do it," he said. "Are you having difficulty concentrating on the object?" he asked. I told him that I was, but still I asked to see whatever sketches he might have made. He turned around and said, "I can only get the image of flowers." He had drawn a crude sketch of another flower.
    My suspicions of him had begun to fade. There was no chance that he could have cheated. None of his own people was present in the room. The girl from the studio sat at Geller's end of the room and she could not possibly see my drawing. A photographer roamed around the room, but he said nothing and did nothing but take photographs. Geller could not have used accomplices or relied on secret signs to receive the drawings.
    What about the possibility that Geller relied on "sound readings," that is, the reproduction of lines from the sound impressions a pencil makes on paper. Because I am an experienced mentalist, I intentionally had distorted the sounds my pencil made while I drew the flower. In addition, I spoke constantly during the time I was drawing – partly to drown out sound from my pencil and in part actually to confuse Geller. I believe that sound-reading must be ruled out as a possible method by which Geller could have received the drawings.
   Could Geller have used a "thumb-writer"? This clever little magician's aid is a tiny metal clip, filled with lead, which is held tightly underneath the thumbnail so that the lead point sticks out slightly. With such a device, an accomplished mentalist can, in a moment, reproduce a simple drawing or a small series of numbers on a card behind his back. When the mentalist pulls the card from behind his back, it looks as if the drawing had been there all along. Being a practicing mentalist, will not go into complete detail here on exactly what else a person experienced with a thumb-writer can ahieve. The only thing that must be stated is that the psychologist at Geller's end of the sofa saw Geller draw both flowers before he said he "gave up." I have to admit that I believe Geller actually read my thoughts.
    After his demonstration of telepathy Geller tried psychokinesis. A nickle-plated, enameled key was given to Geller. He asked the journalist who was present to hold the key between two fingers. Geller then rubbed it a couple of times, very lightly, with his forefinger. "I can't do it," he suddenly said. "You have done something to this key. I cannot get in contact with the metal." I immediately suspected that Geller probably used a chemical to soften metal, and that with the coating on the key he felt defeated. I took the key from the journalist and studied it closely. But while I sat looking at the key the enamal suddenly started to crack, and a second later strips of the nickel plating curled up like small banana peels, while the key actually started to bend in my hand. I don't know who was more excited, Geller or the rest of us in the room. I only know that we were all thrilled.
   The judgment of all of us who were present for what occurred was one of total endorsement of Geller's paranormal claims: both his ability to bend metal and his talent for receiving telepathic signals. When I am asked about the strength of my own conclusions as to what I witnessed, I can answer only that while Geller was in Copenhagen I did not catch him in any deceptions. Therefore I have to continue to rely on my own judgment and experience as a mentalist; they tell me that Uri Geller is genuine.