31 January 2011

Forbidden Geller 3

Reader Steve (now practically a contributor) has contacted me with more information regarding Geller, Byrd, and nitinol, that all too mysterious substance that has dominated the one and only controversey ever to hit The Urban Mystic (if I recall correctly). I personally have no stake in the issue, though continue on with the subject because talking about Egypt will make you, my valued couple of readers, want to slit your wrists and write graffiti on the nearest public building with your own blood yelling at the government to just waste the Muslim Brotherhood already to keep their pernicious evil from consuming the world as you slowly bleed out, fully aware that Mubarak is a monster and yet he is still better than the alternative.

Steve interviewed Eldon Byrd in 2001. He presented it to me to help provide context to the debate.

In the interview, Byrd picks apart many aspects of Gardner's article. According to Byrd, the wires given to Geller were marked with a razor and the ends were cut in such a way as to identify them later. These unique markings were later confirmed, meaning Geller did not substitute the wires for any he had prepared earlier to use in some form of trickery. Of course, Gardner does speculate that the hotel room Byrd was staying at was broken into by one of Geller's associates, the pieces of wire removed, taken back to where Geller was staying, manipulated so that they would produce the characteristic kink, and returned to Byrd's hotel room and the evidence of the break in covered up all with no one noticing. If you're willing to accept that whole shopping list of an explanation of trickery then Geller is a fraud. If you perfer the simpler explanation that Geller deformed the unique wire without prior handling it, in the presence of Byrd, then, well, he still might be a fraud but the possibility of the effect being genuine is now an open possibility. If Randall and Davis' experiment with a young boy who produced the same effect as Geller is evidence of anything then the more likely explanation seems to be that Geller, at least in Byrd's test with nitinol, is not cheating and genuinely produced a nonphysical deformity in the metal wire.

According to Byrd, Frederick Wang at the Naval Surface Weapons lab did try to remove the kink from the Gellerized wire, and that when Gardner interviewed him he caught Wang off guard. Thus, when Gardner said Wang didn't remember trying to un-Gellerize the wire, it was not because he did not try to un-Gellerize the wire but because he genuinely forgot, as all humans do from time to time. If Byrd is to be believed (and I believe him a whole lot more than I believe Gardner, who not only likes to trick his readers with the old bait-and-switch tactic mentioned in the previous post, but also thinks Randi is a credible source of information), then the un-Gellerizing did take place and was not a fabrication.

Now, I'm biased. I am biased against Martin Gardner because he likes to trick his readers, because he cites Randi as a credible source, and because he is a debunker and debunking goes against everything science stands for. I am inclined to believe that Byrd is telling the truth. Could he have been tricked? Yes. Is it likely that he was tricked? I would have to say no. Unless Geller tricked him on multiple occasions, and with the same or similar tricks, and the young boy R&D tested tricked them under much better conditions than the Byrd/Geller tests and without ever having met Geller to learn how his trick was performed, then trickery seems unlikely. Trickery is possible, in the same sense that whenever you hear someone's voice on a radio that the voice is really produced by a ventriloquist nearby and not coming from the radio, but trickery is far from the most likely possibility, regardless of what debunkers like Gardner (and Couttie for that matter) want to believe.

I'm not going to say the issue is settled, but the circumstantial evidence does seem to be pointing strongly in one direction.

Update: After looking through all the posts here at The Urban Mystic, I have concluded that, as of today, 15 posts have been on Uri Geller, or a total of 8.93% of all Urban Mystic posts. This is more than mysticism, religion, the Jews, the Bible, atheism, communism, or global warming. Looking through the tags one finds that "History" has more posts (25), but 4 of them are about the 100 Greatest Battles and one is repeated twice. History is also a broad category, not a single topic like Uri Geller. "The Urban Mystic" and "Irked-Confusion" appear more too, but that's just because everything here is self-referential. "Fundamaterialism" has 19 posts, but they are roughly divided evenly among cosmology, evolution, and the mind/brain connection, none of which out do the Geller posts alone. The same is true with "USA" (18 posts), and "REAL Science" (34 posts, including significant overlap with the Geller posts). Thanks to Bob Couttie, The Urban Mystic is more about Uri Geller than any othe single topic. There will be two more posts on this topic, my written report tearing apart Forbidden Knowledge, and the video version of it, and that's it. I don't care what Bob has to say, he is finished here after that.