SGU Episode 117
|This episode needs: transcription, time stamps, formatting, links, 'Today I Learned' list, categories, segment redirects.
Please help out by contributing!
|How to Contribute|
|SGU Episode 117|
|October 17th 2007|
|SGU 116||SGU 118|
|S: Steven Novella|
|B: Bob Novella|
|R: Rebecca Watson|
|J: Jay Novella|
|E: Evan Bernstein|
|Quote of the Week|
|'There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.'|
You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.
News Items ()
Marriage with Robots ()
Gene for Overeating ()
New Dinosaur Found ()
Female Cult Raided after Death ()
Questions and E-mails ()
Race and Intelligence ()
My boyfriend is unfortunately somewhat racist and is trying to 'prove' to me that white people are 'better'. Here is the story he sent me.
Is this scientist credible? Do you really think that they can find differences in genes?
Interview with Mark Crislip ()
Randi Speaks (55:01)
- This Week's Topic - Randi's best mentalist trick (or at least a very good one).
S: Randi, can you give us an example of one of your more successful mentalism tricks?
JR: When I was about 17 years of age and starting into my mentalism career in Toronto, Canada—now mind you, I was still going to school, so I did this only in my spare time. I recall one episode when I was quite thrilled to be able to perform at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Now that was a very—and still is a very classy location on King Street West in Toronto, Canada; the only time that I ever stepped into the Royal Alexandra Theatre and actually got to walk on the stage. I was hired as a mentalist and tickets had been sold for this event quite some time in advance. What I'll do is I'll tell you the effect of what I did when I walked out on stage and then we'll go back in time a little bit and see how I was able to do this.
I waled out on stage, introduced myself as a mentalist and said that I was able to pick up thoughts from people in the audience and I was a total stranger to everyone in the audience, et cetera, et cetera; the usual thing. I did a couple of opening bits that got a moderate amount of applause; (indistinct) a bomb in their midst. I waved my hand over the audience and pointed at a lady sitting at the end of the third row, right on the aisle, and I said "excuse me, ma'am." I said "I get a strange impression from you," and she held her hand to her chest to say "moi?" and I said "yes, you. Would you stand up?" and she stood up and I said "have I ever met you before?"—the usual thing. And she said "no"; I said "I get a strange impression. I get a strange impression; I cast my mind back to your home and I get a very nice place with a few hills around it" and I named the district in Toronto and she was appropriately impressed because that's where she did live; it was a nice, expensive residential area. And I said, "I have a peculiar impression and I'm going to ask you to explain this to us if it's correct. I'm getting crossed hands like an X." I said "they're like arrows and they're crossed one over the other." And she looked puzzled and I said "it seems to be something that you own and I believe you owned it for many years; it's a... oh, goodness... it's made of porcelain; part of it is made of porcelain and glass—oh, it's a clock. It's a clock." And her hand flew to her mouth; she was obviously quite astonished and I knew I'd made a big hit. And she started to explain; I said "no, no, no; let me tell you. The crossed hands on the clock— now, the hands on a clock don't cross but on this particular one they seem to," and she tried to blurt something out and I said "no, no, no; let me tell you, please. And I'm getting roses; I don't know whether the roses are sitting beside the clock," and now she was distraught. She was just having a fit. She was having an attack of the vapors, as we used to say, as she recognized what I was apparently seeing in my mind. And I said, "there's something wrong with that clock; in fact, the clock is not working. Am I correct?" She said, "yes, yes" and I said, "the hands. Ah! The hands have fallen off the clock and they are crossed" and I made a sign with my crossed fingers in front of my body. And she sat down very suddenly and she started to fan at herself and I said, "are you OK?" and she said, "oh, yes, but how did you know this? You see the clock—" and I said "wait, wait, wait; let me finish." I said, "and the roses. Would the roses be part of the clock or marked on the clock in some way?" She says, "oh yes, on the porcelain dial; it had little pink roses. That's part of the design on the dial." And the audience was now stilled. And then I went on and I said, "and you haven't gotten around to fix it yet because you're waiting for someone to fix it but you can't tell ... a clock with no hands if they're laying at the bottom of the dial behind the glass." And now she was having a total fit. And I said, "well, I'll leave it at that because I see you're rather distressed by this," and she said, "oh yes, oh my." Well, I got huge applause on that. That... it tore the house down. Everything I did from then on was an anti-climax. My good friend Terrence K. Lawson was backstage and he was cheering me on.
Now let me tell you first of all how that was done. Terrence Lawson had a Studebaker. Now, a Studebaker in those days was a car you couldn't tell whether it was coming or going, the way it was built. And that was what everybody laughed at, and he was the only one in all of the people—the young people that I knew of our age who actually had a car. It was a family car and he tooled around in that car. So he was mobile, and I certainly wasn't, except for my bicycle. I set him in the lobby of the Royal Alexandra Theatre when they put the tickets on sale for this big extravaganza they were having that was featuring moi. And I thought maybe I could get some information this way. And sure enough, Lawson was standing by with the sunglasses on, looking nonchalant. (whistles) This kind of thing. When an old lady stepped up to the buffer; she said she wanted tickets and she named the show and she said she like something on the aisle so that she could have easy access to the aisle. And the gentleman named the numbers of the tickets and gave them to her. And... (chuckles) it was just wonderful. She then gave the—she had to charge them in some way and I've forgotten how it was done in those days, but she had to give her name and her address, and of course Lawson stood there and secretly made note of that, and when she went outside and she got into a taxi, he jumped in the Studebaker and followed the taxi all the way—and I've forgotten the name of the district in Toronto; the district that she lived in. Not long after that, he came by with a briefcase and knocked on the door. He called her by name; she said "yes?" He said, "I'm from the University of Toronto", which was true. "I'm doing a survey," he said. "I'm not going to sell you anything; I just need to ask you ten simple questions about your insurance needs," and she said "oh, yes, come in." And she invited him in, luckily, and wanted to offer him tea and cookies and the whole thing and he accepted graciously and he noticed a clock sitting on the mantelpiece. And it had roses on the dial and the hands had fallen off the face of the clock and they're crossed at the bottom of the dial. Well, that's how the information was obtained, you see.
And he did the survey, and he didn't call any attention to the fact that he'd noticed the clock and then he left and went on his way. And he transferred this information to me. Now, I knew where those seats were in the theatre, of course. From the back of the stage he signaled to me "yes, that's the woman in the chair that had bought the tickets". I was able to pull off this wonder of mentalism by that means. But I must add that seeing how disturbed she was at this great revelation that I could not possibly have obtained by any other means but psychic means. I insisted to Lawson that we had to watch for her at the door and grab her, and indeed he went out side and he waited until she exited and he asked her if she'd come around to the dressing room door at the back. And she did that and I [...] her inside and she said, "oh, you called upon me personally;" I said "yes, because I want you to understand what happened." I said "we did a bit of spying; it was all a trick," and I explained to her how it was done. And she laughed and she was so amused by that, she said "oh, that's wonder—how clever!" And she hugged me and she hugged Terry and she went on her way. Because I felt that it had been so important to her that she would be carrying this story of this wonderful mentalist who was able to spiritually or psychically or somehow develop this information about her. I wanted her to know how it was done because I felt guilty letting her walk away with this delusion.
S: And imagine if you had less scrupulous motives, what you could achieve with such simple tricks.
JR: Oh, the next move would have been, of course, to get her on my mailing list, and to solicit... now, she was living in a very, very expensive area of Toronto. That home had to be worth a lot of money, and she looked as if she was a single, elderly lady; probably a widow. We could have milked her for all kinds of money, and I'm sure she would have given it up gladly, but that wasn't the nature of the beasts that we were.
S: Randi, thank you.
JR: Thank you.
Science or Fiction ()
Question #1: A new review of research concludes that honey is an effective treatment for wound healing. Question #2: Researchers have developed a method for converting buckwheat honey into biofuel which they claim is more efficient than corn or even sugar cane based biofuel. Question #3: Honey never spoils, and in fact honey was found sealed in jars in Egyptian tombs and was still edible.
Skeptical Puzzle ()
This Week's Puzzle:
If I take 11 people, 4 bodies, a fiend, and a disc, along with 4 qualities and I put them in between a vehicle and a building, what do I have?
Last Week's puzzle:
Deserted some time ago
From a plain red place
As Pluto crossed the sky
Four horses led the way
Gazing down on all the animals
It seemed improbable that animals made them
Despite the insistence of the AA crowd
Foreign visitors were not responsible
What is it?
Answer: Ole Ivand
Winner: The Nazca Lines
Quote of the Week ()
'There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.'- Douglas Adams
S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation. For more information on this and other episodes, please visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Please send us your questions, suggestions, and other feedback; you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website, or you can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org'. 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto and is used with permission.