Friday, June 22, 2007

Let's play a game where we pretend...

   Recently, a challenger for the James Randi Educational Foundation's one million dollar prize was tested on the Japanese television program Getsuyoru (roughly translated: Monday Night). A gentleman by the name of Mike Maggio claimed to be able to contact "spirits" who could reveal to him the contents of sealed envelopes. He agreed to a test protocol in which twenty sealed envelopes would contain pictures of twenty different items. Mike would pick up each envelope, and write upon it the name of the item his "spirits" identified as being inside. Mr. Maggio was given the list of items beforehand, so he didn't need to pull items out of thin air. He simply needed to match up twenty known items to the envelopes which contained their pictures. According to the test protocol, he needed to match only five of the twenty items correctly in order to pass this preliminary testing phase and move on to the formal test for the million bucks.
   Only five. It doesn't sound like a lot. Should be dead easy, right? But, remember, according to random chance, he should be able to correctly identify only one out of twenty. Five is a significant result that approaches the one in one thousand odds Randi requires for a preliminary test. A final, formal test would require a result needing greater than one in one million odds of passing by pure chance in order to walk away with the one million dollars.
   Also important to note is the fact that Mr. Maggio participated in the design of the test, and agreed before testing began that it was a fair test of his alleged abilities. He was confident going in that, not only would he reach the five correct answers mark required to pass the test, he would correctly identify all twenty items. The picture below is representative of his results in general.



   Mike wrote the word "AUTOMOBILE" on the outside of the envelope. That envelope contained a picture of a glass of "BEER." In all, Mr. Maggio correctly identified one of the twenty items; exactly what the laws of chance would predict. He was unable to explain why his "spirits" failed to correctly identify the items in the envelopes, but refused to accept the possibility that it was because they don't exist.
   Up next for the JREF challenge, Mr. Mike Guska, who claims to be able to successfully locate precious metals, like gold and silver, by way of dowsing. Mr. Guska has already been tested by the JREF once before, and has created all kinds of rationalized excuses for why he failed that test. As per the rules of the challenge, he is permitted to reapply to be tested again after one year, and he has done so. My prediction: Mr. Guska will once again fail a test he agreed was fair and helped to design; and Mr. Guska will once again refuse to accept even the possibility that his failure might be because dowsing just doesn't work. Unfortunately, that prediction, when it comes true, will not win me the one million dollars.


note: That last link leads to a JREF forum thread spanning - to date - thirty-seven pages, and almost fifteen hundred invidual messages. Not for the faint of heart...or mind.

8 comments:

dpoem said...

I'm still waiting for Sylvia Brown to take that challenge.  

-Dan
http://journals.aol.com/dpoem/TheWisdomofaDistractedMind/

plittle said...

tick tock... ( http://www.randi.org/sylvia/index.html )
-Paul

dpoem said...

I know it'll never happen, Paul.  In fact, it's more likely that a Swedish swimsuit model will arrive on my doorstep to hand me the keys to a brand new Ferrari (I know.  You'd think she'd have a Volvo, but it's my dream).

-Dan

lurkynat said...

Paul nice entry! oh yeah when does Curling start/
hugs,nat

lurkynat said...

there are many goofies out there.
uh.. there still could be a few great people too
hugs Paul
nat

missheathyrmaree said...

I figured you'd like this:

http://singingwithmyheart.blogspot.com/2007/06/music-makes-people-come-together.html


so tag, you're it!
:] it's music! yay!
hugs,
heather

princesssaurora said...

I only have two words.... BOOK MEME!

be well,
Dawn
http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/

stillh20z said...

LMAO-you're just mean.

(not really)

Maybe he can locate me 2500 smackers so I can buy my neighbor's spotless, low-mileage, 83 two-door perfect maroon Volvo.  

In the meantime, I'll be sitting by the window in case I miss that pig whizzing thru the sky.

Love ya, shithead.

:P