Archive for the ‘ghosts & paranormal’ Category
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 25, 2013
Wow, sometimes the good guys win one. In case you didn’t know, there has been a long-running skeptical campaign against a pseudoscientific fraudster, James McCormick, who sold bomb dowsing kits to the Iraqi military. Yes, you read that correctly, dowsing kits – as in “water witching”! And no, dowsing doesn’t work. And yes, it resulted in a lot of people getting killed, because these things didn’t do squat to detect bombs. And yes, it pleases me greatly to see this criminal finally receive justice…
McCormick’s fake bomb detectors were used at Iraqi checkpoints staffed by the British military
A millionaire businessman who sold fake bomb detectors to countries including Iraq and Georgia, knowing they did not work, has been convicted of fraud.
James McCormick, 56, of Langport, Somerset, is said to have made £50m from sales and sold more than 6,000 in Iraq, the Old Bailey heard.
Police said the devices, modelled on a novelty golf ball finder, are still in use at some checkpoints.
One Iraqi bomb victim described him to the BBC as a “morally bankrupt” man.
During Tuesday’s hearing at the Old Bailey in London, the court was told McCormick’s detectors, which cost up to $40,000 (£27,000) each, were completely ineffectual and lacked any grounding in science.
Richard Whittam QC, for the prosecution, said: “The devices did not work and he knew they did not work.”
McCormick had claimed the devices could bypass “all forms of concealment”, detecting drugs and people along with explosives, the court heard.
He claimed they would work under water and from the air, and would track an object up to 1km (3280ft) below the ground.
The bomb detectors came with cards which were “programmed” to detect a wide array of substances, from ivory to $100 banknotes.
Other substances could be detected, it was claimed, if put in a jar with a sticker which would absorb its “vapours” and was then stuck on a card that would be read by the machine.
In reality, McCormick’s device was based on $20 (£13) golf ball finders which he had purchased from the US and which had no working electronics.
Police said McCormick showed a complete disregard for the safety of those who used and relied upon the device for their own security and protection. …
Serves this scumbag right. I hope they throw the book at him, not only for his crimes but also to send a clear message to the other fraudsters and charlatans out there: we’re watching you. Skepticism matters.
Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: ADE651, ATSC Ltd, bomb, conviction, corruption, court, crime, criminal, detection, detector, dowsing, dowsing rods, explosive, fake, FBI, fraud, Iraq, Iraqi, James McCormick, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, Jim McCormick, JREF, justice, military, pseudoscience, Quadro, Randi, security, terrorism, trial, UK, United Kingdom | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 3, 2012
I just ran across this parody of the “History” Channel by some folks calling themselves the EVP Patrol Squad. They are spoofing the various pseudoscientific “experts” that are regularly paraded out on that channel in favor of various ancient alien, paranormal, and ghostly claims. The funny thing is that if you actually watch some of the stuff on the History Channel, it is so goofy that it almost seems that this is straight from one of their shows – so this is good evidence of Poe’s Law. Enjoy!
I don’t know about you all, but I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to look a sporks the same again. The horror… THE HORROR!!!
Posted in aliens & UFOs, ghosts & paranormal, humor, skeptical community | Tagged: aliens, ancient astronauts, cable, EVP Patrol Squad, ghosts, History Channel, humor, mystery, Mystory, paranormal, parody, Poe, Poe's Law, Soundiron, spoof, spork, TV, UFO, video, youtube | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 28, 2012
Years ago I performed an impromptu investigation of the Montana Vortex, a roadside attraction whose proprieters claim that there is actually some kind of weird adjustment to the laws of physics in order to account for the strange goings on there. Like many such attractions, the folks who run the Montana Vortex have a “mystery house” where the effect of gravity seems to be lop-sided. But while this is obviously an illusion, it certainly feels real…
Thanks to a follower of this blog (@denatureSD on Twitter), I saw this recent Science Friday video from YouTube which nicely explains this phenomenon. Enjoy!
Posted in ghosts & paranormal, psychology | Tagged: anomalies, anomaly, auras, energy, field, Golden Vortex, gravity, House of Mystery, illusions, Montana Vortex, mystery house, New Age, Nick Nelson, optical illusion, optics, orbs, paranormal, physics, plank illusion, psychology, quantum, Science Friday, supernatural, tilted house, tricks, vortex | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 14, 2012
I know I’m posting this a little late, but I wanted to let you all know that I’m going to be interviewed tonight (Monday, May 14th) live on Darkness Radio at 11:00pm CDT. If you recall, I blogged some time ago – almost two years – about a very interesting discussion I had with paranormal investigator Dave Schrader at Convergence 2010 on the topic of “ghost hunting”. Despite the fact that Dave’s a believer in ghosts and the paranormal and I’m a skeptic, we hit it off and he invited me to be on his show so that I could give my perspective as a skeptic… well, it took awhile, but tonight’s the night!
If you can catch the show, please click the Darkness Radio icon below to listen live. Otherwise, try looking it up on the Darkness Radio archive afterwards.
Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: afterlife, Darkness Radio, Dave Schrader, death, demons, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghostbusters, ghostbusting, ghosts, interview, investigator, live, mediums, paranormal, Paranormal Radio, psychics, radio, sensitives, skeptic, spirits, supernatural, TAPS, The Atlantic Paranormal Society | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 22, 2011
I shouldn’t be surprised to see this particular headline at this time of the year: The Shroud of Turin Wasn’t Faked, Italian Experts Say. It’s just too easy, I assume, for the media to take a story like this and run with it during the Christmas season. Going beyond the headline, I’d like to analyze a couple of specifics from the folks who are behind this latest “research” on the Shroud.
First, they claim – falsely – that it would have been impossible to fake the Shroud…
… Experts at Italy’s National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development have concluded in a report that the famed purported burial cloth of Jesus Christ could not have been faked. … [emphasis added]
Which is an interesting claim, based upon the fact that in 2009 researcher Luigi Garlaschelli published his methods for replicating the Shroud using only techniques which would have been available in the 13th and 14th centuries (dates to which all available evidence points as the time of origin of the Shroud). Here’s what he came up with…
Replications of the Shroud of Turin — So much for the claim that it cannot be replicated (oops)
But the worst part of the analysis by the Shroud proponents comes from the next part of the ABC article:
… According to the Vatican Insider, a project by La Stampa newspaper that closely follows the Catholic church, the experts’ report says, “The double image (front and back) of a scourged and crucified man, barely visible on the linen cloth of the Shroud of Turin has many physical and chemical characteristics that are so particular that the staining which is identical in all its facets, would be impossible to obtain today in a laboratory … This inability to repeat (and therefore falsify) the image on the Shroud makes it impossible to formulate a reliable hypothesis on how the impression was made.” … [emphasis added]
Note the last line there. It is essentially one big argument from ignorance – that’s what this entire “scientific” endeavor basically boils down to: we don’t know whether or not the Shroud is real, so therefore it really was the burial cloth of Jesus Christ!
So because you don’t know, you know???
Seriously? That’s the argument? Using such sloppy logic I could just as easily argue that the Shroud was created by invisible leprechauns, but somehow I don’t think the Catholic Church would go with that explanation. And that’s the silly thing about arguments from ignorance: once you use such thinking as an acceptable method of argumentation, just about any kind of crazy idea (without any evidence to support it whatsoever) becomes fair game.
If this is the best the Shroud proponents can do, color me unimpressed.
Posted in ghosts & paranormal, religion | Tagged: carbon 14, carbon dating, Catholic Church, chemistry, crucifiction, crucifixion, Energy and Sustainable Development, faith, God, Greek, holy relic, Italian, Italy, Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, Joe Nickell, Latin, Luigi Garlaschelli, miracle, National Agency for New Technologies, Nazarene, pareidolia, Passion, pious fraud, radiocarbon dating, religion, resurrection, Shroud of Turin, Shroudie, skeptic, True Cross, Vatican | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 24, 2011
I’ve blogged here before about “professional” ghost-hunters and their woo. And in many cases I have taken such “professionals” to task for not really following any kind of decent, consistent protocols (such as knowing how their instrumentation works, duh) but instead favoring stories that seem to be a combination of the Blair-Witch Project and various kinds of techno-babble. But now I just have to mention a couple of things about how many ghost-hunters just seem to get basic physics (pardon the pun) dead wrong.
My skeptical colleague Ben Radford recently wrote an article for LiveScience.com on this very point…
… Despite years of efforts by ghost hunters on TV and in real life, we still do not have good proof that ghosts are real. Many ghost hunters believe that strong support for the existence of ghosts can be found in modern physics. Specifically, that Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientific minds of all time, offered a scientific basis for the reality of ghosts. …
Now hold on a minute. As we’ve seen before, it is not uncommon for pseudoscientists and cranks of all kinds to try glomming onto Einstein’s coat-tails as one of the most well-known and respected scientists of the 20th century as a way of trying to gain traction for their ideas. It is as if they think that by simply invoking Einstein’s name and theories, despite the fact that they have no real understanding of those theories, that it will somehow, magically make them correct. Of course, this simply displays a fundamental flaw in the thinking of ghost-hunters, because it shows they have no real knowledge of how science (much less physics) works.
Specifically, in this case the ghost-hunters are claiming that Einstein’s theory of relativity “proves” the existence of ghosts:
… For example, ghost researcher John Kachuba, in his book “Ghosthunters” (2007, New Page Books), writes, “Einstein proved that all the energy of the universe is constant and that it can neither be created nor destroyed. … So what happens to that energy when we die? If it cannot be destroyed, it must then, according to Dr. Einstein, be transformed into another form of energy. What is that new energy? … Could we call that new creation a ghost?”
This idea shows up — and is presented as evidence for ghosts — on virtually all ghost-themed websites as well. For example, a group called Tri County Paranormal states, “Albert Einstein said that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change from one form to another. When we are alive, we have electrical energy in our bodies. … What happens to the electricity that was in our body, causing our heart to beat and making our breathing possible? There is no easy answer to that.” … [emphasis added]
Actually, the answer is pretty easy, as long as you understand how energy is related to matter as outlined in Einstein’s theory. It can all be summed up in what is probably the most well-known, but one of the least understood, equations in all of science… Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in ghosts & paranormal, physics denial/woo | Tagged: afterlife, Ben Radford, dead, death, detecting, detector, E=mc2, Einstein, electromagnetic fields, EMF, energy, ghost buster, ghost hunter, ghostbuster, ghosts, investigation, mass, mass energy equivalence, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, relativity, skeptic, skeptical, spirits, theories, theory | 17 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 27, 2011
My favorite time of the year is almost upon us: Halloween!
I love Halloween not just because of the candy, the costumes, and the decorations (when else can you be a complete freak and it be socially acceptable?) but also because of the wonderful potential for promoting skepticism and critical thinking about various paranormal claims. Let’s face it: at this time of the year, ghosts, witchcraft, psychics, and various other kinds of woo are on everyone’s minds, so why not take advantage of that fact and use it to inject the skeptical viewpoint on things? I have found this to be a very effective teaching technique over the years, so that’s why I pass it along to you.
So in the spirit of the season (pardon the pun), allow me to share with you some links to various Halloween-ish skeptical resources that you can use, including a few of my earlier blog posts on the subject…
Posted in aliens & UFOs, education, ghosts & paranormal, humor, magic tricks, physics denial/woo, psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: 1938, AAPT, aliens, American Association of Physics Teachers, broadcast, cartoon, critical thinking, delusion, detectors, education, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, esp, extrasensory perception, Flim Flam, ghost hunter, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghosts, Halloween, Haunted Physics Lab, high school, hoax, humor, hysteria, infrared, invaders, invasion, James Randi, Lake Forest, lesson, magic, mars, Martians, mass hysteria, media, Mercury Theater, meters, NOVA, orb, Orson Welles, Ouija, Ouija board, panic, paranoraml, paranormal, PBS, physics, pseudoscience, psychics, radio, Randi, science, Secrets of the Psychics, skeptic, Skeptic's Dictionary, skepticism, Snopes, South Park, spacecraft, spirit, spirits, TAPS, teacher, teaching, temperature, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi, The Atlantic Paranormal Society, UFO, war, War of the Worlds, waves, woo | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 20, 2011
You may recall that I made a blog post in 2009 – titled Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific Sells “Ghost Detectors” & Other Woo – wherein I strongly criticized the science teaching outlet called Edmund Scientific for caving in to the “ghost hunter” fad. They started to sell all manner of goofy things: ghost detectors (which are actually just electromagnetic field meters) and even DVDs on remote viewing. And all of this from a science teaching catalog – you might as well turn to the biology section and see creationist materials for sale!
[**Addendum (6/28/11): to get a good look at why I view such claims about EMF meters "detecting ghosts" so skeptically, take a look at this post - Convergence/Skepchicon Day 2: Ghost Hunting & Evidence Review - which outlines that so-called ghost hunters, when pressed, basically admit they aren't doing any serious science. But they want to look like it]
Well, not to be outdone in their tumble down the rabbit hole, Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific now has for sale an “ESP Lamp”. I kid you not – they claim this thing can actually read your thoughts… as in extra-sensory perception… as in psychic woo-woo… and it only costs about $200! But don’t take my word for it. Read their own description of the product:
Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific’s “ESP Lamp and Money Burner”
Lead your own experiments in the mind’s possible influence on machines, PSI testing, and more with this colorful LED lamp. Four different color LEDs are lighted dependent upon a random number generated from a miniature Geiger counter included on the back. You may even figure out how to use it to tell the future. And, when you need a break from the lab, it makes a very interesting lamp too.
I’ll agree that it makes an interesting lamp, but that’s about the only thing in the description that’s factual. Everything else is pretty much pseudoscientific gobble-dee-gook because many decades of research has clearly shown that no such phenomenon as ESP exists. And that part about “telling the future”? I suggest just saving your money and buying a Magic 8-Ball, because it would cost a LOT less and give you just as accurate results!
But, sadly, that won’t appear to stop Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific from catering to the lowest common denominator in their quest for a quick buck off the gullible. Unfortunately for them, they don’t seem to have done the math on the other side of things: how do they think science teachers across the country are going to react when they see this sort of garbage for sale in their catalog? I know that I’ve spoken to a large number of science teachers who are quite upset about this (and justifiably so) and who are boycotting Edmund. I’m among them, and I encourage all of my skeptical colleagues (especially those teachers among us) to do likewise: until Edmund (Pseudo)Scientific pulls products like this “ESP Lamp” and their “ghost meter” from their shelves – or at least until they advertise them in an honest and scientifically-accurate fashion – we should refuse to give them any business.
Posted in education, ghosts & paranormal, physics denial/woo, psychics | Tagged: catalog, Edmund Scientific, education, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, esp, extrasensory perception, ghost hunter, ghost meter, ghosts, infrared, lamp, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, psychic, remote viewing, RV, science, Stargate, teaching, temperature, time travel, waves, woo | 6 Comments »