The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for August 1st, 2010

Skeptic Track at Gen Con in Indy!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 1, 2010

I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to some of my Midwestern skeptical friends who are, for the first time, getting a skeptic track going at Gen Con – one of the largest gaming conventions!  If you find yourself in or near Indianapolis, Indiana next weekend – August 5-8 – check it out…

If you go, tell them I sent you!  Some things to look forward to in the Gen Con skeptic track…

*promoting vaccination & dealing with anti-vax malarkey

*evolution & creationism

*cryptozoology

+ a lot of other interesting & fun stuff.  For more information, check out the Gen Con skeptic track website. 🙂

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Skeptical Psychic Fair in Chicago a Hit & How Ouija Boards Fail

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 1, 2010

On Friday, July 23rd, the Women Thinking Free Foundation held a skeptical psychic fair in Chicago as a fundraiser while also having some fun exposing the various tricks & techniques that go into all manner of psychic nonsense.

Among all the drinking & merriment, there were a number activities that we had, including a tarot card silent auction, a “psychic showdown”, along with some fun mentalism & magic tricks.  We also handed out many copies of Michael Shermer’s Learn to be Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons! which outlines the tricks of the psychic trade, including such time-honored (and completely NON-paranormal) techniques such as cold reading.

My primary contribution to the event was to bring a Ouija board to demonstrate a lesson in critical thinking regarding these supposed “spirit boards”…

The whole trick behind the standard operation of a Ouija board is a well-documented & understood phenomenon called the ideomotor effect, whereby the people holding their hands on the pointer of the board (the planchette) subconsciously maneuver it around without necessarily knowing it.  In fact, with Ouija boards, tests have been performed that illustrate that when the people using the board are blindfolded, and the board is randomly rotated without their knowledge, then all the supposed messages from the “spirit world” turn into gibberish.  Just take a look at this footage from Penn & Teller’s Bullshit where they tested a Ouija board in just this manner… 🙂

Read the rest of this entry »

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