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One of the most annoying parts of the "world of woo" is people who claim to have psychic powers. Although none has ever actually shown evidence of this ability under strict observation, it's a multi-million dollar business, with some in the field becoming quite prominent. Chip Coffey may not be one of the biggest players, but he's had his 15 minutes of fame with A&E's "Psychic Kids" program and a few other television appearances. Operation Bumblebee (San Jose)Operation Bumblebee (San Jose) A group of us wanted to see whether we could trick him into communicating with dead people who don't actually exist. So after a lot of work and planning, we did just that.

Please CLICK HERE to be taken to my latest article on Randi's "Swift" blog. In it, I detail the success of this project, dubbed "Operation Bumblebee."

The brainchi


I hope that each person reading this article can, someday, have a weekend like the one I just experienced. It was, as the kids say, epic.An Honest LiarAn Honest Liar

Earlier this month, I got a message from my friend, the filmmaker Tyler Meason, letting me know that he’d be in San Francisco on Sunday, June 15th for the screening of “An Honest Liar,” the documentary he co-created with Justin Weinstein that chronicles the life of world-renowned magician and skeptic, James “The Amazing” Randi. I purchased tickets and said that I would see him there. A few weeks passed, and I got another message from Tyler, this time letting me know that James Randi himself would be attending the screening, and suggesting that I look into asking him to make an appearance for the Bay Area Skeptics.

Excited about the possibility, I was eventually able to contact Randi’s husband, the artist Deyvi Peña. As it turns out, Randi was delighted by the invitation, and agreed to show up to an informal meet-and-greet the day before the screening. I explained that this wou


Acts & Facts & Pacifiers

(Reprinted from the National Center for Science Education.)

Acts & Chelyabinsk meteor. © 2013 Alexandr IvanovChelyabinsk meteor. © 2013 Alexandr IvanovFacts is the monthly publication of the Institute for Creation Research, which equips “believers with evidence of the Bible’s accuracy and authority through scientific research…”

Here at NCSE, we maintain a subscription to Acts & Facts to remain informed of the ICR’s stance on various topics and as a reminder of what we face in defending science education. The May 2014 issue has an article by Dr. Jason Lisle—ICR's Director of Research—that is a case study in avoiding worry and shirking responsibility by donning blinders in adopting a human-centric view of the universe.

(N.B. Blinders are those bridle attachments on racehorses to keep them from looking to the side and becoming distracted or ‘spooked.’ The Aussies call them pacifiers. )

Dr. Lisle has been contributing a series of articles to


Jon CarrollJon CarrollJon Carroll understands, promotes, and appreciates science, which we in the Bay Area can be grateful for. CLICK HERE to read Jon's excellent article in the SF Gate, "OMG, What Is In Your Drinking Water."

In this column he nails a Portland official for ridiculously draining 38 million gallons of water because someone allegedly urinated in it. That's 3 parts/billion: a lower level than permitted for arsenic. But read the rest of the article for a very satisfying description of how science works, why it's important to pay attention to it, and why "science is a linchpin of modern society". I sure wish he'd be willing to speak some year for SkeptiCal. (And do you have your ticket yet?)


Are you all "wrapped up" over the stress of the holiday season? If so, it may help to turn to science to make your holiday experience a bit less stressful...Happy HolidaysHappy Holidays

In my latest article on James Randi's "Swift" blog, I investigate some helpful tips from social science research that, if applied, can make your days a bit merrier and brighter.

Wondering how to buy that perfect gift for a loved one (or why others always seem to buy you things you don't like)? Hoping to avoid going into debt without disappointing the family? Trying to deal with the stress of holiday cooking using rather limited culinary skills? Then CLICK HERE to read my take on the psychology of the perfect holiday season.


After bringing home their colorful, sugar-laden bounty from a successful night of Trick or Treat, millions of AmericanHappy HalloweenHappy Halloween children will spend the coming weeks locked in a battle of wills with their parents over how much of the spoils they are allowed to enjoy, and how often they'll have access to it. One of the most common strategies parents employ, based upon a supposed connection between sugar and hyperactivity, will ensure that parents lose that battle...at least, in a scientific sense.

When kids are “bouncing off the walls,” it's not uncommon to hear parents call a temporary halt to all sugar consumption in an effort to save their sanity. One of the most pervasive myths in parenting, the belief that sugar promotes hyperactivity, this connection is solidified in the minds of millions of parents (Ghanizadeh & Zarei, 2010), reinforced at Halloween by one of the most persuasive types of evidence: their own children’s behavior. But, as we skeptics know, personal experience isn’t always the best indicator of reality. Let’s take a


Although most people can provide you with scarcely more detail about the human brain than its existence and approximate location, one Left-Brained / Right-BrainedLeft-Brained / Right-Brainedof the most popular brain-related facts they often report with great certainty is that they are either Left- or Right-Brained. More specifically, "Left-Brained" people describe themselves analytical and logical, with a penchant for mathematics, while the "Right-Brained" report being creative and emotive, with more artistic and intuitive personalities. These self-reports are fraught with problems…not the least of which is the fact that the entire notion of “Left-Brained” or “Right-Brained” people is complete bunk.

A quick Internet search for “Left-Brain/Right-Brain” tests results in literally thousands of options. A popular gimmick for team-building exercises and introductory psychology classes since at least the 1960s, these introspective measures almost always result in a personality type that the participant agrees with. That


Sheldon HelmsSheldon Helms, a BAS Board Member, was featured at a gathering of the Atheist Alliance of San Francisco. The presentation title:
Gay Conversion Therapy: You Make Me Sick.

As our country deals the issues of Marriage Equality, gays in the military, and other forms of inclusion of gays and lesbians into mainstream society, and as Russia and others institute draconian laws limiting the rights of their gay and lesbian citizens, fringe religious and therapeutic organizations have operated mostly in the shadows, attempting to "convert" their homosexual clients to heterosexuality through a mixture of prayer and pseudoscience.

Helms describes the history of attempts to define homosexuality as an illness and to make gays go straight. He details such aspects as: the goals and viewpoints of those involved in Gay Conversion Therapy; their pseudoscientific and sometimes dangerous practices; and a description of the results of over 100 years of attempts to alter sexual orientation.

Some forms of Gay Conversion Therapy have been outlawed in California and New Jersey, and one of the primary institutions that


Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most important figures in the struggle for Civil Rights in theMartin Luther King, JrMartin Luther King, Jr U.S., took part in the March on Washington in 1963, where King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech with which he would become so closely associated, and widely considered to be one of the best and most important speeches of the 20th century.

To honor this man and his legacy, I thought it might be useful to discuss racism, or more broadly, the phenomenon that powers it, bigotry.

COMMON SENSE vs. THE EVIDENCE:

To many people, it seems quite obvious that “intolerance toward those who are different, or who hold different views” is learned. After all, schoolchildren of different races can be South Pacific

As some of you know, know, I attended the 11th annual Amazing Meeting (TAM) put on by the James Randi Educational Foundation. And my friend Celeste joined me there -- I gotta give her props for taking the TAM 2013 - Fighting the FakersTAM 2013 - Fighting the Fakerslead, actually -- she signed up immediately upon discovering such an event took place, while I hemmed and hawed and tried to justify the expense. So glad I succumbed to reason and finally bought my ticket!

This year's theme was "Fighting the Fakers" and emphasis was on psychics, woo alternative med practices, and other ways human beings have found to trick dollars out of pockets without providing any real service. James "The Amazing" Randi, who calls himself an investigator rather than a "debunker," has been a skeptical hero of mine for years and has inspired, trained, and influenced just about every professional skeptic and legitimate paranormal investigator working today (and no, the ghost h


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