Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Well, so far so good on my goal of posting every day for a week. Maybe tomorrow I'll add the goal of actually posting before 11:55. (Well, starting the post before 11:55--the post is dated by the time I started writing it, not the time I finished, so technically this post didn't go up till Thursday. Eh, close enough.)

Anyway, because it is once again so late, this will be a very brief post. I will just mention that a week ago last Saturday (that is to say, the 17th--yeah, I'm way behind on posting), I went to my second meeting of the Independent Investigations Group. As I'd mentioned in a previous post, the first meeting I went to was, I was told, rather...atypical. This month's meeting was apparently more like the usual.

And what it mostly consisted of was a discussion of various pseudoscientific claims, and methods of debunking them or spreading the word about its falseness. I managed to help out a little myself, possibly, in that one of the things they were wanting to do was experimentally test some sort of patch (I forget what it was called) that was supposed to block the radio waves from cell phones from harming the phone's user. (Of course, they all already know on theoretical grounds that the patch can't possibly be doing what it's claimed to be doing, not to mention that there's no evidence the radio waves from cell phones are actually in any way harmful anyway, but saying "We tested it, and it doesn't work" is likely to be more convincing to the less scientifically literate than "Although we haven't tried it, we know it doesn't work because of the following scientific principles".) As it happens, the lab where I pursue my graduate studies has access to a Faraday cage, one of the things they'd need for the test, and I gave them the contact info for the person in charge and some advice on how to approach him to ask if they can do their test there. No guarantee he'll say yes, of course, but there's no harm in asking.

The IIG also offers a reward for those who can successfully demonstrate any sort of paranormal ability--similar in principle to the million-dollar challenge offered by James Randi, although the amount of money involved is smaller (then again, so are the criteria for being tested; Randi's gotten overwhelmed enough with challengers he's had to start screening them first). Well, we've got a potential challenger, a dowser from Alabama. According to the other IIG members, this guy seems not only more confident than most of the paranormal claimants they've seen in the past, but much more collected and careful in his claims--which leads them to be nervous that he may have some trickery up his sleeve, so they're going to be especially cautious with him. Anyway, I volunteered to be on the committee to come up with the testing procedure for him; the committee hasn't met yet, but it should be interesting when it does.

Okay, so, that's the second post in my planned seven consecutive days of posting. Two down, five to go.