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Posts Tagged ‘Guardian’

Bad Press For Psychics; I TOTALLY Predicted That!

September 20, 2011 2 comments

I recently wrote a post about ‘Psychic Nikki’, a Toronto-area psychic who said she would be interested in taking the $1 million psychic challenge from the James Randi Education Foundation.

She has since backed away from that statement.

Now, The Guardian reports that a British psychic by the name of Sally Morgan has also gotten herself into a bit of a media firestorm.

It would seem that Ms. Morgan, Britain’s “best-loved psychic” (according to her website) did a show at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin on September 11.

The next day, Ms. Morgan was on a radio show called Liveline on RTE Radio 1.

A woman named Sue called into the radio show and claimed she was at Ms. Morgan’s show the previous evening, and asked about a something strange she experienced.

No, it was not a ghostly, eerie psychic experience. Instead, it seems that Sue was sitting near the rear of the theater and became aware of a small room behind their seats.

Sue claims she heard a man’s voice coming from this room. Not only that, but Sue says that 

“everything that the man was saying, the psychic was saying it 10 seconds later.”

For example, the voice would say something like “David, pain in the back, passed quickly” and a few seconds later Sally would claim to have the spirit of a “David” on stage who – you’ll never guess – suffered from back pain and passed quickly.

A staff member realized that this voice was being heard by spectators, and promptly shut the window to the room.

A few other people also called into the radio show and corroborated Sue’s story.

This is a common trick used by “psychics” who do live shows. They will either have people placed in the crowd to gather information from the spectators about which spirits they would like to hear from, or use microphones to eavesdrop on conversations and gather information that way.

Someone will then feed the “psychic” this information through an earpiece, making it look like they predicted or “sensed” the information themselves.

Chris French, the writer of The Guardian article, points out that this is much like James Randi’s debunking of faith healer Peter Popoff in the mid-1980s.

Popoff, it seems, was getting information from “Prayer Cards”, information cards he asked his spectators to fill out before the show with name, address, and afflictions they would like to have “healed”.

This information was then fed to Popoff via an earpiece by his wife. And why not? They were pulling in a cool $4 million A MONTH by bilking these sick and needy people.

Sally Morgan isn’t doing too badly either; she is currently out promoting her third book and filming a third season of her TV Show, Psychic Sally on the Road.

But this isn’t the first time Ms. Morgan’s abilities have fallen under criticism. In 2007 she did a reading for Big Brother winner Brian Dowling, claiming she had never met him before.

In fact, she had done a reading for him in 2005. When questioned about this by The Independent, she simply said that she did it

because the director told me to.

But even though her techniques are getting exposed, she is going to continue to rake it in. Psychics benefit from that fact that people want to believe. So desperately do people want to speak to their dead relatives, or hear that they are going to find love that they will believe, and pay, anything to have that happen.

And there will always be those willing to take advantage of whomever they can for a few bucks.

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Ryan

Do Cell Phone Towers Make Women Pregnant?

December 23, 2010 3 comments

A Typical Cell Phone Tower, via Wikimedia Commons.

That is what the data is showing.

Using publically available data on the birth rates of communities, Matt Parker, who writes for The Guardian, did an analysis of the data and found this remarkable correlation. On average, there were 17.6 more babies born above the national average in the area around a cell phone tower.

So are cell phone towers actually causing women to get pregnant?

No.

And that’s the point.

On his blog, Parker is trying to make the point that correlation does not equal causation, which is almost a mantra for skeptics. Recent hysteria regarding WiFi and Cell phones has prompted many skeptics (including yours truly) to blog on the subject and express their displeasure. Not only with the quack “scientists” promoting this idea, but also with the media for callously reporting on it without proper research, only furthering the spread of misinformation.

Parker says,

There is no causal link between the masts and the births despite the strong correlation. Both the number of mobile phone transmitters and the number of live births are linked to a third, independent factor: the local population size. As the population of an area goes up, so do both the number of mobile phone users and the number people giving birth.

This is what is known as an observational study. The study is not performed in a lab where variables can be controlled. It is performed by observing the real world and attempting to make sense of the data.

As you can see, it is quite easy to come to a false conclusion despite good data. Accounting for all variables in such a study is extremely difficult, and sometimes damn near impossible. Firm conclusions on a topic should never be drawn based solely on a study of this type.

It should go without saying, but there is no credible evidence linking wireless internet or cell phone use to health problems. This is junk science promoted by junk scientists, and spread through the naive media who care more about ratings and readers than reporting truth.

I really like that someone took the time to get make this point using real data. Hopefully, this will get as many headlines as stories about cell phones causing cancer do.