A prolific Toronto-area psychic named “Psychic Nikki” recently made headlines by saying that she would be interested in taking the ‘Psychic Challenge’ offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF).
The JREF offers a $1 million prize to any person who can demonstrate psychic abilities. What is the catch? Well there is none, really.
You just have to demonstrate a statistically significant ability to predict future events (beyond that of chance) in a controlled scientific experiment. The terms of the experiment are agreed upon by both the “psychic” and the JREF and the experiment itself conducted by a third-party.
Unfortunately, of the hundreds of people who have attempted the test, none have been able to demonstrate that they are, indeed, psychic.
Enter “Psychic Nikki”.
On August 31, 2011, the CBC reported that Psychic Nikki was considering taking the challenge,
“I would say yes, I would take [the] challenge because I have enough faith in my own abilities if I was available,” Toronto-based psychic Nikki told CBC News.
“I am the real thing so I don’t have to worry about this stuff.”
The statement came after a high-profile challenge by James Randi to famous psychics to come and prove their abilities.
Psychic Nikki was quite confident. She has, by her own claim, predicted
the Sept. 11 attacks, the Japan tsunami and the deaths of Michael Jackson, crocodile hunter Steve Irwin and Anna Nicole Smith.
Though despite predicting these events, she did not bother trying to prevent any of them. You can actually check out her Twitter feed to see some of her predictions, which include:
I’m pretty sure people riot/protest in Paris every week…
Been 10 days, nuthin’ yet on that one…
And my personal favourite,
The predictions are rather vague (excepting the Mona Lisa one), which is odd considering her website states that
She is an audient clairvoyant – the ability to see and hear and come up with specifics.
Psychics use specialized strategies to appear like they are foretelling the future. For example, they will make a large number of vague predictions (called “Shotgunning”), and then claim victory when any individual prediction comes close to the truth. Predicting an earthquake in California at some point will probably end up being true, but it is hardly convincing evidence of psychic ability.
Now, as revealed on the JREF website, Psychic Nikki has started distancing herself from the challenge.
The JREF called Nikki on Sept. 2, requesting an email address to send her information about the Million Dollar Challenge. After CBC News published a followup story on Tuesday, Sept. 6, Nikki returned the JREF’s call, leaving a message in which she promised “I will try to contact you in the next couple of days for sure.” The JREF called her back within an hour, again offering to send information about the Challenge and answer her questions.
A full week after Nikki promised to call the JREF “in the next couple of days,” she still had not responded.
She also commented on the challenge on the Dean Blundell show on September 9th. Most notably she said that
This test is controlled, that’s why I don’t want to take it
Which is basically the point. Once “psychics” find out that the test will be fairly testing their abilities, they either back away or ultimately fail the test. That is bad for business.
This is not at all surprising, but it is a bit refreshing to see it get coverage in big news outlets like the CBC. I expect that attention to this story will slowly dissipate once Psychic Nikki stops talking about it, but the point as been made.
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In the early 1960s, two Canadian scientists by the names of James Till and Ernest McCulloch at the University of Toronto made the discovery of stem cells.
Stem cells, put simply, can be thought of as “blank slates”; cells which can divide differentiate in a variety of cell types. They can now be used to grow human tissues and may even one day be able to grow entire organs which can be transplanted into human subjects.
So if you live in the Toronto area, be sure to check it out!
(Thanks to @DiscoveryCanada for bringing this to my attention)
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It happens pretty often, but seeing it on video is quite cool.
On August 24, 2011 there was a large electrical storm over Toronto, Ontario. The CN Tower itself was struck by lightning about 15 times in a half hour.
Well I’m back. After a nice long break and a whole lot of slacking I’ve returned to good ole’ Calgary and my place of employment.
The holidays were a lot of fun, if busy. When you live in a different part of the country than all your friends/family, coming home for a week or so is quite an ordeal.
An awesome ordeal, though.
Over many beers, pints, shots, and chocolates I caught up with most of the people I wanted to see. A successful trip indeed.
But now I have returned to real life, my cubicle at my office overlooking downtown Calgary and it is good to be back. Travelling is stressful even when on vacation and I’m glad to have a little down time.
I realize the irony that coming back to work seems like “down time”, but I think many of you know exactly what I mean.
So over the coming weeks expect me to be back to full blogging form. My enthusiasm for science/skepticism has not wavered, though my diligence in posting everyday has in the last few weeks.
So Happy New Year to all, hope your hangovers have subsided by now and you are as ready as I am to start a great new year of scientific discovery!
That’s what was postered on the side of buses in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal last year. And they are planning to do it again.
The Centre for Inquiry (CFI) is launching a campaign which would see similar ads on the sides of buses in Toronto starting in January, pending final approval from the Toronto Transit Commission. This year’s campaign is “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence”, and compares the belief in God and Allah to the belief in Bigfoot and Tarot reading.
The campaign’s website says:
Why is belief in Big Foot dismissed as delusional while belief in Allah and Christ is respected and revered? All of these claims are equally extraordinary and demand critical examination
Assuming they get approval to run the ads in Toronto, the CFI hopes to move the campaign into other major Canadian cities.
I’d love it if everyone saw the ads and know the point of the campaign is to emphasize not the kind of knee-jerk debunking to anything suspicious but that we’re interested in a genuine debate, a conversation about so-called extraordinary claims. We’re not here to mock people who believe in these claims
I’m back everyone!
I hope you enjoyed my Top 10 Sci-Fi movie countdown while I was away on vacation. I got some great comments and nobody has told me I was way off base with my picks (yet).
So what have I been up to? While I currently reside in Calgary, Alberta, I grew up in Ontario. I made a 10 day trip back home to visit friends and family.
I had a fantastic time too! I made it back to London, Ontario where I went to the University of Western Ontario.
There, I visited the lab where I did my M.Sc and had drinks at my favourite pub Molly Bloom’s.
I felt totally sick in the morning, thanks in large part to my lab buddies sneaking Vodka shots into my beers without my knowledge. I had a great time though.
I then headed north to visit friends in Port Elgin.
There I had some great BBQ, saw great friends and had great times.
After that, I travelled to Ontario’s capital, Toronto. There I stayed for a few days going out for dim sum and drinking at the Bier Markt downtown.
I also had a great time on a patio the following night along Bloor Street.
After partying it up on the streets of Toronto, I headed northeast to my hometown of Peterborough.
There I got to see a whole whack of my family, as it was my Mom’s 50th Birthday and we had a big party for her. It went really well and I had a great time.
The following day, I got to see two of my best friends from high school get married!
The ceremony was beautiful, the location was fantastic, and the party afterward, well…I don’t quite remember. But I have some blurry photographic evidence which leads me to believe it was awesome.
After 10 days of this, you can imagine I am pretty exhausted. I need to get back to work to actually relax.
But thats what I was up to while I was gone, but of course science never takes a holiday, and I got some great stuff to write about in the coming days. Stay tuned…