Two quick takes on a couple of oddities that were brought to my attention: cases of magic space salts and magic metal foils.
Here’s a bit of a scam: this company called Space2O lofts salts into space, and then adds them in trace amounts to water and sells it with the label “Contents have been subjected to microgravity during spaceflight” — as if that has the slightest significance. Braving the Elements calls them on this nonsense, and then the fun begins. Check out the comments: a couple of indignant trolls start bragging about their Ph.D.s and getting irate that he would even question the motives of this wonderful company. I particularly like the pompous fellow who announces that they aren’t just salts, they’re important salts like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, declares that his large cadre of friends have put the blog on the “alert list”, and accuses the blogger of being French.
I’m a little jealous. Those are high-quality, special trolls. I wonder if they’ve been launched into space lately?
Jason Kuznicki asks me to weigh in on the tale of the
gold leaf lady. This is the story of a woman who has mysterious flakes of gold leaf appear on her face during a conversation, reported by a man who assures us that she didn’t put them there, nor did her husband, her hands didn’t move, the gold leaf just appeared. Yeah, right. Nobody has ever actually seen it appear, and they never catch it on video, either.
Apparently, Bert had never succeeded in capturing the emergence of foil on video. Every time I asked him to show me some evidential footage, he always produced a sample in which the foil had already appeared. Moreover, I don’t believe Bert has unbroken footage beginning with the initial search of Katie and continuing through the eventual appearance of the foil when she lifted her shirt. But I also don’t believe Bert cares particularly whether he managed to obtain video evidence of the sort I hoped for. He was already certain the foil manifestations were genuine, and he was more interested in documenting Katie the subject, probing the psychogenesis, meaning, and variations of the phenomenon. I actually respect Bert’s perspective and share it to a great extent. I also share his impatience with the continued emphasis in parapsychology on proof-oriented research.
We don’t need no steenkin’ evidence!
Note the comment about lifting her shirt. This was funny: to rule out the possibility that she’s stashed some foil on her person, they ask her to “lift her shirt to just below her breasts”. Nope, no foil on her tummy! And no woman would actually hide something in her bra or under her pants.
This isn’t a mystery. Thin foils are easy to hide, easy to spread on skin — they flow almost like water — and this whole act is nothing but sleight of hand. A little misdirection, an unobtrusive move, presto.
Jason wants scientific input on this matter, but I’d have to say that’s not who he needs. Scientists tend to operate on the assumption that the observed phenomenon is not consciously trying to fool them, and this is the kind of routine that can baffle them. He needs a magician.
I had dinner with James Randi last month at Sci Foo, and he pulled a few simple card tricks and sleight of hand maneuvers that had everyone at the table completely baffled, and these were much trickier stunts than putting a dot of foil on a fingertip and deftly rolling it out when no one was looking. They didn’t involve the supernatural, only the skill of a good performer. A scientist can tell you that he’s awfully suspicious of a phenomenon that only operates when no one and no known video camera is looking, and when the investigators are convinced that evidence is overrated. A good magician will be able to surmise exactly how she’s doing it and show you how to effectively and simply stop the ‘magical’ appearance of gold leaf.
The gold foil lady is total bunkum. The ‘investigators’ who say otherwise are embarrassingly credulous.