They aren’t doing the right tests!

Some yogi in India claims that he hasn’t eaten, drunk, or used a bathroom in 70 years.

Yeah, right.

Now the Indian military is studying him because, obviously, soldiers who don’t need to be provisioned would be rather useful…which assumes that this nonsense is even worth studying.

Two cameras have been set up in his room, while a mobile camera films him when he goes outside, guaranteeing round-the-clock observation.

His body will be scanned and his brain and heart activity measured with electrodes.

“The observation from this study may throw light on human survival without food and water,” said Dr G. Ilavazahagan, who is directing the research.

That short description already tells me they’re going at this all wrong. He goes outside? Where? How secure is this test?

And they’re plugging him into electrodes and recording EMGs and EEGs? Why? That’s not interesting at all. The interesting claim is the idea that he doesn’t eat or drink. Those don’t test that in the slightest, but do lend a pseudo-sciencey air to the proceedings.

They claim he has been observed closely for a week, and hasn’t ingested or excreted anything at all. I don’t believe it. I suspect that there have been some very sloppy procedures going on, or that the guy has an accomplice or assistant, or both.

What they really need is a James Randi. If I were in charge, I’d give the yogi a very nice single room with books and a meditation mat and whatever non-edible, non-drinkable luxury items he wanted…and I’d put him in there for four weeks, monitored by video cameras, and lock the door. Just to be nice, I’d also put a couple of bottles of water in the room, in case he breaks. But if he is really able to live without sustenance, that’s the ability we have to test first, and test well.

If he came out after a month, perfectly healthy, the water in the room untouched, the video cameras showing no untoward intervention, then we can talk about fancy-pants physiological testing.


  1. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    This reminds me of barb’s quote from a year or so ago about the “human heart beating for a lifetime with no external energy source”.

    Maybe she was on to something?

  2. Porco Dio says

    wait, what?

    did anyone hear the story of the guy that didn’t eat or drink anything for a whole month?

    this story is 69 and a bit years late….

  3. Glen Davidson says

    Right, cause the laws of thermodynamics are unimportant, and our digestive systems evolved without any need for them to do so.

    It’s kind of like ID, where physics probabilities are said to be so low that magic must step in to help out. Only this time it’s the yogi’s low likelihood of deception that means his powerful magic must be studied.

    Oh yeah, we’re talking science in both cases.

    Glen D

  4. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    This case shows exactly why magicians and professional debunkers are necessary to test these claims. Scientists tend to be trusting, and can easily be fooled, or allow these folks to set conditions so they can cheat.

  5. MikeTheInfidel says

    Glen, that’s the best description of ID I’ve ever heard. I’ll have to steal that for future use.

  6. ehlsever says

    Maybe he is actually one of those desert beetles that crawls to the top of sand dunes, hikes its butt up into the wind, and water vapor condenses from the butt-vortex and trickles down to its mouthparts.

  7. Steven Dunlap says

    Now and then I have read either in the Darwin awards or on Yahoo’s news of the bizarre (or something like that) of some idiot in (Usually West) Africa who died while testing a magic belt that protects the wearer from bullets.

    Well, at least the test provided tangible, clear results.

    Then again, Tecumseh’s followers found out the same thing the hard way about 200 years ago.

    Sadly I suspect that if anyone suffers it will be some poor slob soldier in the Indian Army who starves to death.

  8. rick020200 says

    All this guy has to do is claim that he survives by channeling dark energy through the whiskers of his beard into the quantum foam of his synapses, and Deepak Chopra will praise him as a modern miracle.

  9. slightlyharmless says

    So, how exactly is studying an old, frail, inactive man in meditation going to help active, fighting soldiers in the military? WTF the mind boggles.

  10. kaylakaze says

    There should be a site like Digg or Reddit where at the bottom of a “news” story is a button for “Call Bullshitt” do you can Digg an “news” item or “Call Bullshitt” on it.

  11. Theoricus says

    I don’t know, it seems that the doctor heading this study isn’t necessarily supporting the guys claims. Seems more like he’s found a subject willing to starve himself for a prolonged period of time until they can no longer physically keep up the masquerade.

    Ethically, I don’t think doctors are allowed to set up trials that investigate the processes a human body goes through during prolonged starvation. Most of our statistics concerning human death come from the Nazi’s work in concentration camps. I think these Indian fellows are thinking they were lucky enough to get someone stupid enough to volunteer.

  12. says

    James Randi took down one of these dumbass breathairians — caught him on camera at a McDonalds wolfing down big macs. He still claimed that he didn’t eat food. He just snacked a bit. Seriously.

  13. JohnnieCanuck says

    Survivors who are trapped in collapsed buildings or cars that have run off the road, etc. do not die of starvation unless they are already severely undernourished. For normal people, that takes about a month. Without any water intake, dehydration will kill in the range of a few days to a week or so.

    Publicity would seem to be the motivation of everyone involved here. The real question is who is deluded and who is acting fraudulently.

  14. says

    Imagine the contents of his shorts. Yikes.

  15. Milawe says

    One of the irritating things about this story is that it demonstrates to me my extraordinary ability to forget things over and over again. I knew that we were lied to by the NYT about Iraq, for example, and was determined never to rely on ‘facts’ reported by even respectable newspapers, yet here I am astonished that newspapers such as ‘The Age’ will publish completely credulous fairy tales about Noah’s Ark and Breatharians.

    When people like Pilger talk about the memory hole, I like to delude myself that I won’t go there. But I do. It’s depressing.

  16. bart.mitchell says

    @slightlyharmless #10

    While I have serious doubts about the ability to survive without food and water, I would like to see all the militaries (official armys and loose militias too) of the world do an experiment where the soldiers just practiced meditation for 70 years instead of fighting.

    You know, just in case it works. I think humanity deserves to give it a shot.

  17. Morse says

    Forget the military applications. There’s a much more lucrative opportunity here to peddle mysticism to (willfully) starving models. If only I lacked scruples…

    (Seriously though, who would actually want to NOT eat for 70 years. That’s 70 years without a taco.)

  18. Dawshoss says

    Yeah but solitary? That has it’s own adverse effects. At least give him a tv >.< Usually I agree with you but there seems to be some knee-jerk-ness here. EMG's record electrical activity in muscles, and EEG's record the activity in the brain, both are pretty relevant to questions concerning metabolism, and energy usage/conservation. The bullshit call seems out of hand with ad hoc excuses for why nothing out of the ordinary was found (ie no cheating). Isn't "they aren't doing the right tests" the excuse esp-ers appeal to when things don't go their way? Lets review the data and methodology before dismissing things out of hand.

  19. Kausik Datta says

    It’s kind of like ID, where physics probabilities are said to be so low that magic must step in to help out. Only this time it’s the yogi’s low likelihood of deception that means his powerful magic must be studied.

    Yeah, but then we are also talking about a country where homeopathy and astrology are held in high esteem, are taught from Government-sponsored institutions. The investigators guarantee ’24-hour observation’, but methinks they have to be extra careful – since in this country, yogis and holy men are generally revered beyond imagination.

    As proof, consider that this is not the first time this person has been put under the scanner, medically speaking. In 2003, a 10 day study was done on him, and didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

  20. BigMKnows says

    This is apparently not the first time this guy has been studied. He was first observed in 1942, allegedly for 45 days. He was also observed for 10 days back in 2003: The physicians’ report is here:

    A couple of noteworthy things.

    1) They used ultrasound to detect urine in his bladder, which filled up but mysteriously disappeared on its own. A successful magician / con artist could plausibly find a way to void without detection.

    2) It says his weight decreased slightly, but doesn’t specify by how much. If he wasn’t taking in water, then this can’t be blamed on varying levels of hydration — unless, of course, he was *actually* becoming dehydrated. Or he was actually losing weight. You wouldn’t expect him to lose too much in 10 days.

    The first link above incorrectly states that you can’t survive without water for more than 4 days. Terri Schiavo, who was not in peak physical condition, survived for 13 days. A normatively healthy adult could plausibly survive for 14-20. Someone on the extreme end of the normal curve (5 or 6 standard deviations from the mean, which is possible with 6.7 billion people) could plausibly survive for over three weeks.

    I don’t think their 21 day experiment will prove anything. Also, I can’t find the article now, but I swear I read about this case somewhere a few days ago, and that source said that they weren’t allowing outside media / documentation, which should raise a red flag.

  21. shojaee says

    All the armies, all around the world are equally stupid, that’s a scientific fact!!

  22. deriamis says

    Ok, I could believe a week or two, but years? Seventy nine of them??

    I think the only amazing thing about this yogi is the sheer amount of hooey he is able to lay out. Seriously, he can not only suspend disbelief but makes it levitate in midair!

    Oh! So that’s how they do that!

  23. JonD says

    I love how these articles always say “scientists and doctors are perplexed” or “scientists and doctors are at a loss to explain”. Like a physician is going to go “hmm, well, this grizzled weirdo nutjob tells me he hasn’t eaten for 70 years, so I guess everything I learned about the human body in medical school is wrong!”

    People are far too charitable with these claims, especially the media. I really think that for every article like this that the papers print (“Man to undergo testing for extraordinary claim!”) they should be required to follow up after the testing is over (“Man not so extraordinary, caught with Double Down in one hand, Big Gulp in other!”). It’s just responsible journalism.

    As for me, personally, I can’t wait until my 8 grad years are up so I can have some force behind me when I point and yell “Bullshit!”

  24. ambulocetacean says

    The Indians might not have James Randi, but the Indian Rationalists’ Association and the Indian CSICOP have been doing some great work pwning yogis.

    Some Indian sceptic groups also send folks out to villages to demonstrate that curses and stuff are bullshit so they can get on with their lives without fear of superstitious nonsense.

    But it’s a gigantic country steeped in millennia of woo, so it might take a while before everyone in India is their own personal Steve Novella.

    It’s disappointing, though, that the Indian army is taking this conman seriously. Didn’t anybody learn anything from the whole bomb-divining rod fiasco?

  25. JonD says

    Part of the problem, I guess, is that these guys are careful who they pick to “test” their claims. There are plenty of woomonger physicians out there who are all too happy to throw the weight of their MD behind these guys by purposely designing bad tests. Then the person can say “doctors proved my claim!” and be shielded from real, rigorous scrutiny.

  26. slightlyharmless says

    @bart.mitchell #20
    I don’t know who’d sign up for that experiment. It’d better pay – really well.

    from the physician’s report:
    According to him he has no desire to eat, drink
    liquids or pass urine or stool since then … He never wanted anything to be introduced through anyway to his body.

    Yikes..! I wonder what Freud would say.

  27. Rebelest says

    Kafka; swamiwami’s the “Hunger Artist.” How could you doubt him? He hasn’t eaten in 70 years…and no one believes him. Even when he stayed in a cage on exhibit at the carnival, under observation, no one believed him.

    He’s a goddamned artist, don’t you get that? It’s the fine art of not eating while eating, not drinking while drinking, not pissing while pissing…I know it’s hard to wrap your mind around but it’s art!

  28. SaintStephen says

    Is the yogi married? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?

    Is there nutritional value in cunnilinguis? Can one feed or hydrate themselves with a long French kiss every now and again?

    (I’m surmising an affirmative answer for fellatio…)

    Okay, I’ll shut up.

  29. scidog says

    i thought this was old news myself and i see BigM has more background to check out.i recall something on TV that had him or someone like him sitting in the road in front of a hospital in India.locals were bring him bits of food and the Dr’s did check out his tiny bowel movements.maybe over the years he’s getting more advanced in his meditations.

  30. BlueIndependent says

    I heard about this story this morning and laughed out loud, which is not something I do often. The fact that the Indian government is even attempting to study this is saddening for the level of basic critical thinking skills that are apparently DOA.

  31. Greybeard says

    The Pakistan military will watching this with close interest.

    A few days after India stops feeding it’s troops would be a very good time for them to invade.

  32. defides says

    Google ‘Jasmuheen’.

    This was an Australian woman who was making similar claims. When she was in her own home, she was caught eating chocolate ice cream (IIRC) but she explained this was just so her palate could enjoy the taste, she wasn’t really eating it.

    When a TV crew put her in a hotel room the doctors made them stop after a week or so because she was starting to hallucinate.

  33. Timothy says

    A month? Don’t be so weak, PZ! If he’s going to claim he’s gone 70 years without eating or drinking I’m sure 2 or 3 months, minimum, should be a cake walk.

  34. Fil says

    Man I just noticed this is on the front page of the BBC News website. That’s pretty disappointing, I’d expect a bit better from them.

    Oh well, at least it provides an opportunity to tell my own little fakir story. As a stupid smoker at school decades ago, I was sometimes grabbed for a simple experiment by colleagues’ students. Basically, smoke a ciggy and have my pulse taken before and after a nicotine hit.

    They were supposed to spot a sudden increase above my resting heart rate.

    They never did.

    My pulse rate ALWAYS went down. Why? Partly because I cheated by raising my resting rate a tad first. But, I can actually lower my pulse rate slightly too, by using a relaxation technique taught to me by Dr Ainslie Meares (to fight anxiety). It involves simple self hypnosis and imagining a metronome where the rhythm slows down.

    Puzzled students were given a valuable lesson in experimental controls…(I always fessed up to what I had done, btw).

    P.S. I’m still pretty stupid, but at least I don’t smoke any more. ;-)

  35. farhat.habib says

    I heard about this story this morning and laughed out loud, which is not something I do often. The fact that the Indian government is even attempting to study this is saddening for the level of basic critical thinking skills that are apparently DOA.

    Military can have a lot of money to throw away after research. The US military examined a whole lot of paranormal stuff during the cold war including things like telekinesis, clairvoyance and the like.

  36. DB says

    BBC World News (broadcast here on the Minneapolis PBS station) included a segment on this guy yesterday (Thursday). They reported the story without a shred of skepticism, giving full credulity to the claims. They showed him sitting in the lotus position on a hospital bed; the reporter remarked that his religion was part of the ancient traditions of India, and so forth — all with nary an ironic vocal inflection to hint at possible bogosity. I would not, alas, have been surprised at such vacuity from the local news, but I expected more from the august BBC.

  37. skandlikar says

    As a Indian citizen, I am sad that so many of my countrymen do not get enough to eat as needed nor have used bathrooms ever in their lives, not because they do not need to but because they cannot get.

    And here comes this fraud with strange claims.

    As you have rightly written, lock the fellow in a room and just leave him there for the next 70 years. To wallow in his own excreta and eat whatever he can lay his hands on.

  38. ambulocetacean says


    Are many people in India aware of the work of the Indian Rationalists Association and Indian CSICOP?

    Did Sanal Edamaruku become a celebrity after Pandit Surender Sharma failed to kill him on television?

  39. Fil says

    Ooh, I remember all that cold war woo involving military “research” into the paranormal (by paratroopers? Ouch, sorry).

    Maybe the Russians were winding the West up with leaked made-up stories. The most famous was the one where a mother rat was supposedly kept ashore and her pups were taken to sea in a sub and then killed at a set time. Mom rat back at base allegedly had a spike in brain waves at the moment of their deaths.

    P.S. Regarding dear old Dr Meares in my previous post. He was a bit of a odd bod too, back then; a mixture of woo, honest research and well, the times. One of the first Western doctors to entertain notions of mind over matter and such and to study Indian meditation techniques. He even visited India and Nepal to talk to yogis and such. He certainly was capable of having major dental surgery without anaesthetic, using only self hypnosis.

    He led an early movement where cancer patients were taught his stuff and supposedly prolonged their remission by doing so. Not too sure about all that, in fact I think he went way too far in his claims. But his book “Relief Without Drugs” certainly helped me. My little fakir method was part his stuff (interestingly, his self hypnosis always had a bit of discomfort involved…a stone placed under the back or whatever) and partly my own ideas (also I’m a muso, so learning easy, precise rhythm is vital for that).

    I think he would have been cross with me using visualisation though, as he was all for just emptying the mind as a way of learning to relearn how to be calm. Whatever it worked. Much better than being a Valium addict, that’s for sure.

  40. Citizen of the Cosmos says

    Maybe he’s a college student. No wait, they do drink. Nevermind… :)

  41. irenedelse says

    @ Fil: That’s what I was thinking about, too! Maybe Jon Ronson will get a new book out of this: The Men Who Stare At Fakirs

  42. says


    Tecumseh? Pretty sure his tactics were more on the line of forming a confederation, arming yourself with firearms, and allying with the British.

    Is it Crazy Horse you were thinking of?

  43. bubbabubba666 says

    I just heard a story about this on NPR and was SO disappointed. Of all the places I expected to hear a little intelligent skepticism it was NPR. Not one intelligent or skeptical question was asked. Instead the interviewer asked stupid questionss like “do we need to worry that this mans followers will try to replicate his feat?”

  44. Jeep-Eep says

    Shit. A Revenant. A smart zombie. The absolute worst sort. Shamblers are a joke, albeit a sick one. Runners are scary but easy enough if you don’t let them bumrush you or meet them in large numbers. But revenants… Gahhh, those things are back.

  45. Ring Tailed Lemurian says

    These people are everywhere in India.
    I went to a temple in Karnataka and was shown a man in a stone cell with moss across his face who was supposed to have been sitting there unmoving for twenty years. “Look, the moss proves it”. Yeah, right.
    If they can live without food and drink why don’t they teach some of the starving how to do it, being so holy ‘n’ all?

    #8, #48 Ghost Dance

  46. speedweasel says

    There is no point in scientists even engaging these people. The minute a suitable protocol is established ‘Captain Yogi’ will start complaining about that protocol. “Your skepticism is blocking my positive chi from the north!” or whatever.

    I remember a video in which Randi sprinkled polystyrene beads all over a phone book, the pages of which some guy claimed he could move with his mind. Once the ‘telekinetic’ realised he could not longer move the tissue thin page by exhaling onto it (without also moving the beads), he complained about Randi’s skeptical intentions altering the life force energy of the universe, or some such shit and was on his way.

    We can spend as much time and money as we want testing these delusional pricks but its all just effort down the toilet. These Indian scientists should know better than to give them the ‘oxygen of respectability’.

  47. blf says

    I remember a video in which Randi sprinkled polystyrene beads all over a phone book, the pages of which some guy claimed he could move with his mind.

  48. Ray Moscow says

    PZ’s right. The simplest test would just be to lock the guy in a room under constant surveillance. Let him come out whenever he wants, but the test will then be done (and monitor him to make sure he doesn’t die trying).

    There would be no need to even test claims that are so implausible, except for the fact that this guy apparently has maintained this illusion/delusion for years and no doubt has a following.

  49. welshsceptic says

    by crazy coincedence (spelling?) i sent this vey link to the JREF last night because i thought they might be interested in it.

  50. Aquaria says

    Is it Crazy Horse you were thinking of?


    Crazy Horse never lost a battle to the white man.

    I don’t know if Tecumseh’s people had a superstition about magic clothes, but I know the Lakota had the Ghost Dance and Ghost Shirts that were supposed to protect them from bullets. At Wounded Knee, 153 Lakota learned the hard way how wrong that superstition was.

  51. bubbabubba666 says

    @#51. This morning April the 30th, I’d guess ~around~ 4:30 AM Central time.

  52. Cannabinaceae says

    Any test should have some way of weighing the guru – perhaps surreptitiously.

    Anyway, when the cheating is detected, it should be allowed to go on, and be fully documented (again, surreptitiously). String them along. Get them to agree that everything is going smoothly – feign wonder.

    At the big reveal, when the guru or the guroids whine about chi-interference or whatever, replay the tapes of their smug sanctimony. The point is not to tweak the nutters (though that would be a side benefit) but to nudge the almost and lukewarm believers in the audience back towards an eyes-open, brain-on sort of worldview.

  53. Luke of Troy says

    There is a very simple way of doing this. Chastity belt. There would be no need for any monitoring he could just go about his business. After a week or two, you unlock it and do a dookie check. If there’s a dump, he’s full of shit (no pun intended).

  54. sqlrob says

    The bullshit call seems out of hand with ad hoc excuses for why nothing out of the ordinary was found (ie no cheating). Isn’t “they aren’t doing the right tests” the excuse esp-ers appeal to when things don’t go their way?

    Lets review the data and methodology before dismissing things out of hand.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    It’s bullshit.

  55. AJS says

    Everyone should read Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre, if they haven’t already.

    It’s a work of fiction, but it contains a lot of very relevant material.

    (ObBoast: I spotted the one “genuinely impossible phenomenon”.)

  56. dutchdoc says


    Deepak Chopra will praise him as a modern miracle

    I was wondering about that!
    What WOULD Deepak Chopra, who, after all, is a well trained endocrinologist and at some point made it to Chief of Staff at the New England Memorial Hospital in Massachusetts, say of the matter, when he was forced to answer with either yes or no, the question “Do you believe this man actually hasn’t digested anything for the past 70 years”.

    I’m fairly sure he would answer “no”. (especially when he realizes the guy is actually being tested for his claim!).

    (Forcing him to a single word answer is probably close to impossible).

  57. Bald Ape says

    This is simple. This man is presenting his body as a perpetual motion machine. Perpetual motions machines cannot exist in our universe. The “wrong test” here is ANY test which requires spending one more penny to rediscover this principal (yet again)..

    Case closed.

  58. tutone21 says

    I have determined that this yogi is a zombie and that Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Sean of the Dead, and Zombieland are documentaries.

  59. Kieranfoy says

    Fuck the fuckin’ fakir,

    He’s a dirty fucking fakir,

    Not just a fucking fakir

    But a fucking faker, too.

    He’s fucking fakir-faking,

    It’s nought but shit he’s making,

    French fries I saw him taking,

    ’twas at fucking Wendys, too!

    He’s faking out the gummint!

    (Insert somthin’ rhymes with gummint!)

    They’ll make some starving soldiers

    and we’ll make some too!

    Not matter how the fakirs try,

    However hard the morons cry,

    We’ll see their horseshit fry

    And their little doggy too!

    The skeptics, they are saying,

    “No matter all your praying,

    Our instruments are staying,”

    And that’s blooody good stuff, too!

    With sincerest apologies to Minchin.

  60. ngong says

    These fakirs usually claim that they’re pulling nutrients from the air. So no, the shit-catching chastity (?!) belt wouldn’t do the trick, the yogi probably isn’t presenting himself as a perpetual energy machine, etc.


    I’ve noted a weird blend of science and credulity in India before. About 15 years ago there was some claim that a revolutionary mixture of herbs could substitute for gasoline. Investigators placed the device in question in a closed room, measured oxygen and CO2 levels, did the calculations, and concluded that the herbs would have to be acting as a catalyst. Correct logic/calculations, as far as I could see. Of course, the whole thing was revealed to be a hoax a couple months later.

  61. obigwang says

    This miracle is true. I read of him some years ago, he also had been 79 years without eating, drinking or excreting anything. They told me the yogi used to put a wide stick in his anus daily to prevent it to heal. No doubt quantum physics are involved.

    But this wise man will not help the Dark Side, so any military test will show he’s a liar to prevent this power to be misused.

    (Damn, if I post this in Internet surely someone will gobble it.)

  62. davita22 says

    Men who stare at goats? Anyone?
    Let the indian military study non-metabolising old men, its definitly a more profitable use of their time than trying to nuke the pakis…

  63. Walton says

    davita22 @#72:

    …than trying to nuke the p*kis…

    Do you have any idea whatsoever how offensive that word is (in British English, at least) to Pakistani people? It’s like calling an African-American “n*****r”. In jest or otherwise, and whatever the context, it’s not OK.

  64. davita22 says

    Walton, no actually I dont know how offensive that word is..
    Im a South African Indian – that my excuse for my irreverance and entirely non-pc attitude.

    I also call europeans wit ous, “coloured” people bruin ous, indian people char ous, black people darkie ous, gay people moffies, women chicks… shock shock horror! See! I’m completely unbiased in my insulting vocabulary :)

    Seriously though, I’m not trying to be deliberatly offensive, it really is just the way i speak.

    davita (aka a skanky char ou chick with jungle fever)

  65. thedarwinreport says

    How about a colonoscopy for the Yogi? And how about placing him in a restaurant setting, with the most wonderful food smells and sights one can imagine? He’ll crack.

  66. Sili, The Unknown Virgin says

    Lets review the data and methodology before dismissing things out of hand.

    The methodology has been reviewed, bozo. The man is allowed to walk around freely! The methodology sucks!

  67. Dark Matter says

    Commentary on the India and American military
    paranormal researchers…

    This is very bad, and not because the paranormal
    wahoo stuff didn’t (or won’t) pan out..

    If they will beleive in that stuff enough to do “research” on it, then they will believe anything they hear about Pakistan, Iran, Afganistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia….and act on it…

  68. Dark Matter says

    Davita22 @ #72:

    Davita22, this kind of thinking makes a nuke
    scenario more likely, not less likely…if people
    are willing to believe anything they are willing to
    do anything…..

  69. Grendels Dad says

    PZ, why do I get the feeling that if they tried your experiment the water would ‘miraculously’ be turned into urine when nobody was looking? (OK, not as cool a miracle as water into wine, but they just don’t make ‘em like they used to…)

  70. kantalope says

    I could not find the story over at npr…super early in the morning could it have been the bbc story? I know my npr station (KRCC) plays bbc until 6am.??

    Maybe this guy started out like really really fat conman and that is why he can not eat for so long?

  71. Cents says

    I’ve got it figured out. He is using yoga meditation to lower his body temperature to 2% Kelvin At this temperature superconductivity will occur resulting in no electrical resistance or energy lost (like used in the LHC). As a result that delicious last meal of yogurt he had 70 odd years ago is keeping him full and happy as a very cold clam. You guys are just a bunch of skeptics.
    I’m sure James Randi is quaking in his boots. After all he is already going to loose a million on this one and the yogi will take another mil off him soon. Hope all that money goes to a good cause.

  72. OurDeadSelves says

    Eddie: Patsy hasn’t eaten since 1974.
    Patsy: A crisp, darling. A crisp.

    Thank you! I knew I screwed that one up.

  73. says

    Just be sure not to skip the nurse role call at the end of the test.

    By the way, can can someone tell me why my google URL shows up as my user name?

  74. sciencereasonrationality says

    Yes! This is just another fraud case! There are so many cases like this that has been exposed before by the Indian Rationalist Association of India as well. Those scientist are either being tricked or working together with this so-called holy man for some dishonest or deluded reasons. By right, they should be working closely with the Indian Rationalist Association or the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, if not with Mr. James Randi, to assist them with the investigation and experimentation.

    To those who want to know more, these articles shows how such tricks are done:

    and this one:

  75. Deluded Creodont says

    PZ, I think that in this case, the “right test” involves trying to figure out how these bozos managed to become high ranking military officials in the first place.

  76. harshadsrinivasan says

    They don’t expect his claims to be true per-se.

    “The research organisation believes Mr Jani could hold the key to helping soldiers or disaster victims survive without food for longer periods in times of crisis”

    They have a man who seems to be able to survive for longer than most people without food or water. So what do they do? They test his claims.

    Do I think this is bullshit? Yes.

    Do I believe that nothing good can come of this and that there is no point to studying him? no.

  77. John Morales says

    harshad: No. They don’t test his claims, they “test” his claims.

    Since the experiment began on April 22, Jani has neither eaten nor drunk and has not been to the toilet.

    That’s 7 days’ with no ingestion, no urination, no defecation. Surely you don’t believe that claim.

    What does this statement tell you about the rigor of the experimental observations? ;)

  78. harshadsrinivasan says

    @John: Of Course I think this ‘godman’ is full of crap (no puns intended :p ). I’m just faulting Dr Myers for attacking a research group based on a questionable news article.

    Its just that the first article I read on this whole fiasco seemed to indicate that the researchers felt he might have the ability to go for longer than most people without food or water. Not that he had any supernatural qualities.

    It mentioned that an earlier study involving the same god-man led the researchers to conclude that his claims were bogus (he lost significant weight during the experiment).

    The Indian sub continent tends to be full of people who can pull off stunts that would make David Blaine proud… If all the Indian Army is doing is trying to learn from one such case I can hardly fault them.

    I agree that the article Dr Myers references makes it seem that that the researchers aren’t treating this with the rigor that they should be, but I just don’t think this is actually true.

    Or at least I hope it isn’t.

  79. John Morales says

    Harshad, I take your points (we’re relying on a media report; people are capable of astonishing feats of endurance; studying effects of deprivation can be helpful (within ethical bounds)).

    That said, I note humans lose significant amounts of water merely via respiration, and after 7 days one would see significant medical symptoms, even in the most adept god-man. (Note the article indicates he’s not particularly inactive).

    cf. Water loss as a function of energy intake, physical activity and season.

    cf. Dehydration.

  80. lenoxuss says

    If a Breathalyzer (or whatever these folks are called) were rigorously tested, and the subject was so uber-focused that he died… I imagine the woos would say “Murdered! Murdered by scientific rationalism!”

    Suddenly I wonder how this stuff is supposed to mix with the cultural reverence of Gandhi, who, after all, repeatedly went on hunger strikes. I mean, if he was a sufficiently holy man, wouldn’t that actually have been a meaningless sacrifice, in no way affecting his health?

    The same question is often asked about Jesus knowing he’s going to be resurrected. To be fair to the former case, I’ve never heard anyone claim that Gandhi had supernatural powers, though I wouldn’t be the least surprised to hear such a thing.

  81. John Morales says

    Well, the 15 days are up. The result?
    Prahalad Jani mystery remains unsolved.

    We cannot comment for or against his claim of remaining without food for several years, says DIPAS director
    “During the observation period, Jani did not consume anything and did not pass stool. The only contact with any form of fluid that he had was during gargling and bathing activities during the study,” said DIPAS director Dr Ilavazhagan.

  82. Sven DiMilo says

    Was he breathing? Then he was losing water. Fifteen days without replacing some of that water?

  83. Sven DiMilo says

    uh, like John said five days ago, that is.
    Right you…were…John…

    I’ll shut up

  84. John Morales says

    Well, another uncritical report, in my local news:
    Study of starving yogi bears few answers.

    During the 15-day observation which ended last week the doctors took scans of his organs, brain and blood vessels, as well as doing tests on his heart, lungs and memory capacity.
    “The reports were all in the pre-determined safety range through the observation period,” Dr Shah said.
    Other results from DNA analysis, molecular biological studies and tests on his hormones, enzymes, energy metabolism and genes will take months to process.
    “If Jani does not derive energy from food and water, he must be doing that from energy sources around him, sunlight being one,” Dr Shah said.
    “As medical practitioners we cannot shut our eyes to possibilities, to a source of energy other than calories.”

    Sigh. Story tags: health, medical-research , science-and-technology, research, weird-and-wonderful, india

  85. Dominik says

    We are discussing this issue over here in Germany since 2007. We just decided to translate our German article about Mr. Jani into English. Here it is, fresh out of the keyboard and offering some more insights into that story:

    Please consider, that the ugly spelling errors will disappear within a few days. Our German articles about Sudhir Shah and inedia will also be translated and will follow. Some details will be added tomorrow.