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Man flies by own lung power, 1934
Adolf Hitler Baby Photo Hoax, 1933
Lord Gordon-Gordon, robber of the robber barons, 1871
The most sacred relic: the Holy Foreskin, circa 800 AD
Tube of liquor hidden in prohibition-era boot, 1920s
'Solar Armor' freezes man in Nevada Desert, 1874
The Olympic Underwear Relay, 1956
Cat that walked 3000 miles to find its owners, 1951
Eccentric's last prank, 66 years after his death, 1900
The disumbrationist art hoax, 1924
The Girl With X-Ray Eyes
imageNatasha Demkina, a young girl living in Saransk, Russia, began to receive a lot of media attention around the middle of last month. It started with an article in Pravda, which hailed her as the 'Girl with X-ray vision'. You see, Natasha possesses the unusual ability to peer through human flesh and spot diseases and injuries that are lurking unseen within people's bodies. Or, at least, this is what Pravda claimed. It didn't take long for more newspapers to catch onto the story. The British Sun has been the most relentless about pursuing it. They've actually flown Natasha to London and are now parading her around like some kind of weird curiosity. Does Natasha really have x-ray eyes? Well, I doubt it. But I'm sure The Sun is going to milk this for all it's worth.
Categories: Health/Medicine
Posted by The Curator on Tue Feb 03, 2004
Comments (710)
I just realized that Formalhaut has misrepresented the odds that Puck (his alter ego?) posted. These are the odds Puck wrongly posted in his attack on our test of Natasha Demkina:

------------------------------
Correct Probability
0 42.09%
1 36.74%
2 15.77%
3 4.37%
4 0.89%
5 0.12%
6 0.02%
-------
Total 100.00%

The probability of Natasha getting 4 or more conditions exactly right is 0.89 + 0.12 + 0.02 = 1.03% or 1 in 97.
-------------------------------------

These odds are much closer than the ones he had first posted, but they are still very much wrong. The odds are approximately 2% not 1.03%!

Formalhaut's attempt to repair Puck's (his own?) credibility will be futile. Puck came here to attack our test of Natasha Denkina using whatever numbers he could cook up. When they failed he tried new numbers and arguments. There was only one thing consistent about Puck: he was intent on trying to discredit the test, valid reasons or not. This too seems to be Formalhaut's agenda.
Posted by askolnick  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  08:45 AM
fomalhautsaid;

"For example, the Wright brothers weren't scientists"

Ever hear of a guy named Bernoulli? The Wright bros. did. They did quite a bit of reading about him while they were inventing. They also did something called "experimentation", an important part of scientific method.

The difference between a scientist and an engineer has more to do with their job title than their methods. The scientist's "invention" is his (or her) hypothesis. And it's tested. Rigorously. just like Watt tested his invention and the Wright Bros. tested theirs. Here's an "inventor" who doesn't use scientific method or knowledge;

http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/comments/2296/

Not surprisingly, he, like Natasha, is also having trouble demonstrating that his "invention" actually works.

You claim " I took her claims of "seeing" into human bodies as a figure of speech". She has said nothing to indicate she meant anything other than literaly. Maybe NOW she may wish to equivocate because she can't demonstrate that ability. I mean, one day she says "I can see everything inside a human body" and the next day she can't see a metal plate in someone's head. Suddenly her "gift" doesn't seem so special.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  09:13 AM
No, I'm not Puck.

skolnick wrote: "Incredibly, you state: "The probability of four matches is 0.0138, not 0.0153. Rounding these to two decimal places gives 0.14 and 0.15." ... Rounding 0.0138 and 0.0153 to two decimal places gives us 0.01 and 0.02 -- NOT 0.14 and 0.15."

You're quite right. My mistake. But having produced the correct figures - 0.01 and 0.02 - you're demonstrating yourself that even rounded to 2 decimal places, your probabilities are still wrong.

skolnick wrote: "it makes me wonder if you bothered to learn anything about her before coming here to enlighten us with false information."

The only thing I've done is to work out the exact probabilities for the matching problem. That's what I've been primarily concerned with. And you yourself have accepted my figures as "more accurate". I've been puzzled that a non-mathematician like myself can, in an afternoon, do better than two professors. 90% of what I've written has been concerned with that.

skolnick wrote: "We expected there would be people like you who would try to defend Natasha by obfuscations and arguing that we tested the wrong thing -- that Natasha never said she can actually see inside of people's bodies. Sorry, Fonmalhaut, but I'm here to stop such obfuscations and deception."

I'm not trying to defend Natasha. I don't give a damn about her. I neither believe that she has paranormal powers, nor that she is a fraud. I'm not interested in whether she claims to "see inside bodies" or not, but whether she has an unusual ability to diagnose disease. That is what I would have tested first. And that is what wasn't tested. And I'm not even sure that she was even tested to see if she could "see inside bodies".

The more I look at it, the more I think that the whole thing has just been a scam to produce a highly contentious and profitable TV documentary, by hyping an interesting case into a grand clash of "science" and the "supernatural". This wasn't so much science as entertainment. Science (including accurately calculating probabilities) took second place to headline-grabbing titles like "The Girl with X-ray Eyes", and a few hokey experiments. This was all about making some money by putting on a bit of theatrical science. I just hope that Natasha got a slice of the action, as the star of the show. Perhaps that's how she's managed to find the money to go to university.

I guess I should congratulate you on an interesting bit of entertainment. I look forward to "The Wolf Man", and to "The Night of the Living Dead".
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  09:13 AM
Formalhaute, do us a favor and stop and read what your write and think about it before posting. You're posting nonsense. Most of Joe's examples of benefits given to humankind were given to us by scientists -- not engineers as you so erroneously stated. Fleming, who discovered the first antibiotic, penicillin, was a researcher, not an engineer. Paul Lauterbur, then a researcher at SUNY at Stoneybrook, developed the first MRIs, and the Wright Bros. employed the discoveries of earlier scientists in building their airplane. Hell, even the internal combustion engine they used to power their invention could not have been built without the work of scientists who discovered the laws of thermodynamics. And the telephone came about because of the work of Michael Faraday and other scientists who discovered the principles of electromagnetism. Indeed, the story goes that when Faraday showed Queen Victoria some of his electromagnetic discoveries, she asked what are they good for, His reply was, "Madam, what good is a newborn baby?" It took only a few years before that baby grew up into the telephone, telegraph, and other great inventions. And computers depend on the work of scientists who discovered solid-state physics, some of whom were awarded Nobel prizes for their discoveries (ie. John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley -- the discovers of the transistor). And your comment that sometimes engineers use science, sometimes they don't is idiocy. Boy, you must really like to be called a fool to keep posting nonsense like this.

You state:

"I took [Natasha's] claims of "seeing" into human bodies as a figure of speech. The word "to see" has many meanings. Like when someone explains something to me, and I say, "I see what you mean." Well, of course I don't literally "see" anything. Do you see what I mean. No, you probably don't, because you take the word "see" literally. I don't believe that Natasha quite literally sees inside human bodies."

What I see is someone who just makes things up as he goes along to fit his agenda. Anyone who has bothered to find out what Natasha Demkina does KNOWS that she claims to see tissues and organs inside of people's bodies. But here comes Puck/Formalhaute telling us that no, Natasha was only saying this as a "figure of speech"!

Puck/Formalhaute, no matter what screen name you've used, you have yet to post anything here but misinformation in your effort to defend Natasha and discredit our test of her claimed ability to see inside of people's bodies.
Posted by askolnick  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  09:16 AM
Puck/Formalhaute wrote:
"The more I look at it, the more I think that the whole thing has just been a scam to produce a highly contentious and profitable TV documentary, by hyping an interesting case into a grand clash of "science" and the 'supernatural'."

It's been made clear that you're not "looking at it" at all. You're just making things up as you go along, without bothering to learn the facts. You post absolute nonsense about what Natasha claims. You haven't a clue about the test or the documentary. We, the CSICOP and CSMMH investigators, had nothing to do with the production of this documentary other than to design and conduct a preliminary test of Natasha Demkina to see if there was evidence of her claimed powers that would justify further study. We were contacted by the producer/director and asked if we would test her. Neither CSICOP or CSMMH received any compensation for our work. The production company paid our travel expenses. Puck/Formalhaute's insinuations that our test was a money-making scam is as nonsensical as the rest of his statements.
Posted by askolnick  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  09:29 AM
"Puck/Formalhaute, no matter what screen name you've used, you have yet to post anything here but misinformation in your effort to defend Natasha and discredit our test of her claimed ability to see inside of people's bodies."

I posted the correct probabilities. That's not misinformation.

As I've now repeatedly said, I'm not interested in defending Natasha. I have no interest or belief in the paranormal. I don't have an agenda. But I am getting very annoyed.

What interested me about "The Girl with X-ray Eyes" was that Natasha got 4 out of 7 right, when, as I watched the show, I'd guessed she probably would only get one right, maybe none. I then began to wonder what the probabilities were of her randomly getting right answers. That led me to write a computer program to precisely calculate the odds. My first posting here was to give those odds. Ross-c then confirmed the figures. And they were different figures than the ones used in the experiment.

Since then, I've faced a growing storm of abuse from askolnick, including being called "obsessive-compulsive", and identified with another poster, and labelled as a believer in psychics and the paranormal with an "agenda".

Faced with this storm, and with attempts to belittle and argue away my probabilities, I've simply concluded that you people aren't serious about probabilities, aren't serious about science, and that the whole thing has just been a piece of entertainment dressed up as science. The stream of derision and abuse from askolnick, who seems to be the voice of CSICOP and CSMMH round here, and his refusal to state how their probabilities were calculated, simply serves to strengthen my growing conviction that this is more show business than science.

And there's nothing wrong with show business. I watch it all the time.
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  10:21 AM
Puck/Formalhaute, you're doing nothing but posting obfuscations, misinformation -- and now outright lies. I corrected you before when you falsely claimed that I refuse "to state how their probabilities were calculated." I pointed out that YOU yourself had quoted the explanation I posted describing how the odds had been calcuated from published tables. And yet, here you are again, lying through your teeth that I "refuse to state how the probablities were calculated." You have absolutely no credibility left under this screen name. Perhaps you should go away and return with a new one again.
Posted by askolnick  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  11:21 AM
askolnick wrote: "I corrected you before when you falsely claimed that I refuse "to state how their probabilities were calculated." I pointed out that YOU yourself had quoted the explanation I posted describing how the odds had been calcuated from published tables. And yet, here you are again, lying through your teeth that I "refuse to state how the probablities were calculated."

You posted up some quotation from some a (probably imaginary) professor Hyman which said:

"I painstakingly worked out the correct probabilities using the formulae in Frederick Mosteller's Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability With Solutions. I believe this is still available from Dover Books. The critic might find it useful to carefully follow the argument in this book. My other source was Hoel, P.G., Port, S.C., and Stone, C.J. (1971). Introduction to Probability Theory. This latter source provides some useful approximations for those who do not have the patience to calculate the exact probabilities."

That does not constitute an explanation of how the probabilities were calculated. It amounts to saying: "I read something in some old book somewhere." What was that something? What was the formula? What was the "useful approximation"? Why can't you just state the formula or the method?

The answer, I suspect, is that you have no idea what the method was, nor do you care - because you're no mathematician or scientist, but most likely some sort of dickhead psychologist (given that "obsessive-compulsive" garbage). And so, instead of doing the simple thing - which would be to supply the formula or method - you resort to abuse, innuendo, and insult.

And the worst of it is that I'm not even someone who believes in the paranormal, the psychic, the astral plane, spiritualism, or the supernatural. I don't even believe in Natasha Demkina. I'm not one of "the enemy" with whom you imagine yourself to be at war. The mere fact that I dare question inaccurate probabilities is sufficient, it seems, for you to lump me together with them, conflate me with somebody else, and call me an "obsessive-compulsive" and, latest of all, a liar.

But in doing so you bring nothing but discredit upon yourself and the organisations for which you purportedly work. Asked a simple question, you have replied with insults. You disgrace yourself, and you disgrace CSICOP or CSMMH.


If CSICOP or CSMMH wish to present themselves as respectable, bona fide organisations, they would make a good start - by firing you.
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  01:11 PM
Puck/Formalhaute, I trust that others are getting as tired of your falsehoods and lies as I am. You've been pontificating here about the Discovery Channel documentary on Natasha Demkina. You've just made it clear that you've NEVER seen the program! You're a phony. You slipped up by claiming:

"You posted up some quotation from some a (probably imaginary) professor Hyman which said:"

Had you seen the documentary as you have been pretending, you would know that Prof. Ray Hyman is a well-known psychology professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene and was the proctor of the test. He was interviewed at length in the documentary -- which you never saw.

You've just exposed yourself as a chalatan.
Posted by askolnick  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  01:26 PM
Oh, I saw the documentary all right. But I didn't record it. I don't have a complete memory of every single detail of it.

If this Professor Hyman exists, why the hell can't he explain how he got his probabilities - since you obviously can't.
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  01:43 PM
The truth is Puck/Fomalhaut, you don't remember any of the documentary because you never saw it. That's the only possible reason you would say Natasha doesn't claim to be able to see tissues and organs inside of people's bodies. Anyone who saw the documentary knows that's exactly what she claims.

And that's the only possible reason you would suggest that Prof. Ray Hyman was made up by me. Anyone who saw the documentary would know that Prof. Hyman moderated the test and was one of the three major people who were featured in the program.

You just pretended to see the program in order to make your lame and bogus arguments about Natasha's claims and about what our test accomplished.

You've been busted by your own statements.
Posted by askolnick  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  03:15 PM
askolnick wrote: "The truth is, you don't remember any of the documentary because you never saw it."

No. I saw the documentary. Your accusations get wilder and wilder.

askolnick wrote: "Anyone who saw the documentary would know that Prof. Hyman moderated the test and was one of the three major people who were featured in the program."

Why? I'm not in the habit of remembering details of documentaries, particularly if it's something I've just switched on to idly watch. If I'm really interested, I usually video a programme.

In this particular case, pretty much only one thing stuck in my head, and it was that in the test facing 7 individuals, Natasha Demkina (whose name, incidentally, I didn't remember either) got 4 out of 7 right, and the pass mark was 5 out of 7. While I was watching the programme, and it built up towards the point where the score was going to be announced, I guessed that her chance was something like 1/7 and she'd score 0 or 1. So I was rather surprised that she got 4/7.

Next day, discussing the matter with a friend, I realized that the probabilities weren't so simple to calculate. My friend wrote a program to generate 10,000,000 random answers to get the approximate probabilities of getting different numbers of right answers. I wrote a program to go through all 5040 combinations, to get the exact probabilities. Our answers agreed (as did Puck's and Ross's).

But then there was your post stating that a Professor Hyman had said that the probability of getting 4/7 was 0.0153, when all the results we had said that probability was 0.0139. Close reading of Hyman's comments revealed that some sort of approximation had been used to get this figure. My questions was, and remains: what was this approximation, and why was an approximation used instead of exact numbers?

Your bizarre response to both Puck and me (and indeed to just about everyone from the outset of this thread) has been to simply be abusive. I think you have some sort of psychological problem, and you shouldn't be the Executive Director of CSMMH (if someone as abusive as you could actually be such a director). Feel free to continue insulting me. You appear to be incapable of anything else, anyway. And it says far more about you than it does about me.
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  04:47 PM
askolnick wrote: "that's the only possible reason you would suggest that Prof. Ray Hyman was made up by me."

Given the abuse you hurl around, I don't see any reason to believe a word an asshole like you says about anything. And that includes the alleged comments by the alleged Professor Hyman.
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  04:53 PM
Fomalhaut, if your surprised at Skolnick's abusiveness, you should know it's standard practice for male-dominated CSICOP. Read this study of CSICOP if you have time:

http://www.tricksterbook.com/ArticlesOnline/CSICOPoverview.htm

---------------------

...In response to an article by physicist George Lawrence in Rocky Mountain Skeptic, John Wilder (1988) wrote:
Posted by fixit  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  08:14 PM
And FYI, about the 3 profs who calculated those odds you wonder about. Prof Hyman does exist, and he's a magician. Also prof Wiseman exists, and he's a magician too:-)! Prof Josephson also exists, but he aint a magician, instead a physics nobel lareate - and he digs Natasha:-D!

http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/propaganda/index.html

"A statistically very significant result was obtained in the quantitative part of the investigation, but the experimenters concealed the fact with their talk of 'failing the test'. The investigation claims to be science, but fails almost every test of good scientific practice. Does this matter for a TV programme? I suggest that if a program pretends to be science then it does matter, and its failure to conform to scientific norms is a serious matter."

And Skolnick ain't a psychologist like you thought. He's a journalist. Here's his home page.

http://www.aaskolnick.com
Posted by fixit  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  09:52 PM
fixit, you said;

"you should know it's standard practice for male-dominated CSICOP"

What sexist rock did you climb out from under? Shall I assume that men are naturally hostile? What about women? Any sweeping generalizations to make about them?
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Thu Feb 24, 2005  at  11:39 PM
Fixit said;

" Prof Hyman does exist, and he's a magician. Also prof Wiseman exists, and he's a magician too!"

Regardless of the fact that they have both been professional magicians, they are both now doctors of psychology.

Four correct guesses out of seven isn't that impressive when you consider that she had four hours to make her choices. If she really was able to do what she claimed she can do, she would have hit all seven in a few minutes.

The fact that Dr. Josephson is a Nobel lauriate is not reason enough to accept his endorsment of Natasha's "gift", either. Many Nobel lauriates have shown poor judgment outside their speciality. For example, William Shockley was a white supremicist, and Linus Pauling was a promoter of "orthomolecular" medicine, which has been shown to be not just usless, but harmful. (http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/pauling.html)
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  12:03 AM
May I just say that this whole conversation is getting utterly ridiculous. I was quite impressed that early on there seemed to be quite a reasonable conversation between believers and skeptics. Not that anyone was going to be converted one way or another, but that at least we were able to discuss the important features of the problem, for example experimental design for testing paranormal claims and what the results mean.

Now it seems to have descended into a slanging match, first with two parties neither of whom was prepared to let the other have the last word on an unimportant point on the calculation of probabilities. Then, into an irrelevant, unproductive mud-throwing session on which of the two groups of people are actually the nicer group of people. What depth will this conversation fall to next? I don't know exactly who in the argument is male or not, so I can't suggest that the argument is solved by having the participants submit appropriate photos, and whichever one has the largest penis wins.

Not sure if anyone's interested, but I'll give my opinion on the whole thing. The experiment was crucially flawed in that she was given too much time, and allowed too much leeway in contacting the outside world. From previous comments, it appears that this was insisted on by the producers of the program. However, the scientists may also be to blame for allowing a flawed experiment to take place (was this really better than nothing?), and for not (was this edited out?) being clearer about what happened during it.

For any progress to be made on finding out what (if any) paranormal phenomena are real two things must happen. Scientists with appropriate training must design good experiments to test for the phenomena, including ruling out alternate explanations. Those who claim paranormal powers must be prepared to submit themselves to proper testing, including repeated testing. Until both of those events happen, true progress will not happen.

Cheers,

Ross-c
Posted by Ross-c  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  04:59 AM
PS: If anyone is in contact with the right people, I'll volunteer to swallow an indigestible pill (of safe size) with a random word written on the capsule. If Natasha has the abilities she claims, she should be able to read the word.

Cheers,

Ross-c
Posted by Ross-c  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  05:05 AM
Hi,

Actually I meant centuries, but 2000 years ago by a greek, ik admit I didn't know that! Smart guyes those Greeks!

There are more things that were discovered and then forgotten.

But that was realy my last opinion obout this (at least temporary).

Oh, one question. I would like to know the scientific definition of reality.

Thank you
Posted by Marlon  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  05:48 AM
Well, that was quite an eye-opener, Fixit. Maybe those two magicians just pulled their numbers out of a hat! After all, I still don't know where they came from. And a hat is as good a place as any, for a couple of magicians, at least.

Your second post was much more disturbing, in that it appears that CSICOP is a crusading organisation that uses extremely aggressive techniques to advance its cause. And so Skolnick appears to be behaving in some approved standard fashion. I said yesterday that I thought he was unfit to be executive director of CSMMH, and in fact doubted that someone so abusive could hold that post. Now I think that you probably have to be sneering and abusive and contemptuous to run an organisation like that. I wonder how they treated Natasha Demkina off-camera, if this is how they work behind the scenes?

All I can say is that, in my case, the attack Skolnick has launched on me, for simply wanting to get to the bottom of this probabilities puzzle, has resulted in me thinking that a) Skolnick is an asshole, and b) (thanks to your post) CSICOP are probably a bunch of assholes as well. And this is from someone who hadn't heard about Natasha Demkina or CSICOP before seeing "The Girl with X-ray Eyes" on UK Channel 4 Bodyshock at 9pm 14 Feb 2005. Skolnick has made me an enemy both of himself and of CSICOP in just 10 days flat. And I'm not even a believer in the paranormal.

Given Skolnick's performance, which seems to be standard for CSICOP, I'd guess they're making themselves enemies everywhere, and I predict that what appears to be their single minded crusade against psychic and paranormal claims is going to fail - simply because they're such a nasty bunch of people that they're going to get more people's backs up than they persuade to agree with them.
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  08:39 AM
Ross-c wrote: "Now it seems to have descended into a slanging match, first with two parties neither of whom was prepared to let the other have the last word on an unimportant point on the calculation of probabilities. Then, into an irrelevant, unproductive mud-throwing session on which of the two groups of people are actually the nicer group of people."

Good to see someone sweetly reasonable back! And, in my case, it was a slanging match that Skolnick started, by posting abusive replies. I didn't want that, but he obviously did. And you're right that there was a perfectly reasonable conversation beforehand. Or was when I came in.

As for your idea of getting people to swallow indigestible pills, I was thinking along those lines, except having them simply eat different meals, and ask Natasha which one had eaten peanuts, which one sweetcorn, which one pickled onions, etc.

But I'm really not too interested in Natasha's supposed "X-ray vision". I just don't believe she has any, and regardless of what she claims. What seems much more interesting is whether, by whatever means, she is able to diagnose medical conditions with unusual accuracy using her normal methods. And on this programme, she wasn't tested for that. But it seems that she's been tested in Russia, and done very well - though I've not seen any of those results. I doubt there's anything paranormal about it, but that's what I would want to investigate.

Instead, it just seems to me, particularly given CSMMH's director Skolnick's attempt to personally trash me, that this experiment was designed to trash Natasha Demkina, and that was the whole point, and even if she had got all 7 right, they would have rigged the results to force her to fail. They're running a crusade, not a scientific investigation.
Posted by fomalhaut  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  09:11 AM
Fomalhaut, I'll let you guess precisely how interested I am in "who started it".

But, there are problems with the idea of identifying food. (i) its shape changes with mastication and digestion. Vomit usually looks the same. And, (ii) the smell of food is often detectable on people's breath. Especially with some of the foods you mention.

Cheers,

Ross-c
Posted by Ross-c  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  09:31 AM
Ross-C is correct that I'm a science and medical journalist. As a reporter, I've always called it as I see it. And I've called Fomalhaute on his misleading, deceptive, and false comments. No one who speaks falsehoods deserves immunity from criticism.

There is one very truthful statement that Fomalhaute just made for which he should be applauded:

"And you're right that there was a perfectly reasonable conversation beforehand. Or was when I came in."

If and when he leaves, I believe the conversation will return to being reasonable -- not to mention free of gutter language.
Posted by askolnick  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  10:05 AM
I'm sorry Fixit, it was you who pointed out that I'm a journalist, not Ross-C.

Ross, you posted:

"The experiment was crucially flawed in that she was given too much time, and allowed too much leeway in contacting the outside world. From previous comments, it appears that this was insisted on by the producers of the program. However, the scientists may also be to blame for allowing a flawed experiment to take place (was this really better than nothing?), and for not (was this edited out?) being clearer about what happened during it."

From the very beginning, we stated that we were not allowed to conduct a well-controlled test, that the test would only be a preliminary exam to see whether we found evidence that would warrant a more carefully controlled study of Natasha's claimed powers.

As you pointed out, the test -- because of conditions dictated by requirements of the program and Natasha's breeches of protocol -- had some notable flaws. But all those flaws would have helped increase Natasha's score, not lowered it. She still failed to meet the agreed upon target score that would justify further testing. Therefore, those flaws clearly do NOT undermine the test results. But they do explain how Natasha may have done better than some had expected.

And please do not be deceived by Fomalhaute's false assertions that we had anything to do with the production of the Discovery Channel program, other than designing and conducting the test. We had no control and absolutely no imput into any other part of the program, nor did we have a financial interest in its outcome.

If you read the test protocols (http://www.csmmh.org/demkina/demkina.protocols.doc), you will see that we were asked to conduct a preliminary test to see if further study is waranted. We stated up front that our test would not be rigorous enough to determine definitively if Natasha's claimed powers are real.

It would have been marvelous if we were given an opportunity to conduct a truly blinded study under strictly controlled conditions. But we were not given such an opportunity. We made the best of the hand we were dealt. By playing that hand, we were able to observe and report that Natasha's readings are indistinguishable from the cold readings of the average astrologer or palm reader. We found much evidence of cold reading and no evidence of any paranormal power. And that, we believe, is a worthwhile contribution to public understanding of this dubious phenomenon.
Posted by askolnick  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  10:53 AM
Askolnick,

Just a minor point. It wasn't me who posted that you were a journalist. I'm disinterested in who people are, just in what they say and do.

It's quite easy to quote nobel prize winners who have said (or done) rubbish, and it's also possible to point out 11 year olds who have designed excellent scientific experiments. Anyone here know who I'm thinking of in the latter case?

Cheers,

Ross-c
Posted by Ross-c  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  10:55 AM
Ross-C, I have a suggestion for a test that would be much truer to what Natasha actually claims she can do and would not have the problems of asking her to identify the remains of partially digested food!

Ask her to pick out the one person who has a large metal plate covering a large section of surgically removed skull from six other people with normal heads.

Wait! We tried that already. And she failed.
Posted by askolnick  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  11:01 AM
Ross-C, see my correction about attributing Fixit's statement to you.

You are talking about non-other than the remarkable Emily Rosa, who exposed the folly of "Therapeutic Touch" practitioners in what has become a classic study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in 1998. BTW, I was one of the peer-reviewers for the study. I also nominated Emily Rosa (well actually Dolores Krieger) for an Ig Nobel Prize. Emily came to the Ig Nobel Ceremony at Harvard to accept the prize on behalf of Krieger, the founder of Therapeutic Touch. She gave a most remarkable key note address that got a standing ovation.

You're absolutely right about there being fools among the Nobelists. And likewise, some (but not all!) of the Ig Nobelists are nobody's fool.cheese
Posted by askolnick  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  11:18 AM
Askolnick, I agree that the failure to spot the plate was a complete deal breaker as far as her claims were concerned.

However (and please note, I intend this as reasoned friendly debate, not nit-picking), I believe the experiment with the swallowed capsule is better because the person who swallowed the capsule does not have to be aware of what the word is. They could be blindfolded when swallowing, and the people who chose the word would not have to be present when she tries to read it. Someone with a metal plate in their head who is stared at for four hours by someone that they know is trying to find the plate may well scratch their head self-conciously more than would be expected or something.

I'm off to the printer to pick up an article by Ray Hyman on the psychology of deception.

Cheers,

Ross-c
Posted by Ross-c  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  11:21 AM
Askolnick,

I personally think that Emily's design was one of the classic experimental designs of science. If I didn't know of her experiment, then if I was trying to think about how TT could be tested, I'd be at a loss. You can single blind a TT experiment by using a "bogus intervention", but how could you double blind the experiment? ... Oh wait, you don't have to!

Cheers,

Ross-c
Posted by Ross-c  on  Fri Feb 25, 2005  at  11:31 AM
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