The Amaz!ng Meeting 2003

Electric Monk - Homeopathy and Men in Tights

The final individual speaker before the dinner break was Daniel W. 'Chip' Denman, who brought us a detailed update on the attempted replication of Jacques Benveniste's experiments in the effectiveness of extreme dilutions of chemicals, involved in homeopathy.

Daniel 'Chip' Denman
Daniel 'Chip' Denman Describes the Testing Process Used in the Attempted Replication of Jacques Benveniste's 'Digital Biology' Experiment

Denman presented a blow-by-blow account of the attempt to independently replicate Benveniste's claim to have reproduced in digital form, the "signal" of the active ingredient retained by water after homeopathic dilution past the point at which no molecule of the original substance remains. The test performed was to judge the influence on blood clotting due to ordinary water, water which had been exposed to the "active" digital signal, and water that had been exposed to a neutral "water" signal.

When Benveniste's own fully-automated equipment and technicians were used, positive results were obtained in the pilot tests. During the final tests, performed after Benveniste's technicians had left, no results deviating from pure water were found.

It turned out that one of Benveniste's technicians, Jamal, had been interfering with the automated testing equipment during the pilot runs. According to Benveniste, Jamal was also responsible for the runs showing greatest effect in his own lab, and they had taken to calling this the "Jamal Effect". The researchers concluded that there was no evidence that Jamal was intentionally skewing the results, but that his interference was the likely source of the "Effect". They were also able to conclude that without interference, the digital signatures had no effect on the blood clotting.

Randi and Denman
Randi Presents Denman with Plaque

The punchline to all of this was that on examining the computer files that held the digital "signals", the "water" signal and the "active" signals were found to be absolutely identical.

Speakers' Panel
Speaker's Panel: Randi, Chip Denman, Jack Latona, Dan Garvin, Phil Plait, and Michael Shermer - Moderated Expertly by Hal Bidlack

Following Denman's review was a panel discussion involving the day's speakers. The biggest highlights were Dan Garvin's continuation of his Scientology story in regards how he came to leave the organization, and Hal Bidlack's moderation work. Hal was in rare form as he ended each speaker's response with a pun, each more horrifying that the last, and then gestured for the next question.

Jerry Andrus and Illusions
Jerry Andrus Sets up Two More Optical Illusions During the Dinner Break

Dinner was next on the menu, and I spent much of the time after eating browsing through the merchandise, and watching Jerry Andrus' latest batch of optical illusions.

General Hamilton
General Alexander Hamilton is Quite Confident

Finally, the time had come for Hal Bidlack's Hamilton presentation. I did not really know what to expect from Gen. Hamilton, but enjoyed it throroughly.

General Hamilton
General Hamilton Will Explain it to You Patiently, Using Simple Words

The General discoursed at length upon his Vision for the Nation with a strong Federal government, and the states reduced to insignificance, with governors appointed at the Federal level. He also spent considerable time dismissing the ideas of Jefferson and Madison. Following this, the General consented to answer questions put to him by the unlearned audience.

It was a fun presentation, and I have definitely put "learn more about Hamilton" on my to-do list.

Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll Tones It Down 20 or So Notches to Describe the War on Science

Bob Carroll, known for The Skeptic's Dictionary website, soon to be a book, followed the General with a subdued presentation on the "War on Science" from both the religious zealots, and the social studies and literary criticism wings of academia. The talk covered the basics of the topic well, but I think it suffered from being scheduled after dinner, following Hal's performance, and from being targeted at too basic a level for the audience.

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