The Amaz!ng Meeting 2003

Electric Monk - Papers, Please - Part 2

Girl 6
Girl 6 Describes the JREF Forum

Our next presenter was Girl 6 from the JREF forum, to talk about the forum's history and purpose. The JREF forum now has over 3600 registered members, and since the conference has topped 200,000 posts. Girl 6 explained how the forum served to futher the purpose of the JREF by providing a virtual community in which skeptics could exchange information and ideas, and by hosting a place for skeptics to confront believers in paranormal phenomena on friendly territory. The forum was also the fertile grounds from which sprang the idea for the Amaz!ng Meeting itself, thanks to Girl 6.

Randi, <I>Girl 6</I> and Charlie
Girl 6 and Charlie Present Randi With a Gift on Behalf of the Forum Members

Girl 6 and Charlie in Dayton took this time to recognize and thank Randi and Linda on behalf of the forum for all of their work.

Randi's new hat
...It's a Klein-Bottle Hat...

Charlie also showed off his JREF hat on which he had collected the signatures all of the speakers at the conference. Souvenir envy among the crowd was rampant after that.

Randi's new scarf
...And a Mobius Strip Scarf!

The gifts to Randi were rather unique. They were items to keep him warm, and present topological wonders at the same time. The first was a hat in the shape of a Klein Bottle. The second was a scarf in the shape of a Möbius Strip.

Randi poses
What a Ham!

Randi grandly posed for dozens of pictures in his new togs, to wild appreciation from the crowd.

Linda Shallenberger's Plaque
Linda Receives Very Well Deserved Recognition; Now Take a Day Off!

Linda Shallenberger's efforts were also recognized by the forum in the form of a day of pampering at a local spa, and a plaque thanking her for all the work that went into making the meeting a success.

Prof. Charles Wynn
Prof. Charles Wynn Is Made Nervous By Hal Bidlack

When everyone had calmed down enough, Hal Bidlack got things rolling again by introducing our next speaker, Prof. Charles Wynn. Wynn spent his time recounting his efforts to teach skeptical thinking to college students, and casting nervous glances in the direction of timekeeper Hal Bidlack.

An important point made by Prof. Wynn was that people need to be taught how to overcome their natural inclinations to observe only confirmations of their initial biases, and to discipline themselves to actively look for disconfirmations.

Prof. Jeff Corey
Prof. Jeff Corey Presents a Study of The Wason Card Problem, to the Consternation of Several Attendees

Next up was Professor Jeff Corey, speaking on his experiences with the Wason Card problem. The problem is fairly straightforward. There are four cards on the table in front of you. It is known that each card has a letter on one side and number on the other. You are asked which cards must be turned over in order to test the truth of the following statement:

All cards with a vowel on one side have an even number on the other side.
The cards show an "A", "B", "1" and "2".

Many people will choose the "A" (correct) and the "2" (incorrect). It is the "1" that needs to be turned over to see if it has a vowel on the other side, disconfirming the statement. Having either a vowel or a consonant on the other side of the "2" would not disconfirm the statement, so it is unneccesary to turn it over.

Some skeptics in the audience argued for the "efficiency" of turning all of the cards over without having to think about it, but this was not what the question asked. It seems that there was difficulty in reading the problem carefully. Prof. Corey explained that his experiments with college students indicate that various ways of rewording the question did not improve performance on the problem. The only thing that improves scores is to make the question into a concrete problem with which people generally have an instinctive notion of the situation. The example given was of replacing the abstract letters and numbers with a question about a bouncer verifying the ages of people entering a bar.

Greg Winslow
Greg Winslow Investigates Penta Water

Time was now getting seriously short for me. I could only stay to see one more presentation. It was by Greg Winslow, and described his experimental investigation of Penta Water, a product which claimed to consist of smaller clumps of water molecules than ordinary drinking water. Another claim made by the manufacturers was that seeds would germinate and grow faster when Penta Water was used. Winslow performed a double-blind test on this latter claim. The results showed that Penta Water had no effect on the germination or growth of these plants.

Unfortunately, this was the point at which I had to leave for the airport. I was not going to get to hear Prof. John Brown or Prof. Taner Edis' talks, nor the wrap-up, and I would miss out on the raffle. Fortunately, Dr. Edis is scheduled to speak at the Skeptic Society lecture on March 9th. During Greg's presentation, I said my goodbyes to the people I could reach, including SkepticScott (to whom I had earlier given my tape of South Park and Penn & Teller as thanks for the rides in his car), and Girl 6.

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