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-   -   How do you do the spoon bending trick? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=106677)

JohnClay 03-30-2002 04:58 AM

How do you do the spoon bending trick?
 
Hi,
I was wondering if anyone had any information on how to do the spoon bending trick so that I can do it too. Apparently many magicians and even schoolboys have been able to do it.

Boyo Jim 03-30-2002 06:19 AM

The physical trick is to hold the spoon so you can exert maximum leverage over it with your thumb. Move your thumb rapidly over the shank, and exert gradually increasing pressure until it starts to bend, and sustain that pressure through a series of tiny bends.

The mental trick is to convince the audience that you're NOT exerting physical effort aginst the spoon. Which is why you also learn to retain a relaxed body posture though your hand is working very hard, OR you pass off the strain as the effort of focusing "psychic" energy.

Bryan Ekers 03-30-2002 09:22 AM

It helps a lot if you prepare the spoon in advance. Get a spoon and bend it back and forth ten or fifteen times until the stem just under the bowl has suffered metal fatigue, but still looks intact. Then you can bend the spoon before an audience with (apparantly) little effort. Keep up a snappy patter and you'll fool 'em. It also helps if the spoon is very shiny. The glare might obscure fine detail.

Naturally, you'll have to practice and sacrifice a fair number of spoons before getting the trick just right.

sailor 03-30-2002 10:52 AM

You mean Uri Geller did not really have magic powers? i am shocked! ;)

DrFidelius 03-30-2002 01:13 PM

Me, I always did the "talk a lot while fondling the spoon and then jam it against the bottom of the table when they're not looking" technique. You would be amazed at the number of people who clearly remember seeing me bend the spoon with just light finger pressure.

Mangetout 03-30-2002 03:00 PM

Spoonbending with Mr Nude

3waygeek 03-30-2002 06:11 PM

The Amazing Johnathan did it using the classic magician's technique of misdirection, sort of like DrFidelius described. His shows run occasionally on Comedy Central -- in one of them, he does this trick.

rjung 03-31-2002 04:09 PM

What? An entire thread on spoon-bending and Uri Geller, and nobody mentions James "The Amazing" Randi? :eek:

You know Randi is awesome because Penn and Teller like him. :)

bbeaty 04-01-2002 07:54 PM

Re: How do you do the spoon bending trick?
 
Quote:

Originally posted by JohnClay
I was wondering if anyone had any information on how to do the spoon bending trick so that I can do it too.
You mean the REAL spoonbending? Melting cutlery without the metal even getting warm?

Besides Uri, Michael Crichton and Katrina B. claim to be able to do it:

Crichton's book TRAVELS
http://www.tcom.co.uk/hpnet/mct27.htm

Fork bending
http://www.fork-you.com/forkhow2.htm

Dogzilla 04-01-2002 09:21 PM

Couldn't resist!
 
"Do not try to bend the spoon, for that is impossible. Try instead to see the truth."

"And what truth is that?"

"There is no spoon."

::ducking and running::

xash 04-01-2002 10:20 PM

so where does telekinesis and psychokinesis fit in ?

is that a science or is it just euphemisms to cover frauds ?

i was under the impression that it was possible to bend spoons using psychokinesis (which i thought was a known scientific phenomenon). uri geller might be a fraud, but i'm not talking of individuals, i'm talking about the phenomena.

somebody please enlighten me.

xash 04-01-2002 10:26 PM

here's what our friend google found for us:

http://www.crystalinks.com/telekinesis.html

bbeaty 04-02-2002 12:58 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by xash
i was under the impression that it was possible to bend spoons using psychokinesis (which i thought was a known scientific phenomenon). uri geller might be a fraud, but i'm not talking of individuals, i'm talking about the phenomena.

somebody please enlighten me.

Bent spoons can be hoaxes. Eyewitness accounts of cold, soft metal can be lies. If a scientist successfully brings the phenomenon into the lab, it just means that the scientist is lying or deluded. If "spoon bending parties" become popular, where many hundreds of people soften their own cultery while it's in their own hands, why that's just mass delusion.

See how it goes? According to contemporary theory, there is no way to soften a spoon without heating it red hot. Therefore any evidence to the contrary must be an elaborate hoax. (If the skeptics are correct, then extremely elaborate hoaxes and mass delusions are common. But if the spoon-benders are right, then modern science has a profound problem with psychological Denial.)

The only way to convince a skeptic that minds can soften metal is if you show the skeptics how to do it themselves. And even then, that only affects those particular skeptics (who might be too embarassed to tell their experience to their fellows.)

In the 1980s Dr. J. B. Hasted studied the spoon-bending phenomenon and succeeded only in destroying his own credibility.

The metal benders
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0710005970/

Quercus 04-02-2002 09:00 AM

Um, Xash, in case you were looking for a real answer, telekenisis has never been shown to exist in a controlled, able to be duplicated, setting.

bbeaty goes a little far in claiming that no scientist would ever admit it works, but it would indeed take some fairly strong proof to convince most scientists. After all, our current physics models work pretty well in the real world -- we can build gigahertz computers, satellite communications, nuclear weapons, MRIs and CAT scans, etc. And these physics models don't have ANY way for telekenisis to work.

So for a scientist hearing an eyewitness claim that they really did see someone bend a spoon, the question is, what's more likely - that the eyewitness was confused, fooled, or lying, or that our models are wrong and we managed to get the internet working just by sheer luck? When you add to that the fact that many people who have demonstrated spoon bending freely admit that it's all a trick, the answer becomes fairly obvious.

Now if there were lots of experiments that removed the possibility of human confusion, and were able to be duplicated, that showed telekenisis working, then we'd have to begin considering the idea that our models are wrong. But there ain't lots of these, in fact I doubt there are any of these experiments.

So short answer again, no telekenisis doesn't exist.

CalMeacham 04-02-2002 09:20 AM

You really have to read James "The Amazing" Randi's books on this. The Magic of Uri Geller (originally Ballantine, 1975, now Prometheus Press) tells you a lot. There's also a photo article by him in the magazine Technology Review circa 1976. Also, see his book Flim-Flam!.

Martin Gardner has written about this, too. See his many books on the paranormal, especially Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus

bbeaty 04-02-2002 10:14 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by Quercus
bbeaty goes a little far in claiming that no scientist would ever admit it works, but it would indeed take some fairly strong proof to convince most scientists.
Suppose PK is possible and spoon bending is as common as people like Jack Houck claim it is. In that case an apt description would be: "no scientist would ever admit it works." On the other hand, if PK doesn't exist, it means that mass hallucination is very common... and if you soften your own spoon during a "spoon bending party", and you even have the mashed metal to prove it, then the event didn't actually happen.

Quote:


So for a scientist hearing an eyewitness claim that they really did see someone bend a spoon, the question is, what's more likely - that the eyewitness was confused, fooled, or lying, or that our models are wrong and we managed to get the internet working just by sheer luck?

Hold on. The main claim isn't about witnessing magic tricks, so I think you're pulling a Straw Man here. The main claim is that ANYONE can soften a spoon themselves, and see it happen in their own hands. Mash the bowl of the spoon into a small wad as if it were damp cloth. The Jack Houck parties exposed hundreds of people to the phenomenon. See the link below for one description of such an event.

If this was a one-time thing, then Michael Crichton could simply be writing fiction, but these parties were common in the 1980s. So, what really happened? Was low-temperature cadmium/lead alloy involved? Everyone got to keep the spoons.

Michael Crichton's book TRAVELS
the spoon-bending chapter
http://www.tcom.co.uk/hpnet/mct27.htm

Me, I've never witnessed it. If I managed to soften a spoon, the first thing I'd do is put a big thumbprint into the metal. The "Superman" fingerprints-in-steel would be hard to fake. (Not impossible of course, but it's much more convincing than mangled cultery, even if said cutlery lacks scars from pliers.)

bbeaty 04-02-2002 11:46 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by Quercus
So for a scientist hearing an eyewitness claim that they really did see someone bend a spoon, the question is, what's more likely - that the eyewitness was confused, fooled, or lying, or that our models are wrong and we managed to get the internet working just by sheer luck?
Another incorrect argument. To paraphrase, you're saying that if "spoon bending" is possible, then physics is wrong (hence the internet wouldn't exist.) Incorrect, because the same argument has been used against many other unexpected phenomena ("If jumping genes exist, then we'd have to throw out all we know about genetics.") But when Transposons are proved real after decades of uphill battle, science remains undamaged because it's simply EXTENDED. New, unexpected, and even counterintuitive and fiercely-fought discoveries are no threat to science. Science simply stretches itself to include them.

In other words, contemporary physics is incomplete. (But all physicists know this already!) Could something as important as mentally-softened metal be hiding in the unexplored regions of science? Certainly, because one goal of a typical science experiment is to control the variables. If PK is possible it must be excluded from physics experiments. PK will simply behave as a type of unknown contamination; a spurious result in the many conventional experiments performed. In science, everything but the tested variables represent uncontrolled conditions to be excluded. Physicists could have been experiencing PK contamination all along, but they just exclude it with all the other unknown contamination sources by using statistical analyses (pulling the desired signal out of the unwanted uncontrolled noise.)

Let me turn this around. Suppose PK metal-softening is possible. In that case, wouldn't the more delicate physics experiments occasionally screw up for unknown reasons? And wouldn't these incidents be associated with particular persons (the "high-spontaneous-PK" ones?) Well, guess what. This effect is well known in physics. Certain people are known to disturb experiments by touching the equipment or simply by walking into the room. During graduate school these scientists discover that they cannot do successful lab work to save their lives, so... they become theorists. They leave the delicate experimental work to others. :)

In the same vein, wouldn't the existence of "spontaneous PK" people cause massive disruption of delicate devices such as the billions of components in a typical PC? If PK was possible, then certain people would be well known to disrupt the operation of office computers by their proximity. Guess what? This is a common phenomen in modern companies. There are some people who simply cannot even be NEAR a computer without having it immediately crash. A portion of these events are explained as "high electrostatic" people, but many more do not involve high voltage and cannot be solved by having the victim wear a grounding strap. This "computer crashing syndrome" is the bane of many who would otherwise become tech workers. It's also the phenomenon which inspired R. D. Nelson's infamous "Engineering Anomalies" research project at Princeton. And here are some typical complaints from the victims:

"Electric People"
http://amasci.com/weird/unusual/zap.html

Oh, and a couple of numbers. The aero engineer Jack Houck put on 262 "spoon bending parties" which included a total of 12,000 people, and 85% of these people were able to demonstrate the metal-softening phenomenon to themselves, while 18% were able to soften objects which otherwise cannot be bent without using tools (e.g. "rubberizing" and then crumpling the bowl of a spoon during the parties.)

As for me, I'm aware of the history of science and the "impossible" things that have proved real. I look at the evidence and as a result I lean towards the reality of PK phenomenon but won't "believe" it until I'm able to twiddle a fork into a useless mass all on my own. :)

Crafter_Man 04-02-2002 12:22 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by sailor
You mean Uri Geller did not really have magic powers? i am shocked! ;)
Next time you see Uri, give him a plastic spoon and ask him to bend it...

ianzin 04-02-2002 01:21 PM

Lots of different aspects of the OP are getting muddled up.

Scientific evaluation of psycho-kinesis: there is as yet no scientific evidence for actual PK which has been accepted by the scientific establishment, and thus all such claims remain on the fringe of science. Maybe better evidential 'proof' will come along later, and scientific theory will be revised accordingly. This happens from time to time in science, but it hasn't happened yet with regard to PK.

Claims that good, strong, evidential proof for PK has been provided, but ignored by the closed-minded sci community: hogwash. The first person to provide such proof can count on lasting fame, fortune and a Nobel prize for a start. The claims are over-stated, do not stand up to good scrutiny, and are often the fruits of either mis-informed people, cranks, or people who know how to make money from publishing.

Spoon-bending: there are magicians such as myself who have done this trick countless times. I've done it for scientists, and for close-up TV cameras. There are still images from these TV demos on my website (www.ian-rowand.com) under 'Beyond the Psychic', listed as 'TV miracles' for fun.

It's a very baffling trick, because there are lots of different methods which we can deploy at different times. The majority involve simple physical force to bend the spoon, but applied in such a way, and at such at time, that you won't see it being applied. There are also psychological factors and some presentational factors which could be descrived as 'optical illusions' involved. It's a REALLY complicated subject. But it IS a trick. Beyond that, I'm not prepared to say.

Bending the spoon back and forth to weaken it: this is the spoon break, not the spoon bend. But it's one good method. In my shows, of course, the spoons are examined by someone from the audience specifically to rule out this possibility. But they still bend and break.

Spoon bending parties: yes, they were quite popular in the 70s. You have to allow for a very elastic definition of 'bending' and 'PK'. In almost all cases, people were encouraged to grip the spoons in such a way that they were applying a bending force without actually realising it, and the very slight 'bend' that resulted was considered a triumph. Imagine this in the context of people getting themselves into the right 'state of mind' where they could get a bit dleusional, a bit 'out of it'. Also allow for alcohol, maybe something stronger, and the presence of a few jokers who would bend their spoons a lot (covertly) just to get attention or for a laugh. The rest is hype and exaggeration.

Also bear in mind the role of the media. Everything you read is filtered by the journalist's preconceptions and bias, the need for a good story, and countless other layers of editors, sub editors and so on. Most books and newspaper articles written on this subject are not written by people who are in any position to judge whether it's a trick or not. Those of us who CAN tell the difference don't generally reveal what we know to the public.

Uri Geller: tends to still claim that what he does is real psychc power, not a trick. That's his privilege. I've had a warning letter from his solicitors, so I'd better pursue the peaceful option of agreeing to differ.

If you really want to know how it's done, take up magic as a hobby and eventually you will find out where to get the books and videos that show you how it's done.



, including the TV demonstrations of which some still imatges are

ianzin 04-02-2002 01:37 PM

I tried to preview, honest, but it messed up. I just really hope some kind Mod will look at my last post, the third from last paragraph, and change that word to 'countless'. PLEASE!

Cervaise 04-02-2002 04:02 PM

Do we have to fix it? That's far and away the funniest typo I've seen on these boards.

And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy... ;)

xash 04-02-2002 11:21 PM

thanks guys. esp. bbeaty, Quercus and ianzin.

My ignorance has been fought.

Now, to learn about "cuntless other layers of editors" :D

that typo cracked me up :)

bbeaty 04-03-2002 10:35 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by ianzin

Spoon bending parties: yes, they were quite popular in the 70s. You have to allow for a very elastic definition of 'bending' and 'PK'. In almost all cases, people were encouraged to grip the spoons in such a way that they were applying a bending force without actually realising it, and the very slight 'bend' that resulted was considered a triumph.
No doubt that happened a lot, and obviously it's easily explained, just as the sleight-of-hand illusions are easily explained. Unfortunately you need to explain the strong evidence, not the weak evidence. (Well, "evidence" is probably too strong a word for these eyewitness accounts, but note that the accounts are not coming from total idiots.) It's not the "almost all cases" which are relevant.

For example, did you bother to read Crichton's article? Here's a quote:
Quote:


"Congratulations," Judith said to me.

"What?"

I looked down. My spoon had begun to bend. I hadn't even realized. The metal was completely pliable, like soft plastic. It wasn't particularly hot, either, just slightly warm. I easily bent the bowl of the spoon in half, using only my fingertips. This didn't require any pressure at all, just guiding with my fingertips.
To explain the stories from people who slightly bent the weakest part of a spoon, while ignoring accounts where the bowl of the spoon turned into soft putty, that's a version of "straw man" argument.

Houck says that out of 12,000 attendees, ~10,000 could warp the spoon handles, but a further ~2,200 could soften the bowls (as Crichton describes.) That's no "elastic definition of bending." That's doing something which is clearly impossible.

Since mentally-softened metal is impossible, there MUST be some other explanation, no? (Unfortunately that's assuming what we wish to prove.)

Crichton goes on...

Quote:

A year later, I mentioned to an M.I.T. professor that I had bent spoons. He frowned in silence for a while. "There's a way to bend spoons," he said, "by a trick."

"I think so," I said. "But I don't know the trick."

The professor was silent for a while longer. "You personally bent spoons?

"Yes."

Then he went through the whole thing. Where did I get the spoons? How did I know the spoons had not been previously "treated"? Did anyone help me to bend the spoons? Did anyone touch me while I was bending, or substitute a bent spoon into my hands... He went on like this for a while. I tried to explain the quality of the room that night, and how impossible it was that everyone could have been tricked.

"So you believe the spoons bent?"

"Yes."

"Did you investigate why the spoons bent?"

"No," I said.

"You mean you experienced this extraordinary phenomenon and you didn't try to explain it?"

"No," I said.

"That's very strange," he said. "I would say that your behavior is a pathological denial of what happened to you. This incredible experience occurs and you do nothing to investigate it at all?"

"I don't see why it's pathological," I said. "I don't go investigating why everything in the world happens. For example, I know that, if I bend a wire rapidly, the wire will get hot and break-but I don't really know why that happens. I don't think it's my job to rush out and find out why. In this case, spoon bending, the room was full of people doing the same thing, and it seemed very ordinary. Kind of boring."
You know what the real problem is? If people can mentally soften metal, then it calls into question our dismissal of almost every other "superstition", and threatens the very foundations of modern science. N.B., I'm not talking about anti-science propaganda or something. I'm talking about a reported phenomenon which, if it turns out to be genuine, would have extremely wide-ranging political repercussions. After WWII the physical sciences gained immense support because of the success with the a-bomb and nuke plants. If spoon-bending was proved true, I think it would have the opposite effect. Yes, physics would expand to include psychokinetic effects. But the scientific would never live it down. What we're talking about here is taking away the funding from particle accelerators and giving it to parapsycholgists. If spoon bending is real, then many thousands of careers are threatened. With that kind of pressure, there's no way that a normal scientific investigation of spoon bending could proceed.

Or maybe Crichton and Houck are simply lying, and 2K+ people didn't soften any spoon bowls.

(Now if I myself had ever seen cutlery get soft, I'd be presenting much stronger arguments than the above.)

:)

bbeaty 04-03-2002 10:38 PM

DOH!

Sorry about the wide post above. I just wanted a different typeface than with QUOTE. I thought the lines would still wrap.

Floater 04-04-2002 03:17 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by bbeaty

Or maybe Crichton and Houck are simply lying, and 2K+ people didn't soften any spoon bowls.

Chrichton is, AFAIK, a writer of fictous literature. Maybe that is the answer?

glee 04-04-2002 10:17 AM

give me the million dollars!
 
bbeaty,

have a look at:

http://www.randi.org/

The James Randi foundation offers $1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal powers, including spoonbending.
You don't have to explain your power, or teach it - just demonstrate it under supervised conditions.
So far the number of spoonbenders who have succeeded stands at ... zero.

Two possibilities spring to mind.

1. All spoonbenders are rich and don't need the money.

2. Spoonbending is a magic trick, involving misdirection and/ or preparation.

Incidentally I don't agree with your theory that there is some sort of scientific conspiracy to suppress this knowledge. Science reacts to observations from experiments. If people can really bend spoons, then that extends the boundaries of science.

rjung 04-04-2002 01:41 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by bbeaty
Or maybe Crichton and Houck are simply lying, and 2K+ people didn't soften any spoon bowls.
Considering that Crichton wrote several Jurassic Park novels with some really bad science (and got bleepin' rich in the process), I'd vote for "liar."

(You wanna clone a dinosaur from the DNA trapped in amber? Okay, but first you have to reassemble it into dinosaur DNA. Hope you have a free millenium...)

SCSimmons 04-04-2002 02:56 PM

Wow. Two dozen responses, and nobody ever tried searching the archive? The OP question has been answered by the Master himself. What more need be said?

Regarding the scientific validity of claims of psychic powers, this column by SDStaff David makes some important points toward the end ...

Mr. Miskatonic 04-04-2002 03:45 PM

Re: Couldn't resist!
 
Quote:

Originally posted by Dogzilla
"Do not try to bend the spoon, for that is impossible. Try instead to see the truth."

"And what truth is that?"

"There is no spoon."

::ducking and running::

SPOOOOOOOOOON!!!!
-The Tick

ianzin 04-04-2002 06:54 PM

Thanks for your perspective, bbeaty. I know that neither I nor anyone else has all the answers, and who knows... maybe one day the phenomenon will be properly validated. The sceptics will say "Ah, but we were correct to doubt until the good evidence came in", but they'll still feel a bit silly.

Look, if x thousand people manifested this ability for real, then there's a puzzle. If any ONE of them managed to give a good demonstration under well-validated lab conditions, preferably with videos running and a good investigative and scepical panel present, then they could have fame, fortune or prestige (or all three, as they prefer) for life. After all, even the great Mr Geller has never managed this (I know all his famed tests at SRI; there were no conclusions drawn about his metal-bending).

So it's interesting that not ONE of these peope has ever managed to do this. One is left to conclude that either my previous post is substantially correct, or that this kind of metal-bending ability is genuibe, but just never manifests under controlled scientific conditions. If the latter, this either tells us something about metal-bending or about scientific experiments.

Incidentally, magicians have no problem causing metal things to apparently bend while the spectator holds them for herself. It's standard repertoire. If you want to learn how to do it, find out who Banachek is and track down his video, which is for sale from magic shops. It's called Psychokinetic Silverware.

JohnClay 04-04-2002 07:10 PM

BTW, I went to a talk by Randi a few months ago and he bent spoons in front of us. He even gave the spoons to the audience to test them. Then he'd hold the spoon just where the handle starts with a thumb and his index finger (I think) and shook the spoon up and down so it went like a see-saw. Then it looked like it was bending, but that was just an illusion because of the see-sawing. He stopped and showed that the spoon was still stiff. Then he shook it a bit more and within a couple seconds the sides of the spoon feel down like melted metal.
He said that he heard that schoolboys in Israel were doing the trick a lot but they got in trouble for bending so many spoons. I'm not sure if Randi said he learnt it from them or he worked it out himself though.

Floater 04-05-2002 06:27 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by JohnClay

He said that he heard that schoolboys in Israel were doing the trick a lot but they got in trouble for bending so many spoons. I'm not sure if Randi said he learnt it from them or he worked it out himself though.

According to himself Randi learnt how to bend spoons from the backside of a corn flakes packet when he was a boy. Geller promptly sued him and wanted him to show that particular packet (and lost the lawsuit).

ianzin 04-05-2002 11:53 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by Floater

According to himself Randi learnt how to bend spoons from the backside of a corn flakes packet when he was a boy. Geller promptly sued him and wanted him to show that particular packet (and lost the lawsuit).

This is almost right, but not quite. I've met Randi several times and I know a fair amount, but not everything, about the history of Randi v Geller lawsuits.

As far as my understanding goes, in an interview, Randi made some remark to the effect that spoon-bending could be likenend to the sorts of magic tricks he saw on the backs of cereal packets when he was a kid. During a subsequent lawsuit, the 'cereal packet' reference was merely one point of dispute among many and not the central point of the case. Geller's team may have challenged Randi to produce an example of any such packet featuring spoon-bending, but Randi maintains he only referred to "those sorts of magic tricks" and not spoon-bending in particular. So this particular legal point went nowhere. I'm fairly sure that there is no cereal packet dating from any time which could be considered within Randi's childhood which features any trick similar to Geller-style spoon-bending.

By all means refer to Randi if you think I have my facts substantially wrong, but I think you'll find this account is closer to the facts than Floater's summary.

Pyrokatt 04-05-2002 12:40 PM

Quote:

So far the number of spoonbenders who have succeeded stands at ... zero. Two possibilities spring to mind.
1. All spoonbenders are rich and don't need the money.
2. Spoonbending is a magic trick, involving misdirection and/ or preparation.
OR, there could be a third possibilty:
There were some successful spoon benders, but unfortunately, the contest was put out by anti-PK people, and none of the benders were ever seen again. :D

bbeaty 04-05-2002 08:05 PM

Re: give me the million dollars!
 
Quote:

Originally posted by glee
Incidentally I don't agree with your theory that there is some sort of scientific conspiracy to suppress this knowledge. Science reacts to observations from experiments. If people can really bend spoons, then that extends the boundaries of science.
Careful, don't change "suppression" into "conspiracy theory."

Suppression is common in science, since misguided research is SUPPOSED to be suppressed by peer review of grant applications and rejection by journal editors. And even if some questionable research does gets funded and published, the results can also be "suppressed" when the scientific community simply ignores them.

The question isn't whether suppression occurs (it does.) The question is whether PK metal-softening is fake or not. If it is fake, then wide-ranging disbelief and maybe even ridicule is the proper response.

Here's another take. All through history there have been scientific revolutions which have been resisted by scientists. Short list: Chladni insisting that hot rocks fall from the sky, Semmelwies and surgeons refusing to wash hands, Wright Bros having to move to Europe to find open minds, Weltner and plate tektonics, McClintlock fighting decades for "jumping genes," Gold and deep hot bacteria. Wouldn't scientists acceptance of mentally-softened metal be a much larger revolution? We'd expect to find much fiercer resistance against "psychic powers" than against the existence of meteorites or flying machines.

Trouble is, it's hard to tell the difference between strong suppression of major, genuine discoveries, versus bad discoveries which are rightly remaining unfunded and ignored. In both cases there is very little funded research and hence very little trustworthy evidence. Before biologists finally accepted that genes could move about on chromosomes, it would be hard to tell if McClintlock's work was revolutionary or just pathological science like Polywater. A lone voice in the wilderness cannot be trusted very much, but in order for lots of replications to occur, the voice must be trusted. To do research into spoon-bending, a scientist would have to suspend judgement, and then risk rejection by peers. How many are so openminded and courageous?


On the other hand, if many thousands of people softened a fork handle, and several thousand people melted the bowl of a spoon, you'd think that a few would have tried the Randi challange by now.

I wonder if many have tried and failed, or none have tried at all? That would be an interesting datum.

PS, the Houck page mentions that the effect doesn't work when the group is smaller than around 13-15 people. I don't know if that's a rigid restraint, or if a spoon-melter can still melt spoons once he/she has figured it out the first time.

bbeaty 04-05-2002 08:20 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by rjung

Considering that Crichton wrote several Jurassic Park novels with some really bad science (and got bleepin' rich in the process), I'd vote for "liar."

(You wanna clone a dinosaur from the DNA trapped in amber? Okay, but first you have to reassemble it into dinosaur DNA. Hope you have a free millenium...)

When a fiction writer writes an autobiography, they suddenly turn into lying scum? Do you have any evidence to support such an assertion? More importantly, HAVE YOU READ THE BOOK IN QUESTION? If not, I'd say that to harshly judge a book one has never seen speaks far more about character of the judge than about author. "Confirmation bias" is when those who support your views seem trustworthy, while those who oppose them are probably dishonest.

If you want to call Crichton a liar, I strongly suggest that you first read the book in question

TRAVELS ($8.99 paperback, $2.50 used.)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345359321/

Cervaise 04-05-2002 08:46 PM

Re: Re: give me the million dollars!
 
Quote:

...Weltner and plate tektonics
Nitpick: Wegener and plate tectonics. I did a search with Weltner and tectonics to see if I could figure out who you were thinking about, and one of the three hits I got was your own page. Just FYI.

JohnClay 04-06-2002 07:59 AM

Well I did a search on Randi's site and I eventually found some stuff about it....
Bending Cutlery for Fun and Profit
Quote:

......Magicians often ask me how to bend a spoon to make it look like a miracle. I tell them they wonít be happy with the answer, because they expect a complex "move" or some sort of secret device or chemical ó but itís all expressed in these seven words: Bend it when no one is looking. Yep, thatís the secret, complete, unvarnished, and direct. The obvious next question is, "How do you make sure theyíre not looking?" Hereís how.

You have lots of opportunity to move around. Excuses like, "Letís go over here," or "I need to be near the window," will enable you to put a 30-degree bend into any spoon, since everyoneís involved in moving to the new location, and a quick move simply bends the utensil. You may not think that people will excuse your holding the spoon in both hands ó as shown in the illustration ó but they actually will. Iíve often wondered why some spoon-benders need to carry a single spoon in both hands, when I, at the advanced age of 72, can carry as many as a dozen spoons in one hand! Really!

Of course, as soon as youíve accomplished the bend, as yet unrevealed, you have to conceal that fact. Get bossy. Tell people where to stand, and keep on talking. Cover the spoon with your hands so that they canít see the bend, and finally ask one of the victims to hold one end of the spoon ó as if that gave him/her any control over it! ó while you stroke away and gradually reveal the bend that you insist is psychically appearing. And always attribute the success of the miracle to the subjectís presence and involvement, of course! In recounting it afterward, you specify that the spoon was being held by another person while it bent. And yes, that will be believed, because itís almost true.

But the best is yet to come. Before you rush on to another demonstration of (as I always say) "a semi-religious nature," give the spoon a quick further bend, and discard it. As soon as itís out of sight, casually remark that often the utensil youíve affected will continue to bend by itself. When the spoon is retrieved later, lo! itís bent even more, in compliance with your prediction!...

ianzin 04-06-2002 09:58 AM

Randi's description is good as far as it goes, and suffices for a brief, top-line description of one very common approach. But it's not the whole story by any means.

Like most magical illusions, there are x different methods and approaches. There are also many different but related effects which get lumped together under the title 'spoon bending'. Randi's description does not explain, for example, effects wherein the item bends while held in the spectator's hands, or without being touched, or visibly while the audience watch closely. These are all well within the contemporary magicians' repertoire, and I've used them all often. Note that coins and keys and paper knives and other items can all be bent using similar kinds of trickery. But TRICKS is what they are.

rjung 04-07-2002 03:03 AM

Quote:

Originally posted by bbeaty
Do you have any evidence to support such an assertion?
Crichton's bibliography works for me. The guy's good for disengage-brain-and-curl-up-for-some-fun reading, but he's certainly no Asimov-style dispenser of factual knowledge.

Quote:

More importantly, HAVE YOU READ THE BOOK IN QUESTION?
What's that got to do with anything? Do I have to watch Miss Cleo's show to pronounce her a fake, too?

More importantly, bbeaty, are you here to fight ignorance, or not? I haven't seen you do much of anything in this thread other than repeatedly defend Crichton's claim -- despite the evidence and arguments presented that claim telekinesis doesn't exist.

bbeaty 04-07-2002 02:13 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by rjung
Crichton's bibliography works for me. The guy's good for disengage-brain-and-curl-up-for-some-fun reading, but he's certainly no Asimov-style dispenser of factual knowledge.

QUOTE: more importantly, HAVE YOU READ THE BOOK IN QUESTION?

What's that got to do with anything? Do I have to watch Miss Cleo's show to pronounce her a fake, too?



Ah, you're of the "condemn without needing evidence" persuasion then. How does that differ from prejudice? And yes, you can't know anything at all about scams like "miss cleo" unless you actually LOOK at their scams first. Do you really believe otherwise? For example, Miss Cleo has no show as you said. She runs a "telephone psychic" con, and pays for numerous TV ads. (Also, it's "biography", not "bibliography.")

And people who render judgement on books, yet insist that they don't have to read them first? In my opinion that's an attitude worthy of the truest of True Believer.

Quote:

More importantly, bbeaty, are you here to fight ignorance, or not? I haven't seen you do much of anything in this thread other than repeatedly defend Crichton's claim
Well, I also repeatedly said that *I* won't believe in spoon-bending until I do it myself. My goal is to promote fairness and a GENUINELY skeptical attitude. Prior disbelief in advance of inspecting evidence has nothing to do with Skepticism.

One form of "ignorance" is to pre-judge something and then to search for confirming evidence. Many people are infected with just this sort of ignorance, yet they call themselves "skeptics." Yet a true skeptic is not a closed-minded disbeliever. A true skeptic starts out with an open mind, and their conclusions are based on constant inquiry and accumulating evidence.

At some time in the past were you open-minded about psychic phenomena?


Quote:

-- despite the evidence and arguments presented that claim telekinesis doesn't exist.
Which evidence? You mean the stuff about stage magicians and sleight-of-hand? That doesn't apply to the event that Crichton describes (or to the several hundred similar spoon-bending parties.) As I said, it's a straw-man argument.

If spoon-benders haven't gone after the Randi Challenge, that says nothing. (If they have tried it and failed, then certainly that's evidence against spoon-bending.)

If there is a stage-magic procedure where large groups of people can simultaneously witness the softening of the cutlery they hold in their own hands, nobody has mentioned it yet. Which magician performs it? Do you know how it's done? "Wood's metal" is a possible method, but in that case the organizers would have to collect the spoons afterwards to prevent the trick from being quickly uncovered.

SCSimmons 04-07-2002 04:05 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by bbeaty
If spoon-benders haven't gone after the Randi Challenge, that says nothing.
Frankly, if literally thousands of people learned to do this some quarter-century ago, and none of them have even tried to collect the prize offered by Randi (it existed even then, although it wasn't a cool million that far back), then we have discovered a phenomenon even more unbelievable than mere psychokinesis, I think. :)

I don't think one needs to personally experience each and every incredible event to determine whether it's true or false, possible or impossible. Scientists, in general, do a fine job (over a time fram of decades, rather than months or years) of sorting the wheat from the chaff and finding out what's really going on in the world. Mistakes are made, bad assumptions contaminate the process, but in the long run the errors are dug out of their foxholes and put in the POW camps of history.

Spoon-bending hasn't even gotten to the point of being the subject of any serious scientific enquiry. Someone would have to succeed at it in some kind of controlled environment, with good video records of exactly what happened, and be able to repeat it with at least occaisonal success-then it could be scientifically investigated. The kind of tests that James Randi wants to do would take the phenomenon out of the 'parlor trick' category and into the 'something that warrants scientific investigation' category. But nobody has come forward in the decades that the prize has been in existence to demonstrate that they really can do this. And if many, many people can and have been taught to apply their latent psychic powers in this way, then this is frankly unbelievable ...

december 04-07-2002 05:00 PM

Randi Rocks
 
After reading Randi's description I saw a skillful magician doing the trick. Knowing how it worked, I found it surprisingly easy to see what was going on.

When he said the spoon was bending, that was an illusions. He was actually moving it out of his hand in a way that looked like it was bending. When he stopped to show how much it had bent -- that's when he was actually bending it.

bbeaty 04-07-2002 11:54 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by SCSimmons
Spoon-bending hasn't even gotten to the point of being the subject of any serious scientific enquiry.
Oh REALLY? On what do you base this confident assertion?

If you searched for "spoon-bender" research on the web and didn't find anything, that's OK. However, I suspect that in reality you never performed any such search at all. I suspect that your above statement is based entirely on wishful thinking.

Is it?


Forgive me if I'm wrong about you, but in my experience both the "scoffers" and the True Believers have major problems with simple honesty, and they see nothing wrong with pulling confident statements out of thin air in order to defend their belief systems.

Telemark 04-08-2002 12:02 AM

bbeaty, there are plenty of people to show you ways to bend spoons that are indistinguishable from the way people who claim psychic powers. While it doesn't prove that they are not using psychic powers to bend spoons, it does mean that they are doing it the hard way.

Clearly, no one has been able to prove in a controlled environment that they can bend spoons, or any psychic powers. There are ample opportunities and significant rewards offered to do so. At this point, the ball's in their court.

When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.

bbeaty 04-08-2002 12:11 AM

Re: Re: Re: give me the million dollars!
 
Quote:

Originally posted by Cervaise
Nitpick: Wegener and plate tectonics. I did a search with Weltner and tectonics to see if I could figure out who you were thinking about, and one of the three hits I got was your own page. Just FYI.
DOH! Thanks, I confused the name with aerodynamicist Dr. Klaus Weltner. I think I fixed all the mistakes now.

Here are articles about the ridicule of Wegener:

http://www.pangaea.org/wegener.htm

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Lib...iants/Wegener/

rjung 04-08-2002 01:38 PM

bbeaty is proof of why it's taking Cecil longer than he thought. :rolleyes:

Anyway, to paraphrase Martin Gardner, "They [the people who say they have telekinetic powers] are making extraordinary claims; therefore, it is the responsibility of the scientific community to use extraordinary means to verify the claims."

SCSimmons 04-08-2002 02:09 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by bbeaty
Oh REALLY? On what do you base this confident assertion?

If you searched for "spoon-bender" research on the web and didn't find anything, that's OK. However, I suspect that in reality you never performed any such search at all. I suspect that your above statement is based entirely on wishful thinking.

Is it?

IMHO, doing a Google search on the words 'spoon bending research' would be a pretty pathetic means of finding if any serious scientific research is going on on this topic. I'm not hopping on this random topic because it caught my eye, as a matter of fact. Actually, I jumped in because I saw there were over two dozen responses, and I was surprised to see the discussion going that long on a topic already researched by Cecil, and on which so little positive evidence has ever been collected.

Definition: a scientific research program into this phenomenon would involve several scientists and one or (preferably) more psychokinetic subjects, who had clearly established their ability to consistently perform this feat over multiple controlled tests, and whose powers were being carefully tested and recorded to determine the character and limits of said powers with the aim of analysing and explaining how this ability works (whether within, as an extension of, or beyond conventional physics).

I'm fairly certain that no such program exists. If one does, please let me know, as I'd be very interested in following this no-doubt revolutionary research program.

glee 04-11-2002 05:51 PM

Quote:

Originally posted by bbeaty
Well, I also repeatedly said that *I* won't believe in spoon-bending until I do it myself. My goal is to promote fairness and a GENUINELY skeptical attitude. Prior disbelief in advance of inspecting evidence has nothing to do with Skepticism.
Your first sentence above creates a potential problem. Assume 'psychic spoonbending' does exist, but it requires mental powers you don't have, then you won't be able to do it. So you won't believe in it?!
I agree with your next two sentences.

Quote:

Originally posted by bbeaty
A true skeptic starts out with an open mind, and their conclusions are based on constant inquiry and accumulating evidence.
Absolutely!

But we have a situation where:

- there are several known mundane methods for spoonbending
- people can earn money for using those methods (I like a magic show myself)
- there is a $1,000,000 reward for 'psychic spoonbending', which is unclaimed
- the only evidence for 'psychic spoonbending' is anecdotal, not scientific

On the basis of the above, I think it is a sound sceptical* approach to feel there is zero evidence for 'psychic spoonbending' (and indeed, on similar lines, dowsing, levitation, remote viewing and speaking with the dead.)


*I'm British :)

Chronos 04-11-2002 08:57 PM

Quote:

Oh REALLY? On what do you base this confident assertion? If you searched for "spoon-bender" research on the web and didn't find anything, that's OK. However, I suspect that in reality you never performed any such search at all. I suspect that your above statement is based entirely on wishful thinking.
OK, I went over to the Astrophysical Data Service's Physics/Geophysics Archive, and searched for the word "spoon" in titles or abstracts. Since the ADS contains the full index of all of the major referreed physics journals, this would surely uncover any sppon-bending research, should it exist. Of the twelve hits I got (apparently, "spoon" isn't a very common word in physics), the two closest were one on a "Percussive spoon instrument" in the The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and one on "Hanging a spoon from the nose", in The Physics Teacher.

Based on this, I conclude that SCSimmons is correct, and spoon-bending has not yet been the subject of scientific scrutiny.


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