Monday, March 19, 2007

Psychics Beware

If you're a psychic, you probably already know what I'm about to reveal. Then again, unless you've skimmed ahead, you'll have no clue since you're nothing but a shammer, a con artist with no other powers than that of a deeply suppressed and contained moral conscience, and James Randi more or less agrees. Randi is the driving force behind the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, a contest setup to allow self-proclaimed psychics the opportunity to prove themselves and their powers. Anyone who can guess the contents of Randi's box takes the grand prize. It's really that simple. So why isn't anyone winning?

Well, they weren't until Matt Blaze came along. A cryptographer and self-proclaimed quester for science, security and curiosity, Blaze rose to the challenge and in no time solved the puzzle. He was able to do this not by rubbing his temples or waving his hands about the air; he didn't gaze into a crystal ball or a mirror, mirror on the wall, but rather at this set of numbers:

5 -14

Randi had just last week posted this odd looking set of digits on his contest's website as proof of the box's contents, an encoded message describing what was inside. The idea was never to present this as a puzzle, but to use it as proof that the contents were never changed, should someone ever guess what was inside or demand that the contents be authenticated. How anyone could interpret the above set of numbers as an object would have forever been beyond me, until I read Blaze's blog. Apparently, if you're a brilliant cryptographer, its simple.

Blaze isn't claiming the prize. He never for a moment contended that his discovery of the box's contents resulted from any sort of psychic power he possessed, and he supports Randi's cause, which was why he revealed the code's weakness. The world needs more people like Matt Blaze and James Randi. Oh, and Darren Brown, too.

Psychics are a pet peeve of mine. I don't mind the odd parlor trick here or there for a laugh, but when ego-maniacs take advantage of people, making bold claims of contacting deceased loved ones, locating the missing, solving murders or claiming a paranormal knowledge of any matter which is of significant importance to a person or persons, feeding off their hopes and/or fears for fame or money, it is unforgivable. However, when such scum are given credence by the media, its a thing far worse. The media has a duty not to be dazzled. Then again, how else are we to be warned when our unsuspecting North Atlantic hometown is in imminent danger of being smashed by a tidal wave?

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