Back in the late 70s, when I was a kid, Uri Geller visited New Zealand with his spoon bending antics. The spoons bent on TV but I also remember radio performances where people rang in with old watches, that hadn’t worked for years, which would be magic’ed back to life over the phone (with the help of the callers warm hand and a bit of vibration I bet). I thought it was clever but wondered how he did it.
I read lots of non-fiction (yeah I know, geek) and found Flim-Flam in the local library. In the space of a book James Randi made a seed of skeptical doubt blossom. Flim-Flam looks at the nonsense, or non-science, behind biorhythms, transcendental meditation, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, ESP, psychic surgery and more. It led me to other similarly skeptical books where authors like James Randi, Martin Gardner, Isaac Asimov & Arthur C Clarke (in non-fiction mode) and, of course, Carl Sagan helped form my world view.
Of course Randi is a media legend who has been a constant source of delight over the years, especially when the Internet meant he could be seen on demand, A few weeks ago I read this in the speaker line-up for TAM Australia;
- James Randi – the Amazing Randi is the number-one icon of the Skeptical movement in the world – co-founder of CSICOP, and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation, researcher, investigator and magician, Randi’s reputation for Skeptical thinking and action are second to none
I just had to go. I don’t actually own a copy of Flim-Flam, yet, but will be taking one to TAMOz with the hope of getting the authors signature. Amazon, you (or more accurately your algorithms) know this customer well enough to help complete a journey that started in the Te Atatu North Library several decades ago.
UPDATE 01-2011: I met & talked to Randi who kindly signed my, now well travelled as it came home to NZ via Las Vegas, copy of Flim-Flam :