Psi-Tests in Germany

This August, the German skeptics conducted their annual psi-tests. We tested two dowsers and a person claiming to have psychokinetic powers. The first dowser wanted to detect whether an electric cable was plugged in or not. We gave him 50 cables, randomly plugged in or not. The chance expectation obviously is 50/50, that is, 25 hits. His test yielded 26 hits. We required 40 to pass the test.

The second dowser was unable to do any indoor tests due to various “energetic disturbances”. We agreed to test him outdoors if he managed to find an area containing only one “water vein”, while the rest of the area was “clean”. Finding such a place on the surrounding lawn was surprisingly easy for him. We marked the “vein” with sticks. He was then blindfolded and walked around for disorientation (guided by a supervisor). He then had to cross the “water vein” from different vantage points and distances. He was also informed that in some cases he will be asked to walk without crossing the vein. In this case his dowsing rod should not move. The dowser did not have a single correct hit or non-hit in 15 trials.

The third claimant hoped to rotate, just by his psychokinetic powers, a 3 x 3 cm piece of tinfoil balancing on a needle. The needle with the foil was placed under a glass vase to prevent blowing or movements from natural air convection. During the pre-test phase it was obvious that the foil was only moving when he put his hands on the glass, probably causing air convection in the vase. When he kept his hands away from the glass, as he was supposed to in the actual test, nothing moved. And so there was no result in the real test either. -mm-

Reviewing alternative cancer clinics in Germany

David Gorski speaking at TAM 2012. (Brian Engler CC-BY-SA 3.0).

After a recent series of controversies surrouding German cancer clinics, in which so-called Heilpraktiker (alternative therapists such as Klaus Ross who require fewer qualifications than regular physicians) are allowed to perform invasive treatments, American oncologist David Gorski (Orac) of Science-Based Medicine has extensively studied this phenomenon and published his results.

The conclusions are damning: although some ‘legitimate’ experimental drugs (like 3-BP or DCA) that might have promising future applications are being tested in these clinics, ‘German clinics often charge enormous sums of money for treatments that range from the unproven to the dubious to pure quackery’, whilst offering false hope to desperate patients around Europe. He recounts the story of British stomach cancer patient Pauline Gahan, who has put her faith and fortunes (£300,000; some of it raised publicly) in the Hallwang Clinic in Dornstetten.
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Skeptics’ Mass Suicide Attempt

Skeptics in several European cities have taken homeopathic overdoses today to show there’s nothing in it. Despite the lack of any active ingredients, manufacturers and homeopaths claim it becomes dangerous if the prescribed dosage of a homeopathically diluted and shaken remedy is consumed several times. But that’s a myth, the skeptics say, which they’ve gone to prove today.

The events are the latest edition of the 10:23 Campaign, first held by SKEPP in Ghent, Belgium in 2004. In 2010, the event was reinvented by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and first named 10:23 after Avogadro’s number, in several British cities. In 2011, the campaign expanded to a worldwide protest against homeopathy, with people on all seven continents (yes, that includes Antarctica) across 30 countries in 70 cities, with at least 30 participants per city attempting to commit homeopathic suicide.

This video (German) was recorded by the GWUP skeptics in Hamburg, Germany. Simultaneous events happened in Prague (about 100 participants) and other Czech cities (Brno, Ostrava) and in Bratislava (about 60 participants), Slovakia. Everyone survived, just like in previous years.
An interview with the Czech Skeptics’ Club Sisyfos chairman Leoš Kyša can be read here (Czech).
This year’s event in the Prague took place in front of the Czech Ministry of Health.
Apart from the usual skeptic crowd, the event welcomed members of the Atheist of the Czech Republic, including their chairman Petr Tomek.

Other interesting participants were the three pro-homeopathy demonstrators, who were disgusted with the whole lot, and left soon after they found out none of the media – TV stations and newspeople – paid them any attention. Pets, cats and dogs, could have been spotted in the crowd, being given homeopathic remedies by their owners.

To make things a little more interesting, the Prague skeptics demonstrated the making of a homeopathic remedy, using rum as the original substance to be diluted.
In the end, even small children, participating in the even with their parents, were allowed to drink the homeopathic rum.
Outrageous?! Why? There’s nothing in it.

More photos: Lidovky

Article photos credits: Vendy

 

 

If you trust Facebook more than Wikipedia…

Freemasonry symbol.

A conversation between German pupils (translated by Leon Korteweg).

Apparently, René has a school assignment to write about freemasonry, but he is a bit lazy, so he asks his Facebook friends.

René: “Can anyone say something about the Freemasons? What they are what they do etc”
Christine: “How about checking Wikipedia?”
René: “Thanks Mrs Clever but [the teacher] said we couldn’t copy from Wikipedia.”
Jan: “Then read it through and summarise it.”
René: “Nah too much text, I already got bored at the first sentence.”
Jan: “Ok then I won’t be like that for once. Freemasons are former East Germans that we’ve got the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall to thank for. Namely, they tore down the Wall with hammer and sickle. Hence the name Freemasons [Freimaurer, lit. ‘Free-Wallers’]. Today, they are a kind of secret society. In the winter, they live in the mountains and dig for Christmas bread, in the summer they bend bananas straight to conform to EU standards.”
René: “Wtf? Would you be angry if I would just copypaste this from you?”
Jan: “Oh no, not at all. Don’t worry.”

The Süddeutsche Zeitung (South German Times) got hold of this conversation, where Jan successfully jokingly fooled René, who ignored Christine’s and Jan’s rather good idea to read Wikipedia for basic –and generally reliable– information. The Zeitung comments: ‘We couldn’t have explained it better’, referring to Jan’s fictional summary of freemasonry.

And the Golden Board 2016 goes to…!

The German-speaking skeptical society GWUP nominated three people/institutions for “the most bizarre, most outrageous, brashest pseudoscientific nonsense contribution” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland of 2016: Ryke Geerd Hamer (founder of the dangerous Germanische Neue Medizin), Roland Düringer (comedian turned politician who spreads lots of conspiracy theories) and Krebszentrum Brüggen-Bracht (alternative cancer clinic of Heilpraktiker Klaus Ross). The award is called the ‘Golden Board in Front of the Face’, to rebuke purveyors of pseudoscience who don’t see the harm they’re doing.

The award ceremony was held on 11 October in Vienna, co-organised by the Viennese regional GWUP group Society for Critical Thinking (Gesellschaft für kritisches Denken) and the Freethinkers League of Austria (Freidenkerbund Österreich). A side-event was held in Hamburg Skeptics in the Pub with a livestream of the Viennese ceremony.
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