Cover image for Debunked! : esp, telekinesis, and other pseudoscience
Debunked! : esp, telekinesis, and other pseudoscience
Charpak, Georges.
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Devenez sorciers, devenez savants English
Publication Information:
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xxi, 136 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
The first steps in the initiation -- Amazing coincidences -- Let's play detective -- The right to dreams and clarity -- A new millennium dawns.
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BF1409.5 .C4313 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Can you walk over red-hot charcoal without burning your feet? Appear to stop the beating of your heart? Bend spoons using the power of your mind? In Debunked! Nobel Prize winner Georges Charpak and physics professor Henri Broch team up to show you the tricks of the trade and sleight of hand that keep astrologers, TV psychics, and spoon benders in business.

Using only the simplest of science, the authors explore the effectiveness of horoscopes--the blander the better--and why, with a television audience in the millions, any strange, unlikely prediction is almost certain to come true. If such insider information does not impress your colleagues, why not pierce your tongue with a skewer or demonstrate your eerie powers by using telepathy and the telephone to get a distant friend to intuit the number and suit of a card picked at random. Charpak and Broch show you how.

Not merely an expose of magic tricks, this book demonstrates how pseudoscientists use science, statistics, and psychology to bamboozle an audience--sometimes for fun, sometimes for profit. During the most scientifically advanced period in human history, belief in the paranormal and the supernatural is alarmingly common. Entertaining and enlightening, Debunked! is the antidote, vigorously asserting the virtues of doubt, skepticism, curiosity, and scientific knowledge. This lucid translation makes the arguments clear, understandable, and a pleasure to read.

Author Notes

Georges Charpak is a member of the French Academie des Sciences & of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He has long worked at the European Center for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva. He received the 1992 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of electronic detectors of ionizing particles, used widely in physics, industry, & biology. He lives in Paris, France, & in Geneva, Switzerland.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Written in a jaunty tone, this excursion upon the seas of superstitious belief is a light, amusing voyage. Had the authors aimed their Nobel-caliber guns (Charpak received the 1992 physics award) at astrology and mental telepathy and blown them to smithereens, such bludgeoning would not have held the humor in the more adroit tack they do take. Charpak and Broch instead examine those fields within their own terms of reference for signs of validity. For example, astrology, allegedly able to determine human fate according to signs of the zodiac, is bogus if only because the precession of the earth's axis shifts those signs over time. Looking at the psychic power enabling one to levitate, walk safely across red-hot coals, or make astounding predictions, the authors point out how physics or simple probability explains things more convincingly than do amazing brain waves. Exposing the gullibility charlatans rely on, the authors' sardonic spirit will amuse readers even as it inducts them into the scientific mode of thought. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Table of Contents

Translator's Prefacep. vii
Prologue: Sorcerers and Scientistsp. xi
The Early Scientists: Sorcerers, High Priests, and Astrologersp. xi
The Human Soul Is Capable of Repentancep. xii
Science Turns the World Upside Down and Can Endanger Life Itselfp. xiii
Our Amazing Ancestors, the Cavemenp. xvi
Earthlings, Radioactive from Birthp. xix
We Sail Away on an Ocean of Ignorancep. xxi
Chapter 1. The First Steps in the Initiationp. 1
Your Initiation Beginsp. 1
Truth Is Drawn from a Wellp. 1
The Precession of the Equinoxesp. 8
Personal Experiencep. 11
Practice Telepathy!p. 19
Astonishing Feats, Performed Effortlessly and Painlesslyp. 25
Walking on Firep. 37
Bending Metalp. 41
Chapter 2. Amazing Coincidencesp. 45
Freaks of Naturep. 45
Psychokinesis? Your Turn to Try!p. 46
The "Small Effect Illusion"p. 49
It's a Paradox, You Say?p. 52
Earthquake in Astrolandp. 59
Premonition?p. 61
Solar Halos, Comets, and Other Signs from Abovep. 62
Comparing Risksp. 65
Looking for Meaningp. 67
Internal, External, or Both?p. 70
Chapter 3. Let's Play Detectivep. 71
Elementary, My Dear Watsonp. 71
Pendulum Locator and Divining Rod: Old Hatp. 72
The Mystery of the Sarcophagus at Arles-sur-Techp. 84
Radioactivity, or the Devil Gets into the Font of Holy Waterp. 100
A Funny Thesisp. 111
Chapter 4. The Right to Dreams and Clarityp. 113
A Knee-jerk Reactionp. 113
From Artisans to Multinationalsp. 114
Rationality and the Construction of Beliefsp. 115
The Rise of the Occultp. 116
A Paradoxical Situationp. 118
Reason and Sensationp. 120
Democracy Imperiledp. 121
Chapter 5. A New Millennium Dawnsp. 123
All Ideas Are Not Equally Validp. 124
Scientists and Journalists: On the Same Side of the Battlep. 125
It's Never Too Latep. 127
Powerful Armies Can Let Themselves Be Fooledp. 128
Crucial Choices for the Planet Are at Stakep. 129
Appendix How to Calculate Probabilitiesp. 133