Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Spoon bending and mind reading

On friday evening I went to Tel Aviv. I had a rendevous with paranormalist extraordinare, Mr Uri Geller (perhaps the only israeli "celebrity" the world has ever seen). I had organized a meeting with him after he telephoned me on monday following a meeting he had with my father. We met just before sundown and the beginning of shabbat on the 19th floor of the Sheraton hotel. After introducing himself to me he immediately went to the business lounge bar, picked up a spoon from a basket of coffee spoons, started stroking it and presto! the head started to droop. He then placed the spoon a top the coffee maker and insitsed that when in contact with metal the bending continues alone.
After it had bent a full 90 degrees, he signed it "To Noam, Uri Geller" and gave it to me. I must say that unless he had quickly deposited the spoon there before entering the room, the whole thing was unexplainable. Even if he had deposited it there: the spoon is made out of metal, and I SAW it bending. I was well impressed. He also performed some telepathy on me: he turned around and asked me to draw something simple and then cover it with my hands. I did so, he turned around and drew the EXACT same dawing.
The diamond shape even includes a small segment I added on to make it more unique. I was well impressed, again. The final "feat" (he told me not to use the word "trick") he performed was to ask me to think of any building in any capital city. I thought of Sacre-Ceur in Paris. He had it already written down (ok, Paris might have been the obvious choice, but why not the Eifell tower?). I dont know how to explain these things with my rational, physical arsenal of differential equations. Regardless of whether he is a charlatan or not (his words), he is a very interesting and charsimatic person. In his life he has met so many amazing personalities, to name a few: Golda Meir, Richard Feynmann, David Bohm, Viktor Weisskopf, Salvador Dali, not to mention the A-list Hollywood crowd. His CV includes, among many other things, prospecting for gas and oil fields for major energy corporations, being invited by Al gore to bombard the Russian delegation with telepathy to sign the Nuclear non proliferation treaty, working with the FBI to locate the "son of sam" serial killer in New York, and ultimately his abilities were tested by stanford, the cia, and the mossad. He explained to me that the whole universe is energy and that if you give energy to the universe, the universe gives you energy back. I asked him then, why could I not bend a spoon and he said quite honestly "I dont know". Oh well, I guess us mere mortals must make do with bending things with pliers.


Blogger Rob said...

AWESOME. I don't really know what else to say.

2:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant. I wish I had been there to see that. Though the thing that pleased me most was your repeated use of the phrase "I was well impressed" you clearly learned something while in Durham.


10:16 PM

Blogger Rob said...

Not everything's in your books, Mark.

11:35 PM

Anonymous PhilB said...

Dude, you meet all the famous types. Hm, I'd've thought the spoon-bending would be an easy one to investigate -- cover the thing with sensors for temperature, resistance, capacitance etcmaybe use special spoons with little insulated wires inside them, and see what happens. I guess you need to work out where the energy to bend the spoon is coming from... is there something about the rubbing that breaks down the crystal structure (eg electrostatics or maybe his skin oils go superconducting at a certain temperature or sthing), or is there something flowing directly through Uri and out of his hands?

What we need are massive statistics and controlled conditions, then we'll be able to understand and harness the Power Of Spoon Bending!

9:14 AM

Anonymous cmb said...

What an amazing story!
I am sure Uri is a really lovely and charismatic person but he is also either deluded or a liar

A couple of years ago when I was actually spending my free time studying magic and illusion and got interested in spoon bending (I even have an instructional video lying around somewhere if people want to see for themselves). A combination of sleight of hand, psychological suggestion and a clever use of perspective can reproduce each of the effects you saw


Look very closely at the moment that he moves from one lady to the other.

10:18 AM

Blogger I_am_nil said...

While I agree that bending a spoon with ones mind is counter intuitive for a physcist, that does not mean its impossible. After all physics in itself is not the undisputed fundamental truth of the universe. "There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" . In his defense, he was studied under labratory conditions by scientists at stanford, who published thier findings in Nature (Targ & Puthoff, 1974a,b). Alas, we are not yet at that pinnacle of physics where everything is explainable. Some things remain mysterious (like the accretion rate of AGN, how planets form, paranormal phenomena, among others).

CMB: I saw the spoon bend. No sleight of hand, no power of suggestion, no illusion. It was DEFINITELY straight, and it DEFINITELY it bent.

10:38 AM

Blogger jps said...

Truly amazing

11:39 AM

Anonymous cmb said...

I'm the first person to admit that science doesn't have all the answers, and that when we are faced by a phenomenon that does not fit into our conception of reality we must alter science. The mystery of Uri and his spoon is not one of these phenomena. To demonstrate the utter banality of this 'feat' here are a few examples of magicians bending spoons (or forks) with the power of their minds (there are dozens more made by amateurs if you search Youtube):

Criss Angel(wait until he bends the lady's spoon):
Video 1

Video 2

Richard Osterlind (you'll need to wait through the card tricks, but this one pretty much defies belief):
Video 3

James Randi (exposes exactly how Uri does a few tricks, additionally there is an uncomfortable moment on the Tonight Show)
Video 4

Any one of these effects is just as direct as what Uri Geller can do. Any one of these effects can be performed with a moment's notice, using real cutlery, applying only misdirection and sleight of hand. Add this to the video I posted in my last comment where you clearly see Geller bend the spoon with his hands and my point may become clear: Uri Geller is a magician, and his tricks are just that (indeed he did used to be employed as a professional magician in Israel)

Geller's mentalism tricks are also well known by magicians, and although he performs them very well they lie firmly in the realm of the mundane. As for the nature paper I'll quote from one of the very many rebukes from the skeptic community:

The paper was accompanied by an extensive editorial that explained that the paper's referees had expressed serious reservations about its scientific merit. Others have also condemned the protocols used in these experiments as lax and unscientific. Moreover, Geller has never participated in repeatable experiments under conditions that would preclude fraud. Magicians have also pointed out that scientists are rarely experienced in detecting legerdemain.

Additionally his claims of dowsing should be treated with the utmost skepticism until he goes and claims the million dollar Randi prize

Geller is, I think, a very magnetic and forceful personality and it is this that makes people stop looking for the obvious (rational) answer and beginning to search in the realms of pseudoscience when he confronts them with something they can't immediately explain away.

I'll just leave you with the wise words uttered by Richard Feynman after being confounded by Uri Geller:

"Because a good magician can do something shouldn't make you right away jump to the conclusion that it's a real phenomenon." —Richard Feynman

12:15 AM

Anonymous cmb said...

For the ADD afflicted :: The Randi video from 5:30 onwards is essential viewing, if nothing else.

2:17 AM

Blogger Mark Norris said...

Excellent Craig. Its good to see we haven't all decided to give up on reason.

12:38 PM

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