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Old 4th May 2013, 10:03 AM   #1
Fudbucker
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Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

On the challenge, it says "At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.".

So suppose I claim I have psychic powers and when tested (under proper observing conditions), I get 5 out of 10 Zenner cards correct.
Well, that could be coincidence, so I'm retested, and I get 35 out of 100 right next time.

Would that win me the million? If not, why not and at what point would I ever win a million? Or will the random luck hypothesis always win out?
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:12 AM   #2
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You have to specify what will be considered a winning run - how far above chance you can perform, and how consistently over a specified number of runs.

Someone who was truly telepathic would score above average on multiple runs.
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:18 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
On the challenge, it says "At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.".

So suppose I claim I have psychic powers and when tested (under proper observing conditions), I get 5 out of 10 Zenner cards correct.
Well, that could be coincidence, so I'm retested, and I get 35 out of 100 right next time.

Would that win me the million? If not, why not and at what point would I ever win a million? Or will the random luck hypothesis always win out?
The evaluation criteria and test conditions are agreed-to ahead of time; if you and JREF agree that correctly identifying at least X out of 100 cards will count as a pass, and you then correctly identify at least X cards in the controlled test, you win.
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:22 AM   #4
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Yes.
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:23 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by TsuDhoNimh View Post
You have to specify what will be considered a winning run - how far above chance you can perform, and how consistently over a specified number of runs.
But I'm asking for examples of winning runs. In the example I gave, a person getting those results has already displayed some evidence of "paranormal power". They were tested twice and beat the average result by quite a bit.

Quote:
Someone who was truly telepathic would score above average on multiple runs.
How many runs? The example I gave was two, and the person scored above average on both. Doesn't that qualify as "above average on multiple runs"?
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by dasmiller View Post
The evaluation criteria and test conditions are agreed-to ahead of time; if you and JREF agree that correctly identifying at least X out of 100 cards will count as a pass, and you then correctly identify at least X cards in the controlled test, you win.
But this is just throwing the question back to me: what conditions would be agreed to? I doubt they would agree to the following conditions: I can get at least 51 out of 200 Zenner cards right (or at least 251 out of 1000).


ETA: Oops, that should read 41 out of 200 (201 out of 1000)

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Old 4th May 2013, 10:38 AM   #7
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It is probably not possible to win the JREF challenge. There are three ways to win the challenge:
1. Demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal effect. The problem with this approach is that supernatural and paranormal effects do not seem to exist.
2. Cheat. The problem here is that Randi and company seem to be unusually skillful at detecting scamming and coming up with a technique that will fool them even for the limited time that the test is underway would be very difficult if not impossible.
3. Get lucky. Since a lot of the accepted test protocols depend on some sort of statistical approach to demonstrate a paranormal effect it is conceivable that one could just get very lucky a pass the test. However Randi seems to have anticipated this kind of thing with the two stage test strategy. To get to the second stage of the testing depending on just luck is very unlikely and the second stage of the testing would be, if one was ever done, much more daunting to the test subject hoping for an extreme amount of luck on test day.

As an aside, if a supernatural or paranormal effect existed it is likely to be one not easily detected since no credible experiments to date have detected one. And the kind of protocols that would detect a very small effect don't seem to be approved by JREF. For instance, consider an individual claiming that he can predict coin flip outcomes 1% above the the expected rate. A lot of trials would be required to ferret out whether the test subject did indeed have that capability and JREF doesn't seem to be willing to go down the path of extremely long test cycles to ferret out very tiny effects.
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:45 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by davefoc View Post
It is probably not possible to win the JREF challenge. There are three ways to win the challenge:
1. Demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal effect. The problem with this approach is that supernatural and paranormal effects do not seem to exist.
2. Cheat. The problem here is that Randi and company seem to be unusually skillful at detecting scamming and coming up with a technique that will fool them even for the limited time that the test is underway would be very difficult if not impossible.
3. Get lucky. Since a lot of the accepted test protocols depend on some sort of statistical approach to demonstrate a paranormal effect it is conceivable that one could just get very lucky a pass the test. However Randi seems to have anticipated this kind of thing with the two stage test strategy. To get to the second stge of the testing depending on just luck is very unlikely and the second stage of the testing would be, if one was ever done, much more daunting to the test subject hoping for an extreme amount of luck on test day.

As an aside, if a supernatural or paranormal effect existed it is likely to be one not easily detected since no credible experiments to date have detected one. And the kind of protocols that would detect a very small effect don't seem to be approved by JREF. For instance, consider an individual claiming that he can predict coin flip outcomes 1% above the the expected rate. A lot of trials would be required to ferret out whether the test subject did indeed have that capability and JREF doesn't seem to be willing to go down the path of extremely long test cycles to ferret out very tiny effects.
It's (3) I'm really asking about. Suppose I've passed three rounds of tests and I've beaten the odds more than two standard deviations on each test. Would I win? What's to stop JREF from simply claiming I got lucky, no matter how many trials I've done or results I've gotten? At what point does one toss the luck hypothesis out?
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:56 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
It's (3) I'm really asking about. Suppose I've passed three rounds of tests and I've beaten the odds more than two standard deviations on each test. Would I win? What's to stop JREF from simply claiming I got lucky, no matter how many trials I've done or results I've gotten? At what point does one toss the luck hypothesis out?
What would qualify as a win would be determined by you and JREF ahead of the tests being performed. Each time someone tries for the million they and JREF establish the rules and definition of a "win."

There is no one definition of winning the JREF million dollar challenge. Winning is unique, but agreed upon by all parties, for each persons attempt.
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:05 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
It's (3) I'm really asking about. Suppose I've passed three rounds of tests and I've beaten the odds more than two standard deviations on each test. Would I win? What's to stop JREF from simply claiming I got lucky, no matter how many trials I've done or results I've gotten? At what point does one toss the luck hypothesis out?
IMO luck is factored out before the testing begins. You and jref would come to a mutual agreement before testing as to what is considered a win. If during testing you meet the terms of the agreement without cheating, you win. If after that jref doesn't pay I would imagine you would be able to file suit and likely win for breech of contract.
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:09 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Skibum View Post
IMO luck is factored out before the testing begins. You and jref would come to a mutual agreement before testing as to what is considered a win. If during testing you meet the terms of the agreement without cheating, you win. If after that jref doesn't pay I would imagine you would be able to file suit and likely win for breech of contract.
As I said before, what constitutes "mutual agreement"? JREF will never go for my proposal that I'll call at least 520 heads out of 1000 tosses on a fair coin. What would their "counter" be? Call 1000 out of 1000 correctly?
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:14 AM   #12
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I'm no statistics expert, but IIRC, the probability of passing the initial test by chance must be 1 in 1,000 to count as a pass, and 1 in 1,000,000 for the challenge itself. No third test is needed.
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:20 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
As I said before, what constitutes "mutual agreement"? JREF will never go for my proposal that I'll call at least 520 heads out of 1000 tosses on a fair coin. What would their "counter" be? Call 1000 out of 1000 correctly?
Again, down to you and JREF to come up with a satisfactory set of rules how would you expect any one posting here to come to a conclusion on what that might be?
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:22 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
As I said before, what constitutes "mutual agreement"? JREF will never go for my proposal that I'll call at least 520 heads out of 1000 tosses on a fair coin. What would their "counter" be? Call 1000 out of 1000 correctly?
You're correct they would never agree to that. 520 out of 1000 is something anyone could do even 10 times in a row. The object of the testis for you to prove that you have a power that is "supernatural" not that you can do what anyone else can do on a "lucky" run.
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:27 AM   #15
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If you want to win money by barely beating the odds, go to Vegas.
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:40 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
As I said before, what constitutes "mutual agreement"? JREF will never go for my proposal that I'll call at least 520 heads out of 1000 tosses on a fair coin. What would their "counter" be? Call 1000 out of 1000 correctly?
Originally Posted by Skibum View Post
You're correct they would never agree to that. 520 out of 1000 is something anyone could do even 10 times in a row. The object of the testis for you to prove that you have a power that is "supernatural" not that you can do what anyone else can do on a "lucky" run.
I think the straightforward answers to Fudbucker's question are:
1. JREF does not publish specifics on the length of a test protocol it is willing to accept.
2. In the past, JREF, seems to be unwilling to pursue test protocols for hypothetical very small paranormal/supernatural effects.

If one believes that they can demonstrate an effect that requires a massive amount of boring testing to validate, JREF doesn't seem to be willing to participate. However, it is conceivable that if one spent the time and effort to execute their own massively boring test protocol to demonstrate this supposed small paranormal effect that JREF might be persuaded to review the documents and even participate.

Ganzfied experiments come to mind. But I don't know if anybody has ever attempted to pursue a claim about these with JREF. Based on my limited knowledge of these, I think JREF would reject most of the experiments because of insufficient controls. A difficulty with any experiment looking for a very tiny paranormal effect is that it also may be sensitive to other very tiny effects that aren't paranormal and extraordinary controls are required to eliminate other possibilities.

But even if you submitted the results of a Ganzfield experiment that seemed to have been done with sufficient controls that demonstrated the likelihood of a tiny paranormal effect I still suspect that JREF would not go forward. Randi just doesn't seem that enthused about massively long and massively boring experiments that in his mind (reasonably enough) were probably improperly done even if he isn't sure exactly how.
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Old 4th May 2013, 11:53 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Squeegee Beckenheim View Post
I'm no statistics expert, but IIRC, the probability of passing the initial test by chance must be 1 in 1,000 to count as a pass, and 1 in 1,000,000 for the challenge itself. No third test is needed.
It's not set in stone because every claim is different but yes, AIUI the rule of thumb for the success criteria for the preliminary test is that the applicant must beat odds of 1:1000. As no-one has ever passed a preliminary test there is no precedent for the second and final test and many people assume that higher odds would be set, but I've never understood why; beating 1:1000 chance odds again would mean that the applicant had beaten cumulative odds of 1 in a million.
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Old 4th May 2013, 12:01 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
As I said before, what constitutes "mutual agreement"? JREF will never go for my proposal that I'll call at least 520 heads out of 1000 tosses on a fair coin. What would their "counter" be? Call 1000 out of 1000 correctly?
I think a measure of Statistical Significance in this case would be about 670 correct out of 1000. If this is passed in the preliminary test, the same test would be given as the Million Dollar Challenge.
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Old 4th May 2013, 12:07 PM   #19
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I think the JREF would participate in an extremely long and extremely boring test. However, the costs of any test must be borne by the applicant. There's a limit to how much volunteer time and space the JREF is prepared to offer. At some point a long test is going to start costing money. The applicant never seems confident enough that they will win the million that they will spend the money necessary for such a test.

I'm not a math guy, but the general rule of thumb, as has been pointed out, is 1 out of 1000 for the preliminary and 1 out of a million for the final (and no one's made it past the preliminary).

So come up with a Zener card or coin flip testing protocol that meets these odds and the JREF might be interested.

There are other types of one-off tests where odds cannot be figured, like levitation or psychically forcing someone else's behavior.

There are also other cash prizes for paranormal phenomena, but they are mostly run the same way, but the bar to entry is usually lower.

Good Luck,

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Old 4th May 2013, 12:12 PM   #20
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Yes, but no.

If you had a supernatural ability and could prove it, or you could show that something supernatural or paranormal exists, you can win one million dollars.

Unfortunately, that will never happen, because magic isn't real.
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Old 4th May 2013, 12:40 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
As I said before, what constitutes "mutual agreement"? JREF will never go for my proposal that I'll call at least 520 heads out of 1000 tosses on a fair coin. What would their "counter" be? Call 1000 out of 1000 correctly?
Ask yourself if that's a paranormal claim. If it isn't then it does not qualify for the million dollar challenge.

If you are capable of always calling a coin toss correctly then why not go 1000 for 1000? However, If your paranormal ability is to call coin tosses correctly slightly more than half of the time then you don't actually have a paranormal ability.

ETA:
Quote:
2.1 Protocols must be “mutually agreed upon,” what does that mean?

Neither the Foundation nor the claimant can force a testing procedure without the approval of the other side. The testing procedure is a negotiation, and no one can put their foot down. If at any time it a deadlock is reached, the application process will be terminated, and neither side will be blamed or considered at fault.
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Old 4th May 2013, 03:31 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by davefoc View Post
I think the straightforward answers to Fudbucker's question are:
1. JREF does not publish specifics on the length of a test protocol it is willing to accept.
2. In the past, JREF, seems to be unwilling to pursue test protocols for hypothetical very small paranormal/supernatural effects.

If one believes that they can demonstrate an effect that requires a massive amount of boring testing to validate, JREF doesn't seem to be willing to participate. However, it is conceivable that if one spent the time and effort to execute their own massively boring test protocol to demonstrate this supposed small paranormal effect that JREF might be persuaded to review the documents and even participate.

Ganzfied experiments come to mind. But I don't know if anybody has ever attempted to pursue a claim about these with JREF. Based on my limited knowledge of these, I think JREF would reject most of the experiments because of insufficient controls. A difficulty with any experiment looking for a very tiny paranormal effect is that it also may be sensitive to other very tiny effects that aren't paranormal and extraordinary controls are required to eliminate other possibilities.

But even if you submitted the results of a Ganzfield experiment that seemed to have been done with sufficient controls that demonstrated the likelihood of a tiny paranormal effect I still suspect that JREF would not go forward. Randi just doesn't seem that enthused about massively long and massively boring experiments that in his mind (reasonably enough) were probably improperly done even if he isn't sure exactly how.
Sounds like their looking for proof of some amazing ability, rather than proof of a low-grade psychic ability that would take a lot of trials to tease out. Fair enough.
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Old 4th May 2013, 03:35 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by ehcks View Post
Yes, but no.

If you had a supernatural ability and could prove it, or you could show that something supernatural or paranormal exists, you can win one million dollars.

Unfortunately, that will never happen, because magic isn't real.
Even if you supposedly performed a supernatural ability, wouldn't the default skeptical position be to assume you were cheating in some way? Many years ago, there was a guy on That's Incredible who could move items in a glass box by blowing under the box edge (from about five feet away). They wired him up with a microphone and caught the sound of him blowing air. But if you didn't suspect that was how he was doing it, wouldn't you still suspect he was cheating in some way?
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Old 4th May 2013, 03:37 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Biscuit View Post
Ask yourself if that's a paranormal claim. If it isn't then it does not qualify for the million dollar challenge.

If you are capable of always calling a coin toss correctly then why not go 1000 for 1000? However, If your paranormal ability is to call coin tosses correctly slightly more than half of the time then you don't actually have a paranormal ability.

ETA:
Actually, that would be a paranormal ability.
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Old 4th May 2013, 04:41 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Actually, that would be a paranormal ability.
No, it wouldn't.
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Old 4th May 2013, 05:05 PM   #26
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Roughly half of the people who have ever guessed a series of coin flips have guessed them correctly more than 50% of the time. Do they all have a supernatural power?
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Old 4th May 2013, 05:37 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Even if you supposedly performed a supernatural ability, wouldn't the default skeptical position be to assume you were cheating in some way? Many years ago, there was a guy on That's Incredible who could move items in a glass box by blowing under the box edge (from about five feet away). They wired him up with a microphone and caught the sound of him blowing air. But if you didn't suspect that was how he was doing it, wouldn't you still suspect he was cheating in some way?
Which is exactly why mutually acceptable rules are negotiated in advance. I'm pretty sure measures to defeat any possibility of cheating would be a part of them.
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Old 4th May 2013, 05:40 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Even if you supposedly performed a supernatural ability, wouldn't the default skeptical position be to assume you were cheating in some way?
Sure. That's why the challenger must agree to controls that (supposedly) prevent cheating. A really good cheater could still theoretically win, but once the phenomenon got out there for scientific study, a hoax would surely be found out or a real phenomenon would be proven true in the long run.
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Old 4th May 2013, 05:59 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Sounds like their looking for proof of some amazing ability, rather than proof of a low-grade psychic ability that would take a lot of trials to tease out. Fair enough.
They are not looking for anything AFAICT. People who claim paranormal abilities come to them. If people go through the application process and a mutually agreed upon protocol can be determined then the JREF will honor it's challenge.

Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Actually, that would be a paranormal ability.
Actually, it would not be paranormal and barely qualifies as an ability IMO. It would lie well within the expected deviation for someone who was just guessing.
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Old 4th May 2013, 06:01 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Even if you supposedly performed a supernatural ability, wouldn't the default skeptical position be to assume you were cheating in some way? Many years ago, there was a guy on That's Incredible who could move items in a glass box by blowing under the box edge (from about five feet away). They wired him up with a microphone and caught the sound of him blowing air. But if you didn't suspect that was how he was doing it, wouldn't you still suspect he was cheating in some way?
The protocol would be designed and tested for any method of cheating. The whole reason for a mutually agreed upon protocol is to eliminate any none paranormal factors from influencing the outcome.

Have you read the rules and the FAQ for the challenge?
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Old 4th May 2013, 06:34 PM   #31
theprestige
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Even if you supposedly performed a supernatural ability, wouldn't the default skeptical position be to assume you were cheating in some way? Many years ago, there was a guy on That's Incredible who could move items in a glass box by blowing under the box edge (from about five feet away). They wired him up with a microphone and caught the sound of him blowing air. But if you didn't suspect that was how he was doing it, wouldn't you still suspect he was cheating in some way?
Sure. That's why I'm not going to risk a million dollars in a challenge that might attract the greatest charlatans alive.

But James Randi thinks he's good enough to take that risk. And so far no charlatan has dared to try their wits against his--even for a million dollars.

I'm sure that if you took the challenge, and devised some cheat that Randi could not account for or detect, he'd abide by your mutual agreement and pay out the million.
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Old 4th May 2013, 06:47 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Sounds like their looking for proof of some amazing ability, rather than proof of a low-grade psychic ability that would take a lot of trials to tease out. Fair enough.
Not quite. They are looking for evidence that someone has the paranormal ability that they claim to have. Even if the challenge was won, it would not constitute "proof".
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Old 4th May 2013, 07:58 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Even if you supposedly performed a supernatural ability, wouldn't the default skeptical position be to assume you were cheating in some way? Many years ago, there was a guy on That's Incredible who could move items in a glass box by blowing under the box edge (from about five feet away). They wired him up with a microphone and caught the sound of him blowing air. But if you didn't suspect that was how he was doing it, wouldn't you still suspect he was cheating in some way?
Isn't that the guy who James Randi, you know the JR part of JREF, exposed as a fraud?
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Old 4th May 2013, 08:12 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Orphia Nay View Post
No, it wouldn't.
Yes, it would.

Quote:
If your paranormal ability is to call coin tosses correctly slightly more than half of the time then you don't actually have a paranormal ability.
It would be amazing to discover someone who couldn't, no matter how many times they tried, achieve less than 50% accuracy predicting coin tosses. That would be like some Mystery Men "superhero".
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Old 4th May 2013, 08:13 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by TjW View Post
Roughly half of the people who have ever guessed a series of coin flips have guessed them correctly more than 50% of the time. Do they all have a supernatural power?
Given enough time, regression to the mean takes over. You're postulating someone who never regresses to the mean. That would be supernatural.
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Old 4th May 2013, 08:17 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Skibum View Post
Isn't that the guy who James Randi, you know the JR part of JREF, exposed as a fraud?
Maybe. I don't remember. I was a kid.
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Old 4th May 2013, 08:22 PM   #37
Fudbucker
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Sure. That's why I'm not going to risk a million dollars in a challenge that might attract the greatest charlatans alive.

But James Randi thinks he's good enough to take that risk. And so far no charlatan has dared to try their wits against his--even for a million dollars.

I'm sure that if you took the challenge, and devised some cheat that Randi could not account for or detect, he'd abide by your mutual agreement and pay out the million.
Sounds like it's been modified somewhat:

http://www.wired.com/science/discove.../2007/01/72482
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Old 4th May 2013, 09:11 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Sounds like it's been modified somewhat:

http://www.wired.com/science/discove.../2007/01/72482
Not sure what you're getting at. The change, requiring a media profile, doesn't affect anything theprestige said. If someone had a genuine ability, calling up their local TV station and college and offering to demonstrate it for a reporter and a professor, is all it would take, and if I recall correctly, several people have done something like that and taken the preliminary challenge since 2007.
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Old 4th May 2013, 09:17 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Pup View Post
Not sure what you're getting at. The change, requiring a media profile, doesn't affect anything theprestige said. If someone had a genuine ability, calling up their local TV station and college and offering to demonstrate it for a reporter and a professor, is all it would take, and if I recall correctly, several people have done something like that and taken the preliminary challenge since 2007.
I was just pointing out it's changed.
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Old 4th May 2013, 10:30 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by wardenclyffe View Post
I think the JREF would participate in an extremely long and extremely boring test. However, the costs of any test must be borne by the applicant. There's a limit to how much volunteer time and space the JREF is prepared to offer. At some point a long test is going to start costing money. The applicant never seems confident enough that they will win the million that they will spend the money necessary for such a test.
...
I think you might be right, if somebody came to JREF with a proposal for a very long test to demonstrate their paranormal ability and that person could show some kind of good faith effort had been used to arrive at the conclusion that he could demonstrate a paranormal effect, JREF might take the position that an extremely long test such as the one proposed would exceed their resources to engage in, but if the prospective claimant wanted to fund the effort including compensation to JREF, JREF might agree to be involved. Of course, this is hypothetical built on hypothetical, as a practical matter JREF is not going to be involved in any exceeding long and boring tests for the foreseeable future.

Originally Posted by Fudbucker View Post
Sounds like their looking for proof of some amazing ability, rather than proof of a low-grade psychic ability that would take a lot of trials to tease out. Fair enough.
I think that's right. JREF doesn't appear to be interested in signing up for a deep search for a previously undetected very small paranormal effect. It isn't a research institute and it doesn't represent itself as such.

As an aside, I agree with Fudbucker, any ability to predict or affect an apparently random event would be a supernatural or paranormal ability regardless of how small the effect was. Our theory that no such small effect paranormal ability exists is based on the fact that there is no apparent causal mechanism for it and because empirically we just haven't seen real life examples which suggests that somebody has any paranormal capabilities. But just because we haven't observed evidence of very small paranormal effects doesn't mean they don't exist. Maybe the effect is just too small for us to distinguish between events involving paranormal effects and events that don't involve paranormal events.
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