Anti-Science

A Correspondence

Through my profile on MySpace.

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From: Evan
Date: Jan 2 2007 10:32 PM
Subject: hmmmmm

even know i think god is real and go to a phycic once a year can i still take you out on a date?

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Dear Evan,

In my living room, I have a bookcase. Sitting on the bookcase atop a stack of DVDs is a medium-sized metal rectangular lunch box decorated with vintage magic posters. Within this lunch box, I have placed a single item of personal significance to me. If you tell me what that item is, you can take me on a date.

Feel free to use your resources, including but not limited to your annual psychic, Jesus/god, or any latent remote viewing abilities you may possess.

Please note that I will most likely open this offer to others, and I will post all results to my blog.

Best of luck! Thanks for writing.

Rebecca

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From: Evan
Date: Jan 2 2007 11:58 PM

Is it a tiny figurine of your favorite care bear “Anarchy Bear? You have the figurine and not the stuff animal because within a week of introducing Anarchy Bear onto the show the fundamentalists Christians threatened to boycott and Hasbro was forced to write him off the show. Today you are still hoping for the day where you will find an affordable stuft Anarchy bear on eBay. But until then there is always the tiny figurine that you put in your red A-Team lunch box.

So… will I be taking you to Johnny Rockets for a milk shake or not?

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Wow, that was a very good (and detailed) guess, but sadly you are incorrect. If you’d like to try again for that shared milkshake, feel free. I’ll keep the lunch box closed until the end of the month, so you have plenty of time to check with your magical resources.

Thanks,

Rebecca

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Other guesses are welcome. “Winners” pay all expenses for date.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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102 Comments

  1. Let's see…I'm really gonna have to warm up my ol' remote viewing batteries for this one, since I'm all the way across the Atlantic, but I will do my best…

    Hmm. No luck there. I know! I'll talk to some communication-challenged spirits. Time to find out what THEY have to say.

    I'm getting an 'R'. They're indicating the letter 'R,' naturally meaning 'Rebecca.' I'm on the right track!

    Oh. OK. Here we go. They're indicating to me that it's in water. That's why I can't find it. It's covered in water. Also, don't worry about the money. Does that mean anything to you? Well, keep thinking about it. We'll come back to that later.

    How am I doin' so far? :)

  2. Hell, I'll buy you a milkshake with no strings attached or pretensions that the purchase constitutes a "date". I'm horrible at romance, but I like to make friends.

    I tried that "remote viewing" trick, but all I could see was a Doonesbury action figure of Uncle Duke, gritting his cigarette holder between his teeth as if to say, "Death before unconsciousness." Then the doll began to scream, "Honey, I'm trapped inside this little box. Check my Rolodex and see what I ate this morning!"

    I don't think my psychic powers are working.

  3. Thanks Expat, now I've gone and snarfed.

    From a quick persusal of Rebecca's myspace account I can confidently proclaim that contained within is either

    a. A minuture A-Team van

    b. Porn

    c. The 3 of Clubs

  4. It is a signed copy of Evolution V. Creationism by Eugenie Scott. I can be in Boston in 4 or 5 hours I guess, but I am not buying you a shake unless you send ME a marriage proposal…Just to tick off Perry…

  5. "“She drowned the pony in China” sounds like:

    A) Spy Talk

    or

    B) Dirty Euphemism

    Discuss."

    A) She hid(drowned) the letter(prize pony) in a deep hole(china).

    B) ….oh man is that a doozy. Wow. It involves a lar…well….and it's in the…no, no I just can't. Sharing that idea is interwebs illegal.

    Oh, also, my guess is the first can of mace Rebecca ever sprayed a psychic with.

  6. I regret that I cannot participate in this exercise, because I may not use my mighty psychical powers for shallow personal gain or profit.

    Anyway, the promise of taking Rebecca out on a date is fraudulent, and she keeps changing the goalposts so that it would be impossible to answer in any case.

    Why must you shut your eyes to the true wonders of the Universe, Rebecca? Why must something be untrue simply because you cannot explain it to your satisfaction?

    I am disappointed.

    I will pray for you.

    ;)

  7. Is it an Aleph?

    On the back part of the step, toward the right, I saw a small iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first I thought it was revolving; then I realised that this movement was an illusion created by the dizzying world it bounded. The Aleph's diameter was probably little more than an inch, but all space was there, actual and undiminished. Each thing (a mirror's face, let us say) was infinite things, since I distinctly saw it from every angle of the universe. I saw the teeming sea; I saw daybreak and nightfall; I saw the multitudes of America; I saw a silvery cobweb in the center of a black pyramid; I saw a splintered labyrinth (it was London); I saw, close up, unending eyes watching themselves in me as in a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me; I saw in a backyard of Soler Street the same tiles that thirty years before I'd seen in the entrance of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw bunches of grapes, snow, tobacco, lodes of metal, steam; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of their grains of sand; I saw a woman in Inverness whom I shall never forget; I saw her tangled hair, her tall figure, I saw the cancer in her breast; I saw a ring of baked mud in a sidewalk, where before there had been a tree; I saw a summer house in Adrogué and a copy of the first English translation of Pliny — Philemon Holland's — and all at the same time saw each letter on each page (as a boy, I used to marvel that the letters in a closed book did not get scrambled and lost overnight); I saw a sunset in Querétaro that seemed to reflect the colour of a rose in Bengal; I saw my empty bedroom; I saw in a closet in Alkmaar a terrestrial globe between two mirrors that multiplied it endlessly; I saw horses with flowing manes on a shore of the Caspian Sea at dawn; I saw the delicate bone structure of a hand; I saw the survivors of a battle sending out picture postcards; I saw in a showcase in Mirzapur a pack of Spanish playing cards; I saw the slanting shadows of ferns on a greenhouse floor; I saw tigers, pistons, bison, tides, and armies; I saw all the ants on the planet; I saw a Persian astrolabe; I saw in the drawer of a writing table (and the handwriting made me tremble) unbelievable, obscene, detailed letters, which Beatriz had written to Carlos Argentino; I saw a monument I worshipped in the Chacarita cemetery; I saw the rotted dust and bones that had once deliciously been Beatriz Viterbo; I saw the circulation of my own dark blood; I saw the coupling of love and the modification of death; I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon — the unimaginable universe.

  8. I know what you keep there. I can't say it here on this respectable board. Suffice it to say that most of my single female friends own one :)

    Now it won't do me any good that I guessed right – Mrs. GreenNeck says horrible things will occur to me if I date younger women. And unlike those of psychics, her predictions are accurate.

  9. You're all way off. The trick to remote viewing is to follow the air. Once you know where the air is, you know where the object isn't. And once you know where it isn't, you can flip this into where it is. From this, we can get a perfect outline of the shape of the object.

    Now, the problem is that I'm in no position (geographically) to actually go out on a date with Rebecca, so I'll refrain from giving it away and allow the next person to guess it to take her out. Purely out of chivalry, of course, not out of some way to weasel out of guessing and being wrong. I do know what it is, I'm just not saying :P.

  10. Well, those spirts weren't terribly helpful before. Let's see if I can hazard a guess somehow using these dousing rods…

    ::EYE-POKE!!::

    Oh, WHY?? WHY DOES IT HURT SO MUCH??!

    Well, at least I know there've been plenty of blind prophets throughout literature, so maybe this turn of events isn't as unfortunate as I first thought!

  11. Well,

    I could guess.

    But I won't.

    If I REALLY knew, I'd screw the milk shake and go for that cool million from James Randi. (However, I DO love that juke box, were else can you hear Patsy Cline, these days…)

    I think I'll just join the dark side and start my own religion (NOT!!!)

    How about: "The church of the Continuous, Holy, Bonk on the Head"?

    Let Oscar De La Hoya, show us the way…

    rod

  12. Hm. Unlike Tiresias, my dousing rod-blinded eyes don't see the future or other people's thoughts any clearer than before. Unless…Yes, I've got it!

    Very clever, Rebecca, surely no one would have thought of that! Good work.

    Oh, who am I kidding? Got nothing.

    It felt good to admit that. Take it from me, the rest of you: it takes more caricature to admit when your wrong. Truth will set you free :-P

  13. The person never said anything about him/her being

    a psychic,so I don't understand your asking

    him to become one..

    the offer is tempting,however I insist we have a sealed

    answer,somewhere out of your hands?

    Also If I were to guess,your date would involve 3hrs

    of god praising church popele…lol

    can't wait to play

    Take care M.Dmon

  14. I'm going to guess that it contains a small replica of the Venus de Milo. Why? Because a large replica wouldn't fit in the lunchbox. Unless it's an unusually large lunchbox, but my powers tell me it's not.

  15. How am I gonna guess what's there when I couldn't even correctly guess my password onto this website within three tries?

    So, in the absence of a guess, and with no hope of ever having a milkshake with you, I'll just leave this brief message: You simply rock.

  16. If I REALLY knew, I’d screw the milk shake and go for that cool million from James Randi.

    Hmm… Million from Randi or date from Rebecca…?

    Personally, I'd take the date. All a million dollars gets me in a PS3 a couple months earlier, and I can live without that (though if I see the words "Disc Read Error" one more time I may change my mind).

  17. Actually, the question of how Schroedinger's

    cat would react to remote viewing is still unsolved.

    Especially if one uses remote viewing backwards in time.

    On the other hand cats seem to know when they are being stared at…

    Anyway, my mental powers tell me it is a Mobius strip made from a yellow

    post-it note, inscribed with the word 'HADDOCK'.

  18. Is it a key? Or something else having to do with Harry Houdini?

    Perhaps the ashes of a loved one?

    A rosary necklace?

    An aluminum foil hat, which is why all attempts at scrying are being thwarted?

    Is it the One Ring? No, no, that was destroyed by nasty hobbitses!

    Look, I have a weakness for all things ice cream and I'm going to have me a milkshake regardless. You may as well let me buy you one, too.

  19. ::meditates::

    I'm getting the phrase 'p-e-n'… Perhaps it's a pendant. A letter from a pen-pal? A lucky penny? A Penn and Teller DVD? The Pirates of Penzance? A map of Phnom Penh?

    None of my guesses really count anyway, since I'm in England until at least September and then I have no idea where I'll be. But, if you should ever find yourself in London-town, you've got a free date on me regardless. :-P

  20. Wow, sometimes I realise what I say just doesnt make sense.

    The problem is I'd say that in real life, people would give me a strange look and then I'd get pissy at them for not getting it.

    hmm…

    well what i mean was that every word in the dicitonary would then be my guess(es).

  21. A charm bracelet with healing blue energy crystals and a little silver FSM charm?

    Or one of those little pom-pom creatures with the antennae and the googly eyes and the little flag message stuck to its behind? What were they called, Weebles?

  22. "One of you, I’ll say, was close enough to make me gasp, though far enough away for it not to count."

    Perhaps said person, if nobody steps up to claim the Grand Prize, can take you out for a milkshake minus the "date" stipulations? ;)

  23. Nice!

    A hard one for the psychics, it's a mirror! When searching for answers we sometimes forget to look inside ourselves and this is a gentle reminder that perhaps one of our greatest treasures is ourself.

    RockOn!

    RockingDuane

  24. It's time for me to pretend I was the person close enough to produce a gasp, my reasoning based in no small part on my history of making women gasp in a bad way upon my expressing interest in them. Rebecca's seen my picture, she knows how bad a deal my victory would be! :-P

    Self-deprecation aside…If I WERE the close one, I'd guess that you've hidden away some correspondence (perhaps your first?) from the Amazing Randi (in connection to my facetious 'letter from a pen-pal' guess)

    Though, in all likelihood, I can find a couple people who might be the 'close' ones, and one of them in particular leads me to hazard a slightly different guess, which I will withhold for the moment in the hopes that someone who can actually collect their 'prize' will make the same connection.

  25. Rebecca wrote at January 3, 2007 at 11:33 am that everyone was very very wrong, so every suggestion from before then is wrong. That includes air, water, a pony, a thermos, hootch and porn. Then she writes at January 3, 2007, 2:08 pm that she loves the guess that its a personal device. We cannot conclude anything about posts made in the interval between these times, but since she didn't say "one of you is close" at that time, we can as a first approach direct most of our attention to the sugesstions from January 3, 2007, 2:08 pm until January 4, 2007 at 6:16 am. Those include a troll doll, a skepdude calendar, a squid, Schroedingers cat, anything with the word 'pen', weed, a statue of Venus de Milo, a moebius strip, rosary necklace, ashes from a loved one, a key or a tinfoil hat.

    I would like to expand my guess to include all caledars, including skepchick calendars and fireman calendars.

  26. Out of the choices enumerated by astrogirl2100, I would select the ashes of a loved one. I mean, the squid won't keep for a month, we can't say anything about Schroedinger's cat one way or the other, "anything with the word 'pen'" is too vague for Rebecca to joke about, and it seems foolish to run a public test with something illegal.

    What is "close enough" to a Moebius strip? Perhaps one of those wine glasses in the shape of a Klein bottle. . . but on the whole, I think a hidden item either is a Moebius strip or isn't. The same goes for the key. What could be "close enough" to a key and yet not a key — a lockpick?

    The miniature Venus de Milo has possibilities. Perhaps Rebecca is concealing a postcard of the Venus, instead of a tiny statue, or perhaps she put a replica of some other, closely related artwork into her metal box. Winged Victory (la Victoire de Samothrace)? Rodin's "Thinker"? Surely, that last one is appropriate for a skepchick!

    On the whole, though, "ashes from a loved one" sounds the most promising. They'd have personal significance, yet one does not expect to find them cavalierly placed somewhere like an old lunchbox. Ashes belong in urns, no? Well, the dead are not in a position to complain (or at least they have been spectacularly poor at making their displeasure known to us). Yet everyone's default reaction is to imagine that Rebecca chose a souvenir with a little meaning and history but no effluvium of the sacred.

    So, what resembles ashes but is not ash? In Hot Shots, Charlie Sheen had his father's eyes and carried them around in a case to prove it. That sounds a little too esoteric. What about a lock of hair?

  27. Well, when my pet was cremated, they gave me her ashes in a plastic bag. I bought a pretty decorative little box for it. So it's possible that Rebecca might keep such a thing in an old lunchbox. She did say, though, that the guess wasn't really close enough to count. So if she was refering to the ashes guess, what could be close to ashes?

    Also, if someone makes a guess stemming from the one that made you gasp, does the original guesser get anything?

  28. Got it! It's a woodchuck, or if you prefer, a groundhog. Remember how Rebecca said "I'll keep the lunchbox closed until the end of the month"? Well, that will be close enough to February 2, no?

    Believing a woodchuck can predict weather is another piece of woo-woo nonsense Rebecca wants to debunk.

    Now we need a name for Rebecca's pet groundhog. How about Skepchuck?

  29. Huh… You know I can't find a website that sells woodchcuks. (even a scruple-less one) and if you search for groundhogs all I get is groundhog day sales, and offers for a great movie staring the man whom wished to staple antlers to mice heads.

    . . . but no skep or even credulous chucks.

  30. Strange, this talk of 'skepchucks' and groundhogs. Groundhog Day is, in actuality, my birthday (and yes, wise-asses, I get stuck reliving it over and over again each and every year until I learn something :-P ). If I'm a skeptic, born on Groundhog Day, does that, in fact, make me a skepchuck by default? And if so, have I been writing these missives from inside the box on Rebecca's stack of DVDs all along, WITHOUT KNOWING IT???

    Scary.

  31. Wait, I've got it! We've been SO CLOSE.

    Inside the box, you will find the ashes of Schroedinger's skepchuck, Phineas! This was, naturally, before he settled on cats as the proper animal to subject to an impossible thought-experiment about quantum phenomena. As it turns out, Phineas simply spontaneously combusted when exposed to such arcane and non-intuitive forms of scientific thought and, as such, was not fit for Schroedinger's use. Hence, the ashes.

    It all makes SO MUCH sense. Rebecca, I'll pick you up at eight.

  32. So until we open the lunchbox (even though it is smokeing and hot to the touch) Phineas is both alive, drinking appletinis and burned to cinders.

    He's drinking appletinis only becuase it is an unwritten super-law that all woodchucks must drink some sort of apple flavored martini. Of which the appletini is the most accesible. The Martapple is hard to find. . . and where would a woodchuck, a skeptical one at that, find a Martapple, because as everyone knows you have to have deep faith in homeopathic malting practices to get a Martapple. . . I carried this one to far didnt I?

    Well I havn't slept in two days… so it's either sleep or play more videogames.

    I choose videogames.

  33. I can think of something "miniature Venus De Milo" related that rebecca owns, although I think she keeps it on her desk at work, so it's probably not that.

    Any other weird "souvenirs" are probably on her desk at work too (apart maybe from the Asian penis).

    My guess is on a key. But it's probably not a key related to Harry Houdini.

    Maybe it's the key to her hart (awwww).

    Then again, maybe not …

  34. I believe what is contained in the box, which is of great importance to you, is the truth.

    Let me explain.

    Any guess as to what the item is, no matter how close, will (at least by playing the odds) not have nearly as precise a description as one created from the emperical evidence gained from opening the box and examining the item. As a skeptic, true knowledge of the real world (including real-world objects) is what is most important and exciting. Therefore, true knowlegde of the item inside the box must be most important to you.

  35. Greetings Rebecca–

    I must join in this lottery. It would be a great pleasure to meet you… *and* the odds are more in my favor than with most lotteries!

    First off, it is obvious that you would choose something quirky. Anyone who has read Skepchick for any length of time would also find this obvious (it is a complement). Also, you wouldn't want to make the item too easy to guess. Unless of course you're trying to pull some reverse-psychology trick on us (which I wouldn't put past you, you tricky little devil).

    So now the question is, what types of quirky items might you have laying about your apartment? Much more difficult to answer.

    Being a free thinking skeptic myself, we would then think *somewhat* alike. We may even have some similar items laying around our respective apartments.

    My only option then is to roll the proverbial dice and hope I get lucky… and choose something that I would place in a similar box, in a similar situation.

    Looking about at the ephemera in my apartment, there are many possibilities. Damn you vkacademy for taking my toy rocket… so that's out.

    I could just list items I might choose, though this would not be fair… it would be similar to one of the "speak to the dead" frauds doing a cold reading… keep spewing words until you hit upon something close. So I'll just go ahead and buy my lottery ticket.

    Therefore, my answer is… a lovely little doubly-refracting crystal of calcite (I'm a sucker for items of beauty & light).

    I like your approach to handling Evan's original request… though I hope I win the lottery.

  36. Wait a second… there's only one possible answer here: Inside the box is an unresolved superposition of quantum states, as is always the case when something is outside of any inspection. Of course, this wasn't the case when she placed it in the box, nor will it be the case when the box is opened, but it's the case now. Hmm, I guess this also implies that no one else has successfully observed the contents, otherwised they'd have resolved.

    (Okay, my personal theory on quantum mechanics has it not working quite that way, but this interpretation lends itself to humor better.)

  37. The choices given by astrogirl2100 were a troll doll, a skepdude calendar, a squid, Schroedingers cat, anything with the word ‘pen’, weed, a statue of Venus de Milo, a moebius strip, rosary necklace, ashes from a loved one, a key or a tinfoil hat.

    I don't have any psychic powers, but let's try using the powers of deduction.

    I am going to go out on a limb here and say that it probably isn't a troll doll. I also think most calendars wouldn't fit inside of a lunchbox. It is probably not Schroedinger's cat. I am not sure whether or not it's considered generally tasteful to put ashes from a loved one inside of a lunchbox. I doubt it's a tinfoil hat. Or weed. Or rosary beads.

    So, a statue (possibly of Venus), a moebius strip or something similar (or perhaps a moebius strip that doesn't have HADDOCK written on it or is made of a post-it note), or a key.

    A moebius strip is unlikely enough of a guess for it to actually be surprising if it were close to the object inside of the lunchbox (statue or key are pretty obvious guesses). Maybe some other topologically interesting object?

  38. featherheadfop: yes, I too think that Blake Stacey dismissed the moebius strip to soon. We need a guess that would not quite be right, but surprising enough to make Rebecca gasp. I am thinking Origami, maybe a paper sphere or donut (in celebration of the Poincarre conjecture proof). Or maybe it is just post-it notes.

  39. I'm so curious as to who will get a date with Rebecca! I'm too old, too straight, and too far away to take her out for a milkshake, but I want to guess anyway. Maybe then I could sell my date on EBay!

    First, I wanted to think it was a mummified Barbie doll (because I grew up with those and then later abused them), but since she has the lunchbox decorated with vintage magic posters, I thought maybe it has something to do with magic (or skepticism of it, thereof). Like a sentimental object like a bent key or bent spoon from a TAM meeting…a magic wand…something of that nature. But since she *gasped* at something already, I'm not sure what would be close to those except for a bent key or bent spoon.

    Mostly we save items (or at least I do) from significant events in our lives – concert tickets, seeds, et al.

  40. >>Mostly we save items (or at least I do) from significant events in our lives – concert tickets, seeds, et al.

    Sorry for that poor half-asleep construction – should be "etc." – and seeds? What's wrong with me? ;-)

    Well, someone said a 3 of Clubs, too. Some kind of magic cards or cards from a TAM meeting – something from Randi, who after all, tied himself up in chains for her Skepdude calendar. I would hope that by saying how the lunchbox was decorated that it would be a slight clue. But then, that's just how I'd do it, and I like puzzles.

    I want a vicarious date! ;-)

  41. Astrogirl, I meant some kind of cards – heck they could be tarot cards. I did see your reply and hence, reasoning, but I wanted to go that route. ;-)

    Hmm, my nefarious plan didn't quite work out the way I intended, but in essence it did. Sort of…but it could have had a more interesting outcome.

    (-8~

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