YouTube is rife with charlatans. Where else can you so easily reach millions of people for free? One recent addition to the collection of absurdities is this “QiGong Master,” who demonstrates his amazing ability to knock over pieces of wood, break glass, and move a bowl of water from a few meters away. Watch this video carefully, and then read on.
Every new medium presents both new challenges as well as new opportunities. Though the Internet has allowed more frauds to peddle their nonsense to the masses, it also gives us the opportunity to more carefully examine their claims. There is no longer any excuse to not have video evidence of a paranormal claim — cameras are ubiquitous, found even in the cell phone I got for free from Sprint. Uploading images to the Internet is a matter of mere button-pushing. So, let’s make the most of this opportunity to use the Internet for some lesson learning, shall we?
I’ll tell you something that seems extraordinarily simple, and yet is often forgotten — when it comes to a magic trick, nothing is accidental. Watching the QiGong video, what do you see? The setting is a narrow hallway, allowing for only one camera positioned for the most part at one angle. Is it an accident that the makers of the video would choose such a restrictive viewing environment? How about the table? Notice that the table is covered by a large cloth. Put yourself in the video makers’ position — why would you purposely place that cloth there? Certainly not to lend an air of formality. Pretend you’re a hippie and repeat after me: everything happens for a reason.
We’ve given the video a quick once-over, now let’s look closer. The resolution is poor, but we can notice a few things. My first eyebrow-raising moment came at around second 27 in the video, as the camera zooms closer to catch the falling forward of the second block. Watch the table, and you’ll see a small bump rise up, pushing over the block. Was this the effect of the “Qi?” Sure, if Qi is the name of a small man hiding beneath the table. Go on, watch that part of the video again and see if it doesn’t make you giggle. Or is it just me? I’ve immortalized the moment in .jpg form, as seen above. Everything happens for a reason.
Later in the video, the Master causes a glass to break. What exactly do you see? He places the glass on the very edge of the table. Why? He lays it down flat. Why? He covers the glass with a napkin. Why? The tablecloth flutters just prior to the breaking. Why? If you were to break a glass using the power of your mind (or Qi, or what have you), how would you do it? Would you cover it with a napkin? Would you lay it down flat, or stand it up in the center of a table so everyone could clearly see what was happening? Repeat after me: Everything happens for a reason. And you thought mantras were for the pseudoscience crowds.
The man causes a bowl of water to move along the table. Notice that it sits upon a wooden slab that has now been placed on the tablecloth. Why? If it were just a matter of not wanting to scrunch up the cloth as it moved, why not just remove the cloth from the table? Everything happens for a reason.
Next, the Master takes what appears to be a piece of bamboo and presses it against his throat until it snaps. This happens to be the same gag used by ripoff corporate team-building companies around the world, debunked by Penn and Teller on their Showtime hit Bullshit. The bamboo is not against his trachea, of course, it is against his suprasternal notch. We all have one, and it’s really quite hardy. If you Google suprasternal notch, you’ll find that it has its own sexual fetishists. This has nothing to do with the Qi video, I just thought that was funny. Again, the trick can be done by anyone.
Finally, we see the QiGong Master apparently sharpening a blade and SWIPING IT ACROSS HIS STOMACH! I say “apparently” because of a few basic problems with the video: 1.) I can’t tell he’s actually sharpening anything; 2.) The camera cuts away, indicating that he could very well be sharpening a completely different knife or a different edge; and 3.) It doesn’t actually look as though he’s coming anywhere near his, er, voluptuous stomach with the knife. This could be just the poor quality of the video, but hey . . . everything happens for a reason, right?
Following my call for help yesterday, I received a number of very kind offers, which I will be replying to hopefully today. Thanks!