Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition 4.5

At last week’s Boston Skeptics in the Pub, I hosted a trivia night. The winner’s got the opportunity to name today’s Afternoon Inquisition, so courtesy of the team “Neosporin – It’s Topical”* I give you:

Imagine that you are suddenly visited by a time traveler from the future. This traveler presents you with an item or a bit of information that confirms that something we currently consider to be woo-woo has, in fact, been found to be true by future science.

Which woo-woo idea would you like this time traveler to present to you, and what device or piece of evidence would you want to receive as confirmation?

*I offered a prize for best team name, explaining that I liked puns and topical jokes. So there you go.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Without a doubt, Qi, having all those martial art fantasy energy attacks from Streetfighter et al. would be cool.

  2. Aliens have been visiting the Earth, abducting humans, and performing strange, invasive procedures on them. Said information comes from an interstellar police force, arresting the “Grays” — actually squidgy-looking things in humanoid suits — for breaking Earth’s quarantine and performing unlawful sex acts on a primitive species.

  3. That time travel is possible. And I would need to have my own working tardis beford I would believe. Oh and the time traveler would have to be Billie Piper.

  4. Cold fusion. It’s not complete, all-hope-for-your-rationality-is-lost, woo right now, although the evidence is poor and seems to be pointing at some other phenomenon than cold fusion itself. But massive amounts of non-polluting power at rom temperature? Yes please.

  5. I’d like proof that the Skepchick Mansion exists. As proof, I’d need all their thongs served in a separate plate by their respective owners.

  6. Without a doubt- reincarnation.
    How I’d love to come back as either a Skepchick, or failing that stroke of luck, I’d settle for being a skepchick pet…

  7. First of all, you need to believe her own word of being a time traveller from future. It is not so easy to present evidence of that. An example of evidence could be showing a newspaper from her past (our future) from, say May 10th 2009. Or, if she is good at history of sports, you can ask her about the 2009 Champion of some competition.

    Once you have accepted she is a time traveller, you can expect the fullfilment of the Third Clarke’s Law. Any sufficient advance technology is undistinguishable from magic. So, if she is from, say, 22nd or 23rd century, she probably have enjoyed technology that we consider woo-woo now, for example “telepathy” or “telekinetics”.

  8. Creationism, all it would require is for the time traveler to grab me and send me 6000 years into the past and leave me there to die in the vacuum of nothingness. ^_^

  9. Homeopathy. Since practically everything is diluted to infintesimal amounts in actual water, ordinary water would serve as an instant, universal cure. No more disease! As for the confirming piece of evidence, an example of subculture wines and liquors from the future whose labels proudly proclaim to cure nothing.

  10. That red wine is indeed the cure for all. Although Tang and Vodka would be close for those of you who prefer the buzzzzz
    And they came back, not to give us the secret, but to get the 2005 Hidden Ridge Cab

  11. Of course, the next great thing would be that Cuban cigars were the secret to long life — after all, those who smoke Cuban cigars, drink coffee, and have a lot of sex live to be 100

  12. Perpetual motion machines. As proof, I’d like the time-traveler to describe the working principal of the machine to me and then give me time to implement it myself so that I am satisfied that it works. Then I’d build more and sell them and get rich.

  13. That the combined Global Consciousness (TM) of 6 billion people really is powerful enough to influence a tiny random number generator.

    Because then we might be in with a real shot of dealing with some of the World’s truly pressing problems. Like people incurring minor gambling debts in casinos, or not doing as well as they’d like in video games.

    But with great power comes great responsibility. Are we, as a species, ready to wield such awe-inspiring power? Imagine the devastation we could wreak upon random number generators everywhere. But of course you can’t. It’s just too devastating.

  14. The obvious answer is for her to prove that time travel to a point in time before the invention of the time machine is possible. Honestly, c’mon, she’s dressed like shes from the ’70’s!

  15. Antigravity devices from alien spacecraft hidden in area 51.

    Er… that’s more than one. Whatever. I still want to quote my friend’s full “I totally believe this bull” list.

  16. I’d go with Von Daniken-style ancient astronauts. Provides a solution to the Fermi Paradox that bodes well for our chances, says the gaps between the stars can be overcome, and that whatever is out there seems to at least not be genocidal, and possibly interested in giving us a leg up- or just pricks that want to see how big a pointy pile of rocks they can cajole the local wildlife to assemble.

    It also involves the fewest violations of major scientific principles, vast bodies of evidence, and thus of me working to get said “time traveler” from getting sent to the rubber room with a thorazine chaser.

    As for proof…GPS coordinates to the buried, radioisotope-dateable spacecraft with pyramid blueprints on the galley table.

  17. Honestly I’d like someone to come back and say that there was concrete evidence for God. Like he came down from heaven in a flaming chariot and smote all the unbelievers.

  18. I’d like to discover that Jenny McCarthy was an alien, sent to us by leaders from the planet Moron, in a galaxy far, far way, immediately before that planet was struck by a Thiomersal moon.

    It REALLYwould explain a lot.

  19. @Pinkbunny: But that would take all the fun out of it!

    – Answering the question, I would want to find out that psychic powers were actually real and that we were just paying attention to the wrong people. I mean really.. how cool would telekinesis and telepathy be?

  20. Well I just finished Reliulous. At this point I would just be happy to know that there is a future and that it is technologically advanced enough to create time travel. It feels to much like the Einstein quote “I don’t know what World War Three will be fought with. But World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

  21. God. Just he sort of woo that you need proof for. As evidence I would like to travel back to the crucifixion and witness the event followed by the material resurrection. Of course that couldn’t happen. There is no future because the End Times are coming any day now….

    ..any day now…


  22. Telekinesis. While FTL and time travel and other nifty stuff push the borders of woo-woo, they both have theoretically possible constructions that would let them work (ie, Alcubierre Drive and intensely powerful spacetime warps as in an event horizon).

  23. Well, I was thinking of Time Travel but this seems to already come free with the postulation, so I’m going for life after death. Not the christian heaven, which quite frankly sounds unbearably boring, but some sort of eternal existence. Not having to die, that sounds pretty good to me. I’m okay with the idea of death, I tend to follow Mark Twain’s logic of “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. ” But given the opportunity to pass on death, I’d take it. Especially if it meant that I could haunt people, and places. I mean, what would be more fun than being a poltergeist? A poltergeist in the locker room of the woman’s Olympic volleyball team that is.

  24. @Steve, fmitchell: Their aim might depend on who they are “mind probing.” ;-)

  25. @SkepPunk: Seems like time travel, coupled with advanced brain-scan technology would allow a future civilization to collect the minds of everyone who’s ever lived and resurrect them in some manner.

    e.g. Just before Bob get’s hit by a bus, a brain scanner pops in, scans his brain and pops back out. X-hundred years later, Bob is reconstructed in a simulated reality similar to the world in which he lived, then given the option of staying that way, exploring alternate realities or being restored to physical form.

    In your case, I’m sure they could set up some sort of locker room scenario for you if you’d like.

  26. That magic is real, and a wand of call lightning. I’d only use it for good, honest! Alternately, telekinesis and a manual that would teach me how to manipulate the roulette wheel with my mind. =)

  27. Woo That is True: Dinosaurs still existing until today.

    Proof of the Truth: Dinosaur Rodeo!

  28. The existence of the multiverse, in the science-fiction sense. That there are nearly infinite other universes that range the spectrum from very similar to very different.

    I’d believe it if I were transported to a universe that included an earth that is home to a species of talking mattress.

    /infinite universe, everything’s probable.

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