Last night I attended a fun event put together by the Illinois Science Council on the science of the spooky. My friend Dan Hooper, an astrophysicist at Fermilab, was presenting on “The physics of ghosts” (specifically: why they wouldn’t work), and it seemed like there might be some opportunity to heckle.
Before Dan, though, there was a talk was on the evidence for “psi” — which is just ESP, but called psi because the proponents know that people realize ESP research is bunk. It was, shall we say, typical of the form: Lots of plots showing effects that are just barely statistically significant, a discussion of how the methodology of previous studies was hopelessly flawed followed by a statement that this one was free of bias, and even a claim that Carl Sagan himself had agreed that psi was worth of study. (You’ll be shocked to learn that the last one was quote-mined.) Yawn.
Dan’s talk was much more entertaining. (more…)