Debunked!: ESP, Telekinesis, and Other Pseudoscience

Overview

Can you walk over red-hot charcoal without burning your feet? Appear to stop the beating of your heart? Bend spoons using the power of your mind? In Debunked! Nobel Prize winner Georges Charpak and physics professor Henri Broch team up to show you the tricks of the trade and sleight of hand that keep astrologers, TV psychics, and spoon benders in business.

Using only the simplest of science, the authors explore the effectiveness of horoscopes—the blander the better—and why, with...

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Overview

Can you walk over red-hot charcoal without burning your feet? Appear to stop the beating of your heart? Bend spoons using the power of your mind? In Debunked! Nobel Prize winner Georges Charpak and physics professor Henri Broch team up to show you the tricks of the trade and sleight of hand that keep astrologers, TV psychics, and spoon benders in business.

Using only the simplest of science, the authors explore the effectiveness of horoscopes—the blander the better—and why, with a television audience in the millions, any strange, unlikely prediction is almost certain to come true. If such insider information does not impress your colleagues, why not pierce your tongue with a skewer or demonstrate your eerie powers by using telepathy and the telephone to get a distant friend to intuit the number and suit of a card picked at random. Charpak and Broch show you how.

Not merely an expose of magic tricks, this book demonstrates how pseudoscientists use science, statistics, and psychology to bamboozle an audience—sometimes for fun, sometimes for profit. During the most scientifically advanced period in human history, belief in the paranormal and the supernatural is alarmingly common. Entertaining and enlightening, Debunked! is the antidote, vigorously asserting the virtues of doubt, skepticism, curiosity, and scientific knowledge. This lucid translation makes the arguments clear, understandable, and a pleasure to read.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books
Debunked! is short and highly readable. It tells good stories about human foolishness masquerading as science. It offers useful assistance to citizens trying to tell the difference between sense and nonsense... Charpak and Broch have done a fine job, sweeping out the money-changers from the temple of science and exposing their tricks. I recommend this book to believers and skeptics alike. It is good entertainment, whether or not you believe in astrology.

— Freeman J. Dyson

New Scientist
Just as James Bond needed his Q to survive his enemies, so every working scientist needs this slim volume. At some time, I am sure, everyone will have found themselves in a sticky situation in which they are trapped at a party by a boring individual endlessly droning on about astrology, telekinesis or some other form of pseudoscientific gobbledegook. Like the gadgets produced by 007's personal boffin, this book provides a means of escape. It offers a simple scientific explanation for a wide range of supposedly paranormal phenomenon. Some are shown up as mere conjuring tricks, while beliefs such as astrology can be readily demolished by anyone with a passing knowledge of probability theory, let alone astronomy. The book arms the reader with arguments that can be tossed into some future conversation, quelling such disciples of irrationality while you make for the door.

— John Bonner

Booklist

Written in a jaunty tone, this excursion upon the seas of superstitious belief is a light, amusing voyage... Looking at the psychic power enabling one to levitate, walk safely across red-hot coals, or make astounding predictions, the authors point out how physics or simple probability explain things more convincingly than do amazing brain waves. Exposing the gullibility charlatans rely on, the authors' sardonic spirit will amuse readers even as it inducts them into the scientific mode of thought.

Scientific American
Delightful... [Charpak and Broch] show how the application of probability theory to such events is enlightening.

— Michael Shermer

Easton Star Democrat
We have here a new book by two eminent scientists—three if you count the translator—that emphatically debunkes ESP, telekinesis, telepathy, dowsing and numerous other similar magic stunts.

— John Goodspeed

Wall Street Journal
The authors' reasoning, which includes all kinds of theoretical subtleties ('nutations,' 'precession of the equinoxes'), is quite beautiful.

— Jim Holt

Symmetry
Entertaining and amusing.

— Elizabeth Clements

Physics Today
One of those books I wish I'd written.

— James Randi

Physics World

I enjoyed reading this book... and was particularly interested to learn about purportedly paranormal events that have not been covered elsewhere.

New York Review of Books - Freeman J. Dyson

Debunked! is short and highly readable. It tells good stories about human foolishness masquerading as science. It offers useful assistance to citizens trying to tell the difference between sense and nonsense... Charpak and Broch have done a fine job, sweeping out the money-changers from the temple of science and exposing their tricks. I recommend this book to believers and skeptics alike. It is good entertainment, whether or not you believe in astrology.

New Scientist - John Bonner

Just as James Bond needed his Q to survive his enemies, so every working scientist needs this slim volume. At some time, I am sure, everyone will have found themselves in a sticky situation in which they are trapped at a party by a boring individual endlessly droning on about astrology, telekinesis or some other form of pseudoscientific gobbledegook. Like the gadgets produced by 007's personal boffin, this book provides a means of escape. It offers a simple scientific explanation for a wide range of supposedly paranormal phenomenon. Some are shown up as mere conjuring tricks, while beliefs such as astrology can be readily demolished by anyone with a passing knowledge of probability theory, let alone astronomy. The book arms the reader with arguments that can be tossed into some future conversation, quelling such disciples of irrationality while you make for the door.

Scientific American - Michael Shermer

Delightful... [Charpak and Broch] show how the application of probability theory to such events is enlightening.

Easton Star Democrat - John Goodspeed

We have here a new book by two eminent scientists—three if you count the translator—that emphatically debunkes ESP, telekinesis, telepathy, dowsing and numerous other similar magic stunts.

Wall Street Journal - Jim Holt

The authors' reasoning, which includes all kinds of theoretical subtleties ('nutations,' 'precession of the equinoxes'), is quite beautiful.

Symmetry - Elizabeth Clements

Entertaining and amusing.

Physics Today - James Randi

One of those books I wish I'd written.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801878671
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Georges Charpak is a physicist at the European Center for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva and winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in physics. Henri Broch teaches physics and zetetics, the scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena, at the University of Nice–Sophia Antipolis.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Translator's preface
Prologue : sorcerers and scientists
Ch. 1 The first steps in the initiation 1
Ch. 2 Amazing coincidences 45
Ch. 3 Let's play detective 71
Ch. 4 The right to dreams and clarity 113
Ch. 5 A new millennium dawns 123
App How to calculate probabilities 133
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