Zero Gravity: the Lighter Side of Science
The Official 1998 Pigasus Awards
Awarded by the James Randi Educational Foundation
Every April 1st, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) announces the coveted Pigasus awards in four categories, for accomplishments in the period from January 1 to December 31. The awards are announced via telepathy, the winners are allowed to predict their winning, and the Flying Pig trophies are sent via psychokinesis. "We send; if they don't receive, that's probably due to their lack of ability," the foundation insists. This year, the foundation awarded the prizes to the following individuals:
Science: Dr. Jacques Benveniste
Category #1, to the scientist who said or did the silliest thing related to the supernatural, paranormal or occult, goes to Dr. Jacques Benveniste, for his insistence that the magical qualities of homeopathic medicines can be transmitted via the Internet in digital form, transferring curative qualities from a bottle of homeopathic water located in Paris, France, to a bottle of quite ordinary water located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For this amazing discovery, Dr. Benveniste also became the only individual to have received the Ig Nobel Prize awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research, twice! Surely French pseudoscience can take pride in this distinction. (The JREF has offered a one-million-dollar prize to any homeopath who can distinguish between homeopathic and non-homeopathic water.)
Funding: Mr. Joe Firmage
Category #2, to the funding organization that supported the most useless study of a supernatural, paranormal or occult, goes to Mr. Joe Firmage, the computer genius who gave up his $2.1 billion company to pursue humanity's potential rendezvous with space aliens, despite a perceived government conspiracy to conceal the abundant evidence he says exists. He points to "retro-research," which he says explains the existence of the transistor, which ordinary mortals were unable to develop without first finding the technology on one of those numerous crashed UFOs. Mr. Firmage has published a 600-page manifesto titled, "The Truth," which he describes as a "synthesis of science and faith."
Media: Montel Williams
Category #3, to the media outlet that reported as fact the most outrageous supernatural, paranormal or occult claim, the prize goes to TV talk show host, Montel Williams, who has essentially made one Sylvia Browne into a psychic superstar by featuring her on show after show doing her second-guessing act to titillate the public. (On a 1989 TV special, Sylvia gave a demonstration of her powers. On this occasion, she was not allowed to contact the potential subjects in advance, and her performance was singularly unimpressive.)
Psychic: James Van Praagh
Category #4, to the "psychic" performer who fooled the greatest number of people with the least effort, is given this year to the very popular best-selling author and psychic performer, James Van Praagh, who is a "cold reader" featured on almost every major TV program, some of them more than once. Though he is a mediocre performer, he has gained a huge following of bereaved persons who embrace his banal and obvious statements as evidence of the return of the deceased. In our experience, there are much better performers of this art working the circuits today.
More information on past and present Pigasus Awards, and the James Randi Educational Foundation in general, can be found online at http://www.randi.org.
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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette