APS News

June 2000 (Volume 9, Number 6)

Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science

Fourth Annual Pigasus Awards

Awarded by the James Randi Educational Foundation

On April 1st of each year, we at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) award the coveted Pigasus Awards in four categories, for accomplishments in the year previous. The awards are of course 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 paranormal talent.

This year we honor the following individuals:

Category #1, to the scientist who said or did the silliest thing related to the supernatural, paranormal or occult: The award this year goes not to a specific scientist, nor to a scientific body. We generously award it to Linda Holloway and the entire Kansas Board of Education for their decision to forbid evolution to take place in the State of Kansas. In August, the Board ruled that the teaching of evolution must be removed from the state's educational agenda. "In voting to downgrade and discourage the teaching of evolution, the board is moving schools in Kansas backward toward ignorance and obscurantism," scolded the Los Angeles Times. While this may appear to the casual observer to be a move with no redeeming qualities, we at the JREF differ with this assessment. Consider the potential boon to future generations of anthropologists that this can provide; two thousand years from now, groups of students can be taken to Kansas to observe "in vivo" how humans lived twenty centuries earlier. Kansas can be a living museum, culturally and intellectually.

Category #2, to the funding organization that supported the most useless study of a supernatural, paranormal or occult claim: This year's award goes to the Human Resources Administration of the City of New York, who via their Business Link division finds and trains workers from welfare rolls and puts them in touch with businesses needing employees. A company called Psychic Network, one of the 1-900 networks, hired 15 of the city's unemployed, those with "a caring and compassionate personality" and the ability "to read, write and speak English," to take phone calls from troubled callers who paid $4.99 a minute to have their problems psychically solved. Ruth Reinecke, a spokeswoman for the HRA, said that applicants were trained to read tarot cards at the city's Business Link office by a Psychic Network representative. Efforts to locate and contact the Psychic Network were unsuccessful, we're told, since their telephone number was disconnected last July. On January 28th of this year, the city reacted to unfavorable publicity on this matter, and pulled the plug on the operation. But they probably saw it coming.

Category #3, to the media outlet that reported as fact the most outrageous supernatural, paranormal or occult claim: The 2000 prize goes to the host of the "Politically Incorrect" TV show, Bill Maher. Despite an Ivy League education and an obviously quick and perceptive mind, Mr. Maher has for some reason cast common sense aside and endorsed a series of "psychics," most of whom say they speak to dead folks. His own experience of the supernatural, he says, includes a "haunted house" and he tells us that only ghosts could account for what he observed there. This widely-watched program satirizes politics, Hollywood, the media, and generally popular subjects - but apparently takes seriously any hare-brained claim that will catch the public fancy. Mr. Maher squeaked to a win over the Roseanne Show this year; her gushing acceptance of a "flying" demonstration by Transcendental Meditators almost landed her the prize.

Category #4, to the "psychic" performer who fooled the greatest number of people with the least talent: The award is given this year posthumously to Michel de Notredame, Nostradamus, the 16th-century French prophet who predicted back in 1558 that the world would suffer a major catastrophe in July of 1999, if not the end of the world as we know it. While major panic reigned and timorous but not-too-bright folks worldwide laid in stores of water, food, and arms, when the time came and went, the reaction was the same as always, "Ah, but wait till next time!" Meanwhile, in Salon de Provence, where the great prophet's bones lie in a vault in a small church, reports of disembodied chuckling from behind the wall have been noted.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette

June 2000 (Volume 9, Number 6)

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Articles in this Issue
Council Statement Focus on Missile Defense, Science Funding
That's It Folks! For the Last Time: Even More Top Ten Physicists
This Month in Physics History
Re-"Creating Copenhagen" at CUNY Symposium
Inside the Beltway: A Washington Analysis
March and April 2000 Prizes and Awards Recipients
The Back Page
Scientific Community Speaks Out on Behalf of FY2001 NSF R&D Budget
Editorial Cartoon
Topsy Turvy: Researchers Announce First True "Left-Handed" Material
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
Satisfaction High for Undergrad Physics Bachelors
Writing Workshops Teach Basics of Communicating with Public
Career Liaisons Gather for Workshop on Professional Development