Bad Astronomy

Tales of the Million Dollar Challenge

Dr. Evil
One MILLION dollars!
I think one of the coolest things – if not the coolest thing – the James Randi Educational Foundation does is the Million Dollar Challenge: if you can prove you have paranormal abilities (you can dowse, you’re psychic, you can make objects float or catch fire or turn into cheese just with the power of your mind), then we’ll give you a million bucks.

Of course, lots of people claim the money doesn’t exist (yes it does), or that the rules are unfair (no they’re not; we negotiate protocols with the claimant until both parties are satisfied), or that we’re out to disprove the paranormal (not true; or else why have the MDC in the first place?). Despite these complaints, there is a long list of people attempting to win the Challenge.

But first they have to pass a preliminary Challenge, a test run if you will. If they can pass muster, then they move on to the Megabuck test.

The latest person to take this test was Patrica Putt. She claims she can listen to a person’s voice and be able to tell all sorts of information about them, which, if true, would clearly be paranormal. She took the preliminary Challenge last week, tested by Professors Christopher French and Richard Wiseman.

The results? Well, read Professor French’s account of it at The Guardian. Or you could read Professor Wiseman’s account. Or you could read JREF staff member (and MDC Research Assistant) Alison Smith’s account on the JREF’s Swift blog (and an earlier quick post of the results right after the trial here).

All in all, it went pretty much as you’d expect… if you’re skeptical.