If you can win Randi’s challenge, urine the money

By Phil Plait | November 21, 2007 2:00 pm

James "the Amazing" Randi is the nation’s foremost debunker of silliness. He has a standing offer of $1 million to anyone who can prove they have any sort of paranormal power. He has handled all sorts of takers, of course, from the silly to the sublime.

To give you an idea of what this challenge is like, his group has posted a four-part video series on YouTube where they test a nice woman named Rosemary Hunter, who claims she can make people, um, pee on command. Here’s Part 1:

She seems very sincere, and I am sure she believes she can do what she can do. No doubt she got involved in a set of self-confirming circumstances where she really began to believe she had this power (no doubt reinforced by remembering the hits and forgetting the misses). You can see that the testing procedure was set up well, and she had no problems with it. And the results, well, you can see for yourself. But it’s a total of 26 minutes, so you might want to take a potty break first… however the test winds up going.

Here are Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Cool stuff, Humor, Skepticism

Comments (24)

  1. Somehow, I don’t see urinekinesis as being a particularly useful power. However, I will incorporate it into the next Shadowrun game I play.

  2. tacitus

    I can imagine the woo-woos are a little, er, pissed, and crying foul claiming that JREF are only testing people who are obviously nuts, and avoiding the “serious psychics”.

  3. tacitus

    Of course, I should have added that those “psychics” who aren’t nuts or deluded would never dare to come close to JREF and their testing.

    Why would they bother since it could only ruin a good thing (i.e. a easy living) for them?

  4. Yojimboken

    Of course, the “serious psychics” would have to be nuts to take the challenge :)

  5. Jen

    I feel so bad for her! She seemed very sincere and sweet. She didn’t even try to rationalize why she didn’t succeed. I wonder if the test convinced her or at least gave her doubts about her “ability.” For her sake, I hope it did.

  6. I had already blogged this one, but I added something you don’t have! I was able to interview jeff on the topic of having someone try to make him pee his pants!

    Me: Did you take any precautions before hand, such as having an extra set of pants on hand, or perhaps some Fabreeze or some moist towelets or something else like that to be prepared…. just incase
    Jeff: I had a suitcase.. but no, nothing special

    http://depletedcranium.com/?p=196

  7. formulaterp

    If anything, I believe we just witnessed the beginning of the most obscure sexual fetish yet. Watching people NOT pee.

  8. famulus

    What??!!?? The Centipede said, “…I don’t see urinekinesis as being a particularly useful power.” Must be an insect thing – humans could find it quite useful. Consider the following:

    Scenario 1:

    MIL: “Dear, Daddy and I have noticed that you and our son have failed to reproduce. Allow me to impress upon you how important it i…oh DEAR! What was I saying?”

    Scenario 2:

    PROFESSOR X: “Class, your collective performance on the last exam was abysmal! To make up for it, I have decided to administer weekly quizzes, worth 90% of your grade, starting n…oh RATS! How embarrassing. Where was I? Oh, yes, class dismissed.”

    Very useful, indeed.

    And consider this – how many people “lost it” while watching? Methinks those powers could have *bounced* off of Jeff and gone viral, affecting many of us who watched it. Perhaps cyberspace induced delays. I know I had to use the ladies’ within 24 hours of watching; I bet you did, too!

    ;)

    ~fam

    p.s. Oh greatly admired BA, I hope that was delicately phrased sufficient to make it family-appropriate. Dare I note that most of the scatological jokes I know were told to me by 5 year olds?

  9. Moose

    Watchers can probably safely skip parts 2 and 3. It looks exactly like the first half of part 4, so you’re not missing anything.

  10. One Eyed Jack

    My son and I like to play game called “Useless Superpowers”. The idea is to think of a super hero with the most completely useless super power. It’s a one-up game where we go back and forth until someone declares the other the winner.

    I think “The Urinator” just usurped “Narcoleptic Man”.

    OEJ

  11. Quiet Desperation

    All of the sudden this seems so trivial in the face of the following news:

    Mike Huckabee is moving up in the polls in Iowa.

    He’s one of the GOP candidates that does not believe in evolution.

    Danger, Will Robinson!

    Will someone please light a fire under Gulianni’s campaign or something? The religioso crowd has promised to leave the GOP if he wins the primaries.

  12. > Must be an insect thing

    Myriapod! Centipedes are not insects! Insects have six legs, myriapods (like centipedes, pillbugs, and millipedes) have many!

    > I know I had to use the ladies’ within 24 hours of watching; I bet you did, too!

    I never use the ladies’ room. Well, I did once in high school after hours in one of those “oh crap gonna vomit in ten seconds can’t hold it explosive containment failure immanent” and I needed the nearest porcelain port of call… but no one saw me so I don’t think it counts.

    > Will someone please light a fire under Gulianni’s campaign or something?

    I cannae change the laws of physics, Cap’n!

  13. autumn

    The only thing I can pick a nit about is Jeff’s performer-like insistance that he has no hidden implements. He even goes so far as to pull the waist of his boxers up, and then proclaim that to show further would not be “proper”.
    I’m not a magician, but I can think of quite a few places a catheter bag may have been secreted.
    I am not saying this in an effort to decry the challenge, I simply say that, if serious, Wagg should have been filmed putting on his clothes from a nude state. No, NO,NOO. I am not simply being prurient, I am pointing out an inconsistancty in tone between the absoloute monitoring of the subject, while Jeff seemed to have ample opportunities to “magic” his way out.

    Again, I am not disputing the particular protocals of this test, I am merely pointing out a possible public perception problem.
    And I alliterate.

  14. Frank Oswalt

    @autumn: Absolutely! Of course, we know that the poor woman cannot possibly have the power she claims to have, but as a “scientific test” of this power, this was a joke! For Jeff to simply claim that he had not taken any drugs and that he was not using any absorbant materials is no more scientific than claiming that you can make people urinate by telepathy. The fact that Rosemary Hunter accepted this protocol does not surprise me — it only underscores her tenuous grasp of the difference between reality and make-believe. But the whole thing also suggests that the JREF may not be quite as conscientus in their preliminary tests as they like to claim. Fine by me, as I don’t believe in the paranormal anyway, but as you point out, unfortunate for an organization that is trying to convince believers.

  15. Ginger Yellow

    How exactly do you “discover” that you have the power of urinekinesis?

  16. I was watching this stuff this morning as I sipped my 20 oz coffee, and I have to admit, by the end of the videos, I had to go.

    It must be her uber power working through the internet!

  17. MichaelJ

    “…urine the money”

    I think my bad-pun-o-meter just exploded.

  18. NASA Fan

    Do they pay for the trip to Florida to be tested? If so, I can move things with my brain.

    It does involve my brain sending a signal to my hand to pick up and move said thing. ;-)

    I wonder did she ever get her present? What was it, a box of depends?

  19. Gary Ansorge

    Actually, being able to make someone pee on command would be quite useful for someone with an enlarged prostate,,,

    Note to real telepaths: Stay away from Randi. Go to Las Vegas instead. MUCH MORE MONEY THERE!!!

    PS: Also, follow Bill Gates around until you score his pin number,,,

    GAry 7

  20. Folcrom

    I have the power of “deficatenesis”.

    One look at me and people #$@* themselves,

    but that’s only because I’m so dam ugly.

  21. StevoR

    Bad pun-o-meter : Here’s some suggested stage-names for those demontstarying (Eww ..) thepower of urinekinesis and the like :

    For the person above : Deffer, Kate

    For the urinekenesis lass’es Rsussian counterpart : Yuri Nate

    For the Southern “gentleman” Master Bate …

    Sorry -couldn’t resist ‘em, gotta go! ;-)

  22. StevoR

    Bad pun-o-meter : Here’s some suggested stage-names for those demontstarying (Eww ..) thepower of urinekinesis and the like :

    For the person above : Deffer, Kate

    For the urinekenesis lass’es Rsussian counterpart : Yuri Nate

    For the Southern “gentleman” : Master Bate …

    Sorry – couldn’t resist ‘em, gotta go! ;-)

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