Randi on TED

By Phil Plait | April 22, 2010 12:15 pm

In 2007, James Randi took the stage at TED and apparently had a pretty good time (I still hear stories about it). The folks at TED just put the video up, and it’s a hoot.

I’ll note that Randi was 79 when this was filmed. Could you do this well now? There’s a reason his middle name is "Amazing".

MORE ABOUT: James Randi, TED

Comments (20)

  1. Vernon Balbert

    And his first name is The?

  2. Damn, I knew Randi is a sophisticated speaker, but.. just damn. I think I have one of those man-crushes Mr. Plait talks about.
    Great TED talk. I’ve spread it among my peers. I think I’ll have a large discussion momentarily with an aspiring doctor. She still believes in homeopathy. It saddens me that a woman of science can be so misled. :(

  3. I saw this yesterday actually while browsing the TED videos. It was indeed “amazing”.

  4. brad

    When the sad day comes that Randi dies, I expect psychics will claim that they are talking to him from beyond the grave. I can only hope that someone will have the decency to punch them in the mouth.

  5. Michelle R

    Too short. It’s just…too short!

    17 minutes? Lies! It was barely 2!

  6. John Paradox

    Shortly after watching this, I went to check my online comics. This one caught my eye:


  7. timebinder

    Dude, when he took off his glasses, he looked just like Charles Darwin. I literally had to change my pants. LITERALLY.
    Not really, but it was still awesome.

  8. MoonShark

    @brad: So let’s make sure the psychics (as a profession) don’t outlast Randi. Let’s make it illegal to scam people with astrological readings, contacting the dead, and homeopathic pills.

    “Oh you can’t do that, people have a right to spend money foolishly”, lots of folks would say. I disagree — we already have Lemon laws, the RICO act, and laws to oppose fraud and protect consumers. The economy doesn’t work if you can’t get something of value for your money. Caveat emptor is not the basis of any serious, long-term policy; it’s self-defeating.

    If these charlatans have the powers they claim, then surely they can overturn legislation in court, using the same standards of evidence we expect from anyone.

  9. Seems like he was having a gay old time.

    //slapping myself

  10. ND

    Way to go Randi. Loved the homeopathic sleeping pill stunt. Very nice.

    Reminds me of watching Charles Aznavour on stage, in his early 80’s, singing and dancing for 2 hours.

    These people are like this because they are driven and motivated by what they love to do.

  11. Gary Ansorge

    11 ND

    Ah yes, love is a fine madness. It leads to obsession.

    The ancient Greeks thought love a variety of mental illness( they had three different words for love, so I don’t know if they meant all varieties) and of course, let us not forget Romeo and Juliet(“What? You committed suicide for love? Are you fraking NUTS?”).

    Nearly every person I’ve known who became really rich (thru their own effort) did so as a result of a passionate obsession with,,,something,,, they were interested in. They typically observed “I just LOVE what I do.”

    From science to music to art to business, success requires an enormous investment in time and people will only do that if they “love” what they do.

    GAry 7

  12. Autumn

    The only, admittedly minor, quibble that I have with this awesome oration, is that Randi pointed out that he is a skilled conjouror, and thus there will inevitably be claims by the reality-challenged that he did not, in fact, actually ingest the homeopathetically lethal dose.
    Although, as he points out, that would only make the medicine all the more lethal!

  13. What a scream! I’d like one day to be half as good a speaker as Randi!
    Using a beard trimmer as a microphone! Priceless!

  14. Grand Lunar

    It’s been said before (I assume), and it is stating the obvious….

    Randi is made of pure AWESOME. :)

  15. Nick

    The comments on the TED page are interesting. There is a lot of support for psychic beliefs and homeopathy. It seems that some commenters have the opinion that “science” is a belief system and it is dangerous to move into “extreme scientism”.

    *sigh* This makes me sad. Seems like the human desire for the supernatural is just too strong.

  16. Soulfly

    Let’s hope they don’t claim that Randi says he was wrong all his life :(

    But what a great performance, amazing indeed! He may be old, but still got the …erm.. spirit. It is time for mr Plait to start reading some magician books and take over when it is needed.

  17. The Electric shaver stunt was a hoot. I wonder if he clipped any hairs on accident. If there was ever a venue where you could run into a scientist working on cloning technology it’s TED.

  18. Floyd

    Phil–I got hit by some kind of replicating mailbot with the apparent initial name of “Opa,” hence the spam. Watch for it…and let me know if this message goes wonky.


  19. LMA

    I’ve always tried to steer clear of many homeopathic remedies, though sometimes it gets difficult to tell real data from influential data that the media often gets caught up in.

    Slightly off-topic recommendation: This image is from an artist who works with data… A speaker like Randi combined with straight-forward visual information such as this is far more effective than surfing the web (which gives me every result and no way to filter it). I won’t be wasting my money on Vitamin C anymore!



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