My First True Diva Moment

By Sean Carroll | August 6, 2010 3:23 pm

I feel like I have successfully negotiated a Hollywood rite of passage. I was being interviewed on camera for a TV pilot, when I took off my microphone, tossed it aside, and stormed off. How awesome is that??

Not so awesome at all, actually, but it did happen. I much prefer a low-drama lifestyle, and it takes a certain kind of talent to get me that annoyed. Nothing to be proud of; I should have been more careful in learning what the show was about in the first place.

The backstory is that I was called on the phone by producers at a company I had never heard of, but that means nothing, as I haven’t heard of the vast majority of TV production companies. [Update: name of the company removed because I signed a non-disclosure agreement. They didn’t complain, just being cautious.] They wanted to come to campus to interview me for a pilot they were producing. I’ve done the drill before, for respectable outlets like the History Channel, Science Channel, and National Geographic. It’s a couple of hours of work, no heavy lifting, and hopefully you get to explain some cool science that will be seen by a much larger audience than I could possibly reach by giving a thousand public lectures. And it’s fun — I get to be on TV, which growing up wasn’t the kind of thing I ever thought I’d get to do.

They explained that they wanted me to talk about quantum teleportation. I countered by mentioning that there were surely better experts that they could talk to. But they really just needed some background information about quantum mechanics and relativity, and were comforted by the fact I had appeared on camera before. And the producer emphasized that they knew perfectly well that teleportation wasn’t realistic right now, but thought it was interesting to speculate about what might ultimately be consistent with the laws of physics. So I agreed. There was a slight hint of sketchiness about the operation — they seemed to be unable to come to an agreement with Caltech in regards to consent forms, which National Geographic or the History Channel never had trouble with. But my antennae weren’t sensitive enough to set off any alarm bells.

So the taping was this afternoon, and it consisted of me chatting informally with the show’s two hosts, while taking a leisurely walk around Caltech’s quite lovely campus. But as soon as we started talking, things went rapidly downhill. The first question was what I thought about claims that people had actually built successful teleportation devices. When I expressed skepticism, one of the hosts challenged me by asking whether I would just be repeating the “party line” of the scientific establishment. I admitted that I probably would, as I think the party line is mostly right. And that we have very good reasons for thinking so.

They next asked whether it wasn’t possible that people had built teleporters by taking advantage of extra dimensions. I explained why this wasn’t possible — extra dimensions are things that physicists take very seriously, but if they are macroscopically accessible they would have shown up in experiments long ago. From there, the downhill spiral just continued. They asked whether I was familiar with the “black projects” conducted by the CIA and the military? What about eyewitness testimony of people who had been to Mars and back? Was it possible that ghosts and/or extraterrestrials used quantum mechanics to travel through walls?

It sounds even worse in retrospect than it did at the time, because they would intersperse the craziness with relatively straightforward questions about physics. But I think that even the straightforward questions were just an accident — they were trying to be goofy, but didn’t understand the difference between what is possible and what is just crazy. (“Do you think it’s possible to travel into the future at a faster rate than normal?”) The producer would occasionally interrupt with some sort of suggestion that they actually say something about quantum teleportation. “I don’t really know anything about that,” replied the host to which I was speaking.

Eventually one of the hosts mentioned psychic remote viewing, and smirked when I tried to explain that it’s easier to disbelieve a few eyewitness reports than to imagine a complete breakdown of the laws of physics. With that, after having resisted the temptation for a good fifteen minutes, I cut it off and walked away. The producers tried to get me to come back, but there was no way. I don’t know whether they will go ahead and use any of the footage from my interview; I don’t think I said anything I would later regret, but I did sign a consent form. Hopefully they will try to salvage a shred of their own respectability, and not use me on the show.

The problem for me wasn’t primarily the credulous attitude toward craziness — although there was that. The real problem was dishonesty. In their last-ditch effort to get me to come back, the producers tried to explain that they really were interested in quantum teleportation, and the hosts had simply wandered off-script. The show wouldn’t be biased in favor of the paranormal, they assured me. The problem is, nowhere in talking to me about the show was the word “paranormal” ever mentioned. I was given the impression that it was a straightforward science show, and that was simply untrue.

There is a perfectly reasonable debate to be had, concerning the extent to which respectable scientists should publicly engage with pseudoscientific craziness. Under the right circumstances I could conceivably be willing to participate in a show that discussed paranormal phenomena, as long as I could be convinced that it was done in a sensible way and my views would be fairly represented. This was nothing like that — all of my pre-interview communication with the producers was strictly about quantum mechanics and teleportation, with no mention of pseudoscience at all. Once the cameras started rolling, it was all ghosts and remote viewing. Completely unprofessional; hopefully next time I’ll be more careful.

Also, for future reference: no brown M&M’s in the green room!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Media, Science and the Media
  • Jerry Coyne

    Good for you! It takes a mensch to throw away a moment in the limelight in favor of scientific truth.

  • Rhacodactylus

    Reminds me of the experience so many scientists had with Ben Stein’s “Expelled” project back in the day. I for one totally support your decision to walk off the set, and if they do cobble together something misleading from your interview, it’s likely that it won’t have an affect on anyone who wouldn’t have already been an apologist for woo. Please don’t let it turn you off to legitimate science interviews in the future, we need the knowledgeable to share what they know, and TV is fast becoming the format of choice for many people’s education.

  • anonymous

    I have to applaud your patience. I would have walked off at the first mention of the CIA. That’s my internal alarm tripwire for “crazy person.” Having given a couple of magazine interviews myself, I’ve noticed that even respectable companies often try to push an agenda by asking leading questions. Fortunately for me, in the few rare cases the journalist was actually kind enough to read my quotes in article context back to me before it went to the publishers. While I love the interest, I’m always a bit antsy when dealing with the press.

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  • AI

    In our next show physicist Sean Carrol explains how human mind can use quantum teleportation to access extra dimensions and how this secret technique has being exploited by CIA to control the Arrow of Time!

  • Richard E.

    Sounds all very Ali G. You may have gotten off very lightly indeed.

  • bittergradstudent

    Just hope that they don’t edit down what you said and quote you in a garbled, out-of-context fashion.

  • Mike

    Gotta love LA. huh? 😉

  • Derek

    Come on Sean, surely David Albert warned you about these silly people 😉

  • Phil Plait

    Tell you what: if and when interview you for my show, it’ll be all about a possible ABBA reunion. Should be safe enough.

  • Sean

    You say it will be about ABBA, but I know all about your secret Air Supply agenda.

  • Wren

    There must be a way/laws allowing withdrawn consent. They lied about what they really wanted you to talk about, therefore you should have the right to withdraw your consent to their use of your words. Here’s to hoping they won’t misuse your (abruptly shortened) interview. If they do, I highly recommend hiring a legal defense – scientific credibility isn’t something that should be tossed around by these hacks.

  • Jon Voisey

    Oh goody. A sequel to “What the *Bleep* Do We Know”……

  • Eugene

    I would have started making up shiat and escalating the level of ridiculousness instead! Hilarity, as they say on, would have ensued.

    But I like trolling trolls, so there.

  • Dave Bacon

    Reminds me of the History channel documentary about the Philadelphia Experiment. Check out part 5 here: where a Caltech prof repeatedly shoots down the idea that quantum teleportation is related to the Philadelphia Experiment, but still the documentary seems to hold out hope :)

  • Serge

    There is something physicists too afraid to talk about. Then Caltech physicists Sean Carrol was asked about CIA quantum teleportation mind control project he thrown away microphone and run away.

  • Maldoror

    Next time, you should check out the production company and/or director on IMDB, so you know what else they produced.

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  • Jennifer Ouellette

    @Maldoror: Good advice, but this particular company has a perfectly respectable IMDB profile. IMDB isn’t a cure-all for this kind of rampant dishonesty….

  • P


    At least you have a funny story to tell now.

  • farmi

    one of the many reasons americans are fudging stupid

  • Jeremy

    I definitely applaud your choice to ditch them. It’s nice to hear that you are willing to maintain your integrity in the face of the avalanche of nonsense on hte cable. The only slight quibble I would take is just how “respectable” the outlets you named really are. NatGeo, from what I can tell, is filled schlock science. I just watched a very prominent program (with a very prominent host) on the Science Channel about what physicists think about a divine creator and one of the lines from the show is that physicists are “divided” about it. Really? I’m guessing a poll wouldn’t show a division within the margin of error. In any case, I certainly don’t think saying they’re divided about it is relevant or in any way helpful to educating people about science. I think there’s an open question about whether members of the scientific community should be participating in any of these shows given that they really are not concerned about science – they are concerned about the bottom line. And nothing else. I think there’s a real danger that no matter how noble your intentions are, using the scientific community as a tool for cable teevee profiteers might end up having a net negative effect. All that said, congrats for standing up for science.

  • bittergradstudent


    Here’s a 1997 Gallup Poll that has 45% of scientists believing in some sort of divine creator. Stop conflating creationism with any sort of theism. If you’re going to sneer at a news source for making things up, you should at least have data.

    that’s what science is about, after all.

  • Maria

    Very smart to walk out. Who knows how they could have edited your comments out of context to make it seem as if you were supporting their wacky views? Let’s hope you didn’t give them enough content to do that.

  • Eric

    When and if the show is broadcast they will probably show an edited interview where they ask one of the stupid questions, you scoff at it, cut to you admitting that you are toeing the party line and then a voice over, “When their questions started getting too close to the truth Carroll fled the scene.” That’s how I’d cut it.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    They asked whether I was familiar with the “black projects” conducted by the CIA and the military? … Eventually one of the hosts mentioned psychic remote viewing

    Roll-eyes. Some “black” programs have a “no stone unturned” philosophy to explore any conceivable phenomenon with possible military use. That such a program would look into a possible phenomenon should not be considered endorsement of it. Also, the military and black programs have their share of wackos, just like the rest of the world (possibly worse, since the blackness inhibits oversight and duly earned mockery).

    These people will use the fact that the U.S. Army funded a program on remote viewing for some time as supporting evidence for its worth, but the fact that the army eventually cancelled that project oddly doesn’t seem to count as evidence against.

  • Arnold Lazro

    I can’t really hold it against them that they brought you in under false pretenses. Obviously these guys are wackos, but when Sacha Baron Cohen does it, the fact that he can claim to be one thing allows him to capture footage he otherwise would not be able to. Or Bill Maher’s Religulous, where people were told they were making a documentary about faith, not an attack on religion.

    I know it seems unprofessional, but allowing people to do this has a greater total benefit–I think–than prohibiting it. I think you feel the same. I’m just responding to some of the commenters here.

  • Hugh Jorgen

    None of the “educational” or “science” channels on cable TV have ANYTHING to do with reality. Hitler’s secret UFO bases, Nostradamus, The-World-Is-Going-To-End-Any-Minute, yada-yada-yada. As soon as these peckerheads figured out that the public would sit still for wrestling midgets, fat guys running pawn shops, drunken rednecks with chainsaws, and endless discussions of whether the 43rd Saturnian moon is made of boiling ice (and why we need to spend trillions to get there and find out), Science was a goner. Welcome to The Last Days of New Rome.

  • James

    I wouldn’t lump remote viewing in with the other craziness. It could simply be a type of psychic ability, which would have a moderately sane basis in real world quantum mechanics. Whether you call it religion’s connected soul, Jung’s collective unconscious, or mother’s intuition, there is enough there to believe that it’s not only possible but probable.

  • Dr. Morbius

    I just hope you didn’t reveal any information concerning the secret Stargate program. Oops, I said too much already.

  • Justin

    It amazes me when people ask questions and then seem to not want to hear the answers.

  • jccalhoun

    I wouldn’t rule them out as being from History Channel. They recently aired a series on “Ancient Aliens” that was all about how aliens made the pyramids and stuff. I watched one episode and it was edited in a way that was kind of like this situation. They would ask a reputable scientist about the possibilities of life on other planets or some straight forward innocuous question then they would cut to some conspiracy theory nut who would then proceed to say stuff about aliens visiting Earth. They used the scientists to give the show credibility and hoped viewers wouldn’t notice that it was the crackpots saying the crazy stuff.

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  • Todd

    My guess is “UFO Hunters”

  • Jeremy


    Well, my point still stands. What science is NOT about is either theism, creationism or any other spiritual belief (i.e. belief without evidence). Science is about observable evidence. Funny that you think science is about polls of scientist’s personal beliefs. Perhaps 45% of scientists eat chicken on Thursday, it has nothing to do with science. So, um, your comment is kind of irrelevant.

  • Jason Feather

    It would be nice to think all scientists have robotic impartiality but they don’t. They are human and are as flawed as the rest of us! There are no scientists who don’t have a belief system! The prevailing scientific zeightgeist is a belief system. Science is not infallible and neither are scientists. There are plenty of legitimate scientists who believe in ghosts, ufos the loch ness monster you name it! Is this a problem? No – it’s only a problem if it gets in the way of the principles upon which science are based. Too many scientists and too many lay people have no knowledge or interest in the philosophical principles which underpin science. This is why idiots will still believe anything (yes I include religion) and idiotic scientists will enter the fray and pretend to know the truth. A good scientist knows that they do not know truth a bad scientist thinks they do know truth. The same applies to the non scientific community. We are all clueless but some of us are more clueless than others!

  • Neuman

    As someone who has some first hand knowledge of the Ancient Aliens show I just want to say that the producers were completely clear with everyone involved as to what the subject of the show was. That being said, many producers are complete dirt bags who will do whatever it takes to get what they need for their piece.

  • bittergradstudent


    Science isn’t about scientists personal beliefs, except when the opinions of scientists is the field in question. If you’re going to flip out at a news organization for saying that scientists are divided on religion because you think scientists are nigh universally atheist or agnostic, then you should provide some evidence to back that up, or else, just admit that scientists are divided on the issue.

  • SieveMaria

    Who does not feel uncomfortable signing a consent before something is edited – You have to trust and to trust blindly is a little crazy and unscientific ? no ?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    James: I wouldn’t lump remote viewing in with the other craziness….

    I would.The first question is: is there any evidence that it works?

    Supply that first, before I will waste any effort in figuring out how it might work, or which mythical powers it corresponds to.

  • Jeremy

    The show presented itself as a survey of scientific thought on the subject. So a claim that they are “divided” on the subject suggests that the scientific community (i.e. peer-reviewed science) is “divided”. There is no such division. Perhaps scientists are personally divided, but so what?! Why should anyone care what scientists are personally divided about? It’s disingenuous. I”m sure they’re personally divided about lots of things. Maybe we should find out what plumbers are personally divided about. It’s called politics or philosophy or just plain opinion. Not science. And it should not be presented as science just because scientists hold these opinions. I believe it is very irresponsible for the show to suggest that there is science (again, peer-reviewed science with reproducible results) suggesting that there is a divine creator.

  • ‘neathCobaltSkies

    So how will you be more careful in the future? Interview the hosts off-camera? Maybe ask about their science background, or probe their paranormal beliefs? Since they were being purposefully dishonest, is there a good way to pierce that?

    Maybe you should craft a set of questions inspired by those at the beginning of Neal Stephenson’s ANATHEM: “Has anyone you know ever been ritually mutilated because they were seen reading a book?”

  • Kevin Lim

    It probably isn’t that bad a diva moment. Any reasonable, clear-thinking person grounded in reality won’t stand for this madness!

  • Teresa

    Sean had to run, before the guys in the black helicopters came to get him for talking too much.

  • erikthebassist

    Sean, in no PR/media expert, but it seems to me you should have ended the interview after the second question about towing the party line for the ” scientific establishment”. Any one who thinks there is such a party line that needs towing is obviously an anti- science wackadoodle.

  • erikthebassist

    Actually, upon further thought, I’d like to expound. My last post was from my phone so please ignore the typos and the misuse of “towing” instead of “toeing”, damn predictive keyboard!

    Anyway, I’m not a scientist, but I am a Skeptic, and I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night. You Sean strike me a scientist with a skeptical bent but you don’t seem to be the type that spends a great deal of time listening to, or arguing with the type of nut-job that you were accosted by, and that may have caused you to miss some early red flags. I only have reason to think this based on your response that you “may” be toeing the party line, but that you happen to think that the party line is correct.

    Here’s the problem with that. What conspiracy theorists of all stripes mean when they talk about any “establishment” is not the community of like minded experts that you appear to think of it as. To them, it’s quite literally a secret cadre of evil people, intent on covering up the truth and oppressing the common man.

    This is true of “Big Pharma”, “Big Agro”, the Illuminati, Darwinists or any other “secret society” these whackadoo’s can invent in order to justify their paranoid delusions. By answering the question the way you did, you played right in to their hands. You have just admitted that there is such an “Establishment”, and that you are a part of it.

    At the end of the day I think you did the right thing, but a certain amount of experience with the tactics of conspiracy theorists in general may have set off your BS-ometer much sooner. Skeptics can usually spot a deluded, critically thinking adverse fruitcake from a mile away as they all have certain traits in common, traits that we’re extremely familiar with and always on the lookout for.

    I hope I am not being presumptuous. I’m not trying to question your skeptical street cred or anything, this is just an observation from a fan of your work. It’s not my intent to single you out either, this seems to be a problem for scientists across the board. I think the skeptical community (are you listening Phil?) would do well to offer it’s coaching and guidance in this arena to any scientists who wish to engage the media.

  • erikthebassist

    lol, after writing that up I had this vision of a scientist always bringing a skeptic along to every interview who whisper’s in their ear after every question. “I’m sorry but my skeptic advises me not to answer that question on the grounds that any answer can be distorted to fit whatever insane pet theory you are working off of.”

  • Gammaburst

    I am shocked and disturbed that these deceptive media types would exploit our Ancient Alien Benifactors for commercial gain.

  • Perry

    what a Diva! Whats next, no brown M&M’s?

    Good for ya!

  • spyder

    Perhaps you were just being “interviewed” for the next series of MK-ULTRA experimentation. Frighteningly sad when the Office of Scientific Investigation is a giant pool of crazy. I do think it is RUSH rather than Air Supply though.

  • R O’Brien

    I see this as adequate punishment for your “Reluctance to Let Go” post.

  • Gary M

    “There is a perfectly reasonable debate to be had, concerning the extent to which respectable scientists should publicly engage with pseudoscientific craziness.”

    Sad that the debate is only perfectly reasonable if its about fluffy diva-ness and not about respectable debate concerning global cooling/warming/changiness craziness

    Now that would be a significant intellectual right of passage moment, or something.


  • Cody

    Would it be possible to write up some sort of “interviewee protection form” that you could get them to sign, stating that your image and voice are limited to in-context use only, and maybe even going so far as to explicitly state that your likeness cannot be used to endorse paranormal, pseudoscientific, superstitious, etc. claims? Maybe even go so far as to subtly leave room for clear legal recourse on the off chance that they do it anyway?

    It’d be nice if following “Expelled” and “What the Bleep”, if the scientists could have bankrupted the project when it turned out the had been so deceived.

  • Other Sean

    Good for you, I cant wait for the tabloid account of the event! Now, of course I like talking to delusional people from time to time, but none with a political axe to grind. My recent strategy is to suggest something stranger, and just keep uping the ante until absurdity is reached in the limit.
    But seriously, I do understand your frustration because science is liberating- and its frustrating that nascent curiosity is satisfied by superficial propaganda. These people want kool-aid and we’ve got champagne!

  • Alan

    I admit media types can be sneaky and you may have been right to walk but Wow, that was a data-free article regarding remote viewing! – “easier to disbelieve a few eyewitness reports”. What?
    And a few other commenters also aren’t paying attention, to put it mildly.

    Professor Jessica Utts, University of California, Irvine has said “Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established”. Here in the UK, universities are turning out PhDs in this area.

    A nice open and well-mannered debate with these scientists is a good idea, though, discussing this kind of data. Look forward to it.

  • Gordon

    James–remote viewing is “probable”?? You have been watching too much T.V. I suppose you
    think that Uri Geller is genuine…

  • Gordon

    Alan–If, in the U.K. universities are turning out Phds in this area, then the education standards there must be abysmal. Also, anyone saying that psychic functioning has been well established is a crackpot. Read the Skeptical Enquirer sometime to be enlightened.

  • Alan


    Koestler Parapsychology Unit, Edinburgh University. Parapsychology Research Group, Liverpool Hope University. Goldsmiths College, London University. Dept. of Psychology, Coventry University. Liverpool Hope University. Northampton University etc. Of course you are saying they are all crackpots. Mmm…

    I guess you didn’t read Professor Utts study so I’ll give you the link (when the good lady was at UC Davis):

    Need to brush up on your reading – and psychologically interesting – no proper discussion from your end. Why is this?

  • DE

    That’s funny… they asked me to be on the show too, but it seemed so flakey I anticipated problems and never got back in touch with them. Looks like my instincts were right!

  • Brian Too

    “Next on Geraldo:

    Prominent establishment scientist Sean cuts off interview when I, Geraldo Rivera, get too close to the truth! What is the government trying to hide?

    Next, I open a safe that contains nothing but garbage. Stay tuned!”

    Dating myself there, but I still think Geraldo set the bar for silliness (and referring to himself in the 3rd person).

  • Gordon

    Alan, universities support all sorts of flaky stuff, particularly psychology departments. I really have no interest in reading about psychic distance viewing and the whole passel of stupid superstitions and non-causal tripe. I leave that to James Randy and others to debunk. Now, somehow linking these things to “quantum” is the usual mystification. “Researchers” are so easily fooled by frauds that it is painful to watch. I do not have to disprove every ridiculous claim that is made. Another instance is research being done by Rupert Sheldrake, or by Josephson. There is enough serious research to be done without stooping to the equivalent of tarot cards, astrology, or homeopathy:

  • Alan

    Gordon, I think that you should concentrate on some of the best scientific papers written by these researchers from these universities and go from there. I will leave you to do your own investigations on this.
    Frankly, your reply is all over the place, “flaky” , “stupid” , “tripe” , “tarot” , etc. And actually Randy is Randi – I am sure he will be amused!
    You really are discrediting not only these scientists, but the students as well, both groups of whom have considerable intelligence and judgement. Remember that they are working in a field many have difficulty with, yet the data is revealing something remarkable. I consider that particularly bold.
    But we do agree on tarot, astrology and homeopathy (recently seemingly discredited here in the UK).
    However, you needn’t be rude BTW. Stroll on, pal.

  • Gordon

    Interesting…speaking of Randi:

    For the largest paranormal research institution, the the James Randi Educational Foundation, out of all of the applicants who applied for the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, nobody has even passed the preliminary tests.[33]

    Getting close to claiming the million yet, Alan? For a quick overview, I scanned the wikipedia article on remote viewing—rather scathing, and no warnings that the article is under dispute.
    Also, the fact that Scientologist and vacuum-energy maven, Puthoff, coined the term doesn’t ring some alarm bells for you? Perhaps Prince Charles can take some time off of talking to plants, and promoting homeopathy to do some remote viewing.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Professor Jessica Utts, University of California, Irvine has said “Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established”.

    Where “the standards applied to any other are of study” means that poorly controlled exploratory results show promise, which disappears when follow-up studies are properly designed and well-run; and fraud by both subjects and experimenters is more common than well-controlled positive results, and that poorly designed studies continue after experimental weaknesses have been pointed out due to the profit motive.

    “Here in the UK, universities are turning out PhDs in this area.”

    Kepler College – offering degrees in astrology. The number of schools offering degrees in homeopathy and chiropractic is larger, but not better grounded in scientific verification.

    Let me know when remote viewers find Osama binh Laden.

  • Alan

    Gentlemen, to be precise and to finish up – James Randi does not I believe have formal university qualifications and is thus not qualified to comment on the publications produced by the above-mentioned university academics. He is thus out of the research loop. Only laughably is JREF a “research” group.

    Dr. Puthoff is a fine scientist and gave up scientiology in the 1970’s. Your critique is out of date. Also I read some of his quantum electronics book as a physics student and it was very highly recommended. I met him once and he is also a very fine experimental physicist. I believe he stands by his remote viewing research at SRI and have seen a recent video to that effect.

    As I said above we agree on astrology and homeopathy. All I can say is do your own research or privately contact the universities involved.
    I suspect you haven’t studied physics but you could try Professor Bernard Carr’s article, “Is there space for psi in modern physics?” So the subject is being addressed at the theoretical level.

  • Gordon

    Well, yes, actually I have studied physics and have graduate degrees in theoretical physics== remote viewing still falls in the crackpot category. I am afraid that anyone who ever took Scientology seriously cannot be rehabilitated. Puthoff is a Put-on.

  • Alan

    Then we are similarly qualified and agree to disagree. But you need to curb these personal attacks on individuals – try speaking to them instead. I believe Dr. Puthoff was also a naval intelligence officer. And I am always surprised how much violence is generated in all this – dasvidaniya.

  • Gordon

    Nothing personal, Alan. I get a bit worked up on some topics, particularly on the net. I could actually look at the paper you posted :) I have profound respect for Josephson’s early work for which he got the Nobel Prize.
    I know this is OT, but Scientology has to be one of the most flaky and bizarre cargo cult “religions”
    out there. South Park’s satire of it has nothing on the real thing. If people can believe in it, they can believe in anything.

  • Gordon

    Just to be clear though, I think Josephson’s transformation to someone who, for example, thinks that
    “molecular memory” of water can be transmitted to other water over the internet, is clearly delusional thinking that would respond to major tranquilisers.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I suspect you haven’t studied physics but you could try Professor Bernard Carr’s article, “Is there space for psi in modern physics?” So the subject is being addressed at the theoretical level.

    Once again, I won’t be bothered to explore possible mechanisms for magical psi powers until reliable evidence is presented for their existence. You have failed to do so.

    I believe he stands by his remote viewing research at SRI and have seen a recent video to that effect.

    That’s just sad. I read his book (Mind-Reach, written with Targ) on the topic, and it contains obvious experimental weaknesses, even if you accept everything they write at face value.

    Consider that in T&P, remote viewing is not described as a rare, difficult lab phenomenon, but as a widespread, every day occurence. This does not jibe with the world I live in.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    RE #65 Alan: when you write “to finish up” that should indicate that it is your final post on a subject.

  • psmith

    If this discussion has shown anything, it is the widespread attraction that pseudo science has for all, the closet believers, the sceptics as well as the ardent advocates. It is easy to laugh at pseudo science and deride it but it is a hydra headed monster that just won’t go away. What is the attraction that pseudo science has? Why is it such a persistent phenomena that defies evidence based thinking? I think we need to understand the underlying psychology of this phenomenon before we can reply to it effectively. I have spent so much of my time trying to answer such people, first with rational argument and then in frustration, with derision and scorn. But all I have succeeded in doing is make myself look cantankerous, inflexible and stubborn. So, while we must answer their arguments I have come to the conclusion that the real battleground is to understand the underlying drives that motivate their belief systems.

  • Phillip Helbig

    Dating myself there, but I still think Geraldo set the bar for silliness (and referring to himself in the 3rd person).

    Wasn’t he a real Mike-Wallace-style investigative reporter at the beginning but then transformed into a what-dress-is-this-celebrity-wearing type?

    For the largest paranormal research institution, the the James Randi Educational Foundation, out of all of the applicants who applied for the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, nobody has even passed the preliminary tests.

    Randi once mentioned a psychic (talks to ghosts) who had applied for the challenge, then vanished without a trace. When Randi got a hold of her sometime later, her excuse was that she didn’t know how to contact him. :-)

  • sean h

    have you read the novel `ghost’ by (physicist) alan lightman? it’s a thoughtful, human and interesting take on science and the paranormal.

  • KY

    This sounds just like what (in)famously happened to Prof David Albert! Luckily, you cut it off mid-interview. But I bet if you called them and made a stink and tried to withdraw your consent form, they would let you. Unfortunately, Albert’s misleadingly-edited footage is still out there.

  • sandycharm

    That was funny. Sorry! Call it a Schadenfreude. =D

  • Alan

    psmith @ 72

    I know this is getting to be the coffee dregs of this particular blogs comments but try this.
    Submit your comment to each of the authors of “Irreducible Mind : Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century”, Profs. Kelly and Kelly, Prof. Greyson, Prof. Grosso, Dr. Gauld, Dr. Crabtree. You should get a swift reply.
    I am slowly reading this mighty 800 page tome, the best overview of the “Psi” field, it’s really got it all. But you must let us know their replies – that’s the tricky bit!

    Or give it a go (i.e. read it) yourself. But you shouldn’t comment in a way that is, quite frankly, general unchallengeable nonsense. At least do your reading research, old chap.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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