Martin Gardner’s Autobiography

December 04, 2013

The man whom Stephen Jay Gould called rationality’s “single brightest beacon” has given us yet another fine book, his posthumously published Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner (Princeton University Press, 2013). It has an introduction by Persi Diaconis and an afterword by James Randi.

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Visiting an Urban “Village Church”

December 03, 2013

My wife Diana and I went on another religabout—our contraction for religion and walkabout, which describes an excursion to observe or experience some religious activity.

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Another SHC Death That Wasn’t

November 26, 2013

The caller identified himself as “a longtime fan” and had a case for me to look into, he said. A New Jersey man had been found inexplicably incinerated on a state park path. He wondered if it might be an instance of spontaneous human combustion. I explained that the scientific evidence for that possibility was non-existent, but that I would have a look anyway.

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Holy Apparitions and “Cryptic Photos”

November 25, 2013

On November 10, 2013, my wife Diana and I went on one of our religabouts (excursions to observe or experience some religion-related event—see my blog of January 14, 2013). We responded to an ad in the Buffalo News to learn about “the powerful apparitions” of Jesus and Mary and “awe-inspiring cryptic photos” at a Catholic shrine in Queens, N.Y.

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Sylvia Browne: A Post-Mortem

November 21, 2013

“Celebrity psychic” and professed medium Sylvia Browne has died. (Pause here while we all try to get a grip.) The notorious pretender Browne—formerly Brown (and therein lies a story), who was born Sylvia Celeste Shoemaker in 1936—died November 20, 2013, at the age of 77. To skeptics who gleefully claim she failed to foresee her own death, one must note that she did appear to recognize the end was near, but that that information came from medical science, not spirit guides.

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“12 Years a Slave”: A Nickell-odeon Review

November 19, 2013

This is not a movie to enjoy, but it is one that will amply repay one’s time spent watching it.

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Water Nymph

November 12, 2013


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Tea Party Movement

October 17, 2013


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Bigfool Times

October 16, 2013

My article that presented the evidence for standing bears as the source for many Bigfoot sightings (Skeptical Inquirer Sept./Oct. 2013) was reasonable and respectful of other views. The response from Daniel Perez of Bigfoot Times was anything but—accusing me of dishonesty and stupidity. Perez got me in his sights (he thought) and squeezed off a few shots—shooting himself, well, in his big foot. It seems, for starters, that he did what he accused me of.

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Nickell’s Skeptickles: Daffynitions A-Z

October 10, 2013

Here are some wacky definitions that skeptics may find amusing. (I am, of course, following the lead of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911, originally published as The Cynic’s Word Book, 1906.)

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