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Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Discussions about the James Randi Educational Foundation and its Million Dollar Challenge.

Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby really? » 07 May 2013, 22:28

Here's an interesting discussion from the skeptical position regarding this specific challenge.
Fudbuker asks, Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

On the challenge, it says "At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.".

So suppose I claim I have psychic powers and when tested (under proper observing conditions), I get 5 out of 10 Zenner cards correct.
Well, that could be coincidence, so I'm retested, and I get 35 out of 100 right next time.

Would that win me the million? If not, why not and at what point would I ever win a million? Or will the random luck hypothesis always win out? More: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=258096
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby Steve Zalewski » 11 May 2013, 06:22

May 10, 2013

You ask if it is possible to win the $1 million dollar challenge. I will be flat out honest with you, DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH.

Randi and his followers at CSI and JREF have no intention of paying ANY claim, under ANY circumstances. Pseudoskeptics, and debunkers, move the evidence goal posts around, and Randi has stated that he ALWAYS HAS a way out.

In addition, the people at CSI, and JREF talk about evidence, BUT no matter what evidence you have it is NEVER good enough, for CSI or JREF. Even peer reviewed papers from Ph.D level scholarly journals ARE NOT good enough for CSI and JREF.

Consider the source. As far as I'm concerned CSI and JREF ARE a joke, and the members of both CSI and JREF are narrow minded people who have developed a somewhat paranoid authoritarian philosophy of being the "scientific thought police," and that they know what is good for everyone else. Some CSI and JREF members have become arrogant know it alls, in my opinion.

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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby SydneyPSIder » 11 May 2013, 07:20

Randi feeds all the true psychics he uncovers to MK-Ultra for experiments... it's a honey trap.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby Arouet » 11 May 2013, 08:34

Good thing its not CSI that runs the challenge, huh?
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby ProfWag » 12 May 2013, 18:45

really? wrote:Here's an interesting discussion from the skeptical position regarding this specific challenge.
Fudbuker asks, Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

So suppose I claim I have psychic powers and when tested (under proper observing conditions), I get 5 out of 10 Zenner cards correct.
Well, that could be coincidence, so I'm retested, and I get 35 out of 100 right next time.

Would that win me the million? If not, why not and at what point would I ever win a million? Or will the random luck hypothesis always win out? More: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=258096

I am not a statistician so I don't know the "odds" of selecting such a number, but to answer the question, if 35 out of 100 is statistically significant and had been the agreed upon measurement prior to the test, then yes, you would win. If 35 out of 100 is not statistically significant and could be construed as coincidental, then no, you would not. If it is determined that 5 out of 10 is significant and beyond chance and that test is repeated, then yes you would win. What people tend to forget about the challenge is that a successful rate is agreed upon between both parties prior to the test but the ability must first be demonstrated to a third party who has no connection to the JREF such as an academic. Few people can even pass that pre-test so the JREF's challenge is really a moot point.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby SydneyPSIder » 13 May 2013, 06:05

ProfWag wrote:I am not a statistician so I don't know the "odds" of selecting such a number, but to answer the question, if 35 out of 100 is statistically significant and had been the agreed upon measurement prior to the test, then yes, you would win. If 35 out of 100 is not statistically significant and could be construed as coincidental, then no, you would not. If it is determined that 5 out of 10 is significant and beyond chance and that test is repeated, then yes you would win. What people tend to forget about the challenge is that a successful rate is agreed upon between both parties prior to the test but the ability must first be demonstrated to a third party who has no connection to the JREF such as an academic. Few people can even pass that pre-test so the JREF's challenge is really a moot point.

we don't actually know that, because there's always a mysterious 'pre test' that no-one can pass. I have a friend who could easily ace thne challenge on a statistical measure, but refuses to participate in any such public events. catch 22. then there are psychics i know who can read people and tell them about their family and friends etc quite clearly having never met them before. it's not so easy to devise a test for that, and yet it is a paranormal phenomenon.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby ProfWag » 13 May 2013, 06:08

I often wonder why it's those people who could "easily" pass the test, don't take it.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby SydneyPSIder » 13 May 2013, 10:57

ProfWag wrote:I often wonder why it's those people who could "easily" pass the test, don't take it.


well, my friend is intensely private and publicity-shy. plus has made a fortune in the property bubble and continues to make a further fortune writing loans. she has no interest in it.

If you like, I will give you my friend's name and address and phone no in the US and you can call her and exhort her to go for the prize she doesn't want. She will probably swear at you and hang up however.

I can't speak for others with abilities. As noted, some say Randi's 'pre-test' is a con and designed so that no-one can pass it. I don't know this for a fact, nor what the mysterious pre-test is or whether it varies much or whether it legitimately lets through people with legitimate abilities, should anyone with such abilities step forward to claim the prize. For all anyone knows, Randi may be used as a convenient front to trap genuine psychics to pass to the Pentagon for gruesome depersonalising experiments in an attempt to maintain military hegemony over the world. For all we know. That's just how it is.

The trap is in Randi asking that people contractually accept a so-called 'pre-test' that is not disclosed and may or may not be scientific. You just have to pass his 'pre-test' to claim the money, and he always seems to worm out of it somehow. The contractual flaw in claiming the money is the pre-test, and it appears to be a scientific flaw in Randi's approach also. It's all just a silly circus, as Steve above points out.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby Arouet » 13 May 2013, 12:36

Statistical significance can't possibly be the standard to win $1,000.000. Even with no effect whatsoever you'd get a winner every 20 tries or so. The MDC is not designed to test those kind of claims.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby SydneyPSIder » 13 May 2013, 14:23

Arouet wrote:Statistical significance can't possibly be the standard to win $1,000.000. Even with no effect whatsoever you'd get a winner every 20 tries or so. The MDC is not designed to test those kind of claims.

every 20 tries?

lemme see, zener cards:

"There are just five different Zener cards: a hollow circle (one curve), a Greek cross (two lines), three vertical wavy lines (or "waves"), a hollow square (four lines), and a hollow five-pointed star. There are 25 cards in a pack, five of each design."

chances of going all the way through the pack and getting 100% right by accident? (not including any card counting techniques -- let's say all the cards are blinded to the subject in the trial, unlike the Bill Murray version in Ghostbusters)

0.2 ^ 25 = 0.0000000000000000033554432 or 1 in 298,023,223,876,953,125 - I think that's 1 in 300 quadrillion in US numbering.

Or is there a prob with the maths there? Should we use a normal distribution with a mean of 5 instead, and look at sigmas?

I suppose you would get a 20% match rate by chance on a number of repeated trials, i.e. a random non-psychic guessing result would produce 5 chance matches out of 25 attempts on average over a large number of trials.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby SydneyPSIder » 13 May 2013, 18:09

haha, there's an analysis on the web, funnily enough from randi's website -- but with a dead link.

the only other thing is a formula on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrstphre/6277432976/

The formula is a P in the A to calculate, as it has a few n! calcs in it, as in most probability calcs -- and not sure if it includes 'card counting' as a factor, which is not necessary or desirable in a blinded test.

Just put the formula as supplied into a spreadsheet. According to the formula, the chances (by chance, rounded) of getting exactly

1: 1 in 42
5: 1 in 5
8: 1 in 16
9: 1 in 34
10: 1 in 85
11: 1 in 249
12: 1 in 854
13: 1 in 3,416
14: 1 in 15,941
15: 1 in 86,949
20: 1 in 5,477,852,523
25: 1 in 3 E 17 or 300 quadrillion (as suggested above)

in any single trial of 25 cards and guesses, of 5x5 different types.

Although the most common result of guessing would be 5 correct, the probability of any one trial delivering exactly 5 matches is 1 in 5, as noted. The distribution behaves as you would expect, i.e. the chances of guessing less than 5 by chance are lower than guessing 5 correct. One might think repeatedly guessing 10 or more correctly might be taken as considerably more than chance.

Interestingly, there are a couple of Flash apps that deliver a Zener test, which strikes me as a bit useless, as it's a bit hard for someone with mind-reading ability trying to tune in on what someone is thinking when that someone is a computer server somewhere in the world -- some people may have evolved being able to read other humans' minds for simple thoughts or images -- reading an 'image' off silicon RAM is a slightly different kettle of fish, and fundamentally invalid I would think. maybe a psychic computer can read another computer's mind!!!?? And do androids dream of electric sheep?
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby ProfWag » 13 May 2013, 19:06

As for the pre-test, all one has to do is go to their local community college's psychology department. If someone has "abilities" above chance, they could easily pass it there--yet no one does. Hence, my skepticism.
I'm sure that if there WERE people out there (such as Syd's friend) who do have the gift, I could see a small percentage of them not wanting the publicity, money, etc. However, I seriously doubt all of them would be so shy...
If I could routinely show psychic abilities, I know my local college would LOVE to be the one to get credit for being my tester. Forget the JREF Challenge, I would make enough money without them. "Vegas Baby!"
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby SydneyPSIder » 13 May 2013, 19:10

ProfWag wrote:As for the pre-test, all one has to do is go to their local community college's psychology department. If someone has "abilities" above chance, they could easily pass it there--yet no one does. Hence, my skepticism.
I'm sure that if there WERE people out there (such as Syd's friend) who do have the gift, I could see a small percentage of them not wanting the publicity, money, etc. However, I seriously doubt all of them would be so shy...
If I could routinely show psychic abilities, I know my local college would LOVE to be the one to get credit for being my tester. Forget the JREF Challenge, I would make enough money without them. "Vegas Baby!"

Since when do community college psych depts routinely test for psi ability? Maybe the community college parapsychology dept, few if any of which actually exist. I did a psychology major and I assure you the paranormal is considered beyond the pale in the logical-positivist training you receive (pale imitation of medical 'science' training mainly around stats, measuring experimental 'effects', etc, serves as training at best for coming up with drug trial methodologies and analysis), very few papers get published in that area, there is only 1 dept in the whole country here prepared to even look at it, etc. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters was very far from the norm, which was obviously satirical. There's not a lot of discussion of 'Zener cards' in any psych faculty, studying the paranormal any which way is seen as kooky and a career-ender in psych. They're trying to be taken seriously and competing with the medicos.

Further, what are the numbers in your analysis of non-shy people with demonstrable abilities? The reality is that you and I have no idea. This could be a 0.00001% phenomenon in the species. My friend might literally be 1 in 10 million people. So the attempted sceptical line that someone else might/could/would/should come forward has no basis in an actual estimate of likelihood or real world numbers -- we just don't know the prevalence of such abilities, and therefore any attempt to hypothesise that someone would have come forward by now is just pseudoscepticism and the self-confirming bias fallacy again.

I wish my friend would come forward and claim the money, but maybe she would be disappeared the next day by the Pentagon, who knows. Maybe it's already happening via Randi, we don't know that either.

I have little doubt my friend (and possibly some of her family members) could guess most or all of 25 guesses correctly from someone visualising Zener cards in the same room -- or some other set of easily distinguishable images or forms or colours. She could guess a letter and a colour over the phone with me at 12,000 miles remove. However, she claims it gives her a headache when she does it, so she might not make 25 readings willingly.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby Arouet » 15 May 2013, 07:03

SydneyPSIder wrote:
Arouet wrote:Statistical significance can't possibly be the standard to win $1,000.000. Even with no effect whatsoever you'd get a winner every 20 tries or so. The MDC is not designed to test those kind of claims.

every 20 tries?

lemme see, zener cards:

"There are just five different Zener cards: a hollow circle (one curve), a Greek cross (two lines), three vertical wavy lines (or "waves"), a hollow square (four lines), and a hollow five-pointed star. There are 25 cards in a pack, five of each design."

chances of going all the way through the pack and getting 100% right by accident? (not including any card counting techniques -- let's say all the cards are blinded to the subject in the trial, unlike the Bill Murray version in Ghostbusters)

0.2 ^ 25 = 0.0000000000000000033554432 or 1 in 298,023,223,876,953,125 - I think that's 1 in 300 quadrillion in US numbering.

Or is there a prob with the maths there? Should we use a normal distribution with a mean of 5 instead, and look at sigmas?

I suppose you would get a 20% match rate by chance on a number of repeated trials, i.e. a random non-psychic guessing result would produce 5 chance matches out of 25 attempts on average over a large number of trials.


Sydney, what are you talking about here? You didn't say "chance of getting 100% right" you spoke of statistical significance which generally is stated to be p=0.05 which would allow a chance result 1 in 20 times.

If all we were looking for in the MDC was statistical significance, then 1 out of 20 applicants could be expected to achieve those results by chance alone.
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Re: Is It Possible To Win The $1 million challenge?

Postby ProfWag » 16 May 2013, 08:20

SydneyPSIder wrote:
ProfWag wrote:As for the pre-test, all one has to do is go to their local community college's psychology department. If someone has "abilities" above chance, they could easily pass it there--yet no one does. Hence, my skepticism.
I'm sure that if there WERE people out there (such as Syd's friend) who do have the gift, I could see a small percentage of them not wanting the publicity, money, etc. However, I seriously doubt all of them would be so shy...
If I could routinely show psychic abilities, I know my local college would LOVE to be the one to get credit for being my tester. Forget the JREF Challenge, I would make enough money without them. "Vegas Baby!"

Since when do community college psych depts routinely test for psi ability? Maybe the community college parapsychology dept, few if any of which actually exist. I did a psychology major and I assure you the paranormal is considered beyond the pale in the logical-positivist training you receive (pale imitation of medical 'science' training mainly around stats, measuring experimental 'effects', etc, serves as training at best for coming up with drug trial methodologies and analysis), very few papers get published in that area, there is only 1 dept in the whole country here prepared to even look at it, etc. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters was very far from the norm, which was obviously satirical. There's not a lot of discussion of 'Zener cards' in any psych faculty, studying the paranormal any which way is seen as kooky and a career-ender in psych. They're trying to be taken seriously and competing with the medicos.

Further, what are the numbers in your analysis of non-shy people with demonstrable abilities? The reality is that you and I have no idea. This could be a 0.00001% phenomenon in the species. My friend might literally be 1 in 10 million people. So the attempted sceptical line that someone else might/could/would/should come forward has no basis in an actual estimate of likelihood or real world numbers -- we just don't know the prevalence of such abilities, and therefore any attempt to hypothesise that someone would have come forward by now is just pseudoscepticism and the self-confirming bias fallacy again.

I wish my friend would come forward and claim the money, but maybe she would be disappeared the next day by the Pentagon, who knows. Maybe it's already happening via Randi, we don't know that either.

I have little doubt my friend (and possibly some of her family members) could guess most or all of 25 guesses correctly from someone visualising Zener cards in the same room -- or some other set of easily distinguishable images or forms or colours. She could guess a letter and a colour over the phone with me at 12,000 miles remove. However, she claims it gives her a headache when she does it, so she might not make 25 readings willingly.

Psych Departments do not regularly test for psychic abilities, primarily because their doesn't appear to be much evidence for it's existence. As I said, however, if one really does have the ability, it wouldn't take much convincing to administer a test, and actually it would be encouraged.
As for the numbers in my analysis, no, I've never conducted nor researched my statement. I'm simply taking it from the knowledge that people go freakin' crazy and are willing to do damn near anything for a relatively small amount of money, much less large amounts--if, IF, there was something to their claim.
Oh, and although you have little doubt about your friend's ability to guess most or all of 25 guesses correctly...I do have serious doubt and it will remain that way until someone comes forward with some kind of evidence otherwise.
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