I’ve Been A Fan Of The Amazing Randi, Magician And Debunker Of ‘Paranormal’ Claims, For Decades

It takes a magician —or two — to know when someone's performing clever sleight-of-hand.


Magician and escape artist Harry Houdini was a little obsessed with the "paranormal."

As a magician, he knew that every one of the people who professed to be in contact with the dead were nothing but magicians themselves, but an evil variety — they preyed on the emotions of the grieving, in order to make a profit. It worked, and it still does to this day

At the request of Scientific American and also to satisfy his own curiosity, Houdini put a fair amount of his time into proving that these people were charlatans. Ever the showman, he and Bess, his wife, made a pact that if he could contact her from the dead, he would. They even agreed on what that would look like, including a secret code that only they would know. 

It never happened.   

Someone who took up that mantle of disproving the intent of charlatans and carried it on into our time is another magician, James "The Amazing" Randi

He picked up where Houdini left off, and has proven time and again that “communicating with” and “channeling” the dead — as well as psychic "readings" — are simply parlor tricks. 

(The "JREF" referred to in the question slides of the below video is the James F. Randi Educational Foundation, which — until 2015 — offered a cool $1 million to anybody who could prove that their ability to conduct “paranormal” happenings were actually verifiable. Much like a similar reward offered by Houdini in 1925, nobody ever claimed that prize.)

Here’s his take:

More videos featuring The Amazing Randi live here, and for books and other things by and about him, go here. Also, there's a fascinating documentary about him and his life that came out in 2015.

(And James Randi prefers the title "Investigator" over "Debunker," so my apologies to him for the Twitter headline!)

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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