Monday, February 11, 2002

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: I wish this had turned out to be just another stupid Internet hoax, like the often-rumored pending tax on e-mail or the latest nonexistent missing child. But apparently, this is legit. Reports the tireless James Randi:

"The US Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (DOE) has now bypassed the required peer-review process and spent $408,750 of our tax money field-testing a "pollution-detection device" that relies on "the ability of a human operator to sense changes in magnetic fields."

In other words, a high-tech dowsing rod. Randi continues:

Gerald Boyd, the deputy assistant secretary for Environmental Management's Office of Science and Technology (OST), says that they often perform field tests of off-the-shelf technology but that in most cases, the product has already undergone substantive testing and peer review elsewhere. ... It's unusual, Boyd says, for the department to field-test such an "immature" technology.

How about for "useless" technology, Mr. Boyd? "This is an anomaly," he says.

James Randi deserves sainthood for the good work he is doing, exposing fraud and ignorance, week in and week out, always with a sense of humor. (F'rinstance, if I were to mention to his face that he deserves sainthood, he'd doubtless just rattle off a dozen historical instances of real, canonized saints whose "miracles" were ultimately exposed as either stagecraft magic or amazingly effective P.R. -- and then feign being insulted to have been lumped in with the likes of them.)


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