Michael Jackson Is Dead

I always feel weird when I see a headline like “Michael Jackson Dies.” Dies; like dying is just one of those things he does. Something he makes a habit of including in his life. Sorta like, “oh, watch out for that dog, he bites.” But maybe it’s appropriate, because let’s not forget, on top of his many contributions to entertainment, MJ is a crucial part of the history of zombiehood.

So yeah, once in a while, he dies. It’s just a little more permanent this time.

I’ve seen some people acting nonchalant about this. Complaining that the story is dominating the news ahead of local or political stories. But come on. This is the bottom line: the arts are a crucial part of history and of what it means to be human. Michael Jackson was a crucial part of the arts; he created the best selling album of all time, for fuck’s sake, and let’s not forget his influence on dance, music video, and style as well. Therefore his life was of great importance, and his death is a globally signficant event. Billions of people will be affected by it. It’s ignorant and naive to think that the media and individuals shouldn’t be covering this and allowing it to affect their hearts.

Also: it’s useful to keep in mind that while his contributions to humanity are not in dispute, his evil actions involving children are. He may have been a very bad person. He may not have. Maybe now we’ll never know.

Look at Elvis’s death. It’s still talked about and disputed today. And I wonder how long it will be before the rumours about Jacko’s death start; “evidence” that he killed himself, or he was murdered, or that he’s still alive. Careers will be made impersonating him. Maybe in a decade, one of his kids will end up marrying the current Queen of Pop. In any case, he will live on; cheers to one of entertainment’s greatest zombies.

The Mathematics of Wrong Numbers

What is with getting calls for the wrong number?

I’ve dialed a wrong number once, maybe twice in my whole life. Most people would probably claim similarly low misdial rates.

I’ve received maybe 50 wrong number calls, minimum.

How does this add up? It must mean there is a small number of people making a large number of misdirected calls. Are there people out there who, instead of dialing a number, just mash the keypad and hope for the best? This is even more baffling in the age of cell phones, where you can just speak a friend’s name and your robot phone will call them for you.

Perhaps there are some psychological factors going on. Misdialing is an embarrassing mistake, so surely my biased self-serving memory reconstructs more instances of other people making mistakes (receiving wrong numbers) than me making them (dialing them). However, I doubt that a subtle memory bias could skew the numbers by such a large order of magnitude.

Or am I just weird? Do most of you dial just as many wrong numbers as you receive? C’mon, you can admit it. Everyone (else) makes mistakes. Leave an anonymous comment and let me know. Maybe this could be the next psychology study in my series of completely unrelated research topics.

P.S. I tried Googling “wrong number” for a nice picture to go with this post, but all I got was like 500 pictures of these guys:

It’s Almost Like ESP, Day 2

Once again, I took part in Richard Wiseman’s fun but flawed Twitter remote viewing study. Here’s what I tweeted when he said he was at the location:

Here is what I drew (rotated to disingenuously enhance appearance of psychic ability):

And here is where Richard turned out to be:

Once again proving that I’m totally psychic. I’m probably remote-viewing you right now. Please stop doing that thing with your ear. It’s just gross.

Edit June 29: Results have been posted over at Richard Wiseman’s blog. As I expected, nothing really substantial there. It was more of a proof of concept than anything scientifically useful. Disappointing.

It’s Almost Like ESP

Popular psychologist Richard Wiseman is currently conducting a unique study that uses Twitter to gather research participants. He’s seeing if his Twitter followers can engage in remote viewing to detect where Richard is located (explanation here). So the idea is that Richard goes to a randomly chosen location, then asks people on Twitter to use their psychic powers to give any impressions about where he is, then later choose which of 5 locations they think he was at.

When he gave the go-ahead this morning, I was happy to participate.  Here’s what I tweeted to him:

“First thing that came to mind was a star shape (oops, thinking of Zener cards?). Railing. Concrete. A lamp post. Playground?”

I also acted like a real remote-viewer and scribbled a few drawings:

Then it came time to pick which location I thought he was at, out of these five:

Well look at that! My posts, railings, and concrete all over the place. But I thought the most striking resemblence was between my middle picture and his middle picture (C), so that’s the one I guessed.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t where he was. He was at D.  So if I am psychic, it’s only for my future experience, not for remote viewing a real location.

Wiseman’s experiment isn’t really unique except for the Twitter aspect. Similar studies have been done many times, and strangely, usually find above-chance results (i.e., people are able to guess where the remote person is more often than if they were guessing). It’s also full of holes and flaws in its methodology (so many that I hope the true purpose of the study is remaning hidden and this is all a cover story for a better study).  Still, it’s good to see psychic phenomena – which the majority of people in the world believe in with little question – getting some attention and new technology applied to it. I think both religious and scientific bigotry have kept good research from being done in this area, and I hope we can overcome silly taboos to engage in more of it.

Go follow Wiseman on Twitter to participate – it’s going for a few more days. Or see his blog for more details and results.