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Old 23rd July 2013, 05:46 AM   #161
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Why would that be better than a default position that things without evidence for them don't exist?

Because it asserts a belief (non-existence of something) instead of a neutral position. That is a kind of faith.

To be clear, the default assumption that something without evidence doesn't exist is rational. The default affirmative belief that it doesn't exist is as irrational as faith.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 06:36 AM   #162
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No. It's not a belief. It's just policy. If I don't take out-of-area checks, and you present an out-of-area check, it doesn't mean I think you're trying to cheat me. It means I have a policy against taking out-of-area checks.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 06:41 AM   #163
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Originally Posted by TjW View Post
No. It's not a belief. It's just policy.
Then we are in agreement.

I specifically used the word "belief" in my post because that is an affirmative belief in the non-existence of something unevidenced that I think is analogous to faith and similarly irrational.

But I agree that the default position (assumption) should be that it doesn't exist. Yes.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 06:52 AM   #164
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Originally Posted by petrov2500 View Post
If slot machine PRNGs use a timestamp as a seed (does anyone know if slot machines typically seed with timestamps?) this could make it difficult for the psychic as the seed could be made to vary every millisecond.
Slot machines use true random number generators. They are based on fundamentally unpredictable events in nature. The cheapest way to do this is to measure semiconductor Avalanche Noise in a Zener diode optimized for this use.

Another way this can be done is by making recourse to the quantum indeterminacy that is part of nuclear decay. A small sample of a radioactive material, usually the element Americium, is placed in a cell next to a detector that measures the time interval between each atom's decay. The decay of unstable nuclei is a fundamentally indeterminate process and as far as we know, quantum mechanics prohibits any prediction of this interval, even in principle.

I built one of these a few years ago as a source of true random numbers for my computer. I got the radioactive Americium sample from a household smoke detector which use a small amount of radiation to ionize air in a test chamber to detect of there is smoke in the environment. I used the device to refute some woo-heads on another forum who insisted that they can influence random events with their thoughts. They read some BS from the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEARL) and believed it was real science. So I built the device and set it up to generate a stream of random numbers. I had the system post the values on-line in real time and asked the woo-heads to attempt to skew the numbers away from the expected 50/50 distribution of 1s and 0s. The test ran 24x7 for several months.

They failed to produce any change in the expected random distribution, of course. And (surprise!) they refused to accept the evidence that they couldn't do what they said they can do.

Last edited by Diploid; 23rd July 2013 at 08:15 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 23rd July 2013, 10:30 AM   #165
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Originally Posted by Diploid View Post
Slot machines use true random number generators. They are based on fundamentally unpredictable events in nature. The cheapest way to do this is to measure semiconductor Avalanche Noise in a Zener diode optimized for this use.

Another way this can be done is by making recourse to the quantum indeterminacy that is part of nuclear decay. A small sample of a radioactive material, usually the element Americium, is placed in a cell next to a detector that measures the time interval between each atom's decay. The decay of unstable nuclei is a fundamentally indeterminate process and as far as we know, quantum mechanics prohibits any prediction of this interval, even in principle.

I built one of these a few years ago as a source of true random numbers for my computer. I got the radioactive Americium sample from a household smoke detector which use a small amount of radiation to ionize air in a test chamber to detect of there is smoke in the environment. I used the device to refute some woo-heads on another forum who insisted that they can influence random events with their thoughts. They read some BS from the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEARL) and believed it was real science. So I built the device and set it up to generate a stream of random numbers. I had the system post the values on-line in real time and asked the woo-heads to attempt to skew the numbers away from the expected 50/50 distribution of 1s and 0s. The test ran 24x7 for several months.

They failed to produce any change in the expected random distribution, of course. And (surprise!) they refused to accept the evidence that they couldn't do what they said they can do.
I did not know that slot machines use true random number generators. Can I have a link to a reference? Did they figure that PRNGs were not secure enough?
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Old 23rd July 2013, 11:28 AM   #166
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I did not know that slot machines use true random number generators... Did they figure that PRNGs were not secure enough?

Exactly. PRNG are more susceptible to scamming. For example, if you know the mechanism used to seed the PRNG (network latency, for example) it is possible to inject carefully crafted network traffic to influence the PRNG .

A true random number generator underpinned by nuclear decay is *completely* unpredictable even in principle. It is, so far as we know, a fundamental hard limitation imposed by nature itself on what can be known. This is why it can't be scammed short of having direct access to the hardware. And if someone has direct physical access to the hardware, all bets are off in any case (heh, no pun intended).

Can I have a link to a reference?

Sure. Here you go.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 01:09 PM   #167
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Originally Posted by Diploid View Post
Can I have a link to a reference?

Sure. Here you go.
That link does not say anything about slot machines using true random number generators.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 09:19 PM   #168
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Originally Posted by Cuddles View Post
That link does not say anything about slot machines using true random number generators.
Oh, I misunderstood your request.

The only link I have refers to casinos using true random number generators generally, but not to slot machines specifically. I was told that modern slots use TRNGs by an engineer friend who designs their electronics so it's second-hand information. However, it stands to reason. TRNGs are inexpensive and unless an adversary has physical access to the machine's circuitry, they are both unpredictable and immune to any method of skewing their output according to our current understanding of physics.

BTW, a TRNG can't produce a very fast stream of random numbers compared to PRNGs because they depend on measuring physical events at atomic scales. With a reasonably small (safe) amount of a radioisotope, these events happen infrequently compared to the speed of a modern CPU. So in practice the TRNG is used to periodically seed a PRNG which can run an order faster or more.

Last edited by Diploid; 23rd July 2013 at 10:33 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 23rd July 2013, 09:43 PM   #169
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If I thought I had psychic powers, I would very much want to take the challenge to see if Randi could rule out the possibility that I was deluding myself.

Unfortunately, the requirements even to apply are so stringent that I seriously doubt that anyone who isn't already a practiced charlatan and media hound could meet them. That takes the wind out of the sails of the challenge for me.
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Old 23rd July 2013, 10:31 PM   #170
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Originally Posted by epepke View Post
Unfortunately, the requirements even to apply are so stringent that I seriously doubt that anyone who isn't already a practiced charlatan and media hound could meet them.
My understanding is that JREF was wasting so much time and resources fielding crackpots who couldn't even produce a coherent explanation of what exactly they can do that they instituted the stricter requirements to filter things down to a manageable number of applicants.

But the prize WAS on the table with no more than a notarized application as a requirement for about 50 years, as I recall.

Originally Posted by epepke View Post
If I thought I had psychic powers, I would very much want to take the challenge to see if Randi could rule out the possibility that I was deluding myself.
No need for JREF to do that. Any one of the following will gladly help you test yourself:

There's the Australian Skeptics' AU$100,000 Prize
http://www.skeptics.com.au/features/prize/
They also offer AU$20,000 as a "Spotter's Fee"

There's the IIG's US$50,000 Challenge in California, USA
They now have affiliates in Atlanta, GA and Washington, DC and are developing affiliates in Denver, CO, Calgary, Canada and probably other places as well.
http://www.iigwest.org/challenge.html
They also offer US$5,000 as a "Finder's Fee"

There's the North Texas Skeptic's US$12,000 Challenge in the USA
http://www.ntskeptics.org/challenge/challenge.htm

There's Prabir Ghosh's 2,000,000 Rupee Challenge in India
http://rationalistprabir.bravehost.com/

There's the Swedish 100,000SeK prize offered by Humanisterna
http://www.humanisterna.se/index.php...d=27&Itemid=49

The Tampa Bay Skeptics offers a US$1000 prize in Florida, USA
http://www.tampabayskeptics.org/challenges.html

In Canada there's the CAN$10,000 from the Quebec Skeptics
http://www.sceptiques.qc.ca/activites/defi

In the UK, the ASKE organization offers £14,000
http://www.aske-skeptics.org.uk/challenge_rules.htm

Tony Youens in the UK offers £5,000
http://www.tonyyouens.com/challenge.htm

In Finland, Skepsis offers 10,000 Euros
http://www.skepsis.fi/haaste/

The Fayetteville Freethinkers in Arkansas, USA offer a US$1000 prize
http://fayfreethinkers.com/

There's a 1,000,000 Yuan prize in China offered by Sima Nan. This is his blog: http://blog.sina.com.cn/simanan

The Belgian SKEPP organization offers a 10,500 Euro prize
http://www.skepp.be/prijzen/de-sisyphus-prijs/
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Old 23rd July 2013, 10:39 PM   #171
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I think the reason for adding the academic and media entry requirements was to discourage those who have fooled themselves into believing they have paranormal powers because of their ignorance of their own cognitive biases. The purpose of the challenge is to call out the charlatans, not to publicly humiliate honest, well meaning people. The hope is that in the process of trying to obtain the necessary affidavits the latter will learn enough to realise what is really going on.
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Old 24th July 2013, 02:06 PM   #172
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
The purpose of the challenge is to call out the charlatans, not to publicly humiliate honest, well meaning people. .
Why do you say that? The purpose of the challenge is NEITHER of these.
Do you think James Randi has some secret angle behind his entire challenge? There is nothing to support at all the slightly cynical view a sum of you have presented. When in fact there is a video I can point to right now that has James saying to the contrary of what you guys are.
Also what about the definition of a challenge in it's simplest form? It's to see if anybody can pass it, that is the purpose.
It is just very effectively USED to debunk phonies.

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Old 24th July 2013, 08:45 PM   #173
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Originally Posted by roryboryalice View Post
Why do you say that? The purpose of the challenge is NEITHER of these.
Do you think James Randi has some secret angle behind his entire challenge? There is nothing to support at all the slightly cynical view a sum of you have presented.
What on earth is cynical (or secret) about a professional debunker creating a tool for debunking? Unless you find debunking cynical, in which case, you'd better just wrap Randi up in a cynical bow and serve him in cynical sauce, with a side of mashed cynicism.

Quote:
When in fact there is a video I can point to right now that has James saying to the contrary of what you guys are.
Forgive me for being skeptical, but it seems far more plausible to me that you misinterpreted something he said. Perhaps he was merely re-affirming the fact that the offer is an honest one (as it has to be to be a successful debunking tool), or perhaps he casually said something about how he'd be pleased to have someone win--and who wouldn't want to advance the frontiers of science and discover that someone wasn't as much of a scheming bastard as they appeared at first glance.

You've mentioned this video before, though, so if you can post a link to it, maybe the rest of us can determine for ourselves whether there's any reasonable basis to your claim. Until then, though, I think I'll stick with a theory that seems to make some sense (i.e. not "Randi's real goal is to find real psychics".)
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Old 24th July 2013, 11:21 PM   #174
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Originally Posted by roryboryalice View Post
Why do you say that?
Because that's always been my understanding of why the challenge was created, and I've yet to see anything to contradict that understanding. Moreover it seems to be commonly held:

http://www.wired.com/science/discove.../2007/01/72482

Quote:
Ten years after stage magician and avowed skeptic James Randi first offered a seven-figure payday to anyone capable of demonstrating paranormal phenomenon under scientific scrutiny, the 79-year-old clear-eyed curmudgeon is revising the rules of his nonprofit foundation's Million Dollar Challenge to better target high-profile charlatans, and spend less time on unknown psychics, who too often turn out to be delusional instead of deceptive. [...]

A skeptic since his teen years, Randi launched his challenge in 1964, after growing outraged with fake mediums and fortunetellers using simple conjurers' tricks to prey on the public.
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Old 26th July 2013, 12:32 AM   #175
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What on earth is cynical (or secret) about a professional debunker creating a tool for debunking? Unless you find debunking cynical, in which case, you'd better just wrap Randi up in a cynical bow and serve him in cynical sauce, with a side of mashed cynicism.
You just supported my point. You said, "creating a tool for debunking", that's what I think it is. It's a great tool for debunking.
What is secret is that there is some alterior motive behind the legal ideals and definitions of an "Honest Challenge".

Quote:
Forgive me for being skeptical, but it seems far more plausible to me that you misinterpreted something he said. Perhaps he was merely re-affirming the fact that the offer is an honest one (as it has to be to be a successful debunking tool), or perhaps he casually said something about how he'd be pleased to have someone win--and who wouldn't want to advance the frontiers of science and discover that someone wasn't as much of a scheming bastard as they appeared at first glance.
Those are exactly the things he said, but I think it supports the idea. How can one be an honest challenge if it's directed at high-end phonies? It has to be..I don't know..an honest challenge. As you said again here which is part of my point - it is just a successful debunking tool.
Also he said he'd be excited if somebody wins because he wants to see if anybody could win! (Although he may think otherwise)

It may be directed by other people and aimed at phonies by others who talk about the challenge, but that does not mean the entirety of the challenge is aimed at fakes.
It's slightly cynical to think James Randi is using the methods of an honest open challenge just to target high-end fakes and expose them. (Even though the exposing part is good)
It's illogical to think an honest challenge can be aimed at a subgroup of who can pass when talking about a challenge itself.

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