By ASHLEY LAM Features editor
The Ohlone campus welcomed James Randi at this semester’s speaker series April 13.
James Randi’s talk, “Prophesy, Divination, and Faith Healing,” sold out days before the opening night and the turnout was impressive, with almost a full house.
There was a lively murmur throughout the auditorium full of both students and their guests as the room quietly anticipated Randi’s entrance. His entrance ignited a strong round of applause from all around the auditorium.
Randi, now 83 years old, came out in a full gray suit, blue shirt and tie.
His wise grandfatherly beard showed his age and his wise nature as the audience waited quietly for him to say his first words.
Randi said with a smile, “I have a message for you: There is nothing wrong with
being short. I have found it to be quite an advantage.”
After collective laughs traveled around the room and the audience quieted down again, Randi began to speak about his background.
“I am a magician. As a magician I know a certain amount about psychology. People (the audience) tends to make assumptions very easily and that can become catastrophic,” said Randi.
He demonstrated this later as he asked as he walking away from the podium, “Do you think I am using this microphone?”
Randi walked farther and farther away from the micro- phone but the volume of his voice stayed the same. The microphone was under his tie and the microphone that he was originally to use was not working, but the audience perceived it as the only possible option.
Almost immediately after- ward, Randi asked, “Do you think these glasses I’m wearing are real? Right now all of you are blurry because my
glasses have no lenses.” Throughout the night, Randi kept the audience en- gaged with his bag of tricks, often interacting with the au-
dience members. Randi said there are dan-
gers in using homeopathy, or treatments that use small doses of natural substances. Ironically, he said, most pre- scription drugs used in ho- meopathy have caffeine as its first ingredient.
When Randi referred to his $1 million prize for anyone who can prove their paranormal abilities, he said, “They know they can’t do it and they avoid me like the plague.”
One of Randi’s most per- plexing acts throughout the night was a trick that he started just before the event. Randi explained that he had asked a member in the au- dience to stand a distance away from him with a book.
The volunteer was asked to flip to any page of her choice and with her finger make a circular motion and stop on a certain word.
After Randi explained the preliminary preparations, he said that he could guess the word that she had chosen.
The audience waited qui- etly as Randi made his way to the large paper pad on the stage. He begun to write shakily and slowly, writing a series of letters in no apparent order. The resulting word did not appear to have any meaning and the audience appeared confused.
With complete confidence in himself, Randi dramatcally tore off the sheet of paper and turned it over. The word spelled “chocolate.”
When the woman holding the book verified that chocolate was the original word she had pointed to, the audience was in awe.
“I don’t give you the solution for one reason: I want you to leave here this evening thinking that if I can do it, than so can the psychics, but they don’t do it as good as me!” said Randi, laug ing.
“I do this not to show that I can do mentalism. I do this to show you that you can be fooled. Most of us are not stupid, we’re just uninformed,” said Randi. “We magicians are honest folks from the start. We say that we are going to fool you.”
The Ohlone Psychology Club President John Prendergast opened the event with a word about the mission of the Ohlone Psychology Club. The Psychology Club Speaker Series spreads knowledge through educational talks “in the hope that we’ll continue our tradition,” said Prendergast.
Professor Sheldon Helms formally welcomed Randi to Ohlone, giving an insightful background about Randi’s profession career and contri- butions to the realm of psychology.
“To say James Randi is accomplished is an understate- ment. By the 1970s, Randi was a household name. Randi has an unshakeable commitment to reason,” said Helms.
Many in the audience had looked forward to Randi’s appearance.
“I heard about this event through friends and Professor Helms. I have found psychology really intriguing and the speakers series really has stood out to me,” said Kunal Deshpande, a current Ohlone physics major.
Leslie Hwang, a current Ohlone student who is majoring in forensic biology said, “I am looking forward to the to listening to what James Randi has to say. Professor Helms has spoken very highly of him.”