I spent Tuesday in the charming company of James Randi and his assistant, journalist Brandon Thorp. Myself and P.J. Råsmark had taken it upon ourselves to act as native guides and gophers for Randi during his days in Stockholm at the invitation of the Swedish Skeptics. So in the morning we went cane shopping together, though none of the canes we found were sufficiently antique-looking for our guest, and he seemed to manage effortlessly without one. And then we checked out the Vasa 17th century warship museum, since this is Stockholm’s one truly unique attraction as far as I’m aware. (You’ll recognise my M.O. from Massimo Polidoro’s and Manuel Paz-y-Mino’s visit a year ago.) Randi uses the Vasa, which sunk on its maiden voyage due to unrealistic royal demands incorporated into its design, as one of the test cases in his upcoming book Wrong!. In the afternoon there were interviews with Lars Björkvall of Vetenskap & Historia and Christer Sturmark of Humanisten, the latter periodical being a publication of the Swedish Humanist Association.
In the evening Randi spoke to an audience of over 300 people, while tens of comers had to be turned away at the door. The talk, video clips and Q&A lasted for almost 2½ hours, and it was as usual excellent. I do wish, though, that Randi would stop making fun of PhDs in such a hostile manner. A considerable proportion of the audience last night either have a PhD or are working on one. You can’t both promote science and say that academic qualifications are worthless. Most science is after all produced by formally qualified academics and does not involve people in lab coats being conned by charlatans.
Afterwards I bowed out and went home to nurse a cold, while magicians Råsmark and Houdi took the Swedish Skeptics executive board and our guests to dinner at the Magic Bar, our capital’s magician’s club.
BTW, Randi’s hosts at the remaining stops of the North European tour have a challenge to live up to. After I said something lewd about “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” over sushi, leather-hatted Mr. Thorp disgustedly proclaimed me the single most campy person they had run into so far on the tour.