Thursday, February 08, 2007

Found video: Firewalkers put to the test

Richard Wiseman is a rockstar at The Amaz!ng Meetings. He was an accomplished magician before he became a highly-regarded researcher in psychology. He has an entertainer's sensibilities and he's British, so he's always fun to watch and listen to. He had the opportunity to put "mind-over-matter" firewalkers to the test through the auspices of a BBC television program. He showed a clip of the program at TAM3, but it wasn't included in the DVD set of TAM3 due to copyright restrictions. I recently did a Google search for the clip and turned up this take. It's not as robust as what we saw at TAM3, but it does the job.

The question at hand is whether firewalkers accomplish their spectacular feat (!) by way of an altered state of consciousness or by way of simple thermal physics. You already know the correct answer, but the video puts a dramatic exclamation point on that answer. And Wiseman tells the story well.

The clip as it exists at Google Video is here.

Wiseman warned us that the emcee of the program was also the announcer on an extreme sports show. So his empathy leaves something to be desired. Take out a stopwatch and measure the delay between the word, "commiserations," and his call for "Next!" Upon repeat viewings, notice that Wiseman holds back a smile or two while he describes the setup. I would not have done so well. Imagine multiple takes and me bursting out with laughter every time. It would take a day to shoot.

This clip is a great follow-on to Jearl Walker's Kinetic Karnival episode on The Leidenfrost Effect. I enthusiastically recommend Walker's series for high school physics classes. Note to teachers: you will want to preview the tapes and you might want to hit the mute button once or twice during in-class playback.

The content of Kinetic Karnival is fantastic and highly engaging. But you do have to endure the fact that Walker drinks beer and smokes cigarettes on film. If your students are unaware that adults engage in such behavior, Kinetic Karnival may not be for you.


Anonymous said...


There was obviously a Magnetic Anomaly (TMA-1?) which cancelled the human force field. This demo shows that the anomaly begins about 15 feet away from the start of the bed of coals. If the fire walkers had continued on, we might have been able to map the end-point of the MA.

Stevie Ray Keith

Dean Baird said...

There's a video of an Australian paranormalist going for the record. After he burns himself, they gray-out one of his feet as he walks about in the remaining video. Seems hard to believe there was anything so dramatically visible to bring on this action. Makes it seem worse than it probably was.

I always thought the true test for the paranormalists was to have them walk across glowing-hot metal. Now *that* would be dramatic. But short. Energy-field protection, indeed.

Anonymous said...

love it.