PHYSICS 341 - Pseudoscience, Unique #: 59170 (Fall 2013), meets MWF 2-3 PM, Pai 2.48

Coker's usual and customary "aura"
Dr. Rory Coker
Office: RLM 8.312
Phone: (512) 471-5194 (answering machine)
Fax: (512) 471-9637

Office Hours:  M, W, 9 to 10:30 AM; Thur, 1 to 2:30 PM, in RLM; Fri, 3 to 3:30 PM outside Pai 2.48.

Grader: Daniel Tennant, office hours in RLM 13.306 (it's a lab room, just come in) or my actual office, 13.322, Mondays from noon-2.

First-day handout and syllabus in pdf form.

For links to sites providing a factual discussion of various pseudoscience topics, click here.

The “course bibliography” mentioned in the first day handout is linked as a pdf file here.

Mindreading websites and Video Clips!

The infamous Pseudoscience Fact Sheets, originally written way back in 1985, have finally been revised, expanded, illustrated, hyperlinked and posted on the web; you can find the first one here. There are links to all the others, including a number of new ones. Check out the perceptual illusion of the week, here. Similar pages on nifty current physics are gradually being added here. Special GAF reading!! Two currently famous magicians who took Physics 341 Pseudoscience when they were UT Austin students are Andrew Mayne, and Brian Brushwood.

Savor la Creme de la Beyond Weird, Here: Timecube! (And a webpage that uses the Dada Engine to generate a meaningless rant indistinguishable from an authentic TIMECUBE rant... hit reload to generate as many different rants as you can survive) | A similar Dada Engine for the equally opaque Deepak Chopra | Esogetic Colorpuncture! | Do Mormons believe the earth is hollow? | Taking Over! | Clear a Path!! | Catholic Fundamentalism! | UFOs Attack! | Inca (not Mayan) Spacemen! | Dowsing for Space Aliens! | Alien Cat Space Cadets! | It doesn't get crazier than this!! | Concentrate your Orgone before it all leaks away into some floozy! | Where Science Went Wrong! | What a Great Gift?!?  | Age of Aquarius!  | Stop Alien Abductions! | Checked Uranus in the rear-view mirror lately? | Warning! Dangerous Paradigm Shift! | The DOPES! | Cayce-Approved Wet-Cell Healing! | "Christ D. Thomas, God's Other Son" was a familiar street character in Las Vegas during the 1970s and 1980s. Now he has competition, "God's other son Ted!" |  Are you ready for your Ascension? | The Cassiopaeans! | Not "Gag on it," but GAGUT! | Another parody site! Enemies of the Mission! | The Vedic Paradigm! | Get Pyramid Potency working for you! | The Square Wheel! If this isn't a parody site, I'm scared! | Ye$ $ir, Money Talk$! | Prepare for the Pole Shift!!!  Don't continue fooling yourself! | You too can Seek the Hollow Earth, with a Mormon Psychic as your infallible guide! | Something is indeed Hollow around here! | Hollow, indeed! | Earth's Inner Sun? | Home to billions of supermen! | Almost as incoherent as TIMECUBE! | Astropsychology! | Create your very own reality; here's how! | Noah's Ark has never been lost! | Why there's probably no hope for the human race | Ridiculously incorrect predictions weekly! Through the miracle of html you just keep revising the prediction... now in its n-th iteration! | Did you miss the Cosmic Trigger Event?!? | Are you using a Perkl-Light?!? | One of the latest wrinkles in quackery is the Detox Foot Bath!! | Lay Pipe for Peace! | After you participate in the Global Orgasm (previous item) you might be left magically pregnant! So try this on-line magical "test," to find out for sure! | Whilst they last--- get your own personal spoonbending kit, for only $50!! | Very good news! All Bigfeet Monsters are Christians! | You definitely need the Amazing Vibe Machine! | "We are all begin asked to assess our relationships with others and with ourselves." | “If you can relate to the teachings of Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, you'll feel right at home!” | Crackpot scenarios in which gravity is a “push,” not a pull, have been around about 300 years. It's a delight to see them still going strong, as this exceptionally illucid example will indicate. | Yet another Jesus to worry about! | Surely it's flatter than this! | Praise! God Himself hath invented a Perpetual Motion Machine! | A new superhero? MAGNETICMAN! | Multidimensional Psychic Genius? Psychic Shockie? They're all here!! We're Centered!!  | To stop smoking, just stick a thumbtack in your ear. It has to be magnetic, though! | Do what? | Got your Energy Mug yet? | Patent Pending!! | Pendulum Power! It's baaaaccccckkkkk! | “A new level of nonsense has been reached,” says James Randi, but from here it looks like the usual level of nonsense | MySpace has more losers than a Miss America contest held in an all-male maximum-security prison, but even for MySpace, this is something special!! | Ready for your ride on the MAGNETIC SPACE SHIP? | When you're forced to spend all your time hanging around cocaine-addled celebrity morons, as elderly gossip columnist Liz Smith has to do, this is apparently what passes for profound conversation.. | One of Prophet Yahweh's claims to fame is the ability to summon UFOs mentally. It would be more impressive if he and his followers didn't arrive at the summoning spot in a van full of inflated mylar party balloons and weather balloons! | Space Mirror Mystery have no make of sense with me! | Experience the Divine Cool Breeze! [By joining one of very, very many fast-growing and destructive religious cults in our sad, sad world.] | What happens when a know-nothing nerd mixes cinema fantasy with paranoid fantasy | Beware, the Space Brothers are actually Demons!! | Zino Project, bemay it not make sense this fellow, yet, after what? | Did you know you can cure every known disease with an ordinary foil sticker? | OK are you ready for the Earthquake Resurrection Blog? | A modern Contactee, following in the giant footsteps of George Adamski | And George is not forgotten, by any means! | CHIOS Energy Field Healing! | Aura Patches?!? | Time to dowse for gold, since the price of gold is through the roof! | Stop guessing about your health... dowse for it! | The Bible Guarantees It! | Grey Lodge Occult Review! | YOU need a metaphysical tool! | The Incredible Miracle 6! | Welcome to the Infinite You! | Don't be fooled, true Fundamentalists! There are two totally different organizations calling themselves The Flat Earth Society. One is a Godless parody site, whilst the other is real! | If you're a fundamentalist Catholic, you know by divine revelation that Galileo was Wrong! | Travel freely into past or future, but it'll cost ya! | Any problem whatsoever that you might be having is due to electrical, electromagnetic or electronic anything-whatsoever | The Bible Vanquishes Science! | Contacting Space Gods in parallel universes and higher dimensions! | Works like a charm? | Crackpot Websites? | Another List | And another! | And yet another | Need to detect UFOs? Get a detector here! | Is your house haunted? Find out here! | If this is not a joke it's completely terrifying! | SOLARMATH! | My new favorite webpage! | Don't be fooled, Satan's Space Alien Agents are constantly on the prowl! | Satan's Rapture! | The Photon Belt! | Fairly decisive evidence that there is no hope whatsoever for the human race. | Pseudoscience in Mormonism.

Textbooks and references for the class:
  • THE SKEPTIC'S DICTIONARY by R. T. Carroll (John Wiley, NY, 2003) [Entries available on-line.]
  • Very highly recommended: Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There, by Richard Wiseman (MacMillan, London, 2011). Half-Price Books currently has a number of cheap copies of this book in their "Occult" section.
  • Very highly recommended: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, NY, 2011). Probably the most important book on psychology ever written.
  • Another useful reference: How To Think About Weird Things, by Theodore Schick, Jr., and Lewis Vaughn, 4th ed. (McGraw-Hill, NY, 2005).

  • Class Handouts: Almost every class day you will find one or two new class handouts. Most of these are not posted anywhere on the web; the only way to get them is to come to class and pick them up. When you begin the homework assignments and book reviews, you will find that these handouts are absolutely indispensable. Make sure you get them all!
    Grades in this course are based entirely on homework, book reviews and attendance. There are no quizzes or examinations. For further details, contact the instructor at the e-mail link above.
    Classwork Deadlines for 341, Pseudoscience: [Immediately upcoming due dates are marked thusly—
  • Homework 1, due in class September 23.
  • Book Review 1, due in class October 7.
  • Homework 2, due in class October 28.
  • Book Review 2, due in class November 11.
  • Homework 3-4 (counts double), Due in class December 6.
  • Late HW and Book Reviews cannot be accepted under any circumstances! The time allowed to do homework is generally 2 to 3 weeks, because that is the time it would take to do it successfully, and get an A or B, if you worked on it a reasonable amount of time each day, say 30 minutes to an hour. Each portion of the homework takes time and thought... and often research. If you leave the entire assignment until the night before it is due, your grade will be a very unsatisfactory one, of necessity. Similar comments apply to the book review!!

    The following students have satisfactory attendance so far in 341: Bobbitt, De La Cruz, Doan, Flores, Horn, Kwong, Matthews, Tsuji, Warren and Zurbuch. If your name does not appear on this short list you so far have a low attendance grade, which can adversely affect your final course grade!

    About Classroom Demonstrations :

    Drawing duplication, 9/9/2013---Alexandria Sepulveda drew the usual theatrical symbol of comic and tragic masks. Coker, being the great psychic that he is, got the image correctly from her mind. Here were what the other students in the class drew: flower, 1; diploma, 1; heart, 1; dog, 2; horse, 1; sun-face, 1; cat, 1; bug, 1; sink, 1; fish, 1; landscape, 1; necklace, 1; blob, 1. Connie Zurbuch drew a sun with a smiley face, which is similar to the "comedy" mask drawn by Alexandria Sepulveda.

    Muscle Reading, 9/18/2013. Here are the class guesses as to card viewed by students Allison Matthews and Chelsea Flores: J♣ (0); 8♠ (0); A (1); 10♠ (4); K (2); K (3); 2♣ (0); 10♣ (1); 3♣ (0); 5 (0). Note that the most often named cards were the kings, and the 10♠. Coker of course named the correct card, 2♣.

    Say, kids, have you ever made a Moebius Strip? Here it is routined as a magic trick by my pal MagoMarko: The Afghan Band. How about Martin Gardner's incredible variant? How about a hexaflexagon?? Then, how about a Hyperspatial Trapdoor?  Are the Jonas Brothers "Devil-worshipping scum"? Unknown animals on earth? Ha!

    HERE you can see the best student UFO and alien photos from Spring 2007. HERE you can see the Fall 2006 student UFO alien and craft photos that were my favorites. HERE you can see the Fall 2004 Homework Set 2 student photos of UFOs and Aliens and Ghosts that were my favorites! To see the UFO PHOTO of the week, click here. Great UFO pictures from 341 students of the distant past can be viewed here. To see the GHOST PHOTO of the week, click here.
    Nifty on-line Bible-code type program, right here!
    Get your dowsing rods right here! A typical dowsing machine. I built and played with one of these Heironymus machines when I was a mere kid. More on "electronic" dowsing, aka radionics, can be found here.

    Play with evolution! This java applet starts with a random string of characters, like s#iNe*,2dgfl4b4z5!, and makes random changes until a target sentence, "methinks it is like a weasel," is evolved! You can also use any other target sentence you desire. It may surprise you to see how few changes are required! Try the famous Weasel Applet!

    REAL OR A HOAX? Take this quiz. The instructor missed 1 out of 10, shame on him.  How about Bible Prophecies? Take this quiz to see how familiar you are with them. The instructor, unsaved doomed heathen that he is, missed 2 out of 10.

    Buck Nelson was a slightly cross-eyed farmer who became famous in the late 1950s for being carried off to Mars by a flying saucer. While on Mars he was given a large black dog named Bo. At the flying saucer conventions he organized in later years near his Missouri farm, Bo never made an appearance but Buck sold small envelopes containing samples of Bo's hair... or so Buck promised. It's good to see that Buck is still remembered, as the link will indicate.

    Incredible!!!! In an ancient Egyptian tomb (note how specific that is), there is a carving that clearly represents (left side) a helicopter hovering over the wreckage of the World Trade Center! In the middle is a flying saucer landing on an oil drilling platform! On the right side is Luke Skywalker's land speeder from "A New Hope," Star Wars Episode IV, below that is what is either a zepplin or a jumbo jet, and below that is either a submarine, or another jet airliner at an airport gate! Some unsung Egyptian Nostradamus is surely responsible for this incredible prophecy! Well, maybe... but click on the image itself, or here, for a little bit of insight into what is actually in the inscription!

    You too can communicate with the dead!
    Alternately you can just use your TV set and a video camera, as shown here. This high-tech approach seems to work best if you have a fixation on long-forgotten Austrian actress Romy Schneider!

    If you were a pudgy blond housewife who wanted to convince people that your body was sometimes inhabited by a 35,000-year-old warrior-mystic named Ramtha, what would you do? How about putting on a “gimme” hat and sticking a pipe in your mouth? I wish I were making this up, but truth is truly strange.... By the way, if you are congratulating yourself that you are too intelligent, or too cool, to be taken in by Ramtha and his gang, let me ask if you have seen this recent film? If you have, and thought it had anything to do with reality, then, sad to say, you were indeed taken in by Ramtha: this film was made by Ramtha's "School of Enlightenment," and as a vehicle for his "teachings". For a good review, check here.

    You too can become a Pet Psychic!

    By the way essentially all psychics will work from a photo, fax or e-mailed image of a pet. Could this be the usual reduction to absurdity? Perish the thought!

    CRISWELL! My favorite prophet of all time is the Amazing Criswell. He's almost forgotten today, perhaps because his predictions have a deliberately self-mocking, parodic basis. Yet his prediction of Kennedy's assassination, for example, is far more accurate than the alleged prediction made by Jeane Dixon. Criswell tended to predict the end of the world to occur every year between the mid 1950s and the year of his own death in 1982.  His favorite end-of-world date was August 18, 1999.  I have only found two published books by Criswell, both being thin trade paperbacks. The first was Criswell Predicts Your Future from Now to the Year 2000 (Grossett and Dunlap, 1969), and it was closely followed by Criswell Predicts Your Next Ten Years (Grossett and Dunlap, 1971). Both books are surprisingly tedious to read, but contain plenty of completely crazy predictions in the unmistakable Criswell style.

    In the spirit of Criswell, just ask Madame Poot!

    An incredible miracle occurred in the Spring of 2000 in Bradenton, Florida. On the wall of a church appeared a mysterious image. Above we see a frame capture from local TV news footage, and an enhanced black-and-white photo of the image. No one considered it important that the image appeared only after the bricks in this location were touched up with a spray cleaner. But whose image is it? Careful analysis by local forensic experts resulted in the following incredible and yet undeniable conclusion: the image is of a 60ish bearded male with white hair, wearing glasses, a suit and tie; and, further computer enhancements allowed a positive identification: the man is none other than University of Texas Physics Professor Rory Coker. Religious leaders are sharply divided as to what this portends for the future.... as are leaders of the US House and Senate!

    1960 saw the coming of the first really big fad diet, the Calories Don't Count diet. Of course, calories are about the only things that do count in a diet. This now almost-forgotten fad diet was the forerunner of the notorious Atkins diet. Like the many nutritionally completely crazy fad diets that came later, this earlier diet emphasized eating all the meat and fat you can eat, and still lose weight, because of gross malnutrition. Sound familiar? These things just get retreaded, over and over, and sold to new suckers.

    Gosh, did you know there is a fancy machine which can determine when someone is lying? It's called a "polygraph," better known as a "lie detector." Lately it's been computerized; surely that makes it better, right? What does it detect? Well, certainly not lies! Click on the cartoon for more information.

    The Shaver Hoax was an attempt by science fiction magazine editor Ray Palmer and a writer named Richard S. Shaver to create their own religious cult. In about 1944, Shaver sent Palmer a long novel with occult themes. Palmer asked permission to rewrite the story and present it as non-fiction. Shaver items appeared regularly in AMAZING STORIES magazine throughout the late 1940s. The teachings of the cult were a sort of update or parody of Theosophy, with a hollow earth inhabited by two rival civilizations of robots! The bad robots, Deros, were responsible for all social evils, while the good robots, Teros, were on our side! [Shaver also described the Deros at various times as degenerate dwarflike creatures, and the Teros as idealized humanoids; it's not completely clear he knew the meaning of the word “robot.”] The cult never really took off because both Palmer and Shaver treated it half the time as a joke or a parody on New Age cults. [Note the image in the ad--- a shot of Shaver puffing on a cig has been pasted onto artwork of a mystical cowled figure. This is typical of the mixed signals Shaver and Palmer always sent.]

      October 6, 2013

    Dr. Coker's Homepage

    Physics Department
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    Authentic footage of the yeti!