Today’s issue of Nature contains a letter from a Physics prof, who has found a very creative way to both teach newtonian physics and debunk Astrology!
(he doesn’t, however, indicate that it was James Randi who first developed the technique he is using, or that the proceedure is also described in the book “how to think about wierd things.” It may simply be that smart people think alike.)
Nature 447, 528 (31 May 2007) | doi:10.1038/447528a; Published online 30 May 2007. Treating astrology’s claims with all due gravity. Steven K. Lower
“I teach an introductory science class at my university, which typically enrols many non-science majors. During a lecture on the gravitational force, I imply that if planets such as Mars exert a force on any object, including humans, then perhaps there is something to astrology’s idea that celestial bodies exert a force of influence on our lives. I encourage my students to undertake a test I have designed for this notion.
I present the students with 12 randomly numbered horoscopes from the previous day, with the corresponding signs of the zodiac removed. I ask each student to record the horoscope that best describes the day she or he had, and the astrological sign (for example, Aries) corresponding to her/his birthday. My scientific hypothesis is that planets may exert a force on our bodies, but it is purely random — 1 out of 12 (8.3%) — whether a horoscope foretells the events of one’s life.
I am pleased to report that, as Shawn Carlson has noted, “astrology failed to perform at a level better than chance” (Nature 318, 419–425; 1985). The results from my classes are: 8.0% (n = 163 students), 8.4% (n = 155), 7.0% (n = 143), 8.0% (n = 138) and 8.0% (n = 100). In other words, as John Maddox has commented “astrology is a pack of lies … There is no evidence that the positions of the planets can affect human behaviour” (Nature 368, 185; 1994)./”
Cool video of Mr. Randi in a classroom, doing a similar exercise: