Yesterday, on April 1, my friend and ex-employer James Randi unveiled the recipients of this year's Pigasus Awards. This isn't the kind of award one wants to receive, necessarily. Randi, a local legend and internationally renowned enemy of pseudoscience and superstition, awards these flying piggies to those who have distinguished themselves by fooling the public.
James Randi -- or "The Amazing Randi," as he used to be known -- rose to fame in the 1950s and '60s as a conjurer and escape artist. In the '70s, his ire raised by the ascendant New Age movement, Randi began working full-time to expose those individuals who used conjurers' tricks to persuade the public that they possessed supernatural abilities. (His first high-profile target was Uri Geller, the Israeli spoon-bender.)
Randi's cause has gained supporters and breadth in recent decades. "Skeptics'" conferences draw thousands of attendees the world over, and nowadays Randi's as likely to do battle with homeopaths or antivaccine activists as with magicians with delusions of grandeur. His organization, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), offers $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate supernatural abilities or phenomena under proper observing conditions. Nobody's cashed out yet.
This year's Pigasuses (Pigasi?) have been awarded in the following categories: "Scientist," "Funder," "Media," "Performer/Comeback," and "Refusal to Face Reality." And the winners are: