Psychic Chemistry



      This demonstration of psychic chemistry can find uses in discussion of experimental design, acid-base indicators, aqueous equilibria, and calculating the pH of weak acid solutions.
      As part of a recent NOVA program on psychic phenomena in Russia, the magician and crusader for scientific integrity, James Randi, visited a scientific institute in Moscow where a Rasputin-like character claimed to be able to cause chemical changes to occur using mind-power ... PSYCHIC CHEMISTRY! In a video segment not used in the program that was aired on public television, the director of the laboratory, a Ph.D. in chemistry, demonstrated the power of the purported psychic by having him change the color of a blue solution to yellow. The solution was sitting on a magnetic stirrer in an uncovered beaker, which the psychic concentrated on intensely. Miraculously, after several minutes of focusing on the solution, with an occasional grunt for effect, the solution turned from blue to green and finally to yellow. The psychic then sat back with a satisfied look on his face.
      This makes for an outstanding demonstration. After showing the video, the instructor puts on his psychic outfit (with safety glasses, of course) and performs the same miracle for the class! Of course, the instructor also has a pH meter handy to demonstrate to the class (but not before amazing them and then questioning them about how the miracle is performed and how it could be properly tested using careful experimental design) that the psychic is exhaling into the beaker, causing the pH to drop due to carbon dioxide reaction with water, and the bromthymol blue indicator, which was originally blue due to base added to the solution, turns green and then yellow.

Figure 1. Psychic Chemistry
(A) The psychic chemist performs a miracle
(B) The author, a certified fake psychic chemist, duplicates the miracle


Download a 6 minute Quicktime movie "James Randi and the Psychic Chemist" (18 MBytes!)

[Thanks are due to the Amazing Randi, who, through prizes, scholarships, lectures, books and reference facilities offered by his James Randi Educational Foundation, is at the forefront in promoting scientific integrity and education.]

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Page prepared by: Mike Epstein
Last Modified: 30 April 1999