James Randi, a Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic who extensively challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, has passed away Tuesday “due to age-related causes.” He was 92. Slashdot reader trinarybit first shared the news. The Washington Post reports: An inveterate skeptic and bristly contrarian in his profession, Mr. Randi insisted that magic is based solely on earthly sleight of hand and visual trickery. He scorned fellow magicians who allowed or encouraged audiences to believe their work was rooted in extrasensory or paranormal powers. In contrast, the bearded, gnomish Mr. Randi cheerfully described himself as a “liar” and “cheat” in mock recognition of his magician’s skills at duping people into thinking they had seen something inexplicable — such as a person appearing to be cut in half with a saw — when it was, in fact, the result of simple physical deception. He was equally dismissive of psychics, seers and soothsayers. Still, he was always careful to describe himself as an investigator, not a debunker, and insisted he was always open to the possibility of supernatural phenomena but simply found no evidence of it after decades of research.
To put his money where his mouth was, Mr. Randi and the research organization he helped found in 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, offered payouts ranging up to $1 million to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon under mutually agreed, scientifically controlled conditions. While he had many takers, he said, none of them earned a cent. Randi was featured in a handful of Slashdot stories over the years, including a two-part interview where he answered your questions.