Sunday, May 27, 2012

Jerry Andrus - a Universal Icon - Lets get started!

Jerry Andrus - Skeptic's Toolbox 2004 - from my camera

My current project is to improve/rewrite the faculty pages for the Eugene, Oregon Skeptic's Toolbox pages, as well as to create the Toolbox page.  I've discovered during my research on re-writing the Jerry Andrus page that there exists many YouTube videos about or by Andrus in languages other than English.  Yet Jerry's current page is only available in English.

What a shame.

I have discussed many times that the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project is far too important to remain in English only.  Yet, I lack the skills necessary to read/write in other languages.  You don't know how frustrating that is for me, but it just shows how important it is to find editors who can.

In the call-out linked above where I discuss the need to expand our outreach to controversial topics outside English, I've not received a single email volunteering to help.  When I've approached Facebook "friends" who have other languages other than English (I tried a personal message to 30 people) when I got a response (7 people) I was mainly told "sorry, but I don't read/write well enough in that language."  (insert deep sigh here)  I think they were worried that they lacked the technical knowledge to translate a page on like "evolution" into their native language.

Possibly so.  So now I'm trying an easier subject to focus on. 

I'm thinking that Jerry Andrus may be a great place to focus our efforts when we do find those editors.  For those of you who did not know Jerry, he was a genius.  A gentle man, who could not tell a lie and wanted more than anything to show others his amazing optical illusions.  These illusions are universal, made with simple household objects, string, cardboard and tape.  Something a child anywhere in the world could copy and improve on with little instruction other than that spark to get them started.

And what a spark!  Teaching people about optical illusions teaches them how easily the brain can be fooled, which may inspire them to begin to think critically in other areas.

What I'm suggesting is that we find people willing to edit in their language and start with the existing videos.  All the articles I'm finding on Andrus would need to be translated into that language as well, possibly they have already been created?  The Did You Know? front page of Wikipedia project exists in all languages as well, and it would be a great push to get people who would normally not search out his page, to discover it. 

This would be a time consuming effort, but I guarantee an important project in bringing the skeptical message to anywhere an Internet connection exists.

Here are just a few of the videos I've found of Andrus performing...

We have just finished the 6th Skeptic World Congress last week in Berlin.  Surely we had attendees wanting to get involved in improving skepticism in their native languages?

So I'm suggesting if you personally don't read/write in a second language can you pass this on to someone you think might want to get involved?  Help me find a way to get this project out to skeptic groups outside the English speaking world.  And lets get started.

BTW - really could use some help finding sources for the Skeptic's Toolbox page (in English).

Please contact me at


  1. Nice article, thank you for the links about Jerry Andrus. He is a personal hero of mine who first got me involved with critical thinking.

    1. By any chance is this Rex Young?

  2. After sleeping on it I don't think I was clear that English only speakers can help out with this project as well.

    We will need to select the videos that best represent Andrus and the skeptical cause. Those videos need to be copied (I have no idea how best to do this) and subtitles either need to be added, or a transcript included with the video.

    This will make whomever is translating the English into the other language easier (and faster).

    I know I said we would start with the videos already in another language, but we will need more than one video. Because we are talking about a person famous for magic and visual illusions, video will work best.

    We need to translate media as well (in order to be noteworthy) we would probably take the TV interview with Ray Hyman where he debunks Uri Geller (already is represented in 23 languages besides English). What do those pages say? Is there any skepticism in those languages (translated into a language that reader can read?)

    We need our own people there for non-English speakers to read.

    Once I start hearing from people who will help, I will set up a system allowing us to better communicate, to organize.

    So I need people who have the tech skills to get captions on videos and repost the video. People to help choose what videos/media. Transcribe videos into English.

    Then each person will translate everything they can into their language.

    Then editors of that same language will need to do the Wikipedia editing work. The translator and the WP editor might not be the same people, depends on knowledge and time.

    I'll keep it all organized. Lots of work to be done. Lets start with Jerry! Whose in?

  3. Received this from my Google Alert on Jerry.

    I think I have seen most of this already, but a nice snapshot of all the Andrus videos in one place.

  4. Hi Susan! Did you think of of Spanish Speaking Atheists at CFI? Ask JU. Also, Spencer has a friend who i think speaks German. This is a great project - and sounds less complicated than the normal Wikipedia editing.

  5. Thanks Wendy.

    I don't want to "wrangle" or "guilt" people into the project, I tried that when I approached FB friends and got no interest.

    I'm looking for people who find this project important and want to help out to just step up and volenteer.

    It might be less complicated if a team got involved. But I need people to select videos, transcribe them and get all the basics down. Also after Jerry we would move on to other topics like Geller, Alcock, Hyman and the concepts of cold-reading, spoon bending, optical illusions and on and on. Spreading critical thinking and skepticism all over the world.

    (insert evil laugh here)

    Its actually a lot of work. If we write a page in German, then all the articles need to be in German. I'm not sure how to go about getting a citation that is in English, published again in a noteworthy place, back in German.

    Going to be a lot more complicated when we are working on Arabic and Hindi pages. But well worth the effort, they have few pages in those languages so ours will get a lot of attention.

  6. Hi, Susan. As you may have noticed I was able to find your blog page. I speak Portuguese and Spanish (I just contacted you by mail). I can easily translate some of the videos. Specially the one from the TV that is in Spanish. I can translate it English or Portuguese. But, some of the videos don't have much to be translated, and they are self evident (very visual). The one from Einstein is very shaky, even I could translate it I don't see much value on doing it. But assuming that I translate some of them, what you want to do? Create a specific YT channel to publish those videos, with subtitles and upload them? YT allow you to have the same videos with subtitles in different languages. But you can also embed the subtitles on the video, so you can see the subtitles on devices like iPhones/iPads that don't support Flash player subtitles. Subtitling using YT subtitles capabilities by the other hand can allow viewers from other languages to use automatic captions translations, that can work relatively well in some cases.