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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

N-rays The disastrous affair of the “N-rays” thoroughly embarrassed the French——and the scientific world——back in 1903, when Prosper René Blondlot, a distinguished physicist of the city of Nancy, announced his discovery of strange radiations that he said emanated from every substance——except green wood and pieces of metal that had been “anesthetized” by dipping them into chloroform or ether. The apparent existence of these rays was soon confirmed by dozens of scientists around the world through scientific papers submitted to science journals.
      A single physicist, American Robert Wood, was sent in by the British Association of Scientists and reported his results to Nature magazine (then, as now, one of the leading science journals). Wood showed the French scientists that not only were their experimental processes faulty, but their rays were totally imaginary.
      The N-rays affair provides the single most effective and important example of scientific error through experimenter bias and expectation, an example which might well be improved upon by the present German fascination with the equally imaginary E-rays.

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