Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Skeptic Henry Gordon dies

by Rob - January 25th, 2009.
Filed under: Deaths, Golden Fleece.

Eric McMillan, the Chair of Skeptics Canada, reports:

With great sorrow, we report that Henry Gordon has passed away.

Henry was a professional magician, journalist, book author, and leading Canadian skeptic. He was a founder and chair of the Ontario Skeptics, a precursor to Skeptics Canada, for which he remained chair emeritus and a respected member. He was also a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), now CSI. He was well-known internationally for his exposures of Uri Geller, Shirley Maclaine and other paranormal practitioners in his books, articles and television appearances.

I was quite an admirer of Henry, and even named an institute after him in my first novel, 1990’s Golden Fleece. In a scene written March 14, 1989, I wrote [from the point of view of a scheming artificial intelligence]:

I made a mini-backup of myself so that I could undertake the interactive dialogue necessary for testing. I let the backup play inquisitor, while I, on the lowest and most simplistic level, tried to access the Aaron Rossman memories I had recorded. It was a tricky process, involving as much learning about Aaron’s particular style of recording information as it did fine-tuning my ability to access specific facts.

The discovery by Barnhard and his group at the Henry Gordon Institute in 2011 that each human seemed to use a unique encoding algorithm put an end to the claims of psychics, mind readers, and other charlatans. Oh, it could be demonstrated that humans did indeed give off electromagnetic signals that corresponded to their thoughts. And, indeed, if one had sufficiently acute sensing devices and the ability to screen the weak signal from the background EM noise, then, yes, one could detect that energy. But the fact that every individual used a different encoding algorithm and key, and, indeed, that many individuals used multiple algorithms depending on the kinds of thoughts they were thinking — the alpha and beta waves of the EEG being the crudest indication of that — meant that even if you could pick up the thought signals, which seemed impossible without direct physical contact with the person’s head, you couldn’t decipher the thoughts without massive number crunching.

Number crunching, of course, is something I have a knack for.

Given who Henry was, it would be wrong to say he’s passed on or to wish that he might rest in peace. Henry is gone, pure and simple — and the world is poorer for it.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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