The Death of JREF…

Another door closes to the Internet 1.0… After the Break…

The Death of JREF…

Those not familiar with astronomy may not be aware that our Sun, at the center of the universe, is not without an expiration date. Even something so massive as our sun will eventually die out. Trained astronomers can describe the process of our Sun’s demise far better than I but, in general terms, the Sun will eventually expand as it loses it’s ability to burn fuel. The Sun will eventually swallow our planet until it suddenly shrinks down to but a frail, pale version of it’s former self. There will still be a mass at the center of our solar system, it will still be a Sun but it will be a far cry from what it once was and it will never again be the full, life-giving center of our solar system.

On the Internet, I have seen several websites that have followed the same pattern: Small websites that became popular, grew with their popularity and then eventually collapsed or closed rather suddenly and never regained anywhere close to the influence that they once held onto the Internet.

I feel bad for those websites that start small, grow hugely popular & then suddenly collapse or close. I honestly do. Especially those websites that were established close to the beginning of the Graphical Era of the Internet. And another website has done that recently.

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF for short) sounds like it could stand for almost anything but it was founded to be a counter-balance to those extraordinary claims of science: water dowsing, mind reading, telekinesis and the whatnot. Founded in 1996, it quickly became a safe haven for skeptics (back when being a skeptic meant being a skeptic of highly-unusual claims, as opposed to merely being skeptical for the sake of being contrarian or advancing your own agenda). It hosted a message board forum and it’s founder, magician James Randi who had become famous far before the Internet existed, would evolve with the Internet to host a live webcast, a live radio-cast, & eventually a news site along with an annual gathering of skeptics called “The Amazing Meeting” (so named after James Randi’s on-stage title, “The Amazing Randi”). This includes the infamous Million Dollar Challenge that preceded the Internet, a challenge to anyone who possessed extraordinary abilities to prove those abilities in a rigorous scientific environment.

And now it’s gone. All gone.

James Randi retired. The foundation went through a series of presidents. And, in September of last year, what was left of the foundation converted itself into a grant-making organization. No more forum. No more news site. No more “Pigasus” awards. No webcast or radio-cast or anything of the sort.

I’ve seen a lot of websites close that began from the early days of the Internet. A lot of them. JREF wasn’t about video games, it wasn’t about movies. It was about science and keeping a stern glare at those who wished to deceive people for attention & financial gain. It served a useful and educational purpose.

Sure, the JREF hasn’t ended. It’s not “dead.” But, just like the proverbial stars at the beginning of this article, it is now a small, pale shadow of it’s former self.

I’ve had the displeasure to drive past malls that are malls in name only; Filled no longer with stores of products but malls of services. I’ve walked through malls that were more empty of stores than filled with them. I’ve driven past houses that once held friends and relatives of mine, now filled with complete strangers. And I continue to browse an Internet devoid of it’s stars from the past.

I know that, someday, another Star will take it’s place. It won’t be the same; It’ll have a different name, it’ll have a slightly different theme to it, a different charismatic founder with slightly different ideals & all of the contemporary features that a future Internet will have. As Mark Twain once said, “History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme.”

In the case of the JREF, let’s hope that it’s a very close rhyme, bordering on plagiarism. One can only hope.

2 Responses to “The Death of JREF…”

  1. Cobalt Says:

    Thats unfortunate about jref, never surfed to it but sounds interesting. I have heard the theory about the sun burning out someday, and it could well be true however that day is so inconceivably distant in the future, sometimes I wonder what we are basing that conclusion on, when we know nearly 0 about the suns origin and are really only barely beginning to learn its activity cycles and the kinds of energy it emits. I recently saw a youtube vid that says actually the frequency ranges of the energy bursts near its very edge are in the same frequency range as human hearing. Could the sun be a form of life, not as we understand it? Its not uncommon for mankind these days to refer to the planet earth as being alive. Just some food for thought…

    • Lutonaut Says:

      Hi Cobalt and thank you for reading my blog.

      Again, from my understanding, our Sun is not sustainable and, billions of years from now, the theory goes is that it will begin to run out of fuel to burn. When that happens, it will begin to “shed” layers of itself and expand outward, “swallowing” our planet in the process before it collapses in onto itself as a small, white star. That’s my understanding, at any rate. So, yes, using “dying sun” as an excuse to not paying the utility bills still will be ill-advised for many millions of years.

      Getting through all of that, the JREF was a nice place to visit at it’s prime. I do fondly remember both the video and audio-cast; James Randi, at the time of those broadcasts, was really the only media-accessible bona-fide skeptic (which, I suppose, wasn’t saying a whole heck of a lot). I guess that the modern-day alternate would be “The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe” audio-cast although the people who perform that broadcast aren’t as cross-over successful (they’re more celebrities within the skeptic community as opposed to James Randi who was a celebrity as well as a skeptic). Also the JREF forums are now called something like “The International Skeptics Forum” although I am uncertain how much connection there is between the two (whether one adopted the other or one turned into the other).

      And on a completely unrelated note, check out soon for my blog entry concerning a little thing called “Arcane Dimensions” (or, more specifically, “The Crucial Error”)… I haven’t forgotten about Quake 1…

      Again, thank you for reading my blog.

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