"Stray Boulder" awards for pseudo-scientists who "mislead the Czech public"

Stray Boulder awards, photo CTK

Now, what's your star sign? Well, whatever you do, don't pose that question to a member of Sisyfos, the Club of Sceptics, because they'd probably laugh in your face. Members of the club gathered at Prague's Faculty of Mathematics on Tuesday evening, for the annual "Bludny Balvan" or "Stray Boulder" awards. The ironic award is given to astrologers, faith-healers, alchemists and other practitioners of pseudo-science, and this year there were six nominations for the coveted Golden Boulder. Rob Cameron has more.

Stray Boulder awards, photo CTK
For six years now Sisyfos, a club of non-believers headed by the renowned astrophysicist Jiri Grygar, has been handing out awards to astrologers, fortune-tellers, faith-healers and tarot-readers for their contribution towards "misleading the Czech public". The award is a light-hearted attempt to poke fun at the gobbledegook masquerading as science in magazines and on TV, from the humble horoscope to the "psychowalkman" - a "psychotronic" personal stereo that helps you smooth out your brainwaves while you sleep.

The group prize was won this year by the horoscope magazine Astro, for its wide range of "paranormal goods and services." Right behind Astro - picking up a Silver Boulder - was Milan Calabek and his University of the Third Age, which was rewarded for its extensive and highly unorthodox curriculum.

"This award is being given for the education of our nation's future alchemists, astrologers, esoteric artists, blood group psychologists, shamans, aura-readers, fortune-tellers and other experts."

Unfortunately Milan Calabek was unable to accept the award in person, but the editor-in-chief of the alternative medicine magazine Regeneration was on hand to accept it in his place.

"Mr Calabek is in Nepal with his students, but I'm convinced he will be very grateful for this award. In my opinion Mr Calabek is a wonderful faith-healer and a philosopher - you obviously don't share that view. We're all entitled to our opinion."

And the audience was certainly sticking to theirs - there was loud applause in the packed lecture hall for every award. Among the audience was the well-known author Ivan Klima. I caught up with the writer as he was leaving and asked him if he considered himself a sceptic.

"More or less yes, it's my life philosophy.

Radio Prague: Do you not think though that so many people believe in horoscopes, astrology and so on, isn't it a bit unfair to make fun of it when so many people take pleasure from it, enjoy it?

"I guess we can make fun, but sometimes it causes damage. So it's necessary to polemise with it, and even make fun."