Magazine February 9, 2009, Issue

Chance of a Ghost

A fortune-teller in Whitby, United Kingdom, (Smith Lee/Reuters)

I was somewhat surprised recently to be told by a friend that she had had a “reading” done. I didn’t grasp her meaning immediately. The Church of Scientology came first to mind. Don’t they have some ritual (sacrament?) of wiring you up to a device that locates Bad Thoughts? Then, getting more up to date, and having just read Steven Pinker’s New York Times piece on the topic, I wondered if she had been to one of those services that sequence your genome for you.

It was neither. My speculations had been too up to date. My friend had, she told me,

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