A year before his death in 1996, the beloved American cosmologist and author Carl Sagan wrote The Fine Art of Baloney Detection—the best 20th-century essay on the subject of bullshit. “In the final tolling,” he wrote, “it often turns out that the facts are more comforting than the fantasy.” Citing aspirin commercials, Whole Life Expos, the use of dousing rods to find mineral deposits and “psychic surgeons” to cure all manner of disease, Sagan addresses the “steady rainfall of deception” that moistens modern life. “These, ” he writes, “are all cases of proved or presumptive baloney. A deception arises, sometimes innocently but collaboratively, sometimes with cynical premeditation. Usually the victim is caught up in a powerful emotion—wonder, fear, greed, grief. Credulous acceptance of baloney can cost you money. This story is from Kinfolk Issue Twenty-Five Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 19 Going Incognito We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible: When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible. Arts & Culture Issue 19 The Best Policy Sometimes we talk to each other without feeling heard. Honesty—a most intimate interaction—can be just as thrilling as its more devious inverse. Arts & Culture Issue 19 A Sense of Suspense With unhinged imaginations and mountains of cliff-hangers, the filmmakers behind the sci-fi podcast Limetown have all the makings of a scary story. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Like Clockwork In this new column about time, we learn how slipping off our watches makes us feel like deadline-damning renegades. Arts & Culture Music Issue 19 On a Grander Scale Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna now may live on the opposite side of the globe, but she’s determined to evolve while staying true to her roots. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Neighborhood: Fire Stations The firefighting profession has evolved over time from Ancient Rome’s rudimentary bucket brigades to today’s sleek life-saving departments.