Monthly Archives: October, 2013

“You Know You Are a Conspiracy Theorist If…”

A deceptive test to make people believe they are a conspiracy theorist.

by via The Soap Box

A few months ago I came across the You Know You Are a Conspiracy Theorist If… test (which I found to be laughable when I saw it) to help a person tell if they are a conspiracy theorist or not (view the test here).

I have some things to say about this “test” and some comments about “questions” that were asked (well, they’re not really questions) as well as a few questions of my own:

critical-thinking1_250px• You are capable of critical thinking.

This is a paradox. If a conspiracy theorist was capable of critical thinking, then they wouldn’t be a conspiracy theorist because people who are capable of critical thinking would figure out that a conspiracy theory was BS.

• You distrust mainstream media.

So do most skeptics, although for entirely different reasons than conspiracy theorists do.

• You like nature.

Lots of people do. What does this have to do with being a conspiracy theorist?

• You think it’s a good idea to spend the Friday after Thanksgiving with your family rather than camping outside Best Buy to get a cheap plasma television made in China.

That doesn’t make you a conspiracy theorist. That makes you someone who is smart enough not to waste their time in the cold waiting for some store to open in the hope of finding bargains.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 8.58.15 PM• You think it’s a little strange that WTC building 7 came down at free fall speed on 9/11 yet it was never hit by a plane.

This might make you a conspiracy theorist, as well as someone who has conveniently forgotten that WTC7 was hit by something… a skyscraper.

• You think that drones in America might not be for Al Qaeda.

This might also make you a conspiracy theorist… or it might make you someone who knows drones that fly over America are also used for multiple benign purposes.

• You would like to be able to get on a plane without having to engage in a mandatory radiation bath and digital strip search.

As do many Americans, especially those who have gone through that process.

• You have read a book in the past year.

What does reading a book have to do with being a conspiracy theorist?

thefirstamendment_250px• You think you have the right to protest.

According to the first Amendment I don’t think I have the right, I have the right, period!

• You think the War on Terror is a scam.

That depends on what your definition of “scam” is.

• You think the War on Drugs is a scam.

Again, that depends on what your definition of “scam” is. Does your definition mean completely bogus and fraudulent, or wasteful and unnecessary?

• You think the anger directed at America from the Middle East could possibly be related to our foreign policy rather than hating how amazingly free we are.

This just means you’ve done more than five minutes worth of research about the Middle East.

• You think the Republicans and Democrats are exactly the same on the important issues affecting our country.

This could mean you’re a conspiracy theorist… it could also mean that you’re a Libertarian, or you’re just ticked off at both political parties.

• You think believing in The Constitution does not constitute a terrorist act.

Who the Hell believes that believing in the constitution is a terrorist act? The only people who believe that are idiots!

bill-of-rights_250px• You have heard of the Bill of Rights and can even name what some of them are.

As most Americans have and can…

• You question whether the government loves you.

The government is not a living entity. It neither loves nor hates, therefore it is pointless to ask if it loves you or not.

• You think the right to bear arms is not for hunting, rather so citizens can fight back should the government become a bunch of tyrannical thugs.

Yeah, this could mean that you’re a conspiracy theorist… it could also mean that you just don’t like the government, or you’re afraid that the United States “could” become a tyrannical dictatorship.

• You don’t own a television, and if you do, all you watch is RT, especially the Keiser Report and Capital Account.

(Reading that alone makes me wonder if this is satire) If all you watch on television is RT (Russia Today) then there is no need to finish this test. You are a conspiracy theorist.

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Can you find the cookie monster?

Pareidolia strikes again!!!!

Richard Wiseman

@jbrownridge sent me this great inadvertent rendition of the cookie monster….

cookie

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What’s Wrong with The Secret

The Secret teaches that victims are always to blame, and that anyone can have anything simply by wishing.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast (2008). Read podcast transcript below or listen here.

Prepare to have everything you’ve ever wanted, simply by thinking happy thoughts about it; and be careful of negative scary thoughts which might cause those things to happen to you to too. Little did you know that, just like in the original Star Trek episode Shore Leave, whatever you think of — either good or bad — will actually happen! This is the premise of Rhonda Byrne‘s 2006 book and movie, both titled The Secret.

cccRhonda Byrne is an Australian television producer and author. Her book and movie propose that many of the most successful people throughout history have known a “secret” — a secret closely guarded in the marketing materials for the book and movie. The “secret” turns out to be nothing more than the old motivational speaker’s standby, that positive thinking leads to positive results. But she took the idea a step further. The Secret claims that you can actually cause events to happen by wishing for them hard enough, literally like winning the lottery or recovering from terminal illness. Similarly, a focus on fears or negative ideas will cause those things to appear or happen as well. The Secret calls this the “Law of Attraction”. The Secret further makes the completely unfounded claim that many great people knew and relied upon this wisdom, and taught it to others as “secret teachers”. “Secret teachers” included Buddha, Aristotle, Plato, Sir Isaac Newton, Martin Luther King Jr., Carl Jung, Henry Ford, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Andrew Carnegie, Joseph Campbell, Alexander Graham Bell, and even Beethoven. This claim is just a made-up lie: Most of these people lived before the “Law of Attraction” was invented, and there’s no evidence that any of them ever heard of it.

As of today (2008), a year and a half after its release, The Secret remains #26 of Amazon’s list of best selling books, better than any Harry Potter book. It has over 2,000 customer reviews. Half of them are 5 star, and a quarter of them are 1 star. This is the sign of a polarizing book. Most people either love it or find it to be utter nonsense. In the case of The Secret, most people love it. Thanks in large part to promotion by Oprah Winfrey, The Secret sold 2 million DVD’s in its first year and 4 million books in its first six months.

“Wealth is a mindset. Money is literally attracted to you or repelled from you. It’s all about how you think.”The Secret

Many of the people appearing in the movie version of The Secret are motivational speakers who spout the same old “If you can dream it, you can do it” nonsense that Amway salesmen have been chanting for decades. In essence, part of what Rhonda Byrne has done has been to simply repackage Motivational Speaking 101 inside the wrapper of a century-old philosophical construct, which we’ll look at in closer detail in a moment.

As you’ve probably heard, The Secret has been roundly criticized from all quarters. The most common criticism is of The Secret’s assertion that victims are always to blame for whatever happens to them. Whether it’s a rape victim, a tsunami victim, or a heart attack victim, The Secret teaches that they brought it upon themselves with their own negative thoughts. This idea is, of course, profoundly offensive in many ways. Doctors attack The Secret for teaching that positive thinking is an adequate substitute for medical care in cases of serious illness: Wish for it hard enough, and your cancer tumors will melt away. Religious leaders criticize The Secret for its ethical claims that victims are always to blame, and for promoting the attitude that anyone can be just like a god by wishing hard enough. Many financial critics and advisors have pointed out the dangers of yet another baseless get-rich-quick scheme. The list of critics of The Secret goes on and on, as tends to happen to any mega-successful franchise.

So the question people ask me is “What do I think of The Secret?”

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10 Interesting Cases Of Supposed Reincarnation

Sabine Bevers via Listverse

Even though reincarnation stories can never really be proven true, some of them have elements that are genuinely mind-boggling, especially when the stories come from children too young to have much knowledge of the world.

10 • Edward Austrian

WWII-e1382251658515_250pxPatricia Austrian’s four-year-old son Edward had a phobia of drizzly, grey days. Then he developed a problem with his throat and started to complain of severe pain. Whenever he had a sore throat, he said that his “shot was hurting.” Edward told his mother very detailed stories about his previous life in the trenches in what was apparently World War I. He told her that he had been shot in the throat and killed.

At first doctors could not find a cause for his sore throat and removed his tonsils as a precautionary measure. A cyst developed in his throat and doctors did not know how to treat it. As soon as Edward was prompted to tell his parents and others more about his previous life and talk about how he was killed, the cyst disappeared. Edward’s doctors never found out why the cyst had vanished.

9 • The Dutch Clock

Clock-e1382251703326_250pxBruce Whittier had reoccurring dreams of being a Jewish man hiding in a house with his family. His name had been Stefan Horowitz, a Dutch Jew who was discovered in his hiding place along with his family and taken to Auschwitz, where he died. During and after the dreams, he felt panicked and restless. He began to record his dreams, and one night he dreamed about a clock, which he was able to draw in great detail upon waking.

Whittier dreamed about the location of the clock in an antiques shop and went to look. The clock was visible in the shop window and looked exactly like the one in his dreams. Whittier asked the dealer where it had come from. It transpired that the dealer had bought the clock from among the property of a retired German major in The Netherlands. This convinced Whittier that he really had led a past life.

8 • John Raphael And The Tower Tree

Scottish-e1382251765904_250pxPeter Hume, a bingo caller from Birmingham, England, started having a very specific dreams about life on guard duty at the Scottish border in 1646. He was a foot soldier of Cromwell’s army and his name was John Raphael. When put under hypnosis, Hume remembered more details and locations. He started to visit places he remembered with his brother and even found small items that appeared to have come from the era in which he had lived, such as horse spurs.

With the help of a village historian in Culmstock, South England, he even managed to positively identify details about a church that he had known—he was able to tell her that the church used to have a tower with a yew tree growing from it. This was not a published fact, and it startled her that Hume knew it—the church tower had been taken down in 1676. In local registers, John Raphael was discovered to have been married in the church. A civil war historian, Ronald Hutton, investigated the case and asked Hume very era-specific questions while under hypnosis. Hutton was not satisfied that Hume was totally in tune with the era of his past life, as he could not answer all his questions in a satisfactory way.

7 • Who’s Your Grandad?

Old-and-young-e1382251809384_250pxGus Taylor was 18 months old when he started to say that he was his own grandfather. Young children can be confused about their own identity and those of their family members, but this was different. His grandfather had died a year before Gus was born and the boy totally believed they were the same person. When shown some family photographs, Gus identified “Grandpa Augie” when he was four years old.

There was a family secret that nobody had ever spoken about in front of or around Gus—Augie’s sister had been murdered and dumped in the San Francisco Bay. The family were perplexed when the four-year-old child started to talk about his dead sister. According to Gus, God gave him a ticket after he died. With this ticket he was able to travel through a hole, after which he came back to life as Gus.

6 • The Case Of Imad Elawar

Spiral-e1382251860451_250pxFive-year-old Imad Elawar from Lebanon started talking about his life in a nearby village. The first two words he spoke as a child were the names “Jamileh” and “Mahmoud,” and at the age of two he stopped stranger outside and told him they had been neighbors. The child and his parents were investigated by Dr Ian Stevenson. Imad made over 55 different claims about his previous life.

The family visited the village that the boy had been spoken of, together with Stevenson, and found the house where he claimed he had lived. Imad and his family were able to positively identify thirteen facts and memories that were confirmed as being accurate. Imad recognized his previous uncle, Mahmoud, and his mistress from a former life, Jamileh, from photographs. He was able to remember where he had kept his gun, a fact verified by others, and was able to have a chat with a stranger about their experiences during their army days. In total, 51 out of 57 of the experiences and places mentioned by Imad were verified during the visit.

MORE – – – Listverse

Why does the North Pole move?

From the “Almost Too Stupid to Post” file . . .

Almost too stupid_wide_250pxThis post is for all those doomsayers building backyard bunkers in preparation for the day the world comes to an end because of the north and south poles shifting.

Yes, some people fear the day the north and south poles shift their positions or even reverse positions. They believe such a shift in the Earth’s magnetic field will result in earthquakes, tsunamis, global climatic change and eventually the destruction of our planet.

(As a side note: Are there ANY conspiracy theories out there that DON’T end with everybody being annihilated or the planet being destroyed? Just asking. I’m beginning to suspect there is a conspiracy to NOT have any conspiracies with a happy ending. But i digress . . . :))

The following article explains the regularity of pole shifting. Apparently, the poles have only been shifting every hour of everyday for a gazillion years. The north and south poles have even swapped positions 400 times in the last 330,000,000 years.

So open your bunker doors dear doomsdayers, it’s safe to crawl out – – – and don’t forget your compasses.

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

by via HowStuffWorks

Click for larger view.
In the last 150 years, the pole has wandered a total of about 685 miles (1102 kilometers).
Image courtesy Kenai National Wildlife

The Earth has several poles, not just two. It has geographic north and south poles, which are the points that mark the Earth’s axis of rotation. It also has magnetic north and south poles, based on the planet’s magnetic field. When you use a compass, it points to the magnetic north pole, not the geographic North Pole.

The Earth’s magnetic poles move. The magnetic North Pole moves in loops of up to 50 miles (80 km) per day. But its actual location, an average of all these loops, is also moving at around 25 miles a year [ref]. In the last 150 years, the pole has wandered a total of about 685 miles (1102 kilometers). The magnetic South Pole moves in a similar fashion.

The poles can also switch places. Scientists can study when this has happened by examining rocks on the ocean floor that retain traces of the field, similar to a recording on a magnetic tape. The last time the poles switched was 780,000 years ago, and it’s happened about 400 times in 330 million years. Each reversal takes a thousand years or so to complete, and it takes longer for the shift to take effect at the equator than at the poles. The field has weakened about 10% in the last 150 years. Some scientists think this is a sign of a flip in progress.

The Earth’s physical structure is behind all this magnetic shifting. The planet’s inner core is made of solid iron. Surrounding the inner core is a molten outer core. The next layer out, the mantle, is solid but malleable, like plastic. Finally, the layer we see every day is called the crust.

The Earth itself spins on its axis. The inner core spins as well, and it spins at a different rate than the outer core. This creates a dynamo effect, or convections and currents within the core. This is what creates the Earth’s magnetic field — it’s like a giant electromagnet.

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The Disappearance of Frederick Valentich

A young pilot who disappeared in 1978 might have been having a little fun, Spielberg style.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast. Read transcript below or listen here.

Today we’re going back to 1978, when a young private pilot named Frederick Valentich rented a single-engine Cessna and literally flew off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Sadly there’s nothing unusual about that; the fact is that small planes crash every so often. But something was different this time. The case of Frederick Valentich has been called Australia’s most famous aviation mystery; not because he disappeared, but because his final radio transmissions reported a UFO. Ever since, a subculture of Australians, notably including Valentich’s own father, believed he was abducted by aliens and may yet be alive somewhere.

Valentich and his aircraft

Valentich and his aircraft

The Australian Department of Transport’s official accident investigation summary report gives a single line: The reason for the disappearance of the aircraft has not been determined. And that’s all; a sparse epitaph for a young man’s tragedy.

Frederick was only 20 years old, a member of the Air Training Corps, a volunteer youth cadet program sponsored by the Royal Australian Air Force. He’d had his private pilot’s license for a little over a year, and had a corresponding amount of flight experience. He lived with his parents, and by all accounts was a fine young man with no serious problems and was happily pursuing his career of choice. One day in October 1978, he showed up at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne to rent a plane in order to fly out to King Island, a round trip of some 560 kilometers, about three and a half hours worth of flight time. He was turned away due to bad weather over the ocean. So he returned a few days later to try again, and this time got his plane, a single-engine Cessna 182L.

An artist's conception of Valentich pursued by a UFO

An artist’s conception of Valentich pursued by a UFO

He took off at about a quarter after 6pm in the evening of October 21, for what would be his first (and only) night flight over water. The weather was clear. King Island is about halfway between Australia and Tasmania. To fly there from Melbourne, you typically don’t fly a straight line, because that would mean you’re over water nearly the entire way; and flying over water is, of course, riskier than flying over land. So pilots typically go from Melbourne, southwest along the coast, to Cape Otway, which is the closest point on the mainland to King Island. This longer route is mostly over land. However even this safest route includes a stretch of 85 straight kilometers over water.

Frederick’s flight proceeded uneventfully. About twenty minutes after sunset, he turned away from the coast at an altitude of 4500 feet and began the long stretch over water. It was at that moment when he made his first radio call. Recordings of the actual radio conversation do exist; but for whatever reason, there aren’t any publicly available copies, and documentary films of the disappearance have always made dramatizations from the printed transcripts, which are available.

Valentich: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, no known traffic.

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, I am, seems to be, a large aircraft below five thousand.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, what type of aircraft is it?

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, I cannot affirm, it is four bright, it seems to me, like landing lights.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet.

Valentich: Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet, the aircraft has just passed over me at least a thousand feet above.

tmdofv_LARGE_005forweb
The conversation continued this way for some five minutes:

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne. It seems like it’s stationary. What I’m doing right now is orbiting and the thing is just orbiting on top of me. Also it’s got a green light and sort of metallic, like it’s all shiny on the outside.

The conversation finally concluded after Valentich reported engine trouble:

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, the engine is rough idling, I’ve got it set at twenty three twenty four and the thing is coughing.

(Twenty three twenty four means his engine power settings were typical.)

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, roger, what are your intentions?

Valentich: My intentions are to go to King Island. Melbourne, that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again… It is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet.

Valentich: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne…

Melbourne: Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne.

His final transmission was at 7:12pm and 28 seconds. Melbourne declared an alert, which was escalated to a distress situation 21 minutes later.

Before we accept the popular explanation that Frederick and his airplane were abducted by a UFO, it’s necessary to point out that a few things were fishy.

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New film puts Al Gore’s ‘climate reality’ nonsense about climate and carbon tax into perspective

Watts Up With That?

valentine_DVDI received a copy of this film by mail, An Inconsistent Truthand despite my misgivings about the name of the production company “Extry Good” and it’s talk-radio pedigree, I’ll have to say its better than many other efforts I’ve seen. It has a number of themes familiar to WUWT readers, such as the Climategate issue, the hypocrisy of Gore, and Mann’s hockey stick nonsense, but misses the mark on the “hide the decline” issue when it talks about scientists hiding declining global temperatures, versus the real issue of hiding the declining tree ring proxy record.

Still, compared to some of the blunders Al Gore has made, such as the Earth’s core temperature is “millions of degrees” or the outright lie where he faked a CO2 experiment in post production and refuses to correct it two years later, I’ll give them a pass on this confusing global temps versus…

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10 Creepy Urban Legends From Around The USA

By Olivia Anderson via Listverse

Admit it, you still get a chill when you think back to the urban legends of your youth. Every child hears the stories: masked maniacs, ghosts, alien abductions. And they all must be true, because they totally happened to a friend of a friend’s cousin’s girlfriend. Why would you need more proof than that?

10 • The Suscan Screamer

152124134-e1382269847990_250pxIs there anything creepier than a dead bride? Apparently not, because stories of these tragic ladies crop up all over the world. On Suscan Road in Pennsylvania, under what used to be called the Susquehanna Railroad Bridge, yet another of these legends has taken hold. According to many locals, if you drive onto the bridge, turn off your car, put the keys on the roof, and wait, you will be able to see the Suscan Screamer in your rearview mirror.

Most stories agree that she is the ghost of a woman who hung herself on the bridge after being dumped at the altar. She was supposed to have screamed loudly as as jumped to her death. But there are other stories from the same area, including a creature that had “webbed feet with long claws and had a huge head.”

Bigfoot-like encounters are also allegedly common in the region. Maybe someone should ask the dead bride if she’s seen anything suspicious the next time she pops into their backseat.

9 • Lillian Gray

victim-of-the-beast_250pxThis legend all started thanks to a tombstone located in the middle of a cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah. It belongs to a woman named Lillian E. Gray, who died in the 1950s at the age of 77. At first glance, it doesn’t look any different from the other graves surrounding it. Nothing catches the eye until you see the inscription written underneath: “Victim of the Beast 666.”

Now that is a bit unusual.

What could this enigmatic statement mean? Is it some kind of accusation, made by the believers in one of the most religious cities in the nation? Could she have been sacrificed by a Satanic cult? Was she a devil worshiper herself? An innocent woman punished in a Salem-style witch hunt? Those are only some of the rumors intrigued citizens have come up with to explain it.

Of course, there are always those who have to come along and ruin the fun. It looks like the inscription was commissioned by the woman’s paranoid, anti-government husband, who blamed the police for her death. It is hard to say whether that makes the whole thing less creepy, or more so.

8 • The Ghost Of Stow Lake

dead-in-the-water_250pxGolden Gate Park in San Francisco, California is pretty well-known for its paranormal stories. If you believe locals, it is so full of spirits that you run the risk of crashing straight into one while jogging. They might as well rename it “No One Is Alive Here Park.” But one ghost story has been the most popular and circulated, ever since it appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 6, 1908. That’s the story of the Ghost of Stow Lake.

The newspaper piece starts with a man named Arthur Pigeon. He was going just a bit too fast in his car when he was pulled over by police. But he told the officers it wasn’t his fault, as he was trying to get away! He claimed to have seen the ghost of a woman at Stow Lake. She had “long, fair hair and was barefooted.”

The legends always claim this woman was a mother who lost a child, or else killed her child and then herself. America seems to be full of women offing themselves and their offspring.

7 • Bobby Mackey’s Hell Portal

mackeys_zoom_250pxBobby Mackey’s Music World is a popular honky-tonk bar in Wilder, Kentucky, owned by country singer Bobby Mackey. There are three associated urban legends that have become so popular they are now considered a selling point for the establishment.

The first is that there is an actual portal to Hell located in the Well Room, which allows demons to come into our realm. It isn’t clear why they would want to. Maybe they are really into country ballads and overpriced beer.

As for the two other stories, they are more traditional hauntings. First, you have Pearl Bryan, a real pregnant woman who was found decapitated in the late 19th century. Her lover Scott Jackson and his friend Alonzo Walling were hanged for her murder. Second is the legend of a woman named Johanna, who is said to have fallen in love with a singer at a club that used to exist behind Music World. Her angry father supposedly hanged her lover in his dressing room, leading her to poison herself in retribution. Bobby Mackey wrote a song about the incident, which strongly suggests she is still haunting his bar.

6 • Patterson Road

gettysghosts_250pxIn Houston, Texas, cultural memories of the Civil War have sparked numerous urban legends. One of the creepiest is centered around Patterson Road, located near Highway Six.

The claims here tend to differ, depending on whom you ask. However, everyone agrees that the ghosts involved were Civil War soldiers. Because, as we all know, every bit of land someone from that period walked across has become a ghostly hot spot by default.

Believers say that if you go onto the Langham Creek Bridge on Patterson at night and park your car with the lights off, you will hear tapping or see a mist surround your car. More skeptical locals will point out that parking your car with your lights off on a busy bridge is a good way to become a ghost yourself.

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Bad Thinking Makes Bad Things Happen

by Jamy Ian Swiss via Bad Thinking Makes Bad Things Happen

The Secret teaches that victims are always to blame, and that anyone can have anything simply by wishing.

“The Secret teaches that victims are always to blame, and that anyone can have anything simply by wishing.” – Brian Dunning

For a moment there that headline might seem like preaching the converse of “The Secret”, the toxically ignorant book promoted by the toxically ignorant Oprah. But this isn’t about the notion that thinking bad – or good – thoughts produces bad or good results. That notion is just plain dumb. (It’s also hateful because it inescapably claims that bad things happen to people because they don’t think good thoughts.)

What I mean by “bad thinking” here however is poor thinking – the inability to think critically, the inability to understand or effectively utilize science and scientific reasoning. And when that kind of bad thinking is in effect, then in fact, very bad things do happen. Not to mention: to good people. And their children.

This was evidenced yet again a few weeks ago when a study published in the journal “Pediatrics” provided further evidence that the 2010 pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak in California was partly the result of increased numbers of parents opting out of vaccinating their children.

Sometimes too much education, too much disposable income, too much free time and above all, too much good medicine and good health, can lead otherwise seemingly intelligent people to make appallingly ignorant and hazardous choices. That appears to be the case evidenced by the new study. According to a story at salon.com (quoting a report on NPR):

“… a community loses herd immunity after the vaccination rate drops below 95 percent. In 2010, only 91 percent of California kindergarteners were up to date on their shots. The researchers found that in some neighborhoods, especially those with high income and education levels, exemption rates were as high as 75 percent.”

The significant point to understand about herd immunity is that the greater percentage of vaccinated community members in turn helps protect infants, who are too young to be vaccinated, and anyone else unable to safely be given the vaccine, from contracting the disease.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

Guess which child was vaccinated.

A piece in “Scientific American” points out that, “Unvaccinated individuals in the 2010 epidemic were eight times more likely to contract pertussis than vaccinated ones. But unvaccinated individuals pose risks to the community as well. ‘It’s a choice you make for yourself and a choice you make for those around you,’ Offit [Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia] says. “Infants need those around them to be protected in order not to get sick. We have a moral and ethical responsibility to our neighbors as well as to ourselves and our children.’”

So bad thinking does make bad things happen – and in this case, not just to the people doing the bad thinking, but to other people, and to other people’s children – and since I live in San Diego, my children are at risk thanks to that bad thinking. If you don’t think that science education and critical thinking skills are important, think again. If you don’t think the skeptic movement does important work, think again. If you don’t think that educating people about how to think about psychics and Bigfoot claims has a direct connection to the unnecessary medical risk my children face thanks to bad thinking – think again.

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The Business Plot

via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

By all accounts, General Smedley Butler was a national hero. So when he told Congress that a group of businessmen were perilously close to overthrowing the US government, lawmakers took him seriously. Tune in and learn what happened next in this episode.

10 Weird Ways Your Brain Is Tricking You

Gregory Myers via Listverse

Our brain decides how we perceive everything around us. It informs our decisions, guiding us carefully through the fog that is the world around us . . . except for when it lies to us. You see, our brains are fickle friends and love to play games. Often, what we think is true is actually just our brains messing with us.

10 • Semantic Satiation

Semantic-e1382262909875_200pxHave you ever repeated a word several times and found that, after a while, it started to lose meaning? If you have, you needn’t worry—scientists have studied this phenomenon and call it semantic satiation. Studies found that as you repeat a word, your brain becomes satiated and you start to get confused about what the word even means. You see, normally when you say a word (e.g., “pen”), your brain finds the semantic information for a pen and connects the two things together. However, counter-intuitively, if you repeat the word a number of times in quick succession, your brain becomes less able to connect it with that semantic information each time.

Researchers have found practical uses for this information beyond just amusing themselves with how easily we trick ourselves—by using semantic satiation in a controlled environment, they have been able to help those who stutter, and in one case were able to help someone with coprolalia, the uncontrollable cursing sometimes associated with Tourette’s syndrome, by having him repeat his favorite curse words over and over.

9 • Peripheral Theory Of Emotion

Fear-e1382262952591_200pxLet’s say you finally get to go on that camping trip you’ve been putting off for a long time. You enjoy a long day of hiking, fishing, and other activities, then go to your tent to get some rest for the next day. When you wake up in the morning, you realize that something is horribly wrong—to be more precise, there is a bear in your tent. You might imagine that the first thing you’d feel is fear, which would result in a rapid heartbeat. But, once again, your brain is deceiving you.

According to James Lange’s theory of emotion, it actually works the other way around. His peripheral theory states that when you see the bear, your heart starts to beat faster, and only then does your brain start to think it must be afraid and send out fear signals. Those who study emotion have not been able to disprove the theory thus far, although some believe emotional responses are more of a loop.

8 • Earworms

Earworm-e1382263255348_200pxHave you ever had something incredibly terrible yet catchy stuck in your head for days at a time? Well, now you have a name for this horrible phenomenon, which scientists have dubbed an “earworm.” The explanation some scientists give basically involves your brain getting stuck in a loop. You probably remember one verse of whatever catchy song you are stuck with almost perfectly, but don’t know the rest of the song as well. After singing the first verse, your brain tries to move on to the next, but doesn’t know the rest of the song. Because your brain likes to go back to unfinished thoughts, it gets stuck in a loop, continually trying to start again and finish the song. After presumably struggling to get the Spice Girls out of their heads, a group of scientists were determined to find out how to break this spell. After a lot of study, their advice is a sort of Goldilocks philosophy—you need to focus on a cognitive activity that isn’t too easy or too hard. They suggest solving anagrams or reading a novel.

7 • Moral Dumbfounding

Moral-e1382262990179_200pxMost of us have strong opinions on issues like cannibalism and incest, with the majority of us considering them to be morally wrong. However, researchers have found that, when asked about these issues, most people’s brains sit there sluggishly, unable to come up with an appropriate response, even though the behaviors in question are considered taboo by most modern societies. This phenomenon is termed moral dumbfounding—quite simply, the subjects were “struck dumb” and unable to properly explain why they felt so strongly about an issue.

One of the scenarios described someone working with a body that was going to be cremated anyway and taking a small chunk of flesh home with her to eat. She made sure to cook it thoroughly to remove any diseases. Another told of an adult brother and sister who were on vacation and decided to get freaky, making sure they used protection. The participants were asked if what these people had done was wrong, then asked to explain why. The researchers found that people felt very strongly that these behaviors were morally wrong, but struggled mightily to verbalize their reasoning. Research has not yet explained why this response occurs. It may be that society’s taboos are simply ingrained into our consciousness so deeply that we feel a powerful moral drive against them even though we cannot logically explain why.

6 • The GPS Effect

GPS-e1382263076492_200pxDo you rely on your GPS to get everywhere? Do you even use it to navigate to familiar places? If so, perhaps you might want to consider using it less. It turns out that using GPS is an easy way to lull ourselves into a false sense of security and lose our sense of direction—too much use of GPS actually makes it harder for us to create spatial maps. Even worse, some researchers believe that if we don’t use our spatial abilities regularly, it could lead to a higher risk of early-onset dementia. The researchers suggest that we use GPS only when we don’t know the route, and use it more as a tool than a crutch.

On a more positive note, it turns out that constantly using our spatial abilities makes our brains stronger. London cabbies have to go through an extremely rigorous process to learn their routes, which only cover a 9.5-kilometer (6 mi) radius but include 25,000 streets with 320 separate routes and about 20,000 different points of interest. Researchers studying London cabbies found that not only seasoned veterans but also those who had only just taken the training had an increase in grey matter in the brain. Scientists believe the more important implication of this study is that it shows the human brain is extremely good at adapting well into adulthood.

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Free Energy and the Casimir Effect

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

Free energy is to physics was creationism is to evolutionary biology. Both offer a teaching moment when you try to explain why proponents are so horribly wrong.

Free energy proponents have been abusing the laws of thermodynamics (come to think of it, so have creationists), and more recently quantum effects ala zero-point-energy. Now they are distorting a new principle of physics to justify their claims – perpetual motion 7043Bthe Casimir effect. Apparently this was a hot topic at the Breakthrough Energy Conference earlier this month.

Before I get into the specifics, I do want to address the general conspiratorial tones of the free-energy movement. I wonder if anyone influential in the free-energy subculture realizes that their conspiracy-mongering over free energy is perhaps the greatest barrier to their being taken seriously. There is also the fact that they get the science wrong, but if they think they are doing cutting edge science (rather than crank science), then convince us with science and ditch the conspiracy nonsense.

Here is the opening paragraph from a recent blog pushing the Casimir effect as a source of free energy:

Who is benefiting from suppressing scientific research? Whose power and wealth is threatened by access to clean and free energy? Who has the desire to create a system where so few have so much, and so many have so little?

OK – you lost me right there. This is a naive child’s view of the world, where “the adults” form a monolithic inscrutable force controlling the world. When you actually become an adult you may realize that no one has total control. No one and no institution is that competent, powerful, and pervasive. It would take an obviously totalitarian state to exert that much control.

FreeEnergy_Logo1_200pxIf free energy were real, someone would be making it happen. Ironically the very existence of the free-energy movement proves their own conspiracy theories wrong. If a company could produce a genuine free-energy machine, they would, and they would become the wealthiest company in the world. Further, free energy would improve everyone’s quality of life. No matter who you are, your life would become better with free energy.

Free energy proponents, apparently, would rather believe the world is run by megalomaniacs who are simultaneously brilliant (in executing their conspiracy) and idiotic (in wanting to execute their conspiracy) rather than entertain the possibility that they have the science wrong.

The Casimir Effect

casimir effectScientific American has a good quick discussion of what the Casimir effect is. The Casimir effect is related to zero point energy, which refers to the fact that a perfect vacuum in space still contains energy in quantum fluctuations. This is sometimes referred to as the quantum foam, out of which virtual particles are created and destroyed.

This quantum vacuum energy exists as various wavelengths – in fact, infinite wavelengths. When you place two mirror facing each other in a vacuum, some of these waves will fit in the space between and some will not. This creates a situation in which there is more energy in the vacuum outside the mirrors then between them, which in turn results in a tiny force attracting the two mirrors together.

This effect was predicted by Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir in 1948, and later confirmed by experimentation. I must emphasize that this force is extremely tiny.

Here is where the free-energy gurus, however, have their fun. Our current understanding of quantum effects predicts that there is an infinite amount of this zero-point energy in the vacuum. Imagine if we could somehow tap into that energy – infinite free energy. You can see why this is an exciting idea.

There are two problems with zero-point energy as a source of free energy, however.

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The psychology of spiritualism: science and seances

The idea of summoning the spirits took thrilling hold of the Victorian imagination – and has its adherents now. But the psychology behind spiritualism is more intriguing

By via The Observer

A Seance scene in the classic German silent film Dr Mabuse (1922), directed by Fritz Lang. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

A Seance scene in the classic German silent film Dr Mabuse (1922), directed by Fritz Lang. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

As the evenings get darker and the first hint of winter hangs in the air, the western world enters the season of the dead. It begins with Halloween, continues with All Saints’ and All Souls’ days, runs through Bonfire Night – the evening where the English burn effigies of historical terrorists – and ends with Remembrance Day. And through it all, Britain’s mediums enjoy one of their busiest times of the year.

People who claim to contact the spirit world provoke extreme reactions. For some, mediums offer comfort and mystery in a dull world. For others they are fraudsters or unwitting fakes, exploiting the vulnerable and bereaved. But to a small group of psychologists, the rituals of the seance and the medium are opening up insights into the mind, shedding light on the power of suggestion and even questioning the nature of free will.

Humanity has been attempting to commune with the dead since ancient times. As far back as Leviticus, the Old Testament God actively forbade people to seek out mediums. Interest peaked in the 19th century, a time when religion and rationality were clashing like never before. In an era of unprecedented scientific discovery, some churchgoers began to seek evidence for their beliefs.

Katy and Maggie Fox

Katy and Maggie Fox

Salvation came from two American sisters, 11-year-old Kate and 14-year-old Margaret Fox. On 31 March 1848, the girls announced they were going to contact the spirit world. To the astonishment of their parents they got a reply. That night, the Fox sisters chatted to a ghost haunting their New York State home, using a code of one tap for yes, two gaps for no. Word spread and soon the girls were demonstrating their skills to 400 locals in the town hall.

Within months a new religion had emerged – spiritualism – a mixture of liberal, nonconformist values and fireside chats with dead people. Spiritualism attracted some of the great thinkers of the day – including biologist Alfred Russel Wallace and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who spent his latter years promoting spiritualism in between knocking out Sherlock Holmes stories. Even the admission of the Fox sisters in 1888 that they had faked it all failed to crush the movement. Today spiritualism thrives in more than 350 churches in Britain.

The tricks and techniques used by mediums have been exposed many times by people such as James Randi, Derren Brown and Jon Dennis, creator of the Bad Pyschics website.

Last week I spent 40 minutes with a telephone spiritualist who passed on messages from four dead people. Like all mediums, she was skilled at cold reading – the use of probable guesses and picking up of cues to steer her in the right direction. If she hit a dud – the suggestion that she was in the presence of a 40-year-old uncle of mine – she quickly widened it out. psychic 856_250pxThe 40-year-old became an older person who felt young at heart. And then someone who was more of an uncle figure. She was also skilled at the Barnum effect – the use of statements that tend to be true for everyone.

Among dozens of guesses and misses, there was just one hit – the correct name of a dead relative. Their relation to me was utterly wrong, as were details of their health. But the name was right and, even though it was a common name among that person’s generation, it was a briefly chilling moment.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist and magician, says my response to this lucky guess is typical. People tend to remember the correct details in a seance but overlook statements or events that provide no evidence of paranormal powers.

Wiseman’s work has also shown that we are all extremely susceptible to the power of suggestion.

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▶ Who owns the Federal Reserve?

via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

Through the management of currency and interest, the Federal Reserve attempts to keep banks secure — but some believe it has another purpose. Tune in and learn about the origins of the Fed in this episode.

5 Things I’ve noticed about… Conspiracy Theorists on Youtube

by via The Soap Box

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 8.46.56 PM_250pxIf you’re someone that makes a hobby of investigating conspiracy theories, you will eventually be lead to one place: Youtube.

Youtube seems to the gathering center conspiracy theorists on the internet due to the huge amount a conspiracy theory videos on that website (and I mean huge).

Now there are a lot of things that I have noticed about conspiracy theorists on Youtube that I could talk about, but I have narrowed it down to five different things.

So here are five things that I’ve noticed about conspiracy theorists on Youtube:

5. They can come up with some pretty bizarre conspiracy theories.

If you want to find a really bizarre conspiracy theory, then there is no better place to look than Youtube, because the conspiracy theorists on that website can come up with some very bizarre conspiracy theories. In fact some of the weirdest conspiracy theories that I have ever heard of are from videos on Youtube.

These conspiracy theories on Youtube can get so strange, and combined with a person’s own behavior either in a video, or in the comments section, that it makes one wonder if that person is either a poe, or a fraud that is looking for attention (or to scam people), or severely mentally ill. In fact some conspiracy theorist on Youtube have been proven to be either mentally ill or frauds.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 8.48.33 PM_200pxSome of these videos are so bizarre that I’ve had to stop watching them at times because I felt that it was driving me crazy (mostly rage) and making me want to destroy my computer in frustration over not only how some one could come up with some thing that crazy and stupid, but also in frustration over why Youtube would allow such a video to stay on the website.

If such videos make me nearly go crazy then I can’t imagine what they do to people who take these videos seriously.

4. Their videos can be extremely long.

Sometimes a conspiracy theorist’s video on Youtube can be short, sometimes they can be half an hour long, and sometimes they can go on for hours and hours.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 8.50.48 PMSome of the longest videos that I have ever seen on Youtube have been from conspiracy theorists, and I’m not talking about an hour or two long. Some of these videos can be three to four to six hours long. In fact I think the longest one I have ever seen (I didn’t actually watch it, I just noted the time) was forty hours long!

The only way someone could watch such videos is if they were unemployed and/or had no life what so ever. They would have to spend all of their time infront of a computer watching these poorly made and researched Youtube videos which would become essentially their only source of information about the world…

Besides just making abnormally long videos, conspiracy theorists on Youtube also tend to do this:

3. They create videos of an event quickly after an event happens.

Thanks mostly due to cheap (many times free), widely available, and easy to use video capturing and editing software, conspiracy theorist can now create videos at astonishingly amazing speeds after some event happens, sometimes even within hours of an event happening.

Usually these videos are . . .

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Mystery Radar Blob Reveals Odd Man-Made Phenomenon

An image of a mysterious blob seen in weather radar on June 4, 2013, in Huntsville, Ala. Credit: Baron Services

An image of a mysterious blob seen in weather radar on June 4, 2013, in Huntsville, Ala.
Credit: Baron Services

Back in June 2013 a radar anomaly appeared on weather radars in the vicinity of Huntsville, Ala.

US radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

US radio host and conspiracy loon Alex Jones

This prompted the usual list of conspiracists to spew their usual inane theories, like the psychotics over at InfoWars (PDF copy here) speculating that the blob with a “strong chemical smell” could be Chinook helicopters, HAARP, chemtrails, military-industrial complex companies, or geoengineering technologies. So mysterious is this phenomenon that the author of this article declared, “we won’t ever find out what it is because it’s probably a result of a military test.”

Pure geniius. Talk about throwing cooked spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.

But as usual, the explanation is completely benign. Read below.

Mason I. Bildernerg (MIB)

By Jeanna Bryner via LiveScience

On June 4, meteorologists in Huntsville, Ala., noticed a “blob” on their radar screen that looked like a strong thunderstorm, despite the fact the sun was shining and not a drop of rain could be found within a few hundred miles. After some sleuthing, and several wacky explanations, the scientists have identified the culprit.

“Our operational meteorologist spotted it on radar immediately and initially thought he was caught off-guard by a pop-up thunderstorm that wasn’t in the forecast,” Matthew Havin, data services manager at weather technology company Baron Services, told LiveScience in an email. “Soon after that point we had numerous people from around Huntsville (and even other meteorologists from other states) calling and e-mailing us trying to determine what was going on at the time.”

A U.S. Air Force AC-130 Gunship aircraft executes an evasive maneuver and drops chaff and flares during a firepower demonstration at the Nevada Test and Training Range in Nevada on Sept. 14, 2007. Image credit: http://contrailscience.com

A U.S. Air Force AC-130 Gunship aircraft executes an evasive maneuver and drops chaff and flares during a firepower demonstration at the Nevada Test and Training Range in Nevada on Sept. 14, 2007.
Image credit: http://contrailscience.com

And some of the theories put forth to explain the mysterious blob were doozies, from the conspiracy theory that it was the result of a top-secret ground-based transmitter to interference from a nearby utilities substation.

“My favorite explanation that we heard right away from someone in the general public was that it was caused by 1,000 ladybugs that were released by the Huntsville Botanical Garden earlier that morning,” Havin said. “It would take many millions of ladybugs to really show up on a weather radar, and it wouldn’t look the same as what we were seeing,” said Havin, who described the radar-blob tale at the annual meeting of the National Weather Association this month in Charleston, S.C.

When the team looked at the blob using standard weather radar, all indications were it was a strong thunderstorm. Then they turned to so-called dual-polarity technology developed in the last few years by the National Weather Service. This advanced radar allows scientists to scan in both the horizontal and vertical directions.

They found the blob was not nature-made, after all, and was likely so-called military chaff, or reflective particles used to test military radar.

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▶ Honda Illusions, An Impossible Made Possible

If you know me, you’ll know why i love this video – i love optical illusions. Check it out.

MIB


Via HondaVideo – YouTube.


Here is how they created these effects:

The Evil Eye: Meaning of the Curse & Protection Against It

By Benjamin Radford via LiveScience

If we accidentally cut someone off in traffic, we may get a scowl or menacing glare in return. For most of us it is soon shrugged off, but in many places the evil eye is taken very seriously.

evil-eye_250pxThe evil eye is a human look believed to cause harm to someone or something else. The supernatural harm may come in the form of anything from a minor misfortune to disease, injury or even death. Folklorist Alan Dundes, in his edited volume “The Evil Eye: A Casebook,” notes that “the victim’s good fortune, good health, or good looks — or unguarded comments about them — invite or provoke an attack by someone with the evil eye. If the object attacked is animate, it may fall ill. … Symptoms of illness caused by the evil eye include loss of appetite, excessive yawning, hiccups, vomiting, and fever. If the object attacked is a cow, its milk may dry up; if a plant or fruit tree, it may suddenly wither and die.”

It can even affect objects and buildings: The evil eye cast upon a vehicle may cause it to break down irreparably, while a house so cursed may soon develop a leaky roof or an insect infestation. Just about anything that goes wrong (for any reason, or no reason at all) may be blamed on the power of the evil eye.

Eye in history

The evil eye is well known throughout history. It is mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman texts, as well as in many famous literary works, including the Bible (Proverbs 23:6: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats”), the Koran and Shakespeare.

The evil eye is essentially a specific type of magical curse, and has its roots in magical thinking and superstition.

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World Trade Center 7: The Lies Come Crashing Down

Was the collapse of 7 World Trade Center actually a controlled demolition?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast (2008). Read transcript below or listen here.

Today we’re going to point our skeptical eye, once again, at the events of September 11, specifically at World Trade Center 7, the building that collapsed after the twin towers for no apparent reason, in a manner consistent with a controlled demolition. We’re entering the weird wild and wacky world of conspiracy theories, men in black, deceit, doubt, mistrust, and delusion. But on which side?

First let’s be clear about what the two sides are, then we’ll examine the evidence supporting each of them.

 Graphic showing the buckling of WTC 7 Column 79 (circled area), the local failure identified as the initiating event in the building's progressive collapse. Credit: NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory View hi-resolution image


Graphic showing the buckling of WTC 7 Column 79 (circled area), the local failure identified as the initiating event in the building’s progressive collapse.
Credit: NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory
View hi-resolution image

The conspiracy theory states that World Trade Center 7 was a controlled demolition, an intentional destruction of the building by our government. The evidence supporting this theory is threefold: First, the video of the collapse and the tidy distribution of the resultant debris appear consistent with known controlled demolitions. Second, photographs of the building before it collapsed showed little or no damage to cause a collapse. Third, fire alone cannot destroy a steel building, and so the cause must lie in high-energy explosives. A great deal more information is put forward by the supporters of this theory as evidence, but it’s really only suppositions about proposed motives and observations of events perceived as unusual, and so is actually not testable evidence of a direct physical cause. This information includes government offices located in the building, the establishment of Giuliani’s emergency management headquarters on the 23rd floor, and portions of the government’s preliminary reports that openly stated that certain unknowns remained.

The competing theory is found in those very same government reports. The first, a preliminary report issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) only eight months after the event, concluded that fires on the 5th through 7th floors caused the collapse, but infamously noted:

The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence. Further research, investigation, and analyses are needed to resolve this issue.

Three years later, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a working draft of the complete theory, scheduled to be finished in 2008. (IllumiNuTTi Note: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released their Final Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 on November 20, 2008 [Web page here] [PDF file here]) This report states that the building suffered two major failures, either of which could have been survived on its own, but not in combination. The first failure was severe damage to ten stories of the south side of the building, dramatically shown in a single frame of video from an ABC news helicopter, which destroyed several major columns. The second failure was the fire, fed in part by diesel generator fuel from high pressure tanks, which proceeded unfought for seven hours due to a lack of water pressure, and caused terminal weakening in the remaining columns that were already overloaded from the loss of the initial columns. Firefighters noted a growing bulge between the 10th and 13th floors and major structural creaking sounds, and finally evacuated. Two hours later, the east wall began to crack and bow. The east penthouse sank into the structure, and eight seconds later, the northeast corner fell, bringing the rest of the building down on top of it.

No evidence of any explosives were ever found, but the conspiracy theory states that this is because the government took away all the debris before it could be independently tested. Since it’s normal for debris to be removed following any such destruction, this particular piece of information is too ambiguous to be given serious weight as proof of a conspiracy.

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Related:

Hitchen’s Razor

Hitchen's Razor

Dragon Video

steven_novellaby Steven Novella via Skepticblog

These make for light-hearted posts, but occasionally it’s fun to deconstruct viral videos purporting to show something fantastical on the internet. Most such videos are one of the big three – ghosts, UFOs or Bigfoot (or some other cryptozoological creature).

dragon_250pxThe current video is in the cryptozoological category – a video purporting to show a dragon flying through the skies of Truro England.

Obviously the prior-probability here is vanishingly small, and so it would take a very compelling video to have any chance of being taken seriously, and this video does not come close. Before I take a close look at the video itself, let’s explore the plausibility of the claim.

Dragons are gigantic flying predators, at least in their current Western cultural image. Such creatures if they existed would be voracious. Flying is a high-energy activity and animals pay for the benefits of flight by needing to eat incredible amounts of calories. Bald eagles, for example, eat about 10% of their body weight per day. If we extrapolate that to a dragon, even if light for its size so it can fly, would require hundreds of pounds of food per day.

Each dragon would require a large hunting territory. If there is even a minimal breeding population of dragons, they would frequently be seen in the skies hunting for prey or carrion. Saying they live underground or are stealthy hunters, first is an argument from ignorance to explain a lack of evidence. green_dragon-20112027Further, it is not plausible such creatures could survive under ground (and why would they fly), and you can only be so stealthy when you are that size.

There are also the usual objective to cryptozoological creatures – why are there no specimens of such creatures, no bones, no carcasses, no nests, scat, or remains of their eating? We can invent a special reason why each bit of evidence is lacking, but Occam favors the conclusion that these creatures just don’t exist.

We also have the historical record of dragons, meaning their existence in culture, as a guide. We can clearly see the image of dragons evolve over time, going in different directions in different cultures. Real creatures have a more stable representation in art over time – the artistic style may evolve, but a lion is always a lion. (Here, of course, I am talking about historical time frames of hundreds of years, not evolutionary time scales.)

The Video

It is reasonable to conclude from existing evidence that dragons probably do not exist (as cool as it would be if they did), but let’s take a look at the video with an open, but critical, mind.

MORE . . . (video) . . .

All About Fluoridation

By Brian Dunning via inFact – YouTube

Municipal fluoridation of drinking water is done nearly everywhere, but some communities are starting to reject it. Is this based on sound science, or on unfounded fears? http://infactvideo.com

▶ James Randi – Fighting the Fakers

Via ▶ James Randi – YouTube

James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Randi has pursued “psychic” spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water “with a memory,” and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in the name of the supernatural. He is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural.

Is that a FEMA Camp? – October 13, 2013

Is that a FEMA Camp? is a blog dedicated to investigating claims of FEMA camp locations.
transparent
Below is some of their findings. Enjoy :)
FEMA 733_200px

October 13, 2013

Carswell AFB, Texas

The claim: Fort Worth, 3,274

What it really is:USNAS-Carswell_200px The Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base (formerly known as Carswell Air Force Base) is a military air field operated by the Navy Reserve.While the base is operation by the Navy, it is also used by the Air Force, the Marines, and the Texas Air National Guard, and also employees civilian personnel as well.

The base itself is also surround by residential areas.

Oak Ridge Reservation, Tennessee

The claim: Oak Ridge, 35,252

What it really is: The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest science and energy national laboratory in the Department of Energy, and partners with the state of Tennessee, universities, and industries to solve challenges in energy, advanced materials, manufacturing, security and physics.The facility is also home to several of the world’s top supercomputers.

Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc., Tennessee

The claim: Erwin, 66

What it really is: Nuclear Fuel Services it a private company that provides fuel for the Navy’s nuclear powered ships, and also converts weapons grade uranium into fuel for nuclear reactors.

Holston Army Ammunition Plant, Tennessee

The claim: Kingsport, 6,020

What it really is:Holston_AAP_Sign_200px The Holston Army Ammunition Plant is a government-owned and contractor operated ammunition production and development facility.

The facility itself employees over 14,000 civilian and contractor personnel, but only 20 military personnel.

Arnold Engineering Development Center/Arnold AFB, Tennessee

The claim: Manchester, 40,118

What it really is: The Arnold Engineering Development Center is a Air Force ground based flight testing facility that is used for the testing and evaluating of aircraft, missile, and space systems and subsystems.

Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota

The claim: Rapid City, 10,632 (missile field covered an additional 18,000 sq. miles)

What it really is: Ellsworth Air Force Base is just your typical Air Force base in the middle of no where.

Using Google maps I can find nothing there that looks like a prison camp. Also there are a couple of towns next to the base, so it makes it highly unlikely that a prison camp could be hidden here.

Savannah River Site, South Carolina

The claim: Aiken, 198,400

What it really is:srs-entrance_250px The Savannah River Site is a nuclear reservation that is owned by the Department of Energy.

The site was built in the 1950’s for the refinement of nuclear materials in nuclear weapons, but none of the site’s reactors are currently operating.

The facility itself has been the site of major clean up operations.

Newport Naval Base/Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Rhode Island

The claim: Newport, 1,440

What it really is: Naval Station Newport is a typical Navy base, but also is home to multiple schools for the Navy as well, including the Naval War College and the Naval Justice School.

Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, Pennsylvania

The claim: West Mifflin, 160

What it really is: The Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory is a government owned research and development facility that’s sole purpose is the designing and development of nuclear power resources for the Navy.

Alternate Joint Communications Center (Site “R”), Pennsylvania

The claim:raven-rock-logo_200px near Waynesboro (inside Raven Rock Mountain), 6

What it really is: The Raven Rock Mountain Complex is a small communications facility that houses the emergency operations centers for the military and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

While the site itself is restricted from the public and and taking photographs of the site is restricted, the site itself can be easily viewed via Google Maps, and it shows nothing that even closely resembles a prison camp.

Click here for the latest findings at “Is that a FEMA Camp?”

Conspiracies: Five things they don’t want you to know

By Jesse Walker via The Boston Globe

Conspiracies 901_250pxIt might seem like we’re living at a uniquely rich moment for conspiracy theories. Over the last few years, we’ve seen it claimed that Osama bin Laden didn’t really die, that Barack Obama is covering up the true circumstances of his birth, that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have encoded Illuminati symbolism in their baby’s name, that the National Security Agency has been secretly intercepting Americans’ phone calls and e-mails—oh, wait. That last one’s true.

It’s easy to write off conspiracy theories as the delusions of the political fringe, a minor nuisance fueled by the rise of the Internet. Easy—and inaccurate. Conspiracy stories have been a major part of American life since Colonial days. They are not just found in the political extremes, and they are not invariably wrong. And even when they are wrong, as is so often true, they still have lessons to teach us. To understand why conspiracies matter, it helps to clear away some myths that have attached themselves to the subject.

Myth #1: People today are uniquely prone to believing conspiracy theories

youtube graduate_250pxA 2011 article in the British newspaper The Independent flatly declared that “there are more conspiracy theories and more conspiracy theory believers than ever before.” This, the reporter continued, was largely “because the internet has made it easy to propagate rumour and supposition on a global scale.” As an example, he cited a story that the Ku Klux Klan secretly owned KFC and was lacing “the food with a drug that makes only black men impotent.”

But there has never been an age when conspiracy theories were not popular. From Puritan fears that Satan was commanding a conspiracy of Indians to Thomas Jefferson’s concern that the British had “a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery,” from the assassination rumors that followed the death of President Zachary Taylor to the tales of subversion told during the Cold War, every significant event in American history has inspired conspiracy theories. And a lot of insignificant events have, too.

Some of those stories showed up in major media outlets, but others we know about only because social scientists took the time to collect them. Thanks to the sociologist Howard Odum, for example, who studied the stories circulating among Southerners in the 1940s, we know that there were people who believed, in one white person’s words, that “Hitler has told the Negroes he will give them the South for their help.” paranoid illuminati_250pxThe chief difference the Internet has made—other than allowing such stories, like any stories, to spread more quickly—is to make them more visible. Rumors that once were limited to a single subculture can spill out into the open. The volume and intensity of conspiracy fears haven’t necessarily increased; they’re just easier for outsiders to hear.

It’s telling that The Independent’s example of an Internet-fueled rumor actually predates the Internet age. The folklorist Patricia Turner first encountered the KFC story in the 1980s, though in the version she heard the villainous restaurant was supposed to be Church’s Chicken. She eventually determined that the rumor had been around since at least the ’70s. You can’t blame the Web for that.

Myth #2: Conspiracy theories always involve villains

It isn’t always scary to imagine a grand design. Sometimes it’s a comfort. People say “Everything happens for a reason” or “It’s all God’s plan” to soothe you, not to frighten you. And it’s just a small step from there to a worldview where the grand design is executed not by God but by a benevolent conspiracy.

Conspiracy folklore is filled with this sort of story, starring everyone from Rosicrucians to extraterrestrials to a hidden order of adepts based beneath Mount Shasta. The California writer Manly P. Hall, for example, believed the United States was being guided to a special destiny by an Order of the Quest, which had intervened in everything from Columbus’s voyage to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Myth #3: Conspiracy theories are just a feature of the fringe

paranoia 737_201pxIn the most widely read—or at least widely namechecked—study of political paranoia, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” the historian Richard Hofstadter called conspiracism “the preferred style only of minority movements.” Yet the mainstream regularly embraces conspiracy theories, some of which look deeply bizarre in retrospect.

Consider the great Satansim scare. In the 1980s, older tales about Satanic conspiracies collided with three secular fears: a wave of stories about missing children, a heightened concern with child abuse, and worries about religious cults. The result was a period when mainstream reporters and officials embraced the idea that a network of Satanists was kidnapping, molesting, and murdering American children.

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Here come the conspiracy theorists about JFK

Michael SmerconishBy  Michael Smerconish via The Columbus Dispatch

Nov. 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Get ready for more of this:

John F. Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy involving disgruntled CIA agents, anti-Castro Cubans, and members of the Mafia, all of whom were extremely angry at what they viewed as Kennedy’s appeasement policies toward Communist Cuba and the Soviet Union.”

ventura bookThat’s according to Jesse Ventura in his new book, They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK. Ventura’s “smoking gun” is a memo written three days after the assassination by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to Bill Moyers, an aide to newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial,” Katzenbach wrote.

Alone, it sounds ominous. But not when viewed in the context of the sentence that precedes it: “ It is important that all the facts surrounding President Kennedy’s assassination be made public in a way that will satisfy people in the United States and abroad that all of the facts have been told and that a statement to this effect be made now.”

JFK crosshairMy hunch is that Katzenbach was already anticipating that, 50 years later, guys like Ventura would seek to prosper by spinning yarns. Katzenbach died in 2012. But Moyers is still with us, and I asked him what he thought of the current use of the memo he was sent 50 years ago. He told me he hasn’t kept up with any of this since leaving the White House.

“Some of my old colleagues and I collaborated a few years ago in a protest to the History Channel over a scurrilous documentary about LBJ and the assassination, but that’s been the extent of the attention I’ve given it,” he said over email. “The Warren Commission settled the matter for me, and conspiracy theories of any kind have always seemed a waste of time. I don’t even believe George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks, and as a result am a constant target of those conspiracy theorists.”

When I recently asked Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, who fired the shots that killed Kennedy, he could not answer. (“That’s impossible. How can you ask me to do that?”) How many people were in on it? (“It’s hard to say.”)

Typical was this exchange between us:

MS: You wrote the book They Killed Our President. Who are “they”?

JV: No one will ever know, no one will ever know. All I know is, Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t.

Part of Ventura’s explanation is that Oswald had a body double. I kid you not.

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Asking the Socratic Questions

A line of reasoning named for Socrates helps us help believers in the strange re-examine their beliefs.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunningvia Asking the Socratic Questions

Read transcript below or listen here

SOCRATESOf all the possible perspectives, beliefs, theories, ideologies, and conclusions in this world, which of them are beyond question? None of them. And neither should be any person who holds one of those positions. People believe all sorts of strange things, and even though they might be passionate about them, most will still admit that questioning their belief is an appropriate undertaking. Therefore, we — as scientific skeptics — have an available avenue by which we can always encourage believers in the strange to revisit their beliefs. Despite the fact that we may lack professional expertise in the subject at hand, we can still plant the seeds of an uprising of logic within the mind of the believer. One way to do this is through the application of Socratic questioning.

Returning to our fake example guys used in the past, Starling and Bombo, we can illustrate this concept. Let us choose an example scenario. If Bombo has seen a UFO and believes that it was an alien spacecraft, it would likely be difficult for Starling to reason him out of the idea by offering alternative suggestions. People are often pretty stubborn when it comes to personal experiences that they’ve already interpreted for themselves; Bombo saw an alien spacecraft, and telling him it was the planet Venus would probably be a dead end. Indeed, even offering lines of logic for Bombo to follow on his own would probably be refused. So is there any effective way at all of getting someone to consider a different explanation?

wisdomquote_250pxThe answer is yes, and it involves getting Bombo to arrive at alternate explanations on his own. We’re all far more prone to accept our own ideas than someone else’s. Starling might well able to get Bombo to consider the idea that the UFO might not have been an alien spacecraft by employing Socratic questioning. Named (quite obviously) for Socrates — the ancient Greek philosopher (also quite obviously) — the Socratic questions are primarily teaching tools. Just as Bombo better accepts his own ideas, so do students of all types. Socratic questioning helps people to take a second, closer look at their own beliefs, and to apply critical thinking even when they least expect it.

There are six commonly described categories of Socratic questions, and they’re all good. You could familiarize yourself with any one of them, and you’d have a pretty good chance at changing Bombo’s mind, or that of anyone else who has made a conclusion based on faulty logic. An adept at all six types of questions would be a formidable reformer of popular pseudoscience believers.

Let’s begin with the first type:

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Image Authentication and Forensics – The Moon Landing Photos

By Hany Farid via Image Authentication and Forensics | Fourandsix Technologies

By some counts a surprising number of people believe that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax. These dis-believers point to, among other things, purported inconsistencies in some of the moon landing photos. I’ll describe the application of a new forensic technique that refutes some of these claims.

Shown below is the iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin in which the physical plausibility of the lighting and shadows has been called into question.

moonlanding

I have previously described how cast shadows in an image can be analyzed to determine if they are consistent with a single light source. In order to determine if shadows are authentic, we connect points on a shadow to their corresponding points on the object. These lines should all intersect at a single point (or in the special case, be parallel) — this point is the location of the light source projected into the image. The application of this forensic technique (as shown here) requires a clearly defined shadow to object pairing (e.g., the tip of a cone). Such shadows in the above photo are in short supply thus limiting the application of this forensic technique.

In collaboration with Dr. Eric Kee (Columbia University) and Prof. James O’Brien (UC Berkeley) we recently developed a new forensic technique that can be applied to ambiguously defined shadows [1]. In this analysis, we start at any point on a shadow and draw a wedge-shaped constraint that encompasses all parts of an object to which the shadow may correspond. Shown below is one such constraint. The constraint encompasses the entire sphere because there is no systematic way of reasoning about which part of the sphere is associated with a particular spot on the shadow.

moonlanding2

In the above figure, the shaded red region constrains the projected location of the light source. While obviously not as specific as a single line constraint, this approach allows us to analyze all cast shadows in an image.

Because we can now handle ambiguous shadow-object pairings, we can also exploit attached shadows to determine the location of the light source. An attached shadow occurs when an object occludes the light from itself (e.g., a non-full Moon). Shown below, for example, is an attached shadow on the sphere’s surface. The line that is tangent to an attached shadow constrains the projected location of the light source to be on the illuminated side of the object.

moonlanding3

Multiple cast and attached shadow constraints can be specified in an image. If the shadows are physically correct, then all of the constraints will share a common intersection (this consistency check is automatically determined using standard linear programming). Any violations of these constraints is evidence of photo tampering.

Shown below is the result of this new shadow analysis applied to the moon landing image. The cast shadow constraints are shown with solid red lines and the attached shadow constraints are shown with dashed lines. All of the constraints are consistent (the triangular region outlined in black denotes a common intersection). Despite some claims to the contrary, the lighting in this spectacular photo is physically consistent.

moonlanding_analysis

—————————-

[1] Eric Kee, James O’Brien and Hany Farid. Exposing Photo Manipulation with Inconsistent ShadowsACM Transactions on Graphics, 32(4):28:1-12, 2013.

[2] Eric Kee’s presentation at SIGGRAPH, 2013.


[END] via Image Authentication and Forensics | Fourandsix Technologies

Forty-Five Failed Alex Jones Predictions

By via disinformation (disinfo.com)

AlexJonesMoron_240pxBank runs in February 2009. 9/11-scale terror attacks in 2010. 50% of the U.S. population will be killed in a bio-weapons attack in 2009. 16 year-old soldiers will enforce nationwide martial law by 2012. A major terror attack will occur in the U.S. by the end of summer 2009 (oh, and it’s a false flag). The U.S. will go to war with Russia in 2009. Texas stores are being looted and National Guard troops are moving into Austin right this minute (December 31, 1999). The UN will announce the presence of ET intelligence during 2009 to stage a NWO takeover. The U.S. dollar will be devalued by 50% by 2012.

If you’re Alex Jones, you’re used to being wrong. But that doesn’t stop his wild-eyed fans from listening – there’s always another edge-of-your-seat, apocalyptic prediction coming down the pipeline, after all. In this highly entertaining mash-up, Alex Jones Clips runs down 45 of the most wild, failed Alex Jones predictions.


[END] via disinformation (disinfo.com)

6 Conspiracy Theories that have no reason to exist

by via The Soap Box

There are a lot conspiracy theories out there, most of which have no evidence to support the claims made, either because whatever evidence that has been put forth has been debunked, or no evidence has ever been put forth in the first place.

In fact there are some conspiracy theories that have no reason to continue to exist, or have no reason to exist in the first place, such as:

Moon Landing Hoax

nasa-moon-hoaxPerhaps one of the older conspiracy theories out there, there are a lot of people who do not believe we went to the Moon, and that all of the videos (the hundreds of hours worth) and photos (the many thousands of them) taken from the Moon were all done on a sound stage.

The reasoning behind this is that it is believed by people who claim we did not go to the Moon that we did not have the technology to go to the Moon.

The problem with this argument is that we actually did have the technology to get to the Moon. Also, as surprising as this may sound, we actually didn’t have the technology to fake going to the Moon.

There is also a ton of other evidence that says we did in fact go to the Moon, such as several tons worth of rocks and dirt that were brought back, the fact that not one of the hundreds of thousands of people who worked on the Moon landing project has ever said we didn’t go to the Moon, or that the Soviets never said that we didn’t get there, or the fact that the landing sites have been photographed by satellites orbiting the Moon.

9/11 conspiracy theories

airplane_500pxEver since that tragic day over 12 years ago there have been multiple conspiracy theories put forth concerning what happened that day, and while all of them tend to be different (from both who did it to how it was done) they all have one thing in common: They have all been debunked.

I know, a lot of people in the 9/11 “Truth” movement will say otherwise, and will claim that they have “evidence” that backs up their claims, the facts are is that when this so called evidence has been examined it’s been shown to be either incorrect, or completely false, and it is now seriously considered by skeptics and debunkers that the only reason why anyone would continue to make these 9/11 conspiracy theory claims is that they are either self deluded, or mentally ill, or they are lying.

Autism – MMR vaccine connection

Life before vaccinations

Life before vaccinations

Ever since 1998 when Andrew Wakefield wrote and published a “research” paper in The Lancet that concluded that there was a “connection” between the MMR vaccine and autism (research of which has since proven to be both unethical and fraudulent and resulted in both the research paper being formerly retracted and Mr. Wakefield’s name being removed from the General Medical Council, which is the British equivalency of having one’s medical license revoked) there has been a conspiracy theory going around concerning the alleged connection and vaccine manufactures trying to suppress such information.

Besides the fact that none of this “information” has ever been suppressed, it has been proven by multiple scientific and medical research institutions that there is no connection what so ever between any vaccines and autism, and that all of the claims made by the anti-vaccination movement are wrong and false (and dangerous).

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Morning Radio Host Interviews Psychic Chip Coffey and Puts Him to Shame

By Hemant Mehta via patheos.com

Cory Cove (left) and Chip Coffey

Cory Cove (left) and Chip Coffey

Cory Cove (a.k.a. “Sludge”), a morning talk show host on KFAN radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul, invited host of A&E’s “Psychic Kids” show Chip Coffey to the studio on Monday and they had the best exchange ever.

Normally, talk show hosts (like Montel Williams and Larry King) treat psychics with deference. They ask the psychics to make predictions, they “ooh” and “aah” at the specificity of the claims, and then they rarely, if ever, take them to task when those predictions fail.

Cove, on the other hand, used the 7-minute segment to call Coffey out on his bullshit. (Note: Coffey had previously told Cove that he would have a prostate problem, setting up this exchange.)

Listen Here:

Read MORE . . .

psychic-john-edward-2012-events_02

The Detoxification Myth

Everyone wants to “detoxify” their bodies. Is this for real?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Podcast transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to head into the bathroom and suck the toxins out of our bodies through our feet and through our bowels, and achieve a wonderful sense of wellness that medical science just hasn’t caught onto yet. Today’s topic is the myth of detoxification, as offered for sale by alternative practitioners and herbalists everywhere.

detox 853_250pxTo better understand this phenomenon, it’s necessary to define what they mean by toxins. Are they bacteria? Chemical pollutants? Trans fats? Heavy metals? To avoid being tested, they leave this pretty vague. Actual medical treatments will tell you exactly what they do and how they do it. Alternative detoxification therapies don’t do either one. They pretty much leave it up to the imagination of the patient to invent their own toxins. Most people who seek alternative therapy believe themselves to be afflicted by some kind of self-diagnosed poison; be it industrial chemicals, McDonald’s cheeseburgers, or fluoridated water. If the marketers leave their claims vague, a broader spectrum of patients will believe that the product will help them. And, of course, the word “toxin” is sufficiently scientific-sounding that it’s convincing enough by itself to many people.

Let’s assume that you work in a mine or a chemical plant and had some vocational accident, and fear that you might have heavy metal poisoning. What should you do? Any responsible person will go to a medical doctor for a blood test to find out for certain whether they have such poisoning. A person who avoids this step, because they prefer not to hear that the doctor can’t find anything, is not a sick person. He is a person who wants to be sick. Moreover, he wants to be sick in such a way that he can take control and self-medicate. He wants an imaginary illness, caused by imaginary toxins.

These mucoid plaque pills consist mainly of bentonite, an absorbent, expanding clay similar to kitty litter.

These mucoid plaque pills consist mainly of bentonite, an absorbent, expanding clay similar to kitty litter.

Now it’s fair for you to stop me at this point and call me out on my claim that these toxic conditions are imaginary. I will now tell you why I say that, and then as always, you should judge for yourself. Let’s start with one of the more graphic detoxification methods, gruesomely pictured on web sites and in chain emails. It’s a bowel cleansing pill, said to be herbal, which causes your intestines to produce long, rubbery, hideous looking snakes of bowel movements, which they call mucoid plaque. There are lots of pictures of these on the Internet, and sites that sell these pills are a great place to find them. Look at DrNatura.com, BlessedHerbs.com, and AriseAndShine.com, just for a start. Imagine how terrifying it would be to actually see one of those come out of your body. If you did, it would sure seem to confirm everything these web sites have warned about toxins building up in your intestines. But there’s more to it. As it turns out, any professional con artist would be thoroughly impressed to learn the secrets of mucoid plaque (and, incidentally, the term mucoid plaque was invented by these sellers; there is no such actual medical condition). These pills consist mainly of bentonite, an absorbent, expanding clay similar to kitty litter. Combined with psyllium, used in the production of mucilage polymer, bentonite forms a rubbery cast of your intestines when taken internally, mixed of course with whatever else your body is excreting. Surprise, a giant rubbery snake of toxins in your toilet.

It’s important to note that the only recorded instances of these “mucoid plaque” snakes in all of medical history come from the toilets of the victims of these cleansing pills. No gastroenterologist has ever encountered one in tens of millions of endoscopies, and no pathologist has ever found one during an autopsy. They do not exist until you take such a pill to form them. The pill creates the very condition that it claims to cure. And the results are so graphic and impressive that no victim would ever think to argue with the claim.

Victims, did I call them? Creating rubber casts of your bowels might be gross but I haven’t seen that it’s particularly dangerous, so why are they victims? A one month supply of these pills costs $88 from the web sites I mentioned. $88 for a few pennies worth of kitty litter in a pretty bottle promising herbal and organic cleansing. Yeah, they’re victims.

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JFK assassination conspiracy theory “blown out of the water” in new book, author says

jfkVia CBS News

(CBS News) It’s been nearly 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Questions still remain about whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or was part of a larger conspiracy.

Now there’s new evidence about that fateful day. It comes from a book called “The Kennedy Half-Century,” written by professor Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

From the moment shots rang out in Dealey Plaza the search for definitive answers in the Kennedy assassination has proved elusive. Was Oswald acting alone, or was he a member of a conspiracy?

JFK crosshairThe 888-page Warren Report issued in 1964 found no evidence that anyone assisted Oswald in planning or carrying out the assassination. The report had many critics and conspiracy theories multiplied over the years. Hundreds of books have been published about the case and dozens of documentaries and films, most notably Oliver Stone’s 1991 Academy Award-winning film “JFK.” But the strongest official confirmation for conspiracy buffs came in 1979 when the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that President Kennedy was “probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.” A key piece of evidence was an audio recording that the committee believed captured the sound of four gunshots being fired. One of the gunshots apparently came from a second location, the so-called Grassy Knoll, a patch of land that was ahead of the president’s limousine.

This year, political scientist Larry Sabato had the tapes re-analyzed using state-of-the-art technology. He says they do not capture gunshots at all, but the sounds of an idling motorcycle and the rattling of a microphone.
Anomolie
Sabato also says analysis of the recordings showed the sounds — which were of police radio transmissions — were not from Dealey Plaza, but from a location more than two miles away.

A new poll conducted as part of the book found 75 percent of Americans still reject the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald acted alone.

Sabato said on “CBS This Morning” his book has completely blown the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations report “out of the water.” He added, “Their evidence simply does not hold. And they concluded there was a conspiracy.

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▶ Who are the Nommo?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

The Dogon people are renowned for their artistic traditions — and their spiritual traditions are no less fascinating. But why did a French anthropologist believe they may have had contact with extraterrestrials? Tune in to learn more about the Nommo.

Acupuncture

via Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids

In a nutshell: Acupuncture is a kind of energy medicine. Needles are stuck into various parts of the body to unblock energy and bring back a balance of yin-yang. There is no scientific evidence for this energy or yin-yang.

caninectlgAcupuncture is the puncturing of the skin with sharp needles to unclog an invisible energy that some people think runs through everything in the universe.

Even though millions of people believe this energy, called chi (ch’i or ki, pronounced chee), and the forces of yin-yang, flow in the human body through pathways called meridians, scientists have never found chi, yin, yang, or the meridians in which they flow.

Yin and yang are ideas found in Chinese stories written long before the rise of science. To explain yin-yang Chinese writers sometimes point to how mountains can’t exist without bowlvalleys or the inside of a bowl (whose shape is concave) can’t exist without the outside of the bowl (whose shape is convex).

Some people believe that to be healthy you must have a balance of yin-yang. The acupuncturist sticks the needles in special points on the skin (called acupoints). Each point is chosen by what hurts the patient. For pain in the right cheek an acupoint might be on the left big toe or on the left ear.

ear_with_acupuncture_needles_200pxWhere did such a weird idea come from and why do so many people believe acupuncture is a good way to treat illness or pain?

Most people think acupuncture started in China thousands of years ago, but the truth is we don’t know when and where acupuncture began.

The word acupuncture isn’t Chinese, but Latin (acus=needle and punctura=a pricking). The first use of the word acupuncture that joined the idea of needling with chi, meridians, and yin-yang, was by a Frenchman named George Soulié de Morant (1878-1955). Morant spent nearly twenty years in China at the beginning of 20th century. For 40 years Morant traveled around Europe telling doctors about acupuncture.

the science says no

funny_medical_acupuncture_poster-rd59e5d04896c4a0a8f114cb47de682b6_wvk_8byvr_512_250pxBiology is the study of living things. There is no biological basis for acupuncture as a way to make people healthy. Still, many people around the world say acupuncture works. What they mean is that they feel better or think they feel better after getting acupuncture. Many scientific studies have shown that when patients are stuck in the wrong acupoints or aren’t even stuck at all (though they think they are being stuck), they say they feel better. If a scientist has only the word of those who got either real acupuncture or fake acupuncture, she would not be able to tell who got which. About the same number in each group will say it works.

If fake acupuncture works as well as real acupuncture, then something funny is going on. Many people who get acupuncture do get better, but maybe getting better has nothing to do with unblocking energy or sticking needles in acupoints. Fake acupuncture isn’t unblocking energy, but it works just as well as real acupuncture.

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Superstitious Nonsense that is Homeopathy (Quackery Awareness Week)

steven_novellaby Dr. Steve Novella via www.randi.org

In June of 2009 the British Homeopathic Association declared “homeopathy awareness week.” I obliged by writing a post making the public more aware of the superstitious nonsense that is homeopathy. I, in fact, want people to be aware of exactly what homeopathy is, because most of the public does not know what absurd pseudoscience it is.Now I have to extend the favor to naturopathy – because the US has declared October 7-13 Naturopathy Awareness Week. They managed to squeeze in this critical vote prior to shutting down the government. Here is the resolution:

S.Res.221 – A resolution designating the week of October 7 through October 13, 2013, as “Naturopathic Medicine Week” to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care.

alternative cam6_250pxSen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who apparently is enamored of alternative medicine, sponsored the resolution. The resolution is not a law and does not have any specific effects, but it is concerning none-the-less. Pseudoscientists are always desperate for the trappings of legitimacy and respect. They have become quite good and finding creative ways to make it seem like their nonsense is legitimate, because they cannot gain the one true measure – actual scientific legitimacy.

Naturopaths could, for example, conduct high quality clinical research that would establish in a convincing way that one or more of their preferred treatment methods are safe and effective, equal to or superior to standard medical care. They can’t do that, however, because their treatments are largely nonsensical and worthless, so instead they seek to have naïve politicians give them the recognition they crave.

Here is how naturopaths define their approach:

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.  The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.

homeopathic-remedy-lol_200pxThis, of course, is propaganda and spin. They claim to use “scientific and empirical methods,” but that is mainstream science-based medicine. If they really used scientific and empirical methods, they would be practicing mainstream medicine.

The focus on the “inherent self-healing process” is a little closer to the truth, in that they tend to use modalities that make that claim. CAM practitioners in general have relied upon the “self-healing” gambit because they cannot actually treat diseases or identifiable entities – because their treatments do not work, because they are not based in reality.

Saying that a treatment “supports the body’s self-healing ability” is just hand-waving marketing hype. It gets around the fact that they do not have a plausible biological mechanism addressing a specific biological problem.

This claim is often attached to energy-based or vitalistic treatments, those that are based on the pre-scientific superstition that living things have their own “life energy” which is responsible for health. No such life energy exists, and therefore any practice based upon the notion of such energy is hopelessly worthless.

In practice naturopaths cobble together a wide range of unscientific, disproven, discarded, and fanciful treatments. They seem to prefer treatments that do not work to those that are safe and effective. Since regular medicine uses science to determine which treatments are safe and effective, this is the only way to distinguish themselves.

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Ancient Aliens

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

For centuries, the achievements of the past baffled modern societies. How could ancient empires build architectural marvels like the pyramids or the Nazca lines? Tune in and learn more about the theorists who think they’ve found the answer.


Also see:

Ancient Aliens Debunked

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90 climate model projectons versus reality

Watts Up With That?

Reality wins, it seems. Dr Roy Spencer writes:

As seen in the following graphic, over the period of the satellite record (1979-2012), both the surface and satellite observations produce linear temperature trends which are below 87 of the 90 climate models used in the comparison.

View original post 3 more words

Is that a FEMA Camp? – September 29, 2013

Is that a FEMA Camp? is a blog dedicated to investigating claims of FEMA camp locations.
transparent
Below is some of their findings. Enjoy :)
FEMA drums

September 29, 2013 Edition

Kingsley Field, Oregon

Oregon_Air_National_Guard_patch_2003 copy_200pxThe claim: Klamath Falls, 425

What it really is: The Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base is a former Air Force base that was transferred to the Oregon Air National Guard in 1978.

Clinton-Sherman AFB, Oklahoma

The claim: Clinton, ?

What it really is: Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base was closed in 1969. Today it is the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Airpark.

Altus AFB, Oklahoma

The claim: Altus, 5,982

What it really is: Altus Air Force Base is just your typical Air Force base that after looking at it via Google maps I could find nothing resembling a prison camp.

Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

air_force_base_wright_patterson_250pxThe claim: Dayton, 8,145

What it really is: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a large and historic Air Force base located in Ohio.

The base itself has areas open to the public, including the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and has several thousand civilian personnel working on the base.

The base is also a National Historical landmark.

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant was constructed by the United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1954. (source)

The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant was constructed by the United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1954. (source)

Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Ohio

The claim: Piketon, 3,708

What it really is: The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant had previously produce enriched uranium, but is now shutdown and is preparing to be decontaminated and decommissioned.

RMI Titanium Company Extrusion Plant, Ohio

The claim: Ashtabula, 8.2

What it really is: RMI Titanium Company is a private company that manufacture titanium alloys and specialty metals.

Click here for the latest findings at “Is that a FEMA Camp?”

What is Project Blue Beam?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

For decades conspiracy theorists have accused the government of hiding evidence of aliens or imminent world disasters, but could the governments of the world actually be planning to fake an apocalypse? Tune in to learn more about Project Blue Beam.

The Men in Black

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube.

Forget Will Smith: The real men in black are much more sinister — at least, that is, if they exist at all. But what exactly are the men in black? Listen in to learn more about the conspiracy theories concerning these mysterious individuals.

7 Reasons why aliens haven’t talked to us

by via The Soap Box

alien603_250pxFor decades now we have been trying communicate with other intelligent life else where in the universe, or at the very least find proof that they are other intelligent life forms out there in the universe.

Despite all of our efforts through SETI and other programs like SETI, we still haven’t found any proof that there are other intelligent life forms out there.

So why is it that despite all of our efforts to find and communicate with other intelligent life forms in the universe we still haven’t done so?

Well, there are a few reasons why we haven’t yet:

They don’t exist.TheTruthIsNotThere_04_300px

As difficult (and statistically improbable) as it may seem to be, there is a very real (yet microscopic) possibly that the reason why aliens haven’t talked to us yet is because their is no other life in the universe, or at the very least that there are no other worlds besides this one that has life on them that have evolved into intelligent life forms.

They’re not advanced enough to communicate with us or get here.

alien hitch_hiking 824One of the reasons why aliens may have never communicated with us or have come to our planet is because they are not technologically advanced enough to either travel to the stars, or create a communication system that would allow them to send out signals into interstellar space. This isn’t very surprising since we are barely able to do this ourselves (By the way, we are able to travel to the stars, and we do have a technology that would allow us to do so if we were to give it the funding. It’s called nuclear pulse propulsion).

Despite the fact that the universe is around 13.8 billion years old, there is no reason to believe that there are any other civilizations out there that are just as advanced, if not more advanced than we are, and that we may be the most advanced civilization in the universe. But, considering how old the universe is, there is also no reason to believe that there are no civilizations out there that are far more advanced than we are as well, and can easily get from one star to another.

They are able to communicate with us and even get here, they are just very far away.

alien lonely_130pxMaybe they are able to travel between the stars, and even able to send out radio signals, but they just haven’t gotten here because of one simple reason: distance.

The universe is a very vast place, and the fact is that unless you have a way to travel and/or communicate faster than the speed of light, it can take years, even centuries, for a radio signal or a space ship to get from one star system to another, so it is entirely possible that the reason why we have never found an alien radio signal, or that an alien space ship has never come here, is because it just hasn’t reached us yet.

They are unaware of our existence.

alien relax vacatioon_150pxOne of the reasons why aliens have never communicated with us is the same reason why we haven’t communicated with them: they don’t know we are here.

It is entirely possible that an intelligent alien species has seen and heard our radio signals, and either can not figure out where it came from, or they can’t understand it and dismiss it as natural phenomenon (which we could be doing with radio signals from space right now that we believe are natural radio signals given off by stars, but are really alien radio signals).

Plus, who is to say that they are even looking for other intelligent life out there like we are? For all that we know aliens might not even believe that it is possible for intelligent life to exist on other worlds, and thus aren’t even trying to find other intelligent life forms out there in the universe.

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Psychic Found Guilty of Stealing $138,000 From Clients

By via NYTimes.com

Sylvia Mitchell in court.

Sylvia Mitchell in court.

A jury found a Manhattan psychic guilty on Friday of swindling two women out of $138,000 in a case that probed the fine distinction between providing an unusual service and running a confidence scheme.

The fortune teller, Sylvia Mitchell, 39, who plied her trade at the opulent Zena Clairvoyant psychic shop on Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village, scowled as the verdict was read, reaching up only once to dab an eye.

After the verdict, Justice Gregory Carro of Manhattan Supreme Court said he considered Ms. Mitchell, who lives with her two teenage children in Connecticut, a flight risk and ordered her held in jail. She faces up to 15 years in prison when she is sentenced on Oct. 29.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Mitchell’s longtime companion, Steve Eli, had sharp words with her defense lawyer, William Aronwald. “You should have let her testify,” he said as he walked away. “You should have let her testify.”

After deliberating for six hours over two days, the jury convicted Ms. Mitchell on 10 counts of grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud. The jury found her not guilty on five other grand larceny counts.

During a weeklong trial, prosecutors portrayed Ms. Mitchell as a clever swindler who preyed on distraught people, promising them that she could alleviate their troubles through prayer and meditation to remove what she called “negative energy” and rectify problems that arose from their “past lives.”

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Five Kennedy Conspiracy Theories Debunked by JFK: The Smoking Gun

jfk
Via REELZ

From the complicated to the absurd, there is no shortage of hypotheses concocted by conspiracy theorists about what happened on that fateful day in Dallas nearly fifty years ago. While the upcoming REELZ documentary JFK: The Smoking Gun presents a straightforward, plausible and logical solution to this long unsolved mystery, many of the ideas that theorists come up with seem quite unlikely. Ballistics expert Howard Donahue and veteran police detective Colin McLaren came to conclusions which are simple and don’t rely on unsubstantiated claims, and audiences will get a glimpse of the processes they used when JFK: The Smoking Gun premieres Sunday, November 3rd. As for all those off-the-wall conspiracy theories, we took a moment to examine some of the claims, all of which look just a little more unlikely when compared with the evidence presented in the upcoming documentary.

Conspiracy Theory 1: The Mafia Killed JFK

godfather copy_150pxOne of the most popular theories about the JFK assassination is that it was a mafia hit. There are many variations on this theme, and mostly they differ in terms of why the mob decided to get involved. For example, some say the reason JFK was the victim of a mafia hit is because the mob rigged the Illinois election to ensure that Kennedy won the state. When JFK refused to play ball with them once he was in office, the mob felt a need to retaliate. Or maybe the reason that the mob was furious was because JFK continued the economic sanctions and travel embargoes to Cuba. Seeing as Cuba was something of a sanctuary for organized crime bosses, they felt they had to do something about it. Then there’s the simple idea that the mob was simply reacting to the fact that Attorney General Robert Kennedy was cracking down on organized crime. As sensational as these theories are, the fact is that the mob does not typically kill highly visible and powerful politicians or law enforcers, so the idea that they would call a hit on the POTUS seems unlikely. But even if the mafia did kill Kennedy and had a gunman on the grassy knoll, does the ballistics evidence substantiate that theory? Howard Donahue studied the bullet trajectories, and came to the conclusion that there’s no way any of the shots fired came from the grassy knoll. Though it’s had many proponents over the past fifty years, this theory doesn’t really hold up.

Conspiracy Theory 2: The CIA and/or the Illuminati Killed Kennedy

illuminati-1_150pxThe myriad of theories that suggest that the CIA was responsible for JFK’s death is decidedly one jumbled bunch of ideas. One theory claims that the CIA resented the way Kennedy was handling Cuba, and officials were particularly irked that he was undermining their attempts to kill Castro. As a result, the government agency decided to kill Kennedy. Others claim that a shadowy Illuminati-type member of the Federal Reserve Bank wanted Kennedy killed because of a law he passed which could have made the Treasury more powerful than the Federal Reserve. This powerful figure was able to make the CIA do his bidding, because obviously the shadowy, underworld types control everything. The CIA even has a very lengthy (and very dry) explanation of how the story got started and why it is false in their online library. Would sworn US government agents really kill the President of the United States due to political disagreements? It hardly seems likely.

Conspiracy Theory 3: JFK was killed due to his interest in aliens

aliens1_933_824_150pxOne of the more creative conspiracy theories is that JFK was killed because he was too interested in UFOs. They story is that he wanted to share the US government’s information about aliens and UFOs with the USSR in order to avoid a scenario in which a visitor from another planet was confused with an attack from the US. According to this premise, it was deemed that the President was sticking his nose where it didn’t belong so, of course, the only way to deal with the issue was for the CIA or some other government agency to assassinate him. Obviously this theory isn’t too difficult to disprove. Just a moment or two of critical thinking reveals the giant holes in the hypothesis, but really we have to love the intertwining of two major conspiracies.

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5 False Arguments for Raw Milk

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid.com
Read transcript below or listen here.

Some people who enjoy raw milk also make up false claims that regular milk is more dangerous.

Raw Milk_200pxToday we’re going to drop by our friendly local dairy farm and pick up a quart or two of what has become among the trendiest of foodie fancies, raw milk. Raw milk comes straight from the cow’s udder and into your glass. It hasn’t been homogenized or pasteurized and has nature’s full complement of fat, making it a scrumptious, creamy treat. But many of its fans aren’t satisfied with touting its flavor; they also claim it brings a host of miraculous health benefits hitherto undiscovered by science. Health experts, on the other hand, warn against consuming it in no uncertain terms, claiming that its unpasteurized bacterial load makes it an unacceptable risk. Is one or the other of these positions true, or do the real facts lie somewhere in between?

Some raw milk lovers take their passion very seriously, almost to the point of a religion. It’s fine to like something, fine to uphold ideological positions, fine to advocate to others. But it’s never OK to invent bad science to defend a position; and unfortunately, it appears that’s exactly what some raw milk proponents do. Here are five common arguments that I found being repeatedly made about the supposed evils of regular pasteurized, homogenized milk:

1. Pasteurization destroys milk’s nutrients: False.

raw-milk1_250pxAs we know, regular milk is pasteurized, and this is the key difference between it and raw milk. Heating food to reduce spoilage has been in practice for about a thousand years, even though the mechanism wasn’t well understood at first. We now know that heat kills the microbes found in food; including bacteria, fungi, algae, and a whole host of other organisms. Dangerous bacteria, like Salmonella and E. coli, are the most worrisome.

We could sterilize food if we wanted to kill everything in it, but complete sterilization would also cook or destroy the food. It was Louis Pasteur who discovered in 1864 that a much gentler heating for only a short time was sufficient to kill such a high percentage of the microbes that food spoilage was largely mitigated. Today milk is one of many, many foods that are pasteurized to increase their shelf life and safety. There are various processes for doing this, but the net result is that the milk is briefly heated and then cooled again. Opponents say that a side effect of this is to destroy essential nutrients in the milk.

To see whether this is true, we first have to ask “What are these nutrients?” So far, the answer to this has been wanting. The nutrients in milk are mainly energy from fat and lactose, and these are unaffected by pasteurization. Similarly, the molecular structures of proteins and minerals are far too robust to be damaged by the relatively low heat. One fact is that a number of vitamins are found in reduced concentration in pasteurized milk, including vitamins B1, B12, C and E. Though true, it’s a fine trade-off, because milk of any kind is a relatively poor source for these vitamins. Vitamin A content is actually increased after pasteurization.

Often, advocates point to the fact that regular milk is fortified with vitamin D as evidence that pasteurization destroys that vitamin, so it has to be re-added. Untrue. Milk is not a source of vitamin D; it’s one of many products that are fortified (such as breakfast cereals, orange juice, and baby formula), and have been since rickets was a major public health problem in the 1930s.

Lactobacillus is a bacterium found in our bodies, and also found in cow’s milk. Lactobacillus does help with our digestion and the conversion of sugars to energy. And, it is killed by pasteurization. While some raw milk advocates raise alarm over this, there’s no need. Lactobacillus thrives and reproduces itself inside our bodies. There is no need to drink milk to get it.

2. Homogenization makes milk less healthy: False.

Homogenized milkRaw milk is not homogenized like regular milk. Homogenization is just what it sounds like; making the milk consistent from batch to batch, and making the fat level consistent throughout each serving.

Homogenization is a simple process. The first thing that’s done is to mix together milk from different dairies, making it more consistent overall and day to day. The second part is making it consistent throughout. Raw milk separates into a light, fatty layer on top, and a heavier layer on the bottom. Homogenization turns it into an emulsion, in which the fat particles are tiny and evenly distributed throughout the liquid in such a way that they won’t separate like raw milk. This is just a matter of forcing it through a fine strain which breaks up the fat chunks into tiny specks. Presto, a homogenous product.

Opposition to the homogenization of milk is manifold, yet so far, unsupported by any good science. Most of it sprang from a mass-market 1983 book, The XO Factor: Homogenized Milk May Cause Your Heart Attack, which put forth a number of fringe hypotheses which were quickly refuted in the medical literature but achieved much more mindshare among the general public. The book claimed, as its title suggests, that the homogenized fat particles were responsible for a lot of heart disease. Other claimed issues included digestion problems, but again, once controlled testing was done, it was found that people claiming hypersensitivity to homogenized milk reported just as many digestion problems no matter what kind of milk they were given.

Raw milk may avoid homogenization, but the result is just a taste preference. No health benefits or detriments have been discerned either way.

3. Unpasteurized raw milk has less bacteria: False.

The whole point of pasteurizing milk is to reduce the dangerous bacteria, obviously; so this claim really had me scratching my head wondering how on Earth someone could have come up with it. Here is an example of one article that claims raw milk is likely to have fewer bacteria than pasteurized milk, this one from a web site called . . .

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The Sun Does It: Now Go Figure Out How!

Watts Up With That?

the_sun_stupid(Perturbation Calculations of Ocean Surface Temperatures.)

Guest essay by Stan Robertson, Ph.D., P.E.

1. Introduction

It is generally conceded that the earth has warmed a bit over the last century, but it is not clear what has caused it, nor whether it will continue and become a problem for humanity. There is a possibility that some of the warming has been caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, but it is also likely that the sun has been partially responsible. The arguments that are advanced to say that humans caused it and that it will become a serious problem rely on models that have not been validated and positive feedback effects that have not been shown to exist, at least at the hypothesized levels of effectiveness. The apparent weakness in the argument that the sun has been a major contributor is that satellite measurements of Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) have…

View original post 2,672 more words

Craniosacral Therapy

Via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

“…craniosacral therapy bears approximately the same relationship to real medicine that astrology bears to astronomy…. [it] is medical fiction….” — Steve E Hartman and James M Norton*

craniosac_250pxCraniosacral therapy (a.k.a. craniopathy and cranial osteopathy) is a holistic therapy that involves the manipulation of the skull bones (the cranium) and the sacrum to relieve pain and a variety of other ailments, including cancer. (The sacrum is a bone between the lumbar vertebrae and tail vertebrae, composed of five fused vertebrae that form the posterior pelvic wall.) The therapy was invented by osteopath William G. Sutherland in the 1930s. Another osteopath, John Upledger, is the leading proponent of craniosacral therapy today. Like other holistic therapies, this one emphasizes subjective concepts such as energy, harmony, balance, rhythm, and flow.

Craniosacral therapists claim to be able to detect a craniosacral “rhythm” in the cranium, sacrum, cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes which envelop the craniosacral system. The balance and flow of this rhythm is considered essential to good health. The rhythm is measured by the therapist’s hands. Any needed or effected changes in rhythm are also detected only by the therapist’s hands. No instrument is used to measure the rhythm or its changes, hence no systematic objective measurement of healthy versus unhealthy rhythms exists. The measurement, the therapy, and the declared cure are all subjectively based. As one therapist put it:

During the treatment, the client is usually supine on a table. The therapist assesses the patterns of energy in the body through touch at several “listening stations” and then decides where to start that day and how to focus the treatment. [Woodruff]

agy4-3The same therapist maintains that the therapy is “a waste of time and money” for people who do not have faith in the therapy. Successful treatments, however, may well be due to the placebo effect and subjective validation. Since there is no plausible biological basis for the claims made by therapists for craniosacral rhythms, it is likely that the therapists are deluded, i.e., imagining they are detecting and manipulating a subtle energy.

Skeptics note that the skull does not consist of moveable parts (unlike the jaw) and brain cells lack actin and myosin (the things in muscle cells that make them move). The only rhythm detectable in the cranium and cerebrospinal fluid is related to the cardiovascular system, but craniosacral therapists deny craniosacral rhythms are due to blood pressure. When tested, therapists have been unable to consistently come up with the same measurements of the alleged craniosacral rhythm. (Dr. Ben Goldacre says there have been five such published studies and “in none of them did the osteopaths give similar answers.”) In a systematic review of the scientific evidence for craniosacral therapy, the British Columbia Office of Health Technology Assessment (BCOHTA) concluded that

The available research on craniosacral treatment effectiveness constitutes low-grade evidence conducted using inadequate research protocols. One study reported negative side effects in outpatients with traumatic brain injury. Low inter-rater reliability ratings were found. CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review and critical appraisal found insufficient evidence to support craniosacral therapy. Research methods that could conclusively evaluate effectiveness have not been applied to date. (1999)

The fact that there is no objective measurement of craniosacral rhythms and that the subjective measurements of practitioners show much disharmony, imbalance, and lack of unity far outweighs the anecdotes of people who give credit to the therapy for relieving them of some malady. If the anecdotes were backed by scientific studies, using proper controls and randomization techniques, the weight of the evidence would swing in favor of the therapy. Such studies are lacking. Six studies have been done, but only one was done with proper controls and that study was negative. There is simply no good evidence for the claims made by practitioners of craniosacral therapy about cranial rhythms being either measurable or an important factor in anyone’s health and well-being.

CSTflowCNS-1

Craniosacral therapists claim to be able to detect a craniosacral “rhythm” in the cranium, sacrum, cerebrospinal fluid and the membranes which envelop the craniosacral system.

As one research professor at a college of osteopathy put it:

since interexaminer reliability is zero, and since no properly randomized, blinded, and placebo-controlled outcome studies demonstrating clinical efficacy have been published, cranial osteopathy should be removed from the required curricula of colleges of osteopathic medicine and from osteopathic licensing examinations.

View a video:


[END] via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Amazing mind reader reveals his ‘gift’

This commercial reveals more truths about how psychics work than maybe the creators intended. Enjoy :)

Dave is an extremely gifted clairvoyant who can read the minds of, and divine specific personal information about, people he has just met. This video reveals the magic behind the magic. Will you be amazed?

via Amazing mind reader reveals his ‘gift’ – YouTube.

▶ Colour Changing Card Trick – YouTube

▶ Colour Changing Card Trick – YouTube.

If the Government is shut down, then who is paying the shills?

by via The Soap Box

government-shutdown-hero_200pxIt’s been a week now since the part of the federal government shut down due to lack of funding because Congress can not agree on a budget.

Since much of the government has been shut down due to funding there is a question I have for conspiracy theorists: Who is paying the shills?

Now according to many conspiracy theorists shills are apparently anyone who goes around the internet spreads what they consider to be “dis-information” to discredit their conspiracy theories (which for some reason is often times backed up with facts and logic).

Basically, skeptics and debunkers (those people claim to be volunteering their time to debunk conspiracy theories on the internet, but according to many conspiracy theorists, are being paid by the government to spread dis-information, and who’s only “evidence” they have to prove that they are shills is simply that they disagree with the conspiracy theorist).

So if the government is shut down, then why do shills like myself (according to conspiracy theorists) still have their sites up, and are still posting blog articles debunking conspiracy theories?

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