Monthly Archives: May, 2013

Ouija board

Ouija 900 02
Via The Skeptic’s Dictionary

In a nutshell: A Ouija board is used in a game where people ask questions and hope a ghost will move their hands to find the answer.

A Ouija board is a game board with letters, numbers, and the words “yes,” “no,” and “goodbye” printed on it. A 3-legged device with a hole in the middle or a pointer of some sort (called a planchette) is placed on the board. Players put their fingers on the pointer and ask questions that have yes or no answers, or that can be answered with numbers or words spelled out by letters.

There are several weird things about this game. The players don’t ask each other questions. They ask ghosts to join them and answer their questions. The pointer moves under their fingers. The players feel sure they are not moving it.

Try it. It works!

ouija_board_200pxHow does it work? Do ghosts really join in board games? Are ghosts moving the pointer? It might seem so, but when players are blindfolded and the board is turned so the top faces the bottom (without the players knowing it), something weird happens. The pointer moves and stops where “yes” and “no” would be if the board was top side up. Without being able to see the words, letters, and numbers on the board, the players move the pointer to places that make no sense. This seems to tell us that the players are moving the pointer to where they think “yes” and “no” (or letters and numbers) are.

Is it possible to move something and not know you’re moving it? Yes. Many scientific experiments have shown that people are unaware of slight movements they make. (Scientists call this the ideomotor effect. See the entries on dowsing and Clever Hans for other examples of moving without being aware of it.)

But what about the answers? Where do they come from? Do ghosts move the fingers of the players? Maybe, but it seems more likely that the answers are coming from the players themselves. Again, if the answers were coming from ghosts, you’d think that it wouldn’t matter whether the players were blindfolded. But it does. When blindfolded, Ouija players’ answers don’t make any sense.

Is it possible for the players to be coming up with answers to their own questions without their being aware of it? Yes. Again, many scientific studies have shown that much of our thinking goes on without our being aware of it. The unconscious (or subconscious) is what scientists call that part of the mind that thinks without our being aware of it.

ouija 854_200pxEven though the Ouija board is a game, many people take it very seriously. Sometimes players give answers that are scary and frighten them. They don’t want to believe that scary answers are coming from their own unconscious thoughts. They might think evil spirits are lurking about the room. One person I know was playing with a Ouija board with her teenage friends many years ago. She asked how old she would be when she died. She and her friends moved the pointer to a 6 and then a 2. She took this to mean that she would die at age 62. “How will I die?” she asked. The fingers moved the pointer to the letter “B.” She took this to mean she’d die of a bee sting. She’s 66 now, but she’s still afraid of bees.

The Ouija board can be fun, if you know what’s really going on. If you think ghosts are listening to your questions, you would probably be better off playing something like Monopoly.

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Mysteries and Science: Exploring Aliens, Ghosts, Monsters, the end of the world, and other weird things.

Guest Post: Why I’m Through with Organic Farming

Random Rationality

Following on from my last guest post, The Insanity of Biotech by biochemist Paul Little, Mike Bendzela is the author of this guest post. These guest posts have been tangentially exploring similar subjects I have in my book, but in different directions; and this post explores organic farming. In S3: Science, Statistics and Skepticism, I lightheartedly tackle the naturalistic fallacy and use some bad (and funny) statistics that purposefully confuse correlation with causation, intending to teach a lesson. As I was writing the book, Mike Bendzela reached out to me with his organic story that sprouts off from that Correlation chapter, and it is a supremely informative read. (A bit long, well worth it, and you’re used to long articles from me anyway.)


Why I’m Through with Organic Farming

by Mike Bendzela of Dow Farm Enterprise

It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you;

you are defiled by…

View original post 3,319 more words

Agenda 21: Death by Sustainability?

Mike Rothschildby Mike Rothschild via Skeptoid

UN NWO_250pxIt’s a Friday night in 2021, and you’ve had a long, hard day. Your job of stamping codes on malaria pills bound for developing countries is unsatisfying, but until a position in another section becomes open (and assuming you pass the myriad Fairness Tests for it), it’s where you are. Right now, all you want is to be in your Home Unit, off the clock and enjoying Dinner Paste #7 (real meat flavoring is a weekend treat, after all.) The electric bus drops you off at Building 844 in Downtown Zone G12. You walk in and notice it right away. The light in the bathroom. You left it on. Panic grips you as you run to turn it off. Maybe they didn’t notice. Maybe they don’t know.

Then you hear the knock on the door. They know. Four blue-helmets stand there, armed to the teeth. One of them hands you a slip of onion-skin reading “CITATION 36-H53.1: LEFT BATHROOM LIGHT ON DURING WORK SHIFT.” And without a word, you go with them. There’s no need to pack and no point in protesting. By nightfall, you’ll be farming wind at a Work Camp 100 miles outside of the city, and nobody will say a word about the new code-stamper at the factory on Monday. Because they don’t want to be next. And in the North American Continental Sphere, anyone can be next.

Secret, yet freely available

Secret, yet freely available

This horrifying vision of an Orwellian nightmare future is what some fringe authors, conspiracy theorists and an increasing number of political extremists in the United States think awaits us if Agenda 21, the United Nations’ nefarious plan for world domination though social engineering at the local level, is fully implemented. Under its myriad laws, penalties and dictates, the entire American way of life will be subverted and destroyed, replaced by urban serfdom and “smart growth.” Citizens will be crammed into city-wide “stack ‘em and pack ‘em” towers located in urban human habitation zones, with public transportation required, suburban growth banned, personal choice abolished, freedom to travel restricted, family planning mandated and environmental impact put before human happiness. Countries will be abolished and freedom will be a relic.

The end result will be a great depopulation of the planet with the survivors turned into little more than slaves of an environmentally-obsessed world government, with the UN at the head of the snake. And all of it was crammed down our throats without any oversight or ratification by Congress. Or so they say.

While its opponents look at Agenda 21 as a road-map to death by sustainability, the truth is much less nightmarish. Let’s take a look at what Agenda 21 is, what it represents, and most importantly, what it’s not.

MORE . . .

Can Humans Really Feel Temperature? (Geek Alert!)

The answer is obvious, right? Not so quick you little geek!!! Enjoy 🙂

Can Humans Really Feel Temperature? – YouTube.

How Belief in Magic Spreads HIV in Africa

by Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

42-25074860In many countries throughout the world belief in witches is common, and black magic is considered part of everyday life. A 2010 poll of 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa found that over half of the population believe in magic. Witch doctors are consulted not only for healing diseases, but also for placing, or removing, curses or bringing luck.

One human rights activist in the small African country of Malawi, Seodi White, has been fighting for years to stem many traditional beliefs that help spread HIV, especially among poor and underprivileged women.

According to a CNN story, widows in some parts of southern Africa are expected to engage in unprotected sex in order to “cleanse” them. The belief is that the husband’s spirit will return otherwise, cursing the family.

“It’s a mindset issue,” White told CNN. “Even the widows, they’ve told me, ‘I don’t want to die, I don’t want a curse to come to my husband.’ They cry to be cleansed.”

Because this spiritual cleansing involves unprotected sex — just as sex with the deceased husband was assumed to have been — the widows are placed at increased risk of contracting HIV, which is endemic on the continent. There are even professional “cleansers” who charge high prices for their services, which the widows are often eager to pay to avoid a curse on their families.

MORE . . .

How many people really believe the government committed the 9/11 attacks?

via The Soap Box

Do people believe the 9/11 conspiracies or do they just SAY they believe the 9/11 conspiracies?

How many people REALLY believe the 9/11 conspiracies versus those who just SAY they believe the 9/11 conspiracies? And why?

How many people actually believe that the government committed the 9/11 attacks, or at least allowed the attacks to happen? This is a question that I sometimes wonder about.

What I mean by people who actually believe the government committed or allow the 9/11 attacks to happen, I don’t mean … people who [simply] say they believe the government committed … 9/11, I mean people who actually … believe that the government committed the 9/11 attacks.

Now there are multiple surveys that have been conducted over the past decade that have asked people whether or not they believe the government was involve in the 9/11 attacks, but there are a couple of problems I have with these surveys:

One, they are often vary in percentages of how many people actually believe the government was involved in the 9/11 attacks. This can be because of where the surveys were taken, when they were taken, and how the questions were actually worded.

And two, there is no realistic way to filter out the people who just say they believe from the true believers.

Now many of you are probably asking “why would someone claim they believe that the government committed the 9/11 attacks but not really mean it?”

Well, one reason might be for political purposes.

It’s very well known that conspiracy theories are often time used for political and propaganda purposes, and the conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks are no exception.

A person could be claiming this because they have anti-government beliefs, or anti-American beliefs, or anti-Israeli beliefs (for those that are antisemitic), or they could be a person who hated President Bush so much that they say they believe the government committed the 9/11 to (in their minds) further delegitimize his presidency.

Of course they could also be saying that the government committed the 9/11 attacks not because they have a anti-something beliefs, but because they wish to further their own political agendas, and they’re just using and exploiting the 9/11 Truth movement to do it.

Of course, political reasons are not the only reasons why some people claim to believe that the government committed the 9/11 attacks and not really mean it. It could be . . .

MORE . . .

Cryptids: Mermaids – Tales and Legends

In the modern age, tales of mermaids fall under the same category as stories of minotaurs or dragons. Sure, they seem like neat ideas, but no one actually believes such creatures could exist. If that’s the case, then why have sailors across centuries reported seeing humanoid, aquatic creatures on the waves? Is there any grain of truth within the claims? Tune in to learn more about alleged mermaid sightings, the problem of evidence (or lack thereof) and more.

via Cryptids: Mermaids – Tales and Legends – STDWYTK – YouTube.

Jedi Mind Trick?

Brain Thinks It Inhabits Virtual Body

By Tanya Lewis via LiveScience

In virtual reality, a virtual arm can feel like a real one.
CREDIT: © Mel Slater

The brain’s perception of the body may seem set in stone, but a new study shows the mind can be tricked into taking an entire virtual body for its own.

In 1998, neuroscientists Matthew Botvinick and Jonathan Cohen performed an experiment where they showed people a rubber hand being stroked with a paintbrush, while applying the same strokes to each person’s own, hidden hand. This gave people the feeling that the dummy hand was their own.

Scientists have since demonstrated the so-called rubber hand illusion for other body parts — and even whole bodies. Often this is done by putting people in virtual reality settings.

“It seems the brain, under certain conditions, quite easily accepts the idea that [a virtual body] is your body,” said study author Mel Slater, a computer scientist at the University of Barcelona. [Eye Tricks: Gallery of Visual Illusions]

In the new study, Slater and his colleagues investigated whether taking ownership of a full virtual body resulted in neglect of the real body.

Out-of-body experience

Head-mounted display

Head-mounted display

Study participants wore head-mounted displays in which they saw a virtual body when they looked down at their real body. Half of the participants experienced a realistic body illusion, where the virtual body’s posture and movements matched those of their real body, while the other half experienced an unrealistic one, where the posture and movements didn’t match their own.

The researchers had the participants place their hand on a cooling device, and measured participants’ sensitivity to small changes in temperature as they experienced a realistic virtual body illusion or an unrealistic one.

During the rubber hand illusion, the real hand has been shown to cool down, suggesting the brain pays more attention to the rubber hand. The researchers suspected that if people were neglecting their real body in favor of the virtual one, sensitivity to temperature changes on their real hand would diminish.

But the opposite was true: People remained sensitive to temperature changes when they experienced a strong illusion that the virtual body belonged to them, and became less sensitive when the illusion was unrealistic. In other words, the better the illusion, the more aware people were of temperature changes in their real hand.

MORE . . .

The Randi Show – ADE 651

ade651The ADE 651 is a fake bomb detector[1] produced by ATSC (UK), which claimed that the device could effectively and accurately, from long range, detect the presence and location of various types of explosives, drugs, ivory, and other substances. The device has been sold to 20 countries in the Middle East and Far East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, for as much as $60,000 per unit. The Iraqi government is said to have spent £52 million ($85 million) on the devices.[2]

Investigations by the BBC and other organisations found that the device is little more than a “glorified dowsing rod” with no ability to perform its claimed functions.

[ . . . ]

In October 2008, James Randi offered a reward of one million dollars to anyone who could prove that the ADE 651 was effective. Randi issued a statement calling the ADE 651 “a useless quack device which cannot perform any other function than separating naive persons from their money. It’s a fake, a scam, a swindle, and a blatant fraud. Prove me wrong and take the million dollars.”

Source:  Wikipedia

Randi gives us an update on the trial of James McCormick, the now-convicted con man who scammed governments all over the world into buying his “ADE 651”, a supposed bomb detection device that is nothing more than a dowsing rod.

via The Randi Show – ADE 651 – YouTube.

5 Things I’ve noticed about… the Anti-Vaccination Movement

whooping cough_200pxvia The Soap Box

The anti-vaccination movement is a large group of like minded people whom believe that vaccines cause autism (along with some other stuff, but mostly autism). While there are a lot of things I’ve noticed about this movement, I’ve managed to narrow it down to five.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about the anti-vaccination movement:

5. There’s no need for it to exist.

If you are part of the anti-vaccination movement, then you are in a movement that does not need to exist, and in fact shouldn’t exist.

Every claim made about vaccines being harmful and causing debilitating neurological conditions (most commonly autism) has been proven to be false, and vaccines have been proven to be not only the cheapest method of disease control and prevention, but also the best, and the safest.

Complications from vaccines are rare (around maybe 1 and 1000) and mostly minor. Serious complications are extremely rare (around 1 to 2 per million), and deaths are even rarer than that.

4. It’s biggest supporters are a bunch of cranks.

The biggest supporters (and leaders) of the anti-vaccination are not only people who should not be giving out medical advice, most of them aren’t even doctors (and the ones that are tend to have some questionable credentials).

Jenny McCarthy, one of the top supporters, is not a doctor. In fact she left nursing school in order to become a model. She promotes therapies that are harmful, and she’s also a liar too

Andrew Wakefield, the ex-doctor whom’s 1998 research paper that was published in the Lancet that claimed to show a connection between vaccines and autism, was stuck off of the British General Medical Council register (the British equivalent of having your medical license revoked) after the Lancet retracted his paper after it was proven his research was based off of fraud. He still claims his research was not fraudulent, and that there was a conspiracy against him to destroy his research (despite the fact that it took over ten years from the time his paper was published for his paper to be retracted, and for the GMC to strike off his name).

Then there is Alex Jones, who thinks that vaccines are being used to create genetically modified people and causes diseases, not prevent them.

3. The movement is based off of lies.

The whole bases for the anti-vaccine movement is based off of the proven fraudulent 1998 research paper by Andrew Wakefield that claims there is a connection between the MMR vaccines and austim. The paper was highly controversial even when it came out, and the claims made in it had been dis-proven years before it was formally retracted for fraud.

Other lies made by the movement are that vaccines have been made more dangerous over the years (in fact they have been made safer) and that and the rates of autism in children who are un-vaccinated is far lower then those that have been vaccinated, which is false. In fact the rates are the same.

MORE . . .

Also see: The final nail in the coffin for the antivaccine rallying cry “Too many too soon”?


Here is an infographic that shows the rate of incidence of a disease appearing with and without a vaccine. Here is the source of the data.

VACCINES

HAARP Debunked and Explained

As i travel the dark corridors of the conspiratorial world i have found HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) to be one of the most often cited causes of everything not understood. Was there an earthquake? Blame HAARP! What about that hurricane? Blame HAARP! Is your neighbor acting weird? HAARP is controlling his mind!!!

quick noteFrom the Alaska Dispatch (September 20, 2011):

Earthquakes

Could HAARP antennas be generating earthquakes? Eric Dubay, a conspiracy blogger and American ex-pat that lives in Thailand, is part of the crowd that believes the U.S. used HAARP to cause the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked northern Japan in March 2011, leading to the devastating Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear meltdown.

The gist of the argument from Dubay and others is that waves generated by HAARP antennas are focused on a specific part of the ionosphere with enough force to make the entire thing buckle into space; the ionosphere snaps back toward the ground with enough precision to cause a massive earthquake that devastates a strategic target that furthers American economic and defense interests.

Others claim the U.S., for bizarre reasons mostly unsubstantiated, caused the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The best guess anyone has come up with is that Haiti was the perfect place for a test run of sorts, which is among 13 reasons included in a post on Godlike Productions that argues the U.S. should be suspected for causing the quake in Port au Prince. A column by another conspiracy theorist on UFO-Blogger.com goes a step further in trying to predict what will be hit next: “Most likely the next target will be the New Madrid fault line in the South- Midwestern United States.”

Kansans can rest easy, though: Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear physicist, tears the earthquake theory to shreds in response to an Islamist group that blamed HAARP for devastating floods in Punjab.

Hurricanes

There’s a storied tradition of blaming devastating hurricanes on HAARP. That trend hit a fever pitch in 2005: first it was Katrina, then Rita, then Wilma.

[ . . . ]

“This is absolute hogwash,” Stanford professor Umran Inan told Popular Science. “There’s absolutely nothing we can do to disturb the earth’s [weather] systems. Even though the power HAARP radiates is very large, it’s miniscule compared with the power of a lightning flash — and there are 50 to 100 lightning flashes every second. HAARP’s intensity is very small.”

Mind Control

Of all the conspiracies floating around about HAARP, this is perhaps the most entertaining, and scientifically farfetched.

The government is using the shortwave radio communication generated in Gakona, so the story goes, to control the minds of unsuspecting Americans.

More from the Alaska Dispatch . . .

So before i forget, let me point you to a great resource for debunking all the HAARP myths. Go to one of my favorite discussion forums and read – you needn’t join, sign up or participate.

Here is the link: HAARP Debunked and Explained.

metabunk_LOGO

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

Also See: HAARP Home Page

The government's mind control machine called HAARP! If you don't believe this is

If you don’t believe HAARP can control your mind that’s because the government is using
HAARP to control your mind – so you won’t believe HAARP can control your mind.

Constitutional Conspiracies 101

The Constitution is one of the most important documents in the history of United States, and it’s also the subject of numerous fringe theories, allegations, rumors and dirty secrets. But what are they, exactly? Tune in for a look at some of the theories surrounding the Constitution.

via Constitutional Conspiracies 101 – STDWYTK – YouTube.

The 9/11 conspiracy theorist who changed his mind

(H/T: Thomas J. Proffit)

Charlie Veitch was once one of Britain’s leading conspiracy theorists, a friend of David Icke and Alex Jones and a 9/11 ‘truther’. But when he had a change of heart, the threats began. He talks to Will Storr.


‘The poster boy for a mad movement’: Charlie Veitch (Photo: Will Storr)

By Will Storr via Telegraph (UK)

On a June afternoon in the middle of New York’s Times Square, Charlie Veitch took out his phone, turned on the camera and began recording a statement about the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center.

“I was a real firm believer in the conspiracy that it was a controlled demolition,” he started. “That it was not in any way as the official story explained. But, this universe is truly one of smoke screens, illusions and wrong paths. If you are presented with new evidence, take it on, even if it contradicts what you or your group want to believe. You have to give the truth the greatest respect, and I do.”

To most people, it doesn’t sound like a particularly outrageous statement to make. In fact, the rest of the video was almost banal in its observations; that the destruction of the towers may actually have been caused by the two 767 passenger jets that flew into them. But to those who subscribed to Veitch’s YouTube channel, a channel he set up to promulgate conspiracy theories like the one he was now rejecting, it was tantamount to heresy.

“You sell out piece of s—. Rot in hell, Veitch,” ran one comment beneath the video.

Charlie Veitch, before his change of heart, protesting in New York's Times Square

Charlie Veitch, before his change of heart, protesting in New York’s Times Square

“This man is a pawn,” said another. “Your [sic] a f—ing pathetic slave,” shrilled a third. “What got ya? Money?” So runs what passes for debate on the internet. Veitch had expected a few spiteful comments from the so-called “Truth Movement”. What he had not expected was the size or the sheer force of the attack.

In the days after he uploaded his video, entitled No Emotional Attachment to 9/11 Theories, Veitch was disowned by his friends, issued with death threats and falsely accused of child abuse in an email sent to 15,000 of his followers. “I went from being Jesus to the devil,” he says now. “Or maybe Judas. I thought the term ‘Truth Movement’ meant that there’d be some search for truth. I was wrong. I was the new Stalin. The poster boy for a mad movement.”

[ . . . ]

His friend showed him the online documentary Terrorstorm: A History of Government Sponsored Terror, made by the American radio host Alex Jones. It parsed a new version of history, in which governments secretly organised terror attacks to spread fear and extend their matrices of control. From the Reichstag fire to the Gulf of Tonkin up to the present day, it writhed with apparently unassailable facts and sources.

US radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

US radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

Jones is a brilliantly effective propagandist who recently made headlines for his hostile showdown on US television with Piers Morgan, over gun control. His YouTube channel has had over 250 million views while his masterpiece, Terrorstorm, has been watched more than 7  million times.

Shortly after watching it, Veitch was made redundant and, instead of looking for a new job, he used some of his £4,000 payout to buy a camcorder and a megaphone and began uploading short videos to YouTube. As the founder of what he called the Love Police, he was filmed performing quasi situationist stunts, such as standing outside McDonald’s with his megaphone berating customers (“Excuse me, sir. Next time I’d advise you to buy some real food for your son”). In more meditative moments, he’d explore his own spiritual, philosophical and conspiratorial notions. Veitch soon gathered subscribers by the tens of thousands.And the bigger Love Police grew, the more radical Veitch became. He occupied Fortnum & Mason during the anti-capitalism rally and Millbank Tower during the student fees demonstrations. He was a witness to the death of Ian Tomlinson during the 2009 G20 summit, called for “chaos” in London, was arrested in Toronto, Edinburgh and London and invited to festivals around the world. “People were throwing money at me. I did a donation appeal and overnight I had £3,500 in my account,” he says.

Icke - Remember what you are_250pxThen, there were the women. “I could have anyone. And there’s a lot of cute activist girls in Holland and Denmark.” Thrillingly, he was courted by his heroes, Jones and David Icke, the former television sports presenter who believes humanity is being controlled by alien lizards.

“It was like being a struggling actor and Tom Cruise phones you,” he says. Jones invited him on to his internet show Prison Planet and praised his “great work”. Veitch interviewed Icke outside parliament just after the 2010 general election, and in return was sent a birthday present of a T-shirt and a book, signed, “To Charles, a great man doing great things. Love David”. Veitch was now a well-known figure in the conspiracy community. But, while some believers could be dismissed as harmless crackpots, there was a malevolent undercurrent to many of the theories.

MORE . . .

Also see: Former Conspiracy Theorist: When They Say ‘Illuminati’ or ‘Reptiles’ They Mean Jews (Algemeiner.com)

Debunking the Anti-Monsanto/Anti-GMO claims

via The Soap Box

conspiracy-theory-alertOn May 25, a local group held a protest near where I live to protest Monsanto and GMO foods.

The protest itself, while larger than what I actually expected, wasn’t as large as what it could have been, with maybe only about 50 to 60 people attending.

Now about a week before this protest occurred someone was going the area and putting up some posters on lamp post and electric post not only advertising the protest, but also making several claims against both Monsanto and GMO foods.

I’ve looked into these claims that were made, and this is what I have found:

1. Monsanto fights labeling laws.

This is true [read here] but only to a certain extent, and there are a lot of other companies and groups (including scientists) that oppose these laws because many of them consider them to be unfair, and/or leaves to many loop holes, and many opponents also claim that these laws are really attempts to out right ban GMO foods.

Also, when the people of California were given a chance to vote into law Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO foods, the voters rejected it, so really you can’t actually blame Monsanto about that, because when given the chance, the people rejected such laws.

2. Monsanto’s propriety and legal actions harm small farmers.

Monsanto has, since the mid-1990’s, filled 145 suits against individual US farmers for patent infringement and/or breach of contract in connection with its genetically engineered seed, and while this may sound like a lot, this is actually a very small number in comparison to thousands of individual, independent farmers in the US.

Also, only 11 of these suits actually went to trial, all of which Monsanto won.

3. Scientists’ studies show severe damage to GMO-feed animals.

There was a study in 2012 by Gilles-Eric Seralini that claimed to show that rats feed GMO corn increased cancer rates in these rats compared to rats that were not feed GMO corn. This study has been highly criticized for certain unscientific methods (such as the failure to record the amounts of food the rats were feed and their growth rates) and has pretty much been debunked. [read here, here, and here]

4. Monsanto’s Agent Orange and DDT contaminate food crops and villagers abroad.

Agent Orange was only used between 1965 to 1970 by the US military in Vietnam (before then they used a herbicide called Agent Blue). Even though this was true, you really can’t blame Monsanto because they are not the ones who actually used it. It was various governments around the world who used it. Monsanto (along with Dow Chemical) just made the stuff.

As for DDT, most countries have been banning the stuff since the 1960’s for agricultural use, and again, Monsanto is not the only company that made DDT, and it doesn’t even make it anymore because of the 1972 US ban.

5. Monsanto falsely advertised it’s Roundup as “biodegradable.”

In 2007 Monsanto was convicted in France for false advertisement of it’s product Roundup as being biodegradable. France is of course the only country that has done this, and some people might even claim that this is the result of France’s environmental laws, rather than reality as Glyphosate (the technical name for Roundup) does not bioaccumulate and breaks down rapidly in the environment.

Whether or Roundup should be considered biodegradable or not seems to be more of a matter of opinion then fact.

6. Monsanto blocks regulations. It’s CEOs are in a revolving door from Monsanto to FDA (ex: Micheal Taylor, current Food Safety Czar).

This is completely false. Micheal Taylor (whomever he is) was never the Food Safety Czar. There has only been one Food Safety Czar, and that was Dr. David Acheson, and he only had that position from 2007 to 2008.

Monsanto can not actually block regulations, all it can do is lobby against laws and regulations that could affect it’s business, and there is no “revolving door”, so to speak, between Monsanto and the FDA.

MORE . . .


Also see:


Penn and Teller discuss Genetically Engineered foods and organic foods.
WARNING: ADULT LANGUAGE

Unidentified Faux Objects: News Station Fooled by UFO Phone App

Via Who Forted? Magazine

dupedguy_250pxCalifornia news station WMFD NewsWatch had a mild embarrassment on their hands this week, after they were informed that their story on an apparent UFO photograph was nothing more than the product of a readily available cell phone app.

The photo, which was taken by a resident of Mansfield named Tom Young, showed what appeared to be a disk-shaped craft floating above a small field, and it was so convincing that it caught the eye of news reporters. From there, the story spread like wild fire. Luckily OpenMedia.com recognized the silver spaceship immediately and called hoax.

The picture was created using the Camera360 smartphone app, and as WMFD discovered, it turns out Tom Young has that very same app on the cell phone he used to take his “unexplained” photo. When reporters contacted Young about the hoax, he remained firm that his photograph is of a bona fide UFO, but said he would check the photo again to make sure he didn’t “accidentally” use the app.

You have to at least applaud the guy’s audacity though, don’t you?

MORE . . .

The Declassification Engine: Your One-Stop Shop for Government Secrets


Click the image to visit The Declassification Engine

By Cade Metz via Wired.com

The CIA offers an electronic search engine that lets you mine about 11 million agency documents that have been declassified over the years. It’s called CREST, short for CIA Records Search Tool. But this represents only a portion the CIA’s declassified materials, and if you want unfettered access to the search engine, you’ll have to physically visit the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, historians and researchers have urged the CIA to provide them with their own copy of the CREST electronic database, so that they can seek greater insight into U.S. history and even build up additional checks and balances against the government’s approach to official secrecy. But the agency won’t do it. “Basically, the CIA is saying that the database of declassified documents is itself classified,” explains Steve Aftergood, a senior research analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, who oversees the federation’s government secrecy project.

It’s an irony that represents a much larger problem in the world of declassified government documents. According to Aftergood — a researcher some have called the “the Yoda of Official Secrecy” — most government agencies haven’t even gone as far as the CIA in providing online access to declassified documents, and as it stands, there’s no good way of electronically searching declassified documents from across disparate agencies.

“The state of the declassified archives is really stuck in the middle of the 20th Century,” says Aftergood. He calls it a “fairly dismal picture,” but he also says there’s an enormous opportunity to improve the way we research declassified materials — and improve it very quickly — through the use of modern technology.

That’s the aim of a new project launched by a team of historians, mathematicians, and computer scientists at Columbia University in New York City. Led by Matthew Connelly — a Columbia professor trained in diplomatic history — the project is known as The Declassification Engine, and it seeks to provide a single online database for declassified documents from across the federal government, including the CIA, the State Department, and potentially any other agency.

The project is still in the early stages, but the team has already assembled a database of documents that stretches back to the 1940s, and it has begun building new tools for analyzing these materials. In aggregating all documents into a single database, the researchers hope to not only provide quicker access to declassified materials, but to glean far more information from these documents than we otherwise could.

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declass bot

It’s Not a UFO!

The Solar Impulse lands in Phoenix on the first leg of its "Across America 2013" tour.

The Solar Impulse lands in Phoenix on the first leg of its “Across America 2013” tour.

A Strange Solar-Powered Plane Is Crossing the U.S.

via Businessweek

Shortly after midnight in early May, a strange aircraft approached Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. It had the wingspan of a jumbo jet but flew at only about 40 miles per hour; 16 bright, bluish-white lights shone along the leading edge of its spindly wings. Concerned Phoenicians called the police to report an alien landing.

Sky Harbor’s air traffic control explained to Phoenix police that the ostensible UFO was really a solar-powered airplane: the Solar Impulse, an experimental aircraft completing the first, 19-hour leg of a flight across the United States. Then the police asked how it could fly at night if it’s solar-powered. (Batteries.)

[ … ]

The part of the UFO story that most pleases Dr. Bernard Piccard, the Swiss explorer who flew the Solar Impulse into Phoenix is that so many people noticed the lights, which are made from energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Together, all 16 lights consume just 150 watts, Piccard says.

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Info-Spats: Even Conspiracy Theorists Are Sick of Alex Jones

via Who Forted? Magazine

Hath Frankenstein’s monster begun killing its creator?

ALEXJONESFOIL_250pxAlex Jones, the boisterous voice of a cult of conspiracy that questions, quite literally, everything from the legitimacy of terrorist attacks to the use of artificial sweeteners like aspartame, might have started getting just a tad too paranoid for the community that he’s had such a huge part in building.

Whether he’s ranting incoherently about gun control on Piers Morgan or arguing that the bombing at the Boston Marathon was a government orchestrated “false flag” attack complete with actors, more and more conspiracy theorists are doing their best to distance themselves from Jones.

The latest, and one of the most public, efforts to push back against Jones’ particular brand of government distrust comes from Films for Action, a popular hub for the promotion of alternative, independent films and media.

After being questioned numerous times at their failure to include any Infowars or Prison Planet documentaries, Films for Action took the opportunity to release a statement about why their decision to steer away from Alex Jones was a conscious decision from the get-go.

Here’s a sizeable chunk from their lengthy statement:

Unfortunately, we feel it would be irresponsible to promote Alex Jones, his websites, or any of his films. His films were always overly sensational and hyperbolic, but over the years the assertions he makes in his films and on his radio show have gotten increasingly outlandish and unsubstantiated. There are nuggets of truth and important perspectives hidden in the films, but they are buried under so many wild claims, tabloid style rhetoric, fear-mongering, and misleading conclusions that sifting the valid points from the misinformation would take more time than most folks have the patience for. See thisthisthis,this, and this, for a handful of examples.

Most skeptical people will have written off his ideas (and anything associated with it, including, likely, this site) long before the film finishes.

We believe the goal of the alternative media is to eventually become the mainstream media – a media for and by the people, rather than a media for and by corporate interests. The alternative media that we imagine is one that has the potential to be welcomed into the homes of virtually everyone. We want to demonstrate the best of what the alternative media is and could be.

This means presenting information in a credible fashion, and not promoting misinformation or misleading meta-narratives about our world. It means following diligently the ethical principles and standards of the best journalists.

Infowars appeals to a certain niche conspiracy audience, but beyond this niche, it is not of much use for reaching people ‘beyond the choir’ – in fact the presentation and substance of Infowars is quite alienating and off-putting to most people. Right now on Infowars minded sites and Facebook pages, they are focusing their attention on occult messages being placed in the movies The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games that allude to the latest two gun massacres being pre-planned events staged by the New World Order. Stuff like this has become conspiracy porn for a growing audience, which we find quite troubling, as focusing on these types of dead ends keep people distracted from doing anything that could effectively end the systems of power these websites claim to decry.

We must regretfully conclude that Alex Jones does more harm to the movement than good.

That last line seems to pretty well sum up a growing opinion for conspiracy theorists, an opinion that when it comes to spreading the “truth” – their truth, however suppressed, uncomfortable, or bizarre that “truth” may be, Alex Jones is no longer the right man for the job.

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Streetlamp Interference: A Modern-day Paranormal Mystery

By Louis Proud via Mysterious Universe

redlight1Let’s say there’s a row of street lamps you pass every day while going to and from work. They are, being typical, modern street lamps, of the low-pressure sodium-vapor variety, emitting a red glow at start up and, once they’re operating fully, a steady monochrome yellow. The lamps automatically switch on at sundown, via the activation of a light-sensitive cell, or photocell. The cell is triggered again when sunlight returns at dawn, switching the lamps off. Generally, rather than each lamp having its own photocell, a single photocell is used to control a whole group of street lamps.

You’re returning home from work on what has so far been a completely typical evening, the street lamps illuminating your way as you stroll down the footpath. No one else is around. Oddly, the street lamp nearest you suddenly blinks out, turning on again as soon as you’ve passed it. A level-headed person, you attribute the event to coincidence and think no more of it. Three evenings later, however, while passing the same row of lamps, the phenomenon occurs again. On this occasion, three successive lamps are affected, each one blinking out as you approach, only to suddenly blink on again the moment you step away.

What on earth just happened? Did you influence the lamps with the power of your mind? Or is there a mundane explanation for these events?

Known as street lamp Interference (SLI), experiences of this nature are common, with people in many different parts of the world claiming “that they involuntarily, and usually spontaneously, cause street lamps to go out. Generally the effect is intermittent, infrequent and without an immediately discernable sequence of cause and effect.”

redlight2These are the words of the British paranormal scholar Hilary Evans, who, prior to his death in 2011, was the foremost authority on SLI. (“SLIder” is the term he coined to refer to someone who reports a SLI experience.) In addition to being a pictorial archivist and author of numerous books on the Fortean, he helped found, in 1981, the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP). After receiving numerous reports from people claiming that street lamps respond to their presence in an inexplicable fashion, Evans decided to take on the mystery, collecting hundreds of accounts of SLI through his Street Lamp Interference Data Exchange (SLIDE). The culmination of this research – what turned out to be his final book – is the brief yet highly impressive SLIDERS: The Enigma of Street Light Interference (2010). “SLI… can reasonably be regarded as a phenomenon in its own right,” he argued.

Frankly, when I first heard of SLI I considered it largely insignificant and boring, regardless of whether or not the phenomenon had a paranormal basis. I hastily concluded that most, if not all, SLI experiences could be accounted for as a result of people perceiving connections that have no basis in reality. For, as everybody knows, street lamps can and do malfunction from time to time, and people are bound to walk past them at the moment these malfunctions occur. After taking a deeper look at the phenomenon, however, I came to the unavoidable conclusion that we’re dealing with a genuine mystery – and, what’s more, an important and fascinating one. I agree with Evans when he says: “If true… claims [of SLI] carry profound and exciting implications for science and for our knowledge of human potential.”

It’s time we examined some of those claims.

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Incompetent People Too Ignorant to Know It

Via LiveScience

empty-headA growing body of psychology research shows that incompetence deprives people of the ability to recognize their own incompetence. To put it bluntly, dumb people are too dumb to know it. Similarly, unfunny people don’t have a good enough sense of humor to tell.

This disconnect may be responsible for many of society’s problems.

With more than a decade’s worth of research, David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, has demonstrated that humans find it “intrinsically difficult to get a sense of what we don’t know.” Whether an individual lacks competence in logical reasoning, emotional intelligence, humor or even chess abilities, the person still tends to rate his or her skills in that area as being above average.

Dunning and his colleague, Justin Kruger, formerly of Cornell and now at New York University, “have done a number of studies where we will give people a test of some area of knowledge like logical reasoning, knowledge about STDs and how to avoid them, emotional intelligence, etcetera. Then we determine their scores, and basically just ask them how well they think they’ve done,” Dunning said. “We ask, ‘what percentile will your performance fall in?'”

The results are uniform across all the knowledge domains: People who actually did well on the test tend to feel more confident about their performance than people who didn’t do well, but only slightly. Almost everyone thinks they did better than average. “For people at the bottom who are really doing badly — those in the bottom 10th or 15th percentile — they think their work falls in the 60th or 55th percentile, so, above average,” Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries. The same pattern emerges in tests of people’s ability to rate the funniness of jokes, the correctness of grammar, or even their own performance in a game of chess. “People at the bottom still think they’re outperforming other people.”

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What is Homeopathy?

Via LiveScience

just-waterHomeopathy is an alternative medical practice in which extremely dilute amounts of certain natural substances are used to treat various ailments.

Although homeopathic medicines are sold in health food stores and at high-end groceries, homeopathy is largely considered quackery. No scientific evidence supports its use; the theory of how homeopathy could work is beyond the realm of known physics; and governments worldwide are increasingly denying insurance payments to cover homeopathic treatment.

[…]

How homeopathy works

Homeopathy is based on rigorous dilutions and mixing, called successions. The dilution level is printed on the bottle of medicine. A typical homeopathic dilution is 30X, where the X represents 10. So, one part toxin (such as the aforementioned poison ivy) is mixed with 10 parts water or alcohol. The mix is shaken; one part of this mix is added to 10 parts of water or alcohol again; and the whole process is repeated 30 times.

The final dilution is one molecule of medicine in 10 to the 30th power (1030) of molecules of solution — or 1 in a million trillion trillion. At this dilution level you’d need to drink 8,000 gallons of water to get one molecule of the medicine — physically possible but implausible.

Other homeopathic solutions are 30C, which represents 100 to the 30th power (10030).  There’s not enough water in the solar system to accommodate this dilution.

Hahnemann didn’t realize this because he developed his theory before the concept in chemistry of the mole and Avogadro constant, which defines the number of particles in any given amount of a substance. So, Hahnemann and his followers could do the mechanical actions of dilution, but unbeknownst to them, they were diluting the medicine right out of the solution.

Does homeopathy work?

warning-homeopathy-not-medicineHomeopathic practitioners today understand the concept of Avogadro constant. They attribute homeopathy’s healing powers to “water memory” — the concept that water has the ability to remember of shape of the medicine it once contained.  There are, however, at least three problems with this stance.

First, this concept of water memory is beyond the realm of known physics. Water is not known to maintain an ordered alignment of molecules for much longer than a picosecond.

Second, if water can remember the shape of what’s in it, then all water has the potential to be homeopathic. Tap water, with its traces of natural substances sloshing about in pipes known to cause cancer and other diseases, would be therapeutic against these diseases.

Third, explanations of how it could work aside, there are no high-quality scientific studies to show that homeopathy is any more effective than a placebo. In testing homeopathy, two trends have emerged: Homeopathy is best at “curing” things that would soon pass anyway, such as colds, but would be dangerous for the treatment of serious ailments, such as diabetes; and the larger and more thorough the scientific study, the more homeopathy resembles a placebo.

Dangers of homeopathy

Don’t assume homeopathy, unregulated by the FDA, is safe. In some cases, the homeopathic medicine does contain traceable amounts of . . .

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Where does the ball come from?

Brilliant illusion! Check it out.

Richard Wiseman

I have just made a new Quirkology video….

It took many a take, but hope that you enjoy it!

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Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories

matrix-red-pill-or-blue-pill_600px
By MAGGIE KOERTH-BAKER via NYTimes.com

conspiracies02In the days following the bombings at the Boston Marathon, speculation online regarding the identity and motive of the unknown perpetrator or perpetrators was rampant. And once the Tsarnaev brothers were identified and the manhunt came to a close, the speculation didn’t cease. It took a new form. A sampling: Maybe the brothers Tsarnaev were just patsies, fall guys set up to take the heat for a mysterious Saudi with high-level connections; or maybe they were innocent, but instead of the Saudis, the actual bomber had acted on behalf of a rogue branch of our own government; or what if the Tsarnaevs were behind the attacks, but were secretly working for a larger organization?

Crazy as these theories are, those propagating them are not — they’re quite normal, in fact. But recent scientific research tells us this much: if you think one of the theories above is plausible, you probably feel the same way about the others, even though they contradict one another. And it’s very likely that this isn’t the only news story that makes you feel as if shadowy forces are behind major world events.

“The best predictor of belief in a conspiracy theory is belief in other conspiracy theories,” says Viren Swami, a psychology professor who studies conspiracy belief at the University of Westminster in England. Psychologists say that’s because a conspiracy theory isn’t so much a response to a single event as it is an expression of an overarching worldview.

As Richard Hofstadter wrote in his seminal 1965 book, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” conspiracy theories, especially those involving meddlesome foreigners, are a favorite pastime in this nation. paranoid illuminati_250pxAmericans have always had the sneaking suspicion that somebody was out to get us — be it Freemasons, Catholics or communists. But in recent years, it seems as if every tragedy comes with a round of yarn-spinning, as the Web fills with stories about “false flag” attacks and “crisis actors” — not mere theorizing but arguments for the existence of a completely alternate version of reality.

Since Hofstadter’s book was published, our access to information has vastly improved, which you would think would have helped minimize such wild speculation. But according to recent scientific research on the matter, it most likely only serves to make theories more convincing to the public. What’s even more surprising is that this sort of theorizing isn’t limited to those on the margins. Perfectly sane minds possess an incredible capacity for developing narratives, and even some of the wildest conspiracy theories can be grounded in rational thinking, which makes them that much more pernicious. Consider this: 63 percent of registered American voters believe in at least one political conspiracy theory, according to a recent poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University.

While psychologists can’t know exactly what goes on inside our heads, they have, through surveys and laboratory studies, come up with a set of traits that correlate well with conspiracy belief.

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What do conspiracy theories, religious beliefs and detoxifying proteins have in common?

By Ashutosh Jogalekar via Scientific American Blog Network

People who believe in conspiracy theories display the classic symptoms of patternicity and agenticity.

People who believe in conspiracy theories display the classic symptoms of patternicity and agenticity.

Why do people believe in God, ghosts, goblins, spirits, the afterlife and conspiracy theories? Two common threads running through these belief systems are what skeptic Michael Shermer in his insightful book “The Believing Brain” calls “patternicity” and “agenticity”. As the names indicate, patternicity refers to seeing meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Agenticity refers to seeing mysterious but palpable causal ‘agents’, puppet masters who pull the strings and bring about unexplained phenomena. God is probably the perfect example of an agent.

Patternicity and agenticity can both be seen as primitive evolutionary features of our brain that have been molded into instinctive behaviors. They were important in a paleolithic environment where decisions often had to be made quickly and based on instinct. In a simple example cited by Shermer, consider an early hominid sauntering along somewhere in the African Savannah. He hears a rustle in the grass. Is it a predator or is it just the wind? If he assumes the former and it turns out to be the latter, no harm is done. But if he assumes it’s just the wind and lets down his guard and it turns out to be a predator, that’s it; he’s lunch and just got weeded out of the gene pool. The first mistake is what’s called a ‘Type 1’ or false-positive error; the second one is a ‘Type 2’ or a false-negative error. Humans seem more prone to committing false positive errors because the cost of (literally) living with those errors is often less than the cost of (literally) dying from the false negatives. Agenticity is in some sense subsumed by patternicity; in the case of the hominid, he might end up ascribing the noise in the grass to a predator (an ‘agent’) even if none exists. The important thing to realize is that we are largely the descendants of humans who made false-positive errors; natural selection ensured this perpetuation.

Before we move on it’s worth noting that assuring yourself a place in the genetic pool by committing a false positive error is not as failsafe as it sounds. Sometimes people can actually cause harm by erring on the side of caution; this is the kind of behavior that is enshrined in the Law of Unintended Consequences. For instance after 9/11, about a thousand people died because they thought it safer to drive across the country rather than fly. 9/11 did almost nothing to tarnish the safety record of flying, but those who feared airplane terrorism (the ‘pattern’) reacted with their gut and ended up doing their competitors’ gene pools a favor.

Patternicity: The tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. – Michael Shermer

Yet for all this criticism of pattern detection, it goes without saying that patternicity and agenticity have been immensely useful in human development. In fact the hallmark of science is pattern detection in noise. Patternicity is also key for things like solving crimes and predicting where the economy is going. However scientists, detectives and economists are all well aware of how many times the pattern detection machine in their heads misfires or backfires. When it comes to non-scientific predictions the machine’s even worse. The ugly side of patternicity and agenticity is revealed in people’s belief in conspiracy theories. Those who think there was a giant conspiracy between the CIA, the FBI, the Mob, Castro and the executive branch of the government are confronted with the same facts that others are. Yet they connect the dots differently and elevate certain individuals and groups (‘agents’) to great significance. Patternicity connects the dots, agenticity sows belief. The tendency to connect dots and put certain agents on a pedestal is seen everywhere, from believing that vaccines cause autism to being convinced that climate change is a giant hoax orchestrated by thousands of scientists around the world.

Notwithstanding these all too common pathologies of the pattern detection machine, it’s satisfying to find a common, elegant evolutionary mechanism in our primitive brain that would be consistent with generally favoring false positives over false negatives. What I find interesting is that this behavior even seems to exist at the level of molecules.

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Michael Shermer discusses patternicity and agenticity.

28% of US voters believe in a ‘New World Order’ – Infographic

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

A short post today to bring you a great info-graphic detailing the poll results from the recent Public Policy Polling data. Click to enlarge for the best view!

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