How psychics tricked scientists on three separate occasions. Uri Geller, Steve Shaw & Michael Edwards, and Ronny Marcus managed to dupe scientists at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), The McDonnell Laboratory at Washington University, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory respectively. Here’s how, as well as how skeptics James Randi (magician), Dr. Ray Hyman (psychologist), & Martin Gardner (science communicator) responded to the psychic trickery.
The name of Nikola Tesla is associated with crazy conspiracy claims that have nothing to do with his real work.
By Brian Dunning via Skeptoid
No personality in the history of science has been pushed further into the realm of mythology than the Serbian-American electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. He is, without a doubt, one of the true giants in the history of electromagnetic theory. As an inventor he was as prolific as they come, with approximately 300 patents having been discovered in at least 26 countries, but many more inventions as well that stayed within his lab and were never patented. As remarkable as were his talents was his personality: private, eccentric, possessed of extraordinary memory and bizarre habits, and with a headlong descent into mental illness during his later years. Tesla’s unparalleled combination of genius and aberrance have turned him into one of the seminal cult figures of the day. As such, at least as much fiction as fact have swirled around popular accounts of his life, and devotees of conspiracy theories and alternative science hypotheses have hijacked his name more than that of any other figure. Today we’re going to try and separate that fiction from the fact.
First, a very brief outline of his life; but in order to put it in the proper perspective, we have to first clear up a popular misconception. Tesla did not invent alternating current, which is what he’s best remembered for. AC had been around for a quarter century before he was born, which was in 1856 in what’s now Croatia. While Tesla was a young man working as a telephone engineer, other men around Europe were already developing AC transformers and setting up experimental power transmission grids to send alternating current over long distances. Tesla’s greatest early development was in his mind: a rotary magnetic field, which would make possible an electric induction motor that could run directly from AC, unlike all existing electric motors, which were DC. At the time, AC had to be converted to DC to run a motor, at a loss of efficiency. Induction motors had been conceived before his birth, but none had ever been built. Tesla built a working prototype, but only two years after another inventor, Galileo Ferraris, had also independently conceived the rotary magnetic field and built his own working prototype. Rightfully fearing that his own obscurity as a telephone engineer was hampering his efforts as an inventor, Tesla arranged to move to the United States. He did so in 1884, getting his famously ill-fated and short-lived job in Thomas Edison’s laboratory.
The tycoon George Westinghouse, who understood the potential of AC and induction motors and was actively seeking them, gratefully purchased some of Tesla’s patents as soon as he learned about them. Royalties from Westinghouse fattened Tesla’s wallet, and a number of highly public projects on which they collaborated made him a celebrity, including the 1893 illumination of the World’s Fair with alternating current, and the subsequent creation of the Niagara Falls power plant. It was as a result of this windfall that Tesla set up his own laboratories and created his most intriguing inventions. Let’s run through a list of some of the seemingly magical feats attributed to Tesla, beginning with . . .
This is ASAP Science’s “Can Math Prove god’s Existence” – Debunked.
Talk about voxels and cones too dry to pique your interest in real-time lighting tech? Then have a peek at this re-creation of the lunar landing from last week’s GAME24 livestream, which convincingly proves that man actually did set foot on the moon.
What is The True Nature of Reality?
Get your geek on!
Is String Theory the final solution for all of physic’s questions or an overhyped dead end?
Everyone says organic food is better for you and better for the environment. But is that true, or is it just eco-marketing rhetoric?
Everyone says organic food is better for you and better for the environment. But is that true, or is it just eco-marketing rhetoric?
What are the principles behind Homeopathy and does it work?
Here’s what to say to anti-vaxxers!
This week Reactions is taking science to the skies and checking out the chemistry behind chemtrails, or more accurately, contrails.
Can you test psychic claims with science? Here are a few creative ways that you can test psychic powers scientifically as well as the results of these types of tests that have been performed hundreds of times over the last fifty years. This is part of my Exposing Psychics series.
This video is dedicated to all those confused folks over at the Flat Earth Society 🙂
Did you know Mars is NOT reddish in color? It’s true. It looks just like earth!!! Mars has earth colored soil and a beautiful blue sky – just like Hawaii!
As one conspiracy website put it –
This is very interesting. It may come as a surprise to many readers that Mars looks very much like Earth. It’s not red or orange – NASA applies a lens to tint the pictures or they release black and white photos… here’s a real color picture of Mars… blue sky and all… it gets to the point where you ask yourself “what does the government not lie about?”
They included this image as proof:
I can’t believe anybody would believe Mars looks like earth. But i’ll push forward simply for the entertainment value and because there is some interesting facts to be learned – stuff i didn’t know. I love everything space related.
Two facts about Mars:
So while the Romans and the Egyptians knew Mars appeared red simply by looking up into the night sky, today’s conspiracists insist our belief that Mars is red is actually a false belief perpetuated by a government coverup.
Maybe i am endowed with an abundance of common sense but couldn’t these conspiracists step outside their mother’s basement, look up into the night sky and see what Mars looks like to the naked eye? I’m just saying.
But i digress …
So i decided to pursue this absurdity to another level. I took the photo featured on the conspiracy website and i decided to find out where it came from. I found the original photo at the NASA website. It really wasn’t hard to find (Even a conspiracist could have found it). I then superimposed the conspiracy picture next to the original NASA photo. The conspiracy photo is on the left, the original NASA image is on the right:
When you adjust the color on your television set, you do so by picking something on the screen that you know should be a certain color (such as grass should be green) and you adjust your set accordingly. This is a form of calibration. You used the color of the grass as a reference point. Instruments that go to Mars also need to be calibrated so that scientists receive accurate information. There has to be a known reference — a calibration target.
The rover’s calibration targets are objects with known properties. For example, the Pancam calibration target. It is in the shape of a sundial and is mounted on the rover deck. Pancam will image the sundial many times during the mission so that scientists can adjust the images they receive from Mars. They use the colored blocks in the corners of the sundial to calibrate the color in images of the martian landscape. Pictures of the shadows that are cast by the sundial’s center post allow scientists to properly adjust the brightness of each Pancam image. Children provided artwork for the sides of the base of the sundial.
This is the same process used by Hollywood movie makers. They use a device called a “clapper board” to mark the beginning of a scene or a “take.” I’m sure you’ve seen this used in the movies. Well, at the top of some clapper boards you will see a rainbow of colors. Like the Pancam calibration target on the Mars rover, the colors along the top of the clapper board provide a known color reference that can be used in post production by movie editors to ensure the colors in the final cut are “true” to what was recorded on the movie set.
Speaking of “true colors,” let’s get back to why NASA would choose to creat “false color” photos along with “true color” photos. It’s really not as mysterious as it might sound. Let’s start with a technical definition of both:
An image is called a “true-color” image when it offers a natural color rendition, or when it comes close to it. This means that the colors of an object in an image appear to a human observer the same way as if this observer were to directly view the object: A green tree appears green in the image, a red apple red, a blue sky blue, and so on.[source]
False color refers to a group of color rendering methods used to display images in color which were recorded in the visual or non-visual parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. A false-color image is an image that depicts an object in colors that differ from those a photograph (a “true-color” image) would show. [source]
Here is a classic example of a false color image: A forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera (the image to the right). By creating a representation of wavelengths normally invisible to the human eye, we are able to discern the different temperatures present in this scene.
But there are a multitude of reasons for creating false images. Sometimes colors are enhanced, or even added, to represent some characteristic in the image, such as chemical composition, velocity, distance or to simply enhance the differences between materials. Have you ever increased the contrast on your television or an image on your computer so you can better discern some detail? You’ve just created your own false image!!
The same goes for the moon and Mars. With both planets being mostly uniform in their respective colors, creating false images can help us distinguish something as simple as peaks and valleys. Here is an example using the moon:
On the left side is the true color image of the far side of our moon, a mosaic constructed from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images. This is what you would see if you were to directly observe the terrain. Given the uniform color it is very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately judge the peaks and valleys.
On the right side is a false color image of the same side of our moon, a topographic map of the altitude of the Moon’s surface obtained by the Clementine orbiter mission (1994). Measurements made with a laser altimiter. Redder areas are higher, blue/purple areas lower. [source] (more Clementine images here)
In this instance a false color image was generated of the moon to provide a clear, visual representation of the lunar topography.
In the false color Mars image used at the conspiracy website, it’s very possible NASA color corrected the image for no other reason than to better distinguish the size, shape and locations of the rocks.
The bottom line is, Mars is reddish in color and the moon appears gray. Period. End of story.
I guess my bigger question concerning this conspiracy is, why would the government have any interest in covering up the real color of Mars or the moon (yes, there is a conspiracy out there that the government is covering up the real color of the moon)? I suspect it has something to do with the belief Mars and the moon are actually inhabitable and the Mars/moon color coverup is part of the government’s alien/UFO coverup.
- Mars Exploration Rover Mission (NASA JPL)
- Spacecraft: Surface Operations: Instruments (NASA JPL)
- The Clementine Mission (Lunar and Planetary Institute)
- False color/True Color (Wikipedia)
- Mars, Facts and Information about the Planet Mars (space.com)
- What Is Mars? (NASA)
- Why does Mars look red from Earth? (NASA)
- Big Picture on Mars: NASA Rover Snaps Amazing Red Planet View (space.com)
- Panoramas: Opportunity (NASA JPL)
- Panoramas: Spirit (NASA JPL)
- Mars Rover “Spirit” Images (NASA)
What if there were a tunnel through the middle of the earth and you jumped in?
Michael (at VSauce) is always entertaining. This video (made in 2012) is not as intense as his more recent works, but still thought provoking and entertaining. Enjoy 🙂
Speak with an AI with some Actual Intelligence
Cleverbot is a chatterbot web application that uses an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to have conversations with humans. It was created by British AI scientist Rollo Carpenter. It was preceded by Jabberwacky, a chatbot project that began in 1988 and went online in 1997. In its first decade, Cleverbot held several thousand conversations with Carpenter and his associates. Since launching on the web, the number of conversations held has exceeded 200 million. Besides the web application, Cleverbot is also available as an iOS, Android, and Windows Phone app.
Unlike some other chatterbots, Cleverbot’s responses are not pre-programmed. Instead, it learns from human input: Humans type into the box below the Cleverbot logo and the system finds all keywords or an exact phrase matching the input. After searching through its saved conversations, it responds to the input by finding how a human responded to that input when it was asked, in part or in full, by Cleverbot.
(Description courtesy Wikipedia)
I can tell you from experience, chatting with CleverBot can get a bit creepy at times. Some of the responses generated by CleverBot’s computer can seem so human-like.
Also from the CleverBot website:
PLEASE NOTE – Cleverbot learns from real people – things it says may seem inappropriate – use with discretion, and at YOUR OWN RISK
PARENTAL ADVICE – Visitors never talk to a human, however convincing it looks – the AI knows many topics – use ONLY WITH OVERSIGHT
Try conversing with CleverBot: Cleverbot.com – a clever bot – speak to an AI with some Actual Intelligence?.
Hollywood celebrities have a reputation for espousing a sort of prepackaged, fast-food version of politically correct “liberal” issues, as if they buy a kit of personal convictions off the shelf at Whole Foods. It includes environmental concerns, usually exaggerated and often wrong; rejection of “all things corporate” including pharmaceuticals and biotech, with a corresponding embrace of alternative medicine, organic agriculture, and “empowered individual” philosophies like home birth. Then there are the outliers who go the other way toward full alt-right with an imagined superior insight into world affairs. They tend to reject history and science in favor of conspiracy mongering and alternative science, be it the young Earth, the flat Earth, or calling us all sheeple for believing in the standard model of the universe.
Interestingly, anti-vaccination is found in both camps. Left-leaning antivaxxers tend to reject it because it’s not a natural healing method, and right-leaning antivaxxers think it’s an evil government program of enforced mercury poisoning. It increasingly seems that a rational, level-headed, science-literate Hollywood celebrity is as rare as a truly good movie.
So here my list of top 10 celebrities, 2017 edition, who contribute to the Endarkenment by abusing their notoriety to spread misinformation far and wide:
#10 – Shaq and the NBA Flat Earthers
Former player Shaquille O’Neal and current NBA basketball players Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler, and Draymond Green have all expressed their belief that the Earth is flat, but I put them all the way down at #10 because it’s not clear that all four literally believe this. They may just be trolling. But whether they are or not, they do genuinely influence a huge number of young people, including some demographics where education is not necessarily a life priority. Guys, if you want to inspire kids to achieve and succeed, you’re doing it wrong.
#9 – Michael Phelps
I include him as a representative of the many athletes and celebrities who loudly and proudly promote cupping, the overtly pseudoscientific technique of suctioning great round hickeys into the skin by rupturing capillaries. A lot of trainers sell this because it costs nothing to administer, requires no training, and they can charge whatever they want for it; and since it’s unregulated, they make a vast array of claims for whatever workout benefits they say it confers. Usually, it just happens to solve whatever that athlete’s complaint of the day is. Phelps proudly shows off these ugly bruises, as do many other athletes and celebrities, and has even posted pictures of himself getting it done on his Instagram. Sellers have even come up with a sciencey-sounding name for it to impress the scientifically illiterate: “myofascial decompression”.
An expanded/updated version of my 2011 video “Building 7 Explained,” focusing on 7 World Trade Center’s construction. The tube-frame steel design explains why its collapse looks similar to a controlled demolition — thus creating a generation of modern conspiracy believers.
The animation at 5:00 is scale-accurate: The east face of the frame really did tip that much to the north (the smaller building shown is Fiterman Hall). Meanwhile, the west face appears to have tipped to the south. There is no evidence whatsover that the frame collapsed “into its own footprint.”
Addressing other top talking points:
“Thousands of architects and engineers disagree…” And many, many thousands more agree. I made comedy out of the generally poor professional qualifications of those who have signed the petition put forward by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth: https://youtu.be/lpEnvGBfgnI
“You haven’t looked into the evidence…” Actually I have, because I used to be a Truther: https://youtu.be/UULUQfEQFuU
“A collapse like that due to fire would violate the laws of physics.” That’s interesting since NIST created a simulation that was quite accurate up to the last (and hardest to model) part of the collapse, using the program LS-DYNA, which — believe it or not — relies on the laws of physics to operate. If you don’t like the job NIST did, you can make your own simulation and see what happens — the construction and materials of the building are a matter of public record. In the meantime, feel free to point to one paper in a legitimate peer-reviewed engineering journal that supports this “violation of physics” claim.
“Professor Leroy Hulsey of the University of Alaska just released the results of a two-year study…” With funding by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Hulsey and two graduate students computer-modeled two floors where NIST found that collapse initiation *might* have taken place, and found scenarios where the collapse did not initiate. The team did not attempt to model any other cases where the collapse might have initiated. Not exactly an exhaustive scientific investigation, but hey, they’re still seeking donations to keep this hope alive.
“You believe everything the government tells you.” The government in reality is fairly incompetent. And, you’re asking people to believe that this same government pulled off a perfectly executed secret operation AND has maintained this secret conspiracy for 16 years and counting, after the operation was carried out and with hundereds of thousands of people worldwide working to expose a cover-up. The skeptical person finds this to be a highly unlikely scenario. See: “How to Apply Occam’s Razor”: https://youtu.be/AQNxNeQ9cxw
“Witnesses heard explosions in WTC7 before it collapsed.” Lots of things explode in fires. Transformers, gas lines, fire extinguishers, fuel tanks, even pneumatic office chairs have been shown to explode in a fire. That’s very different from high-velocity detonations necessary to cut even one major steel column of a skyscraper, which would exceed 150 decibels a half mile away.
“You are obviously paid by the government to make these videos.” Thank you for demonstrating your standards for evidence that confirms your pre-existing beliefs.
“But military-grade super-nanothermite that no one knows anything about . . . .” Okay, we’re done.
With the anniversary of 9/11 upon us . . .
Much of what we call “paranormal” are facets or properties of the natural world that we do not yet understand. And although ball lighting is not usually considered a paranormal phenomenon – and is almost certainly a natural phenomenon – its mysterious nature has puzzled scientists and paranormal researchers alike for centuries.
There currently is no fully satisfactory or generally accepted scientific theory for ball lightning, mainly because it is so rare, and when it does occur it doesn’t stay around long enough to be studied; it generally has a lifetime of less than five seconds. According to one researcher, “ball lightning is the name given to the mobile luminous spheres which have been observed during thunderstorms. Visual sightings are often accompanied by sound, odor, and permanent material damage.” Many scientists still deny its existence, but there are so many eyewitness accounts of the phenomenon that it’s difficult to deny its reality.
It’s these personal encounters with ball lighting that have given it its mysterious reputation. Many eyewitnesses describe its movement or “behavior” as seemingly intelligent, as if it knows where it wants to go. When it enters houses, it often enters through doorways or windows and travels down hallways.
But people tend to personify such peculiar events and it’s ludicrous to think that the balls of light have any intelligence, but the anecdotes are no less intriguing.
Here are some fascinating first-hand accounts.
Total geek mode required for this video! Enjoy! 🙂
If you believe everything you read on the internet, then is seems that a chemical found in thousands of products is causing an epidemic of severe neurological and systemic diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus. The FDA, the companies that make the product, and the “medical industrial complex” all know about the dangers of this chemical but are hiding the truth from the public in order to protect corporate profits and avoid the pesky paper work that would accompany the truth being revealed. The only glimmer of hope is a dedicated band of bloggers and anonymous e-mail chain letter authors who aren’t afraid to speak the truth. Armed with the latest anecdotal evidence, unverified speculation, and scientifically implausible claims, they have been tirelessly ranting about the evils of this chemical for years. Undeterred by the countless published studies manufactured by the food cartel that show this chemical is safe, they continue to protect the public by spreading baseless fear and hysteria.
Hopefully, you don’t believe everything you read on the internet, and you don’t get your science news from e-mail SPAM, where the above scenario is a common theme. While there are many manifestations of this type of urban legend, I am speaking specifically about aspartame – an artificial sweetener used since the early 1980s. The notion that aspartame is unsafe has been circulating almost since it first appeared, and like rumors and misinformation have a tendency to do, fears surrounding aspartame have taken on a life of their own.
Keep Reading: Science-Based Medicine » Aspartame – Truth vs Fiction.
Space is full of unexplored mysteries and secrets. Despite Mankind’s achievements in Space Exploration, we have barely scratched the surface of what lies in deep space. Here are the 10 Biggest Space Conspiracies Of All Time.
VSauce does it again. Fascinating stuff.
Mystical BS like this drives me crazy! Living without eating? Really?
Looks its this simple, you breathe in oxygen, and breathe out carbon dioxide. Thats because your body is using the oxygen to burn sugar in your body, then using that energy to live.
If your really nourished from prana… or chi…. why would you be breathing out carbon dioxide?
Marketing sometimes involves the science of making you believe something that is not true, with the specific goal of selling you something (a product, service, or even ideology). The organic lobby, for example, has done a great job of creating a health halo and environmentally friendly halo for organic produce, while simultaneously demonizing their competition (recently focusing on GMOs).
These claims are all demonstrably wrong, however. Organic food is no more healthful or nutritious than conventional food. Further, GMO technology is safe and there are no health concerns with the GMO products currently on the market.
There is an even more stark difference, however, between beliefs about the effects of organic farming on the environment and reality. In fact organic farming is worse for the environment than conventional farming in terms of the impact vs the amount of food produced.
First, organic farming may use pesticides. They just have to be “natural” pesticides, which means the ones they use are not chosen based upon their properties. Ideally choice of pesticide and the strategy in using them would be evidence-based and optimized for best effect, minimal impact on health and the environment, cost effectiveness, and convenience. Organic farming, however, does not make evidence-based outcome choices. Their primary criterion is that the pesticides must be “natural”, even if they are worse in every material aspect. This represents ideology trumping evidence. It is based on the “appeal to nature” fallacy, an unwarranted assumption that something “natural” will be magically better than anything manufactured.
In fact my main complaint against the organic label is that it represents an ideological false dichotomy. Each farming practice should be judged on its own merits, rather than having a bunch of practices ideologically lumped under one brand. I don’t care if a practice is considered organic or not, all that matters is the outcome.
A critical analysis of archeology leads to rejection of astrology, conspiracies, etc.
The world as a whole has become increasingly reliant on science to provide its technology and inform its policy. But rampant conspiracy theories, fake news, and pseudoscience like homeopathy show that the world could use a bit more of the organized skepticism that provides the foundation of science. For that reason, it has often been suggested that an expanded science education program would help cut down on the acceptance of nonsense.
But a study done with undergrads at North Carolina State University suggests that a class on scientific research methods doesn’t do much good. Instead, a class dedicated to critical analysis of nonsense in archeology was far more effective at getting students to reject a variety of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. And it worked even better when the students got their own debunking project.
The study, done by Anne Collins McLaughlin and Alicia McGill, lumps together things like belief in astrology, conspiracy theories, and ancient aliens, calling them “epistemically unwarranted.” Surveys show they’re widely popular; nearly half the US population thinks astrology is either somewhat or very scientific, and the number has gone up over time.
You might think that education, especially in the sciences, could help reverse this trend, but McLaughlin and McGill have some depressing news for you. Rejection of epistemically unwarranted ideas doesn’t correlate with scientific knowledge, and college students tend to have as much trouble coming to grips with reality as anyone else.