Tag Archives: Brian Dunning

inFact: Vaccine Ingredients

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via inFact video

Antivaccine activists claim that vaccines contain all sorts of terrifying poisons. Is this true? http://infactvideo.com/

Vaccine Ingredients

Antivaccine activists claim that vaccines contain all sorts of terrifying poisons. Is this true?

Antivax conspiracy theorists tell us that vaccines are deadly and contain some extraordinary toxins. Let’s examine a few of these ingredients, starting with:

FORMALDEHYDE: Absolutely true. Formaldehyde is used to sterilize some vaccines. We use formaldehyde for this because it’s found naturally in the human body, as it’s a normal byproduct of metabolism and digestion.

ANTIFREEZE: False. However some vaccines are sterilized with something called 2-phenoxyethanol, which is also used as a topical antibacterial for wounds. This and antifreeze come from the same family of hydrocarbons, but they are not the same thing.

MERCURY: Sort of true. Some vaccines are sterilized with thimerosal, also used in contact lens fluid and many other products. However, it contains mercury bound as an ethyl — the version of mercury that can be dangerous has to be bound as a methyl, which is different.

MORE . . .

The Hudson Valley UFO Mystery

by Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

Today we’re going to travel up the Hudson River Valley in New York, and back in time to the summers of 1983 and 1984. On many occasions, on clear summer nights, something terrifying and unexpected appeared in the sky. It was a gigantic craft, black as the sky, rimmed with bright lights in white, red, or green. It would drift over towns with a steady hum, witnessed by many. Police phone lines lit up every time it appeared, and the newspapers were choked with reports. It’s called the Hudson Valley UFO, and it’s one of the mainstays of evidence for those who believe we are not alone.

My friend Joe Miale is the director of the sci-fi movie Revolt (2017), and as it happened, the Hudson Valley UFO played as a big a role in his growth as all of my books on Bigfoots and ghosts did in mine. I asked Joe to tell his story:

I am ten years old, standing in my pajamas on the front lawn, with both of my parents and my elder brother. The neighbors were outside too. It’s a warm summer night in the suburbs of New York, and all of us are looking up at the sky where there is a triangular craft with colored lights moving slowly over our houses with a distinctive hum. The most remarkable thing for me at the time was actually the reaction of all these adults. They all seemed so alarmed and confused and they were swearing and shouting. My mother tried to take a picture, and when the flash went off, the lights on the craft went dark. Everyone reacted again. She called the police, and they said they were inundated with calls. In the coming days, the sighting was all over the local news. Traffic had pulled over on major roadways to watch the craft go by. The government called it a prank. I always thought it might be something military, but it certainly was an unusual aircraft. Something that would get such reactions from so many different people. As a kid, it was a true moment of wonder. I was already a fan of science fiction, and this sighting sealed the deal.

The case became legend, driven primarily by the 1987 book Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings by UFOlogists Philip J. Imbrogno and Bob Pratt, with credit also given to UFOlogy legend J. Allen Hynek who died before the book was finished. A number of other books were published about it too. Even a 1992 episode of the TV show Unsolved Mysteries dramatized the case and interviewed many of the people who were there, including a number of police officers who witnessed the object.

Continue Reading @ Skeptoid – – –

Ouija Boards

Real effects far more interesting than spiritualism claims are behind these famous talking boards.

by Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

Some say they are tools by which demons can influence us; others regard them as mechanisms for communicating with the deceased; still others dismiss them as toys that can be used to fool your friends. But however we regard them, Ouija boards have left an indelible mark on our culture. But of most interest is the question they raise: Can they indeed be used to reveal information unknown to any of the participants whose hands rest on the pointer? Today we’re going to find out what the science has revealed about Ouija boards.

Historically, these are called talking boards, and they’ve been around in spiritualism almost as long as spiritualists. They all involve a planchette, which is the pointer that seance participants all place their hands on, which then moves. How does it move? Well, that’s the fun if it’s a game, and it’s the spirit if it’s a seance. The planchette can either point to letters, numbers, or symbols written on the playing surface; or it can hold a writing implement that moves over paper to produce so-called spirit writing, or automatic writing.

The Ouija board is the name of the most successful talking board that’s been manufactured commercially, first by the Charles Kennard Novelty Company in 1890, then by Parker Brothers since 1966, and by Hasbro since 1991.

It’s true that name Ouija is the French and German words for yes, oui and ja. That’s officially what the game’s publisher will tell you it means, and that comes all the way down from one of the original bosses of the company, William Fuld. But Fuld wasn’t the first, and before he came along, the founders had their own explanation for the name.

The story goes — and it is just a story, there’s really no record telling us how much truth there may or may not be to it — that two of the four founders, Charles Kennard and Elijah Bond, were hanging out at the boarding house where Bond’s sister-in-law lived, Helen Peters, and they were, of course, playing with their new invention.

Continue Reading (or listen) @ Skeptoid – – –

The Big Pharma Conspiracy

Popular claims of a Big Pharma Conspiracy don’t stand up to any rational scrutiny

By Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

Beware! Pop culture tells us that the big pharmaceutical companies know all about the simple, natural cures for everything — cancer included — but are jealously covering them up. Should you be unfortunate enough to contract some terminal illness, the best the doctors are going to give you is some synthetic, patented drug that can be sold to you at a high profit. It won’t work as well as that natural treatment would, but that’s OK, because it means they get to sell it to you over and over again, until you finally die. Guess what? You’ve just been victimized by the Big Pharma Conspiracy, one of the most popularly believed conspiracy theories.

How could it be that I’ve been doing Skeptoid for almost 11 years and never covered the Big Pharma Conspiracy? Oh well. It be.

The basic Big Pharma Conspiracy says that pharmaceutical companies suppress natural cures on the principle that they are not patentable and thus not profitable to sell; so they instead distribute only patented, expensive, and less effective drugs. This allows them to keep profits up, and since the drugs are less effective, it keeps the patients sick enough to require more and more of the expensive products. Most familiar is the claim that a perfect cure for all cancers exists, but Big Pharma suppresses it because if everyone was cancer-free it would kill their profitable cancer business. A corollary takes it a step further, asserting that the drug companies actually create some of the diseases that make their products necessary.

Who exactly is Big Pharma? Author Robert Blaskiewicz describes them as:

…An abstract entity comprised of corporations, regulators, NGOs, politicians, and often physicians, all with a finger in the trillion-dollar prescription pharmaceutical pie.

This definition is important, because it allows the conspiracy theorist to vastly simplify what is, in reality, a complicated industry filled with conflicting roles and interests. Lumping them all together into a single entity turns them into a proverbial “they” at whom it is easy to point an accusing finger.

A quick and easy way to hear the Big Pharma Conspiracy elucidated in detail by someone in your neighborhood today is to talk with any alternative medicine practitioner whose diploma is unaccredited, like a naturopath or a chiropractor.

Continue Reading (or listen) @ Skeptoid – – –

Celebrity Pseudoscience: 2017 Edition

by Brian Dunning via skeptoid

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”.

Continue Reading @ skeptoid – – –

What Are the Chances You’re Psychic?

We analyze some of your stories of precognitive experiences.

By Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

Do you have precognition? If you’ve ever thought you might, you’re not alone. We all have experiences, at least every once in a long while, where it seems we’ve anticipated something a little too precisely for it to be random chance. Sometimes we anticipate things that are so specific, and so far outside the normal events we expect, that it seems there can be no explanation other than precognitive psychic powers. Might there be some undiscovered energy or force that makes such a thing possible? Today we’re going to look at your precognitive experiences, and see if there might be some other explanation.

First, it’s important to lay the groundwork for the conventional science-based explanation for apparent episodes of precognition. It comes from the law of large numbers. If we assume that something (anything) happens about once a second in your waking life, then statistically, you’re going to have a one-in-million experience about every month. Let’s take a look at the classic case as one example:

Hi Brian. At first, thank you for giving me the reasons and rationalities behind urban myths and superstition. I live in New Zealand and in 2015, my husband was on a business trip to Tokyo. On a Friday night, I dreamed about his funeral, no idea why, because he was a very healthy and happy man. The Saturday evening, my son called me that the police had come to tell him that they had found his father slumped next to his desk in his Tokyo hotel room. He had died the Friday night of a sudden heart attack. Due to the time difference between New Zealand and Japan, I must have had this dream at the same moment he died. I am not superstitious, but I hope you can give a reasonable explanation for my experience. Thank you, and keep up the good work.

Obviously this is an incomprehensible personal tragedy. Of course this listener has all our sympathies, but today we’re looking only at the statistical probability of what happened. I call this the classic case because it’s one of the most commonly reported cases that come to be described as psychic precognition: You dream of someone and then find out they died at that same time. But can it happen without psychic powers? Let’s calculate the probability of that.

Continue reading @ Skeptoid – – –

Principles of Curiosity

Personally, I would give this video 3.5 out of 5 stars. It felt too lengthy (40 minutes) for the amount of information presented, but still very enjoyable.

Birth of a Conspiracy Theory: There Is No Finland

A study of how a conspiracy theory as absurd as “There is no Finland” can even exist.

by Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

We’ve all heard a lot of really weird conspiracy theories about the world — the Flat Earth, the Hollow Earth, and the world’s governments all conspire to cover up the truth, for some reason. Some of these are so bizarre that they can only be jokes. None more so than the claim that Finland doesn’t exist. The idea here is that where we all think Finland is is actually just ocean, and that Japan and Russia conspired to persuade the world there’s a country there, to cover up the fact that Japan does unlimited fishing and whaling there with no international oversight. Today we’re going to study why a tale so trivially disproven as that can actually survive to become passionately believed by a small but vocal group of conspiracy theorists.


On any map, Finland borders Russia to its east, and its south and west borders are in the Baltic Sea. To its north, Finland connects to Sweden and Norway. Believers in the conspiracy theory have drawn a new map in which most of Finland is simply erased, extending the Baltic Sea all the way to the Russian border; and the northern third of Finland is simply renamed as more of Sweden, thus extending Sweden’s territory significantly. And thus is the Baltic Sea greatly expanded as well, giving those Japanese fishing boats plenty of space to do what they do, unpestered by fishing regulators.

How would such a thing come to be? According to the conspiracy theory, after World War II, Russia found itself short of food (and this is quite true). Japan was facing a related problem, in that they found they’d been overfishing and needed new waters. So they approached Russia with the idea of granting them secret fishing rights in the Baltic; and to hide it from the rest of the world, they’d mutually agree to tell everyone that much of the Baltic Sea was actually a landmass called Finland so there’s no need for anyone to try and regulate fishing there. Russia agreed, and together they built the Trans-Siberian Railway to facilitate the endeavour, and as a quid pro quo, Japan donated much of its catch to Russia.

Continue Reading (or listen) @ Skeptoid – – –

The Shag Harbour UFO

Comparing the actual evidence to the Canadian claim of best evidence for alien visitation.

by Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

They call it “Canada’s Roswell”, supposedly the strongest evidence of extraterrestrial visitation ever in Canada. It happened at Shag Harbour, a small fishing port near the extreme southern tip of Nova Scotia. On the clear night of Wednesday, October 4, 1967, shortly before midnight, a number of witnesses observed a row of lights, said to be on a craft about 60 feet long, descend with a bomb-like whistling sound, hover above the water for a moment, and then submerge. Emergency crews responded to what they thought was a plane crash. Divers spent a few days scouring the harbor bottom, but found nothing. But then, a quarter of a century later, the story exploded into something the like of which we’d never seen. The Shag Harbour UFO became one of the best cases ever for proof of alien visitation… supposedly.

On the night the incident was reported, Coast Guard and civilian boats swarmed Shag Harbour looking for what they hoped would be plane crash survivors. All that was found was a patch of foam, described by the fishing boat captain who saw it as “At least 80 feet wide”, and that in the darkness he thought it was “yellowish in color.” Divers spent three days combing the bottom of the bay in the area where everyone thought the crash had happened, but they found nothing at all.

Often cited as the reason that Shag Harbour should be considered Canada’s best evidence for alien visitation is the number and reliability of the witnesses. The lights descending into the water were reported by about a dozen people, including a Mountie. Two more Mounties and a few other people called to the scene reported seeing one light bobbing in the water for a short time.

Another reason it’s cited as an important case is that a few other UFO reports were made in the weeks before and after this one in various parts of the province. But in fact, rather than strengthening the case, it dilutes and complicates it.

Continue Reading (or listen to the podcast) @ Skeptoid . . .

Grounding the Ghost of Flight 401

The unexpected facts behind this famous ghost story from the 1970s

by Brian Dunning via skeptoid

It was one of the great ghost stories of the 1970s. One of the world’s newest and flashiest airliners, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, was making one of its first flights for Eastern Air Lines on December 29, 1972. It infamously crashed in Florida’s Everglades swamp just before midnight, killing 101 of the 176 people on board. The story goes that parts from it were salvaged and installed in other L-1011s, and almost immediately, the ghost stories began. Air crews reported seeing apparitions of their dead coworkers on board the planes that had Flight 401’s spare parts. Books and TV movies frightened audiences, and this ghost story that had it all became a permanent fixture in great American tales of the paranormal. Surely, pilots and air crew would never make up such stories, would they? To all who shivered at night in fear of this creepy story, it seemed that it must have been true as reported.

N310EA, the aircraft involved in the accident, photographed in St. Louis just weeks before the crash. (Source: Wikipedia)

The actual crash was, in fact, true as reported; and there’s never been any real doubt over what the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigators determined. Pilot Bob Loft, copilot Bert Stockstill, and flight engineer Don Repo were bringing the plane in to land at Miami International Airport. They got a warning light on the landing gear. Loft told Stockstill to put the plane on autopilot while Repo went below to the avionics bay (called the “hell hole”) to manually check the landing gear. Loft accidentally nudged the control yoke, perhaps with his knee, while turning around to speak to Repo, and the autopilot mode was one which followed whatever pitch the pilot set with the yoke. None of them realized in the dark that they were gradually descending, as their attention was on debugging the landing gear indicator. Stockstill began a turn to follow the airport’s approach pattern, and immediately noticed their altitude — but it was too late. The plane crashed into the swamp; fortunately, it was a relatively gentle angle into a soft surface, and that’s what allowed so many to survive. All three of Loft, Stockstill, and Repo were among the unlucky majority who perished.

The stories began four years later  .  .  .

Continue reading or listen @ skeptoid . . .
Also See: Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 (Wikipedia)

Here Be Dragons (Brian Dunning)

Here Be Dragons is a 40 minute video introduction to critical thinking. This video is on my “must watch” list for skeptics and critical thinkers 🙂

Most people fully accept paranormal and pseudoscientific claims without critique as they are promoted by the mass media. Here Be Dragons offers a toolbox for recognizing and understanding the dangers of pseudoscience, and appreciation for the reality-based benefits offered by real science.

Here Be Dragons is written and presented by Brian Dunning, host and producer of the Skeptoid podcast and author of the Skeptoid book series.

Source: Here Be Dragons – YouTube.

Remembering the Mandela Effect

Some claim that certain common false memories are evidence for alternate realities.

by Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Ever have one of those moments where you watch an old movie or pick up an old book, and hear a quote or see something that stands in stark contrast to what you thought you remembered? We all have. But what about a special case, where the exact same broken memory is shared by a large number of people? At first glance, it seems like this must be something different. It’s no surprise that any of us individually might remember something wrong; but for a whole group to share an identical false memory seems to suggest that there might be a new phenomenon at work. It’s been called the Mandela Effect.

The Mandela Effect is named for one of its most famous examples, that of Nelson Mandela, whose funeral some people remembered after he supposedly died in prison. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life in prison in South Africa, but he survived it and was released in 1990. He was President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and some of those same people said “Wait, he died in prison, I watched the funeral on TV.” He didn’t actually die until 2013; and every time his name came up, these same people said “Wait a minute, I thought he was dead.”

Now, this group who erroneously remembered that Mandela had died did not include me, but I’m sure some people thought he had. One who did was psychic ghost hunter Fiona Broome, who writes that she discovered that some people she knew also thought that Mandela had died. Seeking an explanation for what she described as an “emerging phenomenon”, she turned not to social science, but to some nebulous concept of alternate realities. In her own words:

The “Mandela Effect” is what happens when someone has a clear memory of something that never happened in this reality. Many of us — mostly total strangers — remember the exact same events with the exact same details. However, our memories are different from what’s in history books, newspaper archives, and so on. This isn’t a conspiracy, and we’re not talking about “false memories.” Many of us speculate that parallel realities exist, and we’ve been “sliding” between them without realizing it. (Others favor the idea that we’re each enjoying holodeck experiences, possibly with some programming glitches. In my opinion, these aren’t mutually exclusive.)

Is a lot of people remembering something wrong evidence for alternate realities? Not really.

Continue reading @ skeptoid – – –

Hitler’s Antarctic Fortress Unmasked

Deconstructing a wild tale about a Nazi military base deep inside Antarctica.

by Brian Dunning via skeptoid

It’s a story that reads like a Captain America comic book: American firepower going after the Nazi super-villain in a remote fortress. Despite World War II having ended, Third Reich scientists were still soldiering on at their hidden lair, planning the doom of civilization. New Berchtesgaden was said to be a Nazi base in Antarctica, established in 1939. Then during World War II, the British launched at least one assault against it. In 1946 the Americans tried the same thing. It wasn’t until 1958 that three nuclear bombs finally destroyed New Berchtesgaden, putting a final end to the Nazi regime. It’s a story so wild that you can scarcely believe you haven’t heard of it before. But believe it you must; because as bizarre as it sounds, parts of this insane tale are actually true.

The story goes that in 1938, the Nazis sent a ship called the Schwabenland to Antarctica to set up a military base, on the orders of Admiral Dönitz. It landed at that sector of Antarctica called Queen Maud Land, and they named their area New Schwabia, after their ship. Deep in the interior of the continent, they established a permanent base and named it New Berchtesgaden, after the Bavarian town overlooked by the Kehlsteinhaus “Eagle’s Nest” retreat.

Nazi surveyors discovered a vast network of underground tunnels including a warm geothermal lake, and some say alien technology was found there. The Nazis used this resource to construct a large underground city, variously called New Berlin or Base 211.

Continue Reading or listen to the podcast at skeptoid – – –

The D. B. Cooper Mystery

The world’s only unsolved hijacking case is filled with misinformation.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here.

On July 12, 2016, the FBI finally closed the files on one of its most famous unsolved cases. They called it the NORJAK case — short for Northwest Hijacking — but you probably know it by the name given to the hijacker,

A 1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper (wikipedia)

A 1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper (wikipedia)

D. B. Cooper. Most people are familiar with the basic facts: that in 1971, a man hijacked an airliner, demanded and received cash and a parachute, and jumped out the plane’s back door over the Pacific Northwest and was never caught or identified. Whether he got away clean, or was killed in the attempt, could never be determined. Even though the D. B. Cooper case continues to capture the public’s imagination, there is a lot of fact and fiction unknown to many fans.

On the afternoon of November 24, 1971, a man who looked mid-40ish, wearing a business suit, walked up to the counter of Northwest Airlines in Portland, Oregon. Using the name Dan Cooper, he bought a $20 one-way ticket to Seattle, Washington. He was the second-to-last person to board the plane, and while waiting for takeoff, he ordered and drank a bourbon and soda — unfortunately spilling half of it. Once airborne, he handed flight attendant Florence Schaffner a note, which said something to the effect of “I have a bomb which I will use if necessary, this is a hijacking, please sit next to me.” She showed it to fellow flight attendant Tina Mucklow and to the pilots. Cooper then asked for the note back, which is why its exact wording is not known.

Schaffner took the empty seat next to him as ordered and he opened a briefcase, and showed her what she described as red sticks with a battery and wires. He then dictated to her the following demands:

Take this down. I want $200,000 by 5:00 PM in cash. Put it in a knapsack. I want two back parachutes and two front parachutes. When we land, I want a fuel truck ready to refuel. No funny stuff, or I’ll do the job.

Schaffner conveyed this information to the pilot. Almost nobody on the plane knew anything unusual was happening; the whole episode was handled discreetly. Cooper added that if these instructions were followed, he would safely release everyone on the plane, except for the flight crew.

23 year-old flight attendant Florence Schaffner

23 year-old flight attendant Florence Schaffner

The airline agreed and contacted the FBI for assistance making the exchange safely. The FBI collected the money from the Seattle First National Bank. Some FBI records say they used a Recordak high-speed microfilm machine to image the serial numbers of all the bills; other records say the bank had the money on hand with its serial numbers already recorded. The airline got on the phone and collected the four parachutes from local contacts. Two hours later, the exchange had been successful, and the plane taxied for takeoff, fully refueled.

Cooper instructed that the plane was to fly a specific route, from Seattle to Portland, to Medford, to Red Bluff, and then to Reno, all while staying below 10,000 feet and keeping the flaps and landing gear down. The plane was a Boeing 727, featuring the nifty “Airstair” rear access stairway under the tail. Cooper had released two of the flight attendants along with the passengers, but had kept Mucklow on board so she could show him how to operate the Airstair.

24 Nov 1971, Seattle, Washington, USA — Seattle: Northwest Airlines 727, hijacked on a flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, sits on the ground here 11/24. before being refueled and continuing on to Reno, Nevada. The hijacker received $200,000 here before allowing the 35 passengers and 2 stewardesses off the plane. He also demanded and received parachutes. When the plane landed in Reno, the hijacker was gone. This photo was made by photographer Bruce McKim with a 500 mm lens and a 4 minute exposure. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Frustrated that the money had not been delivered in a knapsack as he’d requested, Cooper began cannibalizing one of the parachute’s cords to do what Mucklow thought was tying the bundles of money to himself. About a half hour after takeoff, Cooper ordered Mucklow up to the cockpit with the pilots and closed the door, ordering them not to open it. At 8:13pm, over southern Washington, the pilots got a number of warning lights. The Airstair had been lowered, cabin pressure had dropped, and the cabin temperature fell sharply — it was -7ºF outside. Not knowing whether Cooper had jumped or not, they continued on to Reno as ordered and landed, causing a nice display of sparks (but no damage) as the Airstair briefly scraped the runway. After receiving no response from Cooper over the intercom, they chanced to open the door, and found him gone; all that remained were his clip-on tie, and a ton of cigarette butts. Nobody would ever see him again.

Continue reading @ skeptoid – – –

Photographic Memory

Pop culture tells us that some people have photographic memories. What’s the real story?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Remember when you were a kid and there was always someone in your class who claimed to have a photographic memory? If you believed it, as many children tend to do, you were probably both impressed and jealous. to-develop-a-photographic-memory_300pxThen by the time you got older, you’d heard of people with savantism, and champions in memory contests, and people who could remember every day of their lives; and you probably wished that you too could have a photographic or eidetic memory. Well how would you feel if I told you that there might not be any such thing as those abilities?

That’s not to say that nobody has extraordinary or unusual memory prowess. Some do, and we’ll talk about those; but what we want to focus on today is the idea that some people have the pop-culture version of a “photographic memory” that we’ve all heard about, which sounds a bit like a superpower. They can, at will, call to mind the page of a book they’ve read, a license plate they saw, a long string of numbers, what have you; and simply read it off that image in their mind’s eye as if they’re seeing it live. What makes this such a great thing is that it doesn’t seem to come with any cost. They are not otherwise developmentally disabled, and haven’t had to trade other cognitive or behavioral functioning. This is the version of “photographic memory” that so many of us grew up believing in: the superpower version.

Continue reading @ skeptoid – – –

Feng Shui Today

Feng shui is much more than just a debunked way to magically arrange furniture.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Listen here or read transcript below

Today we’re going to push our couch a bit to the left, move our little Costco water fountain from one side of the room to the other, then clench our hands in joy as we begin to realize the wonderful benefits we’ve just conferred upon ourselves: longer life, great wealth, and influence. For we’ve just practiced a bit of feng shui (pronounced fung shway), the Chinese art of geomancy, using the Earth’s energies to supercharge our lives with qi. Though some take it quite seriously, most find feng shui a bit silly, but few are aware of the true impact it has had on both Eastern and Western cultures. Today we’re going to look past the both the skepticism and the belief, and learn the true significance of feng shui.

Dick Van Dyke’s home had terrible feng shui.

Dick Van Dyke’s home had terrible feng shui.

Feng shui, as we know it today, is largely a child of Western esotericism; more specifically, the New Age movement. It was introduced to Americans at the height of the New Age delirium in the mid-1970s. President Richard Nixon’s 1972 state visit to China, which no president had ever done before, was instrumental in triggering the publishing and entertainment industries to enthusiastically embrace all things China, to satisfy the public’s ravenous hunger for Eastern mysticism. The TV series Kung Fu with David Carradine came out that same year; the first acupuncture schools opened in the United States in 1974; and the first English language edition of A Barefoot Doctor’s Manual was published. At least, about a third of it was published; 600 pages of conventional medical information was cut out, leaving only the traditional remedies. Western New Age audiences were in love with the idea of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which they saw as more spiritually fulfilling and enlightened. Little did they realize that what they considered “enlightenment” was the result of censoring out 600 pages from a 900-page book — in other words, “endarkenment”.

This was the Western environment into which feng shui was introduced.

Continue Reading @ skeptoid . . .

Debunking the Moon Truthers, Part 1

The history of the Apollo moon landing hoax conspiracy theory, and those who believe in it.

moon_dog_500px
By Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

The Life and Times of the Moon Hoax Conspiracy

moon-apollo11lm5_0350pxYes, it’s a 3-part Skeptoid episode, the first one ever, and it took more than 500 episodes to get me to finally address the moon landing hoax conspiracy. To those who follow science, the claims that we never went to the moon are the most tiresome and foolish of the conspiracy theories; but to those who believe them, they are absolute religion, and the ultimate token of their conviction that anything coming from official sources is a lie. Today we’re going to begin our in-depth analysis of the Moon Landing Conspiracy, of those who believe in it, and a survey of the facts and figures of the basic narrative.

Today we’re going to talk about the history and cultural impact of the claim; next week we’ll go into the most popular evidentiary claims said to prove that we never went to the moon (hopefully including some you haven’t heard before); and in the final installment, we’ll look at the hard physical proof that we did go.

The basic narrative of the Moon Truth conspiracy theory, as you probably know, is that NASA faked the Apollo missions and nobody ever actually went to the moon. As with most conspiracy theories, there are all sorts of variations on the claims of what actually did happen, while the only thing they have in common is that no men actually landed on the moon. moon-landing-fake_250pxSome believe the Apollo missions orbited the moon but did not land; some believe they never went farther than Earth orbit; some believe the Apollo spacecraft flew but were unmanned; some believe they never launched anything at all. The astronauts performed their moonwalks on a movie set, and fake transmissions were provided to the TV networks for broadcast. The reasons given for why the government would have gone to all this trouble range from simply distracting Americans’ attention from the unpopular war in Vietnam, to fooling the Soviets into thinking they lost the Cold War, to protecting NASA’s budget by appearing to spend it on something supremely impressive.

A big question we have to answer is what’s the point of even talking about this? The people who moonlanding02_250pxbelieve it have already heard the science-based responses to their claims a hundred times, and rejected them a hundred times. Their minds are riveted shut to anything but their preferred narrative. We’ll not be changing any of their minds today. And the rest of us aren’t in denial, and aren’t asking these made-up, shoehorned questions that try to raise doubt where none exists. So who is this episode for, nobody?

Well, maybe for somebody. Polling data has, for decades, consistently shown that some 6-7% of Americans believe the moon landings were faked; and even scarier, about four times as many Europeans agree with them. That’s a lot more people than the hardcore YouTube-obsessed serial conspiracists; it includes tens of millions of ordinary folks who are otherwise as rational as you or I. It seems there must be something deeply compelling about this odd belief.

Continue reading part 1 @ skeptoid – – –

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The Secret History of Majestic 12

These purported UFO documents changed the course of the culture of UFO belief.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

The Majestic 12 documents are the Holy Bible of UFO enthusiasts. These documents, which appear to be declassified official US government memos written in 1947, confirm everything believed by many in the UFO community: that the United States knows all about aliens visiting the Earth in their flying saucers. Many say the documents are a hoax; others say the hoax claimants are all a part of the coverup. top secret doc_300pxBut no matter what’s true, Majestic 12 has had a major impact on the entire course of UFO belief in popular culture. Today we’re going to see if we can learn where they came from.

In December of 1984, a manila envelope dropped through the mail slot in the front door of Jaime Shandera, a writer and UFO researcher. It contained a roll of 35mm film. The postmark on the envelope told him little; it was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but there was no return address or indication of who might have sent it or what it was. Shandera called his partner in UFO research, author Bill Moore. They developed the film, and found that each frame was a photograph of a page of a document. Printed out, it formed what’s become known as the Majestic 12 documents, usually abbreviated MJ-12.

The purported secret committee called 'Majestic 12'.

The purported secret committee called ‘Majestic 12’. (wikipedia)

The document purported to be a memo written in 1952 by the director of the CIA, advising President Eisenhower of the existence of a group of twelve scientists and military officials who were assembled in 1947 on the orders of President Truman to investigate the crash of the flying saucer in Roswell. The memo advised the President of the importance of the Majestic 12 group, and suggested that the project be continued.

ufo-crash1-200x225Moore and Shandera decided to keep the documents secret, sharing them only with a select few UFO researchers, including Stanton Friedman, the original author of the Roswell mythology. Word began to leak out to the UFO community that some documents existed, but Moore, Shandera, and Friedman weren’t sharing. In 1986, an anonymous source described the documents to British UFO author Jenny Randles, but she declined them. In 1987, the documents were received anonymously by another British UFO author, Timothy Good. He published them in his book Above Top Secret. Moore realized the time for secrecy was past, and he went public with them at a UFO conference in June of that year. Suddenly everyone knew about MJ-12, and even the mainstream media reported on them.

Skeptical UFO author Philip Klass sent a copy of the documents to the FBI, which immediately investigated their authenticity. In their report dated December 1988, the FBI stated:

The Office of Special Investigations, US Air Force, advised on November 30, 1988, that the document was fabricated. Copies of that document have been distributed to various parts of the United States. The document is completely bogus.

Of course, even if the document was authentic, its widespread public availability might well persuade the government to claim that it is bogus. How is one to know? A useful exercise might be to look at the wider context in which the document was delivered to UFO authors.

Continue Reading @ Skeptoid – – –

Sky Trumpets

From all over the world come reports of strange trumpet-like blasts from the sky.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

From all around the world come reports of strange blasts of sound from the heavens. Some rumble like distant explosions or thunder, some blare like amplified tubas, some shimmer like reverberating wind chimes. YouTube has a full measure of videos taken from iPhones searching the sky while Sky Trumpets blast their portentous refrains. Commenters warn of the End of Days, or of aliens vainly trumpeting their misunderstood greetings, or of Mother Earth releasing great energies. trumpet-sounds-sky_0350pxBut whatever the theory, the recordings of Sky Trumpets are sure to send a shiver up your vibrating spine. Must they all be either supernatural or hoaxes, or might science be able to sweep away the mystery?

Of course, the first thing we have to do is listen to some samples. While these play, keep in mind how easy it is to fake videos such as these today. Sounds can be taken from the Internet from any source, and it requires no more than journeyman computer skills to add a sound to a video and apply any manner of reverb or background noise to it. But regardless of their origin, these are the types of sounds that characterize the Sky Trumpets phenomenon; so if there is something to explain, this is what they sound like.

Here’s one from Beijing, China:

And here’s one from Indonesia:

And from Saskatchewan:

And from Oklahoma:

So far, all of these Sky Trumpet recordings were posted to the Internet after 2011. Here is what amateur researchers have determined is the earliest of these videos and certainly the most popular with over 4 million views, and it was uploaded to YouTube in August of 2011, from Kiev in Ukraine, by someone calling herself “Russian Kristina”:

Since this video went live, there have been any number of copycat hoax videos posted using the exact same audio file; including one that got a bit of press, by a girl who did the whole thing in five minutes to show her friends how easy it was to make a hoax Sky Trumpets video.

But hoaxes aside, it’s a virtual certainty that at least some of these videos are genuine, and represent real sounds heard by real people who recorded them and posted them online in good faith. Given that, is it then proven that Sky Trumpets are a real — and unknown to science — phenomenon?

Continue Reading @ skeptoid – – –

inFact: Homeopathy

Many people believe homeopathy is a natural, herbal supplement like any other. But is it?

Via inFact -YouTube

Click here for more information including full transcript and References.

The New Flat Earthers

The reinvented Flat Earth fad is less about geology and more about conspiracy mongering.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Listen here, read transcript below

Today we’re going to follow up on an older Skeptoid episode from a few years ago, the Flat Earth Theory. In that episode we looked at the history of belief in a flat Earth, which was mainly driven by 19th and 20th century Christian fundamentalism driving clumsy efforts to prove the literal truth of the Bible. flat earth pizza_250pxThat era ended when the last of the well known proponents, an elderly couple who called themselves the Covenant People’s Church, died after their house burned down in 1996, taking with it the archives of their International Flat Earth Research Society of America. And where their story ended, today’s story begins, with a new, reinvented version of the Flat Earth theory.

The Biblical literalists have moved from the center of Flat Earth belief to its fringe, and their place has been taken by believers in conspiracy theories and alternate science. 21st century Flat Earthers are less likely to recite Bible verses and more likely to oppose vaccination, to charge that 9/11 was an inside job, and to claim the government is drugging the population with chemtrails sprayed from airliners. Flat Earthing is now entwined with perpetual motion machines, with a belief that Nikola Tesla held the secrets to free energy now suppressed by the global elite, cold fusion and zero point energy, and declare that it’s all part of the grandest coverup of all: that the Earth is actually a flat disk and not a globe.

An excellent resource for tracking the popularity of ideas is Google Trends, which tells us that Internet searches for the term “Flat Earth” began a sharp increase at the beginning of 2015. The popularity of this search term is still rising, and is presently at its greatest over the course of Google’s entire tracking history. This is with the exception of January 2016 which saw a tremendous spike. By then a pair of fringy C-list celebrities had been trumpeting the Flat Earth and declaring their rejection of the Earth as a sphere loudly and proudly, though it’s never been clear whether they actually believed this or were just bucking for attention. flat-earthOne of these was a rapper named B.o.B, who had been among the most vocal; and to the delight of the Internet, astronomer and beloved science personality Neil deGrasse Tyson began correcting him over Twitter. Within a short time it developed into a rap battle, with Tyson’s nephew providing the rhythm. The other was celebrated salacious person Tila Tequila, for whose Twitter feed the Flat Earth tweets constituted the most intelligent and weighty content.

If the new Flat Earthers were limited to these two “celebrities” and the handful of remaining Christian Flat Earth fundamentalists, that would be one thing. But they are not. Google Trends proves that B.o.B and Tila Tequila were only riding a wave that had been building for the better part of a year. Where was it building? YouTube provides another indicator. Search YouTube for “Flat Earth” and you’ll find countless videos, mainly amateurish explainers full of gross misunderstandings and misinformation, yet many with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of views. Most of these were posted throughout 2015 and 2016. What triggered the sudden renewal of interest?

Continue Reading @ skeptoid – – –

Holocaust Denial

Why some people think the Holocaust never happened, and what to do about it.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Listen here or read transcript below

There are some events in history so profound and personal that they govern the courses of lives even generations later. History tells us that a tenth of the 60 million human beings killed in World War II were Jewish civilians who were murdered for no reaon other than being Jewish. Decades later, some promote an alternative view, a “revisioning” as they call it; a view that claims these people did not die, but that it is a myth created by the Jewish people themselves in order to win unearned sympathy. Today we’re going to take a look at Holocaust denial.

Auschwitz concentration camp

Auschwitz concentration camp

Let’s say an intelligent person decides to sit down at the computer and spend a few hours making an honest and thorough assessment of the evidence, to decide whether the Holocaust happened, and if it did, whether it was really as big as 6 million. I’ll tell you right now: by no means is that person necessarily more likely to conclude the Holocaust was real. For every piece of evidence one can find, thorough and well-reasoned counter arguments exist to contradict it, and are often easier to find. Complicating things further is that any given single piece of information, supporting either argument, can be fairly described as an out-of-context cherrypick. It’s dangerous to assume that the Internet provides a consensus perspective.

I quickly grew conscious of this as I was planning how to frame this episode. My initial idea was to lay out what we know, and how we know it. Pretty basic. However, I have plenty of experience with anti-Semitism, having done episodes on the Rothschild banking family, the Zionist conspiracy, and other topics sure to attract the bigots, so I’m well aware of how the comments are likely to go on this episode. If I were to merely describe the evidence, the comments would be overloaded with contradicting claims so specific and diverse that it’s virtually impossible to respond. So we will take a quick skim over some of that evidence, but my experience is that the more useful strategy in discussing this topic is to prepare the honest researcher for the broader task of being prepared for the incoming onslaught of pseudohistory, and be ready to recognize it for what it is.

Continue Reading @ Skeptoid – – –

Firestorm in Waco

How much truth is there to the conspiracy theories that the FBI deliberately killed the Branch Davidians?

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

Today we’re going to delve into the deepest, ugliest corner of urban legendry: conspiracy theories claiming that the US government deliberately attacks and kills its own citizens. In this case it’s the infamous 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas resulting in the deaths of some 75 people inside. The accepted narrative is that the Davidians, intent on apocalyptic death according to their prophecies, committed mass suicide as the federal agents entered the compound with armored vehicles; while the conspiracy theory holds that it was the federal agents who set the fires in a successful effort to murder the entire population inside. Today we’re going to examine the claim, and find out how we know what we know.

The Mount Carmel complex burns in Waco, April 19, 1993

The Mount Carmel complex burns in Waco, April 19, 1993

The Branch Davidian sect, originally an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, had been on its land outside Waco for nearly 60 years when young Vernon Howell took it over in the aftermath of a 1987 armed raid. He luckily escaped conviction, changed his name to David Koresh (telling his followers that Koresh meant “death”), and assumed the role of prophet. A few years later, a confrontation with federal authorities led to a six week siege that ended with the complete destruction by fire of the compound as tanks rolled in with tear gas, killing Koresh and 75 other Branch Davidians inside.

The conspiracy theories came thick and fast. The most prominent were popularized by a pair of independent filmmakers, Linda Thompson (who was a full-throttle conspiracy theorist best known for her film Waco: The Big Lie) and Mike McNulty (who was more measured, and received an Academy Award nomination for Waco: The Rules of Engagement). We’ll take a look at the two most commonly repeated claims:

Brian Dunning via Continue Reading @ Skeptoid – – –

Demythologizing the Knights Templar

More pseudohistory than fact surrounds this ancient’s order’s depictions in pop culture.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below | download podcast

This ancient order of knights, cloaked in mystery and intrigue, find their way into more of today’s movies and novels than just about any other famous characters. For a fair summary of the degree to which made-up Knights Templar mythology has permeated pop culture, one need look no further than the History Channel, the world’s central warehouse of sensationalized pseudohistory. Knights-Templar-4_0350pxThey’ve cast the Templars in some shadowy overlord capacity in just about every phase of human history. They’ve involved them in the Oak Island Money Pit, a sinkhole discovered in Nova Scotia in 1795; inexplicably entangled them with various alleged pirate treasures; with ciphers pretended to exist on the tomb of Jesus; with modern day Freemasons, separated by four centuries; and granted them fantastic treasures that they discovered buried beneath the Temple of Solomon and have kept secretly hidden ever since — and various described as either the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Shroud of Turin, or even all three.

DaVinciCode_200pxThese, and many more veins of Templar mythology, all extend from the mother lode: the 1982 book Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, best known today as Dan Brown’s main inspiration for The Da Vinci Code, in which he cast the Templars as guardians of the secret that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife. But although Holy Blood, Holy Grail is clearly the main influence of today’s Templar mythology to which The History Channel owes so much of its programming, it was not the first to employ them in fiction. Sir Walter Scott used Templars for a number of characters in his 1820 novel Ivanhoe, which is set when the Templars existed, but heavily fictionalizes who they were and what they did. A number of French authors picked up this theme, most notably Maurice Druon, whose series of seven novels have been cited by modern author George R. R. Martin as his original inspiration for his series A Song of Ice and Fire and the HBO series Game of Thrones. Yes, the Templars, willingly or not, have had a massive impact on modern popular mythology.

So for now, that’s enough of asserting that everything we’ve heard about the Knights Templar is fiction, and it’s time to now look at their true history.

Continue Reading @ Skeptoid – – –

Also See: Knights Templar (wikipedia)

The Conspirators: Chemtrails

By Skeptoid Media via YouTube

The New World Order conspirators discuss their “chemtrails” plan to dumb down the population by spraying aerial drugs from airliners.

The Zionist Conspiracy

Are the rumors true that Jews are planning to take over the world’s governments and banks?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to point the skeptical eye at conspiracy theories that claim Jews are trying to take over the world. There is not just one version of this, there are many; and in their various forms, they’ve been around for centuries. There’s hardly been a moment in the past 2,500 years when some group somewhere has not been fomenting mistrust and suspicion of Jews and their motives:intjew_300px The Jews want to take over your government, the Jews want to take control of your banks, the Jews want to abolish your church. The accuracy of these claims is one thing; the history behind them is another.

Although the word Zion means many things to many cultures, it’s usually a place of peace and unity, and cross-cultural brotherhood. However it’s most often associated with the Jewish people in particular. In that lexicon, the word Zion typically refers to the “promised land”, the homeland promised by God to the Jews according to Judeo-Christian canon. Zion can also refer more specifically to the city of Jerusalem or the location of Solomon’s Temple, and sometimes to the Biblical land of Israel.

Historically, a Zionist was any person who fought for the establishment of a Jewish nation in Zion. This was finally fulfilled over the course of many bloody months from 1947 to 1949, as various nations fought over the partitioning of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. The nation of Israel has held a tenuous foothold ever since, and it remains the political and spiritual homeland of all Jewish people all over the world. Since its establishment, the mission of Zionists has been to defend and strengthen Israel, and to oppose challenges to its sovereignty; in short, Zionism is Zionist nationalism.

Judenstern_225pxSome critics of Zionism frequently broaden the application of the word Zionist to include any people anywhere who express support for Israel. Suffice it to say that antisemitism is not your everyday bigotry. Its roots run deep, it is cross cultural, and it’s been institutionalized as an official national policy by some of the world’s greatest superpowers. Nazi Germany is the only most obvious example of antisemitism as policy, but it’s hardly the only one. 500 years before Christ, in the time of ancient Persia, Xerxes ordered all Jews in his kingdom to be killed. Various Roman emperors and Greek kings ordered the Jews to be exterminated. While the Christians prosecuted their Crusades against Muslims and Jews, the Muslims were forcing Christians and Jews to either convert or be killed. In the 1300s, Jews were widely burned at the stake throughout Europe for “causing” the plague. In the 1400s, the Spanish Inquisition burned some 30,000 Jews for refusing to leave their country. But this list could go on and on ad nauseum. Jews have always been blamed for something, and were always at the receiving end of the genocide. There are scant examples in history of Jews doing the same to anyone else.

And yet claims of Zionist Conspiracy have always persisted, lack of evidence notwithstanding.

Continue Reading @ skeptoid – – –

The Russian Sleep Experiment

Russian test subjects are said to have done unspeakably horrible things when sleep deprived.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

It has become a permanent fixture in the fabric of Internet lore: the Russian Sleep Experiment, an account of a horrific experiment said to have been conducted in the Soviet Union in the late 1940s. The subjects were five political prisoners, placed into a sealed chamber and exposed to a gas which prevented them from sleeping. After fifteen days the researchers entered the chamber, and found the men — sleep deprived beyond any human experience — had committed horrors that could scarcely be conceived. Today we’re going to look into the story, and into the facts of sleep deprivation. Might something as grotesque as the Russian Sleep Experiment truly be within the scope of human possibility?

scary stairs_300pxAccording to the story, the researchers cleared the gas from the chamber and entered, finding one of the five men dead:

The food rations past day 5 had not been so much as touched. There were chunks of meat from the dead test subject’s thighs and chest stuffed into the drain in the center of the chamber… All four ‘surviving’ test subjects also had large portions of muscle and skin torn away from their bodies. The destruction of flesh and exposed bone on their finger tips indicated that the wounds were inflicted by hand…

The abdominal organs below the ribcage of all four test subjects had been removed. While the heart, lungs and diaphragm remained in place, the skin and most of the muscles attached to the ribs had been ripped off, exposing the lungs through the ribcage. All the blood vessels and organs remained intact, they had just been taken out and laid on the floor, fanning out around the eviscerated but still living bodies of the subjects. The digestive tract of all four could be seen to be working, digesting food. It quickly became apparent that what they were digesting was their own flesh that they had ripped off and eaten over the course of days.

Those questioning whether or not this was a true story didn’t have to do very much work. It’s a widely published fact that the Russian Sleep Experiment was a piece of fiction, posted anonymously in 2010 to Creepy Pasta, a web site that showcases scary fictional tales. Despite this, there are always conspiracy minded people insistent that the story is true, or was leaked from some secret government lab; but no matter how strong their desire that this be the case, nobody has ever turned up anything like that. Sometimes a creepy story is just a creepy story.

Continue Reading – – –

The Denver Airport Conspiracy

Is the Denver International Airport really a headquarters for the New World Order?

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

On the surface, Denver International Airport seems like any other modern airport. It’s new, it’s clean, it’s big, and it’s modern. But some investigators have found more to it than meets the eye. Much more. Claims abound that Denver International was designed and built by the Illuminati as the headquarters for the global genocide that will trigger the New World Order.

denver-8_300pxAn Internet search for “Denver airport conspiracy” reveals that there is a lot of talk about this, and that the specific claims and observations are numerous. Here’s an overview of the basics. According to the conspiracy theorists, Denver already had a fine airport, Stapleton International. But despite widespread protests, Denver International was built and opened in 1995, with fewer runways, thus reducing Denver’s capacity. Its construction began with five mysterious buildings that were completed and then buried intact, with the cover story that they were “built wrong”. Up to 8 levels of underground facilities are said to exist, and workers who go there refuse to answer questions about what they do. The entire airport is surrounded by a barbed wire guard fence, with the barbed wire angled inward, to keep people in, like a giant prison, not out like at other airports. And if viewed from the air, the runways are revealed to be laid out in the shape of a Nazi swastika. Questions about what the government might be doing in this underground base may have been answered in 2007, when fourteen commercial aircraft reported spontaneously shattered windshields as the presumed result of electromagnetic pulses.

Indoors, the airport gets even stranger.

Continue Reading @ Skeptoid

Pouring Cold Water on Cryotherapy

Questioning whether this new spa treatment provides all the medical benefits it claims.

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

One of our most abundant renewable resources is bogus medical therapies. About every day, someone thinks up a new one: sometimes invented from whole cloth, sometimes extrapolated from a real therapy, sometimes tweaked from an old tradition. Today we’re going to look closely at one such spin-the-wheel-and-create-an-alternate-therapy: cryotherapy.

frozen faceDon’t confuse this with medical cryotherapy, the freezing off of tissue, usually called cryoablation. Alternative cryotherapy is a hijack of an actual medical term repurposed to refer to the use of what they call a cryosauna, the opposite of a regular sauna. Rather than applying ice to a specific body part, a cryosauna is used for what they call Whole Body Cryotherapy. It’s a small room for one or more people, cooled by liquid nitrogen to extreme temperatures, usually about -125°C/-200°F but sometimes advertised as low as -170°C/-275°F. You have to wear special slippers to protect your feet since you can’t touch anything in there, and you have to wear a mask to avoid frostbite to your pulmonary system. You stay in for no more than three minutes.

What is the medical claim? Unfortunately, as it is with so many alternative therapies, cryosaunas are claimed to cure just about anything the proprietor says, and they all have different spiels. Most all of them say it treats inflammation, skin conditions, and aids in workout recovery. There are several spas, plus chiropractors and other alternative practitioners near me who offer cryotherapy, according to Yelp.

Almost all of the customer reviews are raving. Here are some samples:

“My inflammation almost immediately decreased and I felt a huge wave of euphoria similar to a runner’s high.”

“Felt great afterwards. Will try again to see if I have any lasting effects.”

“I feel euphorically energized after each session and I have noticed that my tendinitis has gotten better after 2 sessions.”

“I feel so good afterwards. I can tell this cryotherapy is helping to heal my body!”

Why do these people feel so good unless there’s something to cryosauna therapy? Is it possible their reaction comes from something other than genuine treatment of some medical condition? The evidence shows that it probably is.

Continue Reading at Skeptoid – – –

The Flying Saucer Menace

The true, interwoven history of flying saucers in American folklore.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via Skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

The term “flying saucer” conjures up images of campy science fiction films from the 50s and 60s, with people in shiny metallic suits backed by experimental electronic music. They were something of a national obsession for a while, with “saucers” reported in the sky manned by everyone from Russians to little green men. KennethArnoldAir Force pilots chased them to their doom, and occasionally they would crash and spawn legends like Roswell. It turns out that the true genesis of flying saucer folklore is at least as fascinating as any of the fables themselves, and a worthy place to turn our skeptical eye.
Most historians of the strange trace flying saucers back to a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold, who had an encounter while flying his small plane in Washington state on June 24, 1947. His was not especially unusual; UFOs had always been reported, and there was nothing new about aliens; this was nearly a decade after Orson Welles’ famous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. Arnold’s story was merely the first time the term “saucer” had been used, when it was reported in the East Oregonian newspaper the next day, on June 25:

 

He said he sighted nine saucer-like aircraft flying in formation at 3. p.m. yesterday, extremely bright — as if they were nickel plated — and flying at an immense rate of speed. He estimated they were at an altitude between 9,500 and 10,000 feet and clocked them from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Adams, arriving at the amazing speed of about 1200 miles an hour. “It seemed impossible,” he said, “but there it is — I must believe my eyes.”
Arnold’s story was syndicated and made his story famous, at least in the general public’s eye; as far as the UFO literature was concerned, his story made him immortal. Buoyed by the attention, UFO stories began to get traction in the newspapers, like any trending topic. Here’s an example of one from July 8, less than two weeks later:

 

The intelligence office of the 509th Bombardment group at Roswell Army Air Field announced at noon today, that the field has come into possession of a flying saucer.
According to information released by the department, over authority of Maj. J. A. Marcel, intelligence officer, the disk was recovered on a ranch in the Roswell vicinity, after an unidentified rancher had notified Sheriff Geo. Wilcox, here, that he had found the instrument on his premises…
After the intelligence officer here had inspected the instrument it was flown to higher headquarters.
The intelligence office stated that no details of the saucer’s construction or its appearance had been revealed.
This one may sound familiar to you. It is, of course, the original newspaper article that launched the Roswell canon of alien lore.

Continue Reading at Skeptoid . . .

Kenneth Arnold’s report to Army Air Forces (AAF) intelligence, dated July 12, 1947, which includes annotated sketches of the typical craft in the chain of nine objects. (Source: Wikipedia)

inFact: Chemtrails

Video via inFact – YouTube:


Transcript via inFact:

Some people believe that airplane contrails are really the government spraying us with poison. Could this be true?

There are at least three possibilities: contrails are the normal and expected result of fuel-burning planes flying at high altitude; all trails left in the sky by planes must be the result of the covert spraying of chemicals; or some contrails are natural, and some are chemtrails.

The first one we know for sure. When a hydrocarbon fuel burns in air, water is the largest byproduct by mass. At low pressures at altitudes higher than 25,000 feet and temperatures less than -40 degrees, water vapor always condenses into cloud; or anytime the addition of this small amount pushes the humidity past the saturation point. So in any given set of atmospheric conditions, all planes will either produce a condensation trail or not.

But what if the government wants to spray chemicals into the atmosphere, according to the popular urban legend? Is spraying from airliner altitude an effective way to do it? There are good science-based reasons why this wouldn’t work.

MORE – – –

The Chess-Playing Mechanical Turk

The Turk 745_600px
An overview of the amazing chess playing robot of the 1700s.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re headed back in time, all the way back to the Vienna court of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria-Hungary, in the year 1770. There the scientific polymath Werner von Kempelen, then thirty six years old, brought forth a mechanical automaton: the figure of a man seated at a large wooden chess table, the cabinet below filled with clockwork. A volunteer from the audience stepped forward. Kempelen wound up the machine, and it reached out and made the first move, the clockwork whirring and ticking. The astonished volunteer was quickly defeated. Delighted with the mechanical marvel, Maria Theresa ordered many more performances. In fact, the Turk, as it was nicknamed for its Turkish clothing, toured the world for the next 80 years, defeating the world’s top chess players plus luminaries such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin, without anyone ever discovering its secrets. Although many skeptics published fine articles purporting that the Turk actually contained a child, dwarf, or legless adult chess player, or that it must have been secretly controlled by its exhibitor, the workings of the Turk remained one of history’s best kept secrets.

But all secrets are fleeting, and shortly before the Turk’s destruction in an 1854 fire, its last owner’s son, Silas Mitchell, published the revelation, proving that no skeptic had ever correctly guessed how it worked. In fact, no one had even come close. Over the years, three authors in particular had put forth the best known hypotheses, and Kempelen had fooled them all.

But the most intriguing mystery about the Turk would not turn out to be how it worked, but rather why a man like Kempelen would have built it. Kempelen was no Barnum. He was neither a showman nor a magician; he was an inventor and engineer of the highest caliber and held a series of important public works appointments in Maria Theresa’s government. The last thing he’d do would be to construct some sort of sideshow trick. The first of the three most notable proposed explanations came in 1789, by Joseph Friedrich, Freiherr zu Racknitz. He wrote a book based on his many viewings of the Turk and his friendship with Kempelen. Racknitz noted that the Turk’s exhibitor would always first open and close the cabinet’s various doors for the audience’s inspection. He concluded that a very small human operator was inside the cabinet, lying flat during the opening of the doors; and then, during game play, sat up, played the game on a small secondary chessboard, and watched magnetized needles on the bottom of the tabletop to learn what move the opponent had made. By Racknitz’s measurements, the hidden human would have had to be less than five feet tall, and less than seven inches high when lying flat. Kempelen refused to offer any assessment of Racknitz’s proposed solution.

The Turk 800_600px
In 1821, Robert Willis, an engineer of musical instruments, published a pamphlet with his own explanation of the Turk. Willis noted in particular that the order in which the doors were opened for inspection never varied. This, he proposed, was to allow a hidden human operator to move from one part of the cabinet to another, allowing the various cabinets to be shown empty in sequence. Then, to play, the operator would sit up, place his own hand inside the Turk’s arm, and watch the board through the thin fabric shirt covering the Turk’s chest.

The best known analysis was that of Edgar Allan Poe, published in 1835, which ultimately found in favor of Willis’ explanation but differed in that it offered far deeper reasoned analysis of why it must be so. For example, Poe noted  .  .  .

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Area 51 Facts and Fiction

Some say alien spacecraft are tested at Nevada’s legendary Area 51 site; what does history have to say?

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Today we’re going to soar above the alkaline flats of the Nevada desert at speeds in excess of Mach 3, banking and weaving among the peaks, and come in for a landing at runway 32R at airport designation KXTA. We’re inside the restricted airspace of the Nevada Test and Training Range, operated from nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Area 51 sign 05Commonly called Area 51 by the general public, this well-developed base on the shore of dry Groom Lake is one of the most famous mystery sites in the world, shrouded in rumor and wild claims of aliens and conspiracies.

In 2001, two friends and I took a Cessna Skyhawk from Las Vegas to Tonopah, closely skirting the border of the restricted airspace surrounding Nellis AFB. This happened to be just prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, at which time the restricted airspace was greatly expanded, and the route that we took then is no longer possible today. But at the time, flying past the radar facility atop Bald Mountain, we were able to legally look right down into Groom Lake, and took plenty of photographs and video. We were contacted by the air traffic control tower at Groom Lake, which was plainly visible from our position, and he asked us what our destination was. We told him Tonopah, and he asked if we’d like him to give us a direct vector to Tonopah. This was his way of saying “Maybe you’d like to veer away and go straight to Tonopah rather than hugging our border.” But as we weren’t doing anything wrong, we declined his offer and finished out our original flight plan. We saw a number of other landing strips scattered about inside Nellis, but none that were as well developed as Groom Lake.

Why were we able to do this, at a base that everyone believes is so top-secret? Everyone says the government denies its existence or that it doesn’t appear on maps. There is indeed one very big secret at Area 51. In the words of Joerg Arnu, founder of the Dreamland Resort web site: “The biggest secret about Area 51 is that it was never secret.”

U-2 spy planeIn late 1950, the United States Atomic Energy Commission established the National Proving Grounds for the testing of nuclear devices, inside the Las Vegas Gunnery and Bombing Range. This huge area was subdivided into parcels called simply Area 1, Area 2, and so on; and only those Areas from 1 to 30 became a final part of the project. Area 51 was merely a leftover piece of land among many others.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Project AQUATONE had resulted in the design of what would become the U-2 spy plane, but for security reasons, they wanted someplace more private than Edwards Air Force Base to develop it. In 1955, a team led by Lockheed’s chief designer, the legendary Kelly Johnson, flew around Nevada looking for an alternate site. They found one inside Area 51: the dry Groom Lake, which they described as “A perfect natural landing field… as smooth as a billiard table without anything being done to it.”

[…]

Bob-LazarSecurity and confidentiality have been constant throughout Groom Lake’s history. Nobody outside the base has ever had access to whatever work was being done inside, and for a long time, everything that had ever happened there was classified. So conditions were ripe in 1989 when a guy named Bob Lazar told a Las Vegas television reporter that he’d been working there for the past year, reverse engineering alien spacecraft to learn how they worked. For years, Lazar enjoyed a good run of television guest appearances and other publicity.

A lot of people in the UFO community really wanted to believe Lazar’s story, as it so perfectly confirmed their conviction that aliens visit the Earth and that the government covers it up. But everyone who seriously fact-checked Lazar’s claims  .  .  .

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