Tag Archives: science

Why Doesn’t Time Flow Backwards?

Cool science.

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Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Scientific Studies (HBO)

25 Mind Bending Scientific Truths To Challenge Your Brain

By list25 via YouTube

From the video description:

It doesn’t take much to realize that science is awesome! For example, you probably already know that everything is made up of atoms. Those atoms have a few protons and neutrons in the nucleus and then they are surrounded by electrons that orbit the nucleus like little moons (simplified explanation). At any rate, the most interesting thing about atoms is that they are about 99.99% empty space. That’s right. This screen consists of atoms. And those atoms consists of almost nothing. So why is it that you don’t see right through the screen. In fact, how is it that we can see/feel/stand on anything at all? It’s because of forces. Those atoms in the table (in spite of just being mostly empty space) actually repel the atoms (aka empty space) in your hand. So what you are touching isn’t actually a “thing”. When you touch something you are actually experiencing a repulsive force, kind of like gravity. And since those empty atoms reflect photons, you cannot see through them. You only see the photons being reflected off of what is essentially empty space. Crazy right?!

See we told you science was awesome! Just wait til you read about all the other scientific truths found in this list! So if you’re ready to give your brain a challenge, read on! These are 25 mind bending scientific truths to challenge your brain.

CIA Releases Hundreds Of Secret UFO ‘X-Files’

By Katherine Derla via Tech Times

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency uploaded hundreds of UFO 'X-Files' on their website. The declassified files include never-before-seen top secret files detailing the agency's work on UFO investigations from the late 1940s to the 1950s. (Photo : Marc Brüneke | Flickr)

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency uploaded hundreds of UFO ‘X-Files’ on their website. The declassified files include never-before-seen top secret files detailing the agency’s work on UFO investigations from the late 1940s to the 1950s.
(Photo : Marc Brüneke | Flickr)

Worldwide UFO fans will sure have field day because the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) decided to release hundreds of X-files-like UFO documents on their website. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see any evidence of intergalactic limbs or crashed UFO sites.

There are, however, hundreds of declassified documents about the agency’s top secret UFO investigations dating from the late 1940s and the 1950s. Many conspiracy theorists point to the CIA, saying that the agency has been involved in many cover ups of UFO sightings to hide the truth from the general public. For some reason, the agency has decided to upload never-before-seen photos and documents in PDF formats.

Among the CIA’s UFO X-Files is the sighting documented by New Jersey resident George Stock. On July 29, 1952 at about 4:30 p.m., Stock and his friend John H. Riely spotted a bizarre aircraft approaching from the sky.

They were allegedly in Stock’s backyard when the strange phenomenon took place. Stock ran inside his house, grabbed his camera and managed to take five clear photos of the disc-shaped, metallic-like object in the sky before it flew away.

Despite the authenticity of the uploaded CIA documents, the agency kept referring to Agents Mulder and Scully of the famous drama series The X-Files.

Continue Reading @ Tech Times – – –

Also See:

CIA logo
Take a Peek Into Our “X-Files”
UFOs: Fact or Fiction?

Flat-Earthers are back: ‘It’s almost like the beginning of a new religion’

YouTube videos and spiffy websites espouse the conspiracy theory – but is the movement doomed to once again fall flat over countless schisms?

By  via The Guardian

flat earth pizza_250pxYouTube user TigerDan925 shocked his 26,000 followers recently by conceding a shocking point: Antarctica is a continent. It’s not, as he previously thought, an ice wall that encircles the flat disc of land and water we call earth.

For most of us, that’s not news. But TigerDan925’s followers, like Galileo’s 17th century critics, are outraged by his heresy. Welcome to the contentious universe of flat-Earthers – people who believe the notion of a globe-shaped world orbiting the sun is a myth.

Through popular YouTube videos and spiffy sites, they show how easy it is to get attention by questioning scientific consensus. Unfortunately, we don’t really know how many people believe in the movement because so many people in it accuse each other of being as fake as Santa Claus (or perhaps the moon landing).

That being said, TigerDan925’s admission was not a concession that the world is shaped like the globe. He merely said flat-Earthers need a new map. But for his community, he might as well have abandoned them altogether:

“Next he says the Antarctica is not governed and protected by the Illuminati, that somehow any group deciding to buy and invest in equipment is free to roam anywhere by plane or on land,” writes a user by the name Chris Madsen. “This is absolute rubbish … 2016 is the year it becomes common knowledge the earth is flat, just like 9/11 became common knowledge, no stopping the truth now. ”

Such schisms are commonplace in flat-Earthdom, where at least three websites are vying to be the official meeting ground for the movement to save us all from the delusion that our world is a globe.

Continue Reading @ The Guardian

Also See: Flat Earth Theory Is Still A Thing

Palmistry and Its Practical Uses

By Myles Power via YouTube

Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program

ftc_logo_430Via Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.

lumosity-logoAs part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, the Lumosity program consists of 40 games purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. The company advertised that training on these games for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a week could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” The company sold both online and mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.

Continue Reading @ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – – –

Contaminants Found in 92% of TCM Herbal Products

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

A new study out of Australia looked at 26 different Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) products purchased from stores. Chinese herbs_300pxThey performed three types of analysis: heavy metal screening, toxicological analysis, and DNA sequencing. They found that 92% of the products tested had at least one type of contaminant.

This adds to a growing list of studies and revelations about how poorly the supplement industry is regulated, and raises further concerns about the overall quality of herbal and supplement products.

A 2008 study found that about 20% of ayurvedic herbal products contained heavy metal contamination, often at levels high enough to be toxic. 

A 2013 study published in the BMC found that:

“Although we were able to authenticate almost half (48%) of the products, one-third of these also contained contaminants and or fillers not listed on the label. Product substitution occurred in 30/44 of the products tested and only 2/12 companies had products without any substitution, contamination or fillers.”

A 2014 study published in JAMA found that half of the product recalled by the FDA for being adulterated with banned drugs were dietary supplements, including up to one third of products purchased online. Further, when the FDA followed up they found that 6 months after they had issued a recall for adulterated supplements, two-thirds were still on the market and still contained the banned drugs.

Continue Reading @ NeuroLogica Blog – – –

Ten Facebook Pages You Need to Stop Sharing From

By via dawnsbrain.com

A friend of mine shared an eyebrow-raising article on Facebook. The linked story was along the lines of “private planes stolen by terrorists in the Middle East, and an attack is imminent”. youtube graduate_250pxThe sensible people among his friends good-naturedly mocked him. They ribbed him about how ridiculous the prediction was. And all you had to do was consider the source.

My friend had shared the story from a notoriously crackpot Facebook page. The post lacked any merit, save a few tenuous and unrelated pieces of actual news. This behavior was typical of this particular page. Often, these types of pages hook you with a kernel of truth, and then wrap it in layers of idiocy.

When confronted, this friend said, “well, we’ll see who’s right in time.” The prediction by Natural News has failed to become reality almost a year later.

The Facebook fan pages below have a habit of spitting scientific inquiry and reason in the eye. They also have an unreasonably high number of fans who share their inanity. Shares from the following pages deserve a serious eye roll and shaking of one’s head.


#10 Alex Jones

Facebook fans: 856K

What He Says About Himself

“Documentary Filmmaker, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talkshow & Prisonplanet.tv Host – Free video/audio stream”

What He Really Does

Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.

Recent Ridiculousness

Whatever your feelings are on using legislation to increase vaccination rates, you won’t find any legitimate support for implications that vaccines contain toxic doses of chemical. Nor that there are aborted fetal cells in any of the shots we get.

Sample Fan Comment

World government, population control, fluoride hysteria, GMOs, illegal cancer cures, and chemtrails. This comment has it all.


#9 Food Babe

Facebook fans: 938K

What She Says About Herself

“Vani Hari started FoodBabe.com in April 2011 to spread information about what is really in the American food supply. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth.

What She Really Does

Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.

Recent Ridiculousness

This from the woman who claimed to have cured all her allergies with acupuncture and “clean eating”.

Sample Fan Comment

On Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before someone pulls out the EO sales kit.

Continue Reading at DawnsBrain.com – – –

What I Learned about Climate Change:

The Science is not Settled

David SiegelBy David Siegel via www.ClimateCurious.com

What is your position on the climate-change debate? What would it take to change your mind?

If the answer is It would take a ton of evidence to change my mind, because my understanding is that the science is settled, and we need to get going on this important issue, that’s what I thought, too. This is my story.

global warming consensus_250pxMore than thirty years ago, I became vegan because I believed it was healthier (it’s not), and I’ve stayed vegan because I believe it’s better for the environment (it is). I haven’t owned a car in ten years. I love animals; I’ll gladly fly halfway around the world to take photos of them in their natural habitats. I’m a Democrat: I think governments play a key role in helping preserve our environment for the future in the most cost-effective way possible. Over the years, I built a set of assumptions: that Al Gore was right about global warming, that he was the David going up against the industrial Goliath. In 1993, I even wrote a book about it.

Recently, a friend challenged those assumptions. At first, I was annoyed, because I thought the science really was settled. As I started to look at the data and read about climate science, I was surprised, then shocked. As I learned more, I changed my mind. I now think there probably is no climate crisis and that the focus on CO2 takes funding and attention from critical environmental problems. I’ll start by making ten short statements that should challenge your assumptions and then back them up with an essay.

1 • Weather is not climate. There are no studies showing a conclusive link between global warming and increased frequency or intensity of storms, droughts, floods, cold or heat waves.

2 • Natural variation in weather and climate is tremendous. Most of what people call “global warming” is natural, not man-made. The earth is warming, but not quickly, not much, and not lately.

3 • There is tremendous uncertainty as to how the climate really works. Climate models are not yet skillful; predictions are unresolved.

4 • New research shows fluctuations in energy from the sun correlate very strongly with changes in earth’s temperature, better than CO2 levels.

5CO2 has very little to do with it. All the decarbonization we can do isn’t going to change the climate much.

6 • There is no such thing as “carbon pollution.” Carbon dioxide is coming out of your nose right now; it is not a poisonous gas. CO2 concentrations in previous eras have been many times higher than they are today.

7 • Sea level will probably continue to rise — not quickly, and not much. Researchers have found no link between CO2 and sea level.

8 • The Arctic experiences natural variation as well, with some years warmer earlier than others. Polar bear numbers are up, not down. They have more to do with hunting permits than CO2*.

9 • No one has shown any damage to reef or marine systems. Additional man-made CO2 will not likely harm oceans, reef systems, or marine life. Fish are mostly threatened by people, who eat them.

10 • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others are pursuing a political agenda and a PR campaign, not scientific inquiry. There’s a tremendous amount of trickery going on under the surface*.

Could this possibly be right? Is it heresy, or critical thinking — or both? If I’ve upset or confused you, let me guide you through my journey.

Continue Reading at ClimateCurious.com – – –

Also See: How a liberal vegan environmentalist made the switch from climate proponent to climate skeptic (wattsupwiththat)

no global warming 18 years

The logical paradox of ghost hunting

Source: The Logic of Science

Many people believe in the paranormal, and a great deal of time and effort is spent searching for evidence of it. Indeed, shows like “Ghost Hunters” are extremely popular, and the notion of using scientific equipment to detect the supernatural is well ingrained into our literature, movies, and culture more generally. The reality is, however, the ghost hunting is a perfect case study in pseudoscience, and it is based on a series of logical fallacies and amusing paradoxes.
ghost ElmerGhost02_350pxMost obviously, ghost hunting (along with related pseudoscientific ventures such as UFO spotting, searches for Big Foot and Nessy, Creation Research, etc.) suffers a serious flaw which automatically removes it from the realm of science. Namely, it starts with a conclusion (i.e., ghosts exist), then tries to prove that conclusion. In contrast, real science always starts with the evidence, then forms a conclusion based on that evidence. This distinction is extremely important, because  if you start with a conclusion, you will inevitably find a way to twist the evidence to fit your preconceived view, even if it results in ad hoc fallacies. For example, suppose that ghost hunters go into an abandoned building and detect electromagnetic energy (EM). They will view that as evidence of a supernatural presence, but to those of us who aren’t already convinced that ghosts exist, that energy could be a bad wire, a faulty transformer outside, the cameras, lights,and other equipment being used by the ghost hunters, etc. You see, the explanation that the energy is coming from a ghost is only convincing if you are already convinced that ghosts exist. This is why real science always has to start with the evidence, then form a conclusion. If you set out to prove something, you will always find a way to do it (at least in your mind).
ghost hunt emf_200pxGhost hunting also suffers a serious paradox which is somewhat unique to it, and which I find highly entertaining. Ghosts are supposed to be paranormal, supernatural, metaphysical, etc. yet ghost hunters try to document their existence by looking for physical clues. This is problematic because, by definition, science is the study of the physical universe. It is inherently incapable of answering questions about the supernatural. So anytime that you are looking for the metaphysical, you are automatically doing pseudoscience, not science.
To put this another way, you cannot prove the existence of the metaphysical by documenting the physical. Let’s say, for example, that a ghost hunter goes  .  .  .

Continue Reading . . .


Superbrain Yoga is BS

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

Here is the latest fad to make you smarter with one easy trick – Superbrain Yoga. The technique is simple (and worthless, but we’ll get to that).

All you have to do is touch your left hand to your right earlobe, your right hand to your left earlobe, take a deep breath, and do a squat. Who knew it could be so easy to improve your brain function. There are a few more details, helpfully shared by Parenting Special Needs magazine:

– Connect your tongue to your palate.
– Face East
– The left arm must be inside and the right arm must be outside (over the left arm).
– Inhale while squatting down and exhale while standing up.
– You thumbs should be touching the front part of your earlobes, index fingers behind the earlobes.
– Perform the exercise 14-21 times, once or twice a day.

Facing East is very important, because magic.


When I first heard of Superbrain Yoga I thought it was going to be a neuroscience-based pseudoscience, with some hand-waving explanations about blood flow or something. This one is actually blatantly spiritual magical nonsense.

This practice is based on the principles of subtle energy and ear acupuncture. Basically, SuperBrain Yoga allows energy from your lower chakras–or energy centers–to move up to the forehead and crown chakras. When this happens, this energy is transformed into subtle energy, which is utilized by the brain to enhance its proper functioning.

It’s Eastern mysticism, however, which is a far-off exotic culture, so that makes it OK.

Continue Reading at NeuroLogica Blog – – –

Spooky Science: Paranormal Beliefs Linked to Fearful Worldview

By Elizabeth Palermo via LiveScience.com

ghostly_173People who believe in ghosts may be more afraid of actual, real-world dangers — things like violent crimes or nuclear war — than are people who don’t hold paranormal beliefs, a new survey finds.

The Survey of American Fear asked people in the United States to divulge the terrors that keep them up at night. For the survey, nearly 1,500 participants responded to questions about 88 different fears and anxieties, ranging from commonplace phobias (like fear of heights) to less tangible concerns (like fear of government corruption). The survey also asked participants about their beliefs concerning paranormal and mythical things, like ghosts, Bigfoot and ancient aliens.

An inforgraphic demonstrating the paranormal beliefs included in the Fear Survey. Credit: Chapman University

An inforgraphic demonstrating the paranormal beliefs included in the Fear Survey.
Credit: Chapman University

“The reason we ask [about paranormal things] on the survey is that we’re interested in finding out what kind of clusters of beliefs tend to be associated with fear,” Christopher Bader, a professor of sociology at Chapman University in California and leader of the second annual Fear Survey, told Live Science.

ouija-board-gifLast year in the survey, researchers asked questions that gauged the respondents’ scientific reasoning. This was done to find out how the individuals’ knowledge of scientific ideas (how electricity works, why the sun sets in the west, etc.) related to those respondents’ fears. But this year, the focus was on supernatural beliefs, not scientific ones.

Bader and his colleagues found that quite a few Americans hold paranormal beliefs. The most common of these is the belief that spirits can haunt particular places; 41.4 percent of the demographically representative group of participants said they held this belief. A lot of Americans (26.5 percent) also think that the living and the dead can communicate with each other in some way, the survey found.

Many survey participants said  .  .  .

Continue Reading at LiveScience.com – – –

Solfeggio Frequencies

waves 738
Are certain, specific sonic frequencies the key to love, intuition, and spiritual order? Do the sounds we hear have a real physiological effect?

skeptoid eyeby Craig Good via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Proponents on the web speak of Solfeggio Frequencies, musical notes that have great healing power. They claim that these pure sounds from antiquity can liberate us from fear, awaken our intuition, and even repair our DNA. Do specific sounds have such power? Where did these mystical frequencies come from? And what can we learn from them?

tuning forks_300pxFirst, their claims. The idea is that certain notes found in ancient music have special uses. Pitches, or notes, are described in Hertz (abbreviated Hz), which is their frequency in cycles per second.

For example, one of the special Solfeggio frequencies is said to be 396 Hz. It sounds like this. [396 Hz] Named UT, it is supposed to be good for “liberating guilt and fear”.

Next is the one called RE, at 417 Hz. [417 Hz] This is good for “undoing situations and facilitating change”.

Impressed? Wait until you hear MI, at 528 Hz. It does “transformation and miracles”, including DNA repair. [528 Hz]

FA, at 629 Hz, is for “connecting and relationships”. [629 Hz]

SOL, at 741 Hz is for “awakening intuition”. [741 Hz]

And LA, at 852 Hz, is for “returning to spiritual order”. [852 Hz]

brainwaves 739_225pxNow, you may have noticed a couple of patterns. One is that, just like most other woo-y, New Age modalities, the claims are all very breezy and unspecific. If they remind you a little of Deepak Chopra that’s not exactly an accident. Some of the web pages promoting Solfeggio Frequencies use his confused misinterpretations of quantum physics for support.

You may recall from Skeptoid #431 how acupuncture proponents can’t even decide how many meridians exist, nor where they are. Similarly, when we dig into Solfeggio Frequencies there are disagreements. One proponent says that the key frequency is not 417, [417 Hz] but 432 Hz. [432 Hz] Further, he claims that this “purest” of sounds is the same frequency to which both the great pyramids of Giza and the Sun itself are tuned.

solfeggioo_250pxYet another proponent says 528 Hz [528 Hz] is the “love frequency” that not only repairs DNA but can “raise the vibration in our chakra system”. There’s no evidence for a chakra system, and this odd use of the word “vibration” resonates more with woo than science.

In fact, if I play the Solfeggio Frequencies as specified on most of the web sites, the scale sounds a little out of tune. [Solfeggio Mystic Hexachord]

As is typical of woo, proponents make an appeal to antiquity. What makes these notes special, you see, is that they come from a medieval Gregorian chant to John the Baptist. It’s one of those things the ancients “just understood.” But, in modern times, our music was retuned to 440 Hz [440] and the secret was lost. Or hidden on purpose, depending on who you read. Some even blame the change, darkly, on a Nazi plot.

Continue Reading – – –

Sting Shows Supplement Regulation Worthless

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

It seems that the regulation of supplements, homeopathy, and “natural” products in Canada is as bad as the US. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC, the equivalent of NPR and PBS in the US) recently conducted a demonstration of just how worthless and deceptive the regulations are.

snake-oil_275pxThey created a fake treatment called “Nighton” which they claimed treated fever, pain, and inflammation in children and infants. They then applied to the government for a Natural Product License. On the application they checked all the appropriate boxes and submitted as evidence copied pages from a 1902 homeopathic reference book. That was it. Five months later their fictitious product was approved as “safe and effective.”

What this means is that when the Canadian government approves a natural product as safe and effective, it is completely meaningless. It is essentially a license to lie to the public about a health product.

It is reasonable to assume that many if not most of the public, if they see a product on the pharmacy shelf with the label, “licensed as safe and effective for fever, pain, and inflammation,” with an official government issued product number, that some sort of testing and quality assurance was involved.

warning-homeopathy-not-medicineThe situation is identical in the US. Companies can market homeopathy products or supplements without providing any evidence that the product is safe, and can even make health claims (as long as they don’t mention a specific disease by name) again without the need to provide any evidence. In essence, in the US or Canada a company can put anything in a pill or bottle (as long as it doesn’t contain an actual drug), then without any testing market their random assortment of vitamins, herbs, or just water (in the case of homeopathy) with specific health claims. Pharmacies are happy to sell these fake products side-by-side with real medicines.

This is nothing short of a scandal.

MORE – – –

Would Headlights Work at Light Speed?

By Vsauce via YouTube

If you were driving at the speed of light and turned on your headlights, what would happen?

What Colour Is This Dress? (SOLVED with SCIENCE)

By AsapSCIENCE via YouTube

By BuzzFeedBlue via YouTube

How To Create a Fad Diet

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

Fad diets pop up on a regular basis. I believe that is because they are so easy to manufacture and there is a ready made market for them. Add to that the fact that it is difficult to lose weight. There is also a great deal of misinformation out there about diet and health, so the environment is very friendly to pop pseudoscience.

If you want to create your own fad diet, here is a handy formula. These things pretty much write themselves.

#1 • You need a catchy title, usually taking the form of “The blank Diet.” You can fill in the blank with almost anything. For example, a recent fad diet is called “the bulletproof diet.” This doesn’t say anything about the diet itself, it’s just a catchy phrase, a brand. You can fill in the blank with a title that does reflect the diet itself, but this is optional. Creating a catchy title is actually the most creative work you have to do in making a fad diet.

#2 • Make outrageous claims of success. The bigger the lie, the more people are inclined to think that it’s not a lie because no one would be that audacious. before and after_300pxSo just come up with a very impressive figure – a pound a day, 10 pounds a week, or whatever. In reality, on a healthy weight-loss diet people will lose about 1.5-2.5 pounds per week maximum, depending on their current weight, fat percentage, and other variables. Also, weight loss itself is not the ultimate goal, just a marker. People really want to reduce fat and build muscle. Following waist size is also a good measure, and perhaps better. Using the scale is helpful to make sure you are staying on track, however. Liberally use the world “miracle,” although admittedly Dr. Oz has tainted this word a bit by overusing it.

#3 • Testimonials. Personal stories, starting with your own, are the bedrock of fad diets. Don’t worry if there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support your claims – fad diets are not about evidence. They are about selling a narrative, one in which people struggled endlessly to lose weight, but then started the X diet and the weight just fell off. Testimonials can be very compelling, even though they are almost worthless as evidence. Actually, that is their advantage for you as a fad diet marketer, because you can find testimonials to support whatever claims you wish to make.

#4 • The Secret. Your fad diet has to have the secret or key to weight loss. Make this as compelling as possible, using  .  .  .

MORE – – –

Psychic Paula: let us test your pregnancy prediction powers

By via The Guardian

After declaring that an audience member was almost certainly pregnant (much to the lady’s surprise), Paula O’Brien explained that she has an uncanny accuracy when it comes to such matters. Photograph: Paula O’Brien

After declaring that an audience member was almost certainly pregnant (much to the lady’s surprise), Paula O’Brien explained that she has an uncanny accuracy when it comes to such matters. Photograph: Paula O’Brien

I firmly believe in the importance of skeptics attending psychic shows, to see firsthand how the biggest touring psychics in the country claim to put audience members in touch with the spirits of their dearly departed – for entertainment purposes only, naturally. In seeing such shows up close and witnessing their effect on devoted audiences we get to see how seriously people take the word of a psychic, and therefore how serious an issue it is if the person making the claims doesn’t have the supernatural powers they profess.

One such show I recently attended was that of psychic Paula O’Brien, whose Liverpool show saw a modest audience of around 150 gather in a hotel function room, eager for Paula to make contact with the other side. Among the usual fare of scattergun names (“Is there a Stephen or a Stewart or a Scott?”) and random numbers and dates (“What does the number three or the month of March or the 3rd of any month mean?”) there were a few points that particularly stood out to a skeptical viewer.

psychic newspaper-1_200pxMost disturbing was the lady who told Paula she had attempted suicide on two occasions since the death of her husband. Clearly this was a sensitive subject, and one which needed to be handled with care – or, ideally, left to qualified experts. All of which made Paula’s response shocking: “I promise you, if you try again – and this is your husband’s words – you’ll be in a wheelchair sucking through a straw.”

We then learned that the audience member in question had taken to smearing her deceased husband’s ashes on her skin before leaving the house, after being advised by another psychic that she should abandon her plans to scatter his ashes, and instead should keep them close at all times. It is hard to witness such cases and still wonder whether there is any harm in seeing a psychic.

MORE – – –


Why science is NOT ‘Just a Theory’

By The Royal Institution via YouTube

Have you ever heard ‘evolution’ dismissed as ‘just a theory’? Is a scientific theory no different to the theory that Elvis is still alive? Jim Al-Khalili puts the record straight.

Subscribe for regular science videos: http://bit.ly/RiSubscRibe

There’s an important difference between a scientific theory and the fanciful theories of an imaginative raconteur, and this quirk of semantics can lead to an all-too-common misconception. In general conversation, a ‘theory’ might simply mean a guess. But a scientific theory respects a somewhat stricter set of requirements. When scientists discuss theories, they are designed as comprehensive explanations for things we observe in nature. They’re founded on strong evidence and provide ways to make real-world predictions that can be tested.

While scientific theories aren’t necessarily all accurate or true, they shouldn’t be belittled by their name alone. The theory of natural selection, quantum theory, the theory of general relativity and the germ theory of disease aren’t ‘just theories’. They’re structured explanations of the world around us, and the very foundation of science itself.

Read the blog post to find out more: http://www.rigb.org/blog/2014/novembe…

About that tryptophan and turkey making you sleepy – not so fast

Happy Thanksgiving_600px

Via Skeptical Raptor’s Blog

turkey-dinner sleepA tiny handful of countries, most notably the US and Canada, celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving. In the USA, the holiday is held on the fourth Thursday in November and more or less starts the so called holiday season which ends with New Year. In most of Canada (excluding the Atlantic provinces), the holiday is held on the second Monday in October.

For trivia purposes only, the other places that celebrate a similar Thanksgiving are Liberia (which is populated by descendants of freed slaves who returned to Africa from the US), Grenada (a small English-speaking island in the Caribbean), Puerto Rico (a Spanish-speaking territory of the USA), and Norfolk Island Australia. Australia?

Generally, the holiday celebrates white English settlers arriving in North America. The tales usually include some peaceful sharing of food between the white settlers and native Americans (a nice myth without much actual historical support) prior to the first winter. turkey eat ham_225pxCanada’s back story on Thanksgiving is much more complicated, including ships getting stuck in ice and other legends.

In both Canada and the USA, the celebration includes tons of food (per person) including a roast (usually) turkey. Other foods may include mashed potatoes, yams (sweet potatoes), other meats, pies, corn, stuffing, and more food. It is a high calorie meal of epic portions!

There’s a legend that eating this meal, specifically the turkey, fills your body with tryptophan, and you fall asleep.

Nice story, but the science of eating, sleeping and turkeys doesn’t support this myth. Not even close.

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The Science and Non-Science of the Ouija

Benjamin Radfordby Benjamin Radford via Discovery News

The new supernatural horror film “Ouija” hits theaters soon, and is expected to scare up big numbers at the box office this weekend.

The Oujia board, also known as a witch board or spirit board, is simple and elegant. The board itself is printed with letters and numbers, while a roughly heart-shaped device called a planchette slides over the board. The game was created in the 1890s and sold to Hasbro in 1966. It began as a parlor game with no association with ghosts until much later, and today many people believe it can contact spirits.

“Ouija” is only the most recent in a long line of movies featuring the board. Since the Oujia board’s film debut in the 1920 Max Fleischer film “The Ouija Board,” it has appeared in hundreds of films including “The Uninvited” (1944);”The Changeling” (1980); “Witchboard” (1986); and “Paranormal Activity” (2007).

Speaking to the Dead

People in all cultures have long believed that communication with the dead is possible, and throughout the ages many people have claimed to speak to the dear departed. Ghosts and spirit communication shows up often in classic literature, including in mythology, the Bible, and Shakespeare’s plays.

Seance Scene in Dr. Mabuse the GamblerIn Victorian England it was fashionable in many circles to conduct séances; Ouija boards, three-legged tables, and candles were used to try to contact the dead. A century ago mediums “in touch with the spirit” during séances would write pages and pages of “automatic writing,” the psychic’s hands allegedly guided by ghosts to convey lengthy handwritten messages.

Since that time ghosts seem to have lost their will (or ability) to write—or even communicate effectively. These days the spirits (as channeled through mediums) seem to prefer a guessing game and instead offer only ambiguous, vague information: “I’m getting a presence with the letter M, or J in the name? A father, or father figure perhaps? Did he give you something special to remember him by, something small?” The Ouija board seems to cut out the middleman and let you communicate directly with the dead.

Fearing the Ouija

There’s a reason that scary movies are based on the Ouija game and not, for example, Monopoly or Scrabble. Many evangelical groups believe that playing with Ouija boards can lead to demonic possession.

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Also See: Video: What Makes Ouija Boards Move?

The Water Woo of Masaru Emoto

Masaru Emoto believes that water entagles with human consciousness and emotion, a concept he calls ‘hado’. Is there anything behind Emoto’s water woo?

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

Today we’re going take a look at one of the founders of a pseudoscience that has, for more than three decades, given birth to a whole slew of knockoff pseudosciences pertaining to water. The man is Masaru Emoto, born in Yokohama in 1943, and creator of what he calls hado (rhymes with shadow). emoto_225pxIt is Emoto’s firm conviction that water, human consciousness, and human emotion are deeply entangled; and he has become best known for his photographs of ice crystals (basically snowflakes) that he says are either beautiful or ugly based on the emotions expressed at the time of their formation. If you write a positive word on a bottle of water, or expose it to a picture of beautiful animals like dolphins, it will freeze into beautiful ice crystals; but if you speak harshly to it, or write a negative word on the bottle, it will freeze into ugly non-crystalline lumps. Emoto’s definition of hado is “The intrinsic vibrational pattern at the atomic level in all matter. The smallest unit of energy. Its basis is the energy of human consciousness.” Throughout his writing in his several books, Emoto uses the word “vibration” in much the same way as Deepak Chopra uses the word “quantum”: without any actual meaning relevant to its context. He writes:

Hado creates words
Words are the vibrations of nature
Therefore beautiful words create beautiful nature
Ugly words create ugly nature
This is the root of the universe.

Dr. Masaru Emoto, the Japanese “scientist” who magically turns normal rice into gross rice, simply by yelling at it.

Dr. Masaru Emoto, the Japanese “scientist” who magically turns normal rice into gross rice, simply by yelling at it.

It’s quite poetic, yet to find any meaning in it, it seems one must view Emoto’s writing purely from the perspective of metaphysics and allegory. But Emoto means it quite literally, and a massive number of products and books have sprung to life in the ecosystem created by Emoto’s magical water beliefs. Water filters claiming to form water into special molecular arrangements that promote super health cite Emoto. His emotion-governed ice crystals were a major theme in the 2004 New Age pseudo-documentary film What the Bleep Do We Know? Uncounted companies sell bottles of water that they say has been blessed, or spoken to positively, or exposed to positive energy, or otherwise prepared in some manner according to Emoto’s research. One web site selling such blessed water (since defunct) even claimed:

…Malformed crystals were created when the water was placed next to a microwave oven, a cell phone, a computer, and a television (unless it showed wholesome family shows).

Emoto also famously claimed that jars of rice will rot if negative words are written on the containers yet will stay fresh if positive words are used instead, an experiment that has become viral on the Internet. And, of course, his beliefs have been embraced and publicized by Hollywood celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow.

But to establish the validity of a scientific claim, we don’t look at what pop culture phenomena it has created. Instead, we look at the data; so to learn more about Emoto’s hado, we have to set aside all of that.

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Climate science in ‘Jeopardy’

Jeopardy Logo 03
Board 05_flat_180pxBy Anthony J. Sadar and JoAnn Truchan via Washington Times

Scientific practice is a bit off these days. It seems as if the promoters of man-made climate change only want one answer for the cause of every climate phenomenon. Among them:

The reason why thermometers are rising so quickly worldwide. The reason worldwide temperatures have leveled off in the past 17 years. The cause of the higher-than-average hurricane season in 2005. The cause of the lower-than-average hurricane season in 2013. The reason there has been so little snowfall in the U.S. and Europe. The reason there has been so much snowfall in the U.S. and Europe.

If climate science were a category on the popular game show “Jeopardy,” where the answer must be in the form of a question, there would be but one response allowed for the cause of all these contradictory events: “What is man-made climate change?”

Not every “unusual” atmospheric condition or event evokes the humans-are-responsible answer, however. Oftentimes, to attract unwary audiences, not-so-unusual but still unfamiliar events are exaggerated by purveyors of pernicious prognostications.

Take the “polar vortex” scare. This natural phenomenon was proffered as something new, something frightening, something produced by people living comfortably as a result of the use of carbon-based fossil fuels. Of course, it is none of that. This is verified by the Glossary of Meteorology, published by the American Meteorological Society in 1959, in which this well-known phenomenon was clearly defined, not hyped.

Celebrity Jeopardy Comes To Radio City Music HallAs the ancient Ecclesiastes writer observed, there really is “nothing new under the sun.”

Certainly, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) practices the sort of science that gives the desired response first, then seeks the appropriate corresponding questions.

The IPCC defines its role as “to assess … the risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.” In other words, the IPCC assumes from the get-go the desired answer that anthropogenic climate change is a fact. It is then the game of researchers, enticed with prized government grants, to find the evidence that always lead to that conclusion.

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Microwave phobia

Gordon Bonnetby Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

In order to avoid falling for whatever absurd nonsense happen to be in the offing, you not only need to have some good critical thinking skills, you also need a basic knowledge of the sciences.

Do-Not-Microwave-Head-230x300This is especially critical given the penchant that pseudoscience hacks have for using scientific-sounding terms in bogus ways.  Given that said hacks are quite good at sounding convincing, and can throw around random vocabulary words with the best of ’em, if you don’t understand the basic laws of science, as well as a few solid definitions, you’re going to fall for whatever tripe they’re offering.

Take, for example, the article from Prevent Disease that I’ve now seen several times on social media, called “12 Facts About Microwaves That Should Forever Terminate Their Use.”

This piece, written by one Marco Torres, is so full of false statements and specious science that it’s hard to know where to start.  Here’s a sample, picked more or less at random:

Microwaves are a source of electromagnetic energy (a form of nonionizing form of radiation) electronically generated. When penetrating the aliments, they trigger an inner rotation of the water molecules inside the food. This rotation triggers a friction between the molecules and the result is a rapid growth in temperature.

Okay, he starts out well.  Microwaves are a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that is electronically generated.microwave-1960s_250px  But so is the light from a light bulb.  And I don’t know what an “inner rotation of the water molecules” even means — since microwaves are good at making water molecules (and also fat molecules) spin, maybe this was just a slip.  But the water molecules are not experiencing “friction” — they’re simply moving.  Because that’s what an increase in temperature means.  The faster molecules move, the higher the temperature, whether that temperature increase is caused by a microwave, a conventional oven, or just sitting out in the sun.

Then, though, we start hearing about all the bad things this can cause:

Microwaves use super-fast particles to literally radiate the contents of water inside food and bring it to boil. Not only has microwave use been linked to causing infertility in men, but it also denatures many of the essential proteins in the food making them virtually indigestible.

genitals 02“Super-fast” — sure, given that all electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light.  And what’s the alternative to “literally radiating” the food?  Figuratively radiating it?

And there is no connection between using microwaves and infertility, as long as you keep your genitalia outside of the microwave oven.  So guys — if you’re microwaving your lunch while naked, don’t accidentally shut your junk in the door and then turn the oven on.

Then we have this unintentionally funny statement  .  .  .

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The Cooling World (April 28, 1975 – Newsweek Magazine)

By Mason I. Bilderberg – August 22, 2014

Forty years ago global cooling was the alarmist du jour for scaring the hell out of everybody. “Science” was predicting drought, extended dry spells, floods, desolation, food shortages, devastating tornadoes, catastrophic famine, long freezes, temperature increases and even a reversion to the “little ice age” when the Thames was frozen so solidly that Londoners roasted oxen on the ice and iceboats sailed the Hudson River almost as far south as New York City. (source: the article featured below)

Science Says Board Game_400px“Scientists” were wringing their hands, worried sick, because they saw “few signs that government leaders anywhere [that] are … prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food.”

The article ends with the same old tired refrain that is repeated ad nauseam by every alarmist everywhere every time the world is about to end (again): “The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.”

Yes. “Science says”, we must ACT NOW! It is imperative to do something immediately – if not sooner – to prevent planetary destruction.

So, from my personal magazine collection i present to you these snippets from a climate-related article published in Newsweek magazine on April 28, 1975. Click the image to download a PDF copy of the entire article in all its alarmist glory.


Click above for a HQ PDF version of the full article



Faking Science Cred at a Sci-Fi Con: Not Smart

Paranormal investigators playing the role of “experts” and pretending to be scientific is not going to fly when the lack of deep knowledge is evident and there are actual scientists in the audience.

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

When it comes to Creationists, I’m actually fine when they say “God did it—that’s what I believe.” They don’t have a scientific worldview, and that’s their choice (I don’t think it’s a good choice, but that is not the point). They ought to be happy with their science-suspending miraculous explanations. Instead, a few try to interject the sciencey stuff in there and shoehorn blatantly unscientific ideas into a scientifical framework. They just don’t know what they are talking about. For the listener with a scientific background, it is painfully obvious that they are ignorant of how difficult research is, how rigorously it must be undertaken, how carefully definitions are crafted, and how diligently records are documented. hill-faking-cred-dog_250pxIt’s nails-on-a-chalkboard difficult for me to listen to. The champions at doing this same thing are paranormal investigators. So what happens when paranormal investigators give talks at a science-fiction convention? It doesn’t go over very well.

I was at RavenCon, a sci-fi fantasy convention in Richmond, Virginia, last April. As an invited speaker, I was there to talk about science from a scientist and skeptical advocate’s point of view. Bob Blaskiewicz, CSI’s “Conspiracy Guy,” was also there to talk about conspiracy theory. We aimed to bring the hammer down on nonsense thinking! Not really—we were going to schmooze and look at people in cool costumes and listen to presentations and panels about topics we just don’t get to talk about every day.

As with any such event, I expect that the invited speakers have prepared quality content. Many are professional authors and artists, and there were many scientists, too. One thing that is noticeable at these events is that the audience is pretty up on science and engineering. ElmerGhost02_250pxThe majority is really smart, read a lot, and comprehend and appreciate complexity and detail. This is not the best place to show off weak science cred.

The paranormal view has a presence at RavenCon. Not all sci-fi cons have speakers in that subject area. (I’ve been to the Paranormal track at DragonCon, but there is not an equivalent at Balticon.) In the lead up to RavenCon, the organizers invited Bob and me, perhaps partly to counter the presence of the paranormal group, to give some talks. One original idea was to have a panel about paranormal investigation with the different views represented, pro-paranormal versus application of scientific skepticism, or as I prefer to call it, evidence-based skepticism. However, this idea was scuttled when the leader of the paranormal group said she doesn’t do debates. (I actually don’t wonder why not.)

hill-faking-cred-muppet_250pxSo, they presented their talks and we presented ours separately. They didn’t come to our talks, but I went to theirs. I’m interested in their views and what they have found. The first presentation was by the group’s “scientist.” He did some demonstrations and experiments with chemicals (that should NOT have been used in a hotel ballroom) presumably to show that science looks like magic… or something. I thought the whole thing was rambling and pointless, meant to look “gee whiz” but was more like “Oh, Jeez…”

Up goes my hand: “Can you tell us about your scientific background?”

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“Chemtrails”? Really? Did you flunk science?

Donald Protheroby Donald Prothero via Skepticblog

For the past few years, my Facebook page kept flagging strange websites that claimed that ordinary contrails formed by high-flying aircraft are “chemtrails,” a special kind of chemical sprayed on the unwitting population for reasons too bizarre and illogical to take seriously. For a long time, I’ve ignored this garbage on the internet, but in recent years it has gotten more and more pervasive, and I’ve run into people who believe it. There are whole shows about it on the once-scientific Discovery Channel, and the History Channel as well. chemtrails scare meNow the chemtrail community circulates their photos and videos among themselves, put hundreds of these videos on YouTube, and on their own sites and forums. But the way the internet works as a giant echo chamber for weird ideas with no peer review, fact checking, or quality control, it’s getting impossible to ignore them any more, and it’s time to debunk it.

The first few times I heard about “chemtrails”, my reaction was “You can’t be serious.” But the people who spread this are serious. They are generally people who have already accepted the conspiracy theory mindset, where everything that they don’t like or don’t understand is immediate proof of some big government conspiracy. But there’s an even bigger factor at work here: gross science illiteracy. The first thing that pops in my mind reading their strange ideas is “Didn’t this person learn any science in school?” And the fastest rebuttal I give when I run into one of these nuts is: “Do you even understand the first thing about our atmosphere? Anything released at 30,000  feet will blow for miles away from where you see it, and has virtually no chance of settling straight down onto the people below, and be so diluted it would have no measurable amount of the chemical by the time it lands. That’s why crop-dusting planes must fly barely 30 feet off the ground so their dust won’t blow too far away from the crops!”

As Kyle Hill describes it:

If the chemtrail conspiracy were true, millions of pilots would be needed to crop dust the American population. A typical crop duster might use seven ounces of agent diluted in seven gallons of water to cover one acre of land. Chemtrail “people dusters” would use a similar concentration to cover the entire United States, just to be safe. For 2.38 billion acres of land, the pilots would then need—for just one week of spraying—120 billion gallons of these cryptic chemicals. That’s around the same volume as is transported in all the world’s oil tankers in one year. And such an incredible amount of agent would need an incredible number of planes. Considering that a large air freighter like a Boeing 747 can carry around 250,000 pounds of cargo, at the very least, the government would need to schedule four million 747 flights to spread their chemicals each week—eighteen times more flights per day than in the entire US.

The entire chemtrail conspiracy idea is a relatively recent one, and an idea that would not have become so popular without the ability of the internet to spread lies. As this site shows, it was an ideas that was simmering among conspiracy theorists in the 1990s when one person in particular, William Thomas, made it popular back in 1996.chemtrail cat_225px By 1997-1999, he was trying to spread his ideas through interviews and media coverage and early conspiracy internet sites, and gotten many believers to buy in to his bizarre fantasy. Then in 1999, he was featured on Paranormal Central, Art Bell’s show on Coast to Coast radio. If there is any fast way to reach the mob of UFO nuts, paranormal fanatics,  and conspiracy theorists besides the internet, Art Bell’s show is the place. Soon the phenomenon exploded far beyond William Thomas or Art Bell, and became a widely accepted idea among the people who tune in to the paranormal or the conspiracy mindset.

So what are “chemtrails”? Allegedly, they are different from normal contrails produced by aircraft, and allegedly they contain some sort of evil chemical that the government conspiracy is trying to poison us with. Normal contrails are  .  .  .

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chemtrail Conspiracists studiing_400px

Mike Adams crossed the line, and in a way that can’t be ignored.

The LockeBy via The Soap Box

In terms of moral and ethical boundaries Mike Adams is well known for crossing the line often with his promotion of dangerous pseudoscience and disgusting conspiracy theories, mike adams straight-jacket_125pxas well as calling anyone that promotes real science, debunks his claims, or criticizes him a shill. He also says some other pretty horrible things about his critics (most of the time this is ignored because none of his critics really cares what he says about them, they’re just more concerned over what he promotes and how he influences people), and in the case of Jon Entine, threatens to sue them.

A few days ago he crossed another line, and this one may just get him thrown in prison.

On his main website, Natural News, Adams wrote an article that can be best described as endorsing and encouraging the murder of anyone that supports Monsanto and the biotech industry in general (read his article here).

To quote his article:

“Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of ‘feeding the world’ with toxic GMOs.”


“that it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.”

That pretty much says it all. He is saying that people that support GMO foods and the biotech industry should be killed, and that it is justifiable to do so.

Image source: naturalnews.com

Images source: naturalnews.com

He later went on to say that:

“For the record, in no way do I condone vigilante violence against anyone, and I believe every condemned criminal deserves a fair trial and a punishment that fits the crime. Do not misinterpret this article as any sort of call for violence, as I wholly disavow any such actions. I am a person who demands due process under the law for all those accused of crimes.”

Yet those two lines, plus the title, Biotech genocide, Monsanto collaborators and the Nazi legacy of ‘science’ as justification for murder, clearly shows he means otherwise.

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Andrew Wakefield

The LockeBy The Locke via The Soap Box

In 1998 then Doctor Andrew Wakefield published a study in the medical journal The Lancet that claimed that the MMR vaccine causes autism, which was later found to be not true but still lead to a worldwide increase of measles cases, and in the end destroyed Wakefield’s career.

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield

There are many things that I’ve noticed about Andrew Wakefield (none of them good) and I’ve come up with about five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about Andrew Wakefield:

5. He committed a terrible fraud.

I’m sure that everybody is aware that his aforementioned “study” was retracted in 2010 by The Lancet after a long investigation by the British Medical Journal and journalist Brian Deer. The investigation showed that not only had he manipulated the data in his study, it also found that he had patented his own measles vaccine a year before publishing his study, and that the study was funded by lawyers who sued vaccine manufactures.

To better understand how Wakefield manipulated the data in his study, please watch this video by Youtube science vlogger C0nc0rdance:

As awful as his fraud was it would not have been as bad as it became if it wasn’t for the fact that so many people took his study seriously and decided not to vaccinate their children because of it. This has directly resulted in the world wide increases of measles and mumps infections and infections from other diseases as well because many people were not vaccinating themselves or their children due to fear of any vaccines, a fear that was brought on by Wakefield’s study, which has also lead to numerous unnecessary deaths.

As for Wakefield himself his fraudulent study lead to his own career being ruined and his name being struck off the UK medical register, making it illegal for him to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.

4. He turned parents into paranoid liars.

One of the direct results of Andrew Wakefield’s study is that many parents have become paranoid of vaccines and have chosen not to vaccinate their children despite being legally obligated to do so in many places before they enter them into school, and the fact that it’s just good common sense to do so.

vaccine 840_250pxInorder to keep their children in school while at the same time keep them un-vaccinated parents will often lie to health officials and school officials about either their religious or philosophical beliefs inorder to get a vaccine exemption for their child.

Other things that some parents will do inorder to fool health and school officials is that they will go to a fake doctor (ex. Naturopath, Homeopath) and get them to write up an exemption from getting vaccinate for their children, or write up they vaccinate the child when really they didn’t.

These types of actions are dangerous not only to the children whose parents did not vaccinate them, but also to anyone that couldn’t get vaccinated for a legitimate medical reason, or those who the vaccine didn’t immunize them for some reason.

3. He’s become the Lord Voldemort of science and medicine.

Much like Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter book series Andrew Wakefield’s name is something you don’t use in a discussion about science and medicine, unless he is used as an example for when bad or fraudulent research is taken to seriously by the public.

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Pesticides and Autism

Autism spectrum disorder
steven_novellaby Steven Novella via NeuroLogica Blog

A study has been making the rounds on social media claiming an association between prenatal exposure to pesticides and the risk of autism and developmental delay. This means that I am getting asked by many people what the study actually shows. Spoiler alert – not much. But let’s break it down.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological disorder involving brain development resulting in decreased communications among neurons in the brain and characterized by reduced social ability. Our current scientific understanding is that ASD is largely a genetic disorder. While environmental factors cannot be ruled out, it seems that genes are the primary factor. It’s reasonable to search for environmental risk factors, but so far none have been clearly established.

autism einstein 02_300pxThose who feel there likely is an environmental factor also tend to believe that there is an autism epidemic – that the incidence of autism is increasing in a way that is not easily explained by genetics, and therefore suggests and environmental factor. While it is uncontroversial that the number of ASD diagnoses has been increasing over the last two decades, this does not necessarily mean that the true incidence of ASD has been increasing.

The evidence actually shows that diagnostic substitution, broadening of the definition of ASD, and increased surveillance account for much of the increased recorded incidence. It’s possible that changes in diagnostic behavior entirely accounts for the apparent increase. It’s also possible that a subset is due to a true increase, but that has not been clearly established.

This still leaves us with the conclusion that an environmental factor is possible in ASD, but not necessary.

What does this current study show? The study in question is a case-control study using data from the CHARGE study and data about pesticide use in California. A case-control study is a retrospective epidemiological study. It looks at two or more populations based upon whether or not they have a condition, in this study there are three groups – ASD, developmental delay (DD) and typical. The groups are then compared based on exposure to a potential risk factor to see if it is correlated with the condition.

In this study the authors looked at proximity to pesticide use prior to conception and during each trimester of pregnancy. They concluded:

“This study of ASD strengthens the evidence linking neurodevelopmental disorders with gestational pesticide exposures, and particularly, organophosphates and provides novel results of ASD and DD associations with, respectively, pyrethroids and carbamates.”

Orac has already reviewed this study and I agree with his assessment – this conclusion is not justified by the data presented.

First, there is a fatal flaw in the study design  .  .  .

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… vaccines

The LockeBy The Locke via The Soap Box

Vaccines are a medical invention that has been around for a very long time, the very first one being invented by Edward Jenner in 1796 for small pox.

There are alot of things that have been said about vaccines, and taking a look at these claims, as well as the facts about vaccines, I’ve come up with fives things about them.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about vaccines:

5. They cause extinctions.

Measles_incidence-cdc_300pxMost people probably don’t know this, or do but rarely if ever think about it is that vaccines kill things and can very easily lead to the extinction of some species. Infact vaccines have already caused the extinction of one species, small pox.

Vaccines are also very well on their way to causing the extinction of polio, and could in due time and with enough people getting vaccinated, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, and a variety of other well known diseases that can kill people, particularly young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

Don’t these viruses deserve to exist? I mean true these viruses have caused the deaths of millions, plus have left countless others disfigured and disabled, and other than to do all of that have no real purpose to exist, and are still debated over whether or not they are lifeforms, but regardless of all that you have to ask yourself, don’t these useless and dangerous lifeforms/not lifeforms have a right to exist?

4. They prevent our children from having the childhood memories of our parents and grandparents.

vaccine small pox 133My parents and grandparents didn’t have the vaccines like my generation and my generation’s children have, and I can’t help but think of what kind of childhood memories might have been taken away because of vaccines.

Some of those memories I imagine would include attending the funeral of a classmate or family member that died from an infectious disease, or having to help another fellow classmate get around because they have trouble walking or are in a wheelchair due to polio, and even having to be rushed to the hospital because I contracted measles and my temperature got really high.

Yes, because of vaccines I have none of these childhood memories, nor does most of the people in my generation as well, but thanks to people like Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy, as well as numerous anti-vaccination websites, those childhood memories of the past generations are making a comeback.

3. They make people paranoid.

Vaccines make people paranoid, this is a fact.

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Solar Roadways, a VERY expensive joke?

Intro by Mason. I. Bilderberg

TSolar Freakin’ Roadways_225pxhis is the third video in the Solar Roadways series. If you’re not familiar with this topic, you might want to two previous videos:

  1. Solar FREAKIN Roadways, are they real?, and

If you want some background information, click one of the links above. Otherwise, enjoy🙂


Via YouTube.

From the video description:

So the solar roadways has a page up to ‘answer’ its critics.

Previously I had suspected that they have no technical expertise, now Im sure.

They claim that asphalt is softer than glass.
They claim LEDs will be fine for roads because of powerhungry LED billboards or LED traffic lights that work in the shade.

People gave them over 2 million dollars for this. You really have to laugh or cry at this.

This video was supported by donations of viewers through Patreon:

Left Brained, Right Brained, or Hare Brained?

Pop psychology tells us we’re all either left brain dominant or right brain dominant. Really?

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

Perhaps the most pervasive popular belief that people associate with neuroscience is the idea that we all tend to be either left-brained or right-brained, based on traits like creativity or analytical ability. It’s well known that certain brain functions are localized in various parts of the brain, so it would seem to make sense that some of our individual strengths and weaknesses can be quantified based on brain hemisphere dominance. left_right_brain_250pxQuite a few companies even sell products intended to analyze your brain sidedness, promising a variety of personal development benefits. But is this belief — so widely held — good science, terrible science, or some mixture of the two?

Once in college, I took an Honors Colloquium class that was supposed to expose us to a wide variety of ideas and experiences. It was taught by three professors who were presented to us as being the smartest, most well-rounded guys on campus. One of our exercises was to take a test that was supposed to reveal our brain sidedness. The questions were similar to what you might get in a personality test, asking about whether you prefer math or art, privacy or crowds, planning ahead or working on the fly. Some days later we each received our results: a two-axis radar chart, showing a skewed diamond with its left and right corners representing the levels to which we depended on our left brain or right brain, and the top and bottom corners showing the degree to which we depended on our anterior or posterior parts of our brain. It was explained to us that these results could be used to help us self-assess our aptitudes at various skills. Would we be good at sales, leadership, or education? What areas of ourselves could we work on to improve ourselves? What kind of value could we add to an organization with our particular brain map?

Left brain or right brain?

Left brain or right brain?

Most students had crazily shaped radar charts that showed a strong dependence on one brain area or the other. The horizontal axis had a range of zero to 120 on both sides. We all thought that anyone who had a chart exceeding 100 on either side must be extraordinarily talented according to the popularly believed norms: if you were over 100 on the left you were a math or analytical genius; if you were over 100 on the right you were the next Mozart or Rembrandt. I was very proud that mine was the only one that was symmetrical, 94 on both sides; but after later reflection, I recalled that many of the questions had to do with the classes we were taking. At the time my idea was to double major in computer science and film directing, so I’d given a lot of answers that indicated I was both analytical and creative. I hadn’t had much experience in scientific skepticism at that point, but if I had, I might well have realized that the test was grossly unscientific and relied completely on self-reported answers that might have changed from one day to the next, depending on mood, terminology, context, and many other variables.

Looking at the same test now, I realize that was only the tip of the iceberg. Brain sidedness as a predictor of either preferences or aptitudes is unscientific for a very good reason: it’s virtually entirely wrong.

Let’s go back to that popular public assumption that the left brain is analytic and the right brain is creative, upon which so many of the questions in my Honors Colloquium test focused, and upon which the whole class based the entirety of their analyses of their test results. The natural inference is that people whose left brains are dominant must be good at analytical skills, and people whose right brains are dominant must be good at creative skills. The reverse would also be true: If you are a mathematician or engineer, we might deduce that you are left-brained; and if you’re an artist or poet, that you’re right-brained.

Where did this idea come from?

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Deepak Chopra and the attractiveness of nonsense

Via Skeptophilia

There are a variety of reasons to learn some science.  First is, it’s cool, and is the only game in town when it comes to understanding what’s actually going on around you in the natural world.  science 824_200pxSecond, there are some issues we’re facing (climate change and genetic modification come to mind) that you can only evaluate properly if you understand the science behind them.  These issues are having an increasing impact on humanity, and most of us are coming around to the idea that handling them properly will require some deep thought — deep thought that requires you to understand what the research actually says.

The third reason is that some knowledge of science will keep you from falling prey to purveyors of bullshit.

Take, for example, this article from Huffington Post entitled “Deepak Chopra On How to Modify Your Own Genes.”  The article begins thusly:

Physician and best-selling author Deepak Chopra has an empowering message: You can actually modify your own genes through your actions and behaviors.

deepak chopra 840

Purveyor of bullshit

Well, Dr. Chopra, it may be “empowering,” but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s wrong.  Modifying your gene expression is not the same thing as modifying your genes.  Your body responds to changes in environmental conditions all the time — but that is altering the expression of the genes you already have, not making any sort of permanent changes to the genes themselves.

Alteration of gene expression happens continuously, throughout our lives.  If you hadn’t altered gene expression as you developed from a single-celled fertilized egg, for example, you would right now be an amorphous blob of undifferentiated cells, and you would be unable to read this post, because you wouldn’t have a brain.

Now, lest you think that it’s just the writer at HuffPost who got it wrong, and that the passage above was taking something that Dr. Chopra said out of context and making it sound like he believes that experience alters your genes, here’s an actual quote that proves otherwise:

“We are literally metabolizing something as ephemeral as experience or even meaning,” Chopra said in an interview this week at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California. “If somebody says to me, ‘I love you,’ and I’m in love with them, I suddenly feel great, and I make things like oxytocin and dopamine, serotonin, opiates. And if someone says to me, ‘I love you,’ and I’m really thinking they’re manipulating me, I don’t make the same thing. I make cortisol and adrenaline.”

First off, what does “literally metabolizing… experience” even mean?  Metabolism is one of those words that’s used in common parlance in a variety of ways, but for which scientists have a precise definition.  You can metabolize the protein in your dinner, but “metabolizing experience”CHOPRA is a meaningless phrase — and it’s almost funny that he put the word “literally” in front of it.

Chopra, of course, has become notorious for this kind of thing.  He once said, in a talk, “We are each a localized field of energy and information with cybernetic feedback loops interacting within a nonlocal field,” a phrase that is kind of admirable in how tightly it packs meaningless buzzwords together.  He specializes in a style of speech and writing that I call “sort of science-y or something” — using words like frequency and quantum and resonance in vague, handwaving ways that have great appeal to people who aren’t trained in science, and who don’t realize that each of those words has a precise definition that honestly has nothing to do with the way he’s using them.  In fact, he’s so well-known for deep-sounding bullshit that there is an online Deepak Chopra Quote Generator, that strings together words to create an authentic-sounding Chopra Quote.  (Here’s the one I just got: “The secret of the universe arises and subsides in descriptions of truth.”)

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Global Warming: Pop! Goes the Weasels!

By Mason I. Bilderberg – 5/8/2014

global-warming-Gore 02_225pxAs you might know by now, i have serious doubts about the global warming climate change climate disruption theory. Quite frankly, i’m not convinced. At all.

There’s just too much funny business going on with the language and the alleged “science.”

If you want a more comprehensive insight into the reasons for my doubts, i suggest reading two articles i recently wrote: Global Warming: I Have Questions and Global Warming: Heads they win, tails you lose.

weasel word 02_flat_400pxOne of the topics i hit upon in my second article (Global Warming: Heads they win, tails you lose) is the use of weasel words in the global warming debate.

This is a real hot point with me – the use of misleading language to distort the global warming climate change climate disruption argument. If you have to lie, distort and otherwise mislead people to sell your wares, there’s a problem.

As a recent example, over at techtimes.com is this ominous sounding headline:

Carbon dioxide, cause of global warming, hits record high level in atmosphere since existence of mankind

Scary, eh?

The first two paragraphs read:

Carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in the history of mankind, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California made an analysis of carbon dioxide levels, finding concentrations at their highest level in 800,000 years. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Investigators found 401.33 parts per million of the greenhouse gas in the air.

To spot weasel wording you normally would look for some kind of qualifier language within the claim. In this instance, the phrase “800,000 years” jumped off the page at me.

So i naturally asked myself, “Self, why . . . why would they limit this claim to a time frame of 800,000 years when we know the earth is at least 4.5 billion years old and we know scientists have calculated carbon dioxide levels going back AT LEAST 500 million years?”

Here is why: to distort the truth.

Look at the graphs below. First thing to note is the Y axis on both graphs represents the level of CO2 concentration in parts per million (ppm). The Y axis on both graphs are of equal size, this allows you to have an accurate perspective when comparing the CO2 levels between the two graphs.

The top graph represents the last 1 million years. The blue squiggly line represents the CO2 levels for the last 800,000 years that are referenced in the techtimes.com article.

The bottom graph represents the last 600 million years. The blue line represents the CO2 levels for the last 600 million years.

Take a look:


Now do you see why the techtimes.com article couched their scary headline within the 800,000 year time frame? Had they gone back any further they wouldn’t be able to write their tabloid headline! (Added bonus: 800,000 years allows them to use the catchy phrase “since the existence of mankind” which helps advance the “blame mankind” narrative.)

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

More on my global warming climate change climate disruption perspective:

7 Ways to Identify Pseudoscience

Via Relatively Interesting

Read More At Relatively Interesting

Acupuncture & What They Don’t Teach in Medical School

Via Skepdic.com

Another improperly done and ineptly reported acupuncture study has appeared. Julie Medew is the health editor for The Age, an Australian newspaper with an online presence. She authored an article yesterday with the headline:

Acupuncture as effective as drugs in treating pain, trial shows

acupucture_chinese_medicine_300pxThe headline is accurate but falsely implies that acupuncture was effective, which most people will probably take to mean that acupuncture, by some as yet undiscovered means, really relieves pain. Many people will also jump to the conclusion that this is a good thing because drugs have side effects and acupuncture doesn’t. Is that true? It’s not obviously true or intuitively true. We need evidence before we should accept such a claim. Many people will also jump to the conclusion that this is a good thing because acupuncture is cheaper than pain pills. Is that true? If it is, it is not obviously true or intuitively true. Where’s the evidence?

Anyway, the study was done by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s [RMIT] school of health sciences in conjunction with emergency physicians at four hospitals. I’d never heard of RMIT until yesterday. The website says it is a university and the health sciences webpage says:

The School of Health Sciences engages in teaching and research in Complementary Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery, and Psychology.

We recognise that many of the greatest advances in Science are made at the intersections of disciplines. With our strong interdisciplinary approach we have set our sights on establishing an evidence base for the quality, safety and effectiveness of interventions for the ageing population and those with chronic diseases. Our research findings inform clinical teaching and advance the treatment of patients.

acupuncture 835_225pxOne can only hope that the quality of research in other areas investigated by this institution is superior to that reported on by Ms. Medew. According to her, the “randomised controlled study of about 550 patients” gave acupuncture to some and a”strong oral analgesia, such as Endone, Panadeine Forte, Voltaren and Valium” to others. Medew reports that Dr Michael Ben-Meir “said it showed acupuncture offered the same level of pain relief as analgesic drugs when patients rated their pain one hour after treatment.” You read that right. The conclusion that acupuncture is as effective as pain pills was based on asking the patients about their pain level one hour after treatment. Was there a group of patients in the study who were give a dummy pain pill or fake acupuncture? No, but there was a group given both acupuncture and a pain pill. Guess what? After one hour, their reported pain level didn’t differ from those given only acupuncture or only a pain pill.

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Debunking every IPCC climate prophesy of war, pestilence, famine, drought, impacts in one line

By Joanne Nova via JoNova

We could spend hours analyzing the new IPCC report about the impacts of climate change. Or we could just point out:

  1. Everything in the Working Group II report depends entirely on Working Group I. (see footnote 1 SPM, page 3)
  2. Working Group I depends entirely on climate models and 98% of them didn’t predict the pause.

The models are broken. They are based on flawed assumptions about water vapor.

Working Group I, remember, was supposed to tell us the scientific case for man-made global warming. If our emissions aren’t driving the climate towards a catastrophe, then we don’t need to analyze what happens during the catastrophe we probably won’t get. This applies equally to War, Pestilence, Famine, Drought, Floods, Storms, and Shrinking Fish (which, keep in mind, could have led to the ultimate disaster: shrinking fish and chips).

To cut a long story short, the 95% certainty of Working Group I boils down to climate models and 98% of them didn’t predict the pause in surface temperature trends (von Storch 2013) . Even under the most generous interpretation, models are proven failures,  100% right except for rain, drought, storms, humidity and everything else (Taylor 2012). They get cloud feedbacks wrong by a factor 19 times larger than the entire effect of increased CO2 (Miller 2012). They don’t predict the climate on a local, regional, or continental scale (Anagnostopoulos 2010 and Koutsoyiannis 2008). They don’t work on the tropical troposphere (Christy 2010,  Po-Chedley 2012, Fu 2011, Paltridge 2009). The fingerprints they predicted are 100% missing.

Scores of models, millions of data-points, more CO2 emitted than ever before,
and the models crash and burn. | Graph: John Christy. Data: KMNI.
(click image for larger view)
Also see: Even with the best models, warmest decades, most CO2: Models are proven failures

Even the IPCC admits in the fine print that the models don’t work.

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15 Phreaky Phobias

Are phobias really irrational, or does the brain have a better reason for creating them?

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

scared-1_200pxWhat makes a phobia? It’s perfectly rational to prefer not to perch dangerously on the edge of a perilous cliff, and it’s only common sense to avoid the bite of a snake. But some of us take it a step further: experiencing acute symptoms of anxiety when exposed to certain threats, even when we’re actually safe. We can be on a perfectly safe railed walkway that’s high in the air, or the snake can be behind glass, but we still get the full physiological reaction. Fight or flight kicks in; anxiety, increased metabolism. Adrenalin and dopamine. Peripheral vision turns to tunnel vision and the mind becomes clear and focused on escaping the object of your phobia.

Trauma from past events is the main cause of most phobias, but some researchers also believe heredity may play a role (the eternal nature vs. nurture debate). The nurture component triggers a conditioned response to a stimulus. Here are phifteen phreaky phobias and what we know of them:

1. Arachnophobia: Fear of Spiders

Fear_of_spiders_by_hackamore_200pxWhy is it that even a tiny toddler with no previous spider experience will recoil in terror from a tiny cute little animal that can’t possibly pose any threat? Some have speculated that arachnophobia is an evolutionary adaptation; individuals who lacked the fear were spider-venomed to death more often enough that their genes eventually became expressed less often. Others have pointed out that the actual threat from spiders has never been substantial enough to produce such an effect.

Whatever the cause, arachnophobia is somewhat infamous as the poster child for exposure therapy, the most successful way to treat phobias through desensitization. What arachnophobe would not want to someday be thickly encrusted with Giant Huntsman spiders?

2. Pediophobia: Fear of Dolls

A theory to explain why this phobia exists has to do with the “uncanny valley” — that gap between our comfort with the images of real people, and our comfort with fictional characters sufficiently different from humans. In between, where things like corpses, prosthetic hands, wax figures, and lifelike animated humans are, they’re almost-but-not-quite human and it creeps us out. A picture or drawing of a doll may seem harmless enough, but when a real doll is there in front of you in three dimensions and with physical synthetic eyes and hair and clothes, its evident realism drops it squarely into the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is probably also largely responsible for:

3. Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns

clown pennywise 838_225pxIn addition to their uncanniness — appearing essentially as malformed humans — clowns are correlated with behavior that is equally uncanny. Whether they’re hitting each other over the head with giant cartoon hammers or (perhaps even creepier) quietly handing you a balloon or a flower with an overly loving grin, they behave almost-but-not-quite like people: too different, and yet too similar, for comfort.

4. Emetophobia: Fear of Vomiting

Some people just don’t do vomit: really, really don’t do vomit. They can’t think about it, watch it, or even imagine doing it themselves. The leading theory is that emetophobia is a reaction to a traumatic incident as a child, where vomiting may have been especially painful, humiliating, or associated with a strong memory such as a severe illness. As is the case with all phobias, a quick drive of the porcelain bus today wouldn’t be all that bad; but the sufferer has been conditioned to be severely anxious at the very idea.

when_birds_attack_08_225px5. Ornithophobia: Fear of Birds

In many cases we can never pinpoint what event in a sufferer’s life may have triggered their fear of birds, but the effect can be quite dramatic. Birds are everywhere outside; they can fly, they can come at us unexpectedly from any angle. This uncertainty and feeling of imminent attack is sufficient to trigger a state of acute stress response, the formal term for the fight or flight response. It triggers all the metabolic and biochemical reactions, making a life with too many outdoor excursions truly too stressful for an ornithophobe to manage.

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Ignorance sucks

By Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia

I bet you think you know what science is for.

"I must conspire against humankind!"

“I must conspire against humankind!”

I bet you subscribe to such ideas as “science is a means for understanding the universe” or “science provides a method for the betterment of humankind.”  And I bet that you think that, by and large, scientists are working to elucidate the actual mechanisms by which nature works, and telling us the truth about what they find.

Ha.  A lot you know.

Yesterday I found out that scientists are actually all in cahoots to pull the wool over our eyes, and are actively lying to us about what they find out.  They work to stamp out the findings of any dissenters (and, if that doesn’t work, the dissenters themselves), and to buoy up a worldview that is factually incorrect.

Why would they do this, you may ask?

I… um.  Let’s see.  That’s a good question.

Well, because they’re that evil, that’s why.  And you know, that’s how conspiracies work.  They just cover stuff up, sometimes for the sheer fun of doing it.  Even the scientists gotta get their jollies somehow, right?  I mean, at the end of the day, rubbing your hands together and cackling maniacally only gets you so far.

A Dark Sucker

A Dark Sucker

I came to this rather alarming realization due to a website I ran into called, “Is Gravity a Pulling or a Pushing Force?” wherein we find out that what we learned in high school physics, to wit, that gravity is attractive, is actually backwards.  Gravity isn’t pulling us toward the center of mass of the Earth, like your physics teacher told you.  It’s more that… space is pushing you down.

It’s a little like my wife’s theory that light bulbs don’t illuminate a room by emitting light, they do it by sucking up dark.  She has been known to say, “Gordon, when you get a chance, can you replace the Dark Sucker in the downstairs bathroom?”  Presumably when the filaments in the bulb become saturated with dark, they become incapable of doing their job any more and need to be replaced.

But unlike my wife, the people on this website are serious.  Here is one representative section from the website  .  .  .

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Homeopathic Medicine

By via The Soap Box

homeopathyHomeopathic medicine is probably one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine there is. Infact it was invented in the late 1700’s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, and has been with ever since.

Now there are lots of claims about homeopathy and what it does, and after looking into them I’ve noticed several different things about homeopathic medicine.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about homeopathic medicine:

5. You can make it at home.

Homeopathic medicine is very easy to make. You don’t even need a complex chemistry lab inorder to make it. You can make it right in your kitchen!

Got a headache and you want to make some homeopathic aspirin inorder to get rid of it? Well here’s what you do:

Step 1: Get one tablet of aspirin and about ten bottles of water.Step 2: Crush aspirin and put it into one of the bottles of water.

Step 3: Shake up bottle.

Step 4: Take one drop from said bottle and put it into the next bottle.

Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until done doing so with all bottles.

Now if you do all of this you will have homeopathic aspirin and your headache should go away in a few hours… same as any other normal headache would if you were to take nothing at all.

Actually this might not work, and this is because…

4. You’re suppose to use something that can cause the problems that you currently have inorder to cure them.

homeopathy 803_250pxInorder for homeopathic medicine to actually work (atleast according to people who make and deal with homeopathic medicine) you don’t use heavily diluted medicine that would cure whatever it is that you have. What you actually are suppose to use is something that could cause the symptoms that you’re having rather than actually cure them. Think of it as a kind of like a vaccine, minus any backing from the scientific and medical communities.

So if you want to cure that headache of yours using heavily diluted aspirin isn’t going to work. What you actually want to use is something that can cause a headache if you take it in it’s pure form, like beer, only it has to be heavily diluted.

So using homeopathy logic the best thing to take when you have a headache is a ball park beer, because those things are watered down all to hell.

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Natural News is a Facebook hit: Never click on its stories about cancer, vaccines, conspiracies.

Natural News's Facebook page.

Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News?

By via slate.com

realemon_250pxHave you heard that eating whole lemons prevents cancer? Or that bathing in Himalayan salt rids the body of harmful toxins? That eating hijiki seaweed can delay hair graying? If you have a few Facebook friends, you’ve probably encountered some of these claims. The website Natural News —which seems like a parody but is unfortunately quite serious—published these preposterous stories, and many others just as silly, last week alone.

Hokum like this is best ignored, but hundreds of thousands of Americans fail to do so. Natural News has achieved astonishing traction on social media, garnering Facebook shares in the high five and low six figures. These numbers should trouble you—Natural News has an uncanny ability to move unsophisticated readers from harmless dietary balderdash to medical quackery to anti-government zealotry.

Let’s start by deconstructing the claim that eating whole lemons staves off cancer. The author cites two medical journal articles. She badly mischaracterizes the first, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1999. The study described the isolation of three compounds, known as coumarins, from lemon peel. Coumarins exhibit tumor-suppressing properties in a laboratory dish, but that does not mean that eating lemon peel prevents cancer. Even if the oral ingestion of coumarins were convincingly shown to fight cancer in a laboratory animal, we still wouldn’t know how much lemon peel would be required for a human to experience the same effects or whether you could tolerate the dose.

junk-science_200pxThe second study the author cites is an enormous overreach. No one enjoys biostatistics, but bear with me and you’ll be better prepared to identify weak studies in the future. The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2000, purported to show a correlation between consumption of lemon peel and diminished cancer risk. The authors surveyed 242 skin cancer survivors and 228 controls about their citrus consumption habits, but the questionnaire wasn’t externally validated and has some screwy definitions. (Eating citrus peel “often,” for example, is defined as “50-75 percent of the time.” What does that mean?) The authors did not adequately control for race or skin tone, which is an important variable in skin cancer studies. The sample size was much too small. Only 163 of the 470 study participants reported eating citrus peel, and just 28 of them admitted to eating citrus peel often. That’s not enough to prove that eating lemon peel prevents skin cancer. In addition, the statistical correlation is very weak, close to undetectable. Had one more person with cancer reported eating citrus peel, the relationship would likely have disappeared. In fairness, the study authors acknowledged the small sample size and the need for more substantial follow-ups, but everyone knows how these correlational studies are reported in the media. This is why you should look for patterns in scientific literature rather than relying on individual studies.

Anytime someone tells you that eating something prevents cancer, your BS detector should start a-clanging. Natural News is full of these beauties.

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End of the world, episode #452

Via Skeptophilia

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we’re all gonna die.


DOOMSDAY 1021_200pxI mean, what is this?  This 452nd time this has happened, or something?  Between Mayan apocalypses and Christian End Times predictions and the planet Nibiru and plagues and pandemics and the Harmonic Convergence and the Yellowstone Supervolcano (which is still overdue for an eruption!), it’s kind of surprise we’re all still here.

This time, the world is going to end because we’re going to be destroyed by a rogue planet that is hurtling in toward the inner Solar System at a speed of 200 kilometers per second.  So says a report on Turner Radio Network, which claims that “Dr. Kaplan, a Professor in the Astronomy Department at the University of Texas at Austin” has discovered a large object that is heading toward us — and that even if it doesn’t hit us directly, “the gravity will affect the Earth in terrible ways long before it gets here.”

[image courtesy of NASA and the Wikimedia Commons]

[image courtesy of NASA and the Wikimedia Commons]

Dr. Kaplan made a video (linked on the website) wherein he projected the planet’s arrival time as August 2014, which is the only thing I find that is cheerful about this prediction.  It gives me the summer to recover from the progressive hypothermia I’ve experienced this winter, so at least I’ll finally be comfortably warm by the time I get vaporized.  And it also means that whatever else happens, I won’t have to endure another upstate New York winter, because interaction with the planet will cause “shifting of the tectonic plates on a massive scale.”  I can only hope that our tectonic plate will shift toward the equator.  If that’s an outcome of a planetary collision, then all I can say is, bring it on, because I have had it with the snow.

PlanetOf course, the other predictions are more dire.  “(I)f Kaplan’s scenario is true, the problems Earth will experience would begin with weather anomalies and tidal anomalies, will increase to earthquakes then volcanic eruptions as Earth’s magma is pulled by the gravity of the approaching planet,” the Turner Radio Broadcast report said.  “The experts went on to tell us the troubles would increase further to horrific tsunamis 1000 meters high, moving at 1200 kilometers per hour striking coastal regions around the Earth…  One expert even claimed that depending upon the size and gravity of the planet, and its angle of approach, the gravity of this other planet could actually STOP the Earth from rotating on its axis.  He likened it to a vehicle traveling at 1,000 miles per hour, and having the brakes slammed on; the resulting inertia of all objects on earth would cause them to continue moving while the earth was stopping; sort of like what happens in a car wreck when the car suddenly stops, but the passengers fly forward from their own inertia.”

So that kind of sucks.  And after the article goes into all of that, they ask a few pertinent questions, such as  .  .  .

MORE . . .


superstition broken_mirror_02_600px
Via Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids

In a nutshell: Superstitions are beliefs about the power of things to bring about good or bad when there’s no logical or scientific evidence for the belief.

superstition 140_300pxA superstition is a belief that something can cause good or bad to happen when there’s no scientific or logical reason for believing it.

It seems that everybody is superstitious about something. Ask anyone if they would wear a sweater worn by somebody who has done the worst evil thing you can imagine. Even though there is no rational or logical reason for believing that an evil person’s sweater would feel any different from any other sweater, most people don’t want to even come near the sweater of someone they think is evil.

Even grownups who think they are not superstitious will get chills or a good feeling when they touch something that belonged to someone they greatly admire. There is no logical or scientific reason why anything touched by anyone you admire should have any special effect on you. Yet, people will go to great lengths to get an autograph or to visit the home where someone they think is great was born or used to live.

The world does not divide up into the ones who are superstitious and the ones who are not superstitious. We’re all superstitious, but not always about the same things. We might laugh when we read about people who used to beat their drums to make the moon give back the sun during an eclipse. superstition 143_200pxBut they’d probably laugh at us for trying to touch a rock star or for buying clothes with the name of some singer sewed into them.

Many superstitions start by observing some things that happen by coincidence. You forgot to wash your socks before a baseball game and then you hit a home run. From now on you don’t wash your socks before you play a game. You wore your blue sweater to school on the day you aced a test. Now the sweater is your “lucky sweater” and you wear it whenever you have a test. Instead of accepting that things happen by coincidence, we make one the cause of the other. If you stop to think about it, you know there’s no logical reason dirty socks should help a baseball player hit a baseball. Wearing a sweater can’t substitute for studying for a test.

Many athletes are superstitious. They’ll wear twisted ropes around their necks or rubber bands with holograms around their wrists. Why? Not because they think they look good in them, but because they think the ropes and rubber bands can improve their playing. Not likely, you might think. But, if the player really believes his necklace or bracelet helps him, it might relax him and put him in a good mood. Maybe he plays better when he’s relaxed and in a good mood. So, magic jewelry might help some people sometimes, but only because of their superstition!

Some superstitions are due to magical thinking. Believing that something evil stays in the sweater of an evil person is type of magical thinking. Thinking that things that look alike share some sort of magical connection is also magical thinking. Just because a plant looks like a kidney doesn’t mean it will be good medicine for kidney problems.

Some people think that if they make a doll to stand for some person they can help or hurt the person by helping or hurting the doll. Some people think you can help a person by doing acupuncture on a doll that stands in for the person. Some think that you can make a person feel it if you stick a pin in a doll that stands in for the person. These are examples of more magical thinking.

Magical thinking seems to be based on a belief that there is some sort of energy or essence that things can magically transfer to other things.

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Should we call Conspiracy Theorists “Conspiracy Theorists”?

By via The Soap Box

conspiracies02Of all the things that I have observed about conspiracy theorists one of the things that has always stood out about them to me is that they hate the terms “conspiracy theorist” and “conspiracy theory”. This is for two different reasons:

The primary reason is because they consider the terms to be insulting. This is actually understandable because skeptics and debunkers have used these terms in insulting tones and in an insulting way.

The secondary reason is because they claim that both terms to be “shill” words that were created by the CIA to discourage people from believing in a conspiracy theory (the terms actually first came into use in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and pre-dates the CIA, it only came to be used in a derogatory way in the mid 1960’s, but there is no evidence to suggest that the CIA had anything to do with that). Some even claim that only “shills” use the terms conspiracy theory and conspiracy theorist. Whether they actually believe this or are just claiming this in order to get people to stop using these terms and/or to scare a skeptic off is another question entirely.

Regardless of the reasons why, the fact is that conspiracy theorists do not like the terms conspiracy theorist and conspiracy theory, and to be all honest I don’t really like those terms either. The reason for this is that simply put a theory is based off of facts and evidence. Conspiracy theories are rarely made up of facts and evidence, and even the ones that do have some facts and evidence behind them are often mangled by conspiracy theorists and is manipulated into something that it is infact not…

To put it bluntly in my personal opinion using the word “theory” in conspiracy theory (and by extension conspiracy theorist) is actually inaccurate and inappropriate.

So what would be an accurate and appropriate term to replace conspiracy theory and theorist with?

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95% of Climate Models Agree: The Observations Must be Wrong

Via Roy Spencer

I’m seeing a lot of wrangling over the recent (15+ year) pause in global average warming…when did it start, is it a full pause, shouldn’t we be taking the longer view, etc.

These are all interesting exercises, but they miss the most important point: the climate models that governments base policy decisions on have failed miserably.

I’ve updated our comparison of 90 climate models versus observations for global average surface temperatures through 2013, and we still see that >95% of the models have over-forecast the warming trend since 1979, whether we use their own surface temperature dataset (HadCRUT4), or our satellite dataset of lower tropospheric temperatures (UAH):

Click image for larger view

Click image for larger view

Whether humans are the cause of 100% of the observed warming or not, the conclusion is that global warming isn’t as bad as was predicted. That should have major policy implications…assuming policy is still informed by facts more than emotions and political aspirations.

And if humans are the cause of only, say, 50% of the warming (e.g. our published paper), then there is even less reason to force expensive and prosperity-destroying energy policies down our throats.

I am growing weary of the variety of emotional, misleading, and policy-useless statements like “most warming since the 1950s is human caused” or “97% of climate scientists agree humans are contributing to warming”, neither of which leads to the conclusion we need to substantially increase energy prices and freeze and starve more poor people to death for the greater good.

Yet, that is the direction we are heading.

And even if the extra energy is being stored in the deep ocean (if you have faith in long-term measured warming trends of thousandths or hundredths of a degree), I say “great!”. Because that extra heat is in the form of a tiny temperature change spread throughout an unimaginably large heat sink, which can never have an appreciable effect on future surface climate.

If the deep ocean ends up averaging 4.1 deg. C, rather than 4.0 deg. C, it won’t really matter.


Where is the Proof in Pseudoscience? (Op-Ed)

H/T: (Skeptic Wars)

By Peter Ellerton via LiveScience

homeopathy 803_250pxThe word “pseudoscience” is used to describe something that is portrayed as scientific but fails to meet scientific criteria.

This misrepresentation occurs because actual science has creditability (which is to say it works), and pseudoscience attempts to ride on the back of this credibility without subjecting itself to the hard intellectual scrutiny that real science demands.

A good example of pseudoscience is homoeopathy, which presents the façade of a science-based medical practice but fails to adhere to scientific methodology.

Other things typically branded pseudoscience include astrology, young-Earth creationism, iridology, neuro-linguistic programming and water divining, to name but a few.

What’s the difference?

science 824_200pxKey distinctions between science and pseudoscience are often lost in discussion, and sometimes this makes the public acceptance of scientific findings harder than it should be.

For example, those who think the plural of anecdote is data may not appreciate why this is not scientific (indeed, it can have a proper role to play as a signpost for research).

Other misconceptions about science include what the definition of a theory is, what it means to prove something, how statistics should be used and the nature of evidence and falsification.

Because of these misconceptions, and the confusion they cause, it is sometimes useful to discuss science and pseudoscience in a way that focuses less on operational details and more on the broader functions of science.

What is knowledge?

 John Dewey Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

John Dewey
Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

The first and highest level at which science can be distinguished from pseudoscience involves how an area of study grows in knowledge and utility.

The philosopher John Dewey in his Theory of Inquiry said that we understand knowledge as that which is “so settled that it is available as a resource in further inquiry”.

This is an excellent description of how we come to “know” something in science. It shows how existing knowledge can be used to form new hypotheses, develop new theories and hence create new knowledge.

It is characteristic of science that our knowledge, so expressed, has grown enormously over the last few centuries, guided by the reality check of experimentation.

In short, the new knowledge works and is useful in finding more knowledge that also works.

No progress made

Contrast this with homeopathy, a field that has generated no discernible growth in knowledge or practice. While the use of modern scientific language may make it sound more impressive, there is no corresponding increase in knowledge linked to effectiveness. The field has flat-lined.

At this level of understanding, science produces growth, pseudoscience does not.

To understand this lack of growth we move to a lower, more detailed level, in which we are concerned with one of the primary goals of science: to provide causal explanations of phenomena.

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The GMO Controversy

steven_novellaby Steven Novella via NeuroLogica Blog

What-are-GMOs-and-How-Safe-Are-They-_250pxThe controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMO) has intrigued me for some time, and recently I have been reading everything I can on the topic. It is an excellent topic for skeptics – it is mainstream (not a fringe topic), it has real importance for society, there are complex scientific and logical issues to sort through, and the topic is rife with misinformation and motivated reasoning.

I wrote recently about the fact that beliefs concerning GMO tend to be dominated by two opposing narratives: GMO critics despise corporate control and greed, and fear the unnatural, while GMO advocates see this technology as an example of the triumph of human ingenuity and science. I admit that with regard to this issue my bias is toward the latter narrative, however, I can understand caution regarding huge corporations (the tobacco industry comes to mind).

But, as a skeptic I have really tried to follow a critical thinking process and pull back from my initial gut reactions. Here, then, is my overview of the issues regarding GMO.

A Brief History of GMO

teosinteGMO advocates are quick to point out that pretty much all the food consumed by humans have already been extensively modified by human activity. Corn, for example, was cultivated from teosinte, which looks nothing like modern corn. In fact, it took some detective work to figure out that they are essentially the same species.

Cultivation is mostly about artificial selection – saving the best plants from one year’s crop to provide the seeds for the following year. Repeat that a few thousand times, and you have the development of agriculture and all the food you recognize today.

Cultivation can also involve cross-pollination, creating a hybrid species in an attempt to get the best traits from closely related species. Using a combination of cross-pollination and artificial selection, breeders have created countless varieties of common plants. The black or purple tomato, for example, of which there are about 50 varieties, is high in flavanoids, which give them their color.  Orange carrots were developed by a fortuitous mutation resulting in high levels of beta-carotine. This turned carrots into an important staple crop as a source of vitamin A.

Breeders who are impatient to wait for a fortuitous mutation to occur developed what is called mutation breeding – exposing plants to chemicals or to radiation that increases the mutation rate. Between 1930 and 2007, 2540 mutagenic plant varietals have been released.

Genetic modification is the latest technique for changing organisms to suit our wants and needs. The technology involves various techniques for inserting one or more specific genes directly into a target organism. There are two basic types of GMO – transgenic and cisgenic. Cisgenic involves inserting genes from closely related species, ones that could potentially cross breed with the target species. Transgenic refers to inserting genes from distant species – even from different kingdoms of life, such as putting a gene from a bacterium into a plant.

simsonsfishThere are four types of GM plants currently approved for use: herbicide tolerance, pesticide production, altered fatty acid composition (for canola oil), and virus resistance. Many other potential applications are in various stages of development.

GMO advocates are quick to point out that GM technology is nothing new, and that it is simply an extension of the various technologies we have used for thousands of years to alter organisms. This is overstating the case, however – transgenic GMO is not just a new technique, it also opens up new possibilities, like putting a gene from a bacterium into corn. But it is legitimate to put GMO in its proper historical context. It is not entirely new. Contamination of genes from other kingdoms even occurs in nature through horizontal gene transfer.

In any case, the “it’s not natural” argument is fallacious. Meanwhile, GMO should be looked upon as a powerful technology, and such technologies can have both powerfully good and powerfully bad consequences depending on how they are used.

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