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Ouija Boards

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

by Brian Dunning via Skeptoid

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrity Pseudoscience: 2017 Edition

by Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Hollywood celebrities have a reputation for espousing a sort of prepackaged, fast-food version of politically correct “liberal” issues, as if they buy a kit of personal convictions off the shelf at Whole Foods. It includes environmental concerns, usually exaggerated and often wrong; rejection of “all things corporate” including pharmaceuticals and biotech, with a corresponding embrace of alternative medicine, organic agriculture, and “empowered individual” philosophies like home birth. Then there are the outliers who go the other way toward full alt-right with an imagined superior insight into world affairs. They tend to reject history and science in favor of conspiracy mongering and alternative science, be it the young Earth, the flat Earth, or calling us all sheeple for believing in the standard model of the universe.

Interestingly, anti-vaccination is found in both camps. Left-leaning antivaxxers tend to reject it because it’s not a natural healing method, and right-leaning antivaxxers think it’s an evil government program of enforced mercury poisoning. It increasingly seems that a rational, level-headed, science-literate Hollywood celebrity is as rare as a truly good movie.

So here my list of top 10 celebrities, 2017 edition, who contribute to the Endarkenment by abusing their notoriety to spread misinformation far and wide:

#10 – Shaq and the NBA Flat Earthers

Former player Shaquille O’Neal and current NBA basketball players Kyrie Irving, Wilson Chandler, and Draymond Green have all expressed their belief that the Earth is flat, but I put them all the way down at #10 because it’s not clear that all four literally believe this. They may just be trolling. But whether they are or not, they do genuinely influence a huge number of young people, including some demographics where education is not necessarily a life priority. Guys, if you want to inspire kids to achieve and succeed, you’re doing it wrong.

#9 – Michael Phelps

I include him as a representative of the many athletes and celebrities who loudly and proudly promote cupping, the overtly pseudoscientific technique of suctioning great round hickeys into the skin by rupturing capillaries. A lot of trainers sell this because it costs nothing to administer, requires no training, and they can charge whatever they want for it; and since it’s unregulated, they make a vast array of claims for whatever workout benefits they say it confers. Usually, it just happens to solve whatever that athlete’s complaint of the day is. Phelps proudly shows off these ugly bruises, as do many other athletes and celebrities, and has even posted pictures of himself getting it done on his Instagram. Sellers have even come up with a sciencey-sounding name for it to impress the scientifically illiterate: “myofascial decompression”.

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Killing Princess Diana

Some say the death of Princess Diana in 1997 was actually a murder plotted by her government:

  • Why didn’t any security cameras record what happened in the tunnel?
  • Why was Diana’s body quickly embalmed?
  • Why weren’t Diana’s security forces there to protect her?
  • What about the white Fiat Uno?

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

It was perhaps a certainty that the most famous royal celebrity death of the twentieth century would attract conspiracy theories, so it’s not surprising that that’s exactly what happened when Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car accident in 1997. She’d been divorced from Charles, Prince of Wales for about a year, and she and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed were in Paris. princess_dianaThe story of that evening had all the elements of an international caper: money, royalty, luxury, celebrity, sex, drugs, and death. How could this calamity, at once a small family tragedy and the greatest show on the worldwide stage, have not attracted attention of every kind: sadness, anger, outrage, and charges of crime and conspiracy?

Diana and Dodi had just spent nine days aboard the Al-Fayed family’s enormous motoryacht, the Sonikal, off the French and Italian Riviera. They stopped to overnight in Paris at the Ritz Hotel, owned by Dodi’s billionaire father Mohamed Al-Fayed. After midnight, they left the hotel and headed to an apartment that he also owned, a short drive away. They were in the back seat of a Mercedes S-Class sedan driven by Henri Paul, the hotel’s deputy head of security. Paul was drunk and on anti-depressants. In the front passenger seat was Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi’s bodyguard. None of them were wearing seatbelts. As so often happens to members of the royal family, they were pursued by a number of paparazzi photographers in other cars. dianacrash4Paul drove faster to try and get away from the paparazzi. Just before the Mercedes started down the ramp into an underpass tunnel, Paul swerved slightly to avoid a slower car, but grazed it. He then began to fishtail, at which point he effectively lost control of the Mercedes. Once inside the tunnel, going about 100 kph, the car slammed into a vertical pillar head on. It spun and struck the wall, facing backward. Half a dozen paparazzi were on the scene and remained until authorities arrived four minutes later. Seven of them were arrested. It was 12:30 in the morning.

Paul and Dodi died on impact. Trevor Rees-Jones suffered severe facial and head injuries, ultimately recovering but with no memory of the accident. Diana was fatally injured and died some three and a half hours later at the hospital. Six months later, Mohamed Al-Fayed claimed his son and Diana had been murdered by British intelligence. Why? Because the Al-Fayed family was Muslim, Diana and Dodi had been secretly engaged, and the British could not bear the royal blood to be so tainted. Three years later Mohamed added that the couple had revealed only to him that Diana had even been pregnant with Dodi’s child. Specifically, Mohamed charged that MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, conceived, choreographed, and executed the car crash to murder the pair.

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The Hollow Earth Theory

via skeptoid.com

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hollow_earth_250pxToday we’re going to point the skeptical eye at yet another alternative science that has managed to hang around for centuries despite being obviously wrong, the hollow Earth. There are many different models of hollow Earth theory, and support from equally diverse communities. It is a mind-bending example of how people can mold their world views to fit their beliefs, and then mold science itself to fit the world view.

Today, the prevailing hollow Earth theory states that the Earth is a hollow shell, with its inner surface being much like the outer surface where we live. It has oceans, mountain ranges, and clouds; and hovering at the very center of this hollow ball is a miniature sun that warms the inner-surface residents. Slightly offset from the North Pole and the South Pole are holes that allow travel between the outer and inner worlds. The civilization that lives on the inner surface is more advanced than ours, and they fly in and out through the polar openings in flying saucers, which explains UFO sightings by the outer surface civilization. Only the government knows about the polar openings and the inner civilization, and they suppress this information; ostensibly to prevent other governments from finding out about it and claiming the territory.

To most of us, this sounds like a pretty far-out concept; so many applications of various sciences prove it wrong. Nevertheless, even today, it has its supporters. Many books are available earnestly promoting the theory. Websites such as OurHollowEarth.com, HollowEarthNetwork.com, and HollowEarthTheory.com provide only a starting point for active communities who firmly believe this.

Conspiracy mongering is a big part of most of today’s hollow Earth writings: familiar assertions that the government is covering it up, the proverbial “they” don’t want you to know about it, and that we should all “wake up” and see the truth. But this is the least interesting part of hollow Earth theory, and only its most recently introduced aspect. There is a rich and surprising history behind how this all came to be

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