Monday, 2 July 2012

Pseudoscience stuff from the week 25/6 - 1/7/12

Bullshit of the week, courtesy of the Daily Torygraph:
'Scientists predict time will stop'

'Funding for teacher classroom management study'
Study? How are they going to do controls? It doesn't look like they are.
This is a rehash of the management consultancy scam, 'justified' by a rehash of the fish-oiled-students study that Ben Goldacre did an article on for Bad Science
"Initially they said – to blanket media coverage – that they were running a trial on fish oils, giving pills to 3,000 children to see if it improved GCSE performance. I pointed out, along with several academics, that their experiment was incompetently designed, for no good reason, and so would only produce false positive results."
I await a sentence that runs thusly:
"Initially they said – to blanket media coverage – that they were running a trial on [the Incredible Years Teacher Classroom Management (TCM) course], giving [advice] to 3,000 children [and teachers] to see if it improved performance. I pointed out, along with several academics, that their experiment was incompetently designed, for no good reason, and so would only produce false positive results."

[video] 'After the Storm - Complementary and Alternative Medicine'
Edzard Ernst receives his 'In Praise Of Reason Award', and gives a brief talk on the Alternative (to) Medicine industry, specifically Chiro-quack-tic, and what has changed in the fight of 'integrity v. quackery'

Here's a challenge - fairy circles - i would say it'd be caused by a fungus, but there's no sign of a fruiting body. Upwelling of ground pollution, maybe?
What proper fairy circles look like:

Here's a newly old subject - the Mayan apocalypse of 2012
Consider the context of the times - the Calakmul king has just suffered a military defeat, and is looking to reassure his supporters of his authority.
He gives himself a nickname - the 13 Kat'un Lord - the king to preside over the 13th Kat'un cycle's period ticking over (
This event had occurred just recently, in what is CE 692 on our calendar.
In order to extend his immutability, and further reassure his ordinates, he transfers his nickname to the next unit of time along the calendar.
(Like someon called '6-month Sally' changing her name to '6-year Sally')
He thus becomes the 13 Kat'un Lord, with his period of majesty continuing until ( This date, on our calendar, is the 21st December 2012
No apocalypse. Not even a prophecy. Just some guy pretending to be near-eternal.

[+ audio] 'Why Your Dog Can Get Vaccinated Against Lyme Disease And You Can’t'
Hint: Anti-vaccination superstition...

Just in case the antivaccers make some shit up about the celiac disease cases in Sweden:
Pertussis, haemophilus influenza type b, and measles/mumps/rubella vaccines all negatively correlated with CD incidence.
Discontinuation of general BCG vaccination was met with an incredibly sharp and obvious lack of change in CD incidence.
If anything, the evidence shows us that vaccines for other diseases prevent celiac disease too!

Are children unhealthily dehydrated?
Nope -- the claim was formulated as marketing propaganda, courtesy of Nestle, who are big players in the bottled water industry. Surprise, surprise!

1 + 0 = 10
That's how homeopathic maths works!

Legal threats against skeptics in Norway over chocolate criticism

What's the harm in seeing a psychic? This one duped his clients into sex, now faces jail.

And this one stole $324,650

What's the harm in astrology? SEC charges over $1M lost in astro-Ponzi scheme.

Three men have been axed to death in India, after being denounced as witches

To finish, a New Scientist interview with Indian Skeptic Sanal Edamaruku, who has recently been threatened with arrest for 'offending' (it's that word again!) Religious beliefs:

Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku faces a Catholic backlash after insisting that the "holy" water dripping from a statue of Christ came from a leaky drain

What was the so-called "miracle" you recently investigated in Mumbai?
The priest and the very active Catholic laity organisations associated with the Our Lady of Velankanni church in Mumbai were promoting the idea that water dripping from the feet of a statue of Jesus was a sign from God. Hundreds of believers flocked to the dripping cross, collecting and consuming "holy" drainage water that they believed would cure all ailments.

What prompted you to intervene?
I was invited to the Delhi studio of TV9, a Mumbai-based national channel, to comment. During the programme, I rejected the possibility of a miracle, but of course could not give scientific explanations without an investigation. The channel then invited me to come to Mumbai. The church authorities agreed.

What did you find?
I had a close look at a nearby washroom and the connected drainage system that passed underneath the concrete base of the cross. I removed some stones from the drain and found it was blocked. I touched the walls, the base and the cross and took some photographs for documentation. It was very simple: water from the washroom, which had been blocked in the clogged drainage system, had been transmitted via capillary action into the adjacent walls and the base of the cross as well as into the wooden cross itself. The water came out through a nail hole and ran down over the statue's feet.

You now face possible arrest. Why?
Leaders of two Catholic laity organisations have launched charges against me under section 295A of the Indian penal code. This charges a person with "deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community". It is absurd to claim that I did anything of the sort.

What do you fear might happen to you?
If it comes to a trial, I have nothing to fear. I would welcome the opportunity to throw some light on the role that the Catholic church played and is still playing today, here in India. The possibility of arrest is threatening, however.

Do you have any regrets about intervening?
Why would one not intervene when somebody gives gullible people sewage to drink? But my reason is broader. The promotion of superstition and belief in paranormal phenomena dulls people's minds and establishes dangerous misconceptions about reality in our society. Such efforts have to be countered.

Why do people so readily believe in miracles?
For many, the regressive belief in superstitions and miracles is an escape from the hardships of life. Once trapped into irrationalism, they become more incapable of mastering reality. It is a vicious circle, like an addiction. They become vulnerable to exploitation by astrologers, godmen, dubious pseudo-psychologists, corrupt politicians and the whole mega-industry of irrationalism.

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