Sunday, 9 November 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 3-9/11/14

Hi double-halves,

The long-awaited documentary about James Randi is here!

'Exposed: Magicians, Psychics and Frauds'

"This entertaining film chronicles Randi's best debunkings of faith healers, fortune tellers and psychics. It documents his rivalry with famed spoon-bender Uri Geller, whom Randi eventually foiled on a high-profile television appearance. Another target was evangelist Peter Popoff, whose tent-show miracles and audience mind-reading were exposed as chicanery when Randi revealed a recording of Popoff's wife feeding him information through a radio-transmitter earpiece."

I suspect it'll only be able available on iPlayer for a month or so, so if you can, make the most of it.

"This is why Britain is the best country in the world. Well done, Steve."

'Leisure centre winner is Steve'

The frustrating thing about this story, is that it's absolutely true...

'Steve snaps up free membership prize'

It reminds me of a closing quip from Stephen Fry, on QI, wherein he iterated that a team had been commissioned with naming a new University-College chimera in Bradford:

"When a market-research team was asked recently to come up with a new name for the merger between a university and a college in Bradford, they took three months, this company, to suggest the following alternatives: University of Bradford, The University of Bradford, or Bradford University. Their fee was £20,000."

'Series 1, Episode 8'

To think that people name their own kids, free of charge. Fools!

No University ever got bullied for having a silly name. They're less worth the expense :-D

Y'know when 'reports' say 'the Media' does a good job, broadly-speaking, of reporting Science?

Well, i'm going to present this is an example of how they're so abysmally wrong:

'U.K. paper posts the year’s worst story on dowsing'

When a bunch of ignoramuses at, for example, the Kent and Sussex Courier credulously report the facile claims of dowsers as if they're scientific... that is atrocious Science reporting!

Dowsing is a find-by-magic superstition, that uses sticks and coat-hangers and things as props, as part of a deception into thinking that stuff can be found without actually looking. Most famously, in recent years, it's been perpetrated by people like Jim McCormick, who've used it to sell useless plastic things to military forces and police, so that when little Salim's daddy goes out into the field bravely looking for bombs to save people from, he's much less likely to come back in fewer than 72 pieces!
{Yes, i use macabre humour occasionally}

Additionally, every time a quack is featured in a 'debate' about the I-SCAM industry; or a pharma sales rep is featured in a 'debate' about prescription; or an antivaccer is featured in a 'debate' about how to kill children with avoidable diseases while simultaneously insulting autists as 'broken' by medicine; or an MP for Health sends homeopathic propaganda to the Chief Medical Officer and doesn't get lambasted for it -- that's utterly shit Science reporting!

There's much more to reporting Science than just cherry-picking the things that Science found to be true, as if Science magically finds only true answers. [splutters with incredulity]

The way the scientific method works, is to distinguish true ideas from wrong ones, by accruing evidence that either substantiates or falsifies them. This necessarily means testing lots of ideas - the majority of which, are going to be wrong.

This is why it's so absurd that the Brownian-Conservative incarnation of the EPSRC requires researchers to state what their findings are going to be, before they've actually found them, in order to get the funding that would allow them to find their findings!

"The EPSRC's obsession with impact will lead to funding things that are mediocre and incremental because you can't accurately predict the outcome of fundamental research. Either that or it will lead to some scientists simply telling lies." - Prof Tony Barrett, head of synthetic chemistry at Imperial College London and leader of 'Science for the Future'

And what also makes it so absurd that cultural excrescences like Dowsing are not seen as functionally anti-scientific, in encouraging people to accept it as true, despite research having found it to be wrong.

Part of the scientific method necessarily involves calling wrong ideas wrong, as well as right ideas right - doing so is part of the same process.

That's why it's bad Science reporting to gullibly report that dowsers "...are always trying to refine the science aspect because it is a scientific thing although not universally regarded as such"

No - it's not a scientific thing - it's a pseudoscientific thing, that is not universally regarded as such, but should be.

And that's why it's also incredibly bad Science reporting to go to town on the subject of Naturopathic fraud, as if it were not already known to be entirely risible:

'Alternative to health: The Telegraph does a totally credulous piece on naturopathy'

Remember that the Torygraph is a national newspaper, owned by the multi-millionaire Barclay brothers. They have all the resources necessary to fact-check their content (they are worth £6 billion). And yet somehow this sentence gets through:

"Aside from nutritional therapy, acupuncture and biopuncture (in which the needles contain homeopathic injectibles), she uses infusion therapy (“if your digestion isn’t working properly there is a malabsorption of nutrients”)."

There is no such thing as nutritional therapy. Telling people to eat a healthy balanced diet is not therapy.

Quackupuncture - 'health by a thousand cuts' - is a pointless (punintended) threat to health, by putting lots of holes in the one organ of the body most key to keeping germs out.

Biopuncture is even more nonsense, because it combines one superstitious ideology with another one, based on a completely different fictional universe (like throwing a pokeball forward and seeing Gandalf jump out)

Homeopathic 'injectibles' is nongrammatical because there is only one ingredient in homeopathy -- water.

And infusion therapy... well i don't think i need to go any further, do i.

That any of this can get published in a broadsheet newspaper, is a indicator that reporting of Science by 'the Media' is not 'good'. That all of it got past the team, and the editor, is a dramatic repudiation, refutation, and castration of the statement!

On the plus side, this subject made me think of Ben Goldacre. So i checked his blog. And looky here, he's got a new book out. Yay!

'I totally just touched my new book: Collected Journalism, out next week!'

And here's the intro:

I must get this for Winterval!

{Yes - i'm still calling it that, just to piss off the Daily Fail and Daily Diana :-D }


The 8th of November marks the 49th anniversary of the Race Relations Act, in the UK, which banned racial discrimination in public places in Britain. Regarded as weak legislation, it did little to counter racism-based behaviour, but was a progenitor of later, more effective legislation.

The 9th of November marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which came to symbolise the emotional barrier between people of East and West, as well as their physical division, and the emotional divisions between peoples in similar situations, around the world.

In other news:

'Man in charge of nation’s finances struggling with concept of ‘half’'
“Instead of us giving them £1.7bn, and then them giving us £850m, we’re just going to give them £850m and call it quits.”

It says something quite staggering, that a parody web-site has a more veracious insight into current affairs, than the leading News organisations, doesn't it :-D

Let's have some more of that then, LOL:

'Tesco wondering if George Osborne fancies having a go at their books'
“It’s really very simple. If someone is capable of getting people to pay exactly the same amount they always did for something, but convincing them he’s actually saved them 50%, then we’d really like to talk to them.”

'Complaints at ‘Sexy UKIP politician’ Halloween costume'
"The costume features tobacco-yellow cuffs, a joke ‘never-empty’ pint glass, and cut off shirt to reveal a fake beer belly."

{The original costume idea was actually a fake}

'Pyongyang claims Kim Jong-un recovery so spectacular he’ll soon be able to fly'
“The Dear Leader is literally the greatest human being who ever lived,” said a North Korean spokesman. “His capacity for healing is beyond normal people. His legs have healed so brilliantly that he will be able to fly very soon.”

Even more comedy. A Green MP has made a total embarrassment of himself, by signing a homeopaths' petition to compel the WHO to send shaken water to Ebola sufferers in Africa! Like a typical polly, he gave the pathetic excuse that it was late at night when he signed it. So he was tired... tired and emotional, too? :-D

Pope Frank - head of one of the world's largest, most valueful businesses - has condemned members of his own, for making it too much like a business, having sacked a Church Court official who had been caught offering to facilitate marriage annulments for cash.

And Frankie also gets a follow-on from last week, on the basis of the science-denial stuff. He might accept evolution as a thing; but he also thinks that exorcism is a thing. Y'know - the flagrant abuse of mentally ill people, by culturally ill people who think that possession by fictional demons is a thing that actually happens! So Religion's still dragging its arse along the ground, even into the 21st century. Well done, lads - you're working hard to avoid ever receiving that much-demanded respect :-D

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'Stunning New View of Planetary Genesis'

'Black hole merger'

'John Lewis Christmas ad secretly highlights plight of trafficked sex workers'

'The sordid truth of #MontyThePenguin's sex life | Shed Science'
{Definitely watch this one, LOL. But read the newsthump article first}


'Philpot Lane Mice'

'Conductive Glass'

'Robot arms recreate feeling of alien presence'
This is actually quite interesting. If it's this easy to deliberately fool yourself into thinking that someone else is acting, and not you, then it must be very easy for people to accidentally persuade themselves that their own actions were in fact determined by someone else's, for example in automatic writing, channelling the dead, etc. It doesn't make what those people do OK, but it could explain how they've convinced themselves that it's OK.

'Thrush song shares harmonies of human music'

'All About That Base (No Acid)'

'Le Mémo (Aude Gogny-Goubert et Loïc Bartolini)'

'The Chaser's Media Circus - Season 1 Episode 4'

'World of Batshit - #3: Chemtrailer Trash'
Ahahah 19:29 is 24-carat example of superstition! Do a thing, see a thing; erroneously conclude that the done thing caused the seed thing. LOL!

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Word Of The Week: sangfroid -- composure or coolness shown in danger or under trying circumstances

Expression Of The Week: 'to the nines' -- meaning 'to the highest degree' / 'to perfection'. Makes most sense when considering the french version, in which 'nine' ('neuf') clearly also means 'new' ('neu'/'neuf'/'nouveaux'). The english etymology, through 'nigon' also indicates that it the number 'nine' comes from 'new' through Greco-Latin, back to Proto-Indo-European.

Journalist Quote Of The Week: "A pod of dolphins stunned lucky sailors with their aquatic acrobatics on Saturday afternoon. Around 20 of the mammals played in waters off Sandbanks for around an hour, delighting viewers. The same group could also be spotted from Southbourne earlier that morning, where many walkers reported catching a glimpse of the animals as they strolled along the beach."
{If journalists aren't good at scientific investigation or language, then what are they good at?? :-D }

Scientist Quote Of The Week: “Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.” - Richard P. Feynman

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

'Notable effigies from Lewes's Bonfire Nights'

'Instant paranormal: The ubiquitous use of camera apps'

'BBC1 Best Of Carrott Confidential 88. Part 1'

'BBC1 Best Of Carrott Confidential 88. Part 2'

'BBC1 Best Of Carrott Confidential 88. Part 3'

'BBC1 Best Of Carrott Confidential 88. Part 4'

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