Sunday, 4 December 2011

Birmingham Skeptics Weekly Round-up: w/e 04.12.11

We’ve rounded up a big round thing again this week for you nice people at Birmingham Skeptics; and with a surplus of great links stewing in the skeptic pot from November’s cultic milieu we’ve decided to roll them all up into nice little bite-size chunks for your digestion.

There’s a lot to get through, here’s the first of our offerings..


In a classic example of medieval thinking, a Chinese firm has decided Scorpios and Virgos are too moody and critical, telling job seekers with those star signs they need not apply. Capricorns, Pisces and Libras, on the other hand, are welcome.

Charlatans and quacks beware  - Joe_Schwarcz has an extra $5.5 million to help put you out of business. Joe gets right down to the task at hand; Pyramid Mat, Homeopathy, Have the fruit and some cynicism, Case to keep chemical soup in baby's soap are great places to get acquainted with Mr Schwarcz.

100 years before STORM; here’s a skeptical ditty on homeopathy penned by William Crosswell Doane, the first Episcopalian Bishop of Albany (1832-1913):-

“Stir the mixture well Lest it prove inferior, Then put half a drop Into Lake Superior.
Every other day Take a drop in water, You’ll be better soon Or at least you oughter.”


There’s nothing about spinning on dimes in there, however, it’s good for a bit of a chuckle.

From the World Wildlife Fund: In India
use of owls in black magic and sorcery driven by superstition, totems and taboos is one of the prime drivers of the covert owl trade.

Over to Eastern Indonesia for this disturbing link: Doctors pull 28 nails from girl's body.

In Australia: Parents who do not have their children fully immunized will be stripped of family tax benefits under a scheme announced by the Federal Government. Yes ABC News, that picture in the article really helps.

Kate Smurthwaite and the unmoderated site comments that followed her appearance on the religious debate show The Big Questions: My Atheist Bitchslap and the Internet.

Robot wardens are about to join the ranks of South Korea's prison service. A jail in the eastern city of Pohang plans to run a month-long trial with three of the automatons in March; probably a bit too late to be saying this then.

A Swedish man has demanded that local officials in Dalarna in central Sweden create a “radiation-free zone” to protect his health that may leave half the county without mobile phone coverage.

You should all by now be familiar with William of Ockham’s law of parsimony, so here’s a surprising first: From The Rogues Gallery- Skepticism courtesy of the Daily Mail...Seriously , to a bit of wishful thinking over at Short and Spiky.

As this was covered quite extensively by Chris in last week’s round up, here’s a mini round-up of the Burzynski Clinic’s more recent shenanigans: Should you invest in Burzynski stock? , Orac, Blaghag takes a look at the Burzynski Clinic's publications,  white coat underground, Skeptic Park 4 and Token Skeptic Podcast with Andy Lewis, and there are so many, many more.

One of the sites we frequently visit is that of Psychologist Bruce Hood, you may have seen him alongside Robin Ince and Brian Cox on the Bristol leg of the Uncaged Monkeys tour. The good news is that Bruce is currently preparing to present this year’s Royal Institution Christmas  Lectures, the subject of which is The Brain; finally, one Brucey thing I’ll be looking forward to watching over this festive period.  If the TV gets too much you could always dive into Bruce’s rather excellent book Supersense – add it to your Christmas reading list right now.

Many ghost hunters believe that strong support for the existence of ghosts can be found in modern physics. Specifically, that Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientific minds of all time, offered a scientific basis for the reality of ghosts.

You may remember way back in March we had Matt Lodder visit us with his talk ‘A Skeptical Look at Media Perceptions of Tattooing in the West’. For those of you who have both an interest in science and a nagging urge to get inked, here’s a book by Carl Zimmer that may inspire you to have your passion immortalized somewhere on your bod.


Well this is just great, an excellent site combining comics and commentary – Sci-ence. Here’s a taster: A list of red flags to help you identify a pseudoscience or quack modality. Dive in, swim around a bit, enjoy. This nicely leads into…

Quantum Chiropractor, Deepak Chopra, not content with abusing physics, has now got his foot in the door of the games industry with his XBox 360 Chakra balancing game Leela, and is making a move on your third eye. (GET BACK CHOPRA!) "I think the way technology is moving right now, we could probably, with a little deeper understanding, accelerate the evolution of the human brain within a few months [to equal] what might take hundreds of years of biological evolution” says Deepak. Orac refuses to go Ommm.

Lateral thinking is the catch of the day for Canadian grad student Chris Charles: Lucky fish reduces anaemia in Cambodian village.

From NAIROBI, Kenya: A typical prize for a children’s contest might be a backpack, a lunchbox or maybe some toys. Not in Somalia.  

The Prince of Wales refuses to accept the failings of alternative medicine despite compelling evidence that it provides little benefit to patients because he is 'ideologically fixated', one of Britain's leading science writers warned.

Turbo Snort - exactly what I did when I read this article on the world’s first caffeine infused homeopathic high performance brain cocktail nasal spray.

Did you know that the internet weighs the same as a strawberry, or an egg? Or that 4GB of Kindle books weigh the same as a small virus?

From CNN: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann says schools should teach children about evolution and intelligent design because “the best thing to do is to allow all scientific facts on the table.” The I.D bubble has burst according to Science Blogs.

Truth and lies: Conspiracy theories are running rampant thanks to modern technology.
Government cover-ups, faked dictator deaths, secret messages in the Wingdings font...Nick Harding from The Independent reports on a mental contagion.

Shaun Ryder to hunt aliens on TV: The Happy Mondays singer has signed up to front a History Channel series; might be worth watching if Gillian McKeith was co-presenting.

There seems to be a trend developing here where we bring things to a close with a video of something popular, scientifically exceptional or just downright quirky; this week is no exception. Here’s 'Brinicle' from the BBC’s Frozen Planet series. If that’s not enough how about the Starfish inspired Soft robot walking and crawling from Harvard? 

That’s it for this round-up. Don’t forget to join us for our final festive meet up on THURSDAY 8th December at 7.30pm where David Allen Green will be joining us to talk about Birmingham and free thought from Joseph Priestly onwards.


This week’s round-up was compiled by Roy Beddowes.

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