T'was the week before Christmas and all through the… no wait, that's probably the wrong audience. Welcome to the weekly round up of skeptical goodness - plenty of stuff to fill your stockings and keep you busy right up until Christmas!
Far from being humbugs, every good Skeptic enjoys a bit of festive joy this time of year. Coventry Skeptics are meeting on Wednesday (21st Dec) to hear about a Skeptic's Guide to Christmas and despite what ol' Dave says, there's a place for godlessness at Christmas as New Humanist launches the Nine Days of Godless Christmas Podcasts and Lauren at Friendly Atheist describes how to decorate your tree atheist style. Plus The Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures this year return with experimental psychologist Prof Bruce Hood who is delivering a three part series called Meet Your Brain. Personally I'm hoping for at least one mention of zombies…
Oh and if you're still looking for Christmas presents, shame on you. But the Brain Pickings 11 Best Science books might be a good pick, alternatively a DVD box-set of TV series The Big Bang Theory if you want to get youngsters into physics, according to this article in the Observer. But you might want to stay away from candles (burning ones might cause cancer) or crying baby ringtones which have been claimed boost breast size.
Enough about Christmas though. Apparently the Large Hadron Collider has finally proven useful by finding Brian Cox's car keys. And if you don't know what the LHC and its efforts to find the Higgs boson are about, then this article in New Scientist might be of some interest. It's, like, something to do with physics and our existence or summat. But even if the Higgs Boson isn't found that's a-okay according to Jon Butterworth at the Guardian.
You can't help but have heard about the whole #Burzynski and his antieoplastins as a "cancer cure". British media, including the BBC, the Observer and most latest the London Evening Standard (who at least have a sentence alluding to criticism about the clinic), have been promoting fundraising efforts by British patients to get to the clinic in the US, despite wide-spread criticism from skeptics, scientists and Cancer Research. In fact there's a whole heap of skeptical blogposts on the Burzynski Clinic and its favourable media coverage from Quackometer, TwentyFirstFloor, Ministry of Truth and the Science-Based medicine blog and are knocking about and worth a read. The Nature has also covered how the press might be under pressure in regards to scientific ignorance in British press too.
Speaking of alternative and complementary medicines (CAM for short), the British Acupuncture Council have provided an info pack on how they might be able to set up NHS acupuncture services. Quite why you'd lay out your arguments for the opposing side to rip to pieces is beyond me, but its worth a look. There's a fairly interesting Freedom of Information request about current use of acupuncture in the NHS in there. Seems the local PCTs (B'ham East and North, Heart of Birmingham, but not South Birmingham) use acupuncture, but most interesting are the barriers to use with evidence being cited quite a lot. Although Quackometer did blog to warn about this as a possibility back in 2010.
UK Skeptics have also stumbled across the Spirit Release Foundation who talk about spirit attachment (although really it's just their guidance that the website is best viewed in MS Explorer 5 or better that pains me). And over in the US the Chicago Tribune reports on the troubled study at heart of therapy debate.
And whilst most of the skeptical community would like to see stronger regulation of CAM, a recent beheading of a women in Saudi Arabia for 'sorcery' as religious police said she tricked people into claiming she could treat illnesses is really not the way to go.
It can't have escaped your notice that it's nearly the end of the year, which of course means it's time to get voting for The Skeptic Magazine's Skeptic Awards 2011. There are five categories this year including best podcast and blog, with the awards ceremony being held at QED in March. There doesn't seem to be a closing date on the website for nominations, but better get voting sooner rather than later. If you're stuck for a podcast, might we remind you to glance right at that box a few inches down…
And to round off a humorous and definitely not safe-for-work video from ZOMGGitsCriss on why she is not agnostic-athiest and why atheism and agnosticism aren't the same thing.
This week's round up was compiled by Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub organiser Laura Creavan