Thursday 20 December 2012

Weekly Round – Up w/e 16th December 2012

It’s Round-up time. There’s no need to be afraid...

Hello and welcome. After a brilliant 2012 we’re already lining up another year of interesting talks  to challenge and entertain you. And this is where you’ll get to hear all about them, receive updates on our  DVD releases , dates of our Sitp socials, and any local events of a skeptical or scientific nature; not forgetting our new book group starting in January. So share our blog, come along to our talks, tell all your friends about us too. Do they know it's Round-up time at all?

This week’s Round-up is liberally decked out with links of a festal nature. Here’s the first of our fragile myth baubles just ready to be dashed to tiny pieces:-

From the BMJ - Mistletoe as a treatment for cancer:  Many in the medical profession do not believe mistletoe has any effect on cancer, and think it should not be prescribed, citing a lack of good quality evidence.

North Korea claims to have unearthed a unicorn lair. Oh yes they did. ……. Oh no they didn’t!

Ladies and Gentlemen, a toast. Raise your glasses and drink to ‘you’re a nation’: Edzard Ernst points a placebo at the porcelain in taking-the-piss.

This story of the three wise men has been bothering me a bit lately. Why they had to follow a star to get from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is beyond me as, according to Google Earth, it’s only a piddling 4.5miles away; approximately 1.5hrs at camel pace. It's not like there wasn't an abundance of nocturnal flock-watching shepherds loitering on every sand dune to point them in the right direction either. Jeez! Besides, the wise men would probably have walked their camels to Jerusalem, as watching them run would have been just too hilarious.

The world’s smallest snowman: At 10 µm across, 1/5th the width of a human hair, with a nose measured at .001mm diameter made of ion beam deposited platinum. There’s a technical term for that; Ooh, that’s so cool!

Look at what Einstein got for Christmas. Well, if they’re good enough for him… No guarantees of an instant IQ increase if you wear a pair though. There just might be something in that hypothesis as Northwestern University researchers say that our clothes affect our psychological processes.  Unusually, I’m putting this together during my lunch break at work, rather than at home, whilst wearing my usual white lab coat, and I’m finding it so much easier! (WIGO?)

Get your free Christmas cards from New Humanist here, drawn by top cartoonist Martin Rowson. Download the pdf then print away. Make a donation too if you’re feeling generous.

Kingdom Hall door knockers have been down my way telling me that Darwin was a racist, therefore, evolution is too. No way. Yahweh! (Evo Wiki! Why haven’t I seen you before?)

Some creative ideas for alternative Christmas trees should you fancy a challenge: The simple but very effective Dalek Tree; the lab based Chemistree and several versions of Booktrees. The sight of those volumes laid open on top of one another, spines akimbo, makes me very uncomfortable. I’ll stick to hanging miniature copies of atheist books to my fake fern, topped off with a festive bobble hatted Darwin; though if you’re a Kindle user after a cheap e-book for Christmas, this is a steal at 99p.

A must watch video on Synthetic Biology now as Cambridge University undergraduates spent the summer genetically engineering bacteria to secrete a variety of coloured pigments , visible to the naked eye. That E.chromi yoghurt in the developing future scenario looks fascinating.

500,000 pairs of fat blaster pants sold in Australia. Warning! Article contains massive portions of indigestible woo. That’s a Biopromise. Nope, even spellchecker tells me that word is utter nonsense.

The Huffington Post, one of the biggest political websites in the world is a proud supporter of quackery says Tom Chivers at the Telegraph. There’s a fair bit of good old fashioned mud-slinging in the comments section if you like that kind of thing.

Brazilian radio station, Band FM, broadcast a high frequency 15Hz tone under its music to repel mosquitoes, allowing listeners to relax in the open air without fear of getting bitten. Does it work? Definitely not, say scientists - and mosquitoes.

I don’t care if it makes me go cross-eyed. I want a wearable hummingbird feeder for Christmas.

Highlighting a sharp increase in arrests for "blasphemy" on social media this year, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has produced the first report focusing on how countries around the world discriminate against non-religious people.

Jesus taunted by baying mob again - at a darts match! Shame about that, I’m sure he could have done something miraculous with five portions of chips and two baskets of scampi.

Love and tolerance take a back seat to death threats and condoning murder as the Mormon Church get uppity about women wearing pants; whilst the conduit of inaudible voices, intangible entities and undetectable forces blesses Uganda’s Kill the Gays minister (Some NSFW rage vented therein).

Just a few words further along there’s a nice little 12 question Christmas quiz put together by Skeptical Money. Do you know your bible genealogy from your gospels?

Twinkly lights and some pretty planets aren’t the only reasons I’ve included this talk in the Round-up. There’s also some really nifty electronic engineering involved. From Leah Buechley as part of the TED series: Sketching with electronics.

That’s it. I’m done for this year - maybe forever, as I can’t say the weather’s looking too good this week according to the Mayan forecast. Or will we be witnessing the harmonic convergence of a full on Gangham Apocalypse?

If you manage to make it through both of those, have a
Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster on me.

It may be a bit of an oldie, but it’s a goodie. Here’s a spot of natural history to start your holiday:

This week’s Round-up was compiled by SitP regular Roy Beddowes (sometimes Burrowes).

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