Tuesday 11 December 2012

Weekly Round-Up w/e 9th December 2012

Hello and welcome to the latest Round-Up. 

We're really looking forward to the visit of Robert Llewellyn in January but if you can't wait that long or fancy buying a Christmas present for the nerd in your life you might consider buying one (or more) of our past talks, all lovingly edited and packaged by several of the Brum Skeptics organisers under the name of SkepticalDVDs. It's all linked to Paypal and they've kept the postage costs to a minimum and the Royal Mail says we should be OK to post up to Tuesday 18th December. Needless to say it's all voluntary and the profits go into the Brum Skeptics pot.

Maybe the biggest story of the week is the death of astronomer Sir Patrick Moore who hosted The Sky at Night on BBC TV for over 55 years. He has an incalculable effect in popularising science but many were unaware of his unpleasant views on a variety of subjects including immigration and women in the workplace. Kash Farooq puts forward the idea that it's OK to admire the work but not the worker.

The other big story of the week was that of Sally Roberts who disappeared with her 7 year old son Neon to prevent him from receiving follow-up treatment after an operation to remove a brain tumour. Her preference was for something more natural (and ineffective). This led the Express to run a piece detailing the options given by various alternative medicine regimes. Needless to say they got most of it wrong which is unsurprising as their 'expert' is not a medical doctor but a “practitioner of health in its broadest sense”. Although there was dialogue between Sense About Science and the Express they are yet to issue a correction or publish Sense About Sciences letter, so they corrected it themselves (pdf). There's not much left of the original.

It's not just newspapers who get it wrong. Asthma UK have put up a webpage on Complimentary Therapies that is enough o make you wince. They really should know better. Also the American Psychiatric Association has approved DSM 5, the approved list of mental health conditions but this has been highly criticised for a number of failings.

We've come across yet more unpleasant reports on Stanislaw Burzynski from one family and Orac responds to the father of another Burzynski patient.

It's not all doom and gloom however as the UN has finally passed a resolution condemning Female Genital Mutilation and the American Veterinary Medical Association have announced that in January they will consider a resolution to kick homeopathy out of animal treatments as it “has been conclusively demonstrated to be ineffective“.

We've also heard that a homeopathy beliver actually sent a nice letter to a skeptic. Here's the letter and the response from Mike Hall detailing how evidence can be skewed.

More evidence based links now (well what would you expect?). Firstly Dave Hone in the Guardian details what actually is, and isn't, ascientific debate. The slightly tongue in cheek flipside of that argument is given by @sceptiguy – teach the controversy, but be honest (like that's going to happen). These arguments don't stop people like Stephen Doughty spouting codswallop in the Mail though. Apparently it's chilly therefore climate change is bogus. No Stephen, that's weather you're talking about, not climate. Sigh. 

@enniscath in the Guardian also has something to say about conspiracy theorists, this time in the realms of cancer quackery and the ever reliable Dean Burnett (@garwboy) has a pertinent and very funny analogy as to how pseudoscientific arguments usually run.

Next up is a scathing article from the New Yorker claiming that the current state of the UK economy proves austerity economics doesn't work. I'm sure it gives everyone a warm glow inside to realise that we may be all part of a big experiment?

Some solid facts now about which supplements and vitamins will actually give any benefit here from Science-ish, Steve Novella gives a comprehensice review on craniosacral therapy, Podge Murphy takes apart some of the claims of Irish anti-abortionists on the Galway Skeptics blog and, in light of the proposed increased use of technology between doctor and patient it's interesting to find surprising evidence of what would happen if they proposed that you could email your doctor.

A brave and uplifting vlog here as the idea is put forward as to the consequences if people were actually happy to expose their mental health problems in public. Would be rather nice.

Not too much on the religion front has caught our eye but the Netherlands has approved a move to scrap their blasphemy law as it is no longer relevant to society. 

There was also a distressing incident in the Dominican Republic where a magician was set on fire in a television studio by the host using a flammable cologne as a “blessing”. Some blessing. The host is now complaining he's being treated like a criminal.

A nice article was published in the Guardian this week from Deborah Hyde on vampire legends that refuse to die. Although we don't need an extra reason to trumpet the work of one of our previous speakers it's nice to see a research credit for Brum Skeptics' very own @notjarvis.

Also, a the Press Gazette reports that a date has been set for 'psychic' Sally Morgan's libel case against the Daily Mail. It will be interesting to see how she demonstrates professional damage to her reputation to be able to talk to dead people without, err, proving she can talk to dead people.

If you can stomach another link to the Daily Mail it has reported that Prince Charles has triggered a surge in cosmic farming (?!). If you can set aside the knowledge that farmers will be 'treating' their sick animals with ineffective treatments it might be worth it just so you can point and laugh at the peculiar nonsense peddled by Chuck however it should be noted that he “has been pioneering agricultural techniques over 30 years and continues to do so”.

Some last bits of fun to finish off with.

The folks over at the Rationalist Association are running a series of fun and funny Advent Podcasts.

This came to light from our previous speaker Colin Wright's twitter stream and is perhaps the most startling piece of juggling I've ever seen from Yann Frisch.

If you can't get to Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People coming up in London shortly you might like to know that the third 'Godless' show from this time last year has just been released by Go Faster Stripe and they also sell the previous shows.

I'll leave you with a New Miracle Life-Cure. And maybe this one will work...

This Round-Up was written and compiled by @christheneck with some additional links from Roy Burrowes.

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