Wednesday 6 November 2013

The Round-up Week Ending 03/11/2013

As promised it’s another miscellany of the good, the bad and the geeky from Birmingham Skeptics. We hope that you escaped the spooky season unscathed and not too terrorised by the mobs of marauding younglings in their quest for sugary satisfaction. Whether you are a fan of Halloween or not the fact that you do or don’t celebrate it could have something to do with those good old British colonials, don’t you know. If you’re fascinated by some of the  myths and facts around that holiday here’s a bunch of articles from our fiends (yes, bad pun intentional) at Live Science.

Always with an alternative view to events we have comedian, skeptic and neuroscientist, Dean Burnett, with some science inspired Halloween costumes. We’ll move away from Halloween but stick with costumes and some fantastic photos of cosplay proponents at home in this collection by Klaus Pichler. Of course there are times even in this field that nature just provides a natural advantage.

Dean mentions transhumanism in his article, here’s a do-it-yourself example that’s only slightly disturbing.

You must have heard of What the Doctor’s Don’t Tell You, the online peddlar or dangerous nonsense. When it moved into the medium of print Simon Singh and others called for major high street vendors to boycott it. That battle is still on with Andy Lewis suggesting a bit of direct action that you can do to influence its outcome. And joining the battle this week we have the not at all confusingly named but still brilliant What “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” Don’t Tell You. In the interests of balance (ironic though that seems) here is the view from the other side.

It’s been ages since we’ve had Chris French to Birmingham, and I’m wondering whether we should ask him again. He’s an extremely entertaining speaker and a lovely bloke too. If you can’t get to hear him speak though, you could do worse than buy this book he’s co-published with Dr Anna Stone on Anomalistic Psychology.

Since we’re on the topic of skeptical reads I’m going to cunningly and subliminally slip in the first of several events that you need to put into your diary. Birmingham Skeptics has an excellent book group that runs every month. November is a good month to try book club… We are reading Does God Hate Women by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Strangroom. This book has been described as ‘at once a joy to read and a call to arms’.It looks at the role of culture and religion in the subjection of women drawing on examples from many countries. At 177 pages it is small enough to read on the bus. Ophelia Benson is a columnist for Free Inquiry and was accused of being a feminazi after her appearance at QED conference where she discussed ‘A question of God?’ Even if you don’t think that you have time to read the book (and you probably do) you can still turn up for the great company and join in the conversation.

I saw Ophelia on that panel at QED and many of you will be interested and happy to know that once more that great skeptical event is due to happen, albeit at a different venue. The Gala dinner has already sold out but you can still get tickets to the event and I would totally recommend doing so. And here's a way to help some that perhaps should go but cant go, to go.

Change of course now as we head out to sea for the next few stories. This article presents new evidence for the kraken, though to my mind it’s sketchier than the picture used to illustrate it. Ever the fan of people that overthink non-problems we have five reasons that mermaids can’t physically exist. Far more frightening is the potential effects of over gorging on the apparently delicious but dangerous escolar. Only tenuously linked to the sea but still great fun is this yarn bombed tree squid.

God Vine reckons that the “miraculous” saving of this woman from her oversized sinking car is proof enough of God’s existence and goodness. What’s that, you’re not convinced? What would it take to make you believe? Being struck twice by lightning in the same day was enough for this literal clown.

Jann Bellamy takes us through her experiences of energy medicine. We may as well continue through the looking glass of healing with this bizarre tale of pastor prescribed hyperbaric oxygen treatment.

If reading stuff like that makes you want to scream you could probably do with assembling one of these nifty doodahs in order not to disturb your neighbours. You could practice your alphabet of alien sounds in there.

Talking of making things, if you are the kind of person that likes to put things together and work on projects, you could do worse than get involved with the people over at Fizzpop with their Makerspace/Hackspace. True they tend to hold some of their events on nights that clash with us, but we like them so much that we’ll forgive them that. They’ve got a Make the Space event not yet up on the website that will be happening this Saturday the 9th, a good time to go and meet them; otherwise every Wednesday is an open day.

As somebody that tends to cough and splutter through the high pollen season I can at least take solace in the thought that there might be an evolutionary role to allergies.

Here’s a few experiments from the days when scientists were unencumbered by ethics committees and sanity.

Peru have reopened the The Department of Investigation of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena. Well if you have an office with a cool name like that why wouldn’t you?

An interesting article here examining the evidence base, or lack of it, for psychological first aid.

For all you fans of palaeontology, the remarkable Hadrosaur tail that’s been unearthed in Mexico.

You can always tell when I’m getting to the end of my links as they get more disjointed and singular. Many of these were provided by Roy Beddowes who does an excellent job of populating our Facebook page with all manner of goodness. Like it now and join in the fun.

Before we get to the obligatory but ever so essential plugs of our upcoming events I’m going to cram in a What if, just because I’m a big fan and I’m the one writing this

Now get those diaries out and don’t you dare skip past this bit. Our next speaker is Dr Tim Grant on the fascinating subject of forensic linguistics. Make sure you’re along for that one, it’s a SitP premiere and should be really good. If you’re on Facebook let us know you’re coming on the event page. Only two weeks later we’ve got Simon Singh and to take us into Christmas the irrepressible Mike Hall.

Now shh and don’t tell anybody about the next bits but I’m going to give you a sneak preview into next year and it’s not even up on the website. All I’ll say so far is Charlie Veitch, Benn Gunn, vegans and veggies, and vampires.

I’ll leave you with a taster of Simon’s upcoming talk.

This week’s round-up was put together by Patrick Redmond with helpful links from Roy Beddowes.

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