Saturday 11 February 2012

Weekly Round up w/e 12/02/2012

Hello and welcome to this week's round-up. Plenty to get through with some big stories around.

Firstly, many thanks to
Alice Sheppard for her wonderful talk on Wednesday. That night also saw the first sales of our DVD of Andy McIntosh's talk and the first chance to get tickets to see Robin Ince do his first Skeptics in the Pub, with us, in May. The DVD will be available at future SitPs for £3 or you can order one online by emailing Prices are inclusive of p&p - £4 to the UK, £5 to the EU and £5.50 worldwide (They are region free). The DVDs are produced by volunteers on a not-for-profit basis and all profits are donated to Birmingham Skeptics. More tickets for the Robin Ince talk will be available at our next meeting which is Unnatural Predators with Deborah Hyde on Wednesday 14th March. Don't forget our Social at the Old Contemptibles on Wednesday 22nd February either.

The nominations for the
Skeptic Awards were announced this week, which I hope a lot of you voted for. Among the nominees you will find previous speakers and many of the websites we point to on our round-ups. Each and every one is worth a visit.

Following on from a link several weeks ago here are follow-ups to @jdc325's post on why people write about homeopathy, highlighting the
entertainment value and risks. This week people have pointed us towards pages where Homeopaths have prepared “treatments” for AIDS and remedies based on words written on a bit of paper. Worse still, World Homeopathy Awareness Week has been announced targetting infertile couples. I'm sure they'll claim success for anyone who happens to fall pregnant after being duped into buying sugar pills. Pity about all of the others though.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is hoist by its own petard here in an
excellent argument for its rejection as a valid medicine, and another article explores the fantasy of placebo as exploited by CAM advocates. From the Quackometer comes an article highlighting a new and highly expensive method of Autism “diagnosis” championed by Melanie Sykes and the BBC reports on a new programme to see if simple exercies will boost pupils' results. Exercise is good for you so the answer may well be yes. Let's just hope the findings aren't trumpeted as a triumph of pseudo-scientific twaddle or ignoring the simple effects of children receiving attention and resources. Speaking of pseudo-scientific twaddle, here we have a list of Doctors from Josephine Jones. Or are they?

Unfortunate news from Bristol as it seems there is an
unprecedented rise in Measles cases, unsurprising if this rampant case of Anti-vax denialism is anything to go by.

In Carmarthenshire a bogus therapist and his wife have been
found guilty of sexual assault and fraud using unpleasant methods I won't go into, and a teenager in Washington State was unfortunate enough to have faith-healers for parents. They've been charged with second-degree murder after he died from appendicitis.

Moving onto religion, it will have passed few people by over the last few days to see that Council's placing prayers on a Council agenda
has been officially deemed unlawful. It is unsurprising that it is outside a Council's powers to summons Councillors to pray, with penalties if they do not attend. (Judgement in full). This hasn't stopped front page screaming headlines from the Mail and Times (twitpics), both rather missing the point. This, coupled with the loss of an appeal against a judgement that two Bed and Breakfast owners shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against homosexuals who wish to share a double bed led to frothing at the mouth from the Mail saying that gay rights trump those of Christians, Nadine Dorries claiming the removal of the Christian fabric of our society, and George Carey, former Archbish, claiming that their right to bigotry should be protected. Carey is also happy to back a psychotherapist who claims to be able to cure  homosexuality (as reported last week). Nice man.

I make no connection between those links and this one, which states that
Right-Wingers are more likely to be less intelligent than Left-Wingers (link to Mail again, sorry). Whether this stands up to scrutiny or not, Charlie Brooker's take on it is worth a read.

What most rabid commentators seem to miss is that the Council case predominantly relies on the Local Government Act 1972 and therefore doesn't apply in other situations however David Allen Green points out that a similar situation exists in that
oaths given in a courtroom are both required and have no effect at the same time.

Elsewhere, there is a go
vernment visit to the Pope to see what his particular invisible friend thinks about things, US Catholic Bishops seem to be out of touch (!) with US Catholics and there is some life-threatening religious bigotry going on in Indonesia. As for this guy, Nicholas Pfab, well, I'm not sure what to say about him. Here's a collection of some other things being done in the name of religion.

In Science news, it seems there is little likelihood of a
pardon for Alan Turing and the death of Roger Boisjoly has been announced. The name meant nothing to me, but he's one of the engineers that argued to halt the Challenger launch and had his career ruined for doing so.

The BBC has a report on the successful
setting up of the Very Large Telescope and here's a rather nice video from John Butterworth on entropy.

Following the announcement that Russian scientists have managed to
drill down to the sub-glacial Lake Vostok, it's nice to know that Vladimir Putin hasn't drunk any so he won't turn into a dinosaur. I'm guessing his maths is only 60-odd million years out. As for his logic...

Two pieces on writing papers now. The first highlights the
perils of bite-size science and the second is looking for reports of failed experiments for The Journal of Errology.

In libel news, Paul Chambers'
Twitter Joke Trial Appeal was heard this week. The judgement may be before Easter. Here's Al Murray's take on it in the Guardian.

Lastly we come to one of our previous speakers and the hero of the week. Matt Parker, the stand-up mathematician who challenged a thief stealing a phone from an unattended bag on a train. It's made national and
transatlantic news, (although they call him English) not least because Matt took a considerable length of video footage of the perp, who seemed happy for him to do so, so I'll leave you with one question. Do you know this man?

This week's round-up was written by Chris Richardson (@christheneck) with some additional links provided by Roy Beddowes.

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