Sunday 26 August 2012

Round-Up w/e 26th August 2012

Hello and welcome to the latest Round-Up.

First up, a reminder that our next is event is our first Open Mic Night on Wednesday 12th September, 7.30pm at The Victoria. with 6 speakers (well, 5 speakers and a singer) encompassing mystery, conspiracy, cancer quackery, music and more.
You can even tell us you're coming on our Facebook Page.

Few people will have missed the sad news announced on Saturday that Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on the moon, had died aged 82. Rather than point to a broadsheet obituary here's Peter Harrison on the man rather than the hero.

His passing drove Martin Robbins to pen a wake-up call for the world while Alok Jha details the possible contenders in the new Space Race.

In happier news Voyager 2 is 35 years old and has just become the most long-lived active mission in space history and only two weeks after Curiosity landed on Mars NASA have announced a new mission, InSight, which will investigate the interior of the Red PlanetSpeaking of Curiosity, here's a nice piece detailing why all of the “Why don't they just do that?” questions regarding the mission don't “just get done”.

Finally in our little space round-up I hope you have seen very few of the pictures like the one that heads this Round-Up. There are two reasons: firstly it's not Armstrong (as he had the camera most of the time) and secondly it's doctored. Charles Apple at the American Copy Editors Society tells us why there are no usable photos of Armstrong while he was on the moon's surface.

In religion news Todd Bentley, the supposed healer, who assaults people in the name of the lord has been refused entry to the UK. That must be a kick in the teeth.

After Cardinal Keith O'Brien pledged to stop repeating his bigotry to the Scottish government he has written a letter criticising it for its support of gay marriage. At least this time the only people who are forced to listen are the poor parishioners.  

And one last piece of religious news is that a man in Bali was forced to marry the cow he was besotted with.

A nice piece on Christopher Hitchens here. A pity it's in the Daily Mail.

On to health now and it is encouraging to see that ebay have banned Tarot readings, spells, curses and blessings from being sold on its site however there is no news yet of crosses or rosaries. After the US banned the import of Nelson's homeopathic products due to their dire production methods Andy Lewis reveals that big names on the British high street seem unconcerned.

The problems facing homeopathy in India rumble on as privately run homeopathic colleges are almost empty leading some to accuse proponents of the recent idea to allow alt-med practitioners to do a one year course to qualify to prescribe real medicine as an economic move. It is not explained why alt-med practitioners would need to prescribe real medicine though after all, it all works doesn't it? Unfortunately this fracas doesn't stop them from attempting to treat malnourishment with their little sugar pills.  

While we're on the subject it's worth revisiting Zeno's blog on that “neutral” Swiss homeopathic report.

Worrying news closer to home as Jennifer Keane reports that the Irish Times felt the need to tell it's readers the “Truth”
about avoiding cancer and Keir Liddle reports at the 21st Floor on a Guardian article on unproven cancer trials that led to almost universal howls of derision on publication.

Also reported this week is that cases of measles has doubled in a year in England and Wales and that North Tyneside Trading Standards is being farmed out to the private sector, Capita no less. Time will tell whether they will be happy to clamp down on public relations heavy, entrepreneurial incompetents in the alt-med industry.

The only light relief I've spotted in health this week is that you will now be able to find out what exactly your Doctor writes on your prescriptions.

Three little visual science bits to finish with. As it's gone viral I presume many will have seen the story of the Spanish octogenarian who in a stunning exemplification of the Dunning Kruger effect took it upon herself to retouch a fresco of Jeezy Chreezy donated to her church. If not it's well worth a look.  

Also we have a stunning TED video on technology which enables photographs to be reconstructed at 1,000,000,000,000 frames a second and lets you take photos round corners.

Finally I'll leave you with a nerdy a capella Adele parody about the Higgs Boson. Enjoy:-

This week's Round-Up was put together by @christheneck.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Round-Up w/e 19/8/12

Welcome one and all to the Birmingham Skeptics round-up.  Did you know that our next event is the open mic night?  You did, did you?  I bet you don't know who's going to be speaking there then.  We have an author and a singer amongst others, you can find out even more by clicking here.  Wednesday 12th September, 7.30pm at The Victoria.  Make sure you're there.  Anyway, on with the round-up

Massimo Pigliucci believe there's quite a bit of unreason within the community of reason.  To stop this unreason in its tracks, he has some practical suggestions in 'The Community of Reason, a self-assessment and a manifesto'.

'The fake butter used to flavour popcorn causes alzheimers!' screamed the press around the world.  The New York Post offered this in-depth article on the subject.  Unlike the world media, somebody actually took the time to read the study, you can read what they found here.

As one batshit apocalyptic prediction fails to materialise, another emerges.  This time the world is going to end at 11.11GMT 21/12/2012.  So, should you be worried about the impending apocalypse?  Matt Ridley says you shouldn't.

An 11 year-old Pakistani girl could face the death penalty after being accused of Qua'ran burning.  Burning a book = Wrong.  Killing a child = Right.

Nick Cohen's excellent article on an evil collusion between a tyrant and a man of God.

Dr Peter Wothers reckons that chemistry is too often taken for granted or dismissed as 'evil chemicals'.  He's going to show the naysayers 'what for' at Christmas as he'll be presenting the RI Christmas lectures as they focus on chemistry.

Arrrrghhh! There's a Flying Spaghetti Monster in the Sky!

American megachurches use stagecraft, sensory pageantry, charismatic leadership and an upbeat, unchallenging vision of Christianity to provide their congregants with a powerful emotional religious experience, according to research from the University of Washington.

Jen McCreight proposes a new wave of atheism, although Notung is sceptical.

Birmingham Skeptics organiser Patrick was interviewed by Adrian Goldberg on BBC Radio WM, you can hear him talking about our 'sceptical meat and 2 veg' as the recording is here.

Is it fair to circumcise new-born boys?

I leave you with a video featuring those lovely people from the Church of Scientology.  One of the stars of this video spoke to the hardcore rationalists at TruthJuice Birmingham this week, lucky them.

This week's round-up was put together by Birmingham Skeptics co-organiser Paul Bryant.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

The Round-up w/e 12/8/2012

Greetings, sorry the round up is late this week, but we’ve been collecting up the best of the web for all you fine skeptics.

As our meetings are in the pub, it’s safe to say we like a drink, but the discovery of homeopathic vodka is probably not something we’ll be asking for (and thankfully not something the Vic will be serving any time soon).  But if we did ever fancy it then maybe we can couple it with a nice fruity mixer, as a church in Manchester has been found to be selling blackcurrant squash as a cure for cancer.  And if all that’s left you a bit peckish then the news archaeologists have found traces of 2,500 year old chocolate probably won’t help.

There’s further proof that climate change might, you know, actually be happening has caused a previous climate sceptic physicist to change his mind, after being surprised by the results.  But then again scientists have found evidence of palm trees at the Antarctic, so that might just confuse them a bit further.   Who knows?

Vaccination is a bit of a hot topic too as The Sydney Daily Telegraph looks into the muddy waters of vaccination, at the same time the BBC reports whooping cough outbreak spreading time to very young babies.  As if whooping cough and vaccinations aren’t enough for the little ‘uns to deal with, the news that chiropractors are“treating” newborn babies for having been cooped up in a cramped uterus might be the straw that…oh wait.

Religion is a popular source of conversation amongst a lot of us; it might not be such good news for our Celtic cousins as the Belfast Telegraph points out the Irish are abandoning religion faster than most  countries and news that spiritual encounters might all be in the head probably aren’t helping.  Still if they’re looking for something else Australia’s newest cult might not be the best place to look, although the news astrology is more like religion than science might be an alternative…or perhaps not.

And finally, seems summer might be making people (or at least reporters) a little frisky as this youtube video explored why sexy is sexy, whilst others are looking at the Catholic church’s supposed preoccupation with sex.  But it’s not all candlelight and romance, as NewScientist reports salmon sex is delayed because of global warming.

Don’t forget that we have our social coming up next week and that the sitp  this  month is our first ever open mic night featuring some of you lot that sit in our audience and a couple of guests. Put them in your diary now! And on that note we’ll leave you till next week!

This week's round-up was put together by Laura Creaven

Tuesday 7 August 2012

The Round-up w/e 5/8/2012

We have to start this week with the winner of the 563 Billion Metre Dash, Mars rover Curiosity. (Joke unashamedly stolen from Twitter). There has been no end of coverage of this historic event, articles on the construction of the mobile laboratory with its many cameras and the first images came through almost instantaneously. But it was left to the Onion to provide us with some of the first in-depth analysis of those early pictures though!

Keeping with the space theme we’d like to pay our respects to physicist and astronomical pioneer Sir Bernard Lovell who died today aged 98. Founder and first director of the iconic Jodrell Bank which houses the telescope that bears his name amongst many other achievements

Another physicist honoured this week is good old Brian Cox who received his award from University Campus Oldham via the actor and sci- fi icon Patrick Stewart who made it so.

You wouldn’t think that water could be controversial, but then it depends on what you do or don’t put into it I suppose. Flouride is a good example, most people agree it strengthens the teeth, but does it lower your intelligence? Some think it does and some not.

In a sense water and intelligence are the theme of this amusing but sadly illuminating story too.

Homeopaths have been meeting increasing difficulties in acceptance within the NHS and the  MHRA framework, and now it seems that the private health insurers are following suit. Perhaps this is due to people finally accepting the evidence as laid out by the Rational Wiki. Simon Singh calls for a bit of praise for the BBC inSussex for making a stand on the subject.

If things get too difficult for the CAM merchants over here there are still some good positions going in the United States Army. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes.

The American Army isn’t the only one susceptible to a bit of hocus pocus. We’ve reported in recent round-ups on the declining fortunes of the magic bomb detectors company, but it seems that the Thai army are bucking that trend.

Don’t know about you but I’ve been having a great time watching the Olympics. Wired have been doing an excellent series on the science behind different events including pole vault, shot putt,  and many others.

There are less scientific aspects to the sporting arena though. We've had Power Balance bands then Kinesio tape questioned by scientists, and now protein and energy drinks come under scrutiny.

I remember proudly showing those Rorschach type images of the ultrasound scans of my children. “Is that an arm, is that a leg, where’s its head?” More accurate but also more disturbing is this alternative.

I love an interactive infographic me. I also love emergent technology. So I really love this.

It’s a good time in the UK to be watching the International Space Station at the moment. There are several ways to know when it’s coming over. I use an app on my phone, some people visit the website and this enterprising person created their own warning light.  New lights might be in order for the ISS itself to help the astronauts stay alert.

I really want to try this, superstitious investments for the lazy.

Bananas have great illustrative capabilities for science. Ray Comfort attempted to use it to show the creative power of God, but ended up showing his own scientific ignorance and Skeptical Raptor uses it to show some good skeptical processing.

Somebody has gone and built a to-scale Noah’s Ark. There is a bit of me that thinks this is very sad and another that it is very cool. You can make your own minds up. I’m not sure how they are going to get it moving but if they can fit the requisite number of species aboard then they are just as likely to be able to use this remarkable means of power.

Interesting article on the charitable (or not) status of some religious groups in the UK.

It’s a possible hit and run story that is millions of years old and had no witnesses. Scientists try to piece the clues together on how the moon was formed.

A bit of behavioural observation that us users of public transport will recognise here.

“Honour Killing”, only the latter of those words is in any way accurate in the terrible story of Shafilea Ahmed and its implications for the community.

Next an interesting article comparing climate change skeptics to conspiracy theorists. This first appeared on the Guardian site but I enjoyed the comments on this one more.

Whatever the state of the planet perhaps it is the neo-environmentalists that will save us all. If not them then it will have to be the superhero manatees.

The 8th of August is the wonderful Rebecca Stott author of Darwin’s Ghosts and other books. This is a skeptics in the pub premiere with a truly fascinating topic. On top of that this month we have the return of our social, an informal gathering to chat and socialise. This has proven popular for people that find  the  talk nights too busy to meet people properly.

As gay protestors oppose food outlet Chick-fil-A’s position on same sex marriages other people show that they too can make a stand for their beliefs on this. This man embodies for me the full value of the opposition with his dramatic demonstration of Mr Bean style bravado.

This round-up was put together by @paddyrex with the help of stalwart contributor Roy Beddowes