Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Glen Beck was in town

I didn't hear about this until this morning, but I guess Glenn Beck was in town signing books at the Kenwood Barnes and Noble last night. I was skimming through the pictures at and found this fantastic picture of the Love and Sex section covered by cloth. So what message does this send? Conservative Glenn Beck is against Love and Sex? Glenn Beck does not want to be offended by ideas of Love and Sex? Banes and Noble is OK with censorship? The whole thing is rather silly in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Theme Park in KY

This article is light on details, but what does it tell you when Kentucky's Governor is so publically embracing anti-science?

Edit: More details on the Theme Park here. I can't comment on the legallity of this, but if they don't discriminate what kind of business is getting tax incentives then it sounds legal to me. I am glad that they wouldn't get special incentives.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Psychic Jill on the radio this morning

I listen to WNKU a lot, they play good music. Unfortunately, this morning, I heard a segment with Psychic Jill. I posted about Psychic Jill at the beginning of the year when she made predictions for 2010.

It seems that Jill is making claims about haunted houses and doing some readings concerning houses. She made the claim that 1 in 4 houses are haunted, and also a whole bunch of made up nonsense about why ghosts stick around these places. None of this really bothered me too much, but the interviewer never once questions how she knew all of this. he went along with it, without once sounding even slightly suspicious.

Now I know many people could say, "Who cares? Everybody knows that this stuff is fake." But go and check out her website. She claims that this is all real and that she is not in the entertainment business. She also charges $45 for a 15 minutes reading. If you'd like to go all out, you can pay $180 for a 60 minute meeting. Yes, that's $180/hour. This is serious business. People paying this amount of money are not doing it for entertainment; They are doing it because they want real answers. Unfortunately, I suspect that Jill is feeding them guesses and feel good platitudes.

I'll come back to Jill at then end of the year to examine her 2010 predictions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

UFO's over New York

So some in the UFO community are thinking that the UFO's showed up on Wednesday over New York City.

But it looks like there is a more mundane explanation.

Most people don't look up at the sky all that often. When they do, often times they see planes, birds or stars. Most of the time they don't think a second time about it and go on with their lives. But when they look up expecting to see something all of a sudden whatever they are seeing becomes significant, interesting and possibly alien.

As interesting as first contact with alien life would be, I'm afraid that this is not it either. If it is, then those aliens are a bunch of jerks buzzing our cities and mocking us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Science Map

Holy Smokes!

Crispian Jago put together this incredible map of science based on maps of the London underground. Just after skimming through it very quickly I can tell that there are a lot of names that I'll be looking up.

Each "subway line" is a science discipline. Each name is a "stop" or "station". Explore til your heart's content.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Technological Singularity

The idea of computing power becoming so powerful that it will create a Utopian society complete with sentient robots and humans merging with computers to essentially become immortal is an idea that I have heard in the past. But I really have never looked into it beyond the thought that it seemed rather grandiose, and if it ever occurred I would not be around for even the beginnings of it.

However, there are people who are predicting that this technological singularity is going to occur sometime in the 2030s. Sam Ogden of Skepchick has a nice writeup on those who hold these opinions.

This seems all too fantastic for me. Just the hurdles of creating computer AI and interfacing humans with computers on a larger scale seem to be formidable tasks that will not be easily overcome. Couple this with predictions for the future being notoriously difficult and you'll have a tough time guessing what life will be like in 5 years let along 10 years.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fire in Russia

There's a major human and environmental disaster going on in Russia right now. I've seen very little of it on the major American news services. It now appears that the fire are reaching Chernobyl and the radiation contained in the area will be carried aloft by the smoke.

Here's a quick video of a group who were evacuating a village when the road that they drove in on was engulfed in flames. Some subtitles swearing for those who cared to be warned about such things.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Philosophy Games

Here are a few philosophy games you can play and test yourself for consistent logic and thinking. Really I think this would make a great party game and you could compare answers with your friends and hate them for it afterward.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Sea Without Fish

This book has been out for over a year, but I heard an interview on the radio, WVXU, with the author, David Meyer. He discussed the fantastic fossil hunting we have here in the Cincinnati area. We really do have a great resource for science education right in our backyards, literally. Local group, the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers are doing that today.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design

Here's a nifty link showing examples of design elements which lead users to take certain actions. I found it interesting to see how people are influencing us.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Phil Plait's Bad Universe

Phil Plait, who became semi-famous for hosting a thorough debunking of the moon landing hoaxers is getting a TV show on The Discovery Channel.

It looks a bit Mythbusters, which certainly isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ScienceBlogs Imploding?

Mega-blogging network, ScienceBlogs, is falling apart over a fiasco where they were giving a blog to PepsiCo who was paying for exposure next to some of the best science based bloggers that the internet has to offer.

The 4 year old network seems to have many problems behind the scenes and the link above is a great read on how to destroy what was a successful network in almost no time flat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Ken Ham, of the local Creation Science ministry, is apparently freaking out about some recent declarations from a gathering of atheists. Read the whole thing to see Ken rewriting the declaration to fit his preconceived ideas. The whole thing is one huge example of what a strawman argument is.

Science Tattoos

Carl Zimmer, science writer keep a blog where he collects tattoos that relate to science and related disciplines. He had one today that caught my attention.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Picnic on August 14th at Susan and Bernie's

The picnic on August 14th at Susan and Bernie's will be a potluck, so if you are a member who wishes to list the items you are bringing, please do so in the comments. This way we should be able to eliminate duplication. remember to check previous comments to see what others are bringing.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Field trip to Fernald

The field trip to Fernald was very informative and a lot of fun.
Ray Owens posted some great photos of our visit.
Thanks Ray

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I have always been fascinated with the concept of proto-life that had to exist between the simple proteins forming, and the first DNA. This article does not really answer all my questions but it is thought provoking.
From proteins to protolife: was life's emergence random or guided by determined chemical steps

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Risk Analysis

Schneier on Security has a great article up about risk analysis and worst case scenarios.

The new undercurrent in this is that our society no longer has the ability to calculate probabilities. Risk assessment is devalued. Probabilistic thinking is repudiated in favor of "possibilistic thinking": Since we can't know what's likely to go wrong, let's speculate about what can possibly go wrong.

Here's where our education system fails. Critical Thinking is not a course at any level of education outside of college.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Strange object in the sky over Cincinnati

I'll leave it to the reader to determine if local news media should be focusing on more pressing matters, but in this case I'll hand it to WLWT. They had a UFO story and who did they contact? Dean Regas from the Cincinnati Observatory. Good choice.

I have to say that it does look odd coming from the ground. I'm guessing that it isn't a satellite as it appears to be moving much too fast and it appears way too bright in relation to the other objects. It looks to be the speed of a meteor, but like Dean says, it is coming from a very strange angle. I would say that a bottle rocket would surprise me as it is moving very straight and it seems quite high up. My thought is that it is something much close to the foreground than the video makes it out to be.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rebranding Skepticism

Ticktock of Science-Based Parenting has an article up concerning what skepticism is to the general public. He contends that skeptics are not the cynics. The cynical ones are those who hold irrational beliefs.

I think groups like the Association for Rational Thought does a nice job of staying positive about reality and science. We bring in speakers who focus on a variety of topics not limited to the traditional skeptical topics. Instead of tearing down ideas, we look forward to ideas that may or may not work, but at least they are based on evidence. There are certainly times for tearing down bad ideas, but during our meetings we try to find the solid ground of reason and evidence.

By the way, Ticktock is a Cincinnati-based blogger.

Creation Museum passes 1,000,000 visitors

Apparently the Creation Museum passed 1,000,000 visitors, yesterday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Paleo Future

Here's a neat blog about what people used to think the future would look like. Obviously we see some hits and misses. I heard about this blog on the way home from work today on All things Considered.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

SkeptiCamp and Other Acts of Skepticism in Ohio

Looks like our neighbors to the north east are doing some stuff. Check it out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Math is useful

Look kids, mathematics is useful. Hey, I know there are plenty of reasons for a solid mathematics education, but I saw this story and thought that it was a great example.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Michael Specter: The danger of science denial

Here's a great talk by Micheal Specter on denialism.

It shouldn't be surprising to most people who are checking here, but it is worth a listen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's the harm?

Check out It's a nice resource that compiles examples of why something of the crazy things that people believe in are not a harmless as many would like you to think.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos Photosynth

In my wildest dreams I did not see this coming. And it's almost here. Truly another quantum leap in information technology.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What is the speed of gravity?

Apparently it depends on what model you are using, but this short article seems to think that it is near the speed of light. Current technology cannot measure it directly, but we may be able to in the future. That seems reasonable to me.

This is a nice little Physics FAQ.

Friday, March 12, 2010

ART meeting: Dean Regas

Tomorrow March 13th Dean Regas will be presenting to ART. 10:00AM at Molly Malone's in Pleasant Ridge. Join us, it is open to the public.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Zicam lawsuit

It appears that Stan Chesley has filed a lawsuit against the makers of Zicam. Zicam marketed itself as a homeopathic remedy for colds, but it turns out that it isn't homeopathic at all. Zicam contains a Zinc compound that has caused some people to lose their sense of smell. So not only is this product dangerous, but it is also circumventing laws that would require testing by calling itself homeopathic. Isn't it time for the FDA to start regulating so-called homeopathic drugs? Start testing them for efficacy, then we can no longer worry about these con artists from selling people water and claiming that they are miracle cures.

Unfortunately the comments at focus either on Stan Chesley's politics or are people claiming that they don't mind losing their sense of smell, just give them back their sweet relief in Zicam.

Monday, March 1, 2010

More 2012 nonsense

A spambot showed up in the comments here.

The site is a cornucopia of nonsensical rambling about Nibiru tearing planet in half and how the Mayan's predicted the end of the world. It seems like an awful lot of work for a site that won't be there on Jan 1st 2013.

I think the 2012 fantasy is amazing in the fact that it not only abuses just about every science discipline, but it also neglects history an tried to tie in many cultural and religious myths to justify its claims. Who buys this stuff?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Snow and Climate Change

Brrr... It's cold out side and look at all the snow! Where's the Global Warming?

These last couple of weeks have been a boon for the Global Warming Denialists. I've seen so many people claiming that all the snow that has fallen on us the last few weeks are proof that Global Warming is some kind of lie.

Snow means cold, right? And if it is cold that must mean that there is no Global Warming. That's pretty much the whole argument summed up right there. Really, do these people expect an eternal summer? The axis of the Earth isn't dramatically shifting. My biggest ripe about the whole mentality is that there is very little thought put into the whole Global Warming thing.

First, just because you have snow on your doorstep doesn't mean the whole world is covered in snow. You can't extrapolate the world's temperature based on the temperature at your house.

Second, that brings us to the next point. There are not only two temperatures, snow and not snow. Global Warming talks about the rise of temperature, the amount of precipitation is a complex side effect of the temperature and a variety of other factors. One of the driest places on Earth is in Antarctica, meaning it gets very little precipitation. So since it snows less there, does that mean it is warmer?

Third, the weather is not the climate. Temperature is very noisy and confusing the noise for a signal is a novice mistake. Factors like El Nino make using the weather to predict the climate completely unreliable. We can't point to a weather event, say Katrina, and say this is proof of Global Waring, just as someone can't point to the pile of snow and say that it is proof against Global Warming.

Finally, I believe that Al Gore did somewhat of a disservice to Climate Science. Anytime Global Warming comes up it is now about Al Gore using his private jet to fly around the globe. The science in An Inconvenient Truth may have been sound, but he has effectively turned off the minds of a good percentage of the population who believe that this is some kind of liberal conspiracy.

NPR has a nice article up on why you have to think about things a bit deeper before making broad generalizations.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Strange Bedmates: Conservative and Liberal Advocates for Judicial Activism

Join ART this weekend 10:00AM at Molly Malone's in Pleasant Ridge. The program will continue till noon with lunch and discussion afterwards.

New Deal liberals condemned the conservative activists who invalidated progressive economic regulations, and 21st Century conservatives denounce liberal activist judges for legislating from the bench on abortion, gay rights, criminal procedure, and religious liberty. Progressives on the left and libertarians on the right have recently joined forces in suits asking judges to find unconstitutional overbroad criminal laws, bans on gay marriage, and limits on gun ownership. Are there any principled legal boundaries or legitimate political checks on the abuse of Judicial Review by justices who substitute personal policy preferences for the choices made by popularly elected legislators?

UC Professor of Political Science and adjunct Professor of Law Howard Tolley Jr. earned a PhD at Columbia and a JD as a human rights fellow at the UC College of Law. He served as President of the Cincinnati ACLU and member of the state board, clerked for a judge on the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and does fact finding/mediation in public sector labor disputes for the State Employment Relations Board. He teaches undergraduate public law courses on the U.S. legal system and Constitution as well as international law and human rights. His publications include three sole authored books and nine interactive Teaching Human Rights Online cases

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Math Opinion in the NY Times

A new series in the New York Times takes on Math. This ought to be an interesting looking to the power of abstraction, why math is interesting to so many people, and how it has brought us to where we are today.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why do people often vote against their own interests?

I have often wondered about this myself. This article goes a long way towards making sense of the issue. Possibly the most cogent point in the article comes from Thomas Frank.

"Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:

You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.

"It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy."

I have to disagree with the author's comment that "This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism." Somehow the party of big business has co-opted moral and patriotic authority as their domain, and branded the party of the working class and poor as morally bankrupt. How did they manage that? Could it be as simple as having more advertising dollars?

Why is CBS in Bed with the Religious Right on Super Bowl Sunday?

A thought provoking article in the Huffington Post.
I had never considered that there might be an overt bias toward one "Christian" view point versus another in an organization as large as CBS.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Scale again

Going back to this post will get you a nice view of the scale of the world, but this graphic is even better. The whole Universe down to the Planck Length.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The strawman to knock down all strawmen

Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, is a natural medicine practitioner. He recently got in a little scuffle on twitter concerning some silly internet award. When some of his votes were taken away because they were fraudulent and he started to lose in the health category to a real doctor he decided to write what up what he believes skeptics are. Free registration is required to read the entire article, but don't bother. The blog Dubito Ergo Sum has the whole thing with commentary.

Really, what else is there to do but laugh at this. Mike Adams is so deluded that just about everything that he states is demonstrably wrong.

Here's a few examples of what he believes skeptics to be.

...and that there is NO LIMIT to the number of vaccines a person can be safely given. So injecting all children with, for example, 900 vaccines all at the same time is believed to be perfectly safe and "good for your health."

Skeptics believe that the human body has no ability to defend itself against invading microorganism and that the only things that can save people from viral infections are vaccines.

Skeptics believe that DEAD foods have exactly the same nutritional properties as LIVING foods (hilarious!).

I don't even know what that last one means. I prefer not to eat live animals. The squeaking is really annoying when I'm trying to bite off their arms. Or does he mean plants? Some plants actually have more nutritional value if they are cooked. Cooking actually can release more nutrients for consumption than just eating the food raw.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cavemen: Part 2

Here's a follow up to this post concerning the Caveman diet.

Prehistoric life was not short. This is a blessed scientific lie.

We explain this in much more detail in the book, but here's the misunderstanding in a nutshell.

* There was high infant mortality in prehistory. (How this compares to infant mortality in Medeival Europe or modern India and China is an interesting question we look at in the book, but no space for it here.)
* There are technical difficulties in distinguishing age of death beyond the early 30s, when one's last teeth are fully erupted from the jaw bone.
* These two factors combined with sloppy thinking to create the wide-spread "fact" that "if you made it to 30 or so, you had done well."

But it's bullshit! Nobody was considered "old" at 30 in prehistory, just as 30 year-olds aren't considered "old" among modern day hunter-gatherers, or in the Old Testament, where humans were allotted 70 years (three score and ten). People who lived beyond childhood often–even typically–lived into their 60s and 70s in prehistory. The evidence for this is overwhelming, and well known to specialists in anthropology, primatology, and archaeology.

Friday, January 22, 2010

AiG in Haiti

Here's an odd post from Answers in Genesis concerning a missionary that is in Haiti. First, I was glad to see that their colleague is okay. But I was struck by the content of the post. Instead of information on how to help the stricken people of Haiti, or perhaps even an amazing story of survival against all odds, we get a listing of the various booklets that are available in Haiti. They seem to be putting the cart before the horse at AiG.

Support groups are still having a hard time getting proper medical supplies to where they are needed, so see my earlier post about how you can help.

EDIT: Mark Looy commented below that AiG is also soliciting donations for Food for the Hungry. It is good to see everyone pulling in the same direction whenever crisis strikes. However, I still think that my previous post stands. There are still many lives to save before anyone starts worrying about distributing literature.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

KY Ten Commandments

LEITCHFIELD, Ky. - The Rev. Chester Shartzer sang God's praises and talked of restoring his place in American government Monday as he hoisted a framed copy of the Ten Commandments back onto the wall of a Kentucky courthouse.

More than 200 people joined Shartzer and Grayson County officials in returning the commandments to the county courthouse, just days after a federal appeals court allowed the display, saying it wasn't religiously oriented.

I guess I really don't have a problem with a Ten Commandments display that is in conjunction with other historic documents, but the first two paragraphs of this article should be enough for anyone. The courts said that the display of the Ten Commandments were not religiously motivated. So when they put them back up in the court house of course it was accompanied by songs of praise to the Christian God.

Monday, January 18, 2010


If you haven't seen it yet, Richard Dawkins has organized a way for the secular people of the world to contribute to Haiti relief. this is good for a few reasons. First, Haiti is in bad shape and obviously every dollar count. Second, often times, the charged is level that religion is a requirement in the world because otherwise people wouldn't ever help anyone else and there would be no morality. I already gave to Doctor's Without Borders, which had offices in Haiti before the earthquake.

Coast to Coast Predictions

Here's an amusing list of predictions for 2010 from the listeners to Coast to Coast AM. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Amazon Kindle

Here's a follow up to our discussion at Saturday's meeting on the Amazon Kindle.

Cory Doctorow, of Boing Boing fame, points out that according to Amazon's End User License Agreement (EULA) when a person purchase a Kindle book, they are not actually purchasing a book, they are purchasing a license to read that book. Of course when it comes to marketing they change their tune a bit making it sound as if they are selling books, not just permission to read those books. Follow the link for the full write up.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Has anyone else heard of this subculture who try to replicate some aspect of living like a caveman for better health?

It seems highly misguided to me. The idea is that modern man is weak when compared to our primitive ancestors. While that may be true, our ancestors were lucky to live past what we now call middle age. I also find it funny that the practitioners have no problem partaking in modern medicine while thumbing their nose at eating vegetables.

I'd call this a fake, except the world is a strange place and I don't doubt that people would attempt something like this. Still it could be a nice little hoax.

Friday, January 8, 2010

10 Minute Free For All

Come out to Molly Malone's in Pleasant Ridge from 10AM to Noon tomorrow and be prepared for a variety of topics to be discussed. This is usually a very fun meeting and a good chance to inject your point of view into the discussion.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Local Psychic

Awesome, a local psychic, Psychic Jill, has predicted what 2010 will be like.

On the topic of the overall state of the world: "I have a much better feel for 2010," she said. "It seems we've been in gloom and doom for so long, I see the sun coming up for the whole world. It's a much happier year. There are new beginnings and new romances - people who never thought they would find love will do so. I feel like there will be a spiritual awakening this year. I also see that the Pope will get ill, with potential heart problems, and there will be an engagement in the Royal Family."

Ok, so a general feel on 2010. After 2009 I think it is pretty easy to guess that 2010 will be better. I think most people will tell you that 2010 will be better as 2009 was not a banner year. She's not really going out on any limbs here.

Then we get some general garbage about lots of people finding first love. Gee, do ya think? People have only been doing that every year since the beginning of the human species. I'd even venture to say that it has happened already in 2010.

Next some stuff about the pope having heart problems, again not really something that would be surprising as he is an older man who is in the prime demographic to get heart problems. At least this is a falsifiable prediction unlike the first two.

And then an engagement in the Royal Family. Ok, which Royal Family? She remains vague on this. If she means the British Royal family, then not much a prediction as Harry and William are both at a prime age for getting engaged. but she doesn't specify, so any royal family across the world will do. I suppose she could even point to someone with the last name of Royal who gets engages this year. not that she'll ever have to defend these predictions if they don't come to pass as everyone will have forgotten them at the end of this year.

The economy: "Money situations are going to become easier," she said. "It will all lighten up. Job-wise, the economy is going to open up."

Well, as most economists will tell you, that is how 2010 will be. Anyone could have made this statement by listening to the news and not being psychic at all. So being right here wouldn't prove anything. There's nothing terribly specific here, either.

President Obama: "The man is under such a microscope, and I feel like that will not let up," she said. "I feel like he bit off more than he could chew. People thought things would be wonderful, and they still won't be in this upcoming year. I feel like he is a great man, but it will take at least another year before things seem to go his way."

The first half is a lot of nothing. Lots of political commentators are saying the same things about Obama being far too ambitious, and many people are already becoming cynical about Obama. This business about it taking another year before things start to go his way is very vague. It could mean that in 2010 things will 'go his way', or it could mean it might not be until 2011 before things 'go his way'. In the end though, she doesn't define what 'go his way' means. So this prediction isn't much of a prediction at all.

America at war: "I don't see an end to the wars," she said. "Possibly in two years, but not in the upcoming year."

Most people might guess this very thing, no psychic ability required. But of course, she still has an out in her prediction as she qualifies it with 'Possibly'. Here's a prediction from me, 'A cockroach will eat Cincinnati, possibly.' See? That's easy.

The Reds this season: "They are going to start off very slow, so much so that people lose interest," she said. "Then, in mid-season, they are going to pull a rabbit out of their hat and they will turn things around. Still, I don't see them as a playoff team."

More mediocrity from the Reds? Sigh. They've been bad so many years, couldn't you get a divine favor for us starved baseball fans, Psychic Jill? I will be generous and say that this means that the Reds will be bad before the All-Star Break and people will write them off, but they will make a run for a playoff spot, just missing. Still not a very specific prediction, but it could be falsifiable.

The myth that 2012 will bring about the end of the world: "I don't buy it," she said. "I see my grandbaby - who is 3 - getting married and having children. I see a lot of joy there. People are getting scared for no reason."

Right answer, wrong reason. The world will not end in 2012, but I don't need to see into the future to know that.

"I feel good about the upcoming year," Psychic Jill said. "If we hang in there, together, and we pray to God and put our faith in God, we can get back to the way things used to be."

Why should we worry about hanging together and putting our faith in God, Jill? You already told us things will be A-OK.

I really wish the media would look at the articles that it prints. This story is nothing but uncritical fluff. Not once does the writer turn a skeptical eye towards the predictions or even suggest that she's a fraud, scam artist, or just deluded. At least the comments at the bottom of the article are appropriately cynical.

Unfortunately this is the last we will hear of these predictions. There won't be a follow-up on December 31st 2010 pointing out all the problems with her predictions. This article amounts to a free advertisement for Psychic Jill as the last line tells the reader how to setup an appointment with her.