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Skeptic Summary #175

By The Staff
Posted on: 1/20/2008

Hell, Mercury, student religion, the results are in, the Commie threat, pages and pages of Simanek and more!

Week ending January 19, 2008 (Vol 5, #2)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Forum Highlights:
Hell, your final destination? - Probably not.

Iron core: Mercury - Quite a dense subject.

Judge errs - Should public universities be funding religious student organizations?

Editor’s Choice: 2007 Psychic Contest Results! - Not to gloat, but I won!

From the Archives: McCarthy was right? Communist threat lives? - vrwc cites Ann Coulter as an authority on the “McCarthy myth” and the fun begins!
Kil’s Evil Pick:
Donald Simanek’s Pages is a really, really fun site. As an introduction, there is this:
We can’t claim to fully understand what science is until we know what it is not. The science/pseudoscience interface can help us understand both the strengths and the self-imposed constraints of science. Science is a self-correcting process, continually weeding out errors of thought and errors of methodology, thereby narrowing the region where truth may reside. While science claims no absolute truths, it has accumulated a larger body of reliable and testable understanding of nature than any other method of human inquiry.

The human imagination is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, we have the ability to imagine many things which just aren’t so. The universe has no obligation to behave as we’d like, or even to be understandable to our minds.
I’m including the table of contents:
  • The Museum of Unworkable Devices. Perpetual motion machines as physics puzzles.
  • Intelligent Design Creationism: Fraudulent Science, Bad Philosophy.
  • Myths and Mysteries of Science. Removing the mystery.
  • Cutting Edge Science. Profundity or parody?
  • Illustrated Lectures on these subjects.
  • Uncle Don’s Notebook.
  • Bob Schadewald’s Corner.
  • Physics and Astronomy.
  • Physics Abused.
  • History and Philosophy of Science.
  • Skepticism, pseudoscience, urban Legends.
  • Humor, satire, parody, mostly about science.
  • Hoaxes.
  • The Ed-Biz.
  • Quotes.
  • Illusions and 3-D.
  • Uncle Don’s Attic (3d and photo items).
  • Uncle Don’s Bookshelf (books and toys).
Click on to any of these areas and you’ll get more things to click on to, to look at and read. And all of them are fun! Donald Simanek’s Pages is a fabulous site!
When we blindly become slaves to
technology and engineering, we
lose the essential rule of the
scientific perspective, free and
independent inquiry.
— Jonathan Watts
Chat Highlights:
Sunday: Chat was on vacation, again.

Wednesday: Political talk from last week spilled over into this week’s chat. However, it was rather short-lived as more pressing issues were at hand. Talk of the upcoming TAM6 (which will now be held in June) spawned the planning of TLTAMOSFNS2 (The Less-Than-Amazing Meeting of SFN Staff, 2). This will likely be held in June as well. The night came to an end with a story of a marriage proposal and science fiction talk.

Come chat with us.
New Members This Week:
Lyzandra Daria

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs?

Breakthrough Could Mean 40-Hour Laptop Batteries

Expelled: not even released, and already a flop

The JREF Million-Dollar Challenge

What’s New by Bob Park

With a Huff and a puff, I'll blow your stats down

Woo hurts — it really hurts

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.
Book of the Week:
The Magic Detectives: Join Them in Solving Strange Mysteries, by Joe Nickell.

“Educational studies indicate a critical lack of scientific awareness in children and young adults. Is it because science is no longer perceived as challenging, interesting, or just plain fun? Looking for scientific facts can be as enjoyable as ‘playing detective.’

Joe Nickell realized that a mere series of debunking stories might hold a child’s interest, yet not kindle the development of critical skills. If children could be fully involved in the investigation of strange occurences… if the investigations could have all the thrill of a ghost story yet reinforce rational over irrational thought, and science over superstition… then the book as a whole would be an appealing introduction to logic, critical analysis, and the scientific method in action.

In The Magic Detectives, Nickell presents thirty ‘paranormal’ investigations in the form of brief mystery stories. Clues are embedded in each story; at the end of each account, the child can turn the book upside down to reveal the conclusion that professional ‘magic detectives’ have already reached. Included are examinations of the ‘mummy’s curse,’ bigfoot, haunted stairways, the Amityville Horror, the Loch Ness monster, poltergeists, and more.

The ‘note to teachers’ which follows the text of the book recommends that The Magic Detectives be used as an illustrative aid for teaching valuable skills to young people. Nickell makes specific suggestions for assignments, and includes a list of references consulted which can serve as a list for further reading.”

— The Publisher

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. We’d invite Hitler to speak, says Columbia dean (5,721 views)
  2. LiLo (Behe) is back! (831 views)
  3. Are the humanities of any value, really? (468 views)
  4. Buck on Huck (325 views)
  5. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit! (296 views)
  6. Religion versus vaccines — sound familiar? (226 views)
  7. Bush’s legal fictions (212 views)
  8. Owl on the dollar bill… (179 views)
  9. Really creepy illusions (170 views)
  10. New features? (162 views)
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two (742 views)
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark (502 views)
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle (130 views)
  4. Skeptic Summary #152 (91 views)
  5. Evolution, Scientology Style (55 views)
  6. Miracle Thaw Tray (47 views)
  7. Skeptic Summary #174 (45 views)
  8. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony! (42 views)
  9. Cold Reading (42 views)
  10. Scientific Truth (37 views)
There were 9,484 daily visitors this week.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

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