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Skeptic Summary #192

By The Staff
Posted on: 6/7/2008

Happy almost birthday, BS post BS, an unreal discussion, then a real one and more!

Week ending June 7, 2008 (Vol 5, #20)

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:
Birth Date Confusion - We debate this topic roughly once a year.

I call BS - I think we all do.

Editor’s Choice: Name your price - What an odd turn of topic a few pages in…

Kil’s Evil Pick:
This one goes out to Dave and Bill: “The Reality Tests,” an article from Seed Magizine by Joshua Roebke on June 4.
A team of physicists in Vienna has devised experiments that may answer one of the enduring riddles of science: Do we create the world just by looking at it?
To whet your appetite, here is part of the introduction from the article:
Most of us would agree that there exists a world outside our minds. At the classical level of our perceptions, this belief is almost certainly correct. If your couch is blue, you will observe it as such whether drunk, in high spirits, or depressed; the color is surely independent of the majority of your mental states. If you discovered your couch were suddenly red, you could be sure there was a cause. The classical world is real, and not only in your head. Solipsism hasn’t really been a viable philosophical doctrine for decades, if not centuries.

But none of us perceives the world as it exists fundamentally. We do not observe the tiniest bits of matter, nor the forces that move them, individually through our senses. We evolved to experience the world in bulk, our faculties registering the net effect of trillions upon trillions of particles or atoms moving in concert. We are crude measurers. So divorced are we from the activity beneath our experience that physicists became relatively assured of the existence of atoms only about a century ago.

Physicists attribute a fundamental reality to what they do not directly perceive. Particles and atoms have observable effects that are well described by theories like quantum mechanics. Single atoms have been “seen” in measurements and presumably exist whether or not we observe them individually. The properties that define particles — mass, spin, etc. — are also thought to exist before we measure them. In physics this is how reality is defined; particles and atoms have measurable properties that exist prior to measurement. This is nothing stranger than your blue couch.

It means nothing to be open to a
proposition we don’t understand.
— Carl Sagan

Chat Highlights:
Sunday: Slow start, first hour went without visitors. Then: spamming spammers; telemarketers get cell phone numbers now; how early does the Sun rise; shaving Kil; Christopher Walken & SNL; GOD; Mother Teresa not so saintly, Hitchens wrote a book about her. H. Clinton a hypocrite for wanting MI and FL votes; who was the best President? Both Carter and John Dean wrote about the religious right in their books. We also talked skeptic conversions and sonic booms from the space shuttle.

Wednesday: Obama was our special guest of the week. He dropped by Kil’s place during chat. Don’t tell him I said this, but I think it was really just Kil pretending. A variety of questions were answered such as what he will do with Hillary, what he wants to do with Hillary, and what he really wants to do with Hillary. Most of the questions were of two different types: personal and even more personal. Others were just outright wrong. When he had to go, talk remained on politics, specifically the presidential line of succession, and then how Wikipedia has an article on everything. Finally, William Shatner singing “Rocket Man” scared everyone away and ended chat.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Decline of maths? Just do the arithmetic

Exploring Life’s Origins

Fact or Fiction: Antioxidant Supplements Will Help You Live Longer

What’s New by Bob Park

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
Jane Goodall: A Biography, by Meg Greene.

“…In this insightful biography, Meg Greene tells the story of Goodall’s life from her early days growing up in England under the influence of her mother, through her experiences as a young protégé of anthropologist Louis Leakey pioneering new techniques of investigating chimpanzee behavior in Africa, to her mature career as an expert on chimpanzee social life and her ongoing efforts today to promote the conservation of wildlife…

…This is a fascinating story of a naïve young woman who started her work without even a college degree and eventually developed into a dedicated scientist and a world-famous conservationist and humanitarian. For more than 45 years, Jane Goodall has reached out to the world to join in her efforts to aid those who cannot speak for themselves, and to promote respect for all living creatures.”

— Book Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in! (2,456 views)
  2. 9/11 was an inside job! (1,021 views)
  3. LiLo (Behe) is back! (890 views)
  4. Possum on the half shell (729 views)
  5. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit! (490 views)
  6. What are your favorite words? (335 views)
  7. Name your price (329 views)
  8. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed! (Part 2) (315 views)
  9. New features? (293 views)
  10. The water cooler, part 2 (258 views)
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two (1,728 views)
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark (1,411 views)
  3. Skeptic Summary #152 (169 views)
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle (113 views)
  5. Miracle Thaw Tray (64 views)
  6. The Bible Answer Man (51 views)
  7. Cold Reading (50 views)
  8. The Bible’s Bad Fruits (38 views)
  9. Skeptic Summary #191 (36 views)
  10. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony! (33 views)
There were 10,321 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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