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Skeptic Summary #263

By The Staff
Posted on: 12/5/2009

Designer arguments, bigoted architecture, exploding corn, questioning religion, booking skepticism, rejecting woo, blazing trails and more!

Week ending December 05, 2009 (Vol 6, #45)

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:
Interesting discussion at Panda's Thumb - Are we misunderstanding each other by design?

Swiss Ban Building of Minarets - Bigotry is passed by national referendum.

Editor’s Choice: Chinese Popcorn - Just really cool.

From the Archives: What is religion? - This should be easy to answer…

New Articles This Week:
A Review of "Leaving the Land of Woo" - Need a good book about skepticism? This is one.

Strategy Ideas for Skeptics - How do we get people to reject Woo? Bob Lloyd has some suggestions.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Trailblazing: Three and a half centuries of Royal Society Publishing — This is a clickable timeline of significant events in science and history over the last 350 years, as described by the Royal Society. From the introduction to the site:
Welcome to Trailblazing, an interactive timeline for everybody with an interest in science. Compiled by scientists, science communicators and historians — and co-ordinated by Professor Michael Thompson FRS — it celebrates three and a half centuries of scientific endeavour and has been launched to commemorate the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary in 2010.

Trailblazing is a user-friendly, ‘explore-at-your-own-pace’, virtual journey through science. It showcases sixty fascinating and inspiring articles selected from an archive of more than 60,000 published by the Royal Society between 1665 and 2010.
I get the feeling that Trailblazing is a work in progress and will only get better over time. But hey, what a cool site it is.

Creationists make it sound as though a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.
— Isaac Asimov

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Chat started with a bit of shop talk, but then slowly digressed into politics. Does Obama bend too far to the right, the Republican litmus test and various opinions about the troop buildup in Afghanistan. Kil pondered how the cost of the buildup will affect the health care debate, and discussion turned solely to health care and just how screwed we (Americans) all are. At this point we were all too depressed to continue on and chat came to a close.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
The Fruitlessness of ID “Research”

Making contact with a helping hand

New Agers and Creationists should not be President

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter #110

Skepticality #115 — La Fée Verte

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:
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, by Graham Farmelo.

“This biography… is both wonderfully written (certainly not a given in the category Accessible Biographies of Mathematical Physicists) and a thought-provoking meditation on human achievement, limitations and the relations between the two. Here we find a man with an almost miraculous apprehension of the structure of the physical world, coupled with gentle incomprehension of that less logical, messier world, the world of other people…

Dirac is the main character of a thousand humorous tales told among physicists for his monosyllabic approach to conversation and his innocent, relentless application of logic to everything. Listening to a Dirac story is like slipping into an alternate universe: Dirac reads Crime and Punishment and reports it ‘nice’ but notes that in one place the sun rises two times in a day; Dirac eats his dinner in silence until his companion asks, ‘Have you been to the theater or cinema this week?’ and Dirac replies, ‘Why do you wish to know?’…

The science writing in The Strangest Man isn’t glib, but neither does it require problem-solving on the part of the reader. In most cases, Farmelo presents the technical matter clearly and efficiently, and in all cases — one of the great joys of the book — Dirac’s scientific insights are placed within the circumstances in which they were born: e.g., the ‘sweltering July’ of 1926 when Dirac, sitting at his college desk, produced his paper on what became Fermi-Dirac statistics…

Farmelo handles such scenes with a refreshing, cleareyed understanding of how complicated the world actually is… These complexities and unresolvably cubist perspectives make, paradoxically, for the most satisfying and memorable biography I have read in years.”

— Louisa Gilder, New York Times

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  3. New World Order happening right now!
  4. Dennett answers NY Times on Dawkins’ book
  5. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  6. Funny FAILS
  7. Evolution vs. ID: 6 Bones of Contention
  8. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  9. Beelzebufo ampinga
  10. Swiss Ban Building of Minarets
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Kent Hovind is a Kwazy Kweationist
  5. Miracle Thaw Tray
  6. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  7. Scientific Truth
  8. TAM5
  9. Skeptic Summary #262
  10. Cold Reading
There were 21,405 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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