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Skeptic Summary #322

By The Staff
Posted on: 3/14/2011

Aliens, the tree of life, Japan, Snopes and more!

Week ending March 12, 2011 (Vol 8, #10)

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:
ETs are here, despite guesses to the contrary - Still going nowhere fast.

Is there a tree of life? - Ummm… maybe.

Editor’s Choice: Japan - Following the news as the quake-disaster unfolds around my wife.

Kil’s Evil Pick: — I don’t think I’ve picked Snopes before now, and if not, that’s an oversight that I am now going to remedy. But good grief, is a useful site. If you don’t already know about it, Snopes is the place to check on urban legends and rumors, making it my first stop when checking on the veracity of those kinds of claims.

The menu is large and broken down into several sub menus. Each one tells us of current and older urban myths and rumors on just about every topic you can think of, along with the history of the myth and most importantly, the status of the myth or rumor. They are either True, False, or Undetermined.

Here’s how I use it. Someone might say something to me like; “You should drink eight glasses of water every day.” Oh should I? Well, I don’t know. But something tells me that the information may not be correct. So I run over to and do a search on eight glasses of water. The first thing I learn is the status of the claim, which happens to be false. Than I learn about the origins of the myth, and why the eight glass rule is false.

Now, if I care to, I can inform the person who presented the myth to me that the claim is false, and source Snopes, which is also well sourced, just in case I’m in need of more sourcing. Or, I can simply ignore the alleged rule and allow my friend to swim in eight glasses of water each day.

It really doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. Email alerts from friends, stuff you have heard on an internet forum, rumors of dastardly things the government is planning for you, scams, slams and old wives’ tales. They’re all at Or most of them are anyhow. The page is updated daily.

Hey! Did you know that the true unemployment figures that the government issues are underestimated because the government only counts those who are collecting unemployment insurance when the figures are taken? Did you know that? Well, what you know just might be wrong!

A thriving colony of aligators lives deep within the bowls of the New York City sewer system

From About with regard to possible bias:
…The web site is (and always has been) a completely independent, self-sufficient entity wholly owned by its operators, Barbara and David Mikkelson, and funded through advertising revenues. Neither the site nor its operators has ever received monies from (or been engaged in any business or editorial relationship with), any sponsor, investor, partner, political party, religious group, business organization, government agency, or any other outside group or organization.

Barbara Mikkelson is a Canadian citizen and as such cannot vote in U.S. elections, register an affiliation with a U.S. political party, or donate to any U.S. political campaign or candidate. David Mikkelson is an American citizen whose participation in U.S. politics has never extended beyond periodically exercising his civic duty at the ballot box. As FactCheck confirmed in April 2009, David is a registered independent who has never donated to, or worked on behalf of, any political campaign or party. The Mikkelsons are wholly apolitical, vastly preferring their quiet scholarly lives in the company of their five cats to any political considerations.
So there you are. Use It’s certainly my first stop when I want to check out what appears to be a possible urban myth or a rumor. And it should be yours too!

I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical.
— Arthur C. Clarke

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Tonight we started out by saying ‘hi’ and ‘hello’ to each other. Having a cold can be a pain, unless you’re healthy and working. More than one chat member got new work to do. Which reminds me: the chatroom is always open even if it’s not moderated. Loan paper burning parties are fun, and should ideally happen more often. More than an hour of the chat was spent discussing the political situation in Wisconsin: Republican union-busting, the bill for fiscal emergency in Michigan, revoking collective bargaining rights… There’s some coverage at The Rachel Maddow Show.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Is this seriously the best news you have to offer, CNN?

It “appears as if” the world is ending

How Much Would It Cost to Identify Every Animal on Earth?

My Review of Giberson and Collins

Penis Spines, Pearly Papules, and Pope Benedict’s Balls

Plainly put, cigarette packaging matters

Quakes and Fakes

Saving Thomas Jefferson’s scrapbook Bible

The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools

Skepticality #150 — The Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould

Tsunamis and Animal “Sixth Sense” Warnings

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:
Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore, by Benjamin Radford.

“Among the monsters said to roam the world’s jungles and desolate deserts, none is more feared than the chupacabra the blood-sucking beast blamed for the mysterious deaths of thousands of animals since the 1990s. To some it is a joke; to many it is a very real threat and even a harbinger of the apocalypse.

Originating in Latin America yet known worldwide, the chupacabra is a contradictory and bizarre blend of vampire and shapeshifter, changing its appearance and characteristics depending on when and where it is seen. Rooted in conspiracy theory and anti-American sentiment, the beast is said to be the result of Frankenstein-like secret U.S. government experiments in the Puerto Rican jungles.

Combining five years of careful investigation (including information from eyewitness accounts, field research, and forensic analysis) with a close study of the creature’s cultural and folkloric significance, Radford’s book is the first to fully explore and try to solve the decades-old mystery of the chupacabra.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. ETs are here, despite guesses to the contrary
  2. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  3. Webcam, bald eagle nest
  4. The Supper
  5. Funny FAILS
  6. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  7. Bedini motor
  8. Jesus tempts Satan
  9. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  10. Combat Ki?
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Cold Reading
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. Scientific Truth
  7. Skeptic Summary #321
  8. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  9. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  10. TAM5
There were 7,257 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 2011, all rights reserved.

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The mission of the Skeptic Friends Network is to promote skepticism, critical thinking, science and logic as the best methods for evaluating all claims of fact, and we invite active participation by our members to create a skeptical community with a wide variety of viewpoints and expertise.

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