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Skeptic Summary #345

By The Staff
Posted on: 10/10/2011

Evolutionary psychology, teaching critical thinking, October 28th, Aquarius, Steve Jobs, science, time travel, TED and more!

Week ending October 09, 2011 (Vol 8, #33)

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:
An evolutionary psychologist said - An old thread reanimated.

Getting explicit when teaching critical thinking - Practicing is an integral part of learning.

Is a major event going to happen on 28th October? - Nothing earth-shattering according to my calendar.

The lost book of Aquarius released - Not about keeping a fish-tank (but might as well have been).

RIP Steve Jobs - Appreciate the man and his accomplishments.

Science is universal - Even if you do not believe in it.

Editor’s Choice: Proof of cover-up of time-travel technology - Except it’s entirely fictional.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
TED — Ideas worth spreading — It’s my guess that you have seen links to and watched some of the great and not-so-great video talks that have come out of TED, and still wondered, what is this thing? Well… I’m not really up to the task of explaining it any better than has been done already. (Not that what’s been done is all that clear or something that I can present in a reasonable number of words.) So here you go:

From About TED:
TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.
The annual TED conferences, in Long Beach/Palm Springs and Edinburgh, bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).
Well that’s a little more like it. But wait! There’s more! (Actually there’s a lot more, but you will have to follow the link to read all of it.)
TEDTalks, began as a simple attempt to share what happens at TED with the world. Under the moniker “ideas worth spreading,” talks were released online. They rapidly attracted a global audience in the millions. Indeed, the reaction was so enthusiastic that the entire TED website has been reengineered around TEDTalks, with the goal of giving everyone on-demand access to the world’s most inspiring voices.

Okay as far as it goes. I have gathered this from Wikipedia:
…TED’s early emphasis was largely technology and design, consistent with a Silicon Valley center of gravity. The events are now held in Long Beach and Palm Springs in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address an increasingly wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, educator Salman Khan, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners. TED’s current curator is the British former computer journalist and magazine publisher Chris Anderson.

From 2005 to 2009, three $100,000 TED Prizes were awarded annually to help its winners realize a chosen wish to change the world. From 2010, in a changed selection process, a single winner is chosen to ensure that TED can maximize its efforts in achieving the winner’s wish. Each winner unveils their wish at the main annual conference.

Since June 2006, the talks have been offered for free viewing online, under a Creative Commons license, through As of August 2011, over 900 talks are available free online. By January 2009 they had been viewed 50 million times. In June 2011, the viewing figure stood at more than 500 million, reflecting a still growing global audience…

Okay, So… What do we have here? Bottom line is we have access to a bunch of great 18 minute (or less) videos on topics ranging from science and technology to politics, art and more. There’s something for everyone. In fact, I got the idea of making TED my pick after watching a video of Ben Goldacre’s talk, Battling bad science. A subject near and dear to my skeptical heart (and brain).

No, not that Ted!

These are get-in-and-get-out with the best-ya-got talks by a stellar cast of speakers, and there are a lot of them. Newest, subject, length, and other criteria break down the talks into a manageable menu. So if you haven’t been to the site, go to TED — Ideas worth spreading, and be as impressed as I continue to be.

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
— Carl Sagan

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday, September 29th: We started out with everybody saying “hello” to each other. There is such a thing as chocolate-covered bacon, and can Google tell you how to cure your dog if it is glass? Skeptics Guide to the Universe was mentioned, but several chatters didn’t like Rebecca while others did. At that point we quickly went from Elevator-gate to aspects of sexual assault and debating the dynamics of different settings in which they occur. When things were starting to get creepy, Marf accidentally made a wrong cut-and-paste which provided a much needed comic relief, and set us off into planning for Halloween. After that, the discussion turned back to rape and victims associated with it, until people got upset and left.

Wednesday, October 5th: Chat opened on time, but took a while to get going. Once it did, it was about heavy lifting when moving furniture. Then some happy birthday greetings directed at Kil. We also started recalling missing Friends, then turned to “friends” lost as in Steve Jobs, and the various technologies he helped become mainstream. We spent a lot of time discussing the loony-tunes that have visited SFN lately. The pros and cons of reasoned responses versus flipping off. At that point the flight recorder crashed and the last 20 minutes of the chat log was lost.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:
Rena Sickles

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Are Republicans or Democrats More Anti-Science?

America’s secular revival

Behe and the Contingency of History

Ben Goldacre: Battling Bad Science

Black Death study lets rats off the hook

Doctor Who and the philosophy of personal identity

Doubtful Newsblog

Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left

Even compliant parents doubt vaccine safety


Famous Peddler of Infomercial Quackery Comes to a Sad End

Genetic Bucket Chain (part 1)

Genetic Bucket Chain (part 2)

If you want answers, why not run your own trials?

Lessons from Sherlock Holmes: Trust in The Facts, Not Your Version of Them

Love among the Equations

Lulu is right


Op-Ed: 9/11 Truth — its ‘reliable’ sources and proponents

Oregon couple convicted in faith-healing trial

Reaction to Faster Than Light Claims Expose Anti-Skeptic Myth

Science and religion can and do mix, mostly

Scientist in a Strange Land

Science Manual for Judges Updated

Should skepticism be divorced from values?

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter #132

Skepticality #166 — Ankylosaur of the Cosmos

Steve Jobs, neuroendocrine tumors, and alternative medicine

Templeton continues to conflate science and religion

Tevatron Shuts Down After 28-Year Run

There’s a wealth of data out there — why not let us use it?

Trick or treat?

Well, It Worked for Me!

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 Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, by Richard Dawkins and Dave McKean (Illustrator).

“Magic takes many forms. Supernatural magic is what our ancestors used in order to explain the world before they developed the scientific method. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. The Japanese used to explain earthquakes by conjuring a gigantic catfish that carried the world on its back — earthquakes occurred each time it flipped its tail. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality — science.

Packed with clever thought experiments, dazzling illustrations and jaw-dropping facts, The Magic of Reality explains a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? Why do the continents look like disconnected pieces of a puzzle? What causes tsunamis? Why are there so many kinds of plants and animals? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, graphic detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist as well.

Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous evolutionary biologist and one of science education’s most passionate advocates, has spent his career elucidating the wonders of science for adult readers. But now, in a dramatic departure, he has teamed up with acclaimed artist Dave McKean and used his unrivaled explanatory powers to share the magic of science with readers of all ages. This is a treasure trove for anyone who has ever wondered how the world works. Dawkins and McKean have created an illustrated guide to the secrets of our world — and the universe beyond — that will entertain and inform for years to come.”

— Book Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Funny FAILS
  2. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  3. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  4. RIP Steve Jobs
  5. They gave us their mind
  6. Science is universal
  7. Proof of cover-up of time-travel technology
  8. An evolutionary psychologist said
  9. Drummer wanted
  10. Evolution questions
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Scientific Truth
  4. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  5. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  6. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  7. Cold Reading
  8. TAM5
  9. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  10. Miracle Thaw Tray
There were 6,567 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Cowardly agnostics
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. If I get a haircut (Part 2)
  4. Encouraging hints about EEStor supercapacitor
  5. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  6. Drummer wanted
  7. Day care should be free
  8. An evolutionary psychologist said
  9. Is this the best you got
  10. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  11. Skepticism about the Big Bang
  12. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  13. Wrong images of Saturn
  14. The Battle of Tehran
  15. Cruise ships become dangerously top-heavy
  16. Stop your child from becoming an atheist
  17. Jesus tempts Satan
  18. Be a Master of Apologetics: amaze your friends!
  19. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  20. Big-@$$ snake photo?
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Scientific Truth
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray
  8. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  9. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  10. Cold Reading
  11. Newton’s Third Law
  12. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
  13. Skeptic Summary #343
  14. How Do Vaccines Work?
  15. TAM5
  16. Calorad
  17. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  18. N. 25, June 2002: Ecology vs. ecophily — being reasonable about saving the environment
  19. The Legend of the Shrinking Sun
  20. Astrology
There were 28,667 daily visitors in September, 2011.

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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