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Skeptic Summary #353

By The Staff
Posted on: 1/16/2012

Starships, philosophies, mirrors, returns, conspiracies, money and more!

Week ending January 15, 2012 (Vol 9, #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:
100 year starship study - What would take 100 years? The study, or the voyage?

Is this philosophy of mine misguided? - What is right and what is wrong? What is misguided and what is not?

‘Mirror Matter’ and the question of ‘soul’ - What is mirror matter and what is soul?

Missing Mooner - Cheering as The Prodigal Son (grandpa?) returns!

Editor’s Choice: Could they have been more obvious? - As conspiracies goes: obviously.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Money Matters — Last night, well really very early this morning, I turned on my TV because I wasn’t ready to call it quits yet. I sometimes watch a little television before going to sleep. I flipped around a bit. I flipped around until I ran into an infomercial for a book called Free Money They Don’t Want You to Know About. Yep. There was infomercial scammer, Kevin Trudeau, pushing his latest book. It’s only been about a month since he was ordered to pay a $37.6 million dollar fine for hawking another book of his, The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About, by way of infomercials. There have been a few “They Don’t Want You to Know” books between those two titles, and Trudeau has pushed all of them in the wee hours of the morning, on television. He might have to pay the $37.6 million dollar fine, but I suspect that he’s still well ahead of the game.

What really interested me about Trudeau’s pitch, however, was that in this time of recession, when lots of people, including me, are feeling the pinch, he’s hawking “Free Money.” The man knows what we want, when we want it. He’s canny that way.

Earlier this week, I received a phone call with a tape-recorded message. It’s a call that happens almost daily, but this time I decided to take it. I didn’t hang up, as is my way with phone calls that start out by putting me on hold after a brief message. I was asked if I wanted to lower the interest rates on my credit cards. “If so, please push one.” I pressed one and was asked by another recording to hold and a representative would be along shortly. Soon enough a friendly sounding fellow asked me how I was doing today.

“Okay I guess.”

He asked me how much credit card debt I have and would I like to lower the interest on my payments. I didn’t tell him how much debt I have but I would love to have my interest rates lowered. He said he would be happy to help me with that.

I asked him, “Who are you?” He asked me again if I would like to lower the interest rates on my credit cards and again I asked, “Who are you and who do you represent?” It seemed like a fair question to me. I then heard a muffled, “Oh shit” on the line, and the guy hung up on me.

Phishing anyone?

I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that it’s all about money these days, in the scam trades. Scams are, of course, always about money. And these grifters are always about finding some way of moving your money into their pockets, without any benefit to you or any regard for the harm that they might do to you. And there are plenty of scams out there to choose from. One way or another, the idea is to fleece you.

But now, in these times of uncertainty about where our money will be coming from, money itself has become today’s product de jour for the savvy scammer to be hawking. From Trudeau’s “Free Money” book, which will set you back at least $30 with shipping and handling, only to find out that what’s in the book is information that is readily available for free on the Internet, and worse, not all that easy to get, if you are qualified to get it at all, to 419 Nigerian scams and other phishing expeditions that promise you money in order to remove it from you.

Which brings me to my pick. Money Matters is a Federal Trade Commission website. I’ll cut right to the chase because I’ve gone on long enough already. Here’s what the site is about:
It’s become an all-too-familiar headline — lay-offs and furloughs, falling housing prices and rising consumer debt, declining retail sales and increasing costs of living.

Money — and the lack of it — is a source of stress and frustration. And while people the world over are working to stem the global financial situation we’re in, folks at home are trying to gain some control over their own financial situations, too. Practicing positive, tried and true money management techniques — and learning how to recognize and avoid some “ripped from the headlines” consumer scams and rip-offs — can help you weather tough economic times.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, created this website to help you tackle some money issues head-on. Use the menu to the right to find tips and resources on money matters.

The menu includes: Scam Watch, Credit Cards, Managing Your Money, Dealing with Debt, Your Home and Jobs.

If you are anything like me, even if you aren’t particularly susceptible to scams, being skeptical by nature, there is still plenty of great information at the FTC’s Money Matters site, well worth knowing about, especially in times like these.

Nothing leads the scientist so astray as a premature truth.
— Jean Rostand

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: The first life signs from Mooner are reported, to everybody’s joy. We also talked about wine, and different grapes like Zinfandel and Chardonnay. From there the conversation went through bottle sizes and drinking in moderation to food cooking. Sharks are reportedly mating cross-species due to climate changes around Australia, and someone mentioned species of mammals doing the same but failed to produce a link to evidence. And how people crossed the Bering Straight during the last ice age, following food. (What’s with this preoccupation with food?). And then there was politics, need I say more?

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Andrew Wakefield: Recognized as the Great Science Fraud that he is

Any deadly viruses to declare?

Ask Surly Amy and Dr. Gorski: in the Workplace Skeptical Activism

Black Nazarene, Black Opium

Boots told to stop making medical claims for pills with no active ingredient

Boy Dies After Choosing Prayer Over Medicine

CES After Dark

Creationism in New Hampshire: Attacking Science and Undermining Religious Freedom

Creatures frozen for 32,000 years still alive

Dogs (not chimps) most like humans

Doubtful Newsblog

The Elephant in the Room of Science Illiteracy

Humans in the Philippines 67,000 years ago

IBM: Lithium air battery prototype in 2013, production in 2020

Is Ranae just a token skeptic? What it means to be truly skeptical about Finding Bigfoot

India Reports Completely Drug-Resistant TB

Legal thuggery, antivaccine edition: Andrew Wakefield sues Brian Deer, the BMJ, and Fiona Godlee

Legal thuggery, antivaccine edition, part 2: An interesting connection

A New Genetic Code?

Power Balance Sold to Chinese Manufacturer

Red wine researcher said to falsify data

Reports of legendary ‘Oily Man’ monster terrorize Malaysia

Skepticality #173 — A Year Past And One To Come

Stephen Colbert must be stopped!

Trial Begins for Witchcraft Torture Killing

Tribune analysis: Drug-sniffing dogs in traffic stops often wrong

Volunteers wanted for planet hunt

What is Karma?

What’s New by Bob Park

A word or two about tobacco, and some neat and new research

World’s smallest frog discovered

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.
Sexism in Skepticism of the Week:
Two Questions for DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe Replies… and I Reply Back

Book of the Week:
A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, by Lawrence M. Krauss.


Lawrence Krauss’s provocative answers to these and other timeless questions in a wildly popular lecture now on YouTube have attracted almost a million viewers. The last of these questions in particular has been at the center of religious and philosophical debates about the existence of God, and it’s the supposed counterargument to anyone who questions the need for God. As Krauss argues, scientists have, however, historically focused on other, more pressing issues — such as figuring out how the universe actually functions, which can ultimately help us to improve the quality of our lives.

Now, in a cosmological story that rivets as it enlightens, pioneering theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss explains the groundbreaking new scientific advances that turn the most basic philosophical questions on their heads. One of the few prominent scientists today to have actively crossed the chasm between science and popular culture, Krauss reveals that modern science is addressing the question of why there is something rather than nothing, with surprising and fascinating results. The staggeringly beautiful experimental observations and mind-bending new theories are all described accessibly in A Universe from Nothing, and they suggest that not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing.

With his characteristic wry humor and wonderfully clear explanations, Krauss takes us back to the beginning of the beginning, presenting the most recent evidence for how our universe evolved — and the implications for how it’s going to end. It will provoke, challenge, and delight readers as it looks at the most basic underpinnings of existence in a whole new way. And this knowledge that our universe will be quite different in the future from today has profound implications and directly affects how we live in the present. As Richard Dawkins has described it: This could potentially be the most important scientific book with implications for supernaturalism since Darwin.

A fascinating antidote to outmoded philosophical and religious thinking, A Universe from Nothing is a provocative, game-changing entry into the debate about the existence of God and everything that exists. ‘Forget Jesus,’ Krauss has argued, ‘the stars died so you could be born.’”

— Book Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. Missing Mooner
  4. Science / Religion Flow Chart
  5. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  6. The Battle of Tehran
  7. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  8. Proof of cover-up of time-travel technology
  9. Did UK remove the holocaust from history books?
  10. Caesar’s Messiah
  1. Cold Reading
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. The Biblical support for a Flat Earth and Geocentricism
  7. Scientific Truth
  8. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  9. Miracle Thaw Tray
  10. Skeptic Summary #352
There were 7,061 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 2012, all rights reserved.

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