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Skeptic Summary #361

By The Staff
Posted on: 4/23/2012

Ancient monoliths, alleged art, iffy atheism, atheistic hooking, yogic flying, science newsing and more!

Week ending April 22, 2012 (Vol 9, #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:
Ancient alien monolith on Mars - A misplaced stone picture.

Kitsch ‘artist’ Thomas Kinkade dies at 54 - How a painting is not-art.

Neil de Grasse Tyson, atheist or agnostic? - Distancing oneself from Gnu Atheists.

What is the non-religious view on prosititution? - Wouldn’t you like to know.

Editor’s Choice: Yogic flying - Please, let’s examine the data.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
PhysOrg — Normally I do a lot of my own explaining for why a site is of value and why you should go there and use it. I’ve promoted a lot of really great science resources and have often gone into some detail about why you should frequent them. And if you are a lover of science, as I am, PhysOrg is not exactly a secret that needs my promotion. If you follow science news sites, you probably follow PhysOrg too. If not, then let this be my two thumbs up, eleven out of ten endorsement of a site you should be aware of. This time, however, I’m going to do a lot of quoting from their about page. Not all of it, because the about page itself is much longer than most sites I link to and far more informative. And that’s a good deal for me because I can almost phone this one in.

Okay, okay… have pity on me. I have a zillion things to do today which makes PhysOrg the perfect pick for this week. Don’t for a second think that because this pick was an easy choice, that the site isn’t everything I say it is. It’s quite possibly the best science news site on the Web.

About in 100 Words

] is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, PhysOrg’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. PhysOrg publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes PhysOrg in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. PhysOrg community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.


The staff mission statement is to provide the most complete and comprehensive daily coverage of the full sweep of science, technology, and medicine news. Sci-tech readers will find coverage of relevant and interesting current events. We strive to bring our readers a large assortment of stories, catering for scientists, researchers, engineers, academia, tech geeks, students, and graduates alike. With a highly educated and sophisticated readership and target audience, stories go beyond mere catchy jargon. We find out the who, the what, the where, the how, and the why of a story — and the why not. Our job is to find the interesting science and technology stories, uncover the details, and give our readers their daily dose of news at a single source.

The main menu includes Home, Nanotechnology, Physics, Space & Earth, Electronics, Technology, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine & Health and Other Sciences.

Each section has a sub-menu. I broke a promise to myself to not include whole menus in these picks, because after all, you can just go the site and there it is. So I’m not going to include the sub-menu items. (There are a lot of them.) What I will do is point out that the Medicine & Health section is actually a separate website called Medical Xpress and it even has its own about page:
Medical Xpress is a web-based medical and health news service that is part of the renowned network. Based on the years of experience as a PhysOrg medical research channel, started in April 2011, Medical Xpress became a separate website.

Branching out with’s monthly 2.5 million readership, Medical Xpress features the most comprehensive coverage in medical research and health news in the fields of neuroscience, cardiology, cancer, HIV/AIDS, psychology, psychiatry, dentistry, genetics, diseases and conditions, medications and more.

Readers of Medical Xpress will have access to the same features offered on, such as article comments, ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a personal account page, easy sharing, podcasts, iPhone/iPad/Android apps and other options.

Readers may follow Medical Xpress on Facebook, Twitter or through a variety of customizable RSS feeds and e-Newsletter for the latest in medical research and health news.

I’m not going to list featured articles from either PhysOrg or Medical Xpress. They change almost hourly, the archive is vast and so are the services available. They also feature short podcasts with news of interest, science news with video, and a weekly and daily newsletter that you can customize. In fact you can customize all of the news feeds to suit your interests.

Whether you are somewhat interested in science or a full blown science geek, this is the site for you! Please visit PhysOrg, join, which allows you access to certain features, and be amazed.

Okay. So I really couldn’t have phoned this one in…

Modern science should indeed arouse in all of us a humility before the immensity of the unexplored and a tolerance for crazy hypotheses.
— Martin Gardner

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Kil told us he accidentally deleted his notes for court. Someone named joe dropped by but was too intimidated by the mere presence of Dr. Mabuse so he left just after Mab said “Hello Joe…” Storm told us she was getting a contract for a house. (Building a new house reduces the risk of hauntings — Mab’s personal reflection.) Sailingsoul needed some new Java to enter the chat room. Once in, he sent greetings from the tropics. We discussed “matters” of survival of the mind after death, if the brain is analog or digital or maybe both. Computerized image recognition and how the eye works. Chat ended talking about doing taxes.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
10 biggest puzzles of human evolution

Am I an evolutionary ideologue?

Amphisbaenians and the origins of mammals

Anti-gay group in Liberia issues hit list, threatens to ‘get to them one by one’

Arctic sea ice may have passed crucial tipping point

Baboons recognise words on a screen

Cattle DNA traced back to single herd of wild ox

“Death Star” of Medical Technology: Proton-Beam Therapy Shows “All the Problems” in US Healthcare

Detect all germs? RNA provides quick way for diagnosing infections and spotting drug resistance

Did Belief in Gods Lead to Mayan Demise?

Doubtful Newsblog

Evidence of ‘earliest fire use’

Fossilized Raindrop Dimples Add to Mystery of Ancient Earth’s Warmth

The giant snake that stalked the Earth

Girls Around Me and the end of Internet innocence

Google Glasses — admented reality

In Self-Control, Dogs Are Only Human

An innovative legal strategy

“Lost” Great Wall of China Segment Found?

Majorana particle glimpsed in lab

New York city schools want to ban ‘loaded words’ from tests

Non-Cognitive Elites

Oceans Started Warming 135 Years Ago, Study Suggests

Philippines stages bloody crucifixions to mark Lent

Picture captures a billion stars

Quantum computing: Is it possible, and should you care?

A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney

Report from Former U.S. Marine Hints at Whereabouts of Long-Lost Peking Man Fossils

Richard Branson’s Volcano Journey Prank

Satellites expose 8,000 years of civilization

Searching for the why behind rising autism rate

Skepticality #179 — Dictionaries, Bugs, and Space

Survey gets a grip on dark energy

Tevlin: DeLaSalle kids have a few words with archdiocese at marriage talk

Want To Look Taller? Carry a Gun

Were Some Neandertals Brown-Eyed Girls?

What’s New by Bob Park

Who needs a $30,000 watch?

Woolly mammoth carcass may have been cut into by humans

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

Book of the Week:
A Planet of Viruses, by Carl Zimmer.

“Viruses are the smallest living things known to science, yet they hold the entire planet in their sway. We are most familiar with the viruses that give us colds or the flu, but viruses also cause a vast range of other diseases, including one disorder that makes people sprout branch-like growths as if they were trees. Viruses have been a part of our lives for so long, in fact, that we are actually part virus: the human genome contains more DNA from viruses than our own genes. Meanwhile, scientists are discovering viruses everywhere they look: in the soil, in the ocean, even in caves miles underground. This fascinating book explores the hidden world of viruses — a world that we all inhabit. Here Carl Zimmer, popular science writer and author of ‘Discover’ magazine’s award-winning blog The Loom, presents the latest research on how viruses hold sway over our lives and our biosphere, how viruses helped give rise to the first life-forms, how viruses are producing new diseases, how we can harness viruses for our own ends, and how viruses will continue to control our fate for years to come. In this eye-opening tour of the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life as we know it, we learn that some treatments for the common cold do more harm than good; that the world’s oceans are home to an astonishing number of viruses; and that the evolution of HIV is now in overdrive, spawning more mutated strains than we care to imagine. The ‘New York Times Book Review’ calls Carl Zimmer ‘as fine a science essayist as we have.’ A Planet of Viruses is sure to please his many fans and further enhance his reputation as one of America’s most respected and admired science journalists.”

— Book Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Little-a versus big-A atheism
  2. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  3. Funny FAILS
  4. Ancient alien monolith on Mars
  5. Yogic flying
  6. The Battle of Tehran
  7. Proof of cover-up of time-travel technology
  8. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  9. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  10. Do You Know This Face? (61)
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Evolution, Scientology Style
  5. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  6. Cold Reading
  7. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  8. Scientific Truth
  9. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  10. Hank Cleaned Tommy’s Clock for a Reason
There were 7,579 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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