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Skeptic Summary #280

By The Staff
Posted on: 4/10/2010

Homeopathy, skin cancer, conspiracy, lesbians, a worldwide telescope and more!

Week ending April 10, 2010 (Vol 7, #15)

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:
Homeopathy ‘explained’ - Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen and five parts crazy.

Hope for metastatic skin cancer? - Whatever happened to hoping for change?

A literal jewish conspiracy - As opposed to all the figurative ones.

Editor’s Choice: School sued for canceling prom over lesbian - And then the whole town tricked her.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Worldwide Telescope — Okay, I’m simply blown away by what the Worldwide Telescope can do. Whether it’s to explore the universe, take guided tours of various locations in our solar system, galaxy and the universe, or go exploring on your own, you now you have a powerful tool for doing those things right on your computer. What is it?
The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a Web 2.0 visualization software environment that enables your computer to function as a virtual telescope — bringing together imagery from the best ground and space-based telescopes in the world for a seamless exploration of the universe.

Choose from a growing number of guided tours of the sky by astronomers and educators from some of the most famous observatories and planetariums in the country. Feel free at any time to pause the tour, explore on your own (with multiple information sources for objects at your fingertips), and rejoin the tour where you left off. Join Harvard Astronomer Alyssa Goodman on a journey showing how dust in the Milky Way Galaxy condenses into stars and planets. Take a tour with University of Chicago Cosmologist Mike Gladders two billion years into the past to see a gravitational lens bending the light from galaxies allowing you to see billions more years into the past.

WorldWide Telescope is created with the Microsoft® high performance Visual Experience Engine and allows seamless panning and zooming around the night sky, planets, and image environments. View the sky from multiple wavelengths: See the x-ray view of the sky and zoom into bright radiation clouds, and then crossfade into the visible light view and discover the cloud remnants of a supernova explosion from a thousand years ago. Switch to the Hydrogen Alpha view to see the distribution and illumination of massive primordial hydrogen cloud structures lit up by the high energy radiation coming from nearby stars in the Milky Way. These are just two of many different ways to reveal the hidden structures in the universe with the WorldWide Telescope. Seamlessly pan and zoom from aerial views of the Moon and selected planets, as well as see their precise positions in the sky from any location on Earth and any time in the past or future with the Microsoft Visual Experience Engine.

WWT is a single rich application portal that blends terabytes of images, information, and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a seamless, immersive, rich media experience. Kids of all ages will feel empowered to explore and understand the universe with its simple and powerful user interface.

Microsoft Research is dedicating WorldWide Telescope to the memory of Jim Gray and is releasing WWT as a free resource to the astronomy and education communities with the hope that it will inspire and empower people to explore and understand the universe like never before.
As a Mac user, I’m rather enjoy making fun of Microsoft, but their WorldWide Telescope is way cool! It works on both PC and Intel-based Macs, which is a good thing for me. Go explore the WorldWide Telescope site. Start touring the universe. There is so much information along with the use of their stunning virtual telescope that you will surly keep going back to it. This thing rocks!

The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.
— Thomas Paine

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Chat started off the way most chats do: a little tech talk, some bad jokes, solving world hunger, etc. The first half was fixated on Dave and rebuilding his desk. He really just wants a fence but can’t find anyone who is willing to build a fence without a deck. Chat eventually wandered to favorite QVC fails (that last one gets me every time). We had just started to talk about Rudolfo’s latest postings when dglas posed a question about evolution. The question was whether or not there is a way to tell if an organism is irreducibly complex (using the IDer’s definition). The ramifications of this question, assuming one answers in the negative, is that irreducible complexity is a vacuous test for evolution. Most said no, but Dave argued that sudden complexity in the fossil record would satisfy the requirements for irreducible complexity. Ricky responded that such a find would merely change the time line of evolution, and not falsify evolution itself. The counter to this was a drastic hypothetical example, a homo sapien skull found in two-billion-year-old rock. The debate got quite heated at some times, and I still contend that Dave’s sister has the face of a rhino, but in the end we came to a pretty good understanding. By this time it was quite late, and chat ended with some closing remarks about Glenn Beck.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:
Nick P
Thales-Inquiring Lynn

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
About Sam Harris’ claim that science can answer moral questions

Animals Living Without Oxygen Discovered for First Time

Australopithecus sediba: Was the Embargo Broken?

Brian Cox and the snottites from Mars

Colbert Report — Sean Carroll

Conviction for patients’ deaths does not add up

Eat your fruit and veggies?

Evolution, animals, and gay behavior

Failed Prophecies: An ID Anniversary

Harris gets it right!

Is ID Blasphemous?

Jesus in a tie-dye shirt?

Jon Stewart on Erick Erickson

Juneau County Prosecutor Urges Schools To Drop Sex Ed

Lucia de Berk — a martyr to stupidity

Math Class Shadow

Not-so-stupid animal tricks

The room that makes the media… (The 134th Meeting of the Skeptics’ Circle)

Rube Goldberg Easter Egg

Sarah Palin and the Tea Partiers

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter #114

Steven Johnson: A guided tour of the Ghost Map

Tentacular, tentacular!

Towards a unified theory of douchebags

U.S. Government: We Have Not Forgotten About Osaka Binn Rogen

What’s New by Bob Park

Yemeni child bride dies of internal bleeding

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Book of the Week:
The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“From Pluto’s 1930 discovery to the emotional reaction worldwide to its demotion from planetary status, astrophysicist, science popularizer and Hayden Planetarium director deGrasse Tyson (Death by Black Hole) offers a lighthearted look at the planet. Astronomical calculations predicted the presence of a mysterious and distant Planet X decades before Clyde Tombaugh spotted it in 1930. DeGrasse Tyson speculates on why straw polls show Pluto to be the favorite planet of American elementary school students (for one, Pluto sounds the most like a punch line to a hilarious joke). But Pluto’s rock and ice composition, backward rotation and problematic orbit raised suspicions. As the question of Pluto’s nature was being debated by scientists, the newly constructed Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Hayden Planetarium quietly but definitively relegated Pluto to the icy realm of Kuiper Belt Objects (cold, distant leftovers from the solar system’s formation), raising a firestorm. Astronomers discussed and argued and finally created an official definition of what makes a planet. This account, if a bit Tyson-centric, presents the medicine of hard science with a sugarcoating of lightness and humor.”

— Publishers Weekly

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  3. The Holocaust conspiracy
  4. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  5. A literal jewish conspiracy
  6. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  7. Collateral murder? Looks like it.
  8. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  9. Funny FAILS
  10. Documentary: 1983 ‘Moonwalk’ was staged
  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. Evolution is a Lie
  7. Skeptic Summary #279
  8. Cold Reading
  9. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  10. Miracle Thaw Tray
There were 10,802 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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