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Skeptic Summary #291

By The Staff
Posted on: 7/4/2010

Expertise, anti-atheism, expansion, cancer, chaos and more!

Week ending July 03, 2010 (Vol 7, #26)

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:
Climate change ‘doubters’ lack expertise - Who are experts and who are not?

Mariano’s at it again - A theist f(l)ailing against atheism.

Universe expansion - At least the explanation needs to be expanded.

Editor’s Choice: Christopher Hitchen’s cancer - This sucks in more ways than one.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
The Secret Life of Chaos Part (1 - 6) — This documentary opens with this line:
This is the story about one simple question. How did we get here?
Can we learn the answer to that question by looking at and understanding Chaos theory?
Chaos theory has a bad name, conjuring up images of unpredictable weather, economic crashes and science gone wrong. But there is a fascinating and hidden side to Chaos, one that scientists are only now beginning to understand.

It turns out that chaos theory answers a question that mankind has asked for millennia — how did we get here?

In this documentary, Professor Jim Al-Khalili sets out to uncover one of the great mysteries of science — how does a universe that starts off as dust end up with intelligent life? How does order emerge from disorder?

It’s a mindbending, counterintuitive and for many people a deeply troubling idea. But Professor Al-Khalili reveals the science behind much of beauty and structure in the natural world and discovers that far from it being magic or an act of God, it is in fact an intrinsic part of the laws of physics. Amazingly, it turns out that the mathematics of chaos can explain how and why the universe creates exquisite order and pattern.

And the best thing is that one doesn’t need to be a scientist to understand it. The natural world is full of awe-inspiring examples of the way nature transforms simplicity into complexity. From trees to clouds to humans — after watching this film you’ll never be able to look at the world in the same way again.
Presented by theoretical physicist and author Jim Al-Khalili for the BBC, this film takes a look at origins and the order of things through the remarkably useful lens of Chaos. This is a must see documentary if you care at all about how we got here.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
— Hanlon’s razor

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Chat started off with light talk of various blogs and G.H. Hardy's book "A Mathematician's Apology". We proceeded to wander into more nerd territory with HTML, CSS, and the (in)validation of the SFN markup. Discussion then turned toward religion with the recent Belgium police raid of Catholic churches, and various theism/atheism statistics. The night ended in a discussion about health care sparked by Val's employers changing his benefits, and a little Sudoku. (It may take 2-3 years to learn enough higher mathematics to understand character theory, but it's a little like Sudoku and a lot more fun.)

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Ancient and modern: Royal Society, first science academy, now 350 years old

Darwin’s Advice On How To Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

Giant predatory whale named for ‘Moby Dick’ author

Investigation of climate scientist at Penn State complete

Kari Byron of Mythbusters Hosts Head Rush on Science Channel Beginning August 23

More legal thuggery against a defender of science-based medicine

Penn and Teller Sometimes Argue Really Badly

Sexy Beasts

The Skeptical Boys Club

Skepticality #132 — Decoding the Language of God

Skeptically Speaking: Transhumanism

Stem cells reverse blindness caused by burns

Students Record Spellbinding Video of Disintegrating Spacecraft

Sunday Sacrilege: So alone

What to do with the climate denial zombies

What’s New by Bob Park

When the scientific evidence is unwelcome, people try to reason it away

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

Book of the Week:
Hitch-22: A Memoir, by Christopher Hitchens.

“Hitchens, who, in his earlier books, has expressed contempt for both God and Mother Teresa (although not in that order), is often described as a contrarian. In fact, in his book Letters to a Young Contrarian (2001), he himself noted that he ‘can appear insufferable and annoying,’ albeit without intending to. This memoir, bracing, droll, and very revealing, gives him yet another description: storyteller. He writes with a voice you can hear clearly, warmed by smoke and whiskey, and draws readers into his story, which proves as personal as it is political. As with many memoirs, it is not the public moments that are so fascinating, though there are plenty of those. Hitchens takes readers with him to Havana and Prague, Afghanistan and Iraq; tests himself by being waterboarded (he was disappointed in his early capitulation); and hobnobs with politicians and poets. He almost gets himself beaten up by defacing a poster in Iraq with a Hitler mustache. But the most intriguing stories are the personal ones, both from his early days, at home and at boarding school, and from his later life, when he learns that his mother was Jewish, which, if only technically, makes him Jewish as well. This revelation leads Hitchens on a quest to learn the story of his family, many of whom died in the Holocaust. How this new identity squares with his oft-proclaimed atheism sheds a different light on the meaning of religious identity. (He struggles mightily with his political identity as well.) Few authors can rile as easily as Hitchens does, but even his detractors might find it difficult to put down a book so witty, so piercing, so spoiling for a fight. He makes you want to be as good a reader as he is a writer.”

— Ilene Cooper for Booklist

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  2. The Supper
  3. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  4. Funny FAILS
  5. Settling in Baguio
  6. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  7. General Patraeus
  8. Documentary: 1983 ‘Moonwalk’ was staged
  9. Neti pots, sinus disease, and migraines
  10. Gulf oil spill and Bible prophecy?
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  3. Spam Alert
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. Cold Reading
  6. Miracle Thaw Tray
  7. TAM5
  8. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  9. Calorad
  10. Skeptic Summary #290
There were 10,972 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  2. The Supper
  3. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  4. Funny FAILS
  5. Israeli blockade incident
  6. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  7. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  8. Nessie and Bigfoot and mermaids, oh please!
  9. Documentary: 1983 ‘Moonwalk’ was staged
  10. Filipino Catholic bishop fears sex
  11. Gulf oil spill
  12. DMV Senior Motorcyclist Handbook
  13. ‘Zion Oil’ getting into hot water?
  14. Neti pots, sinus disease, and migraines
  15. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  16. Wrong images of Saturn
  17. Jesus tempts Satan
  18. So much for that Biblical pharmacy business model
  19. Crabby Catholic curses, well, everything in sight
  20. Crabby Appleton
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  5. Scientific Truth
  6. Miracle Thaw Tray
  7. TAM5
  8. Cold Reading
  9. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  10. Spam Alert
  11. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  12. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  13. Calorad
  14. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  15. Evolution is a Lie
  16. Henry Morris on Trial: Conclusion
  17. The PQ Test
  18. Skeptic Summary #289
  19. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
  20. Quantum Age Water
There were 51,478 daily visitors in June, 2010.

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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