Saturday, September 20, 2014

Anomalous Events That Can Shake One’s Skepticism to the Core

By Michael Shermer, via Scientific American

I just witnessed an event so mysterious that it shook my skepticism

Credit: Izhar Cohen
Often I am asked if I have ever encountered something that I could not explain. What my interlocutors have in mind are not bewildering enigmas such as consciousness or U.S. foreign policy but anomalous and mystifying events that suggest the existence of the paranormal or supernatural. My answer is: yes, now I have.

The event took place on June 25, 2014. On that day I married Jennifer Graf, from Köln, Germany. She had been raised by her mom; her grandfather, Walter, was the closest father figure she had growing up, but he died when she was 16. In shipping her belongings to my home before the wedding, most of the boxes were damaged and several precious heirlooms lost, including her grandfather's binoculars. His 1978 Philips 070 transistor radio arrived safely, so I set out to bring it back to life after decades of muteness. I put in new batteries and opened it up to see if there were any loose connections to solder. I even tried “percussive maintenance,” said to work on such devices—smacking it sharply against a hard surface. Silence. We gave up and put it at the back of a desk drawer in our bedroom.

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The Brand of the Food Babe: The potential for harm

By Rayne, via Insufferable Intolerance
Published on September 17th, 2014 | by Rayne
Last post I spoke about the various ways in which the Food Babe has constructed her army and positioned herself as an “authority” on the subject of food (and also chemistry, science and vaccines in general – apparently she’s an expert in immunology and virology now as well).

The Food Babe has not only branded her ignorance of all things food and science but she has also branded her image as well – that is, she has branded her appearance. She has branded her chemical phobia. Anyone who has seen a photo of Food Babe knows that she is pretty, toned and flawless. She looks like someone who puts a lot of effort into her appearance and looking good.

There is nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong it that she used her appearance as a way to reel in more customers to her site and to her store. This tactic is reminiscent of the beauty industry – people are less inclined to buy products from someone who doesn’t look like what society believes those products should make you look like.

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Frustrated SO Owner Skewers Picky, MSG-Hating Customers via Window Sign

By Allie Pape, via Eater
Small Chinese restaurant SO, located across from the SOMA Trader Joe's complex, has earned a strong reputation for its killer wings, noodles, and dumplings (it's a sister spot to Sunset mainstay San Tung). But its chef-owner apparently hit a wall last night, closing up shop early and leaving the sign above in the restaurant's window. "We are closed because of you (customers), So...yes we use MSG, we don't believe in organic food, and we don't give a shit about gluten free."

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NVIDIA Takes On Apollo 11 Moon Landing Deniers--With Technology

By Alice Truong, via Co.LABS
This image from NASA shows Buzz Aldrin descending from Apollo 11 in 1969 onto the surface of the moon. IMAGE: NASA
Three prominent moon-landing conspiracy theories are debunked using the latest in dynamic-lighting technology.

In 2002, Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, punched Bart Sibrel in the face. Why? According to a Gallup poll from 1999, some 6% of Americans still believed then that the government faked the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969--and Sibrel is one of the more vocal among them. If you search YouTube for moon-landing conspiracy videos today, it's apparent there are still people like him who believe Aldrin and Neil Armstrong never left planet Earth.

For all those Coast To Coast AM listeners who think the government staged the moon landing, graphics card maker NVIDIA wants to set the record straight. On Thursday, the Santa Clara, California, company launched two new graphics cards, the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970. To show off their ability to render real-time dynamic lighting (what it calls Voxel Global Illumination), NVIDIA used this technology to re-create a model of that historic landing and debunk three prominent conspiracy theories around it.

"We talked to a lot of experts in the field to re-create what happened on the moon that day," GeForce general manager Scott Herkelman told Fast Company. "We re-created perfectly what they made and how the reflection would look off the suits, duct tape, aluminum foil."

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Just a Joke … Or Is It?

By Bruno Van de Casteele, via Skeptoid

YouTube kindly sends me an email each week with videos I might be interested in. The following is one that they recently featured; it promises to “triple your internet speed for free.” I was a bit skeptical, but hey, who doesn’t want that?

The good news is, it’s really entirely free. No products are sold (although viewers are given a shopping list for this purported “trick”), and you don’t have to pay to receive the “tricks” by ThioJoe. But that’s about it… Check for yourself.

So the guy, in a nice tie in what seems a techy office, promises that you can increase your Internet speed just by taping batteries to the ends of your UTP-cable (“rechargeable batteries work better”). Really, I don’t know how the guy keeps a straight face, especially after explaining the “optional” taping of a SATA and IDE cable. Maybe that explains why the shots are so short: they had to edit out all the laughing.

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How To Be a Science Denier

By Steven Novella, via Neurologica Blog

This Week Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave an excellent lesson on how to be a science denier. Unfortunately, this was not a faux demonstration, he was sincere.

If you recall, in 2012, Jindal advised Republicans to stop being “the stupid party.” This was a provocative statement. I wondered at the time if this signaled a shift in the party away from having anti-science on their platform. Had party insiders finally realized they can’t hang their political future on denying undeniable science, that they need to embrace reality and stop fighting against it?

Alas, it seems that a more cynical interpretation is closer to the truth – that Jindal was simply worried about damage to the Republican brand caused by Republicans saying “offensive, bizarre” comments, but not by the substance of their positions on scientific issues.

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Anti-gay Portland billboard causes controversy

By Dessislava Yankova, via The Tennessean

(Photo: Chris Ladd / Gallatin News Examiner )
Is a Portland billboard the words of God or bullying?

Finding the answer has engaged people even beyond the northern Sumner city of about 11,500 residents since the billboard was raised up above a busy highway four months ago.

Resembling an open Bible, the left side of the billboard quotes an Old Testament passage of Leviticus Chapter 18, Verse 22, "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination. - God." The billboard's right side states, "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" and ends with "paid for by concerned Christians."

Vietnam veteran and Portland resident Ronnie Monday, who initiated placing the billboard, said he feels the statement is necessary.

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