2010 This Year In Skepticism – January

January 2, 2011

Here is the first part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I’m just covering last January in this piece but I’ll try to cover more than one month in the next installment.

Yet another well-designed study hit another nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine is linked with autism. Then researchers concluded that there was a lack of evidence supporting special diets for autism.

New smart phone apps emerge that debunk creationism

California said no to creationist curriculum

Pat Robertson blamed the Haitian earthquake on a mythical pact the nation never made with the devil–true story–thus earning him a nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

Vatican Bank accused of laundering $200 million.

Stephen Baldwin said he’d rather see his daughter die than lie about Jesus, earning him a solid nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

The arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.

UK’s General Medical Council concluded that anti-vaccine prophet Andrew Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines and Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – both were big victories for public health around the world.

Skeptics fail in homeopathy-based suicide attempt – The 1023 campaign sparked a great deal of attention on this little publicity stunt and made homeopathy look incredibly stupid.

Star of Scientology orientation film gives farewell performance – Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of $cientology who starred in their orientation film left the cult.

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Non-bomb-detecting magic wands still all the rage

February 24, 2010

The Iraqi military are still planning to use magic wands to detect bombs. Apparently after these silly bomb-detecting dowsing rods have been utterly debunked and proven useless, as well as the man responsible for them, Jim McCormick, has been arrested for fraud, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has ordered that they still be used. No wonder the fucking nation needs our military help. They’re still living in the fucking stone age!

And these assholes aren’t even the only ones!!!

It seems that the Thai military (yes, I laughed when I heard there was a Thai military too) is defending the use of the ADE651 magic wands. Of course, if anyone knows about bomb detection it’s the Thai military, right? Right?

Thai army chief General Anupong Paojinda is defending the use of what are essentially magic wands to detect bombs, even though the specific device they use has been tested repeatedly and failed to perform. This device is essentially the same as the ones used in Iraq and Afghanistan which have been proven worthless, and for which the head of the manufacturing company, Jim McCormick, has been arrested for suspicion of fraud.

Paojinda is convinced the dowsing rods work, even though it’s little more than an antenna glued to a plastic box.

Maybe we can boost Jim McCormick’s charge to murder and charge these military morons with criminal negligence for falling for one of the classic blunders. The most well known of which is never get involved in a land war in Asia. But only slightly less known is never go up against a cunning military opponent armed with magic wands.

EPIC FAIL!


CBS news reports arrest of businessman for selling bogus bomb detectors to Iraqi military

January 26, 2010

CBS news reports the arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 1.23.10

January 24, 2010

1. Man may be capable of running 40 MPH

The newly published evidence identifies the critical variable imposing the biological limit to running speed, and offers an enticing view of how the biological limits might be pushed back beyond the nearly 28 miles per hour speeds achieved by Bolt to speeds of perhaps 35 or even 40 miles per hour.

2. UK bans dowsing rods posing as bomb detectors – I’ve blogged before about the bogus bomb detectors used by Iraqi military officials. Glad to see the media isn’t dropping the ball on reporting this sham.

3. The other day I posted this clip of William Shatner asking “psychic” John Edward some great hardball questions:

Well I didn’t see this clip from the end of the show that seems to further suggest that you can’t fool Captain Kirk:

4. John Travolta & other $cientology vampires feed off Haiti disaster victims – I probably shouldn’t be surprised. After 9/11, Tom Cruise showed up to get the cult free publicity by giving the FDNY bogus “detox” treatments and the $cientologists showed up after Virginia Tech in the wake of that atrocity. They really have no shame.

5. Vanity Fair visits the Creation “Museum” – And they brought Paul Bettany, the atheist actor who portrays Charles Darwin in the new film “Creation” with them to take photos. My favorite part of the article was this:

The Creation Museum isn’t really a museum at all. It’s an argument. It’s not even an argument. It’s the ammunition for an argument. It is the Word made into bullets. An armory of righteous revisionism. This whole building is devoted to the literal veracity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis: God created the world in six days, and the whole thing is no more than 6,000 years old. Everything came at once, so Tyrannosaurus rex and Noah shared a cabin. That’s an awful lot of explaining to do. This place doesn’t just take on evolution—it squares off with geology, anthropology, paleontology, history, chemistry, astronomy, zoology, biology, and good taste. It directly and boldly contradicts most -onomies and all -ologies, including most theology.

6. Denmark’s Prime Minister says burqas not welcome in Denmark – Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and according to its Prime Minister, it’s the burqa:

THE face-covering burqa and niqab veils worn by some Muslim women “have no place in Danish society”, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has said. “They symbolise a view of women and humanity that we totally oppose and that we want to combat in Danish society,” he said.

Denmark was “an open, democratic society where we look at the person to whom we are talking, whether it’s in a classroom or on the job”.

“That is why we don’t want to see this garment in Danish society,” he said.

Now why can’t the U.S. have politicians with that kind of balls?


News From Around The Blogosphere 11.18.09

November 19, 2009

1. I’d officially declared tomorrow Defend Evolution Against Literary Terrorists Day (or DEALT Day) but it seems that Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron LIED and decided to pass out their vandalized Origin of Species books a day earlier than promised. But I’m still hoping to hear tomorrow that more of them are being handed out at schools because I’d love to chat up the volunteers handing them out.

2. Update on the Iraqi dowsing rods storyAbout two weeks ago, I wrote about the use of useless dowsing rods by the Iraqi military to detect bombs. Well, the good news is that everyone who’s written about it has helped get the story successfully out there in the mainstream media like the NY Times, The Guardian, the Atlantic, and the Rachel Maddow Show, where it will hopefully garner enough attention to ensure something is done to correct the situation.

3. Jesus goes to directly to jail without passing go

A Swedish man claiming to be the Son of God was sentenced to prison for a month for “unlawful driving,” after getting picked up by the cops four separate times without a license over the course of four months.

Man, this guy just can’t stay out of trouble.


The dangers of dowsing illustrated in Iraq

November 4, 2009

Iraqi security forces are convinced that a fancy-looking dowsing rod can detect bombs, despite American forces explaining that their magic wand is just an ordinary antenna and that their just victims of the ideomotor effect:

Despite major bombings that have rattled the nation, and fears of rising violence as American troops withdraw, Iraq’s security forces have been relying on a device to detect bombs and weapons that the United States military and technical experts say is useless.

The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.

Hal Bidlack is a well-known member of the skeptical community. Unfortunately, the Iraqi officials are not convinced:

Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.

It doesn’t seem to bother them at all that these dowsing rods have already proven to be a complete failure at detecting bombs:

The suicide bombers who managed to get two tons of explosives into downtown Baghdad on Oct. 25, killing 155 people and destroying three ministries, had to pass at least one checkpoint where the ADE 651 is typically deployed, judging from surveillance videos released by Baghdad’s provincial governor. The American military does not use the devices. “I don’t believe there’s a magic wand that can detect explosives,” said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., who oversees Iraqi police training for the American military. “If there was, we would all be using it. I have no confidence that these work.”

The Iraqis, however, believe passionately in them. “Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,” said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior’s General Directorate for Combating Explosives.

Yeah Major, you care so much about detecting bombs that you’ll happily keep using a bomb-detecting device that you now know doesn’t really work to detect bombs. Genius! Fuckin’ genius!

“I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them,” General Jabiri said. “I know more about this issue than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world.”

Didn’t Oedipus say the same thing before leading Thebes to ruin? Don’t be so proud of this technological wonder you’ve purchased; it’s insignificant compared to the power of science:

Dale Murray, head of the National Explosive Engineering Sciences Security Center at Sandia Labs, which does testing for the Department of Defense, said the center had “tested several devices in this category, and none have ever performed better than random chance.”

. . .

facepalmDuring an interview on Tuesday, General Jabiri challenged a Times reporter to test the ADE 651, placing a grenade and a machine pistol in plain view in his office. Despite two attempts, the wand did not detect the weapons when used by the reporter but did so each time it was used by a policeman.

“You need more training,” the general said.

Iraqi people, send letters to your government to have Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri test these devices out personally while walking through a mine field. the safety and security of your nation may depend on it.

douche cards


Mysteries, Magic & Miracles 9.21.09

September 21, 2009

MYSTERIES

Did I Fall Asleep? Neural Reductionism and Dollhouse – I now occasionally write for The Gotham Skeptic, the official blog of the New York City Skeptics. And today I found a blog from one of my fellow Gotham Skeptics that I found interesting because it explores scientific questions within science fiction and particularly because the TV series Dollhouse is returning this week and Dr. Horrible’s recent interrupting of the Emmy’s reminded me of how much I enjoy the work of Joss Whedon.

A new study finds large penis size raises self-esteem – And in a related study, researchers found that water causes wetness.

MAGIC

Vancouver quacks selling homeopathy remedies for H1N1 – I like how Some Canadian Skeptic put it:

Placebo water-pills using magic and sorcery to vaccinate against one of the deadliest flu-strains to hit Canada in generations.

Dowsing for WiFi – A pre-scientific stick using magic and sorcery to locate high tech 21st century technology, Yeah, good luck with that.

MIRACLES

California hospital now allows Hmong shamans to perform healing rituals – Shamans? The most advanced medical science the 21st century has to offer. . .and they’ve got shamans?! Just remember. You can’t spell shaman without the “SHAM!”