Genie's blog

April 11, 2012 SkepTalk

Mark McCaffreyMark McCaffreyOur April 2012 SkepTalk at Cafe Valparaiso was presented by Mark McCaffrey, climate science specialist at the National Center for Science Education.

Dowsing for Coffins, or, Why Ground-Penetrating Radar Beats Pseudoscience

OK, the title of this article isn't completely accurate (and it isn't a Grave DowsingGrave DowsingBay Area story, but I couldn't help posting it). At this point in the story, it's not demonstrated that ground-penetrating radar is superior to dowsing for locating a cemetery, but I think it's a safe statement. The state of Mississippi wants to build a highway, but properly needs to see if an abandoned cemetery is in the proposed path. The landowner has hired a dowser who claims to be able to find bodies. CLICK HERE for the whole story.

In this ADDITIONAL STORY on the grave dowser, we learn that he can distinguish between male and female bodies by the direction the wires go when he passes over their graves.

SF Chronicle Taken To Task on Smartmeters Article

Chabot Space and Science Center director Alex Zwissler posted a good blog taking to task the San Francisco Chronicle for misapplication of "balance" in their coverage of the public controversy over the safety of smartmeters. Good reading: Alex ZwisslerAlex ZwisslerSMARTMETERS ARTICLE

Bay Area Skeptics and Religion

From time to time, Bay Area Skeptics board members are asked about BAS's position on religion. We have a brief mission statement that explains our policy of religious neutrality, but like all such statements, from time to time one must consider whether it is communicating fully the organization's perspective. You can read it at http://www.baskeptics.org/about/policies

In recent correspondence with a friend about the topic of skepticism and atheism, I wrote the following, which, although not an official BAS statement, reflects what most (though not all) of the BAS officers have thought over the years. For what it's worth -- here are some additional thoughts on the matter:

Dear _____,

Do cell phones cause brain cancer?

Although we try at the BAS website to blog about Bay Area issues, sometimes national issues are so important they swamp our local focus. Dr. Robert ParkDr. Robert ParkThe issue of cell phone radiation and cancer is one of them. Of course, as members of society, Bay Area residents are tuned into this controversy as well, so perhaps it is not inappropriate to comment on it.

Do cell phones cause brain cancer? There is no epidemiological evidence to suggest the link, only anecdote (and two anecdotes, despite the common practice in the press, do not constitute "data"). Is there a reason to suspect that cell phone radiation -- close to the brain, and in the case of many heavy cell phone users, as much as several hours/day -- might be dangerous?

Skeptics in the Pub Egg Balancing on (almost) the Equinox

Skeptics in the Pub Egg Balancing on (almost) the EquinoxDid you know you can balance an egg on the Equinox?! Wow!! And this year, with the gravitational pull of the "super Moon", or something, the powers should be even stronger, or something, and eggs should be balanceable even more easily!

Series on Wakefield Immunization Scandal

Adam Wakefield
Anyone interested in the scandalous story of Andrew Wakefield, whose paper in the British journal Nature and further activities have spurred the antivaccination movement, would be interested in Adam Rutherford's report on BBC Radio 4. The second part of the series airs tonight, March 24. Here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zm328

John Carroll Column Tells It Like It Is Re: Science

Friends, you will enjoy an excellent column by John Carroll on March 2, 2011. Link is here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/02/28/DDTE1I0BVH.DTL

Harold Camping's Billboard

Harold Camping's January 2010 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, BillboardHarold Camping's January 2010 Solano Aven

Mother Jones Gets it Right About Smartmeters

from Mother Jonesfrom Mother JonesIn the Bay Area, we've had a lot of fussing about the PG&E Smartmeters that have been installed over the last few years. Much of the opposition comes from a familiar fear about radiation effect. In an article posted today, the magazine Mother Jones attempts to assuage concerns on this as well as some other accounts. A nice graph appears here: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/01/will-smart-meters-give-you-ca... Skeptics know that the amount and type

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