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Mother Jones Gets it Right About Smartmeters

from Mother Jonesfrom Mother Jones In 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 of radiation emitted by these as well as other familiar devices are not such as to be able to cause cancers and other maladies. Here's a good article from Skeptical Inquirer by an engineer that gives some of the science behind why the concerns about cell phones or power lines is unnecessary. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/

Today a colleague of mine at work brought in a curious black elastic wrist band with two embedded holographic disks in it. A "Power Balance" wrist band, which he found on a path in a park. Such a device, according to testimonials, improves one's athletic performance (balance, stamina, strength, energy, etc) by "optimizing the body's natural energy flow" because it "resonates with and responds to the natural energy field of the body".PowerBalance bracelet PowerBalance bracelet Another colleague told me that according to his son, many athletes at Berkeley High School are quite fond of these bracelets, and are willing to shell out the $29.95 to emulate sports heroes such as the handsome ones depicted on the PowerBalance website. http://www.powerbalance.com/powerbalance Bicyclists also reportedly have claimed the bracelets improve their performance. One might naturally be suspicious of such a claim, and request some evidence that 1) purported energy

More Numerology

A bay area minister has calculated the day of the rapture, and it's May 21 of this year. http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-01-01/bay-area/17466332_1_east-bay-bay-a... As skeptics, we know that predictions of the end of the world and numerology both have very bad track records. For a wonderful summary of failed TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) predictions, scroll down at http://www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrld.htm. Rev Harold Camping already has a bad track record, having assembled his flock for the end of the world in 1994, an event that even his followers noticed did not occur. He claims he now has a better system that corrects the calculation that led to the previous erroneous date. Camper's current prediction is based on his reading of the Bible and his association of specific numbers (5, 10 and 17) with themes of atonement, "completeness" and heaven. Then he calculates the years from Jesus's crucifiction (April 1, 33 AD) to the current year, multiplies these years by the number of days in a solar year (not a calendar year), a

What if your club, institution, or company had access to a lot of the Science-interested public for a few days? What if they come to you, or meet you in a nice venue? What messages would you most want to get across? What could those contacts be best used for? What if you had 10 months to prepare? Around San Francisco, the Bay Area Science Festival is planned for October 29 - November 6, 2011. But hardly anyone I talk to has heard about it yet! One indication that the planning's cast in Jell-O?? rather than concrete is that they say it's going to be a 10-day event, but the days they list total 9. So it's not too late to get involved. If you're in the Bay Area, think through your optimum result from such a festival. Think through how to achieve it. Then contact the Festival folks to make sure you get included. I'd guess that the more self-contained your package, the easier it should be for them to include. Here's what I've gleaned so far: The University of California San Francisco is said to have received a grant to organize this as a "first annual" science-for-the-public event. Dr. Bruce Alberts, Editor of Science Magazine, heads the project. The Director is Kishore Hari, Science and Health Education Partnership, UCSF, Kishore.Hari@ucsf.edu. Their target audience includes 25% youth and families with little access

At Oakland North, a project of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, reporter Alyssa Fetini asks the pressing question: "Psychics are ubiquitous in Oakland, but are they for real?." Fetini interviews several store-front "psychics," as well as the proprietor of the Berkeley Psychic Institute, which purports to train anyone to exercise psychic powers. After allowing the psychics to offer their own claims, she gives UC Berkeley psychologist Kyle Jennings a chance to respond. "Psychologists," Jennings explains, "would not believe that a person was actually psychic." Fetini then reviews some of the recent reports of psychics defrauding customers (as previously reported at BAS). Director of the Berkeley Psychic Institute Richard Pozzuto gets the last word, denying that his trainees have anything to do with such scams, insisting "we train people to find their own answers." The Institute's website refers to its programs as "psychic kinde

Happy 200th (posthumous) Birthday to Charles Darwin. He doesn't look a day over 190... This year marks the 200th year since Darwin was born, on February 12, 1809. Celebrating this date, known as Darwin Day, is celebrating science, skepticism and humanity; and most of all, our better understanding of the way the world works. This year also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the evolutionary biologist's seminal work, On the Origin of Species. To celebrate these two anniversaries, there are festivities throughout the world, and of course, across the Bay Area. The festivities have already begun, with a lecture by our own Dr Genie Scott at the University of California Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley. The event was extremely popular! On Sunday 8, 2009 the tireless Genie will be also be speaking at Evolutionpalooza!, a Darwin Day celebration to be held at San Francisco Main Branch Public Library. There will be other speakers, guests, games, drinks, and cake! On Darwin Day itself, there will be an informal lecture at the California Academy of Sciences

The Bay Area Skeptics are proud to announce our new website, built on Drupal, the content management system used by such luminaries as The Onion. On this main page, you'll find our new BAS blog, featuring posts by our Board of Directors. We're also going to increase the online archive of BASIS, our newsletter; look forward to that in the next few months!

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Previous SkepTalks

Julie HuiJulie Hui

WHAT:   Common Misconceptions in Anthropology Anthropology, the study of human societies and cultures, is fertile ground for controversies and popular misconceptions. If you are curious about why an anthropologist might cringe when thinking of children playing on monkey bars, and why anthropologists care about hamster cannibalism, then this is the talk for you. WHO: Julie Hui is a PhD Candidate in (Biological) Anthropology at UC Berkeley. She loves to talk about all aspects of science and nature, but cooperation and brain evolution are near and dear to her heart. Soon-to-be Dr. Hui spends most of her time teaching Introductory Anthropology courses at Bay Area Community Colleges and is currently a Wonderfest Science Envoy. WHEN: 7:30PM Thursday 10 May WHERE:   La Peña Lounge, 3105 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley [Map] HOW: This event is

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