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A Fun HangOut at the Zoo

Koala meets Leonard Tramiel

The HangOut at the SF Zoo with Livia Edwords was a big success, with 23 people attending. We got a number of fresh faces, which is always good. Some folk responded from affiliate MeetUp groups.

Livia Edwords did a great job telling us about the animals, zoos, and her experiences as a zoo keeper there. We got a special treat when she ran into one of her old zoo keeper friends on his way to take care of the koalas. We got a truly up close and personal visit with one of his charges. Yeah, they're just as cute as the pictures suggest and with incredibly soft and thick fur.

Genie Scott

SkeptiCal-15 Speakers on Youtube!

New BAS Channel Announced

Ann Reid at SkeptiCal-15Ann Reid at SkeptiCal-15

Good news for SkeptiCal fans! (Of course you know SkeptiCal – it’s the northern California conference of science and critical thinking, sponsored by the Bay Area Skeptics and the Sacramento Skeptics. You knew that, didn’t you? Good).

BAS now has a Youtube channel and the first PLAYLIST presents...

the 2015 SkeptiCal speakers.

If you remember a particular speaker saying something that you’d like to hear again, or – and I say this with great sorrow – you missed SkeptiCal this year, you can relive the experience by watching the speakers on the new BAS channel.

We have talks by:

- John Ioannidis on Reproducible Research: True or False?
- Ann Reid: OMG Virus! (Flu, Ebola, Measles and when you really should be afraid)
- Natalie Batalha: Toward Other Earths, Other Life: NASA’s Kepler Mission
- Isil Arican: International

By Carol and Ben Baumgartner

Wally SampsonWally Sampson It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our admired and beloved friend, Wallace Ira Sampson, M.D., “Wally”, on May 25, 2015 at Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

A staunch supporter of science-based medicine and a founding member of Bay Area Skeptics, Dr. Sampson, an oncologist, became interested in pseudo-science in 1972 when he became aware of cancer patients turning to Laetrile for treatment. He became an expert on dissecting false medical claims such as homeopathy, acupuncture, chelation therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and traditional Chinese medicine. Wally was a prominent and highly respected defender of science in health care education and practice, and is considered a mentor by many well-known skeptics working to combat medical pseudoscience, including Harriet Hall, David Gorsky, and Steve Novella. His article “Why the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Should be Defunded”, written in 2003, is as relevant today as then (

Here's a good piece on Bay Area vaccination statistics, from this morning's SF Chronicle.Mom & BabyMom & Baby

One of the few articles I've seen that explores the nuances of refusal -- it goes beyond "gee, unvaccinating parents are all ignorant/selfish/health nut/California hippies/[insert pejorative of choice here]".

I've always thought that for very many non-vaccinators, the main motivator was fear for the health/comfort of the child, and concern about the number and scheduling of vaccinations, rather than "vaccines are poison" mentality. That is a catchier meme for the press, though, and gets more eyeballs.

Plus, few articles explore under vaccination, which doesn't necessarily rest with an ideological objection to vaccination and can be just that busy parents don't get around to the full sequence, second innoculation, etc.

You must subscribe to the SF Chronicle online to read the full article HERE.

In case you missed it, a nice article in Mother Jones debunking Red QuinoaRed Quinoathe idea that exotic edibles like quinoa, acai berries and Chia seeds are "superfoods" of extraordinarily high nutritional value. They aren't worthless, but certainly not worth the premium prices charged for them, compared to other foods that are readily available -- and that don't have the social costs generated by taking staple foods away from villagers who can no longer afford their traditional foods. CLICK HERE to read the full article.

Chelation therapy is a long-time staple of medical quackery, but it isn't tested as often as it might be. Here's a curious report of a recent clinical test published in JAMA showing that chelation therapy chelationchelationdoesn't make any difference in heart attack, stroke, hospitalization, surgeries, etc, outcomes.

The report is curious -- and so is the publication of the article -- because the JAMA publisher editorializes against the use of chelation therapy yet the director of the study appears to be a believer, clinging to a very small improvement of outcomes for chelation when all the outcome variables are combined.

There is a strong editorial criticizing the methodology of the study, which unfortunately is behind a paywall that many won't be able to access. It notes that "clinics" purveying quack treatments were the sites of 60% of the work. This might help explain why o

This is from an obituary composed by Robert Schaeffer. Other Bob SteinerBob Steinertributes will follow:

Robert A. Steiner (1934-2013)

Magician and skeptic Robert A. Steiner died on January 4, 2013 in a nursing home in Concord, California, at age 78. A longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay area, Steiner was a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and spoke at several CSI(COP) conferences. A professional magician, he was a former president of the Society of American Magicians, and a member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood. He also was a Certified Public Accountant.

Any social event where Steiner was present typically had him giving an impromptu public demonstration of “psychic powers.” He always explained to audiences afterward that he had fooled them with a trick. He was also a life member of Mensa, and frequently hosted social events for Mensa, for skeptics, and other friends, at his home in the East Bay. These events typically included a demonstration of his “psychic” powers, always delivered in a presentation filled with humor. For a number of years, Steiner sponso

Compliments to the San Francisco Chronicle for an article reviewing evidence that Vitamin C doesn't prevent colds, but may reduce symptoms. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Vitamin-C-may-shorten-cold-not-stop... Back in the 1970s, largely on the word of Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, consuming massive dosages (up to 10 grams/day) of Vitamin C was promoted as being a preventive for the common cold. Although Pauling was a respected scientist in molecular biology, winning the Nobel for his research on chemical bonds, his research on the role of large quantities of nutrients as disease preventives or curatives was strongly criticized, and replications of his research were largely unsuccessful. A Wikipedia article presents many references on this topic, FYI, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Pauling#Molecular_medicine.2C_medical... . But kudos to the Chron for helping to get out the word. Alas, there have been many examples of more credulous repo

Review of Bigfoot Talk

A physical anthropologist who believes Bigfoot is highly probable reviewed my talk sponsored by BAS and Ask Jeff Meldrum, Ph.D.Jeff Meldrum, Ph.D.a Scientist back in 2009. It is archived on Fora.tv. Needless to say, he disagrees with my interpretation. To view the Fora.tv film (linked in the article) and make up your own mind, CLICK HERE

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