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". 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
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
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Steve Rubenstein gets the tone perfectly right in his review of the New Living Expo taking place in San Francisco this week. He points out the unlikeliness of any of the cures actually being efficacious -- though definitely beneficial to the bank accounts of the purveyors. "A whole wonderful building full of miracles. Major credit cards accepted." http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/12/DDLE1DAK3U.DTL
Readers of stories about Berkeley Unified School District considering scrapping before and after school science laboratories should not misconstrue these deliberations as anti-science activities. As with almost everything else, we can't understand the present unless we understand the history. For many years, science education at Berkeley High School took place in long, double period science classes, where students could benefit from integrated lecture and laboratory experiences, practice inquiry learning, etc. These double period classes, however created problems in scheduling classes in non-science subjects that didn't require double periods, as well as some other problems with staffing. In 2002 - 03, double-periods were abandoned; BHS was reorganized into a 6-period day with standard-length classes. According to the recollection of a person we spoke to in the administration at BUSD, the before and after school science labs were added approximately at the time the district moved away from the double period science classes. It is these laboratories--scheduled outside of the regular school day--that are being considered for elimination. All science laboratories will not be elimina
At the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific this week, BAS member Dr. David Morrison, who writes the NASA "Ask an Astrobiologist" column, reported that the number of questions about the "killer planet" Niburu and "doomsday 2012" questions have expanded astronomically, so to speak. David read some of the emails he has received, and they indicate a portion of the public is being seriously alarmed by the hype about these alleged future disasters allegedly about to impact Earth. Some have written about committing suicide, others have mentioned panic and anxiety attacks, and many have expressed great concern over whether the government is lying to them about the coming disaster. Take a look at the column for an eye-opening view of some of the fears and misconceptions held by our fellow citizens -- and Morrison's clear-headed and informative responses. Like Dave, I am outraged at the hucksters on cable TV and from Hollywood who are trying to make a buck out of scaring the daylights out of people with half-baked pseudoscience. At the conference, Dave used fear of Niburu and 2012 disaster scenarios as examples of why scientists and other knowledgeable people should step up to the plate to help educate the public about these issues. Pseudoscience DOES matter. Ignorance hurts people.
Skeptoid publisher Brian Dunning has instituted a new Youtube series of skeptical analyses of popular claims -- which are pseudoscientific. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/user/volleybrian The first three posts include an analysis of the health values of wheatgrass, a discussion of the Pacific garbage patch (serious, but lots of misinformation out there), and the "2021 apocolypse". Spread the word.
Edmund Scientific, a normally respected provider of science-related laboratory supplies widely used for teaching at all levels, just lost its crediblity bigtime by offering for sale a "3-in-1 Paranormal Research Instrument". Read about it here: http://scientificsonline.com/product.asp?pn=3151280&cmss=paranormal&bhcd... "Designed exclusively for paranormal investigators, this incredible tool has everything you need to track and detect the presence of ghosts" Cost is $149.
Daniel Loxton of "Junior Skeptic" fame (http://www.skeptic.com/junior_skeptic/) with the assistance of 13 prominent skeptics, has prepared a document intended to encourage skeptics to become "skeptical activists", sharing their ideas about science, skepticism, evaluations of the paranormal, etc. Skeptical activism, in the opinion of the authors, is something all of us can engage in, with positive results for critical thinking, and the appreciation of science. A "bulleted list" of the points can be found on the Skeptics site at http://www.skeptic.com/?article=WhatDoIDoNext To see the full document, go to another link on the Skeptics site http://www.skeptic.com/downloads/WhatDoIDoNext.pdf Feedback is solicited at the Skeptic forum
"Wonderfest" is an annual Bay Area science festival featuring talks and discussions about science. Held in the fall on adjacent days at Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley, the 2008 Wonderfest was particularly well attended. For those of you who were unable to attend, you now can see three of the discussions online. Go to www.wonderfest.org to see Does Anything Happen at Random? A discussion between Persi Diaconis, Prof. of Statistics & Mathematics, Stanford and Daniel Fisher, Prof. of Applied Physics, Stanford Will Genetics Allow Us to Revive Extinct Species? A discussion between Ronald Davis, Prof. of Biochemistry & Genetics, Stanford and David Haussler, Prof. of Biomolecular Engineering, UC Santa Cruz Are Dreams Psychologically Significant? A discussion between William Dement, Prof. of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science, Stanford and Sharon Keenan, Founder, School of Sleep Medicine, Palo Alto
BAS member and skeptical satirist, Paul DesOrmeaux, has published a new article, "The Evolution of Intelligent Design," in the Skeptical Briefs newsletter. He presents a concise, chronological, and arbitrary timeline that more or less accurately presents the history and ???facts??? behind the development of creationism, creation, science, intelligent design, and more importantly, scientific illiteracy. He claims that the article???s contents have been painstakingly researched, and for all intents and purposes, the information provided is ???hysterically??? correct. You be the judge. The article is available at cnyskeptics.org with permission from the Editor of Skeptical Briefs.