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. Speaking on "Skeptical About Climate Skepticism", McCaffrey contended we need to respect the science of climate science so we can "have an adult conversation" about the issue of global warming and other climate change issues. A Youtube video is now available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMV6MCv3JXY&feature=em-uploademail

As many of you know, this year's SkeptiCal 2012 conference was a rousing photo by Heather Appleburyphoto by Heather Appleburysuccess! Hundreds of skeptic-minded guests converged upon the Berkeley Doubletree Hotel to hear talks on what toddlers and children can teach us about being better scientists, the neuroscience of Out-of-Body Experiences, doomsday predictions for 2012, the importance of vaccination, and many other topics. Please CLICK HERE to read an excellent article about the conference by LaRae Meadows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. In addition to being exceptionally well written, Meadows' article contains brief descriptions of each speaker and break-out session, links to more information on the speakers themselves. Keep your eyes peeled for details about next year's SkeptiCal Conference, and we hope to see you there!

Skeptics Toolbox LogoSkeptics Toolbox LogoIf you have never attended a Skeptics Toolbox, or if you have, now is the time to register for the summer 2012 course. These courses, sponsored by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, are held in Eugene Oregon every summer, and include discussions and workshops led by expert skeptical investigators. Check out the website for further information. http://www.skepticstoolbox.org/ Being on the west coast has its advantages!

On Wednesday, November 9th, 2011, we were treated to an excellent talk entitled “End of the World Predictions” by Dr. Patrick O’Reilly, psychology professor from U.C. San Francisco.Patrick O'ReillyPatrick O'Reilly Dr. O'Reilly delivered a detailed and interesting one-hour talk about the phenomenon of predicting the end of the world, some religiously motivated, some not. This talk was particularly timely, you'll note, since the popular media has become so interested lately in feeding us stories about such predictions. O’Reilly's lecture began by focusing on religiously based end-of-world predictions. He provided some basic terminology which also helped explain some historical and theological facts necessary to understand those who make end-of-world predictions. Paramount to this effort was his definition of Christian Eschatology, a branch of Christianity concerned with the final events in the history of the world, or of humankind. This involves the Second Coming of Jesus, the resurrection

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.

Yau-Man ChanYau-Man ChanMost of us have seen ads for questionable pills, liquids, and powders that promise to give our bodies an extra advantage. Whether it be weight loss, immune system boost, fuller, thicker hair, or younger looking skin, there’s a quick fix being sold for it. In today’s economy, youthfulness and good health are joined at the top of our panic list with a new concern: better gas mileage. But don’t worry! There’s a quick fix for that, too! Or is there? This topic was addressed at the October 12th, 2011 SkepTalk by our own Yau-Man Chan, scientific instrument engineer, Skeptiblog author, and star of “Survivor Fiji” in a discussion of the bad economics (and even worse chemistry) of automotive snake oil. Yau-Man began his talk by introducing us to a product called EnviroTabs®, sold as “an organometallic metal conditioner that acts as a burn-rate modifier that catalyzes fuel.” In short, its makers claim that EnviroTabs® improves fuel economy, saving you money. Using it is simple; just drop a tablet into your tank on each fill-up, and you’ll

Yeti FingerYeti FingerPhysical evidence, scientifically analyzed, reveals reality far better than anecdotes, story-telling, and wishful thinking. Proponents of the "Yeti" (Himalayan "abominable snowman") touted a finger taken from a "Yeti" hand displayed at the Pangboche Temple's monastery in Nepal in 1958. If the Yeti is a real species, that wouldn't contradict Science, but it would add a fascinating complication to the complex story of humanity's heritage. The finger's DNA has now been analyzed. It's human. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16264752 The news report pointedly doesn't state *which* finger it is, but I have my suspicions.

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