Saturday, January 17, 2015

Skepticism . . . could use a hot meal and a shave

Skepticism is in a weird place. As I am sure the reader is aware, the modern skeptical movement founded in the 1970s increased in popularity from around 2005 onward with the rise of blogs, podcasts, and other forms of cheap media publication. I rode this wave, and it was wonderful.  Nevertheless, skepticism remains tiny in comparison to society as a whole.  Things started to go a bit sideways in the last five years as skepticism started to gain some baggage.  There has been in-fighting between various skeptic factions as to what skepticism ought to actually concern itself. Legal wrangling from felony charges to sexual assault allegations including libel litigation from within and without has crept up. Leadership losses through death and shakeups within organizations have left some distraught. While lots of good work is being done by many, the overall atmosphere within skepdom is not good.

With the above in mind that has brought me down, I have a wish list of things that I believe would do skepticism some good.  These are my personal musings.  I am sure others have such musings with similar or perhaps diametrically differing ideas.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Martian - my first book review

"The Martian" by Andy Weir is one of those titles that come out of the blue by a little known author last year and is going to be made into a motion picture with a high power talent next year.  I first heard of this book from tech writer Andy Ihnatko on one of the various podcasts he hosts, and then a friend of mine read it, and then Weir was a guest on Skepticality.  Everyone seemed to rave about the book, and while I am not often a fan of works of fiction, I decided to listen to the audiobook of it over the Christmas break.  It clocks in at a little over 10 hours.  

The story revolves around an astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and engineer, left behind on Mars about a week into their month long mission by his five other crew members when an emergency strikes, and the mission is aborted.  What follows is the story of Watney surviving, NASA figures out he is still alive and the plans made to keep him alive and bring him home.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rebecca Watson leaves the SGU

I thought I released my final post for the year, but then this hit:

Rebecca Watson is no longer a Rogue with the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.  As to the reason why she was departing the SGU, Watson noted in her announcement on Skepchick:
The reason is a bit less drama-filled then what many will hope: it’s just time to move on. Nine years of doing the same job, week after week, starts to wear on a person. That’s especially true when the job pays peanuts and you’re not in control of anything at the company. And these days, those two things are extremely important to me as I work hard to pay rent while striving to meet my personal goals and standards.
Watson's departure was also announced on the latest episode which is the annual year end wrap up.  I have no doubts the SGU will continue unless there is some catastrophic change such as the departure of Dr. Novella.  The show survived the death of Perry DeAngelis who along with Dr. Novella were the heart and brain of the show.  I have not been a regular listener to the show in about nine months or so.  I would listen to parts and some whole episodes from time to time.  The show is damn consistent which Dr. Novella noted on the latest episode and justly takes pride in.  Dr. Novella and the rogues minus Watson spoke on the latest Skeptically Challenged about producing almost ten years of content.  A major topic of discussion was how important adding Watson to the show was at the time.    

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014: end of year thoughts

I was going to write something in regard to the latest episode of Strange Frequencies Radio.  Jason and Bobby had an interesting discussion with John Tenney on the meaning of life if in fact the natural world is all that there is, and someday the universe is just going to peter out.  This is a question I wrestle with a lot.  As I wrote the whole thing became convoluted and a bit of a downer.  Anyway, it was an interesting conversation, and worth the listen.