Sunday, October 25, 2009

Skeptic Zone, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe

The Return of Randi

This week on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Rebecca made an appearance from (as Steve put it) the Orient.  Rebecca told a story about an alleged haunted location on an island in deepest Thailand where a woman was killed who allegedly became miraculously pregnant (and not by having sex one way or the other) and when the local folk did not believe her, they stabbed her to death.  Low and behold when they stabbed her, she bled white proving she was innocent and wrongly murdered.  It was a light hearted tale of death that Rebecca told, but luckily the 700 year curse has ended and now tourism thrives on the island.

The return of Watson was nothing compared to the interview with James Randi, who is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer.  Randi, despite being aged 81, having undergone surgery, and currently about halfway through his chemo therapy treatment sounded incredibly vigorous.   Not only does he sound vigorous but he's working on a new book, which sounded as if it would not be out until the end of 2010.  Randi relayed that the MRI tech he saw during his treatment is also an acupuncturist, and the waiting room had pamphlets galore pitching acupuncture.  It really is a shame that a real hospital would push forward such tripe.  How is the public suppose to know the difference between CAM crap medicine and actual science based medicine if the pamphlets are in a legitimate hospital.

Anyhow, I wish him the best, and hopefully Randi will be around for at least a few more years to keep the skeptical community unified.  It's not that I think the skeptical community is about to splinter into fifty or one hundred subgroups when Randi does someday pass away, but I do think Randi, the JREF, and TAM are wonderful institutions to keep the cats somewhat herded together.  I do not want skeptics to have some group that you pay dues to get a card, a secret handshake and perhaps a sash to prove you're "in."  On the other hand, being more separate as had been the case in the past it is tougher to pull resources when combating the latest Oprah endorsed woo-woo of the moment.  I hope TAM can continue to be the place for skeptics to meet even after Randi's guiding hand is no longer with us, and that TAM becomes ingrained enough that it continues to be a loose glue to keep the community together.

Beer Tree

The Skeptic Zone featured an interview with John Rennie, who until recently was the editor-in-chief of Scientific American Magazine.  I know I recently wrote a positive review of the interview style of Rennie's successor at SciAm, but Rennie is good.  He is just a ball of scientific enthusiasm.  I enjoyed his discussion of the exaggerated expectations of some in the nanotechnology realm.  I admit I never read his critic of those expectations which he authored earlier in this decade, but I am glad someone else is suspicious of the wonder that will be nano-Earth.  It's not that I do not think anything will come of nanotechnologies.  I just suspect a lot of it will not occur within my lifetime or even beyond.

Joanne Benhame shared her experience in getting the flu shot.  I recently received my flu shot, and the experience was the same except I cringe like a little girl every time I receive a shot.  It does amaze me how many people decide not to get the seasonal flu shot in my office as it free where I work.  I hear from some that they might get the flu, from others they get sick anyway, and from others they do not need it since they take some herbal preparation that is "all natural."  What's more amazing is the number of people who get the seasonal flu shot, but do not want the H1N1 shot.  The biggest excuse I hear is that it is untested.  I have explained that it is the same shot as the seasonal flu shot with just a few changes as is done each season.  No, they still act as if this is taking some super untested medication and that we are all just lab rats.  Worse is that some people claim their doctors question the value or safety of the shot, which I find to be highly disturbing and very poor medical advice.  Are doctors getting CMEs from Oprah, or are people using their "a-hem doctor story" as a cover?

Then I heard an idea of genius on the Think Tank -the Beer Tree.  Apparently, there is a pub in Christ's Church, New Zealand which has this tree-like contraption on which multiple various beers are hung for your drinking pleasure.  Now, if you are in Australia a trip to New Zealand may not be completely out of the question to sample such a brilliant idea, but from the East Coast of the United States I do not think I'll book the flight for it.  However, it is a great idea.  Someone in Philadelphia has got to take a hint and do their own beer tree.

On a side note, I know it is wrong, but I always think of New Zealand and Australia as the same country.  I know they are not.  One has a giant desert in the middle, and the other a lot of sheep.  Yet, to me and probably most other Americans and probably her Majesty the Queen, we think of them as the same thing.  I have no reason for this bit, but I thought I'd share.

Copper Bracelet.

This week the study that copper bracelets do not offer any relief for arthritis was on SGU, the Skeptic Zone, and the Amateur Scientists.  I do not recall off the top of my head when the same study made nearly all of my skeptical podcasts.  Good work Copper bracelet you stink that bad.

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