Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two milestones, a passing, trench warfare

Still Amazing
Thank you Mr. Armstrong

The loss of a legend

I was not alive when Neil Armstrong successfully landed, walked, and returned from the moon in July, 1969.  He embodied the fulfillment of President Kennedy's challenge to land and safely return a man on the moon before the decade was out.  Uncounted and unheralded thousands of people worked to achieve this goal, and vast sums of money were allotted and spent by the American taxpayer too.  Yet, it all would have been for naught if on the final moments before landing the Eagle on the moon when the lunar module's computer system failed, and the landing site was much rougher than anticipated had Armstrong's cool collective skills not brought the venture to a successful landing.  He was the tip of the spear that fateful July, 1969, and he is missed.  My only regret as an American, and as a person, is that we have not sufficiently followed in his lunar bootprints in the years that have passed.  We ought to have more bootprints on the moon, and bootprints on Mars.  While Armstrong succeeded for his nation and all mankind, we have failed him.  I saw him speak once in Gettysburg, PA.  It was a honor.

Two Milestones

The Skeptic Zone has hit a milestone of 200 episodes.  The episode had a good portion of well wishes from Brian Dunning, The SGU Rogues, the fellows at SWAK, and others.  However, it was not a clip show, but a regular episode with some nice reminiscing and reflection by Richard Saunders over the last four years during the introduction to the episode with Stefan Sokja, and the Think Tank with Eran Segev, Joanne Benhamu, and Dr. Rachael Dunlop.

There was a nice interview by Maynard of JREF President D.J. Grothe which was recorded at T.A.M. 10.  Grothe is quite skilled at being a spokesman, and he shared various educational modules the JREF is making available to educators to teach children critical thinking skills.  There is one statement that Grothe said that struck me.

No questions off limits, no issues taboo, you can say nonsense and as long as you have the courage of your convictions and the courage of an attack on your convictions you are one of us . . . so we don't have a statement of non-beliefs, we're not doctrinaire really the only thing that coheres all of us that if you say something that everyone thinks is nonsense be prepared to be challenged. (emphasis added)

like fighting woo woo
This is one of the best descriptions of skepticism I recall hearing.  Now, is the above statement followed without fail by skeptics as a whole, or per individual?  No.  Yet, in this time of tension between various wings of the free thought community in general, I think the above is the definition of the wall that separates skepticism from other free thought compatriots.

One of the great successes of the Australian Skeptical movement was its handling and basic dismantling of the Power Balance energy bracelet.  There is a new questionable energy jewelry with alleged medical benefit called Shuzi.  Saunders relates how the Australian Skeptics have invited Shuzi to subject their product to a test of its effectiveness for their $100,000 prize, and the dodgy response the Australian Skeptics have received.  It just goes to show that skepticism is a lot like whack-a-mole...once one has beat down one dubious claim, another is always certain to pop up to take its place.

I have fallen out of listening to the Zone on a weekly basis.  I have found the content of the shows uneven at times, and there is only so much time to listen to podcasts.  However, I am glad the Zone is around, and for all the hard work they do in not just promoting but also doing skepticism as shown by the Power Balance travail.  I am glad it has continued, and I do plan to continue to listen as best I can.  Happy 200th episode to Saunders, Dr. Dunlop, Segev, Maynard, et al.

In other anniversary news, Doubtful News is one year old.  I cannot boast that I followed Doubtful News since its inception in August, 2011.  However, once I started to follow the site, it quickly turned into a must view site at least once a day.  DN is one of those ideas that is so obvious once it was created it is hard to believe it was not created earlier by some other skeptics, but I think this just goes to show the genius it took to create it.  Sharon Hill and her crew do a masterful job curating and aggregating strange and questionable news claims of the day.  If you have never visited the site, please do so, and I would stunned if you are not hooked.  If you are a regular visitor to the site, then give a little love in the form of some dollars.

 A report from the front lines against the dubious claims

over the top against woo woo
As noted above, one never really wins the cultural fights against dubious claims as a skeptic.  It's one continuous slog.  Trench warfare, rather than a lightning victory.  Currently, Dr. Stuart Robbins has been stuck in his own lunar Somme.  For over a month Dr. Robbins has been in a web fight on whether or not there is sufficient evidence that a ziggurat exists on the moon.   A number of blog posts have been authored by Dr. Robbins refuting arguments made initially by Richard C. Hoagland and then championed by Mike Bara that images exists a ziggurat exists on the moon.  Robbins has posted a string of posts refuting the various arguments brought up by Bara here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and a youtube video.  It is safe to conclude that Robbins is correct with his numerous posts, arguably to the point of overkill, that there is no good evidence that a lunar ziggurat exists on the moon.  (To be more accurate at the location claimed by Hoagand and Bara a ziggurat does not exist.)  At the same time Robbins gives a nice overview on how imaging systems work on space probes.  Yet, does it appear Bara has realized an error or mistake, not really.  Has Robbins wasted his time?  No.  As we now have a plethora of information available to anyone curious about the lunar ziggurat claims that is not credulous or fanciful.  Such is the toil of the skeptic.


  1. And hopefully only two more posts will be authored about the "ziggy." It's gotten really side-tracked and I'm going to do one more post on shadows & dynamic range and then a final one on language, pareidolia, conspiracies, and bring it back to the beginning and hopefully wrap it up with a, "we're still not getting anywhere and basically anything I say is going to be relegated to part of the conspiracy, so there's no point in continuing."

    I agree that the majority of it hasn't been a waste of time because I've tried to gear every post towards some point of education about something basic in science, but I think those topics have been exhausted as it relates to this stuff.

  2. If this was pugilism, I don't even think you'd have a bruise.

  3. /me looks up "pugilism" ... "the profession or hobby of boxing"

  4. Hey there! What a amazingly looking personal website you run! Did you apply all the settings to your blog on your own?


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